Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at the wheel but for how long?

After a blistering start to life at Manchester United, initially as interim manager, the Red Devils have struggled to convince.

United have won two of their opening five games ahead of Sunday's trip to West Ham and Paris could be the location of a possible replacement…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND BARCA BATTLE FOR TUCHEL

Manchester United have sounded out Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel, according to Le10 Sport.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed a permanent three-year deal after initially replacing Jose Mourinho in December, but the Red Devils have been far from convincing following a brief upturn in results.

United have reportedly informed Tuchel of their interest, though LaLiga champions Barcelona are also tracking the German as pressure mounts on Ernesto Valverde after Saturday's shock loss at Granada.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to the Sunday Express, Tottenham have identified Leicester City star James Maddison as a potential replacement for soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen. Maddison has also been heavily linked to Manchester United.

United, meanwhile, have been told it will take £90million (€101m) to lure Germany star Kai Havertz from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, claims the Express. The 20-year-old is also attracting interest from Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool. As for United and their hopes of signing RB Salzburg star Erling Haaland, they could be scuppered by agent Mino Raiola. The 19-year-old made headlines with a hat-trick on his Champions League debut. However, United's relationship with Raiola could thwart their plans, writes The Sun.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are keen to re-sign PSV's Donyell Malen, who left the Gunners two years ago. It could cost Arsenal up to £50m (€56m) to bring the 20-year-old back to London. Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

- Marca reports that Real Madrid are keen to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga. The 16-year-old has dazzled in Ligue 1 this season.

David Alaba should be available for Bayern Munich's next Champions League game against Tottenham, according to Niko Kovac.

The left-back tore a muscle in his left thigh before Bayern's 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig earlier in the month.

He subsequently missed the 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade that got Bayern's Group B campaign up and running.

But after Bayern beat Cologne 4-0 in the Bundesliga on Saturday, Kovac assured that Alaba's absence will not be a long lay-off.

"David Alaba is making progress," the coach said. "We need to increase the intensity of his running each day before he can re-join team training. We hope to have him ready for Tottenham.

"I think Paderborn will be too early. That will probably also interest the Austrian national coach. He will be fully operational again by the next international break."

Bayern go to London on October 1 for what is expected to be a game that helps decide who tops their Champions League group.

But prior to that clash, Bayern eased to a 4-0 win at home to Cologne partly thanks to Robert Lewandowski's double, while Philippe Coutinho's penalty opened his account for the club.

"We performed well today, especially since we only had 72 hours of rest since Wednesday," Kovac added.

"Cologne did well, it was not always easy to find the right solution. In the second half we did a better job, we created good chances.

"4-0 sounds pretty high, but we could have scored one or two more. Seven goals this week, you can build on that."

Cologne coach Achim Beierlorzer felt the scoreline flattered the champions.

"4-0 feels extremely bitter for us," he said. "At the end of the first half we were already really good in the game and had good chances to score. Bayern struck three minutes after the kick-off, because we were not awake. The corner for 2-0 has hit us very hard.

"If you want to get something here, the gameplay has to fit. But the way we were on the road today encourages me for the next games. It's bitter that we did not score a goal today."

Robert Lewandowski's magnificent scoring form continued with a decisive brace in Bayern Munich's clinical 4-0 home win over Cologne on Saturday.

The in-form forward scored at the start of either half to set up the victory and become only the second man - after Peter Meyer - to register nine goals after five Bundesliga games.

He might have reached 10 had Philippe Coutinho not grasped the chance to open his Bayern account by converting the penalty he won just after the hour.

Kingsley Ehizibue saw red for the foul and Niko Kovac's men made their numerical advantage count, completing the rout with a fourth through Ivan Perisic.

Lewandowski struck in the third minute against RB Leipzig last weekend and did likewise here for his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.

Played in by Joshua Kimmich, the striker's finish deflected off Sebastiaan Bornauw's outstretched boot and bounced over Timo Horn.

Coutinho initiated the opener with a cute flick and soon curled a free-kick into the near post.

Cologne started to ask questions through Jhon Cordoba before Lewandowski found the top of the net from an awkward angle in first-half added time.

He made no mistake after the interval, rising high to nod in Kimmich's corner in the 48th minute.

There was more misery for Cologne on the hour as right-back Ehizibue bundled Coutinho to the floor in the box and was shown a straight red card.

The Brazilian dusted himself off and coolly converted twice, his first successful effort chalked off due to encroachment.

Kimmich then guided a curling effort against the upright but Bayern were not to be denied a fourth as winger Perisic fired across Horn in the 73rd minute.

There was time left for Manuel Neuer to make his own impressive contribution to the victory, the goalkeeper underlining his status as Germany's first choice when he parried Rafael Czichos' strike in the closing moments.

 

What does it mean? Bayern delivering on Kovac belief

Kovac described the 1-1 draw at Leipzig as Bayern's "best performance" of the season and it appears his team is ready to produce more such showings.

While this was not a perfect display, it maintained the momentum of the midweek Champions League victory over Red Star Belgrade and bore hallmarks of a side that is starting to gel nicely.

Coutinho oozes class in favoured role

Granted the chance to pull the strings from his preferred position behind the striker, Coutinho did not disappoint.

Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona, was involved in Bayern's best three attacking moments of the first half and was fully deserving of his first goal for the club.

Ehizibue takes an early bath

Denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity left referee Patrick Ittrich with no choice but to dismiss Cologne defender Ehizibue.

The 24-year-old could have avoided such a sanction had he attempted a challenge with his feet, but can be forgiven for wanting an early escape after completing just over half his 19 passes on what was a difficult day.

What's next?

Bayern travel to bottom-placed Paderborn, another newly promoted side, next Saturday.

Cologne have an extra day to prepare for a home date with Hertha Berlin.

Western Sydney Wanderers have signed 'God of Football' and former Eintracht Frankfurt star Alexander Meier.

Meier moves to the A-League club – coached by former Bayern Munich and Germany defender Markus Babbel – as a marquee, the Wanderers announced on Friday.

The 36-year-old attacker, who spent the second half of last season on loan at St Pauli, scored 137 goals during his 14 years with Eintracht – where he is the joint third highest scorer.

Meier, once nicknamed the 'God of Football', was also part of the Eintracht team, who were led by Niko Kovac, that stunned Bayern Munich in the 2017-18 DFB-Pokal final.

"I'm very excited to play in Australia and I can't wait to go on the plane tonight," Meier, who was the Bundesliga's top goalscorer in 2014-15, said via wswanderersfc.com.au.

"Markus told me how professional the club is and that they are very ambitious, and it is a great club to play for.

"I don't like to speak about myself, about what I can deliver, all I can say that is I will always give 100 per cent on and off the field.

"The most important thing for me is that as a team we all stand for each other, in bad and in good times, and the better the environment we create, success can come from this."

Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac believes competition between Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen is good for both goalkeepers as the feud surrounding the two Germany internationals continues.

Germany captain Neuer took exception to Barcelona's Ter Stegen expressing frustration over being unable to dislodge the Bayern star as the national team's number one.

Speaking ahead of Barca's Champions League draw at Borussia Dortmund, Ter Stegen criticised Neuer's comments but expressed a desire to move on from the matter.

This was something Neuer echoed, only for Bayern president Uli Hoeness to wade into the debate after his club's 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday.

Keen to avoid any further barbs from either side, Neuer then insisted: "I don't want to talk about it anymore."

However, Kovac predictably found himself fielding questions around the topic at a pre-match news conference for Saturday's Bundesliga match against Cologne.

"As a professional at Bayern, you always have pressure," Kovac said. "In the national team, [Neuer] saved sensationally well against Northern Ireland [in Germany's 2-0 Euro 2020 qualification win in Belfast earlier this month]. You forget that quickly.

"Both play well for their clubs, that's clear. But Manu is number one. There used to be one A and one B. And now? What can you do there?

"I do not know. I believe the pressure is beneficial for both."

RB Leipzig are the team applying the most convincing pressure to long-reigning Bundesliga kings Bayern.

Kovac's men had to settle for a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany last weekend, despite taking an early lead through Robert Lewandowski, and they are two points behind early pacesetters Leipzig.

"It's two points, we do not have to dramatise," Kovac said, pointing out Bayern hauled in a far greater deficit to Borussia Dortmund to win a seventh consecutive domestic title last time around.

"I remind you, it was nine [points to Dortmund]. We played out a draw in Leipzig. They are a team that plays for the championship.

"What haunts me is the game against Hertha Berlin [Bayern's season-opening 2-2 draw]. We should have won. These are the two points we currently lack. It's normal to take a point away from home against a championship rival."

Cologne are winless after three draws in their first four Bundesliga games and should prepare to face Joshua Kimmich, who Kovac expects to recover from a twisted ankle sustained against Red Star.

Winger Kingsley Coman (neck) and defender Lucas Hernandez (ankle) will be assessed.

Manchester United will not give up on extending Paul Pogba's stay at Old Trafford.

Pogba, 26, was heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid during the close season, despite being contracted at United until 2021, with the club also reportedly holding the option for a further 12 months.

The LaLiga giants are reportedly still interested in the France midfielder, but United have plans of their own.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA CONTRACT A PRIORITY FOR MAN UNITED

Manchester United are looking to sign Pogba on a long-term deal, according to the Evening Standard.

New contracts for Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood are priorities for the Premier League giants, the report says.

It comes after United re-signed goalkeeper David de Gea and defender Victor Lindelof.

ROUND-UP

- Amid tension with fellow goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Manuel Neuer is considering his Germany future. Bild reports Neuer, 33, could end his international career after Euro 2020.

- Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati is set to get a Spanish passport next Friday, according to AS. Portugal have reportedly made advances for the talented 16-year-old forward, but Fati looks set to be ready to feature for Spain at the Under-17 World Cup beginning in October.

- Luca Pellegrini may be on loan at Cagliari, but his future appears to be at Juventus. The Serie A champions are keen to keep the 20-year-old defender for the long-term, according to Calciomercato.

- Chelsea have received some good news on the injury front. The Sun and the Mirror report midfielder Mason Mount could face Liverpool on Sunday despite suffering an ankle sprain in Tuesday's Champions League loss to Valencia.

- Bayer Leverkusen decided to reward midfielder Kai Havertz in the close season. According to Bild, the Bundesliga club handed the five-time Germany international a wage increase from €2m to more than €5m per season.

- Paul Mitchell has opted against returning to the Premier League. Sky Sports News reports Mitchell will leave his role as head of recruitment and development at RB Leipzig at the end of the month to become technical director of Red Bull's global soccer division. The report says as many as four Premier League clubs were after the former Tottenham and Southampton recruitment chief.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski revelled in scoring his 200th competitive goal for the Bundesliga champions.

Lewandowski celebrated a milestone as Bayern opened their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade in Munich on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old striker, who moved onto 199 competitive goals for Bayern in their draw at Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig last week, poked home the team's second goal with 10 minutes remaining against Red Star.

"We always had the game under control and played well, we upped the pace and created a lot of chances," Lewandowski said as he reflected on the Group B clash.

"But we didn't score enough goals. We always tried to get forward. Sometimes we might have made wrong decisions, but these are little things. In the end it was only three goals, but it could have been five or six.

"You need games like today to help with a good analysis, to see what you can do better. After the second goal, it got easier. I'm glad I scored again."

Lewandowski – the highest-scoring foreigner for Bayern – is fourth on the club's all-time list, behind Rainer Ohlhauser (215), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (218) and Gerd Muller (564).

The Poland international has flourished since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, winning five successive Bundesliga titles.

Lewandowski – who has also won two DFB-Pokal trophies and three DFL-Supercups – has topped the Bundesliga scoring charts for the past two seasons and four of the past six.

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness hit out at disgruntled Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the German Football Association (DFB) and the media amid the ongoing debate involving Manuel Neuer, who he believes is the "much better" shot-stopper.

Tension between Bayern keeper Neuer and Barcelona's Ter Stegen has been high after the latter voiced his frustration about the lack of international opportunities for Germany.

Despite 22-time international Ter Stegen's fine form with the LaLiga champions, captain Neuer is Germany's number one and started ahead of the 27-year-old during the latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Neuer – a World Cup winner with Germany having amassed 90 caps – accused Ter Stegen of putting himself before the team when he expressed frustration with the selection order, and his positional rival described the 33-year-old's criticism as "inappropriate".

Hoeness fiercely weighed into the Neuer and Ter Stegen debate following Bayern's 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

"I think that this is a joke and especially the Munich press I think it's not okay what they do," Hoeness told reporters. "The West German press is heavily supporting Marc-Andre ter Stegen as if he won 17 times the World Cup. And from the South German press I don't see any support.

"I think it's impossible to make such a topic public because he has no claim to play there [in the national team]. With the goalkeepers it's different than with the other.

"He [Neuer] was the best goalkeeper in the world for many years. Now he was injured sometime but it was clear that if he becomes the old one again – and he is the old one again - there is no discussion if just him can be the number one. I hoped for more support from the German football federation. We frequently have troubles with DFB.

"First of all, I remember how our three players were kicked out in a very bad way of the national team [Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and former defender Mats Hummels] and now this with Manuel Neuer is the same. I don't know how you cannot do something against it when a player goes public with a topic that he should only discuss with [head coach] Joachim Low. This is not okay.

"We have our opinion and we won't let this happen in the future that our players will be damaged without reason because Ter Stegen is a good keeper but Manuel Neuer is much better. And has more experience. There is no discussion necessary. Nobody in the world can have doubts with Manuel Neuer being Germany's goalkeeper. Neuer can play as long as he stays healthy. He will always be the best. There is no discussion about it."

There could be a fight to prise Fabian Ruiz from Napoli.

Fabian has established himself as one of Europe's premier midfielders and the Spaniard is reportedly attracting interest.

Two LaLiga giants and the Champions League holders are said to be eyeing Fabian.

 

TOP STORY - THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to the Daily Mail.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and the Spain international has quickly become one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders.

Now three of the biggest clubs in the world are reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Manchester United are preparing a January move for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. The Red Devils have limited options up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Wilson, who has already scored three goals this season, fits the bill at Old Trafford as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes talented English players.

Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City are all interested in Real Madrid playmaker Isco, claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona are set to offer 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati a new five-year deal to fend off interest from European rivals, claims the Daily Mail.

- League One side Southend United want to hire former Celtic, Barca and Manchester United striker Henrik Larsson as their manager, says the Daily Mail. Southend are second bottom in the league after eight games, while Larsson was last in charge of Helsingborg before quitting in August.

- According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo are negotiating to bring Fredy Guarin to the club. The 33-year-old former Inter midfielder is a free agent after leaving Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Jadon Sancho said he does not know what the future holds but the Borussia Dortmund star wants to win titles with the German side amid growing links to Manchester United.

Sancho has reportedly emerged as United's top transfer target following previous speculation over a move to Old Trafford during the off-season.

The 19-year-old England international produced another impressive display as Dortmund drew 0-0 with Barcelona in their Champions League opener on Tuesday.

Asked about his future post-game, Sancho told Viasport: "I can't tell the future. I just take it game by game. I just wanna give 100 per cent for Borussia Dortmund.

"I really wanna do well with Dortmund. Obviously I want to win titles and give everything."

Sancho has established himself as one of Europe's best talents after leaving Premier League champions Manchester City in 2017.

He scored 12 goals and supplied 14 assists as Dortmund finished runners-up to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last season, while Sancho already has two goals and four league assists this term.

"It's crazy. Everything has come so fast," Sancho told Viasat. "But I have a great team. They keep me humbled. I just take it game by game and give 100 per cent."

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc was asked about Sancho prior to the goalless draw against LaLiga champions Barca on Tuesday.

"We didn't talk to them [United]," Zorc told Viasport. "They were asking us for a meeting [during the off-season]. Sancho is not for sale."

David Alaba will miss up to three weeks with the thigh tear he suffered on Saturday, Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac has confirmed.

Austria international Alaba was forced to skip the Bundesliga draw against RB Leipzig after injuring his left thigh during the warm-up at the Red Bull Arena.

Kovac's timeline potentially rules the left-back out of action until after the October international break.

He will miss Wednesday's home meeting with Red Star Belgrade and is in doubt for the club's second Champions League encounter, a trip to Tottenham at the start of next month.

"David will be out for two, maximum three weeks," Kovac said.

"Obviously, David is a really important player for us. Unfortunately he's going to be out for a couple of weeks but Lucas Hernandez won the World Cup in that position.

"He has a different interpretation of how to play at left-back than David does but he does a very good job.

"Alphonso [Davies] can play in that position, that's actually why we fielded him against Leipzig. He didn't play as a left-back but we fielded him so that he could work together with Lucas. Tomorrow is a Champions League game, it might be a bit different."

One man who could benefit from Alaba's injury is Jerome Boateng.

The centre-back, routinely linked with a move elsewhere during the transfer window, stepped into the starting XI at late notice against Leipzig and impressed Kovac.

"I keep saying the same thing about Jerome Boateng - he's a part of this team and as a part of this team I treat him like everyone else," the Bayern boss said.

"Everyone has the right to play here. Jerome didn't play a lot in the last couple of weeks, however, on Saturday he had to play from the first moment to the last and it was a class performance. I want to emphasise that.

"Of course, I have a lot of very good players. It was his first game [in the Bundesliga] and he played 90 minutes. That's a different rhythm from someone who plays once or twice a week.

"We'll have to see how he copes. I am happy with him and he will get chances to play, that's all I can say really."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears set on his determination to bring young British talent to Manchester United.

There are four English names on the United manager's radar, apparently, as he looks to rebuild the team into a title-winning force once more.

The end of the season could potentially see a spend of a similar magnitude to the £150million, more or less, that he spent on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James this year.

 

TOP STORY - MADDISON AND SANCHO TOP SOLSKJAER'S WISH LIST

As per ESPN, Manchester United will pursue deals for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Leicester City's James Maddison in 2020.

Manager Solskjaer is set on his policy of recruiting young, hungry British talent and remains keen on signing Sancho, who was reportedly a target this year.

United believe Leicester could sell Maddison for around £70m and are also interested in Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff, Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Stoke City's Nathan Collins.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have been ordered by a judge to pay a €300 fine or play a match behind closed doors as part of Atletico Madrid's complaint against the transfer of Antoine Griezmann, Marca say. Atleti believe they are owed more than the €120m Barca paid to activate his release clause.

- The Daily Mail report Napoli are interested in Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, a player they value at around €34m (£30.1m). 

- A handful of reports in Italy suggest Bernard Arnault, the billionaire owner of Louis Vuitton, is interested in buying Serie A giants AC Milan

- Back with Manchester United, and Calciomercato say JuventusInter, Milan and Borussia Dortmund are all keeping an eye on Nemanja Matic, who has grown frustrated at his reduced role in Solskjaer's plans.

Once dubbed the 'German Messi', Marko Marin has found his home at boyhood club Red Star Belgrade.

Marin's European odyssey has taken him to Borussia Monchengladbach, Werder Bremen, Premier League giants Chelsea, Sevilla, Fiorentina, Anderlecht, Trabzonspor and Olympiacos.

Now, in Belgrade – less than a three-hour drive from where Marin was born in the Bosnian city of Gradiska – the 30-year-old attacker is playing a key role in restoring the global reputation of 1991 European Cup champions Red Star, having disappeared off the radar.

"Even more for me, with my childhood club because I'm a fan from a kid," Marin, a league winner with Red Star and Olympiacos, told Omnisport as he reflected on Red Star's Champions League qualification. "To play Champions League with them is even more special. It's a very nice experience to bring the Champions League back to Serbia after so many years."

Born in Bosnia-Herzegovina to Bosnian Serb parents in 1989, Marin – a Europa League winner with Chelsea (2013) and Sevilla (2014) moved to Germany at the age of two and 16 international caps for his new country followed.

Marin waited for calls from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia but they were not forthcoming as he opted for Germany – he was rewarded with a spot in Joachim Low's 2010 World Cup squad after impressing for Bremen.

While he represented Die Mannschaft, Marin's love for Serbian powerhouse Red Star – who snapped a 26-year drought from Europe's premier club competition last term – runs deep and a second successive season of Champions League football means a lot to the club captain.

"It's different because you play with more passion for the club," Marin said when asked about the satisfaction of qualifying. "You always give everything for the club you represent because it's your job and love football. But it's different if you play for the club you really loved as a kid.

"We have many players in the team like this. The foreign players maybe give us more quality but the main group of the team and the strength – when you grow up as a Red Star fan, many of them trained in the youth team. It's a bit different to play Champions League for Chelsea or Werder Bremen for example."

"After every game, Belgrade and Serbia is so happy and even kids outside of the country," he said. "I grew up in Germany and I was a fan of Red Star and when I went with my friends to school, you would always talk and I said that I'm a Red Star fan but they didn't really know. But now, Red Star are playing in the biggest competition in Europe. You make Red Star big again. They're getting used to it. This is a motivation.

"For sure this season, we will make some good games. Even qualifying for the group stage is a big, big success. If you compare with Manchester City, Barcelona or Real Madrid, their aim is to win the Champions League... ours is to qualify first."

Marin arrived at Red Star from Greek giants Olympiacos prior to the side's 2018-19 Champions League group-stage campaign involving eventual champions Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli.

One of the game's most promising talents a decade ago, Marin's switch from Piraeus to Belgrade last year barely made the news outside of Serbia. What could have been is a question often asked about the Bosnian-born German. But what does he think about his career?

"It's a fantastic career," Marin replied. "I played in nearly every big league for the biggest teams. When I was at Bremen, we played for the title and in the Champions League. At Chelsea, I don't have to explain how big this team is and Sevilla.

"Maybe it could be better, for sure. There are some reasons. Maybe I wasn't patient enough in some situations. Injuries didn't help to make it even bigger. But I wouldn't have this experience with Red Star if this didn't happen. I'm very happy with my career. To feel this what I feel at the moment, it's the best part of my career."

Marin, who joined Chelsea on a five-year deal from Bremen in 2012, added: "Who knows what would've happened if I stayed longer in Germany? The experience to play for Chelsea was amazing. To play alongside the best players, the professionals. [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry – these leaders. How they train every day and the passion and quality. I saw this for the first time in Chelsea. I played before with very good players but that was another level."

Fast forward to this season and Marin's Red Star are preparing to welcome Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, 2019 Champions League runners-up Tottenham and Olympiacos to Rajko Mitic Stadium – also known as the Marakana – in Group B.

Red Star will be relying on their fanatical and daunting home support in the Serbian capital, where Liverpool lost 2-0 in November – one of four defeats for last season's champions in the 2018-19 competition – as Vladan Milojevic's men eye a third-place finish.

"It's difficult for teams coming here because they don't know, they can't expect this," Marin said. "Before last season's game against Liverpool in the news conference I said you will see it's completely different. I know Anfield is amazing with a big crowd, but it's totally different to what they experienced in Belgrade. You cannot explain it.

"They go to warm-up and the stadium is already full. We were waiting to come out of this big, long tunnel that you don't have anywhere in the world. Then you go out and the stadium is exploding. It's not easy for visiting teams. We play 11 against 11 but when they feel this atmosphere, it's different.

"I hope we can challenge for third place. I'm not sure if would be a surprise if we take some points because people know us and how difficult it is to play at Marakana. Our strength is team work and it's even more so at home. Of course we have quality but the biggest strength is teamwork."

And what about the 'German Messi' tag? "I couldn't change this. It didn't come from me. We all know there's only one Messi and no one is even near him. It wasn't big pressure because I don't think they took it seriously when they compared me to Messi. He is the number one. [Cristiano] Ronaldo is another type of player. Maybe they see it as my ability maybe in one-on-one situations. I take it as a compliment but it's not a real comparison."

If losing your manager was bad enough, imagine losing your star defender?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and centre-back Virgil van Dijk are attracting some serious interest from across Europe.

Now, LaLiga's powerhouse duo are reportedly eyeing the Reds pair.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID WANT KLOPP AND VAN DIJK

According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona and rivals Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head to try to prise Klopp and Van Dijk from Liverpool.

Klopp and Van Dijk helped lead Liverpool to Champions League glory last season, while the Reds are challenging for Premier League honours this term having narrowly missed out to Manchester City in 2018-19.

With Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde and Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane under some early pressure in Spain, Klopp and Van Dijk are reportedly "two priorities" for both clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have the budget to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season, reports AS. Madrid's financial accounts have been revealed, with €156million in liquid assets at their disposal, as well as €285m in credit. Los Blancos are reportedly planning to persuade the France forward, who is contracted until 2022, not to re-sign in the French capital in an effort to force the club's hand.

Lionel Messi to MLS? There has been talk about Messi and David Beckham's incoming franchise Inter Miami following a report claiming a delegation had been sent out to open negotiations for the Barcelona captain. However, Goal says Messi has had no contact with Beckham's Miami.

Manchester United are trying everything to re-sign star goalkeeper David de Gea. According to the Times, United have offered De Gea a new contract with no wage drop if the Red Devils do not qualify for the Champions League. The Spain international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, reportedly has a four-year deal on the table worth £13.5m a season.

- Staying at Old Trafford, and Record and O Jogo both report United are back in for Benfica star Ruben Dias. The 22-year-old defender was linked to the Manchester club before the transfer window closed. Now reports claim a United official was in attendance for Benfica's 2-0 win over Gil Vicente.

Inter are hoping to sign Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund, according to Calciomercato.com. Gotze's contract expires at the end of the season and Antonio Conte's Inter are eyeing the Germany attacker on a free transfer.

- Velez Sarsfield's Thiago Almada is still on the radar of Manchester City, says Record. City had a bid rejected during the transfer window but Pep Guardiola's side remain keen on the 18-year-old.

David Alaba is set to miss the start of Bayern Munich's Champions League campaign after tearing a muscle in his left thigh.

The 27-year-old suffered the injury in the warm-up before Bayern's 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Jerome Boateng replaced him in the starting XI, with Lucas Hernandez moving to the left side of defence.

Bayern did not confirm a timeline for Alaba's return but head coach Niko Kovac will have to weigh up his options for Wednesday's home clash against Red Star Belgrade.

"Bayern will be without David Alaba for a spell after the Austria international tore a muscle in his left thigh while warming up for Saturday's top Bundesliga match away to RB Leipzig," the club confirmed in a statement.

Linked to Barcelona during the close season, Alaba started each of Bayern's opening three Bundesliga fixtures and scored in the 6-1 thrashing of Mainz last month.

The German champions remain two points behind leaders Leipzig, while Borussia Dortmund sit second.

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