Lionel Messi has his sights on a record set by Real Madrid great Raul when Barcelona face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, as the Champions League proper gets started for the 2019-20 season.

Barca's talisman is back in their squad for the trip to Germany after missing the start of the campaign with a calf injury and, while he is unlikely to start, few would bet against him having a decisive impact if he does make an appearance.

Reigning champions Liverpool begin their title defence at Napoli in what will surely prove to be a tricky test, although Sadio Mane will be aiming to equal a record set by Didier Drogba.

There will also be Champions League bows in the dugout for Frank Lampard and Sylvinho.

Below, we examine the key data for Tuesday's encounters...

Salzburg v Genk

0 - Salzburg have not lost any of their last 18 home matches in European competition (W14 D4 – including qualifiers), with their most recent defeat at home coming in October 2016 against Nice in the Europa League.

1 - Genk forward Mbwana Samatta scored nine goals in 12 appearances in European competition last season and he also finished with 23 goals in the Belgian top flight in 2018-19. Should he play in this match, he will be the first Tanzanian player to make an appearance in the Champions League.

 

Napoli v Liverpool

5 - Napoli have won just one of their past six European meetings with English clubs, losing the other five in this run and failing to score in the most recent three. That one victory was against Liverpool last season, though.

15 - Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has scored 14 goals in 24 Champions League appearances. Should he score in his next outing, he will equal Didier Drogba's record of needing just 25 appearances to score his first 15 goals in the competition, a record for any African player.

 

Inter v Slavia Prague

20 - Inter will be making their 20th appearance in the Champions League/European Cup – only Juventus (34) and AC Milan (28) have had more among Italian sides (including 2019-20).

24 - Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 24 goals (12 goals, 12 assists) in his 52 Champions League appearances, but none of these involvements came in six games in the competition for Manchester United, the club he left on loan last month.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Barcelona

33 - Lionel Messi has scored against 32 of the 37 different opponents he has faced in the Champions League. Should he score against Dortmund, the Barcelona star will equal the competition's record for different teams scored against, set by Raul (33 clubs).

2 - Borussia Dortmund have won just two of their past eight Champions League home matches (D2 L4), losing their most recent match 1-0 against Tottenham in the last 16 in 2018-19.

 

Lyon v Zenit

1 - Lyon boss Sylvinho will manage in the Champions League for the first time, also becoming the first non-Frenchman to take charge of the club in Europe's elite competition. The Brazilian made 32 Champions League appearances as a player for Barcelona, Celta Vigo and Arsenal, scoring three goals.

58 - Zenit captain Branislav Ivanovic could make his first Champions League appearance since March 2016 (for Chelsea) in this match. He has made 58 appearances in the competition; only Dejan Stankovic (87) and Predrag Djordjevic (62) have made more among Serbian players.

 

Benfica v RB Leipzig

10 - Benfica are Portugal's sole representative in the 2019-20 Champions League, making it the first time in a decade that there is only one Portuguese club in the competition.

3 - Timo Werner scored three goals from just seven shots on target in the Champions League back in 2017-18, more than any other RB Leipzig player. He went on to net seven times in European competition that term, the highest total by an RB Leipzig player in a single season.

 

Ajax v Lille

6 - Ajax won six games in the 2018-19 Champions League, as many as they did in their previous four participations in the competition.

11 - Including qualifiers, Lille have not won any of their past 11 European matches in all competitions (D6 L5) and scored only five goals in these games.

 

Chelsea v Valencia

102 - Frank Lampard will take charge of a Champions League game for the first time in his managerial career. As a Chelsea player, he made 102 appearances in the competition and is one of only 22 players to have played 100 games or more in the tournament with the same club.

2 - Valencia have reached the Champions League in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13 (three in a row), which was also the last time they made it to the knockout stages of the competition, before being beaten by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

Valencia coach Albert Celades backed his squad ahead of their Champions League clash against Chelsea, although he admitted their situation was far from ideal.

The LaLiga club stunningly sacked Marcelino, who helped them win the Copa del Rey in May, as coach last week.

No Valencia player attended a pre-match news conference alongside Celades on Monday, but the former Real Madrid assistant – in his first senior coaching job – backed his squad to get through a difficult period.

"I'm the coach here and I take the decisions," he told a news conference.

"The players have to adapt to the coach, it's a two-way street.

"I have experience of situations like that which they are going through. It isn't ideal, but I'm convinced that we will get through it well."

Valencia make the trip to Stamford Bridge on the back of a slow start to the LaLiga season, having won just one of their opening four games.

However, Celades, who played for Barcelona and Madrid, believes his side will perform in the Group H clash.

"I'm the one taking decisions here. Some may like them, some may not. I'll take the decisions I see fit. I've no fear, I'm completely calm," he said.

"Whenever a coach changes it is a process of adaptation for everyone. There is a need to gel, but it is a fantastic challenge.

"I'm sure we're going to do well."

Frank Lampard acknowledged he will have to prepare his youthful Chelsea side for a different challenge in the Champions League, as he set progression from the group stage as his only target for now.

Chelsea start their Champions League campaign at home against Valencia - who recently sacked their coach Marcelino and replaced him with former Real Madrid assistant Albert Celades - on Tuesday.

As well as Valencia, Chelsea line up alongside Lille and last season's semi-finalists Ajax in Group H.

The Blues head into Tuesday's encounter on the back of claiming their second Premier League win of the season in style - Tammy Abraham scoring a hat-trick in a 5-2 win at Wolves - but Lampard is putting no pressure on his players.

"The target is clearly to qualify from the group," Lampard told a news conference. 

"Obviously it's a tough group but I have plenty of faith in the young players and the ones who have never played in it who are at the moment in good form and have talent that will hopefully blossom in the Champions League as we go along.

"Always as a player I thought of it as two parts, with the group part before Christmas. It's tough but if we can get through then it's up for grabs in the next part of the year. I'm confident as we should be but very aware of the dangers in a tough group.

"I haven't spoke to them in detail about that yet. We're meeting up tonight in the hotel so we'll have plenty of time to prepare and it is maybe worth a word or two on that because it is different.

 

"I would say the main thing I found as a player is your concentration and focus in every game has to be spot on, not to say you can get away with it in the Premier League.

"The higher level of player in the Champions League, the different style of game that can surprise you and teams that travel for these games can be fantastic on the counter-attack and hurt you in one second when you think you're controlling the game."

Lampard won the Champions League with Chelsea as a player in 2012, four years after losing to Manchester United in the final, and the former Derby County boss is thrilled to have the chance to take a big step in his coaching career.

"Well I'll be proud to do it because I had multiple incredible nights in the Champions League and some bad ones," he said.

"But it is the ultimate for me, in terms of club football and there's something about nights at Stamford Bridge, the Champions League music and our experiences as Chelsea people, I want to experience it on this side of the fence.

"I'll be proud to take the team out but of course I'm aware that what matters is results and starting the group well against tough opposition. I am excited."

Lampard did confirm Chelsea will be without Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Emerson Palmieri, who are all injured, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James are lacking match fitness.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde described Ansu Fati as "something special" after the teenager starred in a 5-2 win over Valencia on Saturday.

Making his starting debut, Fati needed just seven minutes to have a major impact at Camp Nou, opening the scoring before setting up Frenkie de Jong for Barca's second.

Fati, aged 16 years and 318 days, became the youngest player to score as a starter in LaLiga history, and the youngest player to both score and assist in a LaLiga game in the 21st century.

Valverde lauded the teenager – who has scored two LaLiga goals for Barca – for his performance, saying it was beyond expectations.

"He is a player who has something special. For his age it seems that he is more mature," he told Movistar. 

"What you see in training is what you see here. Today was something exaggerated – goal, give one assist and almost score another."

Fati set up Barca's victory before a second-half goal from Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez brace lifted Valverde's side onto seven points from four LaLiga games.

Amid the excitement around Fati, Valverde played down comparisons to superstar Lionel Messi, who is sidelined with a calf injury.

"I'm not worried about the comparison," he said.

"The ball is going to be very big and we have to take care of deflating it."

Barcelona sit fourth in what is a congested top half of the table, trailing Atletico Madrid (nine points), Real Madrid (eight) and Athletic Bilbao (eight).

As for his side's performance, Valverde praised Barca's second-half display at home.

"The best thing is that we have come out with determination, to try to score and arrive," he said.

"Sometimes we were in danger of putting a lot forward and leaving room for counters. They have fast players. We have done a good second half."

Barcelona are back in action on Tuesday, visiting Borussia Dortmund in their opening game in the Champions League this season.

Ansu Fati has made history at Barcelona in such a short space of time that even Lionel Messi's continued absence through injury has not been felt too keenly.

After making his debut at the age of 16 years and 298 days in the 5-2 defeat of Real Betis in August, he became Barca's youngest LaLiga goalscorer after coming on to score in the 2-2 draw at Osasuna a week later.

With Messi still not ready to be risked and Ousmane Dembele also sidelined, Ernesto Valverde made the bold call of handing Fati his full debut in Saturday's 5-2 win over Valencia at Camp Nou. He needed just seven minutes to prove his coach right.

Inside two minutes, Fati turned in Frenkie de Jong's cross to put Barca ahead, and he returned the favour to his team-mate five minutes later after a brilliant run from the left, becoming the youngest LaLiga player this century to score and assist a goal in the same game.

He came close to scoring twice more in the first half from that same position, as he turned and squared up fearlessly against full-back Daniel Wass at every opportunity. One impudent flick over his own head in the Valencia box brought gasps from the home fans.

Little wonder Barca Under-19 boss Victor Valdes described him as "the jewel of La Masia",  a player who produces "pure anarchy". Little wonder his first childhood coach, Jose Luis Perez Mena, said: "I've been watching football for 50 years and I've never seen anyone like him."

With the Under-17 World Cup coming up next month, little wonder, either, that Spain are desperate to sign him up.

Born in Guinea-Bissau and eligible for both them and Portugal, Fati moved to Spain with his family as a child and joined Sevilla's academy before accepting an offer to sign for Barca as a 10-year-old, after his father turned down a more lucrative approach from Real Madrid.

According to Catalan daily Sport, Fati has declared his intention to play for his adopted country and national team head coach Robert Moreno says efforts from the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to bring him into La Roja's fold are well underway.

"The people of the federation are working on it in order to bring Ansu Fati in, and then there will be the decision of the player," he told Movistar at half-time of Saturday's game.

"The federation works to have the best players. It's a joy for Barca – a player who has come out of La Masia. You have to be calm and I hope he is."

Fati certainly seems someone unlikely to let his sudden fame get the better of him. He described his debut last month as "the dream of any boy at La Masia"; a moment when a young man who does not turn 17 until October 31 got to play alongside global stars and was rewarded with a hug from a beaming Messi.

His natural talent even seemed to have escaped his father, who told Partidazo de Cope last month: "At six or seven, he came to Spain. I had come here before and I didn't know he played football. They told me I was not aware of how good my son was and that he was dribbling by everybody."

When Fati was brought on to replace Carles Perez against Betis and became the second-youngest player to feature in LaLiga in the club's history behind Vicente Martinez, his father described it as "the happiest moment of my life". He had barely even believed it when he learned his son had been given a first-team call-up.

Playing for the club's Juvenil A side, Fati's main goal prior to the start of the season was to make some headway in the Barca B reckoning. Valdes even had to take him to buy new boots as his old ones were hurting his feet.

In less than a month, he has played three senior matches, scored two goals and set up another, broken club and division records and started a scramble from national team bosses eager to make sure he does not slip through the net.

"Remember the name, Ansu Fati, as more records are bound to fall," Barca said on their official website after the Valencia rout. They almost certainly will. For now, though, he'll rest and then get back to training to prepare for Borussia Dortmund next week.

He might need a lift – he won't be old enough to drive for another 13 months.

Clement Lenglet called for patience around Ansu Fati after the teenager's excellent display in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Valencia.

The 16-year-old marked his first Barca start with a goal and an assist inside seven minutes at Camp Nou on Saturday, adding to his maiden strike against Osasuna before the international break.

It made Fati the youngest player to score and assist in a single LaLiga game in the 21st century.

He was replaced by Luis Suarez in the 60th minute and the Uruguay international scored twice, with Frenkie de Jong and Gerard Pique also on target for Ernesto Valverde's side.

Asked about Fati after the match, defender Lenglet told Movistar: "He is 16 years old and we have to be calm with him. It's true that he has taken advantage of his minutes and is a good boy who deserves it.

"I am very happy for him, but we have to give him time because he is 16 years old and things can change quickly. I hope they don't but we have to take care of him.

"[I would advise him to] listen to people and work hard because playing for Barca is very difficult."

Kevin Gameiro was granted a goal after a lengthy VAR review of an offside decision before half-time, while Maxi Gomez opened his Valencia account in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the game.

"It was a good victory against a difficult opponent who plays good football. They play different football to us but we did things very well," said Lenglet.

"We prefer not to concede goals, but we did things well until the end. On the whole we played a good game and although we conceded the response was important."

Ansu Fati produced another star performance as Barcelona routed Valencia 5-2 at Camp Nou on Saturday to close the gap to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Winger Fati, just 16, got a goal and an assist for Frenkie de Jong in the first seven minutes of his full debut for the club, having become their youngest league goalscorer as a substitute in the draw with Osasuna last month.

Kevin Gameiro pulled one back for Valencia, who caused a shock this week when they sacked head coach Marcelino and replaced him with the inexperienced Albert Celades, but Gerard Pique effectively killed off the contest 51 minutes in.

Luis Suarez scored his first goal of the season with his second touch after coming on as a substitute and added a late second to seal the win, as Lionel Messi - still not risked following a calf injury - watched on approvingly. Maxi Gomez pinched a late consolation, his first Valencia goal.

In just the second minute, Fati met De Jong's cut-back and rifled home his first Camp Nou goal for the club.

He turned provider five minutes later, dancing his way into the box from the left and teeing up De Jong to open his account for the club with a powerful side-foot finish.

Barca appeared in total control but allowed Valencia a lifeline when Gameiro sprung the offside trap and slotted in off the left-hand post, a VAR review granting him a reprieve after the goal was initially disallowed.

Ernesto Valverde's side restored Barcelona's two-goal lead six minutes after the interval, as Pique pounced to tap home the rebound after Jasper Cillessen could only parry an Antoine Griezmann shot against the woodwork.

Nelson Semedo then rattled the other post as Suarez came on for Fati, and the Uruguay star promptly scored with his second touch of the ball, feinting before bending a shot into the bottom-left corner.

Suarez hit almost the same spot with eight minutes to go for Barca, further highlighting the difficult task awaiting Celades over the coming weeks.

What does it mean? Barca take advantage of Atletico slip-up

Atleti's 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad earlier means there is not a single team in the division with a 100 per cent record this season, despite only four rounds of matches having been played.

Barca made the most of Atleti's loss to move within two points of the early league leaders, while the manner of the performance will give Valverde plenty of encouragement - particularly ahead of the start of the Champions League.

Fati's rise shows no sign of slowing

Fati started the season pushing for a regular place in Barca's B team, making his emergence under Valverde all the more remarkable.

He showed a clinical touch for his goal and some excellent wing play to set up De Jong, and went close with two further efforts from distance before departing to a standing ovation.

Cillessen's rotten return

In his first game at Camp Nou since leaving for Valencia in June, Cillessen made only one save in the first hour - and it left Pique with an easy finish on the rebound. It was not a happy homecoming.

What's next?

Barca begin Champions League duties away to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, with a league trip to Granada to follow four days later. Valencia head to Chelsea before a home league meeting with Leganes.

Ansu Fati's extraordinary rise continued on Saturday as he got a goal and an assist within seven minutes of his first LaLiga start for Barcelona.

The 16-year-old became Barca's youngest ever goalscorer in the top flight when he came off the bench to score in the 2-2 draw with Osasuna prior to the international break.

With Luis Suarez fit enough only for the bench and Lionel Messi still not risked due to a calf problem, head coach Ernesto Valverde handed Fati his first start at Camp Nou for the visit of Valencia.

The winger responded by opening the scoring after only two minutes, drilling home from Frenkie de Jong's low cross from the right.

Barely five minutes later, Fati returned the favour to De Jong, cutting in from the left and squaring the ball for the Netherlands midfielder to score his first goal for the club.

Fati, who does not turn 17 until October 31, watched Barca's Juvenil A side face Girona on Saturday just hours before he started against Valencia.

Born in Bissau before moving to Spain with his family as a child, Fati joined Sevilla's youth academy before signing for Barca at the age of 10.

His father admitted on Partidazo de Cope last month that "Real Madrid offered me better conditions than Barcelona for my son" but that Barca convinced him to accept their offer after they visited his house.

"This is the happiest day of my life," he said after Fati's debut in the 5-2 victory over Real Betis. "When he told us he was being called up by Valverde I started to cry and my wife too. When he came on, we were on cloud nine.

"At six or seven, he came to Spain. I had come here before and I didn't know he played football. They told me I was not aware of how good my son was and that he was dribbling by everybody."

Luis Suarez is in line to make his return from injury after he was named in Barcelona's squad for their LaLiga meeting with Valencia, but Samuel Umtiti is set for a spell on the sidelines.

Champions Barca face the side that beat them in last term's Copa del Rey final at Camp Nou on Saturday having claimed just four points from their opening three league fixtures.

Suarez started in Barca's opening outing against Athletic Bilbao only to be forced off with a calf injury after 37 minutes.

The striker has been absent since then, missing a victory over Real Betis and a 2-2 draw with Osasuna prior to the international break.

But Barca boss Ernesto Valverde confirmed in his news conference on Friday that Suarez would return to the squad and the 32-year-old has been included in Barca's official list.

While Suarez's return will come as a boost, Barca have been dealt a blow at the other end of the pitch.

France defender Umtiti sustained a metatarsal injury on international duty and though initial tests suggested the problem was not severe Barca have now confirmed the centre-back will be out for up to six weeks.

Barca will also still be without captain Lionel Messi, who is also likely to miss Tuesday's Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund due to an ongoing calf issue, as well as Ousmane Dembele, who has a hamstring problem.

Albert Celades has been impressed by Dani Parejo's positive response to what he acknowledged has been a difficult situation at Valencia.

Celades was brought in as Valencia's new coach following the dismissal of Marcelino – who guided them to two successive top-four finishes in LaLiga, along with a Copa del Rey triumph last season.

Defending champions Barcelona are first up for Celades, who was previously an assistant under Julen Lopetegui for both Spain and Real Madrid.

Valencia captain Parejo was among the players to take to social media in the wake of Marcelino's sacking, paying tribute to their former coach.

However, the Spain international posted a follow-up tweet on Thursday, stating: "Without excuses, with enthusiasm and with the maximum commitment. We are Valencia and we must live up to the badge."

It is a response that has pleased Celades, who says the players have shown a fantastic attitude despite the departure of a coach who was well respected by the squad.

"Under the circumstances that they have been through, the players have shown great professionalism," Celades told a news conference.

"Parejo is our captain. He's not just a player but also somebody very important for the fans.

"He's spent many years here, in very different times, and gone through many difficult situations as well as other nicer ones.

"He knows the club well and his attitude is very positive for all of us. I think it's a great show of responsibility.

"That's the way we want everybody to be. I hope that his optimism and mentality as captain is contagious."

Valencia drew both of their league meetings with Barca last term, before beating the Blaugrana 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final – a win that Marcelino believes played a part in him losing his job – and Ernesto Valverde is expecting a stern challenge despite the upheaval at Mestalla.

"I imagine it will be a similar kind of game even though they have changed manager," Barca's coach told a news conference.

"It was only two days ago. I don't really think there has been time, I'm sure there will be changes in time but it hasn't been enough.

"It's a team that has given us problems on the counter-attack, keep their lines together, quick on the break and can score from the smallest of chances, we saw that in the cup final.

"They're a Champions League team so we expect a Champions League kind of game."

Ernesto Valverde believes Lionel Messi's comments about his Barcelona future have been overplayed, insisting there is no doubt over the Argentinian's commitment.

In an interview with SPORT published this week, Messi – who is set to miss the game against Valencia on Saturday as he recovers from an injury which has kept him out of the opening three LaLiga fixtures – stated he does not intend to leave the club, though his commitment came on the condition of continued success.

Messi signed a four-year contract in 2017, but the agreement includes a clause which gives him the option of leaving on a free transfer at the end of each campaign.

However, Valverde is adamant Messi's words have been misinterpreted, although Barca's head coach acknowledged he is unable to control what players say in the press.

"I didn't want to read it. I know what Leo has to say," Valverde told a news conference when asked if Messi's comments suggested a rift between Barca's star player and the club's board.

"He expresses himself naturally and then people tend to misinterpret what he has said.

"Everything he says, people try to squeeze out every sub-meaning from his words. I think he was just trying to express things naturally, I don't think we need to worry.

"I don't think there are any doubts regarding his future. It's the club that decides which players it's going to keep or not, but I don't think there are any concerns, certainly I don't have any concerns about it."

Messi had been expected to recover from his calf injury in time to feature against Valencia. However, Valverde conceded the injury is worse than first expected, with Messi also unlikely to play against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"The scar opened a little bit, so it’s told us that we need to exercise a little bit of caution," Valverde said. "I don't think it’s long that he’ll be back again. But Tuesday, I don't know, probably later.

"Of course he's a very important player for us, I can't deny that, but there has been other times when he hasn't played and we've got through games very well.

"He's the best player in the world so we want him back as soon as possible, but we want him to come back at full fitness, not for him to come back and then take things a step even further back.

"Missing Messi is always going to be noted, but it also means possibilities for other players to up their game. We saw that against Real Betis, certainly.

"Knowing how difficult it is to replace Messi, we need the guarantee that the team is still able to compete in his absence."

Marcelino Garcia Toral is adamant Valencia's decision to sack him came about because they won the Copa del Rey last season.

The highly regarded coach was dismissed on Wednesday in something of a shock following a reported disagreement with club owner Peter Lim.

Marcelino had been at Valencia for two seasons and guided them to back-to-back fourth-place finishes in LaLiga, a feat many see as overachievement given the club's woes over the past decade.

On top of strong league campaigns, Marcelino also guided Valencia to their first piece of silverware in 11 years last term, beating Barcelona 2-1 to lift the Copa del Rey.

But it was that success, Marcelino claims, which ultimately cost him his job, with the former Villarreal boss suggesting he went against the board's wishes in concentrating on a competition he believes they deemed to be "minor".

"I am absolutely sure that the trigger for this situation was the Copa del Rey," he told a news conference on Friday.

"During the season, we received direct and indirect messages that we had to discount it [the Copa]. The fans wanted to fight for it and the players too, and they had the conviction to win it. The coaching staff wanted to fight and win the Copa.

"They didn't tell me why they didn't want the Copa, only that it was a minor tournament and that I could be putting the main goal [Champions League qualification] at risk. Winning the Copa was the trigger for this situation.

"We did not receive congratulations in Seville [after the Copa final] from the owner [Lim]. When I went to Singapore [for a meeting with Lim and Anil Murthy, club president], I was congratulated for qualifying for the Champions League, not for winning the Copa."

Former Barca and Real Madrid midfielder Albert Celades was chosen as the surprise replacement for Marcelino, despite receiving significant criticism for negative tactics and lacking a style of play when he was in charge of the Spain Under-21s until his resignation last year.

But Marcelino hopes the fans get behind the man who was Julen Lopetegui's assistant at Real Madrid.

"You know Valencia is complicated for coaches," he said. "I was fortunate that the fans received me warmly.

"I am proud to leave two years later with the same kind of acceptance, and I won't forget that. I have been really happy in Valencia and lived unforgettable moments.

"I hope the people now support Celades. I wish him the best of luck."

When it came to Paul Pogba during the transfer window, Real Madrid and Juventus were the teams on everyone's lips.

Manchester United star Pogba was reportedly keen to leave Old Trafford in search of a new challenge.

However, another team were apparently poised to lure Pogba from the Theatre of Dreams…

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR STOPPED PSG FROM SIGNING POGBA

Neymar prevented Manchester United midfielder Pogba from moving to Paris Saint-Germain, according to Calciomercato.it.

PSG and United reportedly had an agreement in place for the transfer of Pogba, however, the Ligue 1 champions and their inability to offload Barcelona target Neymar stopped the deal.

The report says PSG were ready to pay €150million (£134m) for Pogba, who joined United from Juventus in 2016 for a then-record fee of €105m (£89m).

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have an agreement with Chelsea for midfielder N'Golo Kante. DefensaCentral claims Los Blancos have the first chance to buy the France star should he be made available at Stamford Bridge.

- In-demand Dinamo Zagreb star Dani Olmo wants to leave the Croatian club in January or at the end of the season, according to Fichajes.net. The 21-year-old was linked with Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Valencia during the transfer window.

Juventus have not given up on signing Fiorentina and Italy forward Federico Chiesa, according to Calciomercato.it. The Serie A champions were keen to bring in Chiesa during the off-season but were unable to lure him from Florence.

- Sport says Paris Saint-Germain are beginning their remodelling job, with Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani facing uncertain futures. Silva and Cavani – who has been linked to incoming MLS outfit Inter Miami – are out of contract at the end of the season and are no guarantees to renew their contracts. Eric Maxim Choupo-MotingThomas Meunier and Layvin Kurzawa are available at the right price in January.

- Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic has turned down a move to Qatari outfit Al-Gharafa, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Mandzukic was linked to Manchester United prior to the transfer window closing.

Ezequiel Garay has extraordinarily hit out at Valencia for sacking Marcelino three matches into the new LaLiga season.

Marcelino departed on Wednesday despite leading the club to successive top-four finishes in the past two campaigns.

He also won the Copa del Rey with the club last term - beating Barcelona in the final - but following a reported falling out with owner Peter Lim he has been replaced by Albert Celades.

Garay, who started all three LaLiga games this season under Marcelino, made his feelings clear with an explosive social media post.

"After many years with you (not only in Valencia) I know perfect how you are, both professionally and personally," he wrote on Instagram. 

"But not only I see it, you have shown it to everyone. Because the road is demonstrated by walking and you have made a clean, transparent and healthy route. You go through the big door mister.

"Whoever took this decision not only trampled over you, but over a whole squad and fanbase.

"I say it loud and clear: IT'S NOT FAIR."

Dani Parejo, Valencia's captain, also appeared unimpressed with the club's call to replace Marcelino.

"Mister, I wish you the best," Parejo wrote on Twitter alongside a photograph of him embracing the coach. 

"I'm sure you'll be fine wherever you go. Thank you for making the club bigger and me a better player."

Albert Celades admitted he faces a complicated situation at "a difficult club" after being appointed head coach of Valencia just hours after the sacking of Marcelino.

The decision to dismiss Marcelino came as a shock to supporters still celebrating their side's Copa del Rey triumph and their fourth-place finish in LaLiga last season, which saw them qualify for the Champions League.

Former Spain Under-21 and Real Madrid assistant coach Celades has no experience taking charge of a first team at club level and in a news conference he said he had travelled to Singapore to meet with Valencia owner Peter Lim before Marcelino's departure was announced.

However, he insisted he would aim to build on the foundations laid by Marcelino, saying: "Regardless of the situation, Valencia is always a difficult club.

"It is a great club, a giant, and we will try to contribute in the best way. It has all been very fast.

"We are aware of the work that Marcelino has done during these two seasons. He has done very good things. We want to continue feeding that good work."

Celades moved to quash fears that his arrival might reverse the progress Valencia have made under Marcelino, who endeared himself to supporters during a successful two-year spell at Mestalla.

Valencia finished 12th in LaLiga in 2016-17, but Marcelino's arrival in July 2017 preceded back-to-back fourth-place finishes.

Celades, whose first game in charge sees them visit champions Barcelona on Saturday, said: "This team has many good things that have helped it to achieve its goals. We are not going to break what is there and think that everything is wrong.

"We have a lot of respect for and a very good opinion of the previous coach. We will try to encourage good things to keep them happening. Little by little, we will be adding new things.

"Here there is always pressure. I have been hired to do a job and I will try to do it in the best possible way."

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