Julian Nagelsmann believes Germany's victory over Hungary on Wednesday showed their increasing maturity, even if Toni Kroos is far from satisfied with the Euro 2024 hosts' progress so far.

Germany became the first team to reach the last 16 of the tournament as goals either side of half-time from Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan saw off tricky opponents.

Indeed, head coach Nagelsmann suggested this was the sort of match in which his team might previously have faltered.

"That was a very unpleasant opponent," he told MagentaTV. "You have to win a game like that first.

"It shows a good maturing process. In November, we would not have won this game."

It is only the second time Germany have advanced through the group stage in four major tournaments, but there is no time to relax ahead of their third match against Switzerland.

The hosts will name a strong side as they aim to maintain their momentum.

"It is important that we have as many players from the first XI back on the pitch as possible, because we have deliberately distributed the roles," Nagelsmann added. "We believe in the players' respective strengths in their roles.

"It may of course be that we change one or two players; we have to see how everyone gets through this game. But as of now, everyone is healthy."

That will be music to the ears of retiring midfielder Kroos, who is keen for Germany to go "full throttle" against Switzerland.

He and his team-mates are perhaps wary of a repeat of the last Euros, where Germany came through the group stage but drew their third match and then had to face England in the last 16, losing at Wembley.

"There is little reason for the pressure to drop now because we have a bigger goal than just the round of 16," Kroos said.

He added to RTL: "It is also a statement to come first in the group, and it is important to maintain this run."

Germany made it two wins from two games at Euro 2024 by beating Hungary 2-0, overcoming a stern test to book their place in the last 16.

Having had things their own way from the off in a 5-1 rout of Scotland, Germany were put under more pressure by a Hungary side chasing a response to their defeat at the hands of Switzerland.

Marco Rossi's side created several good chances in front of a nervous crowd in Stuttgart, but they failed to make them count as Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan scored either side of half-time.

Julian Nagelsmann's hosts are now assured of a place in the knockout rounds and can win Group A when they face Switzerland on Sunday.

Hungary's best chance of qualifying, meanwhile, is now as one of the best third-place finishers, with Scotland their opponents on matchday three.

Just 15 seconds had been played when Manuel Neuer was worked for the first time, smothering Roland Sallai's attempt following some hesitant Germany defending.

The hosts soon got on top, though, and they made their dominance of possession count after 22 minutes. Willi Orban appealed in vain for a foul after being nudged by Gundogan, who teed up Musiala to lash home with Peter Gulacsi grounded. 

Neuer then had to remain alert to keep out Dominik Szoboszlai's free-kick, and Germany survived another massive scare on the stroke of half-time.

Sallai reacted quickest to convert on the rebound after Neuer was forced into action by Orban's header, only for an offside flag against the RB Leipzig captain to deny Hungary. 

Another huge chance went begging for Hungary on the hour mark, Barnabas Varga failing to direct his header on target after being picked out by Sallai's left-wing cross.

Hungary were punished for their wastefulness seven minutes later, with Maximilian Mittelstadt's cutback finding Gundogan in space and allowing him to sweep into the bottom-right corner to give the hosts daylight. 

Hungary almost got one back late on as Neuer spilled a looping cross, but Joshua Kimmich got back on the line to clear Martin Adam's shot and preserve the shutout. 

Musiala justifies the hype 

Having doubled Germany's lead over Scotland with a powerful finish into the roof of the net last Friday, Musiala put Nagelsmann's side ahead with a similar strike on Wednesday.

Tipped to play a talismanic role ahead of the tournament, it's fair to say Musiala is living up to the billing.

At the age of 21 years and 114 days, he has become the second youngest player to ever score on his first two starts at the European Championships, after Ferenc Bene at Euro 1964 (19 years, 186 days).

He is also the youngest player in history to score in a team's first two group-stage matches at a single edition of the tournament. 

Hungary give hosts a scare

While Germany were deeply impressive in their demolition of Scotland, Steve Clarke's side failed to attempt a shot on target in a miserable performance, leading many to ask how many conclusions could really be drawn from that game.

Hungary certainly put up more of a fight, with their seven first-half shots the joint-most Germany have faced at the Euros since Turkiye attempted 16 against them in 2008.

Their best opportunity, according to the expected goals figures, came after just 15 seconds as Sallai spurned a chance worth 0.36 xG. That would have been the fastest goal in Euros history, surpassing Nedim Bajrami's 23-second strike against Italy last Saturday.

Poor finishing – as well as three saves from Neuer – cost them, and Germany upped the ante in the second half to pull away.

Ilkay Gundogan says it will be "a huge honour and privilege" to lead host nation Germany in what will be a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" at Euro 2024. 

The three-time champions will host their first major international tournament since the 2006 World Cup, where they finished third after losing to eventual champions Italy in the semi-finals. 

Julian Nagelsmann's side are seeking an upturn in fortunes, having suffered back-to-back World Cup group-stage exits, while they were beaten by England in the round of 16 at Euro 2020.

Germany, whose final two warm-up games brought a goalless draw with Ukraine and a narrow 2-1 win over Greece, have conceded at least one goal in each of their last 12 games at major tournaments, last keeping a clean sheet against Slovakia in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

DFB will launch the tournament at Munich Football Arena on Friday against Scotland, a team they have beaten in both previous major tournament encounters at the 1986 World Cup and 1992 European Championship.

And former Manchester City captain Gundogan, who skippered the Citizens to an historic treble in 2022-23, hopes he can use his leadership skills to inspire his nation to a strong showing on home soil.

"It's a huge honour, a huge privilege to be captain," the Barcelona midfielder said. "I have experienced an awful lot in my career, lots of great times but also lots of difficult times. I kind of know what it takes to be successful.

"All I can do is lead from the front, both on and off the pitch. I think the people of Germany – not just the fans – deserve some success.

"We know it'll be a tough game against Scotland. They have a lot of quality, lots of stars from the Premier League, so it's going to be a challenge, but we are confident.

"We're very well set up, full of quality and there's lots of potential in the squad; we just have to deliver now. We haven't done ourselves justice in recent tournaments.

"We hope this time that we benefit somewhat from the euphoria in our home country and the support of the fans, and that this carries us along. But we know we first have to earn the trust of our fans on the pitch. If we do, I think we will go a long way.

"Playing a [tournament] in your own country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so obviously it feels really special."

Gundogan also praised the impact of Nagelsmann, who is preparing for his first major international tournament as head coach since replacing Hansi Flick last September.

The 36-year-old is aiming to become the first Germany boss to win a competition at his first attempt since Jupp Derwall at the 1980 European Championship.

"He has brought structure to the team," Gundogan observed. "He has clear ideas about what he wants, but still, there is a calmness about how the coaching team deals with the squad, and there's a sense that they have confidence in the players, which reflects well on us.

"We knew that not everything would go perfectly, we knew we would make mistakes, but we have always felt that the coach was right behind the team. We have the right set-up and are capable of producing our best, to pay back the confidence he has in us."

The Premier League season is over, Euro 2024 is approaching, and now it is time for the FA Cup final to round off the English domestic season.

Manchester City and Manchester United, as they did last season, will face off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

City won 2-1 in June 2023, with Ilkay Gundogan's stunning volley after just 12 seconds setting the tone for a dominant performance from Pep Guardiola's side, who were en route to winning a treble.

There's no treble on the cards for City this season, though after clinching an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title, another double is in their reach.

"We play FA Cup [and] we can do back-to-back doubles, we have [a] chance to do this," Guardiola said on Friday. "The FA Cup for itself is FA Cup, Wembley, all our fans going to London. It's the last game of season, last effort. 

"I'm impressed how well we have trained after a few days off, so focused, everyone wants to be involved, we will do our best for sure."  

United boss Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, looks set to take charge of his final game at the club, with the Red Devils reportedly having made the decision to sack him regardless of Saturday's result.

Using Opta data, here's all you need to know...

What's expected?

Unsurprisingly, Opta's model makes Man City the favourites, with a 68 per cent win likelihood. United's chances are rated at just 14.4 per cent, with a 17.7 per cent chance it finishes level after 120 minutes, meaning penalties would be needed.

City are unbeaten in their last 35 matches in all competitions (W29 D6) – it’s the second-longest run by a top-flight club in English football history, after Nottingham Forest’s run of 40 in 1978.

There has been a gulf between the rivals this season. City won both of their league meetings against United by an aggregate of 6-1. The last time they beat their neighbours three times in the same campaign was in 1969-70.

City fare well in some significant data points. They have the biggest positive difference (+83) between total shots (127) and shots faced (44) in the Premier League this season, and the biggest positive difference (+9.6) between their expected goals (xG) of 14.8 and expected goals against (xGA) of 5.2.

With City topping the Premier League and United way down in eighth, 31 points separated the rivals.

City scored the most goals in the Premier League, with 96, 29 more than United (57), whose xG was also 57.

United's defensive issues have been well-documented. Their xGA stood at a whopping 70 across their 38 league matches, with only the three relegated sides and West Ham having a worse figure, while only Sheffield United (678) allowed more shots than the Red Devils (667).

Ten Hag on the brink

United are looking to win the FA Cup for the 13th time, something only Arsenal (14) have ever done more. However, the Red Devils have failed to win the trophy in four of their last five final appearances, with the exception coming in 2016 against Crystal Palace under Louis van Gaal (2-1).

There have been six previous occasions of a side finishing 8th or lower facing that season’s champions in the showpiece – Aston Villa (10th) beat Manchester United 2-1 in 1957, but since then such sides have lost all five finals by an aggregate score of 15-0.

United have won five of their last seven FA Cup games against City. However, both defeats in that run have come in games at Wembley (2011 semi-final, 2023 final).

The Red Devils have lost six of their last seven meetings with City in all competitions (W1), including each of the last three in a row. They last lost four consecutively against them between 2013 and 2014.

United have lost 19 games and conceded 84 goals in all competitions this season. They last lost 20 in a campaign in 1973-74 (22) and last conceded more than 84 in 1963-64 (89).

This is only the second time in FA Cup history the same fixture has been played in the final in consecutive years, after Blackburn Rovers v Queen's Park Rangers in 1884 and 1885, and the sensible money would be on City repeating their victory from last year.

Serial winners

Much has been said of City's dominance in the Premier League, but Guardiola's team just have to be lauded for their incredible hunger to keep winning.

City could complete the league title and FA Cup double for the third time, something only previously achieved by Manchester United (1993-94, 1995-96 and 1998-99) and Arsenal (1970-71, 1997-98 and 2001-02). The Citizens did so in 2018-19 and 2022-23 and thus could become the first team to do so in consecutive campaigns.

They are aiming to win the FA Cup for the eighth time and for the first time ever in consecutive years.

Guardiola's side have won each of their last 11 matches in the FA Cup; excluding byes and void games, there have only been two longer winning runs in the competition’s history – Blackburn Rovers (20 between 1883 and 1886) and Chelsea (13 between 2009 and 2011).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Man City: Erling Haaland

Phil Foden is the Premier League Player of the Year, while he has been involved in 10 goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions, scoring nine and assisting one. He has also netted six goals in his last five games against United, while only against Brighton (eight) has he scored more career goals than his six against the Red Devils.

Yet it is Haaland who United's ramshackle defence will be most fearful of.

Haaland is the top-scoring Premier League player in all competitions this season with 38 goals. He netted 52 times last season and could become the first Premier League player to score 40+ in consecutive campaigns.

He has also been involved in nine goals in five appearances against United in all competitions (six goals, three assists), more than he has against any other side as a City player.

Man Utd: Bruno Fernandes 

Fernandes scored from the penalty spot for United in last season's FA Cup final.

He could become the fifth United player to score in the showpiece in two different years, after Bryan Robson (1983 and 1990), Norman Whiteside (1983 and 1985), Mark Hughes (1990 and 1994) and Eric Cantona (1994 and 1996).

Marcus Rashford, having been left out of the England squad for Euro 2024, will be looking to offer a reminder of his qualities, too.

Barcelona face a tough battle to secure a second-place finish in LaLiga but are pleased to have their fate in their own hands with three games remaining, says defender Inigo Martinez. 

Barca leapfrogged Girona into second with Monday's 2-0 home win over Real Sociedad, going one point clear of their Catalan rivals after they drew 2-2 with Alaves on Friday.

Lamine Yamal put Xavi's team ahead in the 40th minute when he coolly slotted home from Ilkay Gundogan's pass after a quick breakaway, then Raphinha's stoppage-time penalty made certain of the win.

The Blaugrana go to Almeria on Thursday before hosting Rayo Vallecano in their final home game of the season on Sunday. They then bring their campaign to a close at Sevilla on May 25.

"There is still a long way to go. It will be a battle to the end. Girona are very strong," Martinez told Movistar after Monday's game.

"It's in our hands now. I think the team is very good. It's three valuable points. We had some mistakes in the first half, but in the second half I think we could have finished it off earlier."

Teenage winger Yamal believes Xavi's side – who are some 14 points adrift of champions Real Madrid – may need maximum points to hold off Girona. 

"It was an important game to regain second place and we have to try to make it a nine-point week," the 16-year-old said.

"La Real did very well in the first half but then we were able to improve. There was a good feeling in the whole team."

Xavi, meanwhile, was pleased to see his team pass a difficult test, saying: "La Real always make it difficult for us. 

"They are always very organised, aggressive, you don't create danger for them. It's an important victory for us. We played a good game in general."

Barcelona seized the initiate in their Champions League quarter-final with Paris St Germain after Andreas Christensen’s header secured a 3-2 win from a thrilling first leg at Parc des Princes.

Substitute Christensen, who won the competition with Chelsea in 2021, nodded home an Ilkay Gundogan corner just two minutes after coming off the bench to add to Raphinha’s double.

PSG trailed at the break following Raphinha’s opener but looked well placed to take a lead to Spain next week when quick-fire strikes from former Barca forward Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha turned a topsy-turvy tie in their favour early in the second period.

Luis Enrique’s Ligue 1 hosts hit the woodwork either side of Raphinha’s second before Christensen settled an engrossing encounter between two heavyweight clubs.

Kylian Mbappe was largely subdued as his quest to become a European champion before leaving the French capital in the summer suffered a setback.

With former PSG and Barcelona forward Ronaldinho and France manager Didier Deschamps among those watching from the sold-out stands, the hosts had the better of the cagey opening exchanges.

Yet the visitors grew into the contest and went closest to an early breakthrough.

PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced to race out of his box to deny Raphinha before Nuno Mendes cleared Robert Lewandowski’s goal-bound header off the line following Gundogan’s corner.

Mbappe had made little impact at that stage but suddenly came to life, culminating in Kang-In Lee stinging the palms of visiting keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Gianluigi Donnarumma endured a shaky start to the match, particularly from crosses, and he failed to convince as Barcelona snatched the lead eight minutes before the break.

A flowing move which began deep in Barca territory led to the Italy keeper diving at the feet of Lewandowski following a dangerous delivery from 16-year-old Lamine Yamal but his slight fingertip touch fell kindly for Raphinha to fire his first Champions League goal high into the unguarded net.

PSG boss Enrique was the last man to lead Barcelona to Champions League glory – in 2015 – and he was left with plenty to ponder at the end of an underwhelming first half for the hosts.

The Spanish coach’s half-time team talk clearly did the trick as PSG raced out of the blocks in devastating fashion.

Dembele, who left Barca last summer having cost almost £100million from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, seized on a loose ball in the away team’s 18-yard box and chopped his way past Frenkie de Jong to lash a powerful left-footed effort into the roof of the net.

Vitinha turned the tie on its head just three minutes later, taking a touch to control a precise pass from Fabian Ruiz before calmly slipping the ball beyond Ter Stegen.

Momentum was firmly with the home side and shell-shocked Barca were fortunate not to fall further behind in the 55th minute when Bradley Barcola’s effort flicked the top of the crossbar after brushing the fingertips of Ter Stegen.

PSG were left counting the cost of that near miss just seven minutes later when the away side drew level.

Donnarumma conceded possession with a poor clearance and Barca substitute Pedri made an instant impact with an inch-perfect lofted pass which was expertly dispatched on the volley by Brazil forward Raphinha.

Dembele fired against the right post as PSG pushed to regain the lead before decisively falling behind again 13 minutes from time.

Corners had been a problem for the home side all evening and the unmarked Christensen took advantage by heading home Gundogan’s inviting delivery from inside the six-yard box.

Ilkay Gundogan believes Barcelona face a “harder” test against Napoli following the Italian club’s change of manager.

The Serie A champions sacked Walter Mazzarri on Monday and immediately brought in former coach Francesco Calzona until the end of the season.

His debut in the dugout comes at home to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Wednesday night.

Speaking to La Vanguardia, Gundogan said: “This is what the Champions League is all about, making big demands.

“I love this kind of pressure. Every game starts from zero. The fact they have just changed managers won’t make it any easier for us. If anything, it makes it even harder.

“There are other teams in the competition with more of a chance and better experience, but if we can reach the quarter finals, we are entering special territory. I am a realist, but I also know it’s difficult for everybody.”

Barcelona will see their boss Xavi leave the club at the end of the season.

The 44-year-old confirmed the news last month, with Barca falling behind rivals Real Madrid and Girona at the top of the LaLiga table.

Gundogan, who joined the club from Manchester City last summer after completing the treble, admitted he “didn’t expect” Xavi to leave.

He said: “Xavi played a huge role in me coming to Barcelona. If our conversations had gone another way, I wouldn’t be here.

“He made the difference and I’m grateful for that. I didn’t expect him to announce he was leaving at the end of the season, but I respect his decision.

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“He should get a lot of credit. He thinks about his family, the players and the club before himself. Xavi loves Barca.”

Despite their struggles in the league, Xavi steered Barcelona to top spot in Champions League Group H.

Napoli finished second to Madrid in Group C and are also having a far from happy time of things domestically.

They lie ninth in Serie A and have won just twice in their last eight league games.

Barcelona have Joao Felix and Sergi Roberto fit again after spells on the sidelines.

Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 in LaLiga despite playing the last 20 minutes with a man less.

Alaves piled the pressure on in the first period but Barcelona, in their first game since manager Xavi announced he will resign in the summer, nicked the opening goal of the game through Robert Lewandowski’s ninth of the season.

The home side were looking for a fourth straight league win but their hopes seemed to be snuffed out when Ilkay Gundogan doubled Barca’s lead.

Samuel Omorodion brought the hosts back into the match a couple of minutes later before Vitor Roque came off the bench on the hour mark for a whirlwind few minutes. He slotted Barca’s third and then saw red for a second bookable offence, but Barca nevertheless held on for a fifth win in six league games.

The hosts were causing major problems for Barca through the early stages and Omorodion was waiting to tap in from six yards following Sola’s low cross, but Ronald Araujo was there to clear away from danger.

Back came Alaves in search of the opener, this time Omorodion first to meet a corner at the front post but his glancing header evaded everyone inside the area.

Against the run of play, Barcelona broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute when Lewandowski latched onto a clever through ball from Gundogan and the Poland striker dinked over Antonio Sivera to make it 1-0.

Alaves almost had an equaliser five minutes later as John Guridi nodded towards goal but Barca keeper Inaki Pena did well to push the ball away.

Another wonderful chance went begging for the home team when the ball fell perfectly for Omorodion inside the box but he lashed a volley wide of the target.

Barcelona started the second half in much more solid fashion and their efforts were rewarded with a second goal four minutes after the break when Pedri’s delicious cross found Gundogan at the back post and he volleyed across goal to double the visitors’ lead.

Alaves responded almost instantly when Sola’s cross found Omorodion who headed past Pena to cut the deficit back down to a solitary goal.

Barcelona re-established their two goal lead just after the hour mark with a well-worked team goal.

Lamine Yamal started the move as he danced past Javi Lopez and after a few quick passes, Hector Fort cut it back for Roque who tucked the ball into the bottom right corner.

Barcelona were forced to play the final 20 minutes with a man less after goalscoring substitute Roque was sent off for a second yellow card after just 13 minutes on the pitch.

The 18-year-old Brazilian was booked a few moments before and saw red after he appeared to clip Rafa Marin, which the referee deemed to be worth another yellow card as Barca players protested heavily.

Alaves searched for a route back into the game but Barcelona looked solid and held on to make it back-to-back wins.

Second-half goals from Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal for Barcelona set up an El Clasico against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The Polish striker netted just before the hour and then Yamal grabbed in time added on to ensure Barca deservedly beat Osasuna 2-0 in the semi-final.

They will now meet their fierce rivals, who beat Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, in Sunday’s final in Riyadh, bidding to win a 15th Super Cup.

Barca were on top from the start and could have had the game in the bag in the first 20 minutes, but they came up against a human wall in the shape of Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

Herrera kept out Andreas Christensen’s volley from a corner, got down well to stop a Lewandowski effort and then tipped over Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick.

The one time he was beaten, Ferran Torres was just inches off target after Barca had won the ball back in a dangerous position.

The first-half chances kept coming as Sergi Roberto missed his kick from a golden position before Lewandowski put another header over.

Barca goalkeeper Inaki Pena had to make a save of his own to keep out Ante Budimir’s close-range effort and then Raphina limped off injured in the lead up to half-time.

Xavi’s men were back on the front foot in the second half and got their reward in the 59th minute.

Christensen regained possession before Gundogan picked out Lewandowski, who found the bottom corner for his 11th goal of the season.

Joao Felix could have made the game safe soon after but was the latest player to be denied by Herrera, who kept out the Portugal international’s curling effort.

Instead, Barcelona’s lead remained vulnerable and Pena had to pull off another good save to deny Budimir in the 77th minute, while Raul García volleyed over the bar.

They finally killed the game in the third minute of time added on as Yamal struck through Herrera after Felix’s mazy run.

Ilkay Gundogan scored a stoppage-time penalty to give Barcelona a 2-1 win at Las Palmas and close the gap at the top of LaLiga.

After Barca saw defender Joao Cancelo forced off early on with a knee injury, Munir El Haddadi put the Canary Islanders ahead against his former club.

Ferran Torres equalised soon after the restart before Gundogan slotted in a dramatic late winner from the penalty spot after being pushed over by Daley Sinkgraven, who was shown a red card, to leave Barca seven points behind leaders Real Madrid and Girona.

Brazil forward Vitor Roque was named on the bench after Barcelona received league clearance on the 18-year-old forward’s 40million euro (£35m) move from Athletico Paranaense.

There was an early injury worry for Barca when Cancelo was forced off for some treatment on a knee problem. Although the Portugal defender came back on, he did not last long and was replaced by Andreas Christensen.

Las Palmas soon took the lead in the 12th minute when former Barca striker El Haddadi swept in a low cross from fellow Blaugrana old boy Sandro Ramirez.

Barca looked for a swift response as defender Alejandro Balde got clear down the left, but his ball into the penalty area was cleared behind.

Sandro tested Barca keeper Inaki Pena with an angled drive at the near post following another fluid counter attack by the hosts.

Las Palmas continued to press, with Pena first making a smart save from Javier Munoz’s rising drive before Sandro’s deflected effort from the rebound hit the base of the post.

There was a slight delay at the start of the second half as the bottom of the goal net which Barcelona would be attacking needed some repairs.

Barca threatened when Raphinha fired over from the edge of the penalty area.

The equaliser eventually came in the 55th minute when the ball took a couple of fortuitously defections through the Las Palmas penalty area and fell to Torres, who slotted into the bottom corner.

Frenkie De Jong fired straight at Las Palmas goalkeeper Alvaro Valles after being set up by the busy Gundogan.

Barca boss Xavi made a change for the closing 20 minutes, as Robert Lewandowski was replaced by Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal came on for Raphinha.

Las Palmas went close when Mika Marmol glanced a header wide from a corner before Roque was handed his Barca debut in the 79th minute, coming on for Torres.

Just when it looked like Barca would have to settle for a point, Las Palmas substitute Sinkgraven bundled over Gundogan at the far post as the midfielder looked to head the ball in – and was shown a straight red card.

Gundogan picked himself up and took the resulting penalty himself to calmly slot in a stoppage-time winner before Roque stabbed a late chance wide from six yards.

Sergi Roberto came to Barcelona’s rescue with a brace to finally see off rock-bottom Almeria 3-2 as the LaLiga champions returned to winning ways.

The hosts looked set to stretch their winless run to four games in all competitions after twice being pegged back by opponents still in search of their first league win of the season.

But the 31-year-old latched on to a through-ball from Robert Lewandowski in the 83rd minute to grab the points which take his side back within four points of second-placed Real Madrid.

Xavi’s men were overwhelming favourites as they aimed to shrug off their recent poor run, and they started on top.

Joao Felix floated a free-kick just over the crossbar then Sergi Roberto saw his first chance well saved by busy Almeria goalkeeper Luis Maximiano.

Joao Cancelo was next up with an effort that he drilled straight at the keeper, before Fermin Lopez headed over from Ilkay Gundogan’s pinpoint cross.

Sergi Roberto blasted over from long-range on the half-hour mark before Barca finally made their seemingly inevitable breakthrough three minutes later when Ronald Araujo’s deflected effort fell to Raphinha who fired it into an empty net.

Lewandowski almost doubled Barcelona’s lead before Almeria snatched their chance to level four minutes before the break, Leo Baptistao lofting the ball over advancing Barca keeper Inaki Pena and surviving a VAR check.

Baptistao had a chance to put his side in front before the break but dragged an effort wide and normal service resumed early in the second period with substitute Ferran Torres and Lewandowski both denied.

Sergi Roberto grabbed his opener on the hour when he met Raphinha’s corner with a header at the near post to put Barcelona back in front.

But the lead lasted barely 10 minutes before the hosts were undone by a calamitous error by Pena, who dropped the ball in a collision with Araujo, allowing the alert Edgar Gonzalez to slide it into an empty net.

The hosts responded well, Araujo making up for his part in the equaliser by heading just wide, before Gundogan contrived to somehow miss his chance with the goal at his mercy.

Sergi Roberto finally grabbed what proved to be the decider in the 83rd minute when he ran on to Lewandowski’s ball through the middle to seal three hard-earned points.

Lewandowski almost added a fourth and the captain was denied a hat-trick deep into added time when his effort rattled back off the woodwork.

After years of near misses, 2023 was when everything came together on the pitch for Manchester City and they finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy.

Their triumph on a glorious June evening in Istanbul, sealed with a fine Rodri strike against Inter Milan, capped a memorable campaign in which they also retained the Premier League and won the FA Cup.

It was a treble achieved only once previously, by Manchester United, and City left their rivals in no doubt as to where the power now lies along the way as they swatted them aside at Wembley.

Ilkay Gundogan scored the fastest goal recorded in an FA Cup final, after just 13 seconds, as City prevailed in an all-Manchester showpiece that was more convincing than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.

The manner in which City won the title was just as impressive, clawing back an eight-point deficit in the spring to overhaul Arsenal, the highlight being a stunning 4-1 defeat of the Gunners in April.

The intensity of that performance was matched over two legs against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, with the 4-0 win at the Etihad Stadium leaving few in any doubt this was a side destined for greatness.

Erling Haaland finished the 2022-23 campaign with an extraordinary 52 goals to his name yet the story of City’s season was of a fine team tuned to perfection by Pep Guardiola.

But a large cloud still hangs over the club, after they were charged with 115 historical breaches of financial regulations by the Premier League in February.

Elsewhere, Manchester United returned to trophy-winning ways by claiming the Carabao Cup and Newcastle emerged as a new force by snatching a Champions League spot.

West Ham won their first major trophy since 1980 as they triumphed in the Europa Conference League, a success that finally earned silverware for their veteran manager David Moyes. Beating Fiorentina in the final also provided a fitting farewell for Declan Rice, who later joined Arsenal.

Everton evaded relegation by the skin of their teeth with Leicester facing the drop instead, just six years after winning the Premier League. Luton, a mere 10 years after playing in the National League, defied the odds to win promotion.

Celtic won the domestic treble north of the border while on the international front, England and Scotland both qualified for Euro 2024. Wales will hope to join them.

The women’s game was dominated by the World Cup in Australia. England enjoyed a fine run to the final but fell at the last hurdle as Spain took the glory in a game that became overshadowed by post-match controversy involving Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales.

The Women’s Super League was won, for a fourth year in succession, by Chelsea.

Jude Bellingham admitted he had done something great after almost single-handedly winning his first El Clasico for Real Madrid.

The England midfielder scored a stunning equaliser and dramatic stoppage-time clincher as Real came from behind to beat arch-rivals Barcelona 2-1 at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

It continued Bellingham’s extraordinary start as a Real Madrid player, with the 20-year-old having now scored 13 goals in as many appearances for Los Blancos.

Bellingham told the club’s website: “I had watched many Clasicos from the sofa with my family and I told them that today it was my turn to live it first-hand and do something great. I’ve done that and I’m very happy.”

Real trailed at half-time to an early Ilkay Gundogan strike and Bellingham conceded he had not been at his best.

Such is his confidence, however, that he only had one thing on his mind when a shooting opportunity opened up 25 yards out with 68 minutes gone.

He duly lashed home a fine equaliser and he was not done there, volleying in from close range in the dying moments.

He said: “I wasn’t at my best. Sometimes it’s not about trying to do something special every time you have the ball, but to combine with those up top.

“I fulfilled that task well but as soon as I got the ball there I knew I was going to score.

“I got the ball on the edge of the box. I’ve been saying for a few weeks that I need to try from outside.

“Maybe the opponents expect me to try to get into the box or combine with a team-mate and I wanted to surprise them by hitting it from outside the box.

“I know I have the technique and it went into the top corner.”

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side moved back to the top of LaLiga with the win, has been stunned by the impact Bellingham has had.

He said: “We’re all surprised at the level he’s at, especially in terms of how effective he’s been. He could easily score 20 or 25 goals.

“He looks like a veteran. His attitude is very good. He’s the player who has made the biggest difference.”

Kyle Walker will continue wearing the Manchester City captain’s armband for now – but has refused to reveal who the long-term skipper will be.

The England right-back has led City so far this term after previous incumbent Ilkay Gundogan left the club following last season’s treble success.

As in previous campaigns, the squad have held a vote to determine the make-up of the players’ leadership group, from which a senior figure usually emerges as captain.

Walker has revealed that this season the group comprises of himself, Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias, Rodri and Bernardo Silva but has given no further information.

That could suggest De Bruyne, who is currently sidelined through injury, is the player who will ultimately take up the mantle but Walker insists it does not matter who it is.

“There is a captain but I just feel out of respect to everyone that’s involved in it, there’s no numbers,” said the England international.

“We’re a team and we (the leadership group) are a team inside a team, and whoever wears the armband or has the armband on the day, is going to wear the armband until the time is right, until certain members in that captaincy group feel it’s right to announce the number or the order.

“That’s what we’ll do but, until then, I’m wearing the armband because I was the third captain last season and I’ll continue to wear it for the rest of the season until the time’s right.

“I don’t even think it’s really necessary. We’re a team inside a team.”

City, after winning their opening five Premier League games, continued their strong start to the season with a comfortable 3-1 win over Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League opener on Tuesday.

Walker feels City are constantly evolving as manager Pep Guardiola bids to keep his side ahead of their rivals.

He said: “I think that’s Pep being Pep. I think teams work us out, teams find the strategy of how they feel that they’re going to play or defend against us.

“When we can build up in different ways, I think that puts another tool in our toolbox where we can change it mid-game and it seems to be working for us.

“He’s got the key ingredient. He knows when’s right to let certain players go, bring players in, freshen things up here, give people challenges here and there.

“He’s got a fine balance and how to do it and it seems to work, not just here but at the number of teams that he’s been at because he’s been very successful.”

Retiring playmaker David Silva should be remembered as one of the best players to grace the Premier League, according to his former Manchester City team-mate Joleon Lescott.

Real Sociedad midfielder Silva announced his retirement at the age of 37 last Thursday, having suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season training.

Prior to joining La Real in 2020, Silva won four Premier League titles and seven domestic cups during a memorable spell at the Etihad Stadium, where he has since been honoured with a statue. 

Silva – who also won the 2010 World Cup and two European Championship titles with Spain – led all Premier League players for assists (89) and chances created (768) during the decade between 2010 and 2020.

Having played alongside Silva between 2010 and 2014, former City defender Lescott believes Silva deserves to be seen as a Premier League great. 

"When he joined he was obviously a World Cup winner and a Euros winner, and he turned out to be an iconic Premier League player, one of the best to ever grace the Premier League," Lescott told Stats Perform.

"I think we all are aware of what his qualities were on the pitch, but what a guy. What a human being. My biggest compliment to David is that he's equally as good a person as he is a player."

City have lost two further club icons during the current transfer window, with Ilkay Gundogan joining Barcelona on a free transfer and Riyad Mahrez signing for Saudi side Al Ahli in a £30million deal.

Lescott believes the duo will be missed by Pep Guardiola's treble winners, adding: "The qualities they'll bring to their new teams are obvious. 

"They have superior technical ability. Ilkay is recognised as one of the best leaders in the squad. Riyad is obviously one of the most skilful. 

"They'll bring that to their new teams but they'll be sorely missed, not just because of their ability on the pitch, but [because of] what they brought to the dressing room and what they were to City's fanbase."

Having delivered the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup trophies last term, Guardiola is looking to lead City to a fourth successive top-flight title this season.

Asked about Guardiola's impact on English football, Lescott said: "He's obviously changed the game, he's revolutionised different positions, the way we look at it and the way we view it.

"Every country he's managed in, I think they've tried to adapt throughout the leagues, and that's the biggest compliment for Pep. 

"Now in England there are multiple teams in multiple leagues that want to play the way they see Man City play."

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