Stefano Pioli hailed Milan's "mature mentality" as he acknowledged his team are going through a rough patch of form.

Milan scraped into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, as a 1-1 draw with Red Star Belgrade was enough to seal an away goals victory from a tie which finished 3-3 on aggregate.

Franck Kessie's early spot-kick – his seventh penalty goal of the season in all competitions – saw Milan through, with El Fardou Ben's equaliser proving to be in vain.

Gianluigi Donnarumma marked his 22nd birthday with a sensational save to deny Red Star a second, with Marko Gobeljic then seeing red as the visitors' comeback efforts were fruitless.

It was the first time Milan have progressed from a two-legged European tie having not won the first game since 2006-07, when Carlo Ancelotti went on to guide the Rossoneri to their seventh European Cup.

However, it is now four games without a win for Milan, who have lost their last two Serie A fixtures, including Sunday's damaging 3-0 derby defeat to title rivals Inter.

Pioli, though, insists he has faith in his squad to overcome their loss of form and learn from the mistakes they are making.

"The team might be young, but it has a mature mentality," he told Sky Italia. 

"Clearly, we are not in our best period of form. The many victories gave us energy and confidence, so now those elements are lacking a little bit.

"It's a pity we didn't control the situation better, with a little more precision in our passing and our choices, but the important thing was to qualify.

"At this level, it’s about details and the tiniest margins can make a big difference.

"If we think about our season, it's still full of positivity. The season doesn't end here, winning the Europa League does give you a place in the Champions League.

"We are making more mistakes and aren't as solid as we were in the past, but it's a very important stepping stone and it's crucial that we managed to get through."

Asked to pinpoint why his team – who went unbeaten in Serie A this season until January 6 – have dropped off, Pioli said: "I do think perhaps there's some psychological fatigue more than physical.

"I try to stay with my players throughout the game, give them the right boost, but perhaps they are starting to feel the pressure.

"They shouldn't, because we are having a remarkable campaign and going through difficult moments will help us become stronger in future."

Milan edged into the last 16 of the Europa League on away goals after being held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Red Star Belgrade at San Siro.

Reeling from Red Star's last-gasp equaliser in the first leg and Sunday's 3-0 derby defeat to Serie A title rivals Inter, Milan just did enough to secure their progress on Thursday – and they had birthday boy Gianluigi Donnarumma to thank.

Franck Kessie's early penalty put Milan 3-2 up on aggregate, but Red Star hit back through El Fardou Ben.

With Milan profligate at the other end, 22-year-old Donnarumma had to pull off an outstanding stop to deny Sekou Sanogo, before Marko Gobeljic's red card dented Red Star's comeback hopes.

A penalty was the reward for Milan's bright start when VAR adjudged Gobeljic to have purposefully handled Rade Krunic's shot.

Kessie made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick, his thumping strike sending Milan Borjan the wrong way.

Yet Red Star fought back, and after Ben saw a goal disallowed and hit the crossbar with a wicked free-kick, the Red Star winger drilled a crisp finish beyond Donnarumma.

Diogo Dalot should have restored Milan's lead, yet struck straight at Borjan, and he was almost punished when Guelor Kanga's thunderous hit whistled wide.

Stefano Pioli wasted no further time in attempting to wrest back control, introducing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic at the interval.

The duo almost combined eight minutes after the restart – Rebic just failing to divert Ibrahimovic's header home.

Donnarumma came up with a reminder of his talent after the hour, somehow keeping out Sanogo's close-range volley, with Gobeljic slicing wide on the rebound.

Gobeljic compounded Red Star's frustration moments later when he charged in on Hakan Calhanoglu to pick up a second booking, and though Alexis Saelemaekers had a goal disallowed for offside, Milan nevertheless made their numerical advantage count to advance.

 

What does it mean? Rossoneri condemn frustrating European run to the history books

Milan had been eliminated from each of their last seven two-legged ties in major European competition when failing to win the first leg, last progressing from such a position in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals against Manchester United.

Carlo Ancelotti's Milan side went on to win the competition that season, and Pioli will be hoping history repeats itself – albeit in UEFA's second-tier tournament.

Kessie spot on

Former Atalanta midfielder Kessie has now netted eight goals in all competitions this season – seven times in Serie A and once in the Europa League.

It is already Kessie's best tally in a campaign, and he capped another all-action performance with his superb penalty. Of his eight goals, seven of them have been spot-kicks.

Leao flounders up front

Asked to lead the line with Ibrahimovic on the bench, Rafael Leao endured a difficult first-half performance.

Leao managed just eight touches, though they did produce two attempts – neither were on target, while he made just four passes before he was hauled off at half-time.

What's next?

While Proleter Novi Sad are Red Star's next opponents in the Serbian top flight, Milan face Roma – who are just five points behind them in Serie A – on Sunday

Milan boss Stefano Pioli said his team lacked the "personality" to finish off Red Star Belgrade after a late equaliser meant the Rossoneri had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Serbia.

The head coach hinted Sunday's top-of-the-table Serie A clash with Inter would be an ideal game in which to bounce back from the disappointment of their Europa League trip.

Yet on the evidence of Thursday's performance from Milan, Inter may have a glorious chance to press their claims for a first Scudetto in 11 years.

An own goal from Radovan Pankov and a penalty from Theo Hernandez helped Milan into a 2-1 lead, but Milan Pavkov then headed a terrific leveller in the third added minute.

It meant a Red Star side that lost Milan Rodic to a second-half red card were able to finish the game on a high, no doubt a thrill for their head coach Dejan Stankovic, formerly an Inter midfield star.

For Pioli, it was a case of what might have been in the first leg at the last-32 stage, and concern about a lack of killer instinct.

Pioli told Sky Sport Italia: "We didn't win because we lacked personality at the end."

He explained: "The quality to score the third goal was lacking. We deserved to win, with the numerical superiority we shouldn't have conceded anything to them.

"We had the victory in our hands, we had to find the third goal. However, it's a good result for the second leg."

That return game comes next Thursday, with Sunday's derby a crunch match before then. The proximity of the Inter clash was surely the reason Pioli allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie to spend the full 90 minutes on the bench in Belgrade, with Hakan Calhanoglu only coming on for the closing minutes as Milan hunted that elusive third goal.

"We need to analyse our matches well and raise the level of performance," Pioli said. "This is an important moment of the season and we have important commitments. We can do better."

Any sign of weakness in the derby will likely be seized upon by Inter, who edged ahead of Milan at the top of the table last weekend.

"We have our qualities, they have theirs," Pioli said. "The challenge comes at the right time, we want to be ready."

Milan were stunned by a looping header from Milan Pavkov in stoppage time as 10-man Red Star Belgrade snatched a 2-2 draw in their Europa League clash in Serbia. 

These teams won European Cup titles in successive years a generation ago, with Milan's 1990 success followed by Red Star landing the title 12 months later, but this season they are scrapping for success at the last-32 stage in the second tier of UEFA club competition. 

An own goal from Radovan Pankov gave Milan a slender half-time advantage, which was wiped out when Guelor Kanga netted a penalty for the hosts soon after the break. 

But Pankov's second costly defensive mistake gave Milan a spot-kick of their own, and Theo Hernandez fired home to put the visitors in charge ahead of the San Siro return game next week. Milan Rodic was sent off late on for the hosts so he can forget the trip to Italy, but Pavkov's late intervention means it could still be a fruitful visit for Red Star. 

Milan winger Samu Castillejo had a sixth-minute goal disallowed for offside, but the Rossoneri looked to have gone ahead in the 12th minute. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan failed to catch Pierre Kalulu's cross from the right, as Mario Mandzukic made a nuisance of himself, and the ball ran loose for Hernandez to tap in. 

A VAR check cancelled the strike, however, with replays showing the ball bounced against the left arm of Hernandez before he found the empty net, giving Red Star a fortunate escape. 

Mirko Ivanic was then denied twice by Gianluigi Donnarumma, either side of Ante Rebic spurning a decent chance for Milan when firing over the crossbar. 

Milan's breakthrough came in the 42nd minute, with Castillejo's low cross from the right touched past Borjan by home defender Pankov, almost in slow motion, for an own goal. Borjan got gloves to the ball but it trickled beyond him and across the line. 

Rebic was replaced by Rafael Leao for the second half, but Milan were pegged back after conceding a penalty in the 51st minute, a flick towards goal from Diego Falcinelli striking the right arm of Alessio Romagnoli. Kanga drove into the bottom left corner from the spot. 

Milan were awarded a spot-kick themselves eight minutes later when Hernandez went down under Pankov's challenge. Hernandez placed his penalty to the left corner as Borjan dived the other way. 

Rodic's late red card, for a pair of bookable offences, might have finished off some teams, but Red Star kept going and Pavkov's terrific header keeps them firmly in the tie.

Stefano Pioli insists Milan are focusing only on the first leg of their Europa League tie with Red Star Belgrade, despite a huge derby with Inter coming up this weekend.

The Rossoneri have slipped off top spot in Serie A, with Saturday's surprise loss away to Spezia allowing their city rivals to take over at the summit. 

Next up in the league is a showdown with Inter at San Siro on Sunday, though not before Milan travel to Belgrade to continue a European campaign that began way back in mid-September of last year. 

Milan had to come through qualifying in the Europa League, needing a penalty shoot-out success over Rio Ave to make it to the group stage, and Pioli is determined to extend their run beyond the last 32. 

"No one can ever forget all the joy and emotions brought by the win against Rio Ave, so we have to put on the pitch this joy and these emotions on Thursday," Pioli told the media ahead of Thursday's game against Red Star.

"We want to amaze in this competition too.  

"We have lots of games ahead, all even more important and decisive, with the two legs of the last-32 tie being a knockout round.   

"The coming Serie A games will be equally important with 16 games to go until the end of the league, plus, hopefully, we have 8-10 games left to play in the Europa League.  

"Now is the moment to prove we're up to the task – but we have the quality to do so, with the desire to go to the end of both competitions."

Even with the setback against Spezia, Milan are on course to achieve their target of securing Champions League qualification through a top-four finish in Serie A.

The Europa League also offers an alternative route, so Pioli has no plans to prioritise one competition over the other at this stage of a demanding campaign.

"We're a team with a young average age and we need at certain stages to show our qualities, to grow and better understand situations that are different," he said.

"Even (technical director and club legend) Paolo Maldini not long ago stated that Milan needs two consecutive seasons in the Champions League to get back to its high standards. This is our objective. 

"To achieve that, we can either win the Europa League or finish in the top four of the league. This is what we are focused on – and we will fight until the end to achieve it."

Demonstrating his commitment to the tie, Pioli has included Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the squad to travel to Belgrade, while Ante Rebic is also included after missing the Spezia defeat through injury.

Milan are looking to win three consecutive matches in a major UEFA European competition for the first time since a four-game streak between September and November 2008.

Manchester United have been drawn against Real Sociedad in the Europa League, while Arsenal will face Benfica in the last 32 of the competition. 

United are one the Champions League teams to now be involved in the knockout rounds of the competition, though the draw was far from kind for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side despite being seeded. 

Sociedad sit top of LaLiga and have only lost twice so far this season in all competitions. 

The Spanish club – whose squad includes former United player Adnan Januzaj, as well as ex-Manchester City captain David Silva – will have home advantage in the first leg next February. 

Arsenal, meanwhile, will go on the road first in their tie with Benfica, who qualified from Group D behind Rangers. 

The Gunners have prospered in Europe this campaign but are struggling badly for form in the Premier League, Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Burnley their fourth in a row at home. 

As for their north London neighbours Tottenham, they will go up against Austrian club Wolfsberger when they resume their Europa League campaign in early 2021. 

Leicester City will be on the road for the first leg of their tie with Slavia Prague, while Milan will have to get past Red Star Belgrade if they want to remain on course to lift the only European trophy that has eluded the club so far. 

Steven Gerrard's Rangers go up against Royal Antwerp, Roma face Braga and Napoli will take on Granada.
 
As for Ajax, who finished third in a Champions League group that included Liverpool and Atalanta, the Dutch club have been drawn with Lille.

The first legs will be played on February 18, with the return fixtures to take place the following week.

Spurs will play their home game on Wednesday February 24, however, so to avoid a clash with Arsenal.

 

Europa League last-32 draw in full:

Wolfsberger v Tottenham
Dynamo Kiev v Club Brugge
Real Sociedad v Manchester United
Benfica v Arsenal
Red Star Belgrade v Milan
Royal Antwerp v Rangers
Slavia Prague v Leicester City
Salzburg v Villarreal
Braga v Roma
Krasnodar v Dinamo Zagreb
Young Boys v Bayer Leverkusen
Molde v Hoffenheim

Five Red Star Belgrade players have tested positive for coronavirus, the Serbian champions confirmed.

Red Star quintet Marko Gobeljic, Njegos Petrovic, Dusan Jovancic, Marko Konatar and Branko Jovicic contracted COVID-19.

Gobeljic, Petrovic, Jovancic and Konatar had symptoms prior to Saturday's season finale and did not attend the match as a precaution.

It comes after Dejan Stankovic's Red Star celebrated a third successive SuperLiga title in front of fans in Belgrade on Saturday – defeating Proleter Novi Sad 2-1.

Red Star also played in front of a near 25,000 capacity crowd for the Serbian Cup semi-final against bitter rivals and neighbours Partizan, who won 1-0 on June 10, following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in the country.

"The aforementioned players are feeling well, and are in strict isolation as well as constant contact with the club's medical team," Red Star said in a statement on Monday.

"The condition of the players is being carefully monitored and a new test will be performed before the start of the preparations for next season."

Red Star added: "It is important to point out that all other players, management and staff who were in direct contact with the first team have received a negative result. Red Star is taking all necessary protection measures and we will continue to do so."

 

Partizan head coach Savo Milosevic hailed the club's supporters after fans flocked to watch the Serbian Cup holders upstage bitter rivals Red Star Belgrade following the coronavirus pandemic.

Serbian football resumed behind closed doors on May 29 but there were no restrictions on crowd numbers on Wednesday as defending champions Partizan beat neighbours Red Star 1-0 in the semi-finals.

A near 25,000 capacity crowd watched Partizan move a step closer to a fifth successive Serbian Cup crown following Bibras Natcho's 58th-minute winner at Stadion Partizana midweek.

"I thank the fans for their fantastic support and it was great to grind out this win in front of a full house," Milosevic said.

"Having that kind of support was absolutely imperative today. It was great to see a near-capacity crowd after such a long barren spell."

After a limited number of fans watched Red Star rout Radnik Surdulica 4-1 on Saturday, a full house greeted Dejan Stankovic's men in the Serbian capital.

Red Star have already wrapped up a third consecutive league title, but they were denied a first league and cup double since 2006-07.

Milosevic, who was appointed last year and claimed the Serbian Cup in his first season, added: "I think we did pretty well in a very tough match and reaffirmed that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

"It was tense, tempers flared here and there but no one crossed any lines and credit to Red Star too for their sportsmanlike behaviour."

Seven-time champions Partizan will face Vojvodina in the final on June 24.

Celebrating another league title in front of a packed Rajko Mitic Stadium is the hope for Red Star Belgrade defender Milos Degenek as football returns in Serbia following the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, with Serbia's SuperLiga among the competitions to have been suspended since March due to the outbreak – the Olympic Games and Euro 2020 were pushed back 12 months.

Red Star were 11 points clear of bitter rivals and neighbours Partizan Belgrade atop the table when the SuperLiga was halted but the defending champions will have the chance to clinch their third consecutive title when the league resumes, albeit in a condensed format, for the final four rounds on Friday.

Serbian powerhouse and 1991 European Cup champions Red Star will play behind closed doors when they travel to lowly Rad Beograd but Degenek is optimistic a full house will be in attendance for the club's final home fixture of the campaign against Proleter Novi Sad on June 20.

"We need one more point to seal the league," Australia international Degenek told Stats Perform News. "That's going to be on Friday night, hopefully we do the business there. Then we have three more games left and I think the last game of the season is at home.

"I hope by that time that they do let the fans in the stadium because there's talk here that maybe they can get fans into the stadium, maybe not. We're not 100 per cent sure there won't be any fans and we're not 100 per cent sure there will be. 

"But I think we will find a way somehow to celebrate with the fans, whether it's inside the stadium or outside. Obviously it's different when you win a title with no one in the stadium to when you win a title with 40,000 in the stadium. There's a difference and I hope the stadium is full by the time the title comes around. If not, then we will find a different way to celebrate."

"It's a been a long way away from football," added Degenek following the enforced break from football, with the centre-back braced for a hectic schedule after the Socceroos' World Cup qualifiers were also postponed, which is set to put a strain on his typical off-season plans. "Obviously we trained and maintained our fitness but just the fact you lack that pure competition, the games, winning, checking the ladder, checking how other teams went, so that's what has been missing for a while. It kinds of get depressing when you can't play every week. It gets even more depressing when you realise it wasn't a break, it was just due to health issues and reasons. Happy that it's back after a while and hopefully it never stops again.

"I'm just really excited and looking forward to getting back on track, getting back into the real world and I hope within a month or so there will be full stadiums again in the world of football. I hope this pandemic stays away for a while so no one has issues and no one is scared, the fact we can live our normal lives again and people who love football can live their normal lives again on a Saturday and Sunday, and take their kids and family to a game."

While the likes of Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom have been hit hard by coronavirus, Serbia has managed to contain the outbreak in comparison, with more than 11,200 confirmed cases and 239 registered deaths.

"To be really, really honest with you, I think 95 per cent of the people here believe and know there's no virus, nothing going on," Degenek said. "Ninety-five per cent of people here think it's just a media hoax, due to all other reasons apart from an actual virus. A lot of people wear masks and gloves, but the people I'm around with and especially when we train, none of us believe there's an actual virus and something is actually happening. 

"Even now when you walk along the streets, you sit at restaurants, you go out at night to a restaurant and there's live music, people on top of each other. I think because my fiancé, she works in a hospital, and she knows there's a lot more people that die due to a normal virus than this coronavirus. I guess coronavirus has been quite well pushed in the media, got its popularity up and everyone got scared but I don't really talk much about it, I don't really care to be honest as long as my football starts back."

Germany's Bundesliga and the K League in South Korea have already returned this month amid social-distancing measures – no celebrating goals or shaking hands.

Those guidelines have baffled Degenek, who said: "I don’t understand the fact that you can't shake hands in a game and can't celebrate a goal but in the corner I'm hugging a player. My sweat is going on his sweat, there's head collisions, some people will bleed, things like that happen. 

"You tackle someone, someone spits on someone… I'm saying stupid things but I don't understand why you can't celebrate a goal when in a corner you can hug someone, slide tackle someone, you can hug someone during the game, move someone around, there's physical contact, it's not as if we're playing basketball or handball and there's not much contact."

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, a club great returned to Belgrade – Dejan Stankovic.

The 41-year-old, who played for Red Star between 1995 and 1998 before enjoying spells at Lazio and Inter, succeeded Vladan Milojevic as head coach in December.

It is Stankovic's first senior job following a brief period as a coach at Inter's academy last year and the 103-time Serbia international has been tipped for a successful career in the dugout.

"I was very excited that a player that he was has now become a coach and gets to coach me because he was won everything there is to win in club football," Degenek said of Stankovic, who won the treble with Inter under Jose Mourinho as part of a 15-piece trophy haul at San Siro to go with Serie A and other silverware at Lazio. 

"He has had some of the best managers in the world and I see in the past few months that we've had him, I've learned a lot. I've come across a lot of footballing ideas and things he wants. I'm very happy to have him as a coach but a friend as well. The way he has started here, I think he will have a good coaching career. I'm almost certain he will because he has so much determination, will, the drive to learn and to push. I think he will have a very good coaching career and it's very exciting to have him here with us."

Milojevic restored Red Star's position at Serbia's summit, but more importantly, he led the capital side back to the Champions League in 2018 – having not featured in Europe's premier club competition since 1992 – and again this season before vacating his position and eventually moving to Saudi side Al-Ahli in February.

"Very sad to see him leave but towards the end of his time, I think you could've seen there wasn't much more he could do," Degenek, 26, said. "You just see when someone is exhausted, when they have done everything and put their life into it. He obviously got the reward, he got a new job in Saudi Arabia which is financially rewarding and he deserves that.

"Also, he done a lot of things for this club which no other manager has done. Obviously very grateful to have him as my coach, also he is a very good person. Happy for him to move on in his career and also happy that I got to work with him and happy he was the one that pushed Red Star into a way that the club should be going, which is forward and in a brighter future."

When you hear the name Red Star Belgrade, you think of the famous 1991 European Cup winners.

You think of Serbia's most successful football side with 30 titles, the grand Rajko Mitic Stadium and Red Star Belgrade's basketball team from the famous multi-sports club.

Belgrade is a city steeped in history and known for its passion for football and basketball. It is not synonymous with rugby league. But one Australian is changing that.

Colin Kleyweg is the owner of the fledgling Red Star Belgrade rugby league team, who are unbeaten in the whole Balkan region since November 2018, winning 10 consecutive trophies.

"I met a Serbian lady about 13 years ago," Kleyweg, who also serves as a director of the Rugby League European Federation, told Stats Perform. "We got married about 11 years ago and we started businesses together in Serbia because we run an engineering consultancy business here in Australia. So, we set it up in Belgrade as well about nine years ago.

"When we were there, we wanted to start giving back to the community and we found rugby league. I love it and my wife has fallen in love with it too. So, we started helping the Serbian federation first, then in January 2017 we met the guys at Red Star and they basically said, 'What would you think about doing something?' And we said yes."

Led by Australian former NRL head coach Phil Economidis, Red Star are making a splash. A member of the Red Star Sports Society, the rugby league team were recognised as the most successful club within the entity this year with 13 titles since 2014. They also played in the Challenge Cup in 2019.

In a city with a strong thirst for football and basketball, rugby league is a new concept but Kleyweg is still dreaming big.

He added: "The issue is, it's an unheard sport. Every time I bring people to it, of Serbian descent, and they sit next to me and I tell them what's happening, they're riveted. They absolutely love it. They've just said this sport is perfect for the Serbian psyche and the Serbian body type: the prototype centres and running backrowers."

Red Star had intended to apply to the Rugby Football League for a place in League 1 – the third tier in the United Kingdom – possibly as soon as 2021. However, the coronavirus pandemic scuppered those plans, with Kleyweg now focusing on forming a European club competition.

"We have to play the right teams," Kleyweg said. "Luckily I'm also on the board of the European Federation. A year or so ago, I was put in charge of a working group to examine a professional European rugby league club competition. My dream is to have a much smaller version of the Euro League basketball."

So, what is the standard of rugby league like in Serbia?

"They are technically very good, and they have the body shape and mass for it," Kleyweg said. "The mentality, too. They're already punching well above their weight. In any sport, you need people to be able to coach and to teach the intricacies of the game. A lot of the boys, they don't start playing until they hear about it. We have a very small number of men who were trained as juniors. From five or six clubs, you really have a pool of about 20 players that are capable of playing against English opposition.

"One of the best things I ever did was bringing Phil, having NRL experience as well – they just soak up everything. I've been slowly integrating players into full-time structures. Instead of training once or twice a week because a lot of them have jobs, they can get proper sleep, better nutrition."

There is a strong Australian influence on the club. Kleyweg, though, has since steered away from an influx of Aussie and international players in an attempt to improve the standard of Serbians.

"I brought over some Aussies previously. I wanted the players to see the level and the professionalism needed," he continued. "When I did bring over internationals, we started slaughtering every team we played. In recent years, we win on average by 60 points, so there's no need for that. I've taken out those players because we don't need to do that.

"Partizan [neighbours and bitter rivals] are now getting much, much stronger, which is good. They're building a nice rivalry with us, which is standard. This year, we beat them with a very Serbian-only team, which I'm proud of. We are the first Serbian side to beat English opposition. That's part of the plan. I want to teach the boys the right mental approach to it. Serbians can be a bit like the French: when they're losing, they can drop their heads and start to perform poorly. We've had that in the national team. I want the players to develop a resilience. I want to see them in a match where you should really lose but somehow find a way to win."

Mikel Arteta looks to be on his way out of Manchester City, and it may not be long before he is followed by Pep Guardiola.

That is if reports linking Paris Saint-Germain with a move for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach are to be believed.

Meanwhile, Arteta is not the only big managerial appointment expected imminently in the Premier League, with Carlo Ancelotti close to being confirmed as Everton boss, and reports suggest a big-name could be in line to follow the Italian to Goodison Park.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA LINED UP BY PSG

According to Le10 Sport, Paris Saint-Germain will look to swap Thomas Tuchel with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next season.

Guardiola is currently under contract with City until 2021, though has said he is open to extending his deal. However, these reports claim PSG will aim to bring in the Spaniard, along with former Barca star Xavi, who will act as his number two.

While City are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, PSG are top of Ligue 1 and will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Mauricio Pochettino is holding off on making any commitment to Real Madrid as he waits to see how Guardiola's situation at Manchester City plays out.

- According to The Telegraph, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is open to linking up with former boss Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Ancelotti is reportedly set to be appointed by the Toffees and Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to Milan and Napoli – could follow him to Merseyside.

Mesut Ozil is close to securing a loan move from Arsenal to Fenerbahce in January, according to Turkish newspaper Fotomac.

- Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. has been linked with a move to the Premier League. El Desmarque reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves are all interested in the Brazilian.

- Another potential outgoing from Arsenal could be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with The Mirror saying one of Arteta's first tasks will be to convince the Gunners' captain to stay put.

- Sky Sports reports Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are all monitoring Lille forward Victor Osimhen, who has scored nine Ligue 1 goals this term.

- Inter great Dejan Stankovic is poised to become head coach of Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade. After Vladan Milojevic stepped down on Thursday, reports in Serbia claim the former Red Star midfielder will be unveiled on Friday. This is set to be Stankovic's first senior job.

Tottenham are considering a January move for Leicester City full-back Ricardo Pereira, says Het Nieuwsblad.

Olympiacos forward Youssef El-Arabi claimed the never-say-die attitude of his team-mates helped them secure Europa League football next year.

El-Arabi scored an 87th-minute penalty to give Olympiacos a 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in their final Champions League Group B match on Wednesday.

The victory enabled Olympiacos to climb above their opponents into third spot and ensured the Greek side will take part in continental competition in 2020.

Morocco international El-Arabi said: "We had many attempts to score, but sometimes, regardless of the volume of opportunities, the ball just wouldn't go in. 

"But we didn't give up and succeeded in the end. Most important, we held on to qualify.

"I admit it wasn't easy to take that penalty. But I am glad, because we had to win the match and qualification rested on that spot-kick.

"I congratulate my team because we fought until the last minute and that penalty was the compensation of our efforts.

"Congratulations also to their goalkeeper, who had a great performance."

Red Star goalkeeper Milan Borjan refused to blame team-mate Tomane for his penalty miss in the first half but acknowledged the team need to do things differently in future European campaigns.

"In order to be more competitive in Europe, we have to change a lot as a team," he told reporters afterwards.

"We need to look at ourselves, look at each other, be honest and change a lot of things. 

"For example, today we didn't have ball possession which we needed. We tried to counter-attack more, it didn't happen. 

"Our concentration in the last minutes fell down."

Borjan produced a heroic performance between the posts as he made several brilliant saves and was disappointed for it to ultimately be meaningless.

"It's not only me, the whole team fought hard, they gave it all, running, sliding," he said.

"We were so good at the back, but such things happen and you lose games. We came very close to our objective, but this is life. 

"This is football, you know? We have to continue now. We need to focus now on the championship and the cup and win them."

Red Star head coach Vladan Milojevic added: "It is obviously not a nice feeling to lose.

"I think we prepared well for the match, but we just did not realise the chances we had. We probably could have played better, and we will analyse and learn from this."

Youssef El-Arabi scored a dramatic late penalty to give Olympiacos a 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade that secured third place in Champions League Group B and a spot in the Europa League.

The spot-kick was emphatically converted three minutes from full-time by the Morocco forward after Brazilian defender Jander handled a cross inside the penalty area.

Red Star, who just needed to avoid defeat to finish third, had been awarded a penalty of their own in the first half but Portuguese forward Tomane blasted it against the crossbar.

The result ensured Olympiacos finished on four points - a point ahead of bottom side Red Star.

 

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has his sights set on a slice of Champions League history when Tottenham visit the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.

The Poland international needs two goals against Jose Mourinho's side to claim the record for goals in the group stage of a single campaign – an honour held by Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 11 in 2015-16 for Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid will book their place in the last 16 if they beat Lokomotiv Moscow, while Shakhtar Donetsk will join Manchester City in progressing from Group C if they overcome Atalanta.

In Group A, already-qualified Paris Saint-Germain host Galatasaray and Real Madrid – who have also booked their place in the knockout stages – travel to Club Brugge.

Here is the pick of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's eight matches.

Club Brugge v Real Madrid

7 - This is the seventh Champions League group stage campaign which Club Brugge have failed to progress from. No side has ever competed in more group stages without progressing from any in the history of the competition.

2 - Karim Benzema has scored two goals in each of his last two Champions League games. Only four players have scored two or more in three consecutive games - Giovane Elber (2001), Filippo Inzaghi (2002), Cristiano Ronaldo (2013, twice in 2017) and Lewandowski (2018).

Paris Saint-Germain v Galatasaray

18 - PSG striker Kylian Mbappe has scored 18 goals in 29 appearances in the Champions League. If he scores twice in this game, Mbappe would become the youngest player in the competition's history to reach 20 goals, aged 20 years and 356 days.

1 - Galatasaray scored their first goal of the 2019-20 Champions League campaign in their last game against Club Brugge, ending a run of 38 shots without scoring from the start of the campaign. In total, they have only scored once from 43 shots in the competition this term.

Bayern Munich v Tottenham

16 - Bayern Munich had 16 shots on target in their 6-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on matchday five; the most by a team in this season's Champions League. Bayern last had more in a Champions League game in October 2013 against Viktoria Plzen (18).

2 - New Spurs manager Mourinho has lost both of his previous away games against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, losing in the quarter-finals with Chelsea in 2004-05 and the semi-finals with Real Madrid in 2011-12.

Olympiacos v Red Star Belgrade

1 - Olympiacos have picked up just one point from their five Champions League games this season. Only in 2017-18 (one) have they picked up one point or fewer from a completed group stage.

19 - Red Star have conceded 19 goals in their five Champions League games this season, more than any other side. There have been just five occasions of a team conceding 20+ goals in a single group stage in the competition, most recently by Legia Warsaw in 2016-17 (24).

Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City

5 - Dinamo Zagreb have picked up five points in this season's Champions League. Only in 1998-99 (eight points) have they won more in a single group stage in the competition. 

19 - City’s Raheem Sterling has scored 19 goals in 46 appearances in the Champions League. He could become the sixth Englishman to reach 20 goals in the competition after Wayne Rooney (30), Paul Scholes (24), Frank Lampard (23), Steven Gerrard (21) and Harry Kane (20). Should Sterling score in his 47th appearance, he would be the second quickest Englishman to 20 Champions League goals after Kane (24 appearances).

Shakhtar Donetsk v Atalanta

5 - Shakhtar Donetsk are without a win in each of their last five Champions League home games (drawn three, lost two). It is their longest ever winless run at home in the competition.

2 - Atalanta have lost their last two away games in the Champions League, conceding nine goals in the process. They last lost three consecutive away matches in all European competition back in October 1987.

Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow

2 - Atletico Madrid have lost consecutive matches in the Champions League; they've never lost three in a row in the competition. The Spanish side last lost three consecutive games in all European competitions back in October 1984 in the UEFA Cup.

0 - Lokomotiv Moscow have never won an away game against Spanish opposition in all European competition, losing six of their seven such games and failing to score in each defeat.

Bayer Leverkusen v Juventus

3 - Bayer Leverkusen have benefited from three own goals in this season's Champions League, with only two teams benefiting from more in a single campaign: Inter in 2002-03 (four) and Barcelona in 2017-18 (five).

27 - Juventus forward Ronaldo has scored 27 goals in 24 Champions League appearances against German clubs; the most a single player has accumulated against sides from a particular nation in the competition's history.

Robert Lewandowski claimed to be addicted to scoring goals after he led Bayern Munich to a 6-0 rout over Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League.

Lewandowski was at his awe-inspiring best on Tuesday as he scored four times in little more than 14 second-half minutes at Rajko Mitic Stadium.

His efforts inspired a fourth successive win, with 16 goals scored and none conceded, for interim boss Hans-Dieter Flick – the best start of any Bayern coach.

The Poland international's quadruple was also the fastest in the history of the Champions League, as Lewandowski joined Lionel Messi as the only players to score four goals in a game in the competition on more than one occasion.

And according to the 31-year-old, scoring goals is an addiction.

"I have to confess... I am addicted to scoring goals," Lewandowski – who has already scored 27 times from 20 appearances in all competitions so far this season – tweeted.

He added to Sky Sport: "The most important thing is that we played well, defensively and offensively, we have fun, no matter who plays, we follow our plan.

"I'm also happy if I do not score and we win nevertheless."

Lewandowski's stunning second-half show came after he had seen a superb strike ruled out by the VAR for a handball from Corentin Tolisso before the break.

That followed Leon Goretzka's opener, while Tolisso rounded off the scoring late on.

"Robert is in such good form," said Flick, who is reportedly in line to remain as Bayern's coach until at least the end of the season, in his post-match news conference. 

"He is professional and works really hard and got his rewards tonight. He's a really important player for us."

With top spot in Group B now secured, Bayern face Jose Mourinho's Tottenham, who are also through after a 4-2 comeback win over Olympiacos, in their next Champions League outing.

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