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Champions League: What has happened so far this season?

Robert Lewandowski, Erling Braut Haaland, Adrian and Josip Ilicic have all played big roles – some good and some bad – in the Champions League this season

The Champions League returns on Friday – and it feels like a lifetime ago since the group stages and early knockout matches.

The remaining four last-16 ties will be played this weekend, with the rest of the tournament then happening in a series of one-off games in Lisbon.

What has already happened this season? BBC Sport recaps some of the main storylines.

A new star emerges – while a veteran enjoys his best season

Robert Lewandowski has scored a Champions League goal every 48 minutes this season, while Erling Braut Haaland averages one every 55 minutes

Two players have reached double figures in the Champions League this season – after just six and eight games respectively.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has scored a remarkable 11 goals in six matches.

He netted against Red Star Belgrade, twice against Tottenham, twice and once against Olympiakos, four times in Belgrade, was rested against Spurs and then scored once against Chelsea.

The 31-year-old Poland international is enjoying the best season of his career, with 51 goals in 43 matches for Bayern – including one every 81 minutes in the Bundesliga.

He is one clear of Erling Braut Haaland, who had maybe the most spectacular start to Champions League life of any player.

Haaland, who only turned 20 in July, scored an unbelievable 10 goals in eight games (one every 55 minutes) – despite being knocked out of the tournament twice.

He became the first player to score eight goals in his first five appearances in the Champions League – but Red Bull Salzburg went out in the group stages with defeat by Liverpool, despite scoring 16 goals. Only three teams scored more in this season’s group stages.

Haaland then joined Borussia Dortmund, and struck twice against Paris St-Germain to reach 10 goals in seven games, four games quicker than any other player in the competition’s history.

The Norway international did not score as they went out in the second leg – but he has still managed as many Champions League goals this season as Barcelona.

He will quite possibly finish as second top scorer, with the changed format meaning teams only have a maximum of three or four matches left. The next top scorers still in the tournament are Bayern’s Serge Gnabry and Dries Mertens of Napoli, who have six each.

Liverpool knocked out – in a game with bigger ramifications

‘Poor decision’ to stage Atletico game in March

Liverpool were hoping to reach a third consecutive Champions League final but fell to Atletico Madrid in extra time in the last 16 on 11 March.

That was the first time they competed in the tournament without reaching the final since 2014-15.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Liverpool took the tie to extra time at Anfield thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal, before Roberto Firmino gave them the aggregate lead. An Adrian error then gifted the first of three extra-time goals to Atletico, who won 3-2 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.

But the game may well go down in history for different reasons. Some 3,000 Atletico fans flew over from Madrid, despite the city having almost half of Spain’s coronavirus cases at the time and being in partial lockdown.

That was the last major match played in England for more than three months. Two days later, the Champions League and Premier League were among the many competitions suspended.

A Sunday Times report