Illinois Fighting Illini coach Lovie Smith shaves off his trademark beard

The Illinois Fighting Illini football team had a banner season in 2019, upsetting then-No. 6 Wisconsin as 31-point underdogs in October en route to a six-win season and the program's first bowl appearance since 2014.

On Wednesday, the program took an "L."

Head coach Lovie Smith — whose sideline persona included a signature bushy white beard for the previous two years — shaved that glorious beard and is now clean shaven.

The Illini football team's official Twitter account revealed the updated look for Smith, who went beard-less during his time as an NFL head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004-15.

pic.twitter.com/SQkKzytDjx

If you need a refresher, here's what the bearded Smith looked like …

Lovie Smith looks on during Illinois' 38-10 win over Rutgers on Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Patrick Gorski, USA TODAY Sports)

The Fighting Illini are scheduled to kick off their 2020 season on Sept. 4 against Illinois State in Champaign, Illinois. Their Big Ten opener is against Rutgers on Oct. 3 in Piscataway, N.J.

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Premier League: Four more positive cases after third round of coronavirus testing

Four more people from three Premier League clubs have tested positive for coronavirus after the third round of testing.

There were 1,008 tests carried out on Monday and Tuesday – and a fourth round will take place on Thursday and Friday, with up to 60 people from each club to be tested.

  • PL clubs approve return to contact training
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It is not yet known whether the four new positive tests are players, non-playing staff, or a combination of both – or whether any of the positives are from people who tested positive in the first round and who have returned after self-isolating for seven days.

A statement read: “The Premier League can today confirm that on Monday 25 May and Tuesday 26 May, 1,008 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19.

“Of these, four have tested positive from three clubs.

“Players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of seven days.

“Previously, between 19-22 May, 996 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19, of which two tested positive from two clubs.

“Some 748 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19 on 17-18 May, with six testing positive from three clubs.

“For the fourth round of testing, the number of tests available to each club will be increased from 50 to 60.”

COVID-19 impact on football

March 5 – Pre-match handshakes banned in the Premier League.
March 11 – Man City v Arsenal is first Premier League game suspended; Liverpool v Atletico Madrid the last top level game played in England.
March 12 – Man Utd, Wolves play away Europa League ties behind closed doors, Rangers host Bayer Leverkusen in front of fans.
March 13 – Football suspended following an emergency meeting between PL, FA, EFL and WSL
April 15 – SPFL clubs approve plan to end the Scottish Championship, League One and league Two seasons.
May 15 – League Two clubs vote to end the season with immediate effect.
May 17 – Premier League players and staff tested for COVID-19.
May 18 – Scottish Premiership curtailed, with points per game determining league positions and Celtic named champions.
May 19 – Premier League clubs return to socially distanced group training.
May 25 – Women’s Super League cancelled, with title and relegation to be determined.
May 27 –Premier League clubs vote to resume contact training.

The next set of testing will be the first to be conducted when at least some of the Premier League clubs have resumed contact training, which was unanimously approved on Wednesday.

No matches have been played in the Premier League since March, but the government has given the go-ahead for elite sport to resume from June 1.

And the return of contact training is seen as a major step towards a possible resumption of the Premier League next month.

Clubs will meet again on Thursday to discuss the broader details of how what has been dubbed Project Restart might take shape – including contingency talks on how curtailment of the season would look, if it is not deemed safe to resume.

Premier League clubs approve contact training

Premier League clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a return to contact training, in another significant step towards the resumption of matches “when safe to do so”.

The significance of contact training is that it’s the single biggest step towards the resumption of matches.

Throughout the pandemic there have been concerns raised about the risks associated with training and what it takes for coronavirus to be transmitted on the pitch.

If there is no spike in positive tests, with fewer negative results over more tests, it will give the authorities, and clubs, the confidence that it will be safe to resume competitive games next month.

If everything goes to plan with contact training, a third vote, on a specific date, is expected in due course.

Read more here about the return of contact training and what it means for the Premier League season

Contingency plans to be discussed on Thursday

Thursday is another important day for the Premier League. That is when all other aspects of Project Restart will be discussed, including the league’s contingency plans on relegation, the issue of the use of points-per-game, and the award of the Premier League title, if the season has to be curtailed.

Analysis: 12 positive tests but 12 different people?

Analysis by Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News

“Four positive results out of just over 1,000 tests in the third round of testing only tells us half a story.

“There have been 12 positive results since testing has been published this month.

“But we don’t yet know whether these new results include any of the six people who tested positive in the first round and have since returned from seven days in self-isolation.

“The figure is still relatively low so will provide further cautious optimism for the Premier League, only hours after the significant decision was made to resume contact training.

The figure is still relatively low so will provide further cautious optimism for the Premier League, only hours after the significant decision was made to resume contact training.

Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News

“These latest results again demonstrate that coronavirus is not widespread in all 20 clubs at the moment, at least not among an average of 50 people tested per club in the third round.

“Crucially, there has been no cluster of positive results in one club.

“The fact there are four positive tests must be taken seriously and those individuals must self-isolate for seven days before they take a further COVID-19 test.

“They cannot attend the training ground and three clubs will want to establish what contact those individuals had with other people, in particular in the same household.

“In theory, they should have not have come into close contact with anyone outside their household since March, under the government’s social distancing rules.

“It is important to highlight there have been 2,740 negative results in the first three rounds, around 99.5 per cent.

“Up to 60 people from each club will now be tested from the next round, twice a week, in line with an agreement to resume contact training.

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Ianis Hagi: Rangers close to permanent deal for Romanian midfielder

Rangers are closing in on a deal to sign Ianis Hagi from Genk on a permanent basis, and could complete his signing within the next 24 hours.

Genk claimed a permanent deal had been completed on Tuesday evening, before deleting the statement from their website.

The Romanian midfielder joined Rangers on loan in January, with Steven Gerrard’s side having an option to buy.

Despite Genk originally wanting around £4.5m for Hagi, the proposed deal will see Rangers pay £3m in instalments across three seasons.

Hagi scored three goals in 12 appearances for Rangers before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.

Last week, Rangers confirmed the summer departure of six players, including popular midfielder Andy Halliday and former Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan.

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Coronavirus: Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid and Cheltenham Festival ‘led to spike’ in coronavirus deaths

Liverpool’s Champions League home match against Atletico Madrid and the Cheltenham Festival contributed to an increase in coronavirus deaths in the UK, a scientist has said.

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, said the two events held in March had “caused increased suffering and death that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred”.

He said data from an app used to report COVID-19 symptoms showed that Cheltenham and the North West both became “key hotspots” for the coronavirus.

Despite several European countries and cities already being in lockdown by the time the sports fixtures took place, Prime Minister Boris Johnson waited until 23 March to announce his own “stay at home” message in the UK.

More than 251,000 people attended the Cheltenham Festival from March 16-19 this year – a drop of nearly 15,000 compared to 2019.

Liverpool’s exit from the last-16 of the Champions League on March 11 was watched by around 52,000 people inside Anfield, including 3,000 visiting supporters who had travelled from Madrid – where such events had already been suspended.

By the time Mr Johnson ordered the lockdown, the number of coronavirus cases in the UK stood at 6,650 and the number of deaths was 336.

Since then, nearly 37,000 people have died in the UK after contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and there have been more than 262,000 cases.

Last month, Liverpool City Council announced plans to jointly investigate the spread of the virus in Merseyside, alongside the University of Liverpool and John Moores University, following the match.

Professor Spector, who works in genetic epidemiology research, said: “Two weeks after the Cheltenham Festival and the Liverpool game against Atletico Madrid, we saw the number of people reporting COVID symptoms in the COVID Symptom Study app from those particular areas increase and both areas became key hotspots in the UK.

“This suggests that both events were, in part, a cause for the spread of COVID-19 in those areas.”

Data from the Kings College study shows a higher number of cases in Cheltenham and Liverpool compared to their surrounding areas from 22 March to 29 March.

Liverpool City Council’s director of public health Matthew Ashton is convinced the game against Atletico Madrid should not have gone ahead.

But the government believes the events took place within “clear guidance” given at the time.

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Pep Guardiola delighted with Man City fitness as Premier League nears potential return

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is delighted with the fitness of his players as the Premier League nears a return, with clubs expected to give the go-ahead to the introduction of phase two of training on Wednesday.

If phase two is agreed, there are hopes that a return to competition could be agreed by the end of the week as champions City trail leaders Liverpool by 25 points, with the Reds likely to win their first top-flight title since 1990.

Key week for the Premier League

Monday: Next twice-weekly round of COVID-19 testing begins, continuing into Tuesday, with results expected on Wednesday.

Tuesday: Premier League will discuss updated government advice on contact training with club captains, managers and representatives from PFA and LMA.

Wednesday: Premier League clubs will vote on whether to resume contact training.

Thursday: Clubs meet again to discuss broader details of Project Restart – including how curtailment of the season would look.

City, who have 10 games remaining, returned to training last week for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak in March, which froze football in England and across the world.

  • Government approves close-contact training
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Guardiola, who led City to a domestic treble last season, told the club’s website that his players “came back perfectly”.

“Yeah, really good,” he said about his squad’s fitness. “I think they were looking forward to coming back and to train again and do what they like.

“They came back perfectly. We follow the rules, the protocol. We have to. That’s the most important thing. We don’t do anything special.”

The Spaniard also took the opportunity to praise key workers during the ongoing pandemic, while insisting football fans must remain patient ahead of a potential return to top-flight action.

“The special ones are the doctors, nurses, scientists, cleaners – they put their own lives at risk to save ours,” he added.

“When it’s a special situation around the world, you have to adapt. I think all the fans around the world are waiting to watch football. We want to come back but now the priority is other things.

“It [the message] is still ‘stay safe, be careful, and when everything is possible we will come back’. First, I think without them, but hopefully we come back to a routine.

“But now the most important thing is to follow the instructions. If they say use a mask, stay at home, social distance… we have to do it. Because there are many, many people in the NHS who put their own lives at risk to save ours.”

PL return date could be agreed by end of the week

A Premier League return date could be agreed by the end of the week, with clubs expected to approve phase two of training on Wednesday.

The league has received government approval to progress to the next stage of Project Restart, enabling competitive and close-contact training, including tackling, in groups of up to 12 players.

Players and managers will have the chance to discuss any remaining concerns over phase two when they hold separate video calls with the Premier League on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, clubs will then vote on whether to move to the next stage of training, which could be introduced at training grounds before the end of this week.

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Glyn Pardoe: Former Manchester City defender dies aged 73

Glyn Pardoe, a member of Manchester City’s 1968 league-winning side, has died at the age of 73, the Premier League club have announced.

Pardoe spent his entire playing career with City between 1962 and 1976, and scored the winning goal in the 1970 League Cup final.

“Everyone at City is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Glyn Pardoe,” City wrote on Twitter.

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to his friends and family at this difficult time.”

Forever my hero! I love you so much. Rest easy 💙 pic.twitter.com/NblrNfVzET

Pardoe remains the youngest player to turn out for City, having made his debut against Birmingham in April 1962 at the age of 15 years and 341 days old.

The left-back went on to make 380 appearances for the club during their successful period in the late 1960s, winning the league title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970.

But Pardoe broke his leg in a tackle with George Best during a Manchester derby in 1970 and struggled to regain his place in the side after a lengthy lay-off. He later took up a coaching position with the club after retiring from playing.

City was a family affair for Pardoe, whose cousin Alan Oakes was a team-mate throughout his playing days.

Pardoe’s daughter Charlotte is married to Scott Doyle, the son of Pardoe’s late team-mate Mike Doyle, and both men were grandfathers to Tommy Doyle, the 18-year-old midfielder who made his debut for City in a 3-1 League Cup win over Southampton in October last year.

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Arsenal 1989: The making of the team that won the title at Anfield 31 years ago

It was hailed as the greatest climax to the title race in English football history. May 26, 1989, the night Arsenal snatched the title from Liverpool with virtually the last kick of the season. 

It was the last match of the 1988/89 season. Arsenal, three points behind leaders Liverpool, had to win by two clear goals to clinch the title, and 18 million viewers tuned in to see who would be crowned champions.

  • Anfield ’89: ‘We’ll never see the like again’
  • ‘It’s up for grabs now…’

What transpired would go down in English footballing folklore as Arsenal dreams were realised in thrilling fashion thanks to Michael Thomas’ stoppage-time clincher.

Thirty-one years on, this is the story of those involved on that unforgettable night at Anfield and how plans to forever immortalise the match culminated with creation of the documentary ’89’.

‘The pressure was on’

The scale of the task placed in front of Arsenal was at best sizeable and at worst nigh-on impossible. The all-conquering Liverpool side of the 1980s simply didn’t lose at Anfield, let alone by the two-goal margin Arsenal required.

“They were just rattling off win after win after win and they weren’t 1-0 wins, they were winning convincingly by three or four,” Arsenal midfielder Thomas said. “They had the whole of the nation behind them – and rightly so – and the pressure was on us.”

Hillsborough tribute

The last few weeks of the 1988/89 season had been overshadowed by the tragedy at Hillsborough, meaning the meeting of the two title rivals was postponed until the end of May.

Before a ball had even been kicked at Anfield, Arsenal ensured they paid their respects to the 96 supporters who sadly lost their lives, as Gunners manager George Graham recalls.

“It was a great gesture by Ken Friar, one of the bosses at Arsenal, to have the players go out with a bouquet of flowers and throw them to the Liverpool fans. It was a fantastic gesture.”

All square at half-time

Though the first half was keenly contested there were few clear-cut chances. Both sides seemed reluctant to over-commit as they went into the interval with the scoreline locked at 0-0, and it was all part of the tactical master plan of Graham and Arsenal.

“Everybody was telling me that you’ve got to go up there and, from the word go, go out and attack them,” Graham said. “I said ‘no, we’ll try to be cautious’. The only thing I didn’t expect was that Liverpool would think the same.

“I said they’re going to be nervous if we score and they’re going to have to come at us. I said we’ll then get the second and, with a bit of luck, we might even get three. Anyway, they all looked at me as if I was crazy!”

Free-kick routine pays off for Smith

Early in the second half Arsenal were awarded a free kick outside the Liverpool penalty area, as Alan Smith recalls.

“We practised that free kick so much in training and used it so many times in matches but it never came off,” Smith said. “We thought ‘oh no – we’re not going to try this one again!'”

This time it did work. Smith converted Nigel Winterburn’s delivery with a glancing header. Liverpool’s players surrounded the referee in protest.

“We were all convinced that the referee was going to disallow it having spoken to the linesman,” Smith added. “When he’s pointed to the centre circle you’re thinking ‘wow, we’ve got the first goal here’.”

A missed opportunity?

Arsenal feared their chance had come and gone when Thomas prodded a shot straight at the Liverpool ‘keeper Bruce Grobbelaar late on.

“I thought I had players both sides of me,” Thomas recalls. “I see it now on the TV and I had plenty of time to bury it. I panicked. I didn’t panic the second time!”

‘It’s up for grabs now’

Luckily for Arsenal, and Thomas, they had one final opportunity. Goalkeeper John Lukic threw the ball to Lee Dixon in space. Dixon’s pass out of defence then found Smith, who brought the ball down with exquisite control before lofting it forward in search of Thomas.

“I’ve just seen this yellow blur in my peripheral vision,” Smith said. “It was Michael making one of those barnstorming runs.”

When the ball bounced kindly for him via a deflection from Steve Nicol, Thomas found himself through on Grobbelaar’s goal, as the midfielder recalls.

“It was slow motion then, it’s still slow motion now. I don’t watch it enough. When I do see it if I’m round someone’s house I walk out the room. It’s still a tingly moment in my whole body, and I’m thinking ‘he’s going to get you, he’s going to get you, Ray Houghton is going to tackle you, he’s getting closer…’

“Then, as I said before, I’m thinking about Bruce [Grobbelaar], how great a goalkeeper he was, and I waited for him to make the first move. Once he did that, that was me, I knew what I was doing.”

Retro Blog: Liverpool 0-1 Arsenal

How Arsenal’s title triumph unfolded…

LIVERPOOL 0-1 ARSENAL

90+1: Barnes drives into the Arsenal penalty area as the Gunners ferociously hunt the ball down.

It’s exactly where Liverpool want the ball as they look to hold on to claim the Championship.

Richardson eventually gets a foot to the ball to get the ball back to Lukic. There can only be seconds remaining. Arsenal need a goal…

LIVERPOOL 0-1 ARSENAL

90+2: Arsenal stream forward. Is this to be Arsenal’s final attack? It must be…

Lukic bowls the ball out to Dixon. Dixon clips an excellent ball to Smith, who is 40 yards from the Liverpool goal. As he’s done all evening, he holds the ball up brilliantly, taking a touch before hoisting the ball forward.

Thomas takes the ball in his stride. He charges through the midfield, evading the challenge of Nicol. The midfielder’s in on goal… IT’S UP FOR GRABS NOW…

GOAL! LIVERPOOL 0-2 ARSENAL (Thomas, 90+2)

ABSOLUTE SCENES! THOMAS HAS SURELY WON ARSENAL THE TITLE!

He bursts into the penalty area, takes one touch and faints to shoot before lifting the ball over the on-rushing Grobbelaar and into the back of the net.

There are wild celebrations. There’s a forward roll and a jog on the floor from Thomas, while Winterburn runs away from his team-mates to celebrate with the Arsenal fans.

There’s carnage on the pitch. There’s carnage in the away end. There’s carnage on the Arsenal bench. I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again.

It’s Arsenal who are now just seconds away from winning the Championship.

‘A very proud moment’

Thomas lifted the ball over Grobbelaar. Arsenal had their two-goal lead. Liverpool had no time to react. At the final whistle George Graham’s side celebrated Arsenal’s first league title triumph since 1971, and it’s a proud moment for all involved.

“I feel very proud about that moment, what I’ve achieved in the game and the fact that I achieved it with the players I grew up with in the Arsenal youth team,” Thomas said. “The only person I miss to share that moment with is David Rocastle because we grew up playing schoolboy football together in south London schools. Sadly he passed but we miss him deeply – very deeply.”

Smith added: “I remember sitting back in the dressing room, sipping on a little cup of champagne and somebody said `lads, we might as well retire now, it’s never going to get any better than this. And when you think about it, it’s not. How can it get any better that that?”

The making of ’89’

To mark the 31st anniversary of their title-winning triumph, former Arsenal team-mates Alan Smith, Paul Merson and Lee Dixon, who was an executive producer for ’89’, sat down with Geoff Shreeves to explain the importance of documenting that unforgettable night at Anfield…

‘The greatest story never told’

Alan Smith: “Up until the point the documentary had been made, it was the greatest story that had never been told. When you start talking about it again, you remember things you thought you had forgotten, you see the boys and they tell you their memories and that triggers something in your mind. It was special to all of us

“It’s something that could never be repeated. To go back to those days, which were a long time ago, and the way in which the film got a sense of the 1980s was great. We were delighted it came out so brilliantly well and captured drama of not only the night but the season as well.”

‘Aguero moment doesn’t compare’

Paul Merson: “I was pleased when I got the call to do a couple of interviews for the documentary because I felt the game had been brushed under the carpet a bit. It wasn’t appreciated as much as it should have been, Arsenal should have marked it every time it came around.

“To be the best team of the time was such a massive thing. It will never be done again. People talk about the Sergio Aguero situation, but it doesn’t even add up to it. [In 89] it was two of the top teams, first versus second, on the final game of the season.

“You’ve only got to look at the league fixtures now to know it will never be done again, you’ll never get Liverpool vs Manchester City on the last day of the season. That will never happen and that’s why it will never be done again.

“There was such camaraderie in that team. When we got on that pitch together, everybody worked hard for each other. I’m very grateful that the documentary was made because we’ve got memories now. The film came out and we’ve also got that to show to the kids and grandchildren.”

‘Documentary applies colour to the painting’

Lee Dixon: “The Aguero moment was an unbelievable situation, but when people start talking about it in the same way as ’89, I glaze over. If you compare the two, game by game, the importance of each game, they are not even in the same ballpark. That moment at Anfield will never happen again as long as we are on this planet, that is what makes it so special.

“Making the documentary was brilliant because I had my own memories, my own version of what happened on the night, but we would ask the lads what they thought about all of the subjects we covered, and they were slightly different.

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Bundesliga predictions: Dortmund or Bayern? Alan McInally on Der Klassiker and other Super 6 games

Der Klassiker takes place on Tuesday, with four points separating Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Who is Alan McInally backing in the Bundesliga’s main event?

A win for Bayern Munich will take them seven points clear of their opponents on Tuesday, while a win for the home side will cut the gap to just one point, with only six games remaining. Who is Alan McInally backing for success, not only in this blockbuster, but the other Super 6 Bundesliga matches across the week?

  • Play Super 6 for free here.
  • Bundesliga table | results | fixtures

Follow live coverage of Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App on Tuesday; Kick-off at 5.30pm

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich (17/1 with Sky Bet)

Borussia Dortmund, with a 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg, looked pretty good. I didn’t think Wolfsburg gave them too many problems, but the same could be said about Frankfurt, who scored twice in quick succession to make it 3-2 against Bayern. Dortmund have started with 4-0 and 2-0 wins, while Bayern hit Frankfurt for five, so there is a not a lot between them.

The away teams are coping much better in this scenario than the home teams – we saw that at the weekend. Bayer Leverkusen won at Borussia Monchengladbach, Dortmund won at Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen registered a shock victory at Freiburg, Mainz won at Leipzig and Augsburg thumped Schalke on their home turf. It does not enhance the home side at all without the fans and so that could be an advantage for Bayern – there will not be 80,000 packed inside the Signal Iduna Park.

It is either going to finish 3-3 or the odd goal will make the difference. Bayern will extend the lead to seven points with what I am predicting. It will be a great game to watch and there are some real players to watch. If Dortmund did turn them over, you could see how, with the quality of players they have. Raphael Guerreiro, Erling Haaland and Julian Brandt have all been great. Even Jadon Sancho could make his first start since the break.

But I will side with Bayern. There is more pressure on Dortmund to win here. Even if they do, they go a point behind. I think both teams have real quality right across the park, but the experienced quality lies with Bayern and I think that may make the difference.

Key Battle

I think it has to be Alphonso Davies, who will definitely be up against Achraf Hakimi and potentially even Jadon Sancho down his flank. The pace between those three is phenomenal so it will be a good one to keep your eye on. Erling Haaland will be a real problem for Bayern’s defence; Jerome Boateng and David Alaba played at the back against Frankfurt.

Benjamin Pavard likes to get forward too down the right for Bayern, but then there may be Julian Brandt or Thorgan Hazard for him to contend with down their left, so it will be interesting. In the outside areas, to get the ball into the box will be pivotal and a real key area. Bayern will keep the ball and probably have more possession Dortmund will force them to play and try to hit on the counter. Bayern will have their work cut out, and Haaland going into every game thinking he will score won’t help. He may well do that.

Super 6: Der Klassiker!

Over 30 per cent of Super 6 players are siding with Alan Mcinally’s prediction of Dortmund 1-2 Bayern, leaving the away side with one hand firmly on the Bundesliga title. Who will you side with, as £50k is there for the taking. Play here for free.

Follow live coverage of Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App on Tuesday; Kick-off at 5.30pm

Werder Bremen 0-2 Borussia Monchengladbach (10/1 with Sky Bet)

It was an unbelievable result for Werder Bremen at Freiburg, which will have given them a boatload of confidence. They will have to play even better than that here. Gladbach are a good team and I was disappointed by their performance against a team who are on their way up in the shape of Bayer Leverkusen.

Super 6: Gladbach to bounce back?

Despite a disappointing result at home to Leverkusen, 63 per cent of Super 6 entrants are siding with Borussia Monchengladbach, while 27 per cent are backing a 2-1 away win. Play here for free.

Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Wolfsburg (12/1 with Sky Bet)

Bayer Leverkusen were brilliant against Gladbach. Kai Havertz is truly the man who is up and coming in German football. He goes and scores two against third place in the Bundesliga, and was class again. I expected it to be more difficult against Gladbach, considering they have got one of the best defences in the league. The whole team were class. Wolfsburg did not play too badly at the weekend, but they did not look like they were going to trouble Dortmund.

Super 6: Another statement from Bayer?

A hefty 87 per cent of Super 6 competitors are hoping for another Bayer Leverkusen win, with 35 per cent of those predicting a 2-0 win. Could Kai Havertz be on the scoresheet once more? Play Super 6 for free here.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Hertha Berlin (8/1 with Sky Bet)

Apart from the big one, this is by far the game I am most looking forward to. Both teams are flying with goals. Bruno Labbadia has got off to a great start, and I like his attacking style of football. A 3-0 away win at Hoffenheim was followed up with a 4-0 win in the derby against Union Berlin. They seem to go through spells where they can score a few in a matter of minutes. This will be a much tougher game for Leipzig than it was against Mainz. Timo Werner has scored two hat-tricks against Mainz this campaign, and could add to his tally again here.

Super 6: End of the road for Hertha?

With seven goals and zero conceded from their last two, an away trip to RB Leipzig will be a different proposition. Only five per cent are giving Hertha Berlin a chance for the three points in this one. Will you too go against the grain, with £50k up for grabs? Play for free.

Hoffenheim 1-1 Cologne (13/2 with Sky Bet)

Hoffenheim have been so bad. A draw at Paderborn is simply not good enough. Looking at the table, they are in ninth, so despite their results, they are still in a decent position. Cologne squandered a lead and then managed to salvage a point against Fortuna Dusseldorf, by scoring two goals in around three minutes. This looks like it could be too close to call.

Super 6: Honours even?

With both sides taking a point from their last game, it is fitting that 27 per cent of Super 6 players are backing a 1-1 draw in this clash. Could one of these teams walk away with it? Have your say to land £50k here.

Fortuna Dusseldorf 2-0 Schalke (12/1 with Sky Bet)

I like what Uwe Rosler has done, but he will have been seething to have lost the lead like they did against Cologne. They did not manage to beat Paderborn either, but there is no way I can give Schalke another chance. David Wagner will want a response badly, but I cannot see them getting enough chances against Dusseldorf. Schalke will continue to frustrate themselves and their fans.

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Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo: EFL future star

Bryan Mbeumo is set to be a future star in English football after impressing for Brentford.

Here, Sky Sports’ EFL pundits Don Goodman and Andy Hinchcliffe assess the 20-year-old’s attributes and tell us why he is such a special talent…

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How has he settled in to English football?

Goodman: To come across here as a 20-year-old boy, settle into a team in the Championship and produce what he’s produced is absolutely remarkable and deserves every bit of praise going. The big thing for me that I notice when he’s playing is that he plays with his head up. There are so many talented, skilful players that can dribble and beat players but they play with their head down and they don’t see the big picture. I think he really excels at picking the right time to cross the ball and picking players out.

You put that with his natural urge to get on the scoresheet as well; he usually starts on the right-hand side of that front three but when the ball is on the other side, he gets himself into an area where he can get on the end of a cross or score. I had a good look at a highlights clip of his season so far and I saw literally everything. Different types of goals: headers, tap-ins, beautiful curlers with that wand of a left foot he’s got. But I also saw how he was able to play with his head up and pick out team-mate who then would then score themselves.

Brentford get the unfinished product, coach them and they rarely bring a player in who doesn’t go on to do better things. They have got themselves a terrifically talented young player they’ve developed and they are now reaping the rewards.

Hinchcliffe: Firstly, he was given a great opportunity with the injury to Sergi Canos in October. It gave Mbeumo the opportunity to play regularly and he’s grabbed it with both hands. Physically and mentally, I think he’s got everything you needs but at 20 years old, stepping from Ligue 2 to the Championship is not an easy transition to make but he’s made it look effortless. He knows his strengths and he uses them when he can but he brings the best out of players around him and works very hard for the team up and down that right-hand side. Every part of his game this season has been really impressive.

We have to highlight Brentford’s player procurement because when he was playing in Ligue 2, he didn’t really play in a front three – he played as a striker or as a wide midfielder in a midfield four. What I like about him is that he’s got pace and the ability to get past players but he delivers the ball into the box when the chance is there to do it. He’s created more goals for Ollie Watkins than any other Brentford player this season and that comes from his willingness to do his job and that’s to stick the ball in the box.

Is he indulged by his team-mates to allow him to express himself going forward?

Goodman: One of Brentford’s biggest problems over the last four or five seasons has been that they’ve always been easy on the eye, good going forward but vulnerable defensively. This season, they’ve got the second-best defensive record in the league, a turnaround for which Thomas Frank deserves all the credit in the world. That record doesn’t belong to the defenders and the goalkeeper, it belongs to the team. Defending starts from the front and that BMW [Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo, Ollie Watkins] are the trigger for making it hard for the opposition up in their own half.

Hinchcliffe: He’s not indulged at all and that’s been one of Brentford’s greatest strengths this season. They are not divided into the front three and then the rest of the team. If you look at how hard that front three work, they will drop back and help out their full-backs when the opposition are causing problems and that’s why they are in the top six. It’s not just because they have this front three who can score goals; the balance is absolutely superb.

If you look at the midfield three as well, they spread across the pitch and make it very hard for the opposition to play through them and that gives the front three licence to cause as many problems as they do and they dominate the ball really well so they are a good technical team. But Mbeumo is not a luxury player – he’s not just there to get the ball and cause problems. He’s been coached very well that when they don’t have the ball – which is half the game – he comes back to help, but then when they win it back, he gets back up the pitch and causes problems in the opposition’s final third. The whole team is very well balanced and each individual – Mbeumo included – play their part in the team being successful.

Does he have what it takes to play in the Premier League?

Goodman: Based on everything I’ve seen and heard, the answer has to be an emphatic yes. He’s 20-years-old and delivering on the pitch. He’s a pocket dynamite but looks a lot older than he actually is. He’s not a big lad but he’s a powerful, stocky lad, hard to knock off the ball. He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s dynamic, he’s got goals and assists in him. We’ve compared him in many ways to Adama Traore. He started at Barcelona but frustrated all of his coaches, went to Villa and it was only Tony Pulis who started getting a tune out of him. It’s only really Nuno at Wolves who has managed to coach him to make better decisions when he’s in possession of the football and out of possession. I would go as far as to say Mbeumo is ahead of where Traore was when he was 20-years-old

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Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace blasts EFL Board recommendation

Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace says there is “absolutely no integrity whatsoever” in the EFL Board’s recommendation to finish the League Two season on a points-per-game basis.

League Two clubs voted to end the campaign earlier this month without clubs being relegated to the National League but the EFL, whose framework is still to be endorsed by the division, has described maintaining demotion as “integral to the integrity of the pyramid”.

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Stevenage, who are three points behind Macclesfield at the bottom of League Two with a game in hand, face playing football in the National League next season.

Feedback from EFL clubs on the board’s framework for curtailment will be under review at this week’s board meeting on Wednesday.

“There is absolutely no integrity whatsoever in using a mathematical formula to expel a club from the EFL,” Wallace told Stevenage’s club website.

“That is unjust and wholly wrong. There is absolutely no integrity in allowing teams to play to win promotion, but not allowing teams in the same league to play to avoid relegation.

“There is no integrity in the EFL Board ignoring the overwhelming vote by League Two clubs that told them they didn’t want to see any expulsion from the EFL by a points per game formula.”

The board are expected to discuss how the framework could be written into EFL regulations, before a potential EGM is called for clubs to vote on any plans.

If it is passed, each division can then hold separate votes on whether to continue playing or to curtail the 2019-20 season based on the agreed framework.

Wallace suggests either playing the rest of the season or voiding it but removing the prospect of relegation, instead calling for more teams promoted from the National League.

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