Rumour Has It: Chelsea join Man United in Upamecano tussle, PSG set sights on Pogba

By Sports Desk January 10, 2021

RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano's long-term future appears uncertain, though there is a strong possibility he will end up in the Premier League.

The France international centre-back has emerged as one of Europe's most-promising defenders in recent seasons and is part of a Leipzig side that has conceded just 12 goals in 15 Bundesliga games this season.

Upamecano, 22, looks certain for a big-money move eventually, and although his next destination is unclear, he has plenty of admirers in England.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TO RIVAL MAN UNITED FOR UPAMECANO

Chelsea are going through a difficult period as they sit ninth in the Premier League, and their options at centre-back do not appear to be entirely to Frank Lampard's liking.

While 36-year-old Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma have become his preferred pairing, Lampard seems unconvinced by back-up options Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori.

The Mail on Sunday reports Chelsea have joined the list of clubs lining up for Upamecano, who reportedly has a release of around €50million (£45m) in the new contract he signed last year.

But Chelsea will not expect a free run at Upamecano – the Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United retain an interest in him, with the Red Devils' centre-back options also far from impressive in 2020-21.

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba appears to be returning to form on the evidence of his recent displays, but how much longer will he remain at Old Trafford? The Daily Star believes Mauricio Pochettino has identified him as a key target at Paris Saint-Germain. Real Madrid and Juventus have also been linked.

- Declan Rice's future continues to be subject of speculation, with the Daily Mirror reporting he favours a return to Chelsea – whom he played for at academy level – over joining Manchester United.

- Lucas Torreira could be on the move again. Arsenal loaned the Uruguayan midfielder to Atletico Madrid at the start of the season, but he has featured only six times in LaLiga. Mundo Deportivo suggests he is being lined up by Fiorentina.

- Inter could be set to further increase their contingent of former Manchester United players. The Mirror says Jesse Lingard is the latest to be targeted by the Nerazzurri, who already have Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young on their books.

- M'Bala Nzola has been one of the revelations of the season in Serie A with promoted Spezia. Napoli are said to be keen on the striker, though CalcioMercato reports Newcastle United and West Ham are monitoring the situation as well.

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    Jadon Sancho is "making steps" towards returning for Manchester United and could play against Reading in the FA Cup on Saturday, manager Erik ten Hag revealed.

    Sancho has not featured for United since a 1-1 draw against Chelsea in October, with Ten Hag giving the reason for his absence as "circumstances with fitness and mood".

    The 22-year-old returned to training last week, but Ten Hag ruled him out of the 3-2 Premier League defeat at leaders Arsenal on Sunday, a loss that ended a run of six league games undefeated.

    During Sancho's time away, Ten Hag has played both 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho and Marcus Rashford at left-wing, the latter of whom is on a run of 10 goals in as many games in all competitions since returning from the World Cup.

    While Garnacho and Rashford have impressed in Sancho's absence, with United the only English team left competing on four fronts, the former Borussia Dortmund man's return could provide Ten Hag with useful depth as they bid to end a six-year trophy drought.

    Ten Hag is hoping Sancho will be back on the field soon, and did not rule out him making an appearance against Reading at Old Trafford in the FA Cup fourth round.

    "He [Sancho] is training with the team, and we will see," Ten Hag told reporters. "He's improving, he's making steps, and we will make the decision after training [whether he will play against Reading].

    "He's on the way back, he's making steps, he's back in team training, and we have to see when he's ready to go back into games."

    The cup tie with Reading will be United's eighth match since the start of 2023, but Ten Hag is confident of putting out a more than capable line-up against the Royals, saying: "We always have issues.

    "But I think tomorrow we will have a strong selection for this game, we have a good squad, we can cover things."

    Ten Hag warned against complacency against a side 30 places below them in the English football pyramid, explaining: "Football is never decided on paper, we have to be ready for every game.

    "Every opponent will be tough. Especially in the cup for them, it's a perfect chance. We have to be aware of that, be on the front foot, focused and [with] energy. We want to win every game."

    United continue to have problems at full-back, with Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot both missing the 3-0 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg victory over Nottingham Forest with knocks.

    Ten Hag ruled out Dalot for the Reading game while he could not commit on Shaw, though he lauded Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia for how they deputised against Forest.

    "Dalot definitely out and Shaw a question mark," Ten Hag added. "We have to see after training.

    "I think Aaron and Tyrell play magnificent in this moment, on Wednesday they were really brilliant, the whole back four was really brilliant. 

    "In the back four we have really adapted the squad, that's what you need with 10 games in 30 days."

  • Galtier holds talks with Kimpembe to clear up vice-captaincy confusion Galtier holds talks with Kimpembe to clear up vice-captaincy confusion

    Christophe Galtier has held talks with Presnel Kimpembe to clarify that the centre-back remains one of Paris Saint-Germain's vice-captains.

    Kylian Mbappe wore the captain's armband in Monday's 7-0 Coupe de France win over sixth-tier Pays de Cassel in the absence of regular skipper Marquinhos.

    Speaking to reporters after the cup rout, Galtier said Mbappe – who scored five times – "deserves" to be second captain when Marquinhos is not available.

    Kimpembe, who has not played since November due to a heel injury, took to social media on Tuesday to state he had not been previously informed about Galtier's decision.

    However, PSG head coach Galtier has since discussed the matter with Kimpembe to dissipate any misunderstanding.

    "I expressed myself badly on Monday," Galtier said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 match with Reims. 

    "The choices are very clear: Kylian is one of the vice-captains. Every time Kimpembe has been on the field and Marquinhos hasn't been, Kimpembe has had the armband.

    "When Marquinhos isn't available, there is another captain. In the Lens match there was neither Kimpembe, Marco [Verratti] nor Marquinhos, so Kylian was captain.

    "I decided to have Kylian as captain in the last game because he is one of the vice-captains, not 'the' vice-captain. I've had a discussion with Kimpembe to explain all this."

     

    PSG's victory against Pays de Cassel came on the back of a 1-0 loss to Rennes in their most recent Ligue 1 match as their lead on Lens at the summit was cut to three points.

    However, not since September 2020 have they lost successive league matches, while their return of 47 points after 19 matches is their fifth-best ever at this stage.

    The reigning champions face a tough test this weekend, though, as they host a Reims side unbeaten in 11 Ligue 1 games – the longest run of any side in the division.

    "It will be a difficult match for us to begin this run of games," Galtier said. "They have changed system and coach, and we know it will be a challenge for us.

    "We now have Kimpembe back in training and Marco Verratti is back with the group. We have to cope with the calendar and focus more on recovery."

    PSG are unbeaten in their past 31 Ligue 1 games at the Parc des Princes, winning 27 of those, and have scored in each of the past 20 on home soil.

  • Xavi hoping Barca avoid 'catastrophe' of not beating Girona to keep up title charge Xavi hoping Barca avoid 'catastrophe' of not beating Girona to keep up title charge

    Xavi believes it will be a "catastrophe" if Barcelona do not beat Girona on Saturday as they look to keep up their LaLiga title charge.

    A run of seven wins in eight league matches has put Xavi's men top of the table, holding a three-point lead over rivals Real Madrid in second.

    They continue their bid to win their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 season on Saturday at home to Girona, who sit 11th and just four points above the relegation zone.

    Xavi hopes his team can pick up another three points amid the pressure of a title race, telling reporters: "You have to beat Girona. This is Barca.

    "This is the Barca environment, I know it very well. If we don't win tomorrow, it will be a catastrophe.

    "Try to win it because it will be a difficult match. Michel [Girona head coach] has said that they have nothing to lose and we will come out with pressure because we want to win LaLiga."

    Xavi is hoping Ousmane Dembele will extend his Barcelona contract amid rumours of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Dembele scored Barca's winner as they beat Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Wednesday, continuing his excellent form this season after a tough 2021-22 campaign.

    The France international has been involved in 15 goals with Barcelona in all competitions this season, already equalling his record of last term, but with his contract set to expire in 2024, there had been rumours of a move to PSG.

    But Xavi wants Dembele to remain with the Spanish giants, telling reporters: "Ousmane is an important player, someone who makes a difference.

    "It's difficult to find these kind of players. For me, he's a key player. Ousmane knows it, the club knows it.

    "He has changed his mentality and I hope to have him here for many more years."

    Barca overcame wastefulness in front of goal to overcome La Real and reach the Copa del Rey final four, with Dembele's goal enough to secure a narrow 1-0 win despite having 20 shots.

    While Xavi is concerned about his side's profligacy in front of goal in tight matches, he believes his team are much improved from last season, saying: "I am worried about not finishing them [close games]. Many things have to be improved

    "We have to value how we were last year and how we are now. There are things to improve, obviously, but I think we are in a very good moment of form and it should be valued."

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