What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

For so long, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

However, Mbappe is believed to be attracted to the idea of leaving Parc des Princes for Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE INTRIGUED BY LIVERPOOL

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is interested in a move to Premier League champions Liverpool, according to Le Parisien.

Mbappe is contracted to PSG until 2022 but the France international forward has reportedly made it clear he has no plans to extend his deal in Paris.

He has long been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though the 21-year-old is attracted to Liverpool's style of play. Barcelona have also emerged as a possible destination.

 

ROUND-UP

Zinedine Zidane retains the backing of Madrid following last week's shock defeat to newly promoted Cadiz, says AS. Head coach Zidane has come in for criticism after Madrid's first loss of the season. While delivering LaLiga glory last term, Zidane is reportedly under pressure to succeed in the Champions League following their last-16 exit in 2019-20.

- The Daily Star says Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil is wanted by MLS outfit DC United. Wayne Rooney previously played for DC between 2018 and 2020.

- Todofichajes claims PSG and United are interested in Inter midfielder Christian Eriksen, who has struggled to establish himself in Milan since arriving from Tottenham in January.

Tottenham are close to agreeing a contract extension with Spurs star Son Heung-min, reports The Athletic.

Holders Bayern Munich begin their Champions League defence with the visit of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, in a game that will pit Robert Lewandowski against Luis Suarez.

Liverpool, winners in 2019, travel to Ajax, and Real Madrid host Shakhtar Donetsk, with two of the competition's most successful clubs hoping to avoid some worrying runs of defeats.

Antonio Conte's Inter tackle Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City host Porto, a team who boast a rather unfortunate record when it comes to games on English soil.

Here is some of the key Opta data from day two of matchday one.

Ajax v Liverpool: Can Firmino stop the rot?

This will be Liverpool's first meeting with Ajax since the 1966-67 European Cup, when the Dutch side prevailed 7-3 on aggregate in the last 16.

Liverpool's campaign last season ended at the same stage with back-to-back losses to Atletico Madrid. Should they lose in Amsterdam, it will be the first time since Brendan Rodgers was in charge in October to November 2014 that they have suffered three consecutive Champions League defeats.

Perhaps Roberto Firmino is the man to help them. He has been directly involved in 26 goals (15 scored, 11 assisted) in 33 Champions League matches; since his debut in 2017-18, the only other player with 10 or more goals and assists in that time is Kylian Mbappe (13 goals, 13 assists).

 

Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid: Lewandowski has history in his sights

Bayern were the first team in history to win every game en route to lifting the trophy last season, and their 11-game winning run is already the longest ever in the competition.

Should Robert Lewandowski score, he will become the first player to do so in 10 Champions League group games in a row. He currently shares the record of nine with Cristiano Ronaldo, who did so from 2012 to 2014.

Atletico have only won twice in their previous 10 group games away from home, but Luis Suarez could give them the boost they need – he has scored five goals in his last five starts in the competition, as many as he managed in his previous 31 starts combined.

 

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Zidane puts 100 per cent record on the line

Real Madrid have been in the Champions League group stage 28 times and have never failed to reach the next round. Leeds United, who did so twice, are the only other team to feature in more than one group stage and boast a 100 per cent record.

That said, Madrid lost their final two games last season – both legs of the last-16 tie with Manchester City – and losing to Shakhtar Donetsk would put them on a three-match losing streak in the Champions League or European Cup for the first time since September 1986.

With captain Sergio Ramos injured, Zinedine Zidane will have concerns about his defence. At least the forward line is in capable hands: Karim Benzema has managed four goals and two assists across six consecutive home games in the competition, and Shakhtar have failed to keep a clean sheet in 22 Champions League matches in a row.

Manchester City v Porto: More English misery?

Porto have played 20 away games against English sides in Europe and have failed to win any. In fact, they have lost 17 of those games and have not scored in the previous seven. They do at least go into this contest off a run of just two defeats in 16 Champions League group-stage matches.

City have a pretty strong recent record in the group stage, having gone unbeaten in 11 games since a surprise 2-1 loss to Lyon in September 2018. They also have Raheem Sterling in sharp form: the forward has scored 20 goals in the competition since his debut for City in September 2015, a tally only Harry Kane can match among English players in that time.

 

Other fixtures:

Inter v Borussia Monchengladbach:

9 – Romelu Lukaku has scored nine goals in 11 appearances in European competition for Inter. Since the start of last season, only Robert Lewandowski (15) and Erling Haaland (10) have netted more across the Champions League and Europa League.

8 – Strike partner Lautaro Martinez has scored five in six Champions League starts and eight in 14 in Europe overall for the Nerazzurri.

 

Salzburg v Lokomotiv Moscow:

10 – Since September 2018, Lokomotiv Moscow have lost 10 Champions League games, more than any other club in that time.

16 – Salzburg scored 16 group-stage goals last season but finished third in their group. The only other team to score that many and get knocked out were Chelsea in 2012-13.

 

Midtjylland v Atalanta:

16 – Atalanta have scored at least once in 16 of their previous 17 European games, including nine in three matches in last season's knockouts. Josip Ilicic has nine goals in 13 European appearances for the club.

18 – Midtjylland conceded 18 goals in eight matches in the 2015-16 Europa League, their previous involvement in Europe. No team conceded more that season.

 

Olympiacos v Marseille:

3 – This will be Andre Villas-Boas' first Champions League game since March 2016. He has lost his most recent three matches in the competition.

41 – Steve Mandanda has made 41 appearances in the competition, the most for any Marseille player in history. The goalkeeper accounts for 37 per cent of the total games played by current Marseille players in this tournament.

Inter are in a stronger position to fulfil their desire to be contenders in the Champions League, according to Antonio Conte.

Conte's side finished behind Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in last season's group stage but managed to reach the Europa League final, where they were defeated by Sevilla.

The Nerazzurri secured a return to the Champions League by finishing second to Juventus in Serie A last term and begin their new European campaign at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.

Inter have won just two of their past 10 games in Europe's premier club competition, but Conte believes the experience of 2019-20 will hold them in good stead this time around.

"Now we are more experienced for sure, after what we did last term and the Europa League final. This increased the experience level of the whole squad," said Conte.

"Now we can also count on [Arturo] Vidal who has plenty of experience. From this point of view we are a more prepared team.

"We must be the masters of our own destiny. We want to be positive, but at this moment it is difficult to say where we can go.

"Our aim is to be contenders. We aim to play the kind of football that made us runners-up in the league and Europa League finalists last season. Sometimes we do that perfectly, sometimes we have to improve."

Alessandro Bastoni will only be fit enough for the bench against Gladbach after recovering from coronavirus, though Alexis Sanchez is ready to start after coming off the bench in the derby defeat to Milan on Saturday.

Inter have also been drawn against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group B and Conte could not help but smile when informed of a view from Spain that put his team as favourites ahead of LaLiga's champions.

"I don't know if that's the case. We are talking about the team that won LaLiga last season and that have great champions," he said.

"It makes me smile to hear that they are not the favourites. If we question Real Madrid because they didn't make moves in the transfer market and we don't consider them favourites, it means that football is changing and maybe I have lost sight of reality."

Lionel Messi is the world's best player because he is "always a step ahead of everyone else", according to Inter striker Lautaro Martinez. 

Martinez had been tipped to join his compatriot at Barcelona during the transfer window, but the Catalans were unable to strike a deal with the Nerazzurri even after Messi had ended his attempt to leave Camp Nou. 

Still, Messi and Martinez have played together for Argentina since the latter made his international debut back in 2018. 

The 23-year-old says he always tries to learn from the six-time Ballon d'Or winner – a player he claims understands football on a different level to his contemporaries. 

"I know Leo more from the times we've been team-mates for the Argentina national team rather than from having come up against him," Martinez told UEFA.com. 

"I've said it in the past and will say it again now and in the future: he's the best player in the world. The fact he's Argentinian is a source of pride for us and we always try to learn from him. 

"For me, he's on another level – he understands the game in a different way and he's always a step ahead of everyone else." 

Inter are preparing to get their Champions League campaign underway on Wednesday, when they host Borussia Monchengladbach at San Siro. 

Martinez remembers watching Jose Mourinho's treble-winners defeat Bayern Munich in the final in 2010, when compatriots Diego Milito, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel all played. 

Zanetti, who is now Inter vice-president, was hugely important in helping Martinez settle in Italy after his move from Racing two years ago. 

"Javier is a very important Inter man, and for us [players] as well because he passes down to us everything he's experienced at this club," Martinez said. 

"He did so to me when I first came to Italy. Whenever I've needed something, he's always tried to help me. He always lends an ear and asks how I'm doing or gives me a hand with anything I might need. 

"He's always there to make sure I'm alright inside the club and outside too. Above all, he helped me with the language when I arrived, with what the club meant and how we train. He was very important in those matters, so I'll always be grateful to him. He really helped me out when I got here." 

Adama Traore is reportedly set to snub Barcelona and Liverpool to extend his stay at Wolves.

Traore has been linked with a move away from Wolves, where he arrived from Middlesbrough in 2018.

But the winger is seemingly happy at the Premier League club.

 

TOP STORY – TRAORE TO EXTEND WOLVES STAY DESPITE BARCELONA, LIVERPOOL INTEREST

Traore is set for a pay rise and is close to agreeing to a four-year deal with Wolves despite interest from Barcelona and Liverpool, according to The Sun.

The three-time Spain international is reportedly set for the new contract despite having a deal until 2023.

Barcelona and Liverpool have been linked with Traore previously.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paulo Dybala's Juventus future is again a talking point. An unused substitute against Crotone on Saturday, Dybala reportedly clashed with Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are preparing for Dybala to exit amid links to Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, and they are eyeing Salzburg teenager Luka Susic.

- Manchester United missed out on Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho during the close season, but there is a belief the Premier League giants will target the attacker again in January or next year, according to the Daily Star.

- Marcelo Brozovic could be set for an Inter exit. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A club are prepared to sell the midfielder in January, with interest from Tottenham and Monaco.

- As he continues to impress at Salzburg, Dominik Szoboszlai is linked with a move. Football.london says the Hungary international is a target for Arsenal.

- Compared to Portugal great Luis Figo, Sporting CP teenager Luis Gomes is a target for Manchester United, according to the Mirror.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Milan can end Juventus' Scudetto dominance after his double ensured a 2-1 derby win over Inter.

Milan are top of Serie A with the league's only 100 per cent record after seeing off their city rivals.

Ibrahimovic put Milan 2-0 up inside 16 minutes, with Romelu Lukaku pulling one back before the half-hour for Inter.

Inter could not complete the comeback, though, meaning Milan are three points ahead of Atalanta through four games.

Stefano Pioli's men have not lost since a 2-1 defeat to Genoa in March and Ibrahimovic sees no reason Milan cannot regain the title they last won in 2011 before Juve's run of nine successive Scudetti.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "We are at the beginning. Since I arrived, the team has been doing great things, especially after the lockdown.

"The team is growing a lot, the mentality is different, the young people take more responsibility. They all train great.

"I feel a lot of responsibility; I'm the oldest in the team. A situation that I really like, everyone follows me, and everyone is hungry to win.

"We are thinking one game at a time. Every game is like a final. When I arrived the goal was Europe and we got there.

"The goal for the club is to arrive again in Europe, my personal goals are different, but I keep them to myself.

"Scudetto? In my opinion, there is a sure possibility, one who believes can do anything. We believe it, then in the end we will see how it goes. It is still a long road."

Will Manchester City land Lionel Messi?

City were reportedly close to luring Messi to the Premier League during the previous transfer window.

Messi remains at Barcelona, but City are believed to be planning another move.

 

TOP STORY – CITY CONTEMPLATING MESSI MOVE

Manchester City are considering an offer to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona in January, according to the Daily Star.

Messi handed in a transfer request at the start of the season and the Barca captain was tipped to join City before opting to remain at Camp Nou.

Pep Guardiola's City, however, have not given up on Messi as they eye a £15million (€16m) bid for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner – who was also linked to Juventus, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain previously.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror claims Barca are eyeing January moves for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and City defender Eric Garcia. Lyon captain Memphis Depay has also been linked.

Liverpool and Tottenham are set to battle it out for the signing of Leeds United's £50million midfielder Kalvin Phillips, reports the Mirror.

- The Sun says Manchester United are circling for Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde. United believe a swap deal involving Paul Pogba could be possible due to Valverde's £640m (€705m) release clause.

N'Golo Kante has no intention of leaving Chelsea, according to Le10 Sport. The France international has been linked to Inter and Madrid.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says "the wrong animal was locked in the house" after marking his return from a coronavirus-enforced absence with two goals in Milan's 2-1 derby win over Inter.

Ibrahimovic netted both of his goals in the first 16 minutes – the opener coming from a rebound after a penalty he won was saved – to maintain Milan's perfect start to the campaign.

He had missed four games and not played for almost a month after contracting COVID-19, but the 39-year-old made up for lost time with his match-winning brace at San Siro on Saturday.

"I was so hungry. They locked the wrong animal in the house," he told MTV. 

"It is not easy mentally to always be at homecoming from a very high pace – the body is shaking because it wants to work, it wants to play. 

"I stayed at home and have waited for him to pass to return with the team and work with the team."

Ibrahimovic, who now has five goals in three appearances this season, lasted the full 90 minutes against Milan despite his lack of playing time over the past month.

And it was revealed after the match that the Swedish striker asked to be substituted, only for head coach Stefano Pioli to keep him on until the end.

"He was very tired and even asked to come off, but this time I was the one who ignored him!" Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. 

"Zlatan is extraordinary, he brings so much to the side with his talent, determination and character. He's an exemplary professional, gives everything for his team, wants to win everything from a cup Final to a training ground routine.

" I can't take any credit for dealing with Ibrahimovic, as it's very easy."

Romelu Lukaku pulled one back for Inter just before the half-hour mark and had a penalty shout turned down by VAR in the second half.

Achraf Hakimi also wasted a good headed opportunity for Inter as Antonio Conte's side pushed for a leveller but Milan held on for to seal the bragging rights.

Not since 1995 have they won four straight league games at the start of a season, though Pioli can still see room for improvement as he put talk of a Scudetto challenge in perspective.

"The team spirit is incredible, we work hard for our cause," he said. "We won every game this season, but none of them were easy.

"That means we have to improve tactically and technically, because we cannot always rely on character.

"I like to think positive and consider myself an optimist, but I also acknowledge there are at least three or four clubs who invested more than we did and are at a more advanced stage. 

"We are ambitious, but largely invested for the future. There are seven clubs at a high level in Serie A right now and only four of them will be happy with a Champions League spot at the end of the season.

"If you want to challenge for the Scudetto, you need to raise the quality level of the squad. Even then, it takes a lot of time, there are sides that invested far more and haven't done as well.

"The club has been wise to lay the foundations and build upon them going forward."

Inter boss Antonio Conte said bad luck was more to blame than his side's defending for their 2-1 derby defeat to Milan on Saturday.

Two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured victory for the Serie A leaders, with Romelu Lukaku's effort proving to be mere consolation.

Inter created plenty of chances throughout, with Lukaku spurning two good openings and seeing VAR intervene with an offside call after he had initially won a penalty.

Achraf Hakimi also turned a header wide with the goal at his mercy as Inter managed just one shot on target in the second half.

"We're sorry to have lost a well-played game on our part. They were good and I think also a little lucky," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"We create a lot of chances to score goals in every game. We have to become more cynical to take advantage of them. But at the same time, I have nothing to blame the boys for. They fought to the end to equalise. We weren't very lucky."

Ibrahimovic's first came from a rebound after Samir Handanovic had saved his penalty, the veteran striker having been brought down in the box by Aleksandar Kolarov.

Kolarov, playing on the left of the back three, was nowhere to be seen when Ibrahimovic scored his second three minutes later at the end of a swift counter-attack.

Conte, though, insists such a position is "the best role" for the 34-year-old, saying: "He played it for the national team and for Roma. For his moment in his career, it's the right position."

When asked if Inter were wrong to allow the experienced centre-back Diego Godin to leave after last season, Conte replied: "Every decision was evaluated by the club and it's not up to me.

"What I must do is to try to get the best out of the players I am given, and I think that's something I do very well. If you want to talk about other matters, you can ask other people about them."

For the first time since January 2016, Milan is red and black. For the first time in eight seasons, the Rossoneri might just be in a title race.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Inter ended a nine-game winless run in Serie A away games against their city rivals, who had won each of the previous four derbies. It was also Milan's 1,400th victory in the top flight, a tally only previously reached by Inter and Juventus.

But this was all about the present, about a Milan side who look capable at last of at least returning to the Champions League. They are vibrant, spirited and clinical – everything a modern team needs to be. It just so happens that their star performer turned 39 two weeks ago.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice in three minutes at San Siro to put Milan on their way. He won a penalty after driving beyond Aleksandar Kolarov and drawing a foul and was then alert enough to turn in the rebound after Samir Handanovic saved his spot-kick. He struck again 16 minutes in, an emphatic first-time finish at the end of a swift break that left Inter on their knees. He now has eight goals in this fixture, six for Milan and two for the Nerazzurri, and is only four behind record-holder Giuseppe Meazza. He tested positive for coronavirus three weeks ago.

Milan rode their luck from there, it's true. Romelu Lukaku, who pulled back a goal in the first half, could conceivably have scored four. He spurned a free header, won a penalty only for VAR to intervene with an offside call, and he prodded wide when it seemed harder to miss. The man who had scored with every 1.7 shots in Serie A this year looked suddenly without poise in front of goal.

But this is a mark of this Milan, Stefano Pioli's Milan, a team who have scored in 24 league games in a row, taken 57 points in 2020 and won their first four league matches of a season for the first time since 1995-96: after years in the relative wilderness, they are not pushovers any more. They make you falter.

Ibrahimovic is at the heart of that. He exudes authority and demands success, even now, less than a year out from his 40th birthday. Only Silvio Piola has scored twice in four separate Serie A games after turning 38 other than the Swede, and there is no doubt Ibrahimovic will do so again. The man who scored 14 goals in 29 games to fire Milan to their last Scudetto in 2010-11 is dragging them into another title race few would have expected 12 months ago.

How Inter boss Antonio Conte would have wished for such displays from his own veterans. This was not a game that reflected well on his insistence on signing experienced heads over exuberant talent.

Kolarov distributed well as part of the back three, completing 39 of 49 passes, but looked every inch a converted full-back who turns 35 in November as even Ibrahimovic ran beyond him. Arturo Vidal, a Conte stalwart from their Juventus days, was a midfield wrecking ball who was taken off before he was sent off. Alexis Sanchez and Christian Eriksen were thrown on in hope more than expectation, as Inter ended the second half with just one shot on target.

Inter's title credentials may have taken a hit, but Milan's are only getting stronger. Four wins from four, nine goals scored and one conceded is form to be reckoned with, however early in the season it may be.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to give Milan a 2-1 win over Inter in a dramatic Derby della Madonnina as he marked his return from having coronavirus in style.

The 39-year-old had missed four games and not played for almost a month after contracting COVID-19, but he put Stefano Pioli's men two goals up inside 16 minutes on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku got Inter back in it before the break but, despite second-half pressure, Antonio Conte's side could not force an equaliser as their four-match derby winning streak was ended.

Milan stunned Inter with two goals in the space of three minutes, both scored by Ibrahimovic.

After being sent through on goal by Hakan Calhanoglu, the Swede drew a clumsy foul from Aleksandar Kolarov and took the resulting penalty himself.

Samir Handanovic dived to his right to make an impressive save, only for Ibrahimovic to convert a left-footed rebound.

Ibrahimovic then struck again after a superb counter-attack that also involved Calhanoglu resulted in Rafael Leao sending in a superb cross from the left, which he impressively converted with a controlled first-time finish.

Lukaku made no mistake in the 28th minute as he tucked in from close range after Gianluigi Donnarumma inadvertently touched Ivan Perisic's driven cross into his path.

Lautaro Martinez then had a header cleared off the line by Simon Kjaer and an even better chance in the air, this time from Lukaku, was somehow sent wide by the unmarked Belgium striker at the end of a breathless first half.

A third headed chance went begging after the break, Achraf Hakimi off target with a diving effort as Inter upped the pressure, while substitute Rade Krunic fired wide when he should have wrapped up a Milan win at the other end.

There was one more twist when Inter were awarded a penalty when Donnarumma was adjudged to have brought down Lukaku in the closing stages but VAR ruled the striker had strayed offside before the incident as in-form Milan held on to celebrate a famous triumph.

Inter will be hoping to equal records when they meet Milan in the first derby of the 2020-21 season on Saturday.

The Nerazzurri have won the past four Serie A meetings with their city rivals and have only twice managed to win five in succession, in both 1979 and 1983.

They are also unbeaten in nine home league games against the Rossoneri, winning six and drawing three. Stretching that run to 10 would equal another club record.

Meanwhile, Antonio Conte is bidding to become the first Inter coach in history to win his first three derbies in all competitions and, given they won two and drew one of their first three games in 2020-21, it would take a brave soul to bet against them.

A brave soul is just who Milan have leading the line.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now cleared to play after missing four games in all competitions following a positive coronavirus test, has reasons to feel confident against his old club.

The veteran has been involved in five goals (four scored, one assisted) in four league games for Milan against Inter, even though three of those fixtures ended in defeats.

Among active players, nobody can match his goal tally in this Serie A fixture: four with Milan, and two with Inter. A particularly profitable outing at San Siro would get him closer to the all-time record of 12, held by the esteemed former striker Giuseppe Meazza.

Beyond the goal threat, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma says Ibrahimovic's mere presence makes the prospect of facing Inter – a team they have not beaten in the league in almost five years – less intimidating.

"We all wanted him to be part of the match and that is the case. With Ibra on the pitch, Inter are less scary," the 21-year-old said.

"He is excited for the derby and will help us. Doing well in the derby would give us a lot of strength in terms of the championship; we are still at the beginning but it can give us strength."

Ibrahimovic certainly has a head for the occasion. Since his return to the club in January, only Edin Dzeko (23) and Andrea Belotti (20) have attempted more headed shots than Ibrahimovic (19), while no player has scored more headed goals (4).

Inter might be favourites, particularly given the form of Romelu Lukaku, who boasts league-leading figures of a goal for every 1.7 shots in Serie A this year among players to have at least 15 attempts on target. But there is no denying that, in 2020, Milan have found their groove.

Only Atalanta (56) have taken more points this year in Serie A and Stefano Pioli's men are on a 23-game scoring streak in the league, their best since 1973. Indeed, since the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, no teams have scored more goals than the giants of Lombardy's capital, who have each hit 42.

Milan are also chasing league win number 1,400, a tally only Inter and Juventus have previously reached. What better occasion to hit that milestone?

Antonio Conte insisted Christian Eriksen would get his chances at Inter this season.

Eriksen, 28, joined the Serie A giants from Tottenham in January, but has struggled for game time since his arrival.

The Denmark international said last week he wanted more opportunities, having made just nine Serie A starts since joining Inter.

While Conte said Eriksen had been given his chances, he expects further opportunities for the former Ajax star.  

"He is playing enough. Of course, my choices are for the benefit of the team, then I could even go wrong," the Inter coach told a news conference on Friday ahead of the derby against Milan.

"However, I am happy about what Eriksen is giving Inter now, how he gelled in this squad and I think he is happy to be with this group and with me and my staff. He will have chances for sure because the season will be long and hard.

"[On Saturday] I will have only four midfielders, three will play and the other will come on later.

"On Wednesday we will play another tough game against Borussia Monchengladbach but, anyway, I think Eriksen has had many chances and has proven his talent to Inter. Just like the other players."

Inter have picked up seven points from their opening three Serie A games to sit fifth in the table.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic is raring to go after recovering from coronavirus ahead what he believes will be a "spectacular" derby against city rivals Inter.

Ibrahimovic tested positive for COVID-19 on September 24, three days after he had scored a Serie A double in the 3-0 win over Bologna.

Milan confirmed last week the striker rwas clear of the virus after having two negative tests, allowing him to leave a period of self-isolation that had caused him to miss four matches.

That put the 39-year-old in contention to play at least some part in Saturday's crunch Serie A clash, with the two Milan clubs looking as good as they have done for many years.

"Zlatan has been smiling and is in a positive and determined frame of mind," Pioli told reporters as Milan look to win their opening four league games for the first time since 1995 under Fabio Capello.

"He has only been training for a week but is feeling fine. He had a problem, but I have found him to be the same as always.

"He is ready to play, but we still need to assess how many minutes he has got in his legs.

"Our start to the season with three league wins and going through in Europe was important and what I hoped for - now Zlatan's return is an additional boost going into the derby."

Milan are unbeaten since March – a run of 19 games in all competitions – while Inter are two points behind them after finishing second and reaching the Europa League final in Antonio Conte's first season.

Except for Atalanta (56), Milan (54) and Inter (47) are the two teams who have gained the most points in Serie A in 2020. 

Pioli added: "I am expecting a spectacular game. We will be facing a side with a system that sees players occupy precise positions on the pitch. 

"Inter are very strong, but, like all teams, also have weaknesses. We need to remain composed and understand when it is necessary to press and when we need to bide our time. 

"We will be intense and will not hold off. This will also apply to them but we have our own identity and way of playing out on the pitch.

"For us, the tests never stop: we know that this will be an important and difficult test, but we have prepared well in the little time we had available and feel ready."

Inter only finished one point behind champions Juventus last season, with Conte now looking to become the first Inter coach ever to win their first three Milan derbies.

Pioli added: "Unfortunately, there won’t be a crowd, but we’ll take to the pitch aware of the importance of this match and what it means. We feel the rivalry and it will be a heartfelt match.

"Our journey began a year ago, but I can also say that we’re still in the early stages. We still have plenty of room for improvement and will be facing the side everyone is tipping to win the title.

"But we are going to take to the pitch with the objective to be better than them. They are doing well, so beating such a strong side would give us enthusiasm and even more confidence in the qualities we have."

Alexis Sanchez has not been ruled out of the derby between Inter and Milan despite returning from international duty with a muscle strain.

Sanchez and Chilean compatriot Arturo Vidal were the last of Inter's players to return following their participation in a pair of South American World Cup qualifying games for their country.

Both were on target in a 2-2 draw with Colombia on Tuesday, though Sanchez may be reduced to the role of spectator for the Milan derby.

Speaking at a media conference, Inter coach Antonio Conte said: "He came back with a muscle strain last night [Thursday].

"We will do some evaluations today during training. It is inevitable that we will be very careful because this is the first of a cycle of seven games that will be played every three days.

"We will take the right risk, that's for sure. If Sanchez will be available it is because he will give guarantees and because he himself takes the responsibility of saying that he is fine."

Asked by a member of the Chilean press about reports Sanchez had already been ruled out, Conte replied: "He was visited today by doctors, he is to be evaluated during training by hearing his opinion and feeling with his body, and possibly with fatigue, then we will make decisions. Nothing is ruled out at the moment."

Conte will have to alter his preparations for Saturday's game given the tight turnaround from the international fixtures.

He said: "Surely if I had had the possibility to choose, I would have preferred to have at least one more day to prepare, but we know that there are calendars to be respected, nationally and internationally, and we will adapt.

"We will prepare the game today, we will not have much time between video analysis and the blackboard to shorten the training a little, which should not be too intense and demanding since they played a short time ago."

The derby would normally be contested amid a cacophonous atmosphere at San Siro, with the stakes of this famous fixture only heightened by the two sides' respective strong starts to the new season.

Milan have a 100 per cent record in Serie A with three wins from three, while Inter are also unbeaten but two points behind the Rossoneri.

"Playing without an audience is not nice," said Conte. "We work, we sweat just to satisfy the people who come to the stadium, who often and willingly give up something from their private life to pay for the ticket.

"We are sorry that there is not this possibility, this exchange of emotions, between those who play during the match and the fan in the stands.

"I repeat a concept again: let's try to be as collaborative and proactive as possible to get out of this situation. We help those who have to make decisions.

"To the fans, who were important in the comeback in the last derby, I say that we will always give our best for the colours of our jersey."

Page 1 of 56
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.