If Paris Saint-Germain have their way, Lionel Messi will be playing for the French giants in 2021-22.

But will he be playing alongside Kylian Mbappe in Paris?

Real Madrid target Mbappe could stay.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI IN, MBAPPE OUT?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign Lionel Messi but Kylian Mbappe could remain with the Ligue 1 champions, according to reports.

Barcelona captain Messi is out of contract at season's end and has been heavily linked with PSG and Manchester City.

Le Parisien says there is no doubt who will replace Mbappe at PSG if he departs for LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though Canal + journalist Pierre Menes claims the French forward is interested in staying at Parc des Princes.

 

ROUND-UP

Madrid are considering a €45million (£39.9m) bid to re-sign Sergio Reguilon from Tottenham, according to Sport. Reguilon left the LaLiga champions at the start of the season, but Madrid have an option to buy him back within two years.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are eyeing Bayern Munich duo Corentin Tolisso and Joshua Zirkzee. Bayern are reportedly unwilling to let Zirkzee leave permanently.

- Sport 1 claims Borussia Dortmund are set to battle German rivals Bayern for Borussia Monchengladbach star Florian Neuhaus. The 23-year-old reportedly has a €40m release clause.

- RB Leipzig attacker Hwang Hee-chan could be loaned out amid links to West Ham, reports Kicker.

Inter and Lautaro Martinez remain in negotiations over a new contract, reports Calciomercato. Once tipped to join Barca, Martinez's Camp Nou dream appears to be fading due to the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Inter are not prepared to meet Martinez's wage demands at the moment.

Inter star Lautaro Martinez's future could be closer to being sorted, while Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez, 23, has been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona.

The Argentina international is contracted at Inter until 2023, but that could be set to change.

 

TOP STORY – INTER OPTIMISTIC OVER MARTINEZ RENEWAL

Inter are optimistic about reaching an agreement for a new contract with Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport.

The report says Martinez's agents met with Inter on Wednesday.

Martinez has scored nine goals in 18 Serie A games this season, having netted 14 in 35 in the league in 2019-20, leading to interest from Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Chelsea's struggles continue, Lampard is under growing pressure as head coach. Sky Sports reports the former England international will lose his job unless results improve immediately. Chelsea have lost five of their past eight Premier League games to slip to eighth in the table. The Independent, meanwhile, reports Chelsea are not interested in an interim replacement. Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl and ex-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri have been linked.

- Previously linked to Arsenal, Houssem Aouar may be looking elsewhere if he leaves Lyon. ESPN claims the midfielder is eager to join Barcelona or Real Madrid.

- Set to stay at Manchester City until the end of the season, Eric Garcia has been linked with a move to Barcelona when his deal expires in June. However, Mundo Deportivo says PSG are planning a move for the defender.

- Arsenal could make moves in January. Sky Sports reports they have approached Real Madrid about a move for Martin Odegaard, while Cuatro claims Sevilla are hoping to loan the midfielder.

A little before the midway point of the season, heading into Sunday's Derby d'Italia, you could argue Inter have Juventus just where they would have wanted them.

Antonio Conte was brought to San Siro in 2019 and strongly backed in the transfer market with the primary aim of ending the dynasty he launched back in 2011-12 in Turin.

Juve have won every Scudetto since then but are four points behind Inter having played a game less.

Unfortunately for Conte, the Nerazzurri aren't the only side with designs on ripping away the Bianconeri's long-held crown.

Milan remain top of the table despite succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to Juve earlier this month, where they were subjected to arguably the most authoritative display of the fledgling Andrea Pirlo era.

Nine points separate Milan from Atalanta, Napoli and Lazio in fifth, sixth and seventh. Like fourth-place Juve, the former two have a game in hand on the leaders.

Inter are their local rival's nearest challengers, three points from the top and three better off than third-place Roma, who were left with wounded pride by Friday's 3-0 derby defeat to Lazio.

Struggles for consistency and congested title races can be seen across Europe as the effects of truncated pre-seasons and packed schedules continue to shake out.

However, the firepower up front for Inter and Juve provides a strong case for both breaking clear of the pack, while promising a thrilling high-stakes shootout at San Siro.

Lukaku-Martinez partnership brings joy

Conte's second and final season in charge of Chelsea in 2017-18 was soured before kick-off as Manchester United beat him to the signature of Romelu Lukaku.

It was clear that state of affairs did little for either man by the time they finally came together at Inter before the start of last season.

Had Lukaku ranked himself as being among the top five strikers in world football, as he did last month, during the 2019 transfer window, plenty would have sniggered.

But the big Belgian has put a patchy spell at Old Trafford behind him to shine at San Siro.

 

Since the start of last season, Lukaku has 51 goals in all competitions - placing him fourth among players across Europe's top five leagues during that period, in between Lionel Messi in fifth and a certain prospective weekend opponent who is five goals better off.

While not quite as prolific, Argentina international Lautaro Martinez has been a more than able accomplice, racking up 31 in 73 matches over the past season and a half.

Nevertheless, despite this mountain of goals and Inter being Serie A's top scorers, there is a sense that Conte's front two could be more clinical.

No player in the big five leagues with 25 goals or more to their name since the beginning of 2019-20 has a lower shot conversion rate than Martinez's 12.4 per cent.

While Lukaku's conversion rate in 2020-21 is comparatively healthier at 27.9 per cent, in Serie A alone his nine goals from open play come in below an expected goals (xG) figure of 9.8 (Lukaku's three converted penalties do not figure in Opta's xG calculations).

The concern for Conte is that this relative wastefulness takes a heavier toll on the big occasion.

Inter crashed out of the Champions League after winning a solitary group match and have failed to win any of their four Serie A matches so far against last season's top six - a run continued by the raucous 2-2 draw with Roma last time out.

Ronaldo finds ideal foil in Morata

An obvious fear from an Inter perspective is that issues Martinez and Lukaku might have on the grandest stages will only be magnified by comparison to who they face this weekend.

No man in the 21st century has hit the heights of goalscoring obsession known by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even if Juventus do not have the rampaging version that thrilled at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ronaldo is raging against Father Time with utter conviction when it comes to putting the ball in the net.

Only Robert Lewandowski - way out in front on 78 - has more than the Portugal great's 56 in the big five leagues from August 2019 onwards.

Among that group of attackers with 25 goals or more, Ronaldo has fired off the most shots with 354. Messi (329) and Lewandowski (297) are not particularly close behind.

Chillingly for opponents, he has found much greater efficiency this season. Ronaldo's shot conversion rate is 23.5 per cent in 2020-21 so far, a 10 per cent increase on the prior campaign. His 11 open-play goals in Serie A have an xG value of 7.9.

 

If there is a new level of serenity to Ronaldo's play, part of the credit can perhaps go to the man alongside him. 

Alvaro Morata was the third corner of the tangled Lukaku-Conte transfer triangle back in 2017, his time at Chelsea proving to be as sapping as Lukaku's at United. A loan to Atletico Madrid arrived midway through 2018-19. 

Despite that move being made permanent, another loan back to Juventus came prior to the current campaign. 

Under his old team-mate Pirlo, Morata looks like a player reborn, scoring 11 times in all competitions. Only four of those have been in Serie A but his seven assists over the course of the campaign are already more than he managed in the past two completed seasons - casting him as the ideal supporting act to Juve's indisputable lead performer. 

One of the best five in the world, one of the greatest of all time, Argentina's next superstar striker or the quiet man from Madrid. On Sunday, one of them is set to step forward and add a key twist to a gripping Scudetto race.

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight home win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

Crotone struck first as a smart set-piece routine created an angle for Junior Messias to loft in a left-footed cross and find Zanellato all alone six yards out, able to head in via the post.

But Inter were level when Lukaku's excellent reverse pass set Martinez clear to fire right-footed beyond Alex Cordaz, and more fine work from the former Manchester United forward turned the game on its head.

Lukaku seized on Arturo Vidal's tackle in the midfield and fed Nicolo Barella, who was taken wide by a heavy touch but managed to cut the ball back for Marrone to stab into his own net in front of Martinez.

Vidal's next contribution was rather more rugged, however, as he stepped on Arkadiusz Reca's foot in the area to concede a spot-kick - awarded following a VAR review - which Golemic dispatched.

Martinez restored Inter's lead 12 minutes after half-time, keeping his cool on his left foot as Marcelo Brozovic prodded the ball on following a backheel from Lukaku, who got the goal he deserved soon enough, too.

The game's standout performer span away from Sebastiano Luperto and sold Cordaz a dummy to leave a simple finish, although he then indicated an issue with 15 minutes remaining and was quickly substituted.

Martinez remained on the pitch to nod in the rebound when Cordaz saved from Ivan Perisic, Lukaku's replacement, and Hakimi had the final say.
 

What does it mean? Your move, Rossoneri

Milan are the only remaining unbeaten team in Europe's 'top five' leagues but will have to maintain their pace to keep clear of Inter on this evidence.

The Nerazzurri have won five in a row at home in Serie A for the first time since 2018 and look a match for any opponent with Martinez and Lukaku in top form.

Landmark Lukaku looks the part

This was Lukaku's 50th Serie A appearance and his tally of 35 goals in that time has only been bettered by five players in the three-point era.

It was the front man's work as Inter's battering ram that was most impressive here, however, finishing with just a single assist from his only key pass but winning both his duels and holding the ball up brilliantly to create the space for Martinez to have seven attempts.

Marrone endures torrid time

Marrone's own goal under pressure from Martinez epitomised a dreadful outing for the former Juventus defender.

He might have found his own net again early in the second half and was a liability throughout despite weighing in with four clearances, three interceptions and a tackle.

Key Opta Facts

- Inter have won eight Serie A games in a row for the first time since December 2008.
- Inter have scored at least 40 goals in the first 15 Serie A games played for the first time since 1950-51 (45 in that case).
- Crotone have conceded at least six goals in a Serie A match for the first time in their history.
- Martinez's treble is the first perfect hat-trick from an Inter player since Mauro Icardi in March 2017 (vs Atalanta).

What's next?

There is no easing back into league action in 2021 as Inter are playing again as soon as Wednesday, visiting Sampdoria. Crotone host Roma the same day.

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

 

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has credited Jose Mourinho with turning him into more of a team player and sees similarities with Harry Kane's development at Tottenham.

Lukaku has been in fine form since joining Inter from Manchester United in August 2019, scoring 34 goals in 49 Serie A appearances.

That is a tally bettered only by Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (43 goals in 43 games) and Lazio star Ciro Immobile (45 in 49) over the same period.

The 27-year-old's return of one Serie A goal every 116 minutes for Inter compares favourably to his one goal every 179 minutes for United across two Premier League seasons (28 goals in 66 matches).

But Lukaku is grateful to have worked under Mourinho at Old Trafford, with the Portuguese now getting the best out of Spurs talisman Kane, who has nine goals and 10 assists in 15 league games this term.

"Mourinho taught me to work better with the collective, both in terms of pressing and to position me better on the field," he told Sport/Voetbalmagazine. 

"Just look at what he's doing with Harry Kane now."

Lukaku was not in the final running for The Best FIFA Men's Player award this year, which was won by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

But with 15 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions for Inter this campaign, the Belgium international feels he is certainly among the top five best strikers in the world.

"Now? In the past five months, yes," he said. "I don't want to rank that from one to five, but I'm a part of it right now."

Lukaku is now playing under Antonio Conte and is often partnered with Lautaro Martinez in attack for an Inter side one point off top spot in Serie A.

Inter scored 108 goals in all competitions in 2020 - their joint-most in a single calendar year since 1929-30 - while their 34 goals in 14 Serie A games this season are their most at this stage of a campaign since netting the same number in 1960-61.

Lukaku and Martinez have combined for 17 of those league goals in 2020-21, and the former United man was always confident he could strike up a strong partnership with the Argentina international.

"Before I arrived here, I watched some Inter matches and sometimes saw Lautaro only in the front," he said. 

"I immediately felt it could click if they put us in the rush together. Sometimes it's his day, other times it's mine. If you accept that, everything will be fine."

Lukaku added: "I used to find myself most dangerous when I was facing the target. I am fast, can eliminate my direct opponent with a dribble, or swerve to the left but also to the right. 

"That was my game in the past, also because I was often in teams that bet on the counter-attack. But the national team has obliged me to adjust my playing style.

"With Belgium, we quickly became the team with the most ball possession that got the least space. Roberto Martinez did everything he could to make me feel more comfortable with my back to goal, both with the national team and Everton back then. 

"At the age of 20, I still had a lot to learn, but I soon realised that if I would train on that aspect, I could do what I wanted in a match."

Milan Skriniar bailed out goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and maintained Inter's winning run in a 2-1 victory at Hellas Verona to keep the pressure on title rivals Milan.

The Nerazzurri were made to work for their seventh straight Serie A success - a result that took them two points above their city neighbours, at least until the Rossoneri hosted Lazio later on Wednesday.

Skriniar's 69th-minute header proved decisive after Handanovic had gifted an equaliser to Ivan Ilic, cancelling out Lautaro Martinez's second-half opener.

The defender's first Serie A goal since February 2018 brought to a close a promising first section of the season for Antonio Conte's side, able to take in the Milan match and enjoy Christmas regardless, firmly back in the Scudetto hunt.

A stale first half did not produce a chance of note until the 26th minute when Federico Dimarco got in on the left but found Handanovic to be his equal from a tight angle.

Giangiacomo Magnani enjoyed his physical battle with Romelu Lukaku, but a slack pass set Inter away and the striker squared for Martinez to stab goalwards and draw a sharp save from Marco Silvestri.

Verona could not keep the Argentina international at bay again six minutes after half-time as he ran across Matteo Lovato to meet Achraf Hakimi's cross and aim a volley beyond the goalkeeper and in off the post.

An inexplicable error let the home side back into the match, however, as Handanovic dropped a simple Marco Faraoni centre and Ilic was alert enough to beat Skriniar to the loose ball inside the six-yard box.

If Handanovic looked to his centre-back to share the blame, Skriniar responded in impressive fashion with a towering header that left Silvestri rooted and restored an Inter lead they this time would not relinquish.

Manchester United, Inter and Ajax were the big Champions League casualties as the group stage wrapped up - but who have been the stars of the show so far?

Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland featured prominently, scoring half of Borussia Dortmund's goals as they topped Group F.

But what should we make of Lionel Messi, whose three goals all came from the penalty spot for Barcelona? And were Inter incredibly unlucky to bow out?

Using Opta data, we took a closer look at how Europe's elite performed.

Haaland's hammer blows

The Norwegian's left foot is about the deadliest weapon in world football at the moment and it comes as no surprise to see him topping the scoring charts with six goals in four games.

That put him alongside Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, United's Marcus Rashford and Juventus striker Alvaro Morata, all of whom played more games and minutes than the Dortmund marksman.

Five of Haaland's goals came from his trusty left boot, and it continued his rich vein of form in Europe after he hit eight goals in six group games for Salzburg last season and two for Dortmund in the knockouts. The 20-year-old's Champions League goals this season have come at one every 57.5 minutes, and among players to have scored more than twice that minutes-per-goal mark was second only to Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (five goals, one every 28.4 minutes).

Yet when it came to overall goal involvements in this term's group stage, it was another Bundesliga star who led the way in Europe, with Alassane Plea of Borussia Monchengladbach tallying eight - five goals and three assists.

Germany had a productive group stage as Dortmund, Gladbach, RB Leipzig and holders Bayern Munich all reached the last 16 - the first time four teams from the Bundesliga have advanced since the 2014-15 season (Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund, Schalke, Bayern).

Haaland would have been disappointed to see Salzburg bow out, however, with the Austrian side becoming just the second team to score 16 or more goals in the first group stage yet be eliminated, after Chelsea in the 2012-13 campaign.

Messi's mixed bag

For the first time since registering his first Champions League goal in 2005-06, Messi failed to score from open play in the group stage.

From highs of eight open-play goals in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, his number crashed to zero this time even though Barcelona qualified with ease for the knockout stage.

The 33-year-old Argentinian stuck away a group-stage high of three penalties - a total matched by Chelsea's Timo Werner and Lazio striker Ciro Immobile - to ensure it was not a complete goal famine.

Going goalless was not for the want of trying - Messi had seven shots on target in this week's 3-0 defeat to Juventus, which is more than any other player has had in a Champions League game without scoring since at least 2003-04.

He also created more chances across the six games than any other player, with Messi's total of 16 putting him one ahead of Ajax's Dusan Tadic and United's Bruno Fernandes, both of whom only have Europa League football to enjoy in the new year.

Of those chances, however, only two gave Messi assists. Leading the way on that score was Juventus' Juan Cuadrado, who set up five goals.

Barcelona created more chances than any other team (84), followed by Real Madrid (77), Sevilla and Bayern (both 73). Eventual champions Bayern had 106 chances in the group stage last year, as they set the high standard they maintained all the way through the competition.

Barcelona also had the most opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' over this season's six rounds of games, with 26. They converted 46.15 per cent of those openings, which ranked them eighth among teams to have at least 15 – United led the way by scoring from 68.75 per cent of their 16 such opportunities.

Were Inter framed?

Inter could not get the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk this week that would have carried them through to the last 16, with Lautaro Martinez hitting the bar early on, extending his run of bad luck.

The Argentine striker hit the goal frame four times in the group stage, more than any other player and the most by anyone across an entire Champions League season since Robert Lewandowski struck the woodwork five times for Bayern during 2016-17.

Martinez only scored once as Inter bowed out, unlike Lewandowski who put away eight goals in nine games during that campaign.

Inter hit the woodwork seven times in total over their six games, the joint-highest number along with Real Madrid.

Paulo Dybala to Paris Saint-Germain?

Dybala, previously linked to Manchester United, Tottenham and PSG, is reportedly facing an uncertain future in Turin.

Juventus could be prepared to exchange players with PSG.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA OUT, ICARDI IN?

Juventus are considering a swap deal that would send Paulo Dybala to Paris Saint-Germain in exchange for Mauro Icardi, according to Calciomercato.

Dybala has struggled for form in 2020-21, while contract negotiations with Serie A champions Juve have so far proved fruitless.

Icardi was linked to Juve prior to joining Ligue 1 holders PSG permanently from Inter and the Argentina forward could swap clubs with Dybala.

 

ROUND-UP

- TodoFichajes says Arsenal are set to make an offer for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig centre-back and team-mate Dayot Upamecano has dominated headlines amid links to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but Konate is also attracting interest.

Juve are eyeing a move for Atletico Madrid centre-back Stefan Savic, reports Calciomercato. Savic has also been linked to Inter.

- A Bola claims Premier League champions Liverpool are interested in signing Sporting CP left-back Nuno Mendes.

Raul Jimenez to Inter? Calciomercato says Inter could replace Lautaro Martinez with the Wolves star. Martinez has been linked to Barca and Manchester City.

Lautaro Martinez's future continues to dominate headlines.

Martinez was tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona at the start of the season, but a move did not materialise amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Manchester City are emerging as a serious suitor.

 

TOP STORY – CITY WANT LAUTARO

Manchester City are continuing their pursuit of Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to the Mirror.

Martinez has been heavily linked with LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid and City, where Pep Guardiola is eyeing a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero.

The Argentina international has made his demands clear to Inter, who are hoping to re-sign Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are open to the idea of selling Ousmane Dembele, says Mundo Deportivo. Dembele was wanted by Manchester United prior to the previous transfer window closing and Barca are reportedly aware of contacts between the France international and the Premier League side.

Arsenal are ready to part with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, reports the Daily Star. Unconvinced about the Ivory Coast international, the Gunners are even reportedly open to a loan move amid links to Milan.

- The Sun claims Leeds United want Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui once fan favourite Marcelo Bielsa leaves Elland Road.

- The Mirror claims United want to sign former defender Jonny Evans from Leicester City. Evans – who won three Premier League titles at Old Trafford – left United for West Brom in 2015 before joining Leicester in 2018.

- Barca have offered Philippe Coutinho to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. Barca need to raise funds as they look to recruit Lyon captain Memphis Depay and City defender Eric Garcia.

Inter responded to their Champions League loss to Real Madrid by making the most of calamitous Sassuolo defending in a 3-0 win that lifted the Nerazzurri up to second in Serie A.

Antonio Conte's men have been troubled by inconsistency this season and are on the brink of Champions League elimination, but at top-four hopefuls Sassuolo on Saturday they produced a clinical and professional display.

Inter were 2-0 up by the 14th minute as a catalogue of defensive errors led to Alexis Sanchez – partnering Lautaro Martinez in Romelu Lukaku's place – finding the net and Vlad Chiriches' own goal doubled the advantage.

Sassuolo put the visitors under pressure for much of the second half, but Inter's uncompromising rearguard kept them in charge and Roberto Gagliardini made it 3-0 as they moved to within two points of rivals and pacesetters Milan, at least until Sunday.

Inter looked every inch a team with a point to prove early on and had the lead inside four minutes.

Martinez charged down Chiriches' clearance and raced onto Sanchez's subsequent pass, flicking the ball over the approaching Andrea Consigli before outmuscling the Romanian defender and ultimately squaring for his strike partner to tap in.

Chiriches' day got even worse soon after as he headed Arturo Vidal's fierce volley into his own net.

Sassuolo eventually forced Samir Handanovic into a couple of saves via Rogerio and Jeremy Toljan late in the half, though neither were particularly demanding.

But the home side struggled to make the most of their greater share of the possession and the game was effectively put beyond them with an hour played.

Gagliardini latched onto the bouncing ball just inside Sassuolo's penalty area and stabbed a clever volleyed finish into the bottom-left corner.

Lukaku was brought on with 10 minutes to go and quickly found the net after being fed by Arturo Vidal, though an offside call spared Sassuolo.

What does it mean? Inter finding consistency in Serie A as Conte gets it right

While their Champions League form is certainly an area of concern, having claimed just two points from four games, Inter are now unbeaten in five Serie A matches since losing to Milan on October 17.

It was not so long ago that doubts over Conte's future were being raised, but it is fair to say he got his set-up spot-on here. Inter were perfectly happy to allow the hosts to dictate possession, having just 35 per cent themselves, yet they still managed 11 shots and – crucially – scored three times.

Sassuolo were unbeaten in the league this term before Saturday. A 3-0 win in their own stadium is a fine feat for Inter.

Skriniar helps keep Sassuolo at bay

Although Inter scored three times, their defence was arguably more crucial than the attack. Milan Skriniar was the standout. The Slovakia international looked to be on the way out at the start of the season due to concerns over his suitability for Conte's system, but he showed his worth again here, making a couple of interceptions and a match-high eight clearances, while he was also tidy in possession.

An unfortunate day for Chiriches

So calamitous was Chiriches' start to the game that it was going to take something special to redeem him. He was not just at fault for the clearance before Sanchez's opener, he was also the defender knocked over by Martinez in the same passage of play, while he then put into his own goal.

He certainly tried to get back on track given he won 63 per cent of a team-high eight first-half duels, completed 90 per cent of his 40 passes and made two tackles and clearances, but injury ended his day just before the interval.

What's next?

Inter go to Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday knowing anything other than a win will see them dumped out of the Champions League, they then host Bologna in Serie A next Saturday. Sassuolo go to Roma a week on Sunday.

Forget Lionel Messi and Harry Kane, Manchester City reportedly want Jack Grealish.

Grealish, 25, has starred for Aston Villa this season and also impressed with England during the international break.

And the playmaker seems to have impressed City manager Pep Guardiola.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY TARGET GREALISH OVER MESSI, KANE

Guardiola wants Manchester City to make a move for Villa star Grealish, according to The Independent.

The report says Barcelona star Messi and Tottenham forward Kane were discussed as potential signings, but Guardiola is an admirer of Grealish.

Only Kane (nine) has more Premier League assists than Grealish (five) this season, while the latter has also netted four times.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City may soon have good news to report about Kevin De Bruyne. TodoFichajes reports De Bruyne has agreed to a new contract at City until 2025.

- Still linked with a move to Barcelona, Lautaro Martinez's future at Inter is unclear. However, FC Inter News says there is optimism Martinez will re-sign at Inter, who want to extend the forward's deal through to 2025.

- Having conceded 14 goals in eight Premier League games this season, Manchester United are reportedly considering moves for defenders. 90min reports Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres has moved top of their shortlist alongside RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano.

- As he struggles for game time at Inter, Christian Eriksen is being linked with a move. Tuttomercatoweb reports Borussia Dortmund are keeping an eye on the midfielder's situation, with the Bundesliga club having apparently been interested in the Denmark international during the previous transfer window too.

What does the future hold for Manchester United star Paul Pogba?

Out of form and out of favour, Pogba has found himself out of the starting line-up this season and the Frenchman is not happy.

Could Pogba be prepared to wait for his perfect move away?

 

TOP STORY – POGBA EYEING EXIT

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could leave Old Trafford on a free transfer, according to The Athletic.

Pogba left United for Juventus on a free transfer in 2012 before returning to Manchester for a then-world record €105million (£89.3m) in 2016.

But the France international is unhappy at the Theatre of Dreams, where he is contracted until 2022, amid links with former club Juve and LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport says Juve have turned their attention from Pogba to his countryman and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga. The 18-year-old has been tipped to join Madrid, while Paris Saint-Germain are also reportedly interested.

- Bayern Munich centre-back Niklas Sule is dreaming of a move to United, claims Bild. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United are believed to be pursuing a defensive partner for Harry Maguire, with Madrid's Raphael Varane and RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano reported targets.

Isco is ready to leave Madrid in January, reports Marca. The attacking midfielder has been linked with Everton, following previous links to Juve and Manchester City.

- Liverpool Echo claims Liverpool have been quoted £26.7million (€29.8m) to sign Ajax defender Perr Schuurs. The 20-year-old is also reportedly wanted by Milan.

Arsenal are working on a structured payment plan to sign Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai, says the Mirror.

Juve are targeting Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes, A Bola reports. The 18-year-old has also been linked with Milan, Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves.

Inter and Antonio Conte have reached an agreement over a new contract but Corriere dello Sport says there will be no contract extensions during the season. Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez is the most problematic case for the Nerazzurri.

Lionel Messi continues to dominate headlines.

While Messi decided to stay at Camp Nou, Manchester City are reportedly still trying to prise the superstar from Barcelona.

Could he be set for a mid-season switch?

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TARGETED BY CITY

Manchester City are expected to make a bid to sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi in January, according to The Sun.

Messi was tipped to join Pep Guardiola's City after handing in a transfer request at the start of the season, however, he opted to stay at Camp Nou.

City, though, have not given up on signing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner – who has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

ROUND-UP

- What does the future hold for Sergio Ramos? The Real Madrid captain is out of contract at season's end, and the likes of Juventus, PSG and Manchester United have emerged as possible destinations. Should Ramos leave the Santiago Bernabeu, Diario AS claims Bayern Munich star David Alaba could arrive as a replacement at Madrid. Alaba is also wanted by Juve, Barcelona and City.

- Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is desperate for a loan move and is willing to take a pay cut to secure a short-term exit, reports The Sun.

- Eurosport says Chelsea are eyeing a future move for Borussia Dortmund sensation Jude Bellingham, who only swapped England for Germany at the start of the season. Bellingham is seen as an alternative to West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.

Inter are keen to make head coach Antonio Conte happy by exchanging Christian Eriksen for PSG midfielder Leandro Paredes and swapping Matias Vecino for Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik in the New Year, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Nicolas Gonzalez continued his rapid rise and Lautaro Martinez was on target as Argentina maintained their unbeaten start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Peru.

Argentina's perfect record was ended in a draw against Paraguay last time out, however the Albiceleste stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 thanks to Gonzalez and Martinez in Lima on Tuesday.

Gonzalez, who scored in the Paraguay stalemate, opened the scoring with his second international goal in five appearances in the 17th minute before Martinez doubled Argentina's lead 11 minutes later.

With the result, Argentina remain second and two points behind CONMEBOL leaders Brazil through four matchdays.

Peru started on the front foot at the Estadio Nacional, where Christian Cueva appealed for a penalty inside the ninth minute but it was waived away by the referee, despite a pitch-side review – Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was adjudged not to have made contact.

Pedro Gallese did not have much to do, but he was forced to collect the ball from his net after Gonzalez capped a fine team goal – Giovani Lo Celso creating space in a sublime movement before laying off a pass with the outside of his boot as the former finished powerfully across the Peru goalkeeper.

Lionel Messi almost helped double Argentina's lead when he played a throughball for Nicolas Tagliafico, who was denied by a last-ditch block in the 24th minute.

Argentina, though, did get their second goal four minutes later after Martinez broke the offside trap, running onto Leandro Paredes' pass down the middle and rounding Gallese in a swift attacking move.

While Peru ended the half strongly, they had nothing to show for it, though they continued to build some momentum in the second half.

Lucas Ocampos almost scored a goal with his first touch, but Gallese made a fine save approaching the hour-mark, after Messi's exquisite pass almost released Martinez.

Messi tried desperately to get on the scoresheet, but he had his penalty appeals waived away and his goal-bound effort was deflected for a corner, while substitute Angel Di Maria was thwarted by Gallese.

 

What does it mean? Argentina roll on

Argentina are yet to taste defeat in four World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Not since last year's Copa America in July have Lionel Scaloni's side lost – a run of 11 international fixtures. It was also Argentina's first victory away to Peru since September 2004, having drawn three times previously.

Lo Celso shines in Lima

After impressing off the bench against Paraguay, Lo Celso was at it again from the outset on Tuesday. He helped set the tone with a wonderful assist – his quick feet, vision, composure and passing on display.

Subdued Messi wasteful

Messi was far from his best against Peru, but it did not matter as the likes of Lo Celso and Paredes stepped up. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was not without his chances, though Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer uncharacteristically saw two golden opportunities go begging in the second half. Messi has now gone three international matches without scoring.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action in March next year, the South American powerhouse facing rivals Uruguay and Brazil, while Peru will take on Bolivia and Venezuela.

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