Pep Clotet will leave his role as Birmingham City head coach at the end of the Championship season.

Birmingham are 16th in the table and eight points clear of the bottom three ahead of the English second-tier's proposed restart on June 20.

The Blues announced on Monday that Clotet would step down from his position at the conclusion of the campaign in order to "explore other coaching opportunities".

Clotet, 43, took over in June 2019, initially as an interim appointment, having previously served as assistant coach to Garry Monk.

"It's been a really difficult decision to take because it's a privilege to be part of the Blues family," Clotet said.

"But it's the best step for everyone and it allows the club to continue to move forward with their vision and strategy.

"I'm very grateful to the club, its board and the supporters for placing their faith in me to lead the team this season and to face up to the challenges involved in what's been a key transition under really demanding circumstances.

"It's now time for us to focus on the remainder of the season and for the club to continue building on these foundations."

The club acknowledged Clotet's work in promoting young players and improving their style of play this season in their statement confirming his departure.

Birmingham CEO Dong Ren added: "It's a decision that is filled with sadness for us both. We value Pep very highly and we know how much he loves this club."

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has a long list of admirers.

From Manchester United to Real Madrid, the Lazio midfielder is a player in demand.

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, however, appear on track to sign the Serbia international.

 

TOP STORY –  PSG AND MILINKOVIC-SAVIC IN AGREEMENT

Paris Saint-Germain have reached a salary agreement with Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, according to Paris Fans.

Milinkovic-Savic has been linked to Premier League giants Manchester United and LaLiga powerhouse Real Madrid.

But PSG have an agreement with Milinkovic-Savic for a salary around €7million a year, while the deal could also include Laizo's Adam Marusic.

Firstly, PSG would like to seal the departure of Julian Draxler, who has been linked to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.

 

ROUND-UP

Neymar still wants to join Barcelona at the end of the season. The front page of Monday's Mundo Deportivo says the PSG star remains committed to pushing through a return to Barca at all costs.

- The Telegraph says Manchester City have entered the chase for Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell. The Englishman has been heavily linked to Chelsea.

- Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham prefers Borussia Dortmund over United, reports the Birmingham Mail. The 16-year-old is wanted by both clubs, while he has already toured United's facilities.

Marco Verratti and Alvaro Morata are being linked with returns to Serie A. Tuttosport claims the possible arrival of Italian head coach Massimiliano Allegri at PSG could see Verratti and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic swap clubs. Atletico Madrid forward Morata, meanwhile, has been in contact with Inter as Edinson Cavani prepares to move to the Spanish capital on a free transfer.

- Admirers of Ismael Bennacer will struggle to sign the Milan midfielder. City, Madrid and PSG have been linked to Bennacer. But, Calciomercato says the 22-year-old's €50m release clause is not active until 2021.

Barca's bid to bring Lautaro Martinez to Camp Nou is no closer to completion. Junior Firpo has emerged as the key to unlocking the deadlock between Barca and Inter. Junior Firpo is valued at €41m by Barca, but FCInterNews says the Nerazzurri consider the defender's transfer value closer to €20m.

Two individuals connected to Championship clubs have tested positive for coronavirus in the latest round of testing, the English Football League (EFL) has confirmed.

This most recent figure marks a significant decrease from the previous two batches, which saw a combined total of 19 positive tests.

One of the positive results came at Barnsley, the Tykes have confirmed, with the club saying the individual is "safe" and "remains upbeat".

The overall sample size was 1,179 this time around, meaning over 5,000 tests have been carried out on players and staff associated with Championship clubs since May 21.

An EFL statement read: "Following the latest round of COVID-19 testing, the EFL can confirm that 1,179 players and club staff from the 24 Championship clubs were tested over the course of Wednesday June 3, Thursday June 4, Friday June 5 and Saturday June 6, with two individuals testing positive from two clubs.

"Those players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL and only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities."

The Championship is set to resume on June 20, three days after the Premier League recommences.

Across League One and League Two, 267 players and staff were tested - one returned a positive result.

 

Saracens have been assured they will be able to complete their European Champions Cup defence even if they are relegated to the Championship first.

The reigning English and European champions will be demoted from the Premiership to the second tier for next term following salary-cap breaches.

The club were deducted 105 points, guaranteeing their relegation, but have continued to progress in the Champions Cup.

The season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic throws up some difficulties, however, as sport is set to return behind closed doors in England before some other European countries.

The Champions Cup may therefore not be concluded until after the next domestic campaign has started in England, with Saracens by then in the Championship.

But European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday insists the team's European challenge will not be impacted.

"Saracens have qualified for the quarter-finals and I'll defend their right to complete the Champions Cup campaign no matter what," Halliday said, quoted in the Mirror.

"As long as we can complete the tournament, they should be allowed to participate for as long as they keep on winning."

Saracens have won the Champions Cup in three of the past four seasons and defeated Leinster in the 2018-19 final.

They will face the Irish province again in the last eight of this term's competition.

The arrivals of Lautaro Martinez and Neymar at the end of the season had been the dream for Barcelona.

Forming the best attack in the world had been the idea, prising Inter's Martinez to Camp Nou and re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

But Barca have reportedly been priced out of a deal for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – PSG SET NEYMAR PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €175million in cash for Barcelona target Neymar, according to Sport.

Neymar left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222m transfer in 2017 but the Brazilian superstar continues to be linked with a Camp Nou comeback.

But Barca's hopes have been dealt a blow due to PSG's demands and coronavirus as they prioritise Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- RMC Sport claims Manchester City are interested in Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer. Pep Guardiola has reportedly talked to Bennacer about a move to the Premier League. City are also interested in Barca's Sergi Roberto, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Real Madrid are keen on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, AS says. The England international has been tipped to join United, while Chelsea and Liverpool have also been linked.

- Calciomercato claims Napoli are eyeing a move for Lille forward Victor Osimhen. It comes amid uncertainty over the futures of Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik has been heavily linked to Juventus, while the likes of Sevilla and Real Betis are reportedly interested in bringing former Madrid winger Callejon back to LaLiga.

Sevilla are prepared to wait until the end of the season for Barca's Ivan Rakitic, reports Mundo Deportivo. Barca are willing to sanction Rakitic's transfer and Spanish rivals Sevilla are looking to bring the Croatia international back to Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

- According to L'Equipe, injury-plagued Barca star Ousmane Dembele has no intention of leaving Camp Nou for Juve.

- ESPN says United need more cash to sign Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old has also been linked to Dortmund.

Fabian Ruiz is wanted by Spain's two biggest clubs – Barca and Madrid. But Mundo Deportivo says the Napoli star is moving further away from a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu due to Madrid not being able to meet the Italian club's valuation. Luka Jovic and James Rodriguez have been mentioned as possible makeweights but Napoli only want cash.

- Lille defender Gabriel has emerged as a possible replacement for Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Le10Sport says Napoli have identified Gabriel as well as Fiorentina pair German Pezzella and Nikola Milenkovic. Sky Sport Italia, meanwhile, says United are offering £71m (€80m) for Koulibaly but Napoli are holding out for at least £89m (€100m).

Pedro is a player in demand. The Chelsea forward is set to become a free agent and AS says Roma are the Spaniard's "priority". Juve, Sevilla, Betis and Valencia have also been credited with interest.

QPR are "vehemently opposed" to the Championship returning on June 20, with CEO Lee Hoos saying the club are "appalled" by the decision.

The English Football League (EFL) announced on Sunday that the Championship is set to return on the weekend of June 20, following in the footsteps of the Premier League, which will be back three days earlier.

In both divisions, all matches will be played behind closed doors as the threat of coronavirus remains and the EFL stressed that fixtures could only resume on the hoped-for date if "all safety requirements and government guidance is met". 

But Hoos has suggested multiple teams, including QPR – who sit 13th in the table - are unsatisfied with the development, citing the lack of consultation ahead of the announcement and insufficient time for players to get themselves ready.

"I am absolutely stunned by this announcement, as is our Director of Football Les Ferdinand and our manager Mark Warburton," Hoos said to his club’s website.

"Incredibly, there has been absolutely no consultation with individual clubs nor with the Championship doctors' working group by the divisional representatives - or anyone else in the Football League – regarding this matter.

"On top of that, we were only made aware of the statement 40 minutes before it was made public."

Hoos added: "Having spoken with Les and Mark, they share my views. We are vehemently opposed to this schedule.

"The players haven't even returned to full-contact training at this moment and yet they are now expected to be in a position to play at a competitive level in just three weeks' time.

"I have made our feelings known to the EFL and, having spoken with a number of CEOs at other Championship clubs, I am not a lone voice on this matter.

"We are absolutely appalled."

The Championship is set to return on the weekend of June 20, the English Football League (EFL) has announced. 

English football's second tier is primed to follow in the footsteps of the Premier League after the provisional restart date was confirmed by the governing body. 

The Premier League's resumption date is set for just three days earlier. In both divisions, all matches will be played behind closed doors as the threat of coronavirus remains. 

In a statement released on Sunday, the EFL stressed that fixtures could only resume on the hoped-for date if "all safety requirements and government guidance is met". 

Furthermore, clubs must have clearance from local authorities to host matches. 

The EFL wants a revised schedule to tie in closely with that of the top flight, with promotion and relegation issues at hand. 

It hopes the play-off final, described as the richest game in football, will take place "on or around July 30". 

EFL chair Rick Parry said: "We must stress that at this stage the date is only provisional and will only be confirmed once we have met all the requirements, as the health, safety and well-being of all participants, staff and supporters remains our top priority. 

"Clearly completing the season in a safe manner is going to require a significant effort by all concerned and, whilst not unprecedented, it will need clubs to play a significant number of matches over a relatively short period of time." 

The EFL has proposed teams will be allowed to make five substitutions per game, with matchday squads increased from 18 to 20 players. Discussions will continue with Championship clubs over the suggested changes.

The Championship saw 10 individuals test positive for coronavirus after tests on Thursday and Friday.

Leeds United and West Brom occupy the two automatic promotion spots in the table. 

The Championship saw 10 individuals test positive for coronavirus after tests on Thursday and Friday, it was announced.

While the Premier League announced no new positives from the latest round of testing, it was a different story in England's second tier.

The English Football League announced there were 10 positives from eight clubs after 1,058 tests on Thursday and Friday.

"Following the latest round of COVID-19 testing, the EFL can confirm that 1,058 players and club staff from the 24 Championship clubs were tested over the course of Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, with 10 individuals testing positive from eight clubs," a statement said.

"Those players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL and only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities."

Suspended since March, the Championship is reportedly hoping to restart next month.

Leeds United were a point clear of West Brom when the campaign was stopped.

The EFL also said there were seven positive tests from three clubs in League Two, from 135 tests.

The English Football League (EFL) has revealed the latest round of coronavirus tests carried out across Championship clubs produced three further positive results.

A total of 1,030 players and staff members from England's second tier were tested over the course of a 72-hour period between Monday and Wednesday.

The results were announced on Thursday, with the three positive tests coming from two clubs.

Fulham confirmed two of the positive tests were from their players, who will now self-isolate as per EFL regulations.

"After the second round of league-wide testing for COVID-19 completed by Fulham FC players and staff this week at the club's training facility, we can confirm that two players have tested positive for Coronavirus," read a club statement.

"Both players, who shall remain unnamed due to medical confidentiality, are now self-isolating in line with league and government guidance."

Hull City, who had the only two positive cases in the previous round of testing, confirmed they did not have any this time around.

"Hull City can confirm that none of its players or staff are included in the three new positive results," the Tigers said.

"The two individuals who tested positive in the first round of testing last week continue to self-isolate at home as per government and EFL guidelines."

Only players who have tested negative are permitted to enter training grounds.

Championship football remains on hold due to the pandemic and no fixtures have been played in the 2019-20 season since March 8.

Saracens have signed Wales scrum-half Aled Davies on a three-year deal.

Davies' international career appears to be over after he opted to leave the Ospreys to join the European and Premiership champions.

The 27-year-old playmaker will not be able play for his country due to the 60-cap eligibility rule and is instead heading for the Championship after Sarries were consigned to relegation due to salary-cap breaches.

Davies said: "It's a great opportunity for me at a massive club. It's a massive honour to come here and I can't wait to get started.

"It seems like there is a good team and family ethos around the club which is very attractive for me and my family.

"I'm looking forward to putting my stamp on things and making an impact, hopefully."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "Aled is an experienced, talented player and we are delighted to welcome both him and his family to Saracens.

"He is driven to take his game to new levels and we are excited he has chosen to do that at Saracens."

Davies has won 20 caps for Wales, with his last appearance coming against Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup last October.

Hull City have confirmed two positive tests for coronavirus at the Championship club.

The English Football League (EFL) on Sunday said there were two positive cases out of the 1,014 COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff at Championship clubs.

Hull later announced both individuals, who have not been named, came from the struggling East Yorkshire club and will self-isolate for a week before being tested for a second time.

A club statement said: "Hull City can confirm that two people have tested positive for COVID-19 following the first round of testing at the training ground.

"Medical confidentiality means the names will not be disclosed, and the club asks for this to be respected.

"The duo, who are both asymptomatic and feeling no ill effects, will now self-isolate for seven days – in line with the protocols set out in EFL guidelines – before being tested again at a later date.

"The club will continue to liaise closely with the affected personnel and will make no further comment."

According to the Daily Telegraph, Hull have written to EFL chairman Rick Parry and the other 23 clubs in the Championship to express fears over the season potentially resuming next month.

Championship teams are preparing to resume training from Monday, albeit while following specific protocols laid down by league organisers.

It is unclear if the Championship campaign will resume. No fixtures have been played since March 8, with Hull reportedly the first second-tier club to outline a belief that it is too risky to get the action under way again.

The English Football League (EFL) has revealed two positive results following coronavirus tests carried out across all 24 Championship clubs. 

A total of 1,014 players and staff members from England's second tier were tested over the course of a 72-hour period as the 2019-20 season remains on hold due to the pandemic. 

The two unidentified individuals to test positive came from the same club, the EFL confirmed in a statement on Sunday, and will now self-isolate for seven days.

Championship teams are preparing to resume training from Monday, albeit while following specific protocols laid down by the league organisers.

"Those players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate in line with the guidelines provided by the EFL and only those who have tested negative will be permitted to enter training ground facilities," the statement read.

"The EFL will continue to make regular and relevant announcements as appropriate in respect of the testing programme to support competition integrity and transparency."

It is unclear yet when - or even if - the Championship campaign will resume, with no fixtures played since March 8.

The Premier League confirmed a further two COVID-19 cases on Saturday, following on from an initial six from the first round of testing.

Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear has claimed it would be "a national embarrassment" if the 2019-20 football season cannot be completed in England.

Hundreds of people in the United Kingdom continue to lose their lives each day from the effects of COVID-19, adding to a death toll that is higher than in any other European country.

However, the UK government is keen to get professional sport up and running again, and English football authorities are determined to get through many of the fixtures that remained unplayed after competitions were suspended in March.

The Premier League and second-tier Championship are working towards getting back under way, and Leeds chief Kinnear is optimistic that will be possible, with Marcelo Bielsa's side firmly in the hunt for automatic promotion to the top flight. They sit top of the Championship, a point ahead of West Brom with nine rounds of games remaining.

"England had some of the finest sports scientists and football administrators in the game and the time has come for us as a sport to stop repeatedly framing the challenges and start delivering on the solution," said Kinnear, in a column for the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"It would be a national embarrassment if the Bundesliga, LaLiga or Serie A were to be able to complete safely and the first and fifth-biggest leagues in the world were not able to follow suit if the context remained comparable."

Kinnear said Leeds could have been "opportunist" and pushed for the league to be permanently halted, with placings then to be determined by points-per-game averages, because that would have seen them promoted.

"However, our intention has always been to do all we can to complete this season where we started it – on the pitch," Kinnear said.

Kinnear said Leeds are subscribing to protocols that are "rigorous, comprehensive, and founded on science", insisting the club's players have "embraced" the efforts being taken.

He said no players would be "pressurised" to train or play during the coronavirus period.

But he added: "Across the leagues hundreds of players will have to make the same decision and whilst individual choices and circumstance need to be respected they cannot be allowed to derail the personal judgements of the majority and the health of our national games as a whole."

Leeds United need to seal promotion from the Championship this season or else Marcelo Bielsa may not remain at Elland Road, according to Nigel Martyn.

The West Yorkshire club appeared on course to end their long wait to seal a return to the Premier League when the 2019-20 season was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bielsa had his squad sitting top of the table and while only a point clear of nearest rivals West Brom, they had created a comfortable cushion between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack in the race to clinch one of the two automatic spots.

It remains unclear when the action will resume in the Football League - chairman Rick Parry has said the campaign must be completed by July 31 - but Martyn fears Bielsa will not stick around without the prospect of playing in the Premier League in 2020-21.

The former Leeds and England goalkeeper is full of praise for the work done by the Argentinian coach, describing him as a "breath of fresh air" while applauding his impact on the players, both on and off the field.

"Without wanting to sound too downbeat, I didn't see him doing another season if they didn't get promoted,” Martyn told Stats Perform.

"It was kind of a last chance saloon with Leeds and this manager, and he's been a breath of fresh air with his attitude, not just to playing football but to life in general.

"What he's brought to that club and the humility he’s bought, is good to see. It's rubbed off on his players, who looked like they were enjoying winning and everything that went with that.

"Let's hope we don’t miss out on Bielsa in the Premier League, because that would be good to see."

Leeds had seemingly overcome a wobble prior to the suspension in proceedings, recording five successive league victories to get their promotion push firmly back on track.

However, Martyn acknowledges the long hiatus will allow all in the Championship to reset in preparation for a short run-in, while some teams could be hampered by changes in personnel due to the different situations concerning loan signings and their parent clubs.

"At this point, you'd say they [Leeds] deserve to go up. I would love to see them in the Premier League with everything back to normal, but that's not the situation," Martyn said.

"I want the season finished, obviously, because so much has been invested into it. However, there are a lot of players out of contract, on loan from other clubs that might have to go back, so it won't be the same.

"Situations have changed, so it is going to be new for everybody despite being a continuation.

"They were in a good place and you would say they would have gone up this year, all things being equal, but if the season is able to be completed, it's the same for West Brom, Nottingham Forest, for everybody.

"You can put all the excuses there, but it's the same for all. Possibly it won't be the same squad that finishes it, but it’s the same for everyone. If you all sign up to it, there's no coming back."

Clubs should not be promoted to the Premier League if they are unable to complete the 2019-20 Championship season, according to Norwich City's sporting director Stuart Webber.

Professional football in England has been on hold since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no resumption in fixtures until at least June 1.

Both the Championship and Premier League appear committed to finishing their respective campaigns on the pitch, though the uncertainty around the situation means an absolute decision is impossible at this current time.

There remains the possibility of leagues following the example of France's Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, which have been ended prematurely and final positions determined on a points-per-game basis.

Norwich sit bottom of the Premier League, six points adrift of safety, and Webber insists it would be unacceptable if the Canaries were to be relegated on the pitch, only to see a Championship side promoted without playing again.

"In my opinion, it needs to be settled on the pitch, not off the pitch," Webber told Sky Sports. "A big question we have around restarting is, it's fine if we restart and three teams get relegated – we look at it as though we're only six points off 16th rather than being adrift.

"But if we do [get relegated], that's fine, because that's where football should be played. Football should be played on a pitch and not in the boardroom. But the Championship has to restart and play all their games also.

“What we could not accept is a situation where we play out all our games, get relegated but then the Championship can't play - because we don't even know if the government are going to let them play - and then they automatically promote some teams who haven't finished the season.

"It's a bit like saying, we can't complete the FA Cup, but we're in the quarter-finals, we've beaten a Championship top-six team away, we've beaten two Premier League teams away, so does that mean we win the FA Cup then and qualify for Europe and we all get a medal, because the level of games we played were harder than the other teams left in the quarter-finals?

"That's a really important sporting point - it needs to be settled on the pitch, both coming up or going down."

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