Juventus and Inter are reportedly ready to do battle for Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

Zaniolo, 21, made his return from a serious knee injury this month and has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Roma.

A pair of Serie A giants may be ready to fight for the midfielder's services.

 

TOP STORY – INTER, JUVE TO BATTLE FOR ZANIOLO

Inter are ready to challenge Juventus to sign Roma star Zaniolo, according to CalcioMercato.

Zaniolo is considered one of Europe's best young talents, and left Inter for Roma in 2018.

Roma reportedly want at least €50million for the five-time Italy international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Manchester City until 2021, Sergio Aguero may yet stay at the Etihad Stadium a little longer. The Mirror reports City have not ruled out giving the star forward, 32, a one-year extension.

- With Neymar repeatedly linked with a return to Barcelona, it seems the LaLiga giants are wanting to distance themselves from the Paris Saint-Germain star. Marca says Barca are keen to see the rumours of a potential return for Neymar stop.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona apparently have interest in two players from Tottenham. The Daily Star says Barca want Ryan Sessegnon and Tanguy Ndombele. However, it reports Spurs will reject all offers for Sessegnon this close season.

- Philippe Coutinho's future remains unclear. Mundo Deportivo reports the playmaker, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona until the end of the season, will not decide his future until after the Champions League next month.

- Plenty of talk continues to surround Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is coming out of contract at the Premier League club next year. The Daily Star reports the forward will sign a contract extension with Arsenal – if no other club makes an official approach.

- After just two goals in 25 games for Real Madrid, Luka Jovic seems set for an exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, Juventus, Inter, Chelsea, Leicester City, Milan and Napoli are all considering moves for the forward.

Gian Piero Gasperini was proud of Atalanta after a 2-2 draw with Juventus, but felt his side deserved to win.

Atalanta led twice through Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskiy, but Cristiano Ronaldo scored penalties to cancel out both goals, including a 90th-minute equaliser in Turin on Saturday.

While Gasperini was proud of his third-placed team, the Atalanta coach believes they deserved all three points.

"I'm definitely more proud. We played great in the first half and in the second half there was a comeback by Juve," he told a news conference.

"But with our play, we managed to take the lead and play a great game anyway. Of course, we are also upset because we deserved to win.

"But, in football, your performance is not always enough."

With six games left to play in Serie A, Atalanta are third in the table, nine points adrift of Juventus.

Maurizio Sarri praised the "incredible" Cristiano Ronaldo after the star's pair of penalties helped Juventus draw 2-2 with Atalanta.

Ronaldo converted two spot-kicks in Turin on Saturday as Juve took another step towards the Serie A title.

The Portugal international cancelled out Duvan Zapata's opener before securing a point in the 90th minute after Ruslan Malinovskiy had restored Atalanta's lead.

Sarri, whose side are eight points clear at the top with six games to play, hailed Ronaldo's ability to handle the pressure.

"He is a champion with his feet but also with his head," Sarri told a news conference.

"He manages to handle the pressures he has on him in an incredible way."

Juventus were coming off a 4-2 loss to Milan on Tuesday, and maintained a nine-point lead over third-placed Atalanta.

Sarri felt Juventus deserved their point, with their busy run of fixtures continuing against Sassuolo on Wednesday.

"Tonight's point was sweaty and deserved. We drew against one of the best teams in Europe, and it's a very important result," he said.

"Merit goes to a second half of quality, in which we attacked Atalanta higher, while focusing on their physical decline, and we scored goals in our best moment.

"The game in Milan, in which we played well for a long time, could have left us with waste. In the first half we suffered, but in the second half we came out well.

"The Scudetto race is by no means closed, there are still 18 points available. It is a very difficult phase of the season, the games are very expensive, and it is difficult to find continuity."

Cristiano Ronaldo twice scored from the penalty spot as Juventus put an end to Atalanta's winning streak, the Serie A leaders rallying late to secure a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Substitute Ruslan Malinovskiy fired in an 80th-minute goal that had Gian Piero Gasperini's in-form side on course to move into second place in the table courtesy of a 10th straight league win.

Duvan Zapata had put the visitors into the lead as they dominated in the first half, though they were pegged back soon after the break when a handball call against Marten de Roon allowed Ronaldo to level.

Having surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 at Milan in midweek, Maurizio Sarri's side appeared on course to suffer a second successive loss, in the process cutting their lead at the summit to six points.

However, referee Piero Giacomelli pointed to the spot for a second time when the ball struck Luis Muriel's arm in the 90th minute, allowing Ronaldo to deny Atalanta and leave Juve eight clear of Lazio.

 

 

Duvan Zapata's opener for Atalanta against Juventus on Saturday saw Gian Piero Gasperini's side achieve a feat not witnessed in Serie A for 68 years.

Colombia international Zapata drilled home a clever pass from Alejandro Gomez to score his 15th league goal of the season in the 16th minute at the Allianz Stadium.

It meant Atalanta became the first team with three players to score at least 15 goals in the same Serie A campaign since Ermes Muccinelli, Giampiero Boniperti and John Hansen for Juventus in 1951-52.

Josip Ilicic was already on 15 when Zapata struck, while Luis Muriel was on 17.

Atalanta have now scored in 20 successive Serie A matches – their best run in the competition since netting in 23 consecutively in 1955-56.

Juventus were 2-0 up and coasting at Milan on Tuesday before collapsing in utterly abject fashion.

Three goals in five minutes turned the game on its head before Ante Rebic completed a 4-2 triumph for the Rossoneri.

A seven-point lead with seven games remaining means Maurizio Sarri's men remain on course for the Scudetto.

But up next are fourth-placed Atalanta, themselves nine points from the summit. After their San Siro ordeal, a showdown with one of the most exciting and dangerous teams in European football might be the last thing Juve need.


PERFECT SINCE LOCKDOWN

Saturday's match at the Allianz Stadium brings together two attacking ideologues. Sarri's high-pressing, high-possession approach became so ingrained during his celebrated spell at Napoli that it was given its own nickname.

But Sarrismo has a more than worthy adversary in Gian Piero Gasperini's thrilling, fearless setup.

Atalanta's expansive 3-4-1-2 system, in which central midfielders, wing-backs and forwards freely exchange positions to repeatedly overload opponents in wide areas, has produced goals by the truckload this season.

They head to Turin in prime form, buoyed by a run of nine Serie A wins in succession – the club's longest ever such tally in the top flight.

Along with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid – both potential Champions League final opponents in these heady days for Atalanta – they are one of three teams in Europe's top five leagues to have won all their games since lockdown.

Overall, La Dea have 20 victories this term, which is one shy of the single season record Gasperini set during his first campaign at the helm in 2016-17.


GOALS, GOALS, GOALS

While Gasperini's masterpiece is one of collective ingenuity, there are also some very impressive individual numbers.

If Duvan Zapata manages one more league goal, Atalanta will be the first side to have three players with 15 or more to their name in a Serie A season since Juventus in 1951-52, when Ermes Muccinelli, Giampiero Boniperti and John Hansen accomplished the feat

Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic have 17 and 15 respectively, with Muriel's feat all the more impressive when considering he typically begins matches on the bench.

Indeed, the Colombia international is only the second player to score double figures in a single season via substitute appearances across the top five leagues, after Paco Alcacer did likewise at Borussia Dortmund in 2018-19.

The dazzling firecracker at the creative centre of this explosive attack is Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez, who is set to make his 300th Serie A appearance against Juventus.

The 32-year-old Argentinian playmaker enjoys free rein as Gasperini's number 10 and has racked up 15 assists this term – the highest single-season figure since Opta started collecting such data in 2004-05.

Gomez has provided at least 10 Serie A assists in each of his four seasons under Gasperini and the former Catania man has 128 goal involvements in Italy's top flight overall (61 goals and 67 assists).


GATECRASHING EUROPE'S ELITE

A rampaging last-16 win over Valencia booked Atalanta's place in the Champions League quarter-finals, where they will take on Paris Saint-Germain when Europe's elite club competition lands in Lisbon for its concluding mini-tournament next month.

Their performances truly are among the very best on the continent

Only Bayern (100) and Manchester City (86) have scored more league goals than Atalanta's 85 in 2019-20.

That amounts to an average of 2.74 per game, again the third best in Europe. Dominant Bundesliga winners Bayern edged up to 2.94 per game, while PSG averaged 2.78 across the truncated Ligue 1 season.

Along with City and Barcelona, Atalanta have scored five or more goals in five separate matches. That can only be bettered in the Bundesliga, where Bayern and Dortmund each did it six times.

Things are also looking pleasingly tight at the back. In 2020, La Dea have five Serie A clean sheets, edged in the calendar year so far by Juventus and Milan with six apiece.

Juve certainly should not bank on adding to that number when they host Gasperini's great entertainers. If Atalanta manage to storm Turin, it will be 10 wins in a row and the gap will be six points with six games to play.

They can't... can they?

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri agreed with Pep Guardiola's assessment that facing Atalanta was "like going to the dentist".

Sarri's side face a huge test on Saturday when they host Atalanta, who are third in Serie A and nine points behind leaders Juve with seven games remaining.

Manchester City manager Guardiola compared playing Atalanta to going to the dentist, having beaten and drawn with the Italian side in the Champions League group stage.

Sarri agreed with Guardiola's description as he expects a difficult clash against Gian Piero Gasperini's men.

"It's an important moment of the season. Atalanta are not a surprise. They have done really well throughout the season, particularly away from home," he told a news conference. 

"They are a really difficult opponent. Atalanta have been a difficult opponent for everyone for a long time now.

"Guardiola gave the best description of them. It's like going to the dentist. You can end up well but you feel the pain. It's a really difficult team to face."

Sarri will come up against Guardiola in the Champions League quarter-finals if their respective teams get through their last-16 ties.

But the Italian said his focus was on Serie A before a clash with Lyon, who won the first leg of their tie 1-0 in France.

"I am not interested. We have only one goal now – the league. And after the league we have Lyon," Sarri said.

"It's really far away now so we don't have to waste any energy [thinking about it]."

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri has told his title-chasing players they must set aside the shock of crumbling against Milan as they prepare to tackle a dangerous Atalanta side.

A torrid Tuesday at San Siro saw Juventus lead 2-0 before folding in the final 30 minutes to lose 4-2 against Stefano Pioli's Rossoneri.

Third-placed Atalanta have the capacity to tear into any team and Sarri admits he simply does not have time to analyse in detail why leaders Juve lost their way so badly in midweek.

The solution, he suggested in a news conference on Friday, is simply to move on and try to forget about that abject surrender.

"If the match against Milan had happened earlier on, the priority would be to go in search of the causes," head coach Sarri said.

"Given that we are in the final stages, the priority becomes ensuring that it doesn't have a negative impact. We have to look forward immediately."

There is still every reason for Juve to be positive, given they hold a seven-point lead over second-placed Lazio heading into the weekend.

And with seven rounds of games to play, it would take a sustained slump for them to be caught.

"Right now, almost all teams struggle to have continuity for 90 minutes and what I would like to see is organisation, which in certain moments is decisive," said Sarri.

In preaching the message that Juve need to bring level heads to the Allianz Stadium on Saturday, Sarri knows any wobble could be punished.

The Bianconeri capitalised when Atalanta lost their way when the teams met in Bergamo back in November, the hosts surging ahead early in the second half before Gonzalo Higuain's double and Paulo Dybala's late goal gave Juve a 3-1 victory.

"In the away match Atalanta held a very intense rhythm for 55 minutes but then they likely couldn't hold it for the final stages," Sarri said.

"I think we'll see a different type of match this time around.

"This is an important phase of the season. Atalanta are the real deal and are doing really well and their stats reflect that, especially away from home. They're a very difficult opponent and have been for some time."

Dybala returns from a suspension this weekend. Sarri said he doubted whether the Argentinian would have been able to prevent the "blackout" that Juve suffered in Milan.

Real Madrid could face a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo before a Clasico showdown with Barcelona after Friday's draw mapped out the final stages of this season's Champions League.

There are plenty of pieces to fall into place before that scenario is possible, with Madrid nursing a 2-1 deficit ahead of their last-16 return against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium next month.

The winner of the City-Madrid tie will face the victor from Lyon versus Juventus when the reformatted one-off final stages begin in Lisbon from August 12.

Ronaldo and his team-mates are 1-0 down following the away leg against their Ligue 1 opponents.

Those teams will do battle for a spot in quarter-final one, the winner of which will take on the team to emerge from quarter-final three, which was drawn as Napoli or Barcelona versus Chelsea or Bayern Munich.

Fresh from their domestic double, Bayern are strongly placed having won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in the initial match, although Lionel Messi and his colleagues have their encounter on a knife edge following a 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo.

The other quarter-finals comprise teams who have already booked their spots in Lisbon.

PSG overturned a first-leg deficit to knockout Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 and face the similarly free-scoring Atalanta.

The winner of that tie will take on RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid, who overcame respective Premier League opposition in the form of Tottenham and holders Liverpool in the previous stage.

Champions League quarter-final draw in full:

QF1) Real Madrid or Manchester City v Lyon or Juventus
QF2) RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid
QF3) Napoli or Barcelona v Chelsea or Bayern Munich
QF4) Atalanta v PSG

Champions League semi-finals

Winner QF1 v Winner QF3
Winner QF 2 v Winner QF4

Carl Robinson hopes Wolves keep star duo Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez, but the former midfielder knows the Premier League club may have to sell in order to improve their squad. 

Traore and Jimenez are reportedly attracting plenty of interest as Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves continue to challenge the Premier League's elite since their return to the top flight in 2018-19. 

Wolves, who finished seventh last season, are sixth through 34 matches this term and flirting with another European berth thanks to Traore, Jimenez and a star-studded squad, including Portugal internationals Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio. 

Jimenez – linked to Manchester United and Juventus – has scored 15 Premier League goals and tallied six assists in 2019-20, while reported Liverpool, Manchester City and Barcelona target Traore has set up nine goals and netted four of his own. 

While Traore and Jimenez could leave Molineux in big-money deals, Robinson insisted how Wolves reinvest transfer funds would be crucial in the club's bid to maintain their position and crack the Premier League's top five.

"The reality is, they've played fantastically well for Wolves this season, so there is going to be top clubs sniffing around them," Robinson, who made over 150 appearances for Wolves between 1995 and 2002, told Stats Perform News. 

"Wolves' decision will be: can they afford to keep them, can they afford to turn down these huge transfer fees and if they do and say we're going to turn down £70million for Traore, how can they invest and build the squad from where they are at the moment? 

"If they can't, they might have to look at the £70m and Nuno will ask the question, how much of that £70m can I have invested in the football squad because our starting point is lower than where we are today. That's why sometimes, unfortunately, managers lose jobs because their starting point is a lot lower, but expectations go higher based upon the club getting £70m and Nuno is spending £20m. 

"I hope they keep those players at Wolves because if they don't, there will be two major gaping holes. But I also understand football is a business and if they get £150m for two players, I'm not sure too many teams could turn that down. 

"You could bring in four or five £30m players. If you look at your squad, sometimes you have to go sideways, or backwards, to go forwards. But do it for the right reasons, do it because you're selling one of your key players knowing you have a youngster coming through in maybe 12 months.  

"That's an understandable plan you have as a club. That's why the executives and big boys are paid the big money, because they have to make major decisions. The buck stops with them. If they get it wrong, they lose their jobs." 

Wolves have come a long way since Chinese conglomerate group Fosun International purchased the club in 2016 – progressing from a mid-table side in the Championship to FA Cup semi-finalists last season and Europa League participants in 2019-20. 

Santo's side are six points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United with four Premier League matches remaining, while Wolves – back in Europe for the first time since 1980 – are preparing to resume their Europa League last 16-tie against Olympiacos next month after the competition was suspended in March due to coronavirus following the 1-1 draw in Greece. 

"When you have Mexico's number nine, when you have three Portuguese international players, the Portugal international goalkeeper in your team, when you have four or five other players who cost you £10-15m each, when you have Adama Traore, who you've managed to buy and develop and now maybe possibly on the verge of a move to Liverpool for £70-80m, you have a standard of players that are of high quality," Robinson, now head coach of Australian team Newcastle Jets, said.  

"When you have better players, they are able to win you games in moments where games are tight. Games are tight in the Premier League especially. The investment has been fantastic, not only on the field but off it.

"They've tried to regain some of what Wolverhampton is about – it's a good old honest, working men's town. It's not the city, the bright lights of London, it's Wolverhampton. When you go there, you see it and you're proud to play for Wolves. But you're only proud to play for them if you understand what they're about. 

"They've managed to be successful and compete at the top half of the Premier League. That's very important and it's great, it's got the interest back in Wolves. It's good when they see their rivals – Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Brom especially – languishing.

"Their issue now, and it's a good issue to have, is to maintain where they are and keep up with the big boys, they need to invest at the minimum level to what they've already invested. We see football clubs sometimes going out of business and drop. Hopefully Wolves will never be at the stage because of the continued investment. 

"Most clubs in football are feeder clubs and I'll say this with the greatest respect to other than four or five teams, and even Premier League champions Liverpool had to sell Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho. They might have to sell either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah because there are clubs bigger that can pay the money.

"As a club, you know if you're successful you will lose your key players. How you replace them is key. 

"Wolves are in a great place. Hopefully they can stabilise where they are for the next three, four or five years and then continually try to crack the top five or six, which won't be easy." 

Juventus pulled off a transfer coup when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid on July 10, 2018.

The Portugal great left Madrid as the club's all-time record goalscorer and seeking a new challenge in the autumn years of his career.

Ronaldo remains a master goalscorer and has quickly amassed an impressive record, with Juve in the box seat to claim another Scudetto in 2019-20.

Here, with some help from Opta, we look at the form that means the 35-year-old remains one of the very best players on the planet.

58 – Ronaldo's overall goals tally for Juve has come in 82 appearances.

0.71 – This amounts to a goals per game ratio below the 1.03 he averaged at Madrid, where he netted a scarcely credible 450 in 438 appearances

47 – His Serie A goals haul means he is already the top-scoring Portuguese player in the history of the competition. Since the start of 2018-19, it places Ronaldo fourth in Europe's top leagues, behind Lionel Messi (58), Robert Lewandowski (56) and Kylian Mbappe (51).

26 – This season, Ronaldo's is the first Juventus player to score 26 goals in a single Serie A campaign since Omar Sivori scored 28 in 1959-60.

25 – For the 10th time in his career, Ronaldo has passed 25 goals in a league season. No other player in Europe's top five leagues has bettered this, with Messi having also accomplished the feat on 10 occasions.

30 – For the 11th time in his career, the former Manchester United favourite has registered 30 goals in all competitions this term.

336 – No player in Europe's top divisions has had more shots than Ronaldo over the past two seasons. Only Messi (153) has more than his 133 on target.

5.5 – Ronaldo's shots-per-game average for the Old Lady, down on 6.3 at Madrid.

15 - His assist figure at Juve, from 122 chances created. That's an average of 1.5 per game.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubts he will remain at Milan if the situation does not change, while insisting neither he nor the Serie A club belong in the Europa League.

Ibrahimovic returned to Milan – where he previously won the Scudetto in 2011 – as a free agent in January after leaving MLS side LA Galaxy but there are doubts over his future beyond 2019-20.

The 38-year-old striker has scored six goals since his Milan comeback, rejuvenating the team and helping the Rossoneri – seven-time Champions League winners – move into Europa League contention.

Milan are seventh and just two points adrift of Roma and Coppa Italia champions Napoli through 31 league games after stunning leaders Juventus 4-2 on Tuesday.

Despite Milan's resurgence, head coach Stefano Pioli is set to be replaced by German Ralf Rangnick, who has been tipped to combine the role with that of sporting director, which is currently occupied by club legend Paolo Maldini.

Amid the uncertainty and chief executive Ivan Gazidis' reported plans to bring in Rangnick, former Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona star Ibrahimovic issued a warning.

"Ibra plays to win something or he stays at home," Ibrahimovic told La Gazzetta dello Sport's Sportweek magazine in an interview set to be released on Saturday.

"They told me that retiring in America was too easy, so I came back to Milan. I am here purely for passion, because I'm basically playing for free… Then this COVID situation stopped everything and I thought, maybe there’s something trying to tell me that I should retire…

"Fortunately, we got back on the pitch. My calf managed to get involved too, but after two days I was ready to come back into the team. Ibra is like that. But they told me to take it slow."

Ibrahimovic added: "Ibra was born to play football and is still the best at playing football. We'll see how I feel in two months. We'll also see what's happening with the club. If this is the situation, to be honest, it's unlikely you'll see me at Milan next season.

"Ibra is not a player for the Europa League and Milan are not a club who belong in the Europa League."

Quizzed on a reported confrontation with Gazidis prior to the Coppa Italia semi-final, Ibrahimovic said: "I spoke for me and for the team. I needed to have some explanations on the future, both mine and of Milan. I said that this is not the Grande Milan I once experienced, that is true, but we must do the best we can even in this situation. All the way to the end.

"Ibra is here, Ibra takes care of it. I have to be here or you'll lose the fans. I don't know if there will be another club after Milan, I never like to close doors to opportunities. I will only go somewhere I have some control, not where words are worth nothing. I still have too much passion for what I do."

Pioli only replaced Marco Giampaolo in October and while he has overseen an upturn in results, former RB Leipzig boss Rangnick has reportedly agreed to take over in 2020-21.

"Who is Rangnick? I don't even know who he is," Ibrahimovic added.

Last summer Paul Pogba gave an interview which shocked me as a Manchester United fan.

The fact that he wanted to leave didn’t come as a massive surprise, however, the fact he expressed it, was for me the ultimate show of disrespect to a club which I’ve been supporting since the Trinidadian striker Dwight Yorke joined in 1998.

Pogba, in Tokyo for a promotion, said "After this season and everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well ... I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else. I am thinking of this: to have a new challenge somewhere else."

What?! Where is the loyalty!?

As I said, he wanting a departure wasn’t shocking. His demeanour under the dour Jose Mourinho who dropped him like an unwanted case of the “virus” wasn’t healthy and it made the situation at Manchester United untenable. In fact, if Mourinho had been kept on as manager, the Frenchman would have likely returned to Juventus or gone to Real Madrid.

In September of 2018, Pogba went in front of reporters and openly called out the playing style under Mourinho after a 1-1 draw with Wolves.

“We should play much better against Wolves,” he said, “When we are at home we should attack, attack, attack. That’s Old Trafford. We are here to attack. I think teams are scared when they see Man United attacking and attacking. That was our mistake today. We’ve had three games at home and we’ve got only four points. It’s not enough.”

Three months later, Mourinho was sacked and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over as interim manager. And in his first 16 games, the Norwegian won 13 of them, before ending the season with 2 wins from 11 games. And it was during that summer break when Pogba made his comments in Tokyo. So when he said it was his best season at Manchester United, he was right. He led the club in goals, assists, completed passes, chances created, successful dribbles, key passes and shots on target.

Pogba was essentially a one-man show and he was tired.

As a fan, we expect players to show the same level of loyalty as we do. I was similarly disturbed when Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to leave for Real Madrid, when Roy Keane threatened to quit the club and when Wayne Rooney wanted to go… twice… thrice? I lost count.

However, all of them, superstars, were afforded the tools to be successful and they were! All three players hoisted both the Premier League and Champions League trophies. All three of them were part of great teams. All three of them were part of a structure envied by many teams.

So this is why criticism of Pogba who wanted to leave an ordinary team is unfounded. Football is the ultimate team sport. No matter how good an individual is, the team is only as good as the sum of its parts and the system in which they play. And Pogba, a player filled with ambition, missed what he had with Juventus, where he was one of the main men, and not the only man.

So when Bruno Fernandes arrived during the winter transfer window this season, Pogba raced to meet his new best friend and went out of his way to help him find somewhere to live. If Manchester United was a rehab centre, Fernandes was the drug Pogba wanted… such was his eagerness to help the Portuguese maestro settle. No relapse was to be expected here, as this was what Pogba needed.

And in an interview today with MUTV, Pogba gushed over his teammates, especially those in the attacking third.

“From behind I just enjoy it. I’m enjoying just watching Bruno, Rashford, Martial and Mason, who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals. You just keep applauding, it’s beautiful… they make me enjoy football every time!” he beamed.

“You can tell that the team is improving a lot,” he continued, “We play more as a team than we did before, we enjoy it, even more, we defend together, we attack together, and this team is stronger as well. The players who are on the bench or who don’t play every time, when they come on they help the team so the mentality is good and is right. All this together has put us where we are today.”

It’s clear that Pogba is driven by ambition which has to be reciprocated by the club. So bring on a champions league placing, a new contract for the Frenchman, Jadon Sancho and let the good times roll again at Manchester United.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Manchester City, Juventus and Barcelona will have home advantage for the crucial second legs of their Champions League last-16 ties after a UEFA ruling on Thursday.

Their respective clashes against Real Madrid, Lyon and Napoli are all on a knife edge after tight first games.

There had been talk of the return games possibly being played on neutral territory, as European football's governing body deals with how to finish its 2019-20 competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Champions League will be played to a conclusion in Portugal from the quarter-final stage onwards, and the Europa League will conclude similarly with its final rounds being played in Germany, with each competition aiming to complete by the end of August.

UEFA said it considered the "principle of sporting fairness" in reaching its decision regarding the last-16 ties that had started but were unresolved in each competition.

That means Manchester City will defend their 2-1 lead over Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium, Juventus will welcome Lyon to Turin, chasing a deficit after losing 1-0 to the French side in the first game, and Barcelona and Napoli will play again at Camp Nou after a 1-1 draw in Italy.

Bayern Munich, who lead Chelsea 3-0 after a successful trip to London, will take on Frank Lampard's side at the Allianz Arena.

The same rule will apply in the Europa League, although two last-16 ties in that competition have yet to begin and have been moved to Germany, where they will be played as single-leg fixtures, with Inter facing Getafe and Sevilla playing Roma.

UEFA said in a statement: "Consistent with the principle of sporting fairness and considering that current conditions - all clubs due to play at home the return leg of the round of 16 are currently playing the remaining matches of their domestic leagues in their own stadiums and that travelling is possible without restrictions for the visiting clubs – the UEFA executive committee decided that the remaining UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League round of 16 second-leg matches will be played at the home teams' stadiums.

"UEFA will continue to monitor the situation and reserves the right to reassign any such matches to the venues of the final tournament of the relevant competition should new events occur that would make it impossible to play one or more matches at the original venues."

UEFA said it would announce fixture details after Friday's quarter-final draws at its Swiss headquarters.

The governing body also said all its matches would be played behind closed doors until further notice.

"UEFA will monitor the evolution of the situation and advise on any full or partial lifting of restrictions at the appropriate time," its statement added.

Kai Havertz is reportedly ready to leave Bayer Leverkusen – and he knows where he wants to go.

The Germany international enjoyed another fine campaign with the Bundesliga club, leading to interest from across Europe.

And, it seems Havertz knows his preferred destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAVERTZ WANTS CHELSEA MOVE

Havertz wants a move to Chelsea and his agents have told Bayer Leverkusen he would like to leave if an important bid arrives in the next few weeks, according to Fabrizio Romano.

The 21-year-old is contracted at Leverkusen until 2022, but has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid.

Havertz scored 17 goals for Leverkusen in 2019-20, having netted 20 times in the previous season.

ROUND-UP

- Amid growing pressure on Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona have reassured the forward he has a future at the LaLiga club, according to ESPN.

- Real Madrid will listen to offers for forward Luka Jovic, according to Marca. The Serbia international has struggled during his first season at the LaLiga giants, scoring just twice in 25 games. Jovic has been linked to the likes of Milan, Arsenal and Newcastle United.

- Staying at Real Madrid and Sport reports the LaLiga leaders will target Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga next year.

- Paul Pogba may be happy to stay at Manchester United. Fabrizio Romano reports United have opened contract talks with the midfielder's agent Mino Raiola, with Pogba having been linked to Madrid and Juventus.

- Alexandre Lacazette could be set for an Arsenal exit. CalcioMercato reports Juventus have already started talking to the forward's agents about a possible move.

- Also in Turin, CalcioMercato says Juventus are considering a move for Atalanta left-back Robin Gosens if Alex Sandro decides to leave.

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