The incredible rise of Robert Lewandowski

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Robert Lewandowski put Real Madrid to the sword in Borussia Dortmund’s incredible 4-1 win last week.

The towering Polish international scored four times, the first man ever to score four in a Champions League semifinal, to cement his place in the history books.

But is hasn’t always been like this.

Lewandoski’s tale is one of perseverance, dedication. His rise to stardom from the third-tier of Polish soccer has been a rapid one. With Znicz Pruszków he became the top scorer in the third division, then the second and then led the way for Lech Poznan in the top flight.

68 goals in 117 league games over four seasons in three different leagues is quite an impressive record.

More: Manchester United up massive bid for Lewandowski

How many of Europe’s other elite forwards can say they’ve been the top scorer in every division in their homeland?

One coach recalls how Lewandowski slight frame was of concern in his early playing days. “He was very thin, his legs were like sticks and I was always scared that others would break them,” Krzysztof Sikorski, told UEFA.com. “I wanted him to be physically stronger and even advised him to eat more bacon!”

So there you have it folks, you want to score four against Real Madrid? Bacon is the answer.

Joking aside, Lewandowski’s form has been sensational this season. The 24-year-old is the leading scorer in the Bundesliga with 23 and has scored 10 goals in the UCL.

More: Video of Lewandowski’s four goals vs. Madrid

But can he produce one more stunning display to see his side into the UCL final in May? You bet.

Teams don’t know how to mark him. He is huge, yet his movement is reminiscent of a smaller forward who likes to play on a defender’s last shoulder. The way in which he darts in at the back post to latch onto and finish the many probing crosses Dortmund’s midfielders deliver is quite sublime. You simply cannot teach that knack of edging away from the danger area then attacking the ball instinctively while it’s in the air.

The “Big-Lewandowski” is sure to give Madrid another tough time tonight. He doesn’t have to, his side are all but assured of their place in the UCL final thanks to his four-star display.

But knowing his background, the relentless goals scorer won’t want to wait in the shadows. It’s crazy what a few strips of bacon can do for you…

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

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High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

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Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

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ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

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Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.