Manchester United and Chelsea are set to do battle for the signing of West Ham star Declan Rice.

Rice, 22, is being touted for a move in the close season, with Chelsea having reportedly led the race for the midfielder's signature.

But United could be ready to fight for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO CHALLENGE CHELSEA FOR RICE

Manchester United are prepared to challenge Chelsea to sign Rice ahead of 2021-22, according to ESPN.

The report says United are eyeing a forward, centre-back and defensive midfielder as priorities at the end of the season.

Rice is contracted at West Ham, where he arrived as a youth player from Chelsea in 2014, until 2024.

 

ROUND-UP

- Eric Garcia looks set to finish the season with Manchester City. Marca reports Barcelona cannot afford a transfer fee for the defender and the delay of the LaLiga club's presidential elections, now scheduled for March 7, mean Garcia will have to wait for a move.

- Also at Barcelona and backup goalkeeper Neto has asked for a January move, according to Sport. It comes as he struggles for game time behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen and amid links to Arsenal.

- Eder Militao is facing an uncertain future at Real Madrid. Goal reports Bayern Munich have joined the list of clubs who have asked about the defender, with Juventus, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund also reportedly interested in Militao, who has played just three times this season.

- Milan want Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori. The Daily Mail reports the Serie A leaders have discussed a loan with the option to make the move permanent for €30.4million (£27m) at season's end.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to go through the gears as he attempts to steer Milan to their first Scudetto in a decade.

Ten goals in seven games from Ibrahimovic, at a rate of one every 53.4 minutes, has been a vital spur in the first half of the season that has taken the Rossoneri to the Serie A summit.

"Today I feel like a leader. I drive, the team follows me," the 39-year-old striker told Corriere dello Sport.

Fit again after a seven-week injury lay-off, Milan head coach Stefano Pioli will hope Ibrahimovic can resume leading the attacking line with his familiar panache as the season nears its halfway mark.

A scintillating start to the campaign will count for little if Milan tail off over the coming months, which Ibrahimovic acknowledged when he considered the prospect of earning a place in next season's Champions League.

Inter and Juventus appear to be the biggest threats to Milan's lead, which stands at three points after 17 games. Milan are next in action when they face Cagliari on Monday.

"It is early. How much is still to go? All the second half of the season plus two games," Ibrahimovic said.

"Furthermore, setting goals is like setting limits. I never do it. Second place is the first of the last. I want to get the best out of me and the team, every day, including training."

The former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain frontman is enjoying a second stint with Milan, after a fruitful first spell from 2010 to 2012, when he featured in that 2010-11 title-winning team.

"Ten years ago it was another Milan. But also the Milan that I found in 2020 was different. Always a very young team. We have worked, we sacrificed ourselves. Here are the results," said Ibrahimovic.

"We are doing great things, it is true, as it is true that we have not won anything. There is the desire to do more."

Dayot Upamecano is set to leave RB Leipzig – but not just yet – while Eric Garcia is getting closer to joining Barcelona.

Upamecano has been linked with several European giants after impressing for the Bundesliga club.

But the defender looks set to stay at the Red Bull Arena until the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – UPAMECANO SET FOR €42M MOVE

Leipzig are not considering selling Upamecano in January even though he can leave for £37.4million (€42m) at the end of the season, according to The Guardian.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have each been linked with a move for the France international.

Upamecano has made 21 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Garcia is seemingly getting closer to a Barcelona move. Sport reports the Manchester City defender is a step away from joining the Catalan giants on a five-year deal and Barca are hopeful a move can happen in January.

- Coming out of contract at the end of the season, Hakan Calhanoglu's future has been a talking point. Sky Sport reports negotiations are ongoing between Milan and the midfielder, who has been linked to United.

- Mauricio Pochettino seems eager to get Dele Alli to Paris Saint-Germain. The Guardian reports the Tottenham midfielder is PSG's main target this transfer window.

- Arkadiusz Milik is set to leave Napoli. CalcioMercato reports Marseille want the striker and had an offer of €8m rejected.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure, Chelsea were reportedly considering bringing back Avram Grant to support the head coach. However, The Sun reports the Premier League giants are not lining up such a move.

Erling Haaland is one of the sought-after players in world football.

The Borussia Dortmund forward can reportedly take his pick from Europe's elite.

But if his agent Mino Raiola has his way, Camp Nou could be Haaland's next destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND COULD LEAVE BVB AT SEASON'S END

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could leave the Bundesliga club for Barcelona at the end of the season, according to TV3 program Onze.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus following his exploits for Dortmund.

The Norway international forward reportedly has a €75million (£66.8m) release clause at the end of his second season in Dortmund, though he could depart sooner rather than later.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says United are not working on a deal to sign Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The Spanish superstar is out of contract at the end of the season, and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, City, Chelsea and Liverpool. A move to Liverpool is reportedly not on the horizon due to his role in the injury to Mohamed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final.

City have joined Serie A champions Juve in the race to sign Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports the Daily Mail.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb, Milan are set to meet with free agent Mario Mandzukic over the next 24 hours to discuss a short-term deal. Staying at San Siro and Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are close to signing Torino midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan with the option to buy.

Arsenal are interested in Barca goalkeeper Neto, claims Sky Sports. With backup Runar Alex Runarsson struggling in London, the Gunners are hoping to bring in Neto on loan.

- Marca reports Barca are targeting Valencia star Jose Gaya to bolster their left-back position, while Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza is another option.

Juventus are set to complete the signing of American defender Bryan Reynolds from MLS club Dallas, says Romano. The 19-year-old will join Benevento until June, before linking up with Juve.

Stefano Pioli was glad to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic get another 45 minutes under his belt in Milan's penalty shoot-out win over Torino.

Ibrahimovic, 39, made his return from injury off the bench against the same opponent in Serie A on Saturday, but started and played 45 minutes three days later as Milan reached the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory.

Milan head coach Pioli was happy to see the forward, who has scored 10 goals in seven Serie A matches this season, get more game time after being out for seven weeks.

"We wanted to give him a longer time compared to the previous championship game. We preferred to let him play from the beginning due to his characteristics," he said, via Sky Sport.

"This time will be used to improve his condition in view of the next championship match."

The clash at San Siro finished 0-0 before Hakan Calhanoglu scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after Ciprian Tatarusanu had denied Tomas Rincon.

It meant Milan reached the Coppa Italia quarter-finals for the 12th consecutive season.

"I am lucky to have a team that knows how to fight, knows how to play, knows how to grit its teeth in a difficult match even for the qualities of our opponents," Pioli said.

"For the many occasions we had, we could have avoided even reaching penalties, but we went beyond physical and mental fatigue and this is a desired qualification."

Milan, who are three points clear atop the Serie A table, visit Cagliari on Monday.

Milan booked a place in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia with a penalty shoot-out victory over Torino at San Siro following a goalless draw after extra time.

The Serie A leaders eased to a 2-0 win when the sides met in the league on Saturday but found it a lot tougher to break down their opponents - 28 points worse off in the league - in Tuesday's cup tie.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic squandered the best early opening on his first start since November 22 and Milan then dominated the second half, twice hitting the post and having a penalty shout turned down.

Neither side could find a way through in the additional 30 minutes, but it was the hosts who prevailed on spot-kicks to set up a tie with Fiorentina or Inter - Hakan Calhanoglu scoring the decisive penalty after Ciprian Tatarusanu had denied Tomas Rincon.

Despite the coronavirus situation, Real Madrid are still looking to make a splash in the transfer market.

Madrid have long been linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

And if reports are to be believed, the LaLiga champions are planning for the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WORKING ON MBAPPE MOVE

Real Madrid are working on a plan to sign Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, according to Tuesday's frontpage of Diario AS.

Mbappe – also linked to Liverpool – has been tipped to join Madrid, though Ligue 1 holders PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the Frenchman.

Despite the economic fallout caused by coronavirus, Madrid are still looking to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to player sales and revenue generated by the return of fans.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich have identified RB Leipzig star and centre-back Dayot Upamecano as the player to replace David Alaba, reports Sport 1. Alaba is out of contract at season's end and the Bayern star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City. With Alaba heading for an exit, in-demand Upamecano is wanted in Munich. It comes as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Barca vie for his signature.

- According to Esporte Interativo, Neymar wants to stay at PSG as the French giants prepare a new contract. Neymar has been linked with a return to Barca.

- Fabrizio Romano says an agreement has been reached between United and Bayer Leverkusen for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to join the Bundesliga side.

Milan are eyeing a move for Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori, reports Sky Sports. Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan remains the primary target for the Rossoneri. It comes as Fiorentina close in on Milan full-back Andrea Conti.

Leo Duarte has joined Istanbul Basaksehir on an initial 18-month loan deal from Milan.

The Super Lig side have the option to buy the 24-year-old permanently at the end of his loan deal on June 30, 2022. 

Centre-back Duarte joined Milan in August 2019 in a reported €11million deal from Flamengo. 

He made six appearances for the club last season – all in Serie A – and has appeared only three times this term across the Italian top flight and the Europa League. 

A Milan statement read: "The club would like to thank Leo for his professionalism and wishes him the best for his personal and professional future."

 

Dejan Kulusevski urged evergreen Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come out of retirement and play for Sweden at this year's rearranged Euro 2020.

Ibrahimovic has not represented Sweden in more than four years after retiring from international football following Euro 2016.

The 39-year-old forward – Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 62 goals in 116 appearances – has hinted he is ready to end his international retirement ahead of the European Championship as he continues to light up Serie A with Milan.

Sweden international and Juventus attacker Kulusevski talked up an Ibrahimovic comeback following Sunday's 3-1 win over 10-man Sassuolo.

"We write to each other. He is an idol for me, as hardly anyone in the world can do what he does," Kulusevski told Sky Sport Italia of Ibrahimovic, who has scored 10 league goals this season and 11 across all competitions for Serie A-leading Milan.

"When he speaks highly of me, it makes me work even harder the next day in training, because I am so proud.

"I really hope he returns for international duty with Sweden at the Euros. It would be wonderful for me and all of Sweden. Come on, Ibra!"

Juventus recorded their third consecutive league win for the first time since July after overcoming visiting Sassuolo in Turin.

Goals from Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo kept fourth-placed Juve in touch with Milan, after Sassuolo's Pedro Obiang was sent off prior to half-time – the defending champions are seven points adrift.

Ronaldo completed the scoring at the death as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner made it 15-plus goals in 15 different seasons in the top five European leagues.

Juve also conceded a goal in a Serie A home game while playing with a numerical advantage for the first time since October 2013 against Milan after Gregoire Defrel cancelled out Danilo's 50th-minute opener 13 minutes into the second half.

Kulusevski came off the bench to replace the injured Paulo Dybala before the interval and he added: "I had just one thing in my mind when I came on, which was to win the game. I could've done much better, but I am glad we got the points.

"I see myself at Juventus for many years. I see myself closer to the goal, where I can do a quick one-two with my team-mates. I enjoyed where I played this evening."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic can make the difference for Milan in the Serie A title race after returning from injury, according to team-mate Brahim Diaz.

Ibrahimovic scored 10 goals in six league games to help the Rossoneri make a fast start to the 2020-21 season, but injuries have hampered him since late November.

Milan have continued to prosper without the talismanic striker, yet Diaz believes the Swede can now play a pivotal role - and not just on the pitch - after making his comeback on Saturday.

The 39-year-old came off the bench in the closing stages of a 2-0 win over Torino, Stefano Pioli's side bouncing back impressively after Juventus had put an end to their unbeaten record in midweek.

"Ibrahimovic is a player who makes the difference," Diaz said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia.

“He transfers his great experience to us. Now that he is back, we will do great things.

"He has a winning mentality and forces you to always give your best, he wants the best of ourselves every day."

Diaz made his eighth league start of the campaign against Torino, playing a pivotal role in helping his team claim three points.

The Spaniard set up Rafael Leao for the home side's opening goal, then won the penalty that allowed Franck Kessie to double the advantage before half-time.

The victory moved Milan four points clear at the summit and with nearest rivals Inter only able to draw on Sunday, hopes are high they can be crowned champions of Italy for the first time in a decade.

"We are Milan, this word is enough to understand that we always want to win, then we'll see," said Diaz, who is on loan from Real Madrid.

"We can dream. We are a very united group and we want to do great things together. The best is yet to come, we are all fine and also I feel great.

"I am happy for the penalty which I won, for the assist and for the three points against Torino. If we continue like this, little by little we will be able to do more and more."

Stefano Pioli had no doubt Milan would produce an instant response to their setback against Juventus, though he was again left counting the cost of injuries and suspension following the win over Torino. 

Serie A leaders Milan saw their unbeaten league start come to an end in a 3-1 reverse in midweek, a game that saw Davide Calabria have to deputise in midfield. 

However, the Rossoneri continued their title tilt with a 2-0 triumph over Torino thanks to first-half goals from Rafael Leao and Franck Kessie. 

"I must admit, I was not at all surprised by this performance," Pioli told DAZN. 

"I know these lads and expected them to give this kind of a response. The first half was excellent, particularly in terms of quality, and we inevitably came under pressure during the second half against a Torino side in good form."

However, Leao will miss Milan's next game through suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while Sandro Tonali left the game on a stretcher and Brahim Diaz picked up a knock. 

"We don’t have any news yet, we'll have to see, they both got nasty knocks," Pioli added of the injured duo. 

"What does disappoint me is losing Leao for the next game, because I've never seen a player booked for simulation in midfield. I don't think that was in any way fair or a real understanding of the situation." 

There was some positive news as Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his comeback from a calf injury late off the bench having been expected to play no part. 

"We knew that if he passed the final test tomorrow in training, he'd be ready for a small portion of the game," Pioli said. 

"The muscular injury is behind him now, we will see what to do in the Coppa Italia. Zlatan is unique, we hope to have him in full shape as quickly as possible."

Andrea Pirlo warned the victory over leaders Milan will be "of little use" to Juventus if they fail to defeat Sassuolo on Sunday and says the Rossoneri remain the team to beat in the title race.

Champions Juve ended Milan's 27-match unbeaten run in the Italian top flight with a 3-1 victory at San Siro on Wednesday.

The Turin giants had eased to a ruthless 4-1 win over Udinese in their first match of the year last weekend and an impressive triumph over Milan served as a warning to their rivals.

Juve boss Pirlo stressed the importance of his side maintaining the high standards they have set when they take on a Sassuolo team that are just a point behind them in the table.

The former Italy playmaker said in a media conference on Saturday: "It was an important victory in Milan, at an important moment too, but if we don't win tomorrow, it will be of little use.

"I still consider Milan the team to beat, because they are at the top of the table."

He added: "We take our responsibilities. We have been winning for nine years, it is normal that there is pressure on us. I've asked the team to improve their concentration and mental strength, especially when we take the lead, that is a very important phase.

"We must have the same desire to achieve a result - whoever the opponent is - and then we will see where we are in April."

Matthijs de Ligt became the latest Juve player to test positive for COVID-19 this week, with Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro having missed the win over Milan after contracting the coronavirus.

Pirlo is not feeling sorry for himself after the Netherlands defender joined the list of absentees.

"The positive cases affect us, as they affect anyone. But let's think about moving forward, there are other problems," he said.

"I have four defenders, in addition to [Alessandro] Di Pardo, who can play on the flank. I will choose between them, because we are in the bubble and we cannot summon other players."

Pirlo will be able to call upon Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral at Allianz Stadium this weekend, while Alvaro Morata will be checked on to see if the striker can return from a thigh injury.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could feature for Milan for the first time in seven weeks when the Serie A table toppers host Torino on Saturday.

The 39-year-old produced scintillating early season form, scoring 10 goals in six top-flight matches following a bout of coronavirus to establish Stefano Pioli's side as the pacesetters in the Scudetto race.

However, Ibrahimovic suffered a hamstring strain after netting a brace in a 3-1 win at Napoli on November 22, before a calf injury in training last month further delayed his return.

Pioli told reporters on Friday that he did not expect the former Sweden international to return but he was listed in a 24-man squad published on Milan's website on the day of the game.

The Rossoneri's lead at the Serie A summit is down to a point after they suffered a first league defeat of the season at home to Juventus in midweek, the reigning champions running out 3-1 winners as Federico Chiesa scored twice.

Milan's form without Ibrahimovic this season has held up very well, with a 70 per cent win ratio in the matches without him edging 66.7 per cent from four wins and two draws with him on the field in Serie A.

However, Pioli's men average slightly more goals (2.3 to 2.1), shots (17 to 15.6) and crosses (12.8 to 11.2) per 90 minutes with Ibrahimovic as their attacking spearhead.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli claimed the experience of losing 3-1 to Juventus at San Siro was "healthy" for his side, saying: "We had not felt that for a while."

A Federico Chiesa double and a third goal from Weston McKennie ended the leaders' unbeaten Serie A record this season, consigning them to a first in 28 matches in the Italian top flight.

Milan had 20 shots, but Davide Calabria's equaliser late in the first half was the only one to find the back of the net and Pioli admitted his side were second best on the night.

"We have to tip our hats and give credit to our opponents for managing to get back in front," Pioli told Sky Sports Italia.

"We did what we needed to, created chances and inevitably allowed some, but after going behind for the second time, it became more difficult to get back into it.

"It was a very even game up until the second Juventus goal and I feel that's the moment that changed it.

"We were penalised by their quality in situations where we could’ve been a little more concentrated."

The defeat came on a night when Milan's closest title challengers and city rivals Inter were beaten 2-1 at Sampdoria.

Despite seeing his players miss the chance to go four points clear at the top of the table, Pioli reflected on the positives.

He said: "The lads had their heads down in the dressing room and were disappointed, but in a way it was healthy for us to experience defeat, as we hadn't felt that for a while.

"I gave them a pat on the back, said they ought to be proud of what they achieved in the circumstances.

"We proved that we are a strong team tonight."

Andrea Pirlo hailed the spirit in his Juventus team after they defeated Serie A leaders Milan 3-1 to continue their revival but said he is ignoring results of the teams above them.

The Bianconeri made it three wins from four league matches as Federico Chiesa scored a brace and Weston McKennie netted at San Siro as Milan's 27-match unbeaten run in Serie A was ended.

The result moved Juventus up to fourth in the table, seven points behind Milan with a game in hand, on a night when second-placed Inter lost 2-1 at Sampdoria.

"It was important for us," Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia, reflecting on the result.

"We weren't interested in the results of the teams above us, as we were concentrated on our own progress.

"We'll see in a few months where we are.

"The important thing was this spirit of a team that wants to be in control, especially against the Serie A leaders on their own turf."

Pirlo picked out Chiesa for praise after he took his Juventus goal tally to five since joining on a two-year loan from Fiorentina in October 2020.

The Juve head coach said dynamic attacking performances were the reason they agreed a potential deal to pay Fiorentina up to €50million (£45.3m) for Chiesa when his loan expires.

"We signed him so he could take men on in the final third," said Pirlo, who deployed Chiesa on the right wing behind a front pairing of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"His position might change, but his role does not."

Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci echoed his coach's call to ignore the results of teams around them, saying his team-mates are focused on Sunday's clash with in-form Sassuolo.

"Our objective is now to beat Sassuolo, that is all," said Bonucci.

"We have to get a run of victories to become more credible and even more of a team."

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