Champions League football resumes on Tuesday, with Robert Lewandowski's return to Bayern Munich with Barcelona being an obvious highlight.

Barcelona travel to Bavaria in a match few would be disappointed to see replicated in next year's final, with Atletico Madrid also travelling to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen.

After Premier League football was suspended at the weekend as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen, Liverpool are back in action against Ajax and are seeking to respond to a defeat to Napoli last week, while Tottenham travel to face Sporting CP.

Elsewhere, Inter face Viktoria Plzen after both sides lost their opening fixture and Eintracht Frankfurt, following defeat to Sporting, travel to Marseille – and the only remaining match of the day is Porto against Brugge.

For a closer look at all the action you can look forward to, Stats Perform has dived into the Opta data to highlight the most interesting facts for each match.

Bayern vs Barcelona

Scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Barcelona against Viktoria Plzen, Lewandowski returns to Bavaria with a devastating record this season and his goals in the 5-1 triumph saw Barcelona scoring more in one game than they had in their previous nine matches in the competition (4).

While that will give the visitors confidence, Barcelona have a poor record against the Bundesliga champions having suffered eight defeats in the competition to Bayern – twice as many as they have lost against any other opponent (4 vs Milan, Chelsea and PSG).

Four of those losses have come in the group stages, with Bayern winning both matches in 1998-99 and 2021-22 to boast a 100 per cent record against Barcelona in that regard, who have not lost more than twice against any other opponent in the group stage.

On top of that, Bayern have won 35 of their last 37 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League – the only exceptions being a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in December 2013 and a 1-1 draw with Ajax in October 2018.

Liverpool vs Ajax

Liverpool won both meetings with Ajax in the 2020-21 Champions League group stages, the only campaign in the competition when they have met, with the Dutch side not beating Liverpool in any competition since a 5-1 win in December 1966.

Ajax's defeat to Liverpool in December 2020 is one of only two defeats that the Eredivisie champions have experienced in their last 25 matches (W13, D10) away from home in UEFA competition, the other being a 2-0 defeat to Getafe in February 2020 in the Europa League.

Having suffered defeat to Napoli last week, Liverpool are looking to avoid back-to-back defeats to start a Champions League campaign for the first time, while they have only lost their first home match in two of their previous 46 major European campaigns (W35, D9).

With seven Champions League wins in a row, Ajax travel to Anfield with a stellar run in the competition as only Bayern (8) boast a better winning streak currently.

Sporting vs Tottenham

While the two sides have never met competitively, Sporting are winless in all six of their Champions League matches against English opposition (D1, L5) and have lost all three of those games in Lisbon without scoring a single goal.

Tottenham's record against Portuguese opponents is scarce, winning against Pacos de Ferreira in the qualifying phases for the 2021-22 Europa League but not facing an opponent from the country in the Europe's premier competition since a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Benfica in the 1962-63 semi-final.

Sporting have never won their opening two matches in the Champions League, while Antonio Conte is looking to follow in the footsteps of Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs seek back-to-back wins to open a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2017-18 season under the Argentine.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico

Neither side has a particularly good record to encourage them heading into Tuesday's tie, with Leverkusen having won just four of their last 20 Champions League matches (D8, L8), while Atletico have only kept one clean sheet in 21 away matches against German opposition in major UEFA competitions.

Atletico have only won one of four away matches against Leverkusen, a 4-2 victory in February 2017 in the Champions League, and have won only one of their last seven matches in Germany – though that was the match in 2017.

Late drama is to be expected whenever Atletico compete in the Champions League, with five of their last 10 goals in the competition coming in the 90th minute of matches.

Other fixtures:

Viktoria Plzen vs Inter

8 - Viktoria Plzen have won their last eight home European matches (including qualifiers), scoring at least twice in every win (21 in total). They have only lost one of their last 19 on home soil in European football (W16 D2), a 5-0 reverse against Real Madrid during their last UEFA Champions League campaign in November 2018.

2 - Since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Inter striker Lautaro Martínez has scored just two goals from 48 shots (inc. blocks) in the UEFA Champions League. The Argentine’s shot conversion rate of 4.2 per cent (including blocks) is the lowest of any player to have attempted 30+ shots during this period.

Porto vs Brugge

3 - Porto have lost their last three UEFA Champions League matches, with two of those coming against Atletico; they have never lost four in a row in the competition before.

1 - In major European competition, Club Brugge have lost five of their six away matches in Portugal (W1), their one win coming against Sporting Braga in September 2011 in the UEFA Europa League.

Marseille vs Eintracht Frankfurt

15 - Marseille have lost 15 of their last 16 UEFA Champions League matches (W1), with the exception coming in their last home game in the competition in December 2020 against Olympiacos.

2 - Marseille and Eintracht Frankfurt will face in European competition for only the second time, also meeting in the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League group stages. Frankfurt won both matches (2-1 away, 4-0 home).

Antonio Conte hailed Richarlison's versatility after the Brazilian opened his Tottenham account with a brace to seal a 2-0 Champions League win over Marseille on Wednesday.

Spurs took full advantage of Chancel Mbemba's red card as Richarlison twice headed past Pau Lopez inside the final 15 minutes, ensuring Conte's men won their opening match in a Champions League campaign for only the second time.

Richarlison became the 39th Brazilian to score on his debut in the competition, the most of any nation, but is the first Brazilian since Oscar in September 2012 to net a brace on his Champions League bow.

The 25-year-old joined from Everton in a £60million deal in July and Conte believes his display was a perfect demonstration of why they signed him.

"First of all, I am happy for Richy," Conte said in a news conference. "He deserved to have a night like this.

"I remember very well when we signed him, he said he cannot wait to listen to the Champions League music and play in competition. 

"This morning I said I remember what he said and you have your opportunity and chance. I think he did his best.

"We signed him to enhance the quality of team and support our three strikers. Last season when you have a team with Son [Heung-min], Harry [Kane] and Deki [Dejan Kulusevski], we tried to sign a player that was able to play in all three positions.

"For this reason, we didn't have any doubts about signing him and we did it quickly because our idea and ambition was very clear.

"He is more of a striker than Deki but at same time he can play in the Son position, Kane position, and Deki position. This is very important for sure, as when you make rotation, you don't drop the quality."

 

Spurs travel to champions Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday and Conte acknowledged he will likely have to shuffle his pack, given the tight turnaround.  

"I have a big decision. Honestly, I am a bit worried as we are playing against City in only two days and it is not easy," he added.

"I think some players need to recover as many have played every game until now. You know very well we have to rotate our team."

Richarlison scored his first two Tottenham goals as they marked their return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2019-20 season with a 2-0 win over 10-man Marseille on Wednesday.

Spurs started slowly in their first competitive clash against the Ligue 1 side, but their cause was helped significantly just after half-time when Chancel Mbemba was shown a straight red card for a professional foul. 

Antonio Conte's men took full advantage of that numerical advantage inside the closing 15 minutes as Richarlison twice headed past Pau Lopez to the delight of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium crowd. 

The result means Spurs are level on three points with Sporting CP at the Group D summit after the Portuguese side beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 earlier in the day.

Spurs did most of the pressing in the first half, yet their only chance of note fell to Harry Kane five minutes before the interval, the England captain dragging wide after being played in by Son Heung-min.

Marseille's hopes of going back to France with a positive result were dealt a blow two minutes into the second half when Mbemba received his marching orders for bringing down a clean-through Son just outside the penalty area. 

Substitute Dejan Kulusevski injected some much-needed spark into Spurs' attack following his introduction on the hour mark, and the new-look hosts went ahead in the 76th minute when Richarlison headed home Ivan Perisic's cross. 

The former Everton man put the result beyond doubt five minutes later with another header – this time from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's cross – that left Lopez with no chance. 

Antonio Conte has criticised Tottenham's fixture crunch in the run-up to the World Cup, stating it is the first time in his career he has seen such a "crazy" schedule.

The Premier League side get their Champions League campaign under was on Wednesday when they host Marseille, marking their return to the competition after two seasons away.

Coupled with English domestic commitments, they will play 17 games over the next nine and a half weeks, due to the mid-season staging of this year's World Cup in Qatar.

Reflecting on the calendar, Conte has been left stunned by the crush of clashes on his team's schedule, and says he believes organisers can do better to avoid such issues.

"It's crazy," he stated at a pre-match press conference. "We played three games in six days against Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Fulham, and now we play three games against Marseille, [Manchester] City away [and] Sporting Lisbon away in six days.

"I think [this is the] first time in my career [I have] seen a schedule like this. I think we can do much better for the future."

Conte added that Spurs' return to the top competition in European club football was a chance to show further progress on a strong 2021-22 season.

"First of all, we are having a Champions League press conference for what we did last season," he stated. "I think last season we did a fantastic job with the club and with the players.

"We are to enjoy this important competition in Europe. For sure, we want to play to try to do our best.

"We have to play with ambition and with great desire, with great will. I know very well this tournament is really difficult, it is the most difficult in the world.

"But at the same time, it's a great opportunity to show we are going in the right way, that we are making a step forward and we want to try to improve and to give satisfaction to our fans and then to give satisfaction to ourselves."

The transfer window has been gently eased shut, and there were plenty of last-minute deals to keep fans across Europe captivated.

Southampton were busy, adding Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Duje Caleta-Car to their ranks, among others, while Barcelona allowed Martin Braithwaite to join Espanyol on a free transfer and sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea.

As the seconds ticked down, clubs dotted their i's, crossed their t's and blew the dust off their fax machines, and here is just some of what took place in the closing hours.

Busy Saints bring in four, lose one

As far as the Premier League goes, it was Southampton who got up to the most activity in the final moments, signing Maitland-Niles on loan from Arsenal and Caleta-Car permanently from Marseille on a four-year deal, as well as adding two Manchester City youngsters in Juan Larios and Sam Edozie. They let defender Yan Valery to Ligue 1 side Angers.

Brighton and Hove Albion completed the signing of Billy Gilmour from Chelsea and released Romanian striker Florin Andone, while Chelsea let Ethan Ampadu join Serie A side Spezia on loan and finally allowed Kenedy to depart Stamford Bridge after seven years to join Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Carlos Vinicius returned to the Premier League after a loan spell with Tottenham in 2020-21, having joined Fulham from Benfica on a permanent deal. The Cottagers also completed a loan deal for Leeds United winger Daniel James.

The Whites were frustrated in their attempts to sign Bamba Dieng from Marseille, but instead clinched a deal for Italian youngster Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich for an undisclosed fee.

Nottingham Forest added signings number 20 and 21 of the window in Josh Bowler from Blackpool and Loic Bade from Rennes, with free agent Serge Aurier potentially making it 22, though a reported late move for Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi failed to materialise.

Jan Bednarek had been linked with a move to West Ham earlier in the day but ended up leaving Southampton on loan to another team in claret and blue as Aston Villa brought in the Polish defender.

Brooks was here, now he's in Lisbon

On the continent, Benfica completed the signing of American defender John Brooks from Wolfsburg, while Maxi Gomez left Valencia for Turkish side Trabzonspor.

Los Che brought in a replacement for Gomez in Justin Kluivert on loan from Roma after his move to Fulham fell through due to work permit issues.

In France, highly rated forward Amine Gouiri swapped Nice for Rennes in a reported club-record fee apparently worth €28million, while Lille secured a loan deal for Everton midfielder Andre Gomes.

As well as signing Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin and losing Braithwaite, Barcelona also said goodbye on a temporary basis to Ez Abde, who joined Osasuna on loan.

Chelsea are looking to make another massive long-term investment, with reports they are aggressively moving for 20-year-old RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol in a deal that would cost £77.4million (€90m).

Gvardiol, who has 10 senior international caps for Croatia to his name, has established himself as one of the most exciting young defenders in Germany.

He has been linked to a host of elite clubs, but Chelsea appear to be at the front of the queue and would allow the centre-back to stay at Leipzig until next year.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PLAN ANOTHER CENTRE-BACK SPLURGE FOR GVARDIOL

The Stamford Bridge club have made a number of big defensive signings in this window, with Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella set to be followed by Wesley Fofana.

Koulibaly is 31, though, and has joined veteran Thiago Silva at the heart of the defence, explaining why Chelsea may already be looking at a succession plan.

Fabrizio Romano says the Blues are "in advanced talks" with Leipzig over a deal that would be completed now but only see Gvardiol make the move in 2023.

ROUND-UP

– PSV forward Cody Gakpo appears destined for the Premier League, with The Telegraph reporting Everton, Leeds United and Southampton are all interested in a player believed to be valued around £30m.

– The Telegraph has named a list of potential Fulham targets, including former Chelsea winger Willian, Paris Saint-Germain defender Layvin Kurzawa, Roma winger Justin Kluivert and Marseille forward Bamba Dieng

– The Daily Mail is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion are investigating a move for Billy Gilmour, although Chelsea's lack of depth in midfield could complicate matters.

– Aston Villa forward Douglas Luiz has some high-profile admirers, with Matheus Leal reporting Liverpool have submitted a £20m bid, and The Telegraph adds Atletico Madrid are also prepared to make the same offer.

Leicester City are negotiating a deal for their potential Fofana replacement in 24-year-old Reims centre-back Wout Faes, believed to be worth £17.2m, according to the Daily Mail.

Juventus have added Arkadiusz Milik to their attacking options after bringing the former Napoli striker back to Serie A from Marseille.

The 28-year-old Milik spent 18 months in France and returns to bolster Massimiliano Allegri's squad on an initial season-long loan.

It was revealed in a club statement on Friday that Juventus will pay a maximum of €1.7million to Marseille for the loan deal, with €0.8m of that hinging on the success of Milik's stay.

Juventus will also have an option to make the deal for the 28-year-old permanent for €7m, plus €2m in performance-related add-ons.

Poland international Milik will be familiar to Juventus supporters from his time in Naples. He scored the winning spot-kick against Juve in the 2020 Coppa Italia final that went down to a penalty shoot-out.

With Marseille he scored 30 goals in 55 games across all competitions, having left Napoli in January 2021 after refusing to extend his contract.

Milik previously played with distinction at Ajax, after spells at Bayer Leverkusen and Augsburg in the early stages of his career, which began in Poland with Gornik Zabrze.

He switched to Napoli in 2016 and now joins a Juventus squad where he will be competing for a starting place with the likes of Dusan Vlahovic and Moise Kean.

Juventus have also been linked with Barcelona's Memphis Depay, while the deal for Milik has left former boss Fabio Capello cold.

Speaking before it was sealed, Capello said: "We need a player who has more quality. I hear about Milik, but he is not a player that makes the difference.

"It's not what the fans dream of seeing at Juve – he's a good player, who can be part of the squad, but nothing more."

Manchester United are set to be busy in the final week of the transfer window and are closing in on a huge signing.

Erik ten Hag wants to bring in Antony from his former club Ajax, and the Brazil winger is keen to be reunited with his former coach.

United made a dismal start to the season by losing their opening two games, but bounced back by beating Liverpool on Monday, and are aiming to make another splash in the transfer market after signing Casemiro from Real Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – ANTONY TRYING TO FORCE UNITED MOVE

Antony is attempting to force through a move to United by handing in a transfer request at Ajax.

That is according to The Mirror, while The Telegraph have claimed the 22-year-old's representatives are now basing themselves in London in order to push through a deal.

Ajax are reluctant to sell and this week turned down a £67.6million (€80m) bid from United, who are expected to up their offer. The Dutch club are said to want a fee of £84m (€100m), but Antony is trying to force their hand.

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic report that Dele Alli is on the brink of joining Besiktas on loan from Everton. The England international is in Istanbul to complete the move.

- Sky Sports Germany are claiming Chelsea will turn their focus to Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Edmond Tapsoba if they cannot sign Leicester City's Wesley Fofana.

- Newcastle United are set to break their transfer record by signing Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad for £60m (€71.1m), according to widespread reports.

 

- David Moyes confirmed West Ham had bid for Lucas Paqueta, but that approach has been turned down by Lyon, according to L'Equipe.

- BILD reporter Christian Falk has claimed Manchester United will decide whether or not to push ahead with a move for Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp on Thursday.

- According to Fabrizio Romano, Marseille are not considering a move for Cristiano Ronaldo, who may be allowed to leave Old Trafford.

- Romano also reports that Marseille forward Arkadiusz Milik is joining Juventus.

Manchester United have confirmed the departure of defender Eric Bailly, who has joined Marseille on a season-long loan with the potential for a permanent transfer.

The Ivory Coast centre-back has swapped the Premier League for Ligue 1 on a deal that will initially run to the end of the 2022-23 season.

But Marseille will have the option to buy the 28-year-old before the campaign concludes, with the fee reportedly set at €10million (£8.5m).

Bailly arrived at Old Trafford from Villarreal in 2016 and was a member of United's EFL Cup and Europa League-winning squad under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

However, various injury struggles, as well as the arrivals of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane, have seen him restricted to just 57 appearances since the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

United's recent acquisition of Lisandro Martinez from Ajax pushed Bailly further down the pecking order under new boss Erik ten Hag, and the defender has now become the latest player to depart under the Dutchman's watch.

His exit comes in the wake of United's first win of the season, after the Red Devils ended a dire run of form to defeat Liverpool 2-1 on Monday.

Goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford steered the hosts to victory, while Martinez partnered Varane in a new-look backline as captain Maguire joined Cristiano Ronaldo in being dropped to the bench.

Fabio Capello does not understand why Juventus would want to sign Marseille forward Arkadiusz Milik before the transfer window closes.

Juve are reported to be keen to land Poland international Milik rather than Barcelona's Memphis Depay.

Milik scored 20 goals in 37 games for Ligue 1 side Marseille in all competitions last season, and the Bianconeri are said to have lined up a loan move for the former Napoli man, with the option to sign him permanently.

Former Juve boss Capello is not enthused over reports that Milik could be on his way to Turin.

"We need a player who has more quality. I hear about Milik, but he is not a player that makes the difference," Capello told Sky Sport Italia 

"It's not what the fans dream of seeing at Juve – he's a good player, who can be part of the squad, but nothing more."

Vice president Pavel Nedved confirmed that Depay is a target for Juve ahead of Monday's goalless Serie A draw at Sampdoria.

He told DAZN: "There is no need to speed up the process, that is never a good idea. We are evaluating; we are vigilant about what the market offers.

"We must evaluate well, looking at training and injuries; we are considering entering the market.

"Depay can play with with Dusan [Vlahovic] or in his place. He can play with [Moise] Kean and play as a winger, but he is only one of the names we are evaluating."

Chelsea lost 3-0 to Leeds United on Sunday and it would appear that defeat has sparked the Blues into action.

New owner Todd Boehly has been keen to make his mark since arriving at Stamford Bridge, bringing in Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella among others.

But head coach Thomas Tuchel wants more. Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana is a priority target for the defence, while last week Chelsea had two bids rejected by Everton for Anthony Gordon.

Now it would appear the Blues are confident of completing the signing, while they are also reportedly in talks to land a second attacker.

TOP STORY - CHELSEA IN FOR GORDON AND LEAO

The Times reports that Chelsea will this week push ahead and match Everton's £50million asking price for winger Gordon, who scored four goals in a breakthrough Premier League season last term.

Everton boss Frank Lampard stressed the importance of Gordon to his plans, and played the 21-year-old against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but also suggested that a decision might have to be made if a bid was too good to turn down.

Gordon might also be joined in moving to Stamford Bridge by Milan star Rafael Leao. The Portugal international scored 11 times for the Rossoneri as they won Serie A last season, and the same report claims that Chelsea are in talks with the Italian champions over a move for the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- Several outlets are reporting that West Ham have struck a deal with Chelsea to sign left-back Emerson Palmieri for around £13million.

- Eric Bailly is close to joining Marseille on loan from Manchester United, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- The Telegraph claims Newcastle United have been told they must pay £30million to buy striker Joao Pedro from Watford.

- Villarreal coach Unai Emery told El Larguero that Edinson Cavani could join the club, while he also said that Juan Foyth is of interest to Barcelona.

- Everton were hoping to have Idrissa Gueye and Mohammed Kudus signed but have bumped into difficulties with Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax respectively, says The Times.

- Fabrizio Romano also reports that Fulham and Roma will hold further talks this week over Justin Kluivert.

- Barca defender Samuel Umtiti will join Lecce, says Gianluca Di Marzio.

Manchester United have had a long pursuit of Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong this off-season, which has not borne fruit.

But the Red Devils have switched their attention with links to Juventus' Adrien Rabiot and now another potential midfield signing.

United are desperate for reinforcements after losing their opening two Premier League games under new boss Erik ten Hag.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD MOVE FOR CASEMIRO IN £60M DEAL

Manchester United are on the cusp of landing Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro on a four-year contract in a £60million (€70m) deal, claims Marca.

It has only taken three days of negotiations, with Casemiro cleared by the Spanish club to undergo a medical at United on Friday.

The four-year deal includes the option of a further 12 months, with the exact fee to be £50.7m plus £8.5m in add-ons.

If the deal is completed on Friday, it is unlikely he will be available for Monday's clash with Liverpool as he still requires a visa.

 

ROUND-UP

– AS claims that Madrid are considering a move for Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes as a replacement for Casemiro amid United's interest in him.

– United are interested in signing Napoli's Hirving Lozano according to Gianluca Di Marzio, re-opening speculation around a swap deal involving Cristiano Ronaldo.

– PSV are not open to selling forward Cody Gakpo until their Champions League qualifying tie with Rangers is settled, following links with United, reports Daily Mail.

– Sky Sports reports that United have also had a £67.6m (€80m) bid for Ajax forward Antony rejected. United are weighing up whether to make an improved bid, but Ajax are understood to want to keep the Brazilian.

– L'Equipe claims that Marseille are open to selling Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik before the transfer window closes. Everton and United have been linked to Milik who scored 20 goals in all competitions last season.

– Gerard Romero claims that an agreement on personal terms between Barcelona and Villarreal right-back Juan Foyth is close, but the clubs are yet to agree on a deal with the Argentinian have a €42m release clause.

Nice are targeting former Real Madrid full-back Marcelo according to Foot Mercato. The ex-Brazil international was released by Madrid after last season.

Alexis Sanchez officially signed his contract as a Marseille player on Wednesday after passing a medical with the Ligue 1 club.

A busy week for Sanchez had seen him depart Inter on Monday when his contract was terminated, before Marseille announced a deal in principle had been agreed on Tuesday.

Marseille fans were made to wait little longer for formal confirmation of an eye-catching signing.

The former Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United man arrives in France looking to recapture his best form, having started only seven matches in Serie A last season – albeit he still scored five goals.

Sanchez had netted seven for Inter the previous season, again often appearing from the bench, as the Nerazzurri won the Scudetto.

Marseille's statement on Wednesday described Sanchez as "a world-class player with a great experience of the very highest level".

Inter have confirmed the termination of Alexis Sanchez's contract amid reports the forward is set to join Marseille.

Sanchez arrived at San Siro from Manchester United in 2019, initially on a season-long loan before signing a permanent deal in 2020.

The Chile international was part of the Inter side that won the Serie A title in the 2020-21 season, while he also scored a dramatic 121st minute winner against Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana in January.

Sanchez only managed five goals in 27 Serie A appearances for the Nerazzurri last season, though just seven of those were starts.

The 33-year-old made 109 appearances in all, scoring 20 goals.

Inter said in a statement on Monday: "FC Internazionale Milano announces that it has reached an agreement for the consensual termination of the contract of the Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez.

"The club would like to thank Alexis for his three seasons in the Nerazzurri, culminating in the winning of three trophies, and wishes him the best for the rest of his career."

Numerous reports have suggested Sanchez's next move will be to Ligue 1, with Marseille said to be offering the former Barcelona man a two-year deal.

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

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