Manchester United's Odion Ighalo will use the pain of missing out on the 2016 FA Cup final as fuel for Sunday's semi-final clash with Chelsea.

The striker suffered last-four heartbreak four years ago when playing for Watford, who were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace to miss out on a showpiece showdown with his current club United.

Ighalo, on loan at Old Trafford from Shanghai Shenhua, described it as a "bitter" experience and he is desperate to avoid a repeat at Wembley this weekend.

"It was a difficult one to take against Crystal Palace, we lost 2-1 at Wembley," the 31-year-old told MUTV. "If we'd have won, we'd have played United in the final.

"Unfortunately, we lost. It was a bitter one to take but this is an opportunity again in an FA Cup semi-final to make it right and go forward to the final.

"If I'm called to play, I'm going to give all I can to help the team win the game.

"Everybody wants to play against teams like Chelsea, big teams, and play well against them and, most of all, playing at Wembley and, you know if you win, you're in the final.

"So, of course, it's going to give you more to want to fight hard and make sure you give everything to win the game.

"To get to the final would be great for me in my life and my career. I missed out in 2016 and I have the opportunity to now get to the final with the club I've supported all my life.

"It would make my dreams perfect. It will be tough but we have what it takes."

United have defeated Frank Lampard's side on three occasions this term but Ighalo, who scored in the quarter-final win over Norwich City, is taking nothing for granted.

"We have beaten them three times this season I think, one in the Carabao Cup and two in the league, and we're playing them now in the semi-final," he said.

"All those games don't count though. This is a different game which is going to be even tougher without the fans in the stadium.

"We have to fight from the first minute until the end. It's always tough against them but I think, with the quality and momentum we have now, we are ready to go and to win against any team."

Manchester United have had no problem scoring goals amid their 19-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.

However, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still desperate to sign Borussia Dortmund and England star Jadon Sancho.

And Sancho is reportedly ready to make the move to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED STEP UP SANCHO CHASE

Manchester United are close to signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho , according to The Sun.

Sancho has been tipped to leave Dortmund for United amid links to Liverpool , Chelsea , Bayern Munich and Real Madrid .

Despite United's ongoing battle for Champions League qualification, Sancho wants to move to Old Trafford at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus are not only in discussions with Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik as the Serie A holders look to replace Gonzalo Higuain. Calciomercato says Juve have started speaking to the entourage of Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette , who has also been linked to Atletico Madrid .

- Marca reports Manchester City are determined to sign Valencia star Ferran Torres but they are unwilling to pay over the odds. Torres has a release clause of €100million (£90m), which has deterred Real Madrid and Barcelona , though City are only prepared to spend a fixed amount of €35m (£31m).

- According to Kicker, either David Alaba decides to extend his Bayern Munich contract or he will be sold before becoming a free agent in 2021. Alaba has been linked to the likes of City and Paris Saint-Germain .

- Radio Taronja claims Atletico and Sevilla both want to sign Valencia captain Dani Parejo . The 31-year-old midfielder has reportedly been told he can leave Valencia.

- There is a total agreement for Ralf Rangnick to take over from Stefano Pioli as Milan head coach in 2020-21, according to journalist Nicolo Schira. The German will arrive on a three-year deal.

Napoli's pursuit of Lille star Victor Osimhen is proving problematic. Tipped to join Napoli, L'Equipe claims Lille are unwilling to accept Adam Ounas as part of the deal for the Nigeria forward. Now, Il Mattino says United are interested, while SportItalia and Tuttomercatoweb are among the outlets to point to Premier League champions Liverpool .

Lazio have approached Madrid to sign forward Borja Mayoral , says Sky Sport Italia. The 23-year-old has spent the past two years on loan at Levante.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is ready to leave Lazio for a new challenge, claims Tuttosport. PSG have been tipped to sign the Serbia international, while the likes of Chelsea , United , Madrid , Juve and Inter have been previously linked.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are in different stages of transition, but an FA Cup triumph would make any of their seasons feel a bit sweeter.

In the Premier League, things feel a bit mixed. While top-four finishes are on the cards for United and Chelsea, they are five points down compared to last season after the same number of games played. Arsenal, meanwhile, are a damning 16 points worse off.

League tables will naturally be far from the thoughts of Frank Lampard, Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Wembley this weekend, but the form of their teams in the top flight does give a good insight into how, if at all, they are overseeing some improvement.

Here's how they compare in terms of this season and last season in league football - bearing in mind, of course, that the campaign is not yet finished...

 

GOALSCORING

Chelsea have scored 64 goals in 2019-20 after 36 league games, one more than last season. United are on 63 (down two), and Arsenal on 53 (down 10).

In Expected Goals, Chelsea were at 59.3 last term but are now at 67.3. Arsenal's xG last season was 60.6 and has dropped to 44.8, while United have also slipped, decreasing to an xG of 60.8 this season compared to 61.9 last.

Still, those numbers suggest each side has scored about as many goals as could realistically be hoped in 2019-20. So that's good news.

FINDING THE TARGET

United are top in shooting accuracy, with a rating of 52.1 per cent this term. Chelsea are at 50.1 per cent, with Arsenal at 49.7 per cent.

That might look balanced, but only Chelsea are showing an improvement: their accuracy is up by nearly two per cent on last term, while Arsenal's has dropped (by a tiny 0.5 per cent) and United's has slipped by a more concerning 4.7 per cent.

What about conversion rates? Chelsea are at 14.9 for this season, a drop of 0.5 per cent; United are down by 0.7 per cent at 15.7. With two games left, those numbers are pretty much the same as last season. Arsenal, more worryingly, have dropped by 3.5 per cent.

Of course, chance conversion depends on the quality of the opening - all strikers would prefer a certified 'big chance'. Chelsea have created the most of those (70), with United on 54 and Arsenal on 45. In 2018-19, Chelsea created 80, United 65, and Arsenal 72.

As for converting those big chances, United's rate is up by around 0.8 per cent. Chelsea's is three per cent lower this term, perhaps highlighting some of Lampard's concerns about not taking their opportunities. As for Arsenal, their big chance conversion rate of 56.3 is far higher even than those of Liverpool or Manchester City. Just where would they be without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?

DEFENCE

Chelsea have the worst defence this term, conceding 49 goals in 36 games. United have let in 35, while Arsenal have shipped 45, also in 36 matches.

United's Expected Goals Against figure is fairly consistent with the data at 35.7 for this season, with Arsenal on 52. Chelsea, however, are down at 37.1 - in other words, they are conceding more than they should. That suggests they have faced some ruthless centre-forwards or that goalkeepers Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero have not played their part.

Chelsea also had a slightly lower xGA of 36.8 for last season, suggesting they are conceding a greater number of good chances now than before. United and Arsenal have each improved in that regard - the Red Devils, for instance, had an xGA of 51.2 last term, up almost 16 compared to this season.

Clean sheets are also telling. United have 12 this season, already five more than they managed throughout last season. Arsenal are up by two, with 10. Chelsea have managed eight this term - half the number they reached in 2018-19.

 

SO, CHELSEA ARE IN TROUBLE AT THE BACK?

Yes and no. You could argue Chelsea do not do enough defensively, given the number of goals going in and the xGA tally. But the truth is they, like United, are tracking for improvement in terms of those defensive metrics that rely on players improving their own numbers. It's Arsenal who should be more worried.

Chelsea have made 599 tackles this season, close to last term's 618. United are on 550, down from 581 - not a hugely significant slide. Arsenal are on 567, a more dramatic drop from 610 in 2018-19.

As for interceptions, Chelsea have made 444 in 2019-20, up from 350 last season - a huge increase in terms of winning back possession without committing to challenges. United have surpassed last season's 355 already, reaching 362. Arsenal, though, have managed 340, a drop of 72 from last season.

Unsurprisingly, this means the Gunners are exposed to opposition firepower too often. They have faced 526 shots this season, already 27 more than last term. Chelsea are at a commendable 307, down from 350, while United have dropped from 496 all the way to 363. That's a solidifying defence in action.

All three teams can at least point to fewer errors leading to shots (and goals). Chelsea have committed 14 mistakes leading to a shot, down two from last season; Arsenal are on 18, down from 28; and United are on 13, down from 26. However, seven of those 13 shots have ended up going in - not a good look for David de Gea.

WHAT ABOUT A STYLE CHANGE?

Possession figures are much the same. Chelsea average 60.86, down roughly three per cent from last term; Arsenal are on 53.37, down 4.9. United's figure is up to 55.93, but that's an increase of less than 1.5 per cent.

More interesting is where they regain the ball when they don't have it. Chelsea have won it back 163 times in the final third, more than Arsenal (151) and United (134) - but they are down compared to last season in that regard, whereas United are trending upwards (Arsenal are about the same as they were). Solskjaer seems keener than most to get his players pressing higher than before.

 

HOW DO THEY USE THE BALL WHEN THEY HAVE IT?

United have had more fast breaks (32) this season than Chelsea (21) and Arsenal (19). They and Chelsea have each scored six goals from those, showing the value of committing to more swift breaks than before (they're up by nine and six respectively compared to 2018-19).

Lampard appears less inclined towards letting players run with the ball. Chelsea have attempted 744 dribbles this term, short of last season's 788 with just two games left, but United (786 compared to 605) and Arsenal (727 compared to 583) are already on far higher numbers. You can see why Solskjaer thinks Jadon Sancho would be a perfect fit.

For Chelsea, the priority seems to be getting the ball into dangerous areas more quickly. They have managed 217 successful crosses/corners this season, way up on 135 for the whole of last term under Maurizio Sarri. Arsenal are up slightly (138 compared to 128) and United are down slightly (124 compared to 133).

AND DOES THAT CREATE MORE OPENINGS?

Not for Chelsea. They created 493 goalscoring chances last season (including assists), and are trending down on that in 2019-20 at 447. Arsenal are down, too, with 283 chances created falling well short of last term's 363. United have passed last season's 382, reaching 390 with two games to go.

And yet, we've seen with xG that Chelsea have theoretically created the best good openings. That's reflected in the number of shots taken from inside the box this season, too: Chelsea have managed 396, with United way back on 289 and Arsenal on 265. Those two are trending down compared to last season.

Since Chelsea seem to be creating more good chances from close range, perhaps having Timo Werner in the box really will make a big difference. For now, he'll just have to watch the action at Wembley like the rest of us.

Frank Lampard has fanned the flames ahead of Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United by suggesting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have benefitted from VAR of late.

Lampard's Blues face United at Wembley on Sunday in their fourth meeting of the season, with Chelsea having lost each of the previous three games in the Premier League or EFL Cup.

A Marcus Rashford penalty sent United on their way to a 4-0 victory back in August, one of 13 spot-kicks Solskjaer's men have had in the Premier League this term.

The most recent one - won by Bruno Fernandes at Aston Villa - was particularly contentious, while United were perhaps fortunate that Victor Lindelof's apparent foul on Wilfried Zaha was not reviewed by VAR in Thursday's 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

Lampard noted that the introduction of VAR this season was supposed to remove any allegations of big-club bias, but he could not help but notice how the system has helped United recently.

"I suppose when you look back over days people would say [decisions] favour the big team, whether it's pressure, whether it's because of fan influence, I don't know [but] those days are gone," Lampard told reporters.

"VAR has come in to try and change, and not just favouring teams, but just to get the right decision."

"There is always a human element to VAR, still, of course, clearly they have to make a decision.

"The confusing thing about some of the recent ones, and the one last night, is that it's a very, very clear and obvious decision that was wrong that didn't get reviewed and changed and a few of those have happened. That is strange.

"I would like to think that sometimes you maybe with VAR have to be level-headed. Some may go slightly against you or not. But it just seems a period where in terms of Manchester United, they've got a few in their favour. "

Lampard also insisted he is not motivated by revenge after the three defeats earlier in the campaign.

"I think it's more than that," he added.

"Knowing the circumstances of the games, and fair play we've lost three, that's just a fact. I'm not into revenge and all these things.

"I just want to win the game that's in front of us on Sunday against a very good team."

N'Golo Kante has been ruled out of Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday.

Kante suffered a hamstring injury in the 3-0 Premier League win over Watford a fortnight ago and Frank Lampard revealed the midfielder is not ready to return at Wembley.

Blues boss Lampard said a few other players will be monitored ahead of the clash with in-form United

He said on Friday: "N'Golo Kante won't be fit for the match, he's still not right, so he's out.

"Other than that, we have a few people with little niggles, which I'll monitor over the next 24 hours or so and then we'll be ready to go."

Lampard is well aware of the threat posed by a United side who are unbeaten in 19 games and one of the London club's rivals for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

"We know they are playing well; they've got a very potent front three, the most potent front three probably in the country in terms of numbers," said Lampard.

"Obviously [Bruno] Fernandes has made a huge difference, so you see the strength they have brought to their team with individual quality. We have to be confident in ourselves, deal with their threats and worry about ourselves."

Lampard has challenged his players to grasp their opportunity to win a trophy in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

"Considering where we are, we're in the semi-final, we know what's in front of us. The league is obviously huge but at this point you fight on two fronts and we have to give everything to try and do that," said the former England midfielder.

"A club like Chelsea will always want to win these kinds of trophies, it's what we've done very well in the modern era.

"Of course, it feels like a slightly different position this year because of the circumstances of the season, but we have an opportunity and it's up to the players and ourselves to make the best of it on Sunday.

"We're playing a good team, they are in good form and whoever would await us in the final will be a good team, so the work is to be done."

Liverpool are reportedly getting closer to signing Thiago Alcantara, while Kai Havertz knows what he wants.

Thiago has continued to be linked with a move to the Premier League champions amid uncertainty over his future at Bayern Munich.

A switch to Anfield could be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP APPROVES OF LIVERPOOL MOVE FOR THIAGO

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has approved a move for Bayern midfielder Thiago, according to Sport Bild.

Thiago, 29, is out of contract at the Bundesliga club next year and reportedly wants a move to Liverpool.

However, the Premier League champions are apparently only willing to pay £23million (€25.4m), well short of Bayern's asking price of £36m (€39.7m).

ROUND-UP

- Havertz looks likely to leave Bayer Leverkusen this close season. Kicker says the Germany international wants a move in the upcoming transfer window amid strong links to Chelsea. According to Sport Bild, Leverkusen still want around £90.6m (€100m) for Havertz but are prepared to accept add-ons and bonuses.

- Mauricio Pochettino may be nearing a return to management. The Telegraph reports the former Tottenham boss is on the shortlist of candidates at Juventus and Inter should the Serie A clubs sack Maurizio Sarri or Antonio Conte respectively.

- Jude Bellingham is close to completing his move to Borussia Dortmund. Sky Sports claims the Birmingham City teenager has completed his medical at the Bundesliga club.

- Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli seems to be catching the eye. CalcioMercato reports Juventus are interested in the 22-year-old.

- Staying in Italy and CalcioMercato says Inter and Napoli are interested in Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

- Manchester United are reportedly set to land a Real Madrid youngster. Alvaro Fernandez, 17, has agreed to a four-year deal with United, according to AS.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted Manchester United were "raring to go" again ahead of their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial saw United past Crystal Palace 2-0 on Thursday as they continued their top-four push in the Premier League.

United have a short turnaround ahead of playing Chelsea and Solskjaer had questioned why Frank Lampard's team were afforded 48 hours more rest.

But the United manager said his players were ready to go for the clash at Wembley.

"We're fine, we're fit and the players are raring to go, want to play again," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"Of course, anyone can hold their hands up at any moment and say, 'I want to sit out this one'.

"We've got players on the bench desperate to join in, but it was forced with Brandon [Williams] and Luke [Shaw] not being available today.

"Timothy [Fosu-Mensah] did great and Scott [McTominay] has been fantastic. He took a shift for Nemanja [Matic].

"We've got the players who've had the chance over this period to take players off, being three goals up in many games after 60 minutes. We've been fortunate in that respect."

United are fifth in the Premier League table, a point behind Chelsea and level on points with fourth-placed Leicester City with two games remaining.

Milos Ninkovic believes Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is perfectly suited to the Premier League as he compared the in-demand Lazio star to Paul Pogba.

Milinkovic-Savic has long been linked with a Lazio exit following his exploits for the Serie A side, where he arrived from Genk in 2015.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter have all emerged as reported suitors for the Serbia international midfielder.

As speculation grows over Milinkovic-Savic's future in the Italian capital, former Serbia international Ninkovic feels it is time for the 25-year-old to leave Lazio.

"He is an unbelievable talent," Ninkovic, who now plays for Sydney FC in Australia, told Stats Perform News. "Probably one of the best midfielders in Italy. He reminds me of [United star] Pogba, he is that type of player because he is good on the ball, tall, strong, can score outside of the box and he is good in the air.

"For him, the most important thing is to be happy. If he is happy at Lazio, he should stay there. But if he wants a different challenge, than he definitely needs to leave. They talk about PSG, Man Utd… but it depends on how he feels.

"I think if he makes the right choice, he will be one of the best midfielders in the world.

"Personally, I think he needs a new challenge in his career because he's spent three or four years at Lazio. It's hard when that's the first time in the last years they're fighting for the Scudetto and probably next season it will be the same or fourth or fifth. For him it would be better if he can go somewhere else to play Champions League as well.

"Of course it also depends on his president and how much he wants. Especially now after coronavirus, everything won't be like before in terms of transfer fees and salaries."

Milinkovic-Savic has scored five goals and supplied four assists in Serie A this season and Ninkovic, 35, added: "I think England is perfect for him. Even France, when you have good players around you it's much easier to play.

"If he goes to Manchester United, Real Madrid or PSG, there's not much of a difference because they're all good players there. It will be even much easier for him, I think he will score more goals and supply more assists."

Another Serbian player in the headlines recently has been United midfielder Nemanja Matic following his form for the Red Devils.

Out of favour and looking set for a move away from Old Trafford at the start of the season, Matic has forced his way back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans and signed a new three-year contract.

Ninkovic played alongside Matic for Serbia and he hailed his 31-year-old compatriot, saying: "I spoke with him maybe a month ago. Obviously he didn't know anything and he said he would like to stay. I'm very happy for him because he is an unbelievable player and a very nice guy which is the most important thing.

"But I thought maybe there was a chance if he didn't re-sign that he could come to Australia. Maybe we will have to wait two or three more years. Maybe now it's easier for him because they started to play with one six and two eights or 10s, which is much better for him. We used to play that formation in the national team and he was unbelievable.

"You need to be strong mentally, especially at Manchester United with so many great players."

United, who sat fifth in the Premier League ahead of Thursday's trip to Crystal Palace, have strung together an 18-game unbeaten streak across all competitions, with Matic, Pogba and Bruno Fernandes earning plaudits.

Ninkovic believes the Red Devils now boast a better midfield than champions Liverpool and can challenge for the title next season.

"I think they needed some player like Fernandes and now they have Pogba, Fernandes and Matic in the middle," Ninkovic said. "I think they have one of the best midfields in the Premier League – maybe Manchester City [have the best]. I would say a better midfield than Liverpool.

"Probably they will try to sign one or two more players and definitely they will fight for the title."

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly told Barcelona what they want for Neymar, while Paul Pogba is set for a Manchester United stay.

Neymar continues to be linked with a return to the LaLiga giants, three years after leaving for PSG in a world-record €222million move.

It seems Barcelona know what PSG want for the attacker.

 

TOP STORY – PSG WANT €80M AND DEMBELE FOR NEYMAR

PSG want €80m and Ousmane Dembele from Barcelona in exchange for Neymar, according to El Chiringuito.

Dembele has struggled with injuries since arriving at Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Like Neymar, the France international has regularly been linked with a move.

ROUND-UP

- Happy again amid Manchester United's resurgence, Pogba may be ready to extend his stay. The Sun reports the midfielder is close to agreeing to a five-year deal with the Premier League giants.

- Staying in Manchester and City are eyeing Inter star Lautaro Martinez as a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero, according to Sky Sports. Martinez has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona.

- After having their European ban overturned, Manchester City are reportedly ready to spend. The Mirror reports City have been quoted a cut-price £65million (€71.6m) price for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been linked to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea among others.

- Manchester United are fighting to qualify for the Champions League late in the season. According to Sport Bild, Borussia Dortmund are expecting a £108.9m (€120m) bid from United for Jadon Sancho if they qualify for the Champions League.

- Staying with Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga club will pay €25m (£22.7m) for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham, according to Sport Bild.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it is "not fair" Chelsea have been afforded 48 hours more rest ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final showdown.

United will meet rivals Chelsea at Wembley for a place in the decider, not before facing Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Thursday.

Chelsea will enter the FA Cup clash having not played since Tuesday and Solskjaer questioned the scheduling as United also try to qualify for the Champions League.

"There is a concern, obviously, that they will have had 48 hours' more rest and recovery than us," Solskjaer told a news conference on the eve of the Palace fixture.

"It's not fair. We spoke about a fair scheduling going into this restart and of course it isn't.

"But I have to think about Thursday [against Crystal Palace], winning that one, focusing on that one, and then pick up the pieces after that."

United will take on Palace amid an 18-game unbeaten streak across all competitions following Monday's last-gasp 2-2 draw at home to Southampton.

The Red Devils missed the chance to climb above Chelsea and Leicester City into third position – United now fifth with three games remaining.

With United's season and future plans on the line, Solskjaer is confident his team can cope with the physical demands.

"We've not really played every three days but we definitely will now," said Solskjaer. "The next two weeks will be hectic but then again we're fit, very fit – our lads have not felt as fit as this for years, I'm sure.

"It was a big thing towards the end of last season that we felt our team wasn't fit enough, we got a few injuries, this season we've not had that kind of a problem. It's not going to be a problem and a concern for us but 24 hours, 48 hours is a big difference at this time [of the season] so we've not been handed four Aces, to put it that way, for the last two weeks."

United are set to make changes against Palace after Luke Shaw picked up an ankle injury last time out, while Paul Pogba – who has starred alongside Bruno Fernandes – could be rested.

"I've been speaking more or less every day with Paul, he knows that he wouldn't be dropped," said Solskjaer. "When Paul plays like this he wouldn't be dropped from any team in the world – France or Man United – but he's been out for a long, long time, there was a question mark before the game [against Southampton], 'How do you feel?' But he felt ready for it, which was great, so now let's see how he is.

"He's been fantastic since the restart and brought a lot to the team. There were one or two question marks before the Southampton game about who was going to play but we made the decision that we did."

Diego Simeone is not surprised by rumoured interest in Jan Oblak but hopes the goalkeeper will remain at Atletico Madrid.

Oblak has been named best keeper in LaLiga for the previous four seasons and has only conceded 26 goals in 36 games in the current campaign, helping Atleti once again clinch a top-four finish.

Chelsea are reported to be interested in the 27-year-old Slovenian, with speculation suggesting they could look to involve Kepa Arrizabalaga in player-plus-cash deal.

Simeone has become accustomed to rumours over the future of key players in his squad, however, as was the case previously in the Antoine Griezmann transfer saga before he eventually joined domestic rivals Barcelona.

"It does not surprise me, every year our most important players are wanted by the best in the world," the Atletico boss told the media ahead of Thursday's game with Getafe.

"It is normal to always look for the best – and we have many. Some have left and others have stayed.

"It is logical and normal that anyone wants Oblak. He is our captain and an important player. I hope we can count on his work, which is enormous for Atleti."

When asked again about Oblak's future at Atletico during the media call, Simeone replied: "I repeat the same thing: it is normal that they want a goalkeeper of his characteristics and value.

"It does not surprise me. He is decisive and important in the dressing room year after year. He has evolved in every way, as a goalkeeper and within the group."

Oblak has been integral in helping Atletico's nine-match unbeaten run since the resumption of the season in Spain.

The impressive streak – which includes a 2-2 draw away to second-place Barcelona – has secured Champions League football again for next season, while they still remain in the running to win this year's competition after knocking out holders Liverpool in the last 16.

For Simeone, qualification is crucial for Atleti's development both on and off the field.

"It's our responsibility to qualify, always looking at the growth that the club has from this possibility that we generate by qualifying year after year," he said.

"That's how the club grows in every aspect, so it is a responsibility, an objective to be met, which is not easy always to do in life.

"We all have objectives, in any type of job. I have the luck, the work ethic and the perseverance to qualify every year and allow the club to grow and improve. When the goals are met it is normal for the club to grow."

For most of the year, Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona.

Barca are eyeing a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez, though, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have impacted their transfer plans.

However, a blockbuster move could still be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA STILL WANT TO SIGN LAUTARO

Barcelona remain keen on signing Inter star Lautaro Martinez at the end of the season, according to the front page of Tuesday's Mundo Deportivo.

Barca's interest in Martinez is well documented but a transfer has been put on hold as the LaLiga giants re-assess their plans after the Argentina forward's €111million release clause expired at the start of the month.

However, Barca head coach Quique Setien is reportedly considering three options in his pursuit to recruit Martinez.

Ousmane Dembele could be sold to raise funds or a swap deal involving Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti could be proposed to Inter, while a player plus cash offer including Junior Firpo is the third alternative.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror says Chelsea are ready to swap goalkeepers. Unhappy with the world's most expensive keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea are ready to use the Spaniard as a makeweight in a deal to sign Atletico Madrid star Jan Oblak.

Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing in-demand Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai, reports Tuttosport. The Hungary teenager has been heavily linked to Milan and Napoli, as well as Arsenal.

Ajax are hopeful of keeping star goalkeeper Andre Onana for one more season, claims De Telegraaf. Onana has been linked to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Barca.

- Journalist Nicolo Schira reports Napoli are confident of reaching an agreement with Lille forward Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian has been tipped to join the Serie A side, who have prepared a five-year contract worth €3.5m per season amid talk of an €80m transfer.

- While Osimhen could arrive, Napoli are set to lose Arkadiusz Milik. Calciomercato claims Italian champions Juventus are interested, while the likes of Atletico, Tottenham and Roma are also keen. Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette is an alternative for Juve, as well as Atletico.

- According to Calciomercato, Edinson Cavani has turned down a move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS. A free agent since leaving PSG, Cavani is reportedly wanted by Roma.

Everton and PSG both want to sign Napoli midfielder Allan, says Calciomercato. Napoli are looking to raise funds.

Manchester City will accelerate their rebuilding plans after having their Champions League ban overturned, claims the Telegraph. Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly – also linked to United, Liverpool and Real Madrid previously – is reportedly high on the list of targets, which includes Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Atletico star Saul Niguez.

What does the future hold for PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar?

Real Madrid have made no secret of their admiration for Mbappe, while Barcelona have tried to re-sign Neymar.

As PSG prepare for the 2020-21 campaign, the Ligue 1 holders have made some transfer decisions.

 

TOP STORY – PSG KEEPING MBAPPE, MAKE NEYMAR DECISION

Paris Saint-Germain will not sell Kylian Mbappe ahead of the 2020-21 season but Neymar's future remains uncertain, according to L'Equipe.

Mbappe has been tipped to make the move to Real Madrid in the future, however, Ligue 1 champions PSG have no intention of parting with the France international before next season.

But Neymar – continually linked with a return to Barcelona after leaving in a world-record transfer in 2017 – could leave as PSG look to avoid losing the Brazilian star on a free transfer in 2022.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea are preparing their first offer for Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz. Journalist Nicolo Schira reports Chelsea will make a £62million (€70m) bid plus add-ons for Havertz amid interest from Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barca. To fund the transfer, Chelsea will look to sell Inter target Emerson Palmieri, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Jorginho, who would like to reunite with Maurizio Sarri at Juventus.

Luke Shaw could be sacrificed as United look to sign Leicester City's Ben Chilwell, claims the Mirror. United have reportedly leapfrogged Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City in the race for full-back Chilwell.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are interested in Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has also been linked to Madrid.

Willian has turned down a move to David Beckham's Inter Miami, reports the Telegraph. Willian's Chelsea contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked to Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is wanted by Russian champions Zenit, according to the Evening Standard.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are not the only club eyeing Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo. Jose Mourinho reportedly wants the Italy international at Tottenham, while Madrid and United are also believed to be interested.

- The Express claims Chelsea are stepping up their pursuit of United goalkeeper and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson. Chelsea are ready to ask Manchester United for a price as Kepa Arrizabalaga struggles in London.

Juventus and Inter are reportedly ready to do battle for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

Zaniolo, 21, made his return from a serious knee injury this month and has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Roma.

A pair of Serie A giants may be ready to fight for the midfielder's services.

 

TOP STORY – INTER, JUVE TO BATTLE FOR ZANIOLO

Inter are ready to challenge Juventus to sign Roma star Zaniolo, according to CalcioMercato.

Zaniolo is considered one of Europe's best young talents, and left Inter for Roma in 2018.

Roma reportedly want at least €50million for the five-time Italy international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Manchester City until 2021, Sergio Aguero may yet stay at the Etihad Stadium a little longer. The Mirror reports City have not ruled out giving the star forward, 32, a one-year extension.

- With Neymar repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona, it seems the LaLiga giants are wanting to distance themselves from the Paris Saint-Germain star. Marca says Barca are keen to see the rumours of a potential return for Neymar stop.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona apparently have interest in two players from Tottenham. The Daily Star says Barca want Ryan Sessegnon and Tanguy Ndombele. However, it reports Spurs will reject all offers for Sessegnon this close season.

- Philippe Coutinho's future remains unclear. Mundo Deportivo reports the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona until the end of the season, will not decide his future until after the Champions League next month.

- Plenty of talk continues to surround Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is coming out of contract at the Premier League club next year. The Daily Star reports the forward will sign a contract extension with Arsenal – if no other club makes an official approach.

- After just two goals in 25 games for Real Madrid, Luka Jovic seems set for an exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Leicester City, Milan and Napoli are all considering moves for the forward.

Manchester City are reportedly ready to give up two players in a deal for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly, 29, has regularly been linked with a move from Naples, with several of Europe's biggest clubs apparently keen to land the centre-back.

And City may know who they are ready to offer up as part of a deal.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PREPARED TO GIVE UP TWO PLAYERS FOR KOULIBALY

Manchester City could use Nicolas Otamendi and Oleksandr Zinchenko in a deal for Napoli star Koulibaly, according to The Sun.

The report says the Serie A club have already contacted City about Otamendi and Zinchenko.

Napoli are said to want €100million for Koulibaly, who has also been linked to Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool have been repeatedly linked with a move for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara over recent weeks. However, ESPN reports the Premier League champions will not pursue a deal for the former Barcelona star.

- Speculation around Eric Garcia's future continues. According to Mundo Deportivo, the Manchester City defender is motivated to return to Barcelona, but the Premier League club have offered the 19-year-old a bumper contract, with his current deal expiring in 2022.

- Jonathan Ikone is seemingly attracting some interest. Le 10 Sport reports Chelsea and Inter are interested in the Lille forward. Ikone scored three goals and provided six assists in 28 Ligue 1 games in 2019-20.

- Will Roma get a deal done for Chris Smalling? Gianluca Di Marzio says Roma are in negotiations with Manchester United to make the defender's move permanent. The report says Roma's offer of €3m (£2.7m) to extend the loan for a season before a €15m (£13.4m) offer to make the move permanent has been deemed too low.

- Mesut Ozil wants to see out his contract at Arsenal, with his deal expiring in 2021. The Sun reports the attacker has told friends he will only consider playing in MLS or the Turkish Super Lig after he leaves Arsenal.

- Paris Saint-Germain could be looking to strengthen while weakening one of their Ligue 1 rivals. Foot Mercato reports PSG are interested in Lyon and France defender Leo Dubois.

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