Manchester City's appeal against their two-year ban from UEFA competitions will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this week.

The reigning Premier League champions were hit with the punishment in February after they were found to have committed "serious breaches" of UEFA's club licensing and financial fair play (FFP) regulations.

UEFA's independent Adjudicatory Chamber of its Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) also fined City €30million (£27.2m) after finding they had overstated sponsorship revenues in accounts submitted to European football's governing body between 2012 and 2016.

City have persistently denied wrongdoing in relation to the matter, which stemmed from a series of articles published by Der Spiegel in November 2018, drawing on information purportedly obtained by the whistleblower Football Leaks.

"The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position," read a statement at the time from City, who UEFA said had "failed to cooperate" with the investigation.

The hearing begins on Monday and whether or not City are able to have their ban cut or quashed is likely to have a huge impact on their future planning.

Manager Pep Guardiola is out of contract in June 2021, although the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss reiterated his commitment in the aftermath of UEFA announcing their punishment.

"Unless they sack me, which can happen, I will not leave," he said. "Why should I? I love this club, I like to be here, and after we have seen the sentence [appeal] we will focus on what we have to do.

"I want to stay to continue to help the club and maintain this level as long as possible. That's not just because I have a contract, we want to fight to the end for the people who support this club."

In an interview with HLN last month, star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne suggested he might be happy to stay at City in the event of a reduction to a one-year ban, although a two-year Champions League absence would force him to consider his options.

"I'm just waiting," he said "The club told us they are going to appeal, and they are almost 100 per cent sure they are right. That's why I'm waiting to see what will happen. I trust my team.

"Once the decision is made, I will review everything. Two years would be long, but in the case of one year I might see."

Despite winning six of the past seven domestic trophies on offer in England, Champions League success has proved elusive for City and a pause in trying to tackle that final frontier would be a considerable blow in financial and sporting terms.

In this season's competition, which was halted along with the rest of elite European football due to the coronavirus pandemic, goals from Gabriel Jesus and De Bruyne gave them a 2-1 win at Real Madrid in the first leg of a last-16 encounter.

Playing alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would be a dream for Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Barcelona captain Messi and Juventus superstar Ronaldo have dominated world football for over a decade, respectively winning six and five Ballons d'Or.

The Argentine legend is the Catalan giants' all-time leading goalscorer with 627 in 718 appearances and has won 34 trophies with the club, though he has not got his hands on any silverware at a senior international level.

Ronaldo topped Real Madrid's goalscoring charts after nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu and, despite not winning as many titles as Messi during his illustrious career, led Portugal to success at Euro 2016 and in the inaugural Nations League.

Gundogan rates Messi higher than Ronaldo but would relish the chance to feed them both from midfield.

"Messi is a footballer who will not be born again as a talent. For me, Messi is a little higher," Gundogan told Fanatik.

"Messi and Ronaldo are also very important players. I would like to play with both of them on the same team one day."

The Premier League season will next week resume after its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, enabling David Silva to play his final games with City before departing at the end of his contract.

"It is very enjoyable to play with Silva," Gundogan said.

"I love to play with David Silva. He's a very smart football player. We get along well on and off the pitch. He is a top player."

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.

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling said the "only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting" following George Floyd's death.

There have been nationwide protests in the United States after Floyd – an African-American man – died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

A police officer was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck during an arrest after he was crying out for help as he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground.

City and England forward Sterling spoke out in the wake of Floyd's death, backing the anti-racism protests amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I know this might sound a little bit cheesy but the only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting," Sterling told BBC Newsnight.

"This is the most important thing at this moment in time because this is something that is happening for years and years. Just like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.

"At the same time, this is what all these protesters are doing. They are trying to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they are seeing, and they are fighting for their cause.

"As long as they are doing it peacefully and safely and not hurting anybody and not breaking into any stores, they continue to protest in this peaceful way."

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is the only centre-back to have enjoyed a better season than Leicester City's Caglar Soyuncu in the Premier League this term, according to Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

Leicester have been the surprise package of the 2019-20 campaign, with Brendan Rodgers' men sitting third in the Premier League ahead of the season's resumption.

Soyuncu has been regarded as a key component for the Foxes, with the Turkey international playing 28 of their 29 league games, forming a solid partnership with Jonny Evans.

Only Liverpool and Sheffield United have conceded fewer goals than Leicester's 28, and Soyuncu – who stepped in as a replacement for Harry Maguire after he left for Manchester United – has reportedly attracted interest from bigger clubs.

City are among those thought to be keen on the 24-year-old, with Pep Guardiola seemingly eager to bolster his defensive options, and Gundogan would like to see the former Freiburg man in Manchester.

Speaking to Turkish publication Fanatik, Gundogan – whose parents are from Turkey – said: "The first who comes to my mind regarding the Turkish player I'd want to see in Manchester City is Caglar.

"I agree with the general opinion of the football public. This season, Caglar has had the best performance in the Premier League after Van Dijk.

"I didn't know him before. We met when we played each other in matches. In addition to the Premier League games, we also played against Leicester City in a cup.

"We always saw and talked to each other. We started getting to know each other – he's a very good lad. I love him.

"His football understanding and character are also very good, and his performances for both Leicester and the national team have been great."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Fuerte Apache, Buenos Aires is an imposing sight. Like a skyrise jungle domineering over the run-down surroundings of small shops and bars, it holds a certain aura that is probably not helped by its reputation.

Ejercito de los Andes, to give its original name, received its more familiar moniker after a shootout in the estate was broadcast live on the news. The 1981 film 'Fort Apache, The Bronx' is where the nickname came from, and it stuck.

Carlos Tevez is the barrio's most famous son. The former Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and Argentina star's face is prominent in numerous places around the estate, with several murals dedicated to him.

While the biggest – and most iconic – piece in tribute to the forward can be seen on the north edge, facing away from the estate, there is another deep inside Fuerte Apache.

Here, fittingly, Tevez looks out over the football pitch of Roger 'Didi' Ruiz, the coach who discovered him, and where Argentina's next great hope crafted his skills.

First there was Tevez, now Fuerte Apache expects of Thiago Almada.

From Tevez's patch to Velez

As early as four years old, Almada – like Tevez before him – was playing with Club Santa Clara in Fuerte Apache. By five he was signed up by Velez Sarsfield, but he continued to represent his local side as well.

For Almada, a silky attacking midfielder, football has offered a legitimate route to a better life. Even though he accepts the area isn't quite as dangerous as it was in Tevez's time, trouble was still frequent in his youth.

"In the neighbourhood, there are a lot of people who chose the wrong path. It is one way or the other, and I also chose," he told Diario Clarin in 2017, when he was still a part of Velez's youth setup.

But he wouldn't be for much longer. A little over a year later, in August 2018, Almada made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old, appearing for 26 minutes in the 2018-19 Superliga opener against Newell's Old Boys.

He went on to play a total of 16 league matches that season under the tutelage of Gabriel Heinze, generally operating through the middle or off the left, but such prominence at a young age in Argentina does not go unnoticed by bigger European clubs, and it caused fractions.

Velez were understandably concerned about Almada being poached and, with his contract set to expire in June 2020, for a period it seemed realistic he could leave for pittance.

The situation led to speculation claiming Heinze had grown frustrated with Almada, though the coach furiously denied this in a news conference last year, saying: "Tell that journalist that he is a liar and he is absolutely wrong. There are two people here, it's me and it's Thiago. I tell him that they have a lying journalist and the information is a lie. My relationship with Thiago remains the same."

"All the goals were scored by him"

In September, Velez finally tied Almada down to a new four-year contract. As much as anything, it provided the Liniers club with greater financial security, increasing his release clause from a reported €14million to a figure that will reportedly reach €25m after August 31. Directors could breathe a sigh of relief.

Man City had been lurking. With reports of Almada's agent travelling to Europe for talks with other clubs, a feeling of deja vu would have been justifiable for Velez, who lost Benjamin Garre – a former youth-team colleague of Almada – to the Premier League giants for a nominal fee in 2016.

While Almada's rise has been impressive – he has played 22 times in the Superliga this term – it cannot be said that no one saw it coming.

Turu Flores, a former Velez player, spent five years on the coaching staff of the club's senior side, including a 12-month stint as head coach. In that time, watching the youth teams was a regular occurrence for him, and one kid always seemed to stand out.

"I've known Thiago since he was a child," Flores told Stats Perform News. "He is a friend of my son and already had an incredible impact when he was 14 years old. I remember him when he was 12, 13 or 14 years old. At that time I was working for Velez and I used to go and see him playing. He used to start as a central midfielder, but the matches would finish 3-0 or 4-0 and all the goals were scored by him. So, you could already envisage that he has the potential to make important things in football."

'Welcome to Manchester', part two?

A wonderful technician, it's easy to see why City might see Almada as a long-term replacement for David Silva, even if they already possess Phil Foden. But having missed out on him last year, there's reportedly growing interest from elsewhere – United, Inter and Atletico Madrid have all been mentioned as admirers.

It remains to be seen if Almada emulates Tevez and causes another tug-of-war between the Manchester giants, but whoever manages to prise him away from Velez will potentially get themselves a generational talent.

"He is very young and has a long journey ahead of him, a lot to learn, but he has incredible conditions," Flores adds. "He's got a great shot and amazing vision. His vision is not common anymore, you don't see it, or we haven't seen it for a long time. This kind of player comes from the playground, how he controls the ball, how he hits the ball. He is one of the last players that grew up in the street playgrounds."

That style of play is also reflected by his idolising of Juan Roman Riquelme, who invited him to a barbecue after seeing him play earlier this season. "He got my number, texted me and invited me. He is my idol – I could not believe it," Almada told Infobae in October.

Like Riquelme at Boca Juniors in the 1990s, Almada is already a significant influence at Velez despite being a teenager, even if only 10 of his league appearances this term have come as a starter.

With nine goals since making his debut, he is – remarkably – Velez's top-scorer, and only five players have featured more regularly than him.

In terms of chance creation, he's laid on 54 key passes since August 2018, the second most of Velez players, and his dribbling excellence is also quantifiable.

He has attempted 121 take-ons in senior football, completing 60 per cent – of Velez players, only Gaston Gimenez (67 per cent) has a better completion rate than Almada.

Explosive, technically outstanding and creative, there is much to like about his game. More dynamic than Riquelme and arguably a greater natural talent than Tevez, Almada's future looks exciting.

Tevez may have blazed a trail out of Fuerte Apache for Almada to follow, potentially even to Manchester, but there's every chance the teenager could one day be held in even higher regard than Carlitos.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Fuerte Apache, Buenos Aires is an imposing sight. Like a skyrise jungle domineering over the run-down surroundings of small shops and bars, it holds a certain aura that is probably not helped by its reputation.

Ejercito de los Andes, to give its original name, received its more familiar moniker after a shootout in the estate was broadcast live on the news. The 1981 film 'Fort Apache, The Bronx' is where the nickname came from, and it stuck.

Carlos Tevez is the barrio's most famous son. The former Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and Argentina star's face is prominent in numerous places around the estate, with several murals dedicated to him.

While the biggest – and most iconic – piece in tribute to the forward can be seen on the north edge, facing away from the estate, there is another deep inside Fuerte Apache.

Here, fittingly, Tevez looks out over the football pitch of Roger 'Didi' Ruiz, the coach who discovered him, and where Argentina's next great hope crafted his skills.

First there was Tevez, now Fuerte Apache expects of Thiago Almada.

From Tevez's patch to Velez

As early as four years old, Almada – like Tevez before him – was playing with Club Santa Clara in Fuerte Apache. By five he was signed up by Velez Sarsfield, but he continued to represent his local side as well.

For Almada, a silky attacking midfielder, football has offered a legitimate route to a better life. Even though he accepts the area isn't quite as dangerous as it was in Tevez's time, trouble was still frequent in his youth.

"In the neighbourhood, there are a lot of people who chose the wrong path. It is one way or the other, and I also chose," he told Diario Clarin in 2017, when he was still a part of Velez's youth setup.

But he wouldn't be for much longer. A little over a year later, in August 2018, Almada made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old, appearing for 26 minutes in the 2018-19 Superliga opener against Newell's Old Boys.

He went on to play a total of 16 league matches that season under the tutelage of Gabriel Heinze, generally operating through the middle or off the left, but such prominence at a young age in Argentina does not go unnoticed by bigger European clubs, and it caused fractions.

Velez were understandably concerned about Almada being poached and, with his contract set to expire in June 2020, for a period it seemed realistic he could leave for pittance.

The situation led to speculation claiming Heinze had grown frustrated with Almada, though the coach furiously denied this in a news conference last year, saying: "Tell that journalist that he is a liar and he is absolutely wrong. There are two people here, it's me and it's Thiago. I tell him that they have a lying journalist and the information is a lie. My relationship with Thiago remains the same."

"All the goals were scored by him"

In September, Velez finally tied Almada down to a new four-year contract. As much as anything, it provided the Liniers club with greater financial security, increasing his release clause from a reported €14million to a figure that will reportedly reach €25m after August 31. Directors could breathe a sigh of relief.

Man City had been lurking. With reports of Almada's agent travelling to Europe for talks with other clubs, a feeling of deja vu would have been justifiable for Velez, who lost Benjamin Garre – a former youth-team colleague of Almada – to the Premier League giants for a nominal fee in 2016.

While Almada's rise has been impressive – he has played 22 times in the Superliga this term – it cannot be said that no one saw it coming.

Turu Flores, a former Velez player, spent five years on the coaching staff of the club's senior side, including a 12-month stint as head coach. In that time, watching the youth teams was a regular occurrence for him, and one kid always seemed to stand out.

"I've known Thiago since he was a child," Flores told Stats Perform News. "He is a friend of my son and already had an incredible impact when he was 14 years old. I remember him when he was 12, 13 or 14 years old. At that time I was working for Velez and I used to go and see him playing. He used to start as a central midfielder, but the matches would finish 3-0 or 4-0 and all the goals were scored by him. So, you could already envisage that he has the potential to make important things in football."

'Welcome to Manchester', part two?

A wonderful technician, it's easy to see why City might see Almada as a long-term replacement for David Silva, even if they already possess Phil Foden. But having missed out on him last year, there's reportedly growing interest from elsewhere – United, Inter and Atletico Madrid have all been mentioned as admirers.

It remains to be seen if Almada emulates Tevez and causes another tug-of-war between the Manchester giants, but whoever manages to prise him away from Velez will potentially get themselves a generational talent.

"He is very young and has a long journey ahead of him, a lot to learn, but he has incredible conditions," Flores adds. "He's got a great shot and amazing vision. His vision is not common anymore, you don't see it, or we haven't seen it for a long time. This kind of player comes from the playground, how he controls the ball, how he hits the ball. He is one of the last players that grew up in the street playgrounds."

That style of play is also reflected by his idolising of Juan Roman Riquelme, who invited him to a barbecue after seeing him play earlier this season. "He got my number, texted me and invited me. He is my idol – I could not believe it," Almada told Infobae in October.

Like Riquelme at Boca Juniors in the 1990s, Almada is already a significant influence at Velez despite being a teenager, even if only 10 of his league appearances this term have come as a starter.

With nine goals since making his debut, he is – remarkably – Velez's top-scorer, and only five players have featured more regularly than him.

In terms of chance creation, he's laid on 54 key passes since August 2018, the second most of Velez players, and his dribbling excellence is also quantifiable.

He has attempted 121 take-ons in senior football, completing 60 per cent – of Velez players, only Gaston Gimenez (67 per cent) has a better completion rate than Almada.

Explosive, technically outstanding and creative, there is much to like about his game. More dynamic than Riquelme and arguably a greater natural talent than Tevez, Almada's future looks exciting.

Tevez may have blazed a trail out of Fuerte Apache for Almada to follow, potentially even to Manchester, but there's every chance the teenager could one day be held in even higher regard than Carlitos.

Gabriel Jesus believes growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement comes from people being "exhausted" from suffering injustice and racism

The Brazil and Manchester City footballer has added his voice to those calling for change amid the protests that have swept the United States and beyond in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Derek Chauvin was dismissed and charged with second-degree murder, while the three other officers on the scene have also been sacked and charged with aiding and abetting a murder.

Numerous figures from the world of sport have spoken up with demands for change and Jesus knows personally that the ravages of racism run deep.

"Racism isn't a problem that only started in recent days and it isn't normal, so people do feel that they have had enough, and they have exploded," he said, before taking aim at what appears to be a wilful misinterpretation of the Black Lives Matter cause in some quarters.

"I'm against violence or any sort of violent protest. I'm all in favour of peaceful protests in order to say 'no to racism' and whenever we say 'Black Lives Matter', we should also read it correctly and understand the meaning behind it.

"We aren't saying that other lives don't matter, but we are saying that the lives of black people who feel racism matter.

"We can’t generalise it. Not everyone is racist, the majority aren't, but lots of people are and it's like they haven't got brains.

"So, when we use that sentence it's because we know what it is to be a victim of racism. It is painful to feel it."

Jesus explained he was once racially abused when playing for Brazilian club Palmeiras during a Copa Libertadores tie in Uruguay – the kind of ordeal the two-time Premier League champion and Copa America winner is wearied to still see occurring frequently.

"I have suffered a couple of times. I've managed to elevate myself [above it]," he said.

"I'm black and I'm from a favela. I was able to learn from those experiences, but everyone reacts and feels differently and I've got my way.

"This is a very important movement, because like I said, there is a time that people do wake up and these actions [police brutality] that we've seen lately aren't normal and they shouldn't happen.

"Therefore there is a moment that we have to say 'enough, time to stop' and it is important to show your position on this matter and this sentence [Black Lives Matter] is very clear on how tired people have been exhausted for a while, tired of injustice.

"Social media is very important these days, but the problem is that sometimes we don’t respect each other’s opinions or views and that can create a bigger problem or hate.

"I know it is difficult to speak about peace, but if we were to follow our lives based on peace, it would be a lot better."

Jesus and his City colleague will be back in action on June 17 when they host Arsenal upon the Premier League's resumption from its coronavirus shutdown.

Despite the lay-off, the 23-year-old confirmed there has been no let up for the squad when it comes to manager Pep Guardiola's famous intensity.

"The concept is always the same," he added, with City poised to lose their Premier League crown to Liverpool but retaining designs on adding the FA Cup and Champions League to a third consecutive EFL Cup they won in March.

"There are one or two things that have changed, but I will not be revealing them here!

"Pep is creative and intense, so he always has ways to make sure that the players’ fusion always works.

"It is a tough moment in the Premier League but we still have two more trophies to fight for."

Liverpool will continue their quest for the Premier League title when they face Everton on the first Sunday after the competition resumes.

Fixtures released on Friday show the Merseyside derby will be played at 7:00pm local time on June 21.

Everton are due to be the home team but the game may be moved to a neutral venue over public health concerns, while Liverpool will be looking to build on their lead over second-placed Manchester City.

Liverpool could yet win the title in their clash with Everton, but that would require City to lose at home to Arsenal on the first day of the league's resumption.

That date is Wednesday, June 17, when as well as City's clash with Arsenal, struggling Aston Villa will face European hopefuls Sheffield United.

Liverpool are aiming to win a first English league championship since 1990, having yet to land the trophy during the Premier League era. Jurgen Klopp's team currently hold a 25-point lead, needing a maximum of two wins from their remaining nine games to land the silverware.

The league has been suspended since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis, with the last match played having been Leicester's 4-0 home win over Villa on March 9.

All matches will be played behind closed doors when action resumes.

On the first Friday of the resumption, Manchester United head to London to face Tottenham, who are now managed by former Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho.

City then return to action on Monday, June 22, when they host Burnley, followed by a full midweek programme from June 23-25, including Liverpool's clash with Crystal Palace on the Wednesday. City travel to Chelsea on the Thursday.

Another fixture with a venue still to be set is City's home game against Liverpool on Thursday, July 2.

There have been concerns expressed over the possibility of supporters gathering to celebrate Liverpool's expected title success.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “I am delighted we are able to take another positive step towards the season returning in just under two weeks’ time."

Here are the fixture dates announced by the Premier League for the opening weeks of the return to action (all times local; * = venue tbc):

Wednesday, June 17

Aston Villa v Sheffield United (1800)
Manchester City v Arsenal (2015)

Friday, June 19

Norwich City v Southampton (1800)
Tottenham v Manchester United (2015)

Saturday, June 20

Watford v Leicester City (1230)
Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal (1500)
West Ham v Wolves  (1730)
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (1945)

Sunday, June 21

Newcastle United v Sheffield United (1400)
Aston Villa v Chelsea (1615)
Everton v Liverpool (1900)*

Monday, June 22

Manchester City v Burnley (2000)

Tuesday, June 23

Leicester City v Brighton (1800)
Tottenham v West Ham (2015)

Wednesday, June 24

Manchester United v Sheffield United (1800)
Newcastle United v Aston Villa (1800)
Norwich City v Everton (1800)
Wolves v Bournemouth (1800)
Liverpool v Crystal Palace (2015)

Thursday, June 25

Burnley v Watford (1800)
Southampton v Arsenal (1800)
Chelsea v Manchester City (2015)

Saturday, June 27

Aston Villa v Wolves (1230)

Sunday, June 28

Watford v Southampton (1630)

Monday, June 29

Crystal Palace v Burnley (2000)

Tuesday, June 30

Brighton v Manchester United (2015)

Wednesday, July 1

Arsenal v Norwich City (1800)
Bournemouth v Newcastle United (1800)
Everton v Leicester City (1800)
West Ham v Chelsea (2015)

Thursday, July 2

Sheffield United v Spurs (1800)
Manchester City v Liverpool (2015)*

Spanish coach Juanma Lillo has left Chinese club Qingdao Huanghai amid reports he could join Pep Guardiola's staff at Manchester City.

Lillo's departure was announced on Friday, with the impact of the coronavirus cited as the principal factor behind the decision.

He led Qingdao to promotion into the Chinese Super League last year, but the 2020 top-flight championship has yet to begin due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former City midfielder Yaya Toure featured in Lillo's team, but now Spanish sport daily Marca claims Lillo is poised to link up with Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

Qingdao confirmed 54-year-old Lillo's exit on their website, with the club praising his ""excellent business skills and coaching skills" and his successful transition to Chinese football.

A statement said Lillo's mother had been ill in Spain at the same time as the coronavirus taking hold across the world and "needed urgent care".

The Chinese club said that with uncertainty over when the league would begin, Lillo "feels that he cannot help and support the team's daily training and regular games", and added that an agreement had been reached to part ways.

"From now on, Mr Juanma Lillo will no longer serve as the head coach of Qingdao Huanghai Football Club," the club said. "We thank him for his outstanding contribution to Qingdao football in the past period of time, wish him all the best in his future work and life, and sincerely wish his mother a speedy recovery.

"Regarding the future, Mr Juanma Lillo said he will continue to coach in Europe."

Lillo issued a farewell statement in which he did not mention his future plans but thanked Qingdao for taking him on, expressing the hope China would qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

He said his departure was "due to the impact of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak".

If Lillo does join City, he would take up a role on a coaching staff that lost a significant figure last December when Mikel Arteta left City to become manager of Arsenal.

Lillo and Guardiola are long-time friends, according to Marca. Lillo's list of former clubs includes Real Sociedad, Real Zaragoza, Salamanca, Tenerife, Almeria and Vissel Kobe.

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.

A number of Premier League stars have put signed shirts up for a charity raffle to raise money for health services in the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic.

Top-flight players launched their '#PlayersTogether' fund in April, an initiative working alongside NHS Charities Together.

In the latest development on Wednesday, players donated over 500 signed jerseys to the Shirts for Heroes raffle on eBay, with each ticket costing £5.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who was said to be prominent in the initial movement, was among those to post of their involvement on Twitter.

Henderson and team-mate Virgil van Dijk each quickly gathered more than 150 ticket sales.

Manchester City's midfield duo Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were also involved, along with Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire.

A number of Premier League stars have put signed shirts up for a charity raffle to raise money for health services in the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic.

Top-flight players launched their '#PlayersTogether' fund in April, an initiative in which they would work with NHS Charities Together.

In the latest development on Wednesday, players donated over 500 signed jerseys to the Shirts for Heroes raffle on eBay, with each ticket costing £5.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who was said to be prominent in the initial movement, was among those to post of their involvement on Twitter.

Henderson and team-mate Virgil van Dijk each quickly gathered more than 150 ticket sales.

Manchester City's midfield duo Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were also involved, along with Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire.

Lautaro Martinez's move to Barcelona is seemingly getting closer.

The star Inter forward has been linked to the LaLiga giants, although questions have been raised over whether Barca can find a deal to land the 22-year-old.

But the Argentina international could be nearing a switch to Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – LAUTARO, BARCELONA AGREE TO FIVE-YEAR DEAL

Martinez and Barcelona have reached an agreement on a five-year deal at about €12million per season plus bonuses, according to Sport.

The report says Inter have given up on the star forward, but are yet to reach an agreement with Barcelona.

Martinez has scored 16 goals in 31 games this season.

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have already decided not to purchase Philippe Coutinho, who has been linked with an extended stay on loan. However, Sport Bild reports there is no chance the playmaker stays in Munich.

- Timo Werner is reportedly a target for Liverpool, but another Premier League club could be making their move. The Telegraph claims Chelsea are plotting a move for the RB Leipzig forward.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal future remains uncertain. The Telegraph reports head coach Mikel Arteta is trying to persuade the striker to stay at the Premier League club, while The Sun says Arsenal will keep Aubameyang until the end of his contract in 2021 if they cannot get more than £20m for him this close season.

- Could Eric Garcia return to Barcelona? Sport reports the LaLiga giants are tracking the defender, who came through their youth system before joining Manchester City in 2018.

- Having impressed at Lyon, Houssem Aouar may be ready for a move. According to CalcioMercato, the attacker would prefer a switch to Juventus over Manchester City.

- After contract talks with Newcastle United broke down, Matty Longstaff could be heading abroad. The Times says the midfielder is set for a move to Serie A, with Udinese frontrunners to sign the 20-year-old.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola still dreams of managing a national team in the future, according to his brother Pere Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola has never hidden his desire to lead an international team at a major tournament and has been heavily linked with Argentina and Brazil in the past.

The Catalan coach previously suggested taking charge of Spain was "unlikely" and he has a contract with City until the end of next season.

Pere Guardiola, who is an agent, part owner of LaLiga side Girona and this week opened a branch of his Media Base Sports company in Brazil, said a role outside of the club arena still appeals to his brother.

Brazil has recently seen an increased investment in foreign coaches, with Jorge Jesus, Jesualdo Ferreira, Jorge Sampaoli, Eduardo Coudet and Rafael Dudamel all having spells in charge of top-flight clubs.

Asked if Guardiola could ever take charge of a Campeonato Brasileiro side or the Selecao, Pere Guardiola told Globo Esporte: "Brazil has won everything with Brazilian coaches. I think you have good coaches, you don't have to have only foreigners.

"Pep has a dream of coaching a national team someday, but we'll see how it goes; what will be the moment, if he will receive an offer.

"It is not something for the present."

City are set to lose their Premier League crown to Liverpool in 2019-20, as they sit 25 points off the leaders with 10 games left to play.

The defending champions are set to play their first game in three months on June 17, with the coronavirus pandemic having forced the season's suspension in March.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.