Neymar will be back in action for Paris Saint-Germain at Reims on Sunday, much to the delight of coach Thomas Tuchel.

The Brazil forward returns after a two-game suspension following his dismissal in a controversial clash with Marseille earlier this month, when five players saw red.

PSG have won both Ligue 1 games in his absence, with fellow forward Kylian Mbappe having made a goalscoring comeback in the 3-0 win over Nice last Sunday after completing his period of isolation following a positive test for coronavirus.

Tuchel said having the duo available would transform the way his side can play.

"Yes, when Kylian and Neymar play it changes everything for us," he said.

"If both play for us, it's harder [for the opposition] to defend and easier for us to attack.

"We found solutions without both. We started the last Champions League, the group stage, with matches without them.

"It [missing Mbappe and Neymar] is not the best thing. They are there to make the difference. They will start together, that's for sure."

Leandro Paredes, sent off in the same game as Neymar, is also back in the frame along with Abdou Diallo, who got his marching orders in the win over Metz.

But one player still missing is Angel Di Maria, who is serving a four-match ban for spitting at Alvaro Gonzalez in that contentious Classique contest.

While Tuchel accepts Di Maria's sanction was deserved, he vented his frustration at the fact PSG have seemingly suffered significantly greater suspensions than Marseille in the aftermath of that game.

"I can understand the sanction of Di Maria," Tuchel said. "He had a reaction that we don't like.

"[But] we have suspensions that equate to 14 matches, the other team [Marseille] has four matches. There is a big difference in the number of suspensions.

"I do not accept it but I have to and I do not understand. We have the impression that we are the only ones responsible for this situation."

Thomas Tuchel lauded Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria's powers of recovery after they inspired Paris Saint-Germain's 3-0 win at Nice on Sunday.

France forward Mbappe made his first PSG appearance of the season following a positive coronavirus test.

His return heralded by far PSG's most convincing display of their title defence to date, following back-to-back losses against Lens and Marseille before the last-gasp 1-0 victory over Metz in midweek.

Di Maria also tested positive for COVID-19 but has managed to play three games since his return despite minimal time on the training pitch.

The Argentina winger scored from the rebound in first-half stoppage time when Mbappe's shot was saved, with the ex-Monaco man having won and converted a penalty to open the scoring.

Captain Marquinhos made sure of the points with a 66th-minute header from Di Maria's free-kick.

"I'm not surprised no, but it's impressive," Tuchel told a post-match news conference when asked about Mbappe's display.

"What Di Maria did is not easy. Angel has played three games in a row starting after just one practice.

"He always shows that he is capable of doing extraordinary things. It's the same with Kylian

"He had a very good game. He has shown again that he can make the difference with his confidence and his hunger to score.

"He helped us a lot, that's clear. I am very happy. I saw a lot of effort from the team. It is a deserved victory, but it was not easy because Keylor Navas had a great game too.

"We now have a week to prepare for the next match."

Tuchel is glad of the seven days to recuperate before next Sunday's trip to Reims, his squad still beset by fitness and suspension issues due to the respective challenges of coronavirus and four red cards across the Marseille and Metz matches.

"We suffer a lot. I see we are really tired after this game," he added.

"But it's something important and it shows in our performance. I see that we haven't lost our state of mind. We are always ready to suffer and to work together. It's a great victory."

Kylian Mbappe impressed on his return to action as he helped Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-0 away Ligue 1 win over Nice.

The forward was making his first club appearance of the new season on Sunday after testing positive for coronavirus while on international duty with France.

Mbappe scored a penalty that he won himself and then saw his saved shot converted by Angel Di Maria on the rebound as two PSG goals towards the end of the first half proved pivotal.

Nice were not at full strength themselves due the impact of COVID-19 but Patrick Vieira's men were occasionally threatening until PSG captain Marquinhos headed in after the break to seal the win.

After Walter Benitez saved Di Maria's volley, the visitors lost Idrissa Gueye to injury midway through the half, with Ander Herrera replacing him shortly before a golden opportunity for Mbappe to open the scoring.

The France international looked sure to score after a wonderful passing move involving Mitchel Bakker and Mauro Icardi, only to fire over with a left-footed effort.

Presnel Kimpembe was somehow unable to get on the end of a Di Maria corner and later miscued another effort, before Mbappe atoned for his miss.

Seven minutes before the break, Mbappe confidently sent Benitez the wrong way from the penalty spot after a purposeful run into the box had seen him fouled by Khephren Thuram.

Herrera almost made it two but Andy Pelmard deflected his shot onto the post, before lively Nice winger Rony Lopes – who had earlier curled just wide – forced Navas into a key save after a great one-two with Amine Gouiri.

But PSG moved firmly into control one minute into first-half stoppage time, Mbappe's magnificent run and shot forcing Benitez to parry, with Di Maria on hand to power in on the follow-up.

Navas was impressively at full stretch to make a fingertip save from Youcef Atal after the break, while Benitez had to rush out to deny Icardi with his legs at the other end, with the former Inter striker hitting the post from close range soon after.

It was game over after 66 minutes, though, Marquinhos heading in a superb in-swinging free-kick from Di Maria.

A second Mbappe goal was ruled out for offside, while Navas saved well from Evann Guessand late on to preserve PSG's clean sheet.

Chelsea have completed the signing of French youngster Malang Sarr on a free transfer after the defender left Ligue 1 club Nice.

Sarr, a 21-year-old capable of playing in the centre of defence or at left-back, chose to move on from Nice at the end of the 2019-20 season following the expiration of his contract.

He has now joined Frank Lampard's side on a five-year deal, though he will spend the 2020-21 season out on loan.

"The opportunity to sign Malang was one we could not miss," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia told the club's official website.

"He is a tremendous prospect and we will be monitoring him closely during his loan period, hoping he will soon be back at Chelsea. We are very happy to welcome him to the club today."

Sarr, who has represented France at every level from under-16 through to under-21, featured 119 times for Nice across all competitions, scoring three goals.

The defender becomes Chelsea's fourth signing of the current transfer window, following on from Ben Chilwell – who arrived from Leicester City on Wednesday – Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.

Brazil stalwart Thiago Silva is expected to complete his move to Stamford Bridge on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days, while the Blues are also reportedly close to signing Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

Rony Lopes has returned to Ligue 1, joining Nice on a season-long loan from Sevilla.

The two-time Portugal international, 24, left Monaco for Sevilla last year, but made just 14 appearances for the LaLiga side in 2019-20.

Sevilla announced on Wednesday that Lopes was joining Nice, who have an option to buy the attacker at the end of the loan.

Lopes signed a five-year deal at Sevilla when he arrived in 2019.

Paris Saint-Germain will begin their Ligue 1 title defence at home to Metz after the French Professional Football League (LFP) announced its 2020-21 top-flight schedule.

The first round of matches will take place on the weekend of August 22-23, with the season set to conclude on May 23 next year.

PSG were awarded their seventh top-flight title in eight seasons after the 2019-20 campaign was abandoned and decided on a point-per-game basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The abandonment move has since been questioned amid other elite divisions in Europe successfully resuming their seasons behind closed doors.

An LFP vote sealed Amiens and Toulouse's relegation, with Lorient and Lens promoted from Ligue 2 in their place.

Lorient host Strasbourg on the opening weekend, while Lens are on the road at Nice.

The first Classique of the season comes in the third round of fixtures, with PSG welcoming Marseille to the Parc des Princes in mid-September. The return is billed for February 7.

Marseille start at home to Saint-Etienne, with Bordeaux and Lille hosting Nantes and Rennes respectively.

Lyon begin on the road at Montpellier, with the first of their always feisty clashes against Marseille coming at Groupama Stadium on October 4. The rivalry is then scheduled to resume at the Stade Velodrome on February 28.

Ligue 1 2020-21 – Opening weekend fixtures in full:

Lorient v Strasbourg
Nimes v Brest
Dijon v Angers
Bordeaux v Nantes
Monaco v Reims
Montpellier v Lyon
Nice v Lens
Lille v Rennes
Marseille v Saint-Etienne
PSG v Metz

Everton have confirmed the departure of Morgan Schneiderlin to Ligue 1 club Nice for an undisclosed fee.

Schneiderlin, 30, signed for Everton in January 2017, joining the Toffees from Manchester United in a deal reportedly worth up to £24million.

The former Southampton midfielder initially impressed at Goodison Park under Ronald Koeman, but struggled to keep up that form and found himself a bit-part player under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti.

He will now join Patrick Vieira's Nice, who finished fifth in the shortened Ligue 1 season in 2019-20, following the official opening of the international transfer window.

Manchester United could be edging closer to landing Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa.

Chiesa, 22, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Serie A club, where he came through the youth system.

And the Italy international could be on his way to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GETTING CLOSER TO CHIESA

Manchester United are pushing for Chiesa and their latest offer could be enough to start proper negotiations, according to La Nazione.

Chiesa has also been linked with Juventus and Inter with his contract in Florence running until 2022.

A 17-time Italy international, Chiesa has scored seven goals and provided three assists in 26 games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Joao Felix has yet to hit top form at Atletico Madrid. Goal reports the LaLiga club turned down a £135million (€150m) offer from a Premier League side earlier this season.

- Chelsea could yet strengthen further. The Daily Express says they are in talks to sign Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell, who is said to be valued at £80m. Chelsea will have Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner arrive at the club ahead of next season.

- David Luiz's future at Arsenal remains uncertain following his horror show against Manchester City on Wednesday. According to the Daily Mail, the Brazilian defender wants a two-year deal, rather than the one being offered. Luiz is coming out of contract at the end of the month.

- Could Edin Dzeko's time at Roma be coming to an end? Corriere dello Sport reports Roma need to qualify for the Champions League to keep the striker at the club. Dzeko is contracted until 2022, while Roma are three points behind fourth-placed Atalanta in Serie A.

- Morgan Schneiderlin is set to return to France. RMC Sport says the midfielder will leave Everton to join Nice, returning to Ligue 1 for the first time since 2008.

- Staying at Goodison Park and Everton have joined the race for Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu, according to the Mirror.

Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved sooner rather than later.

The England international is tipped to return to his homeland after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Premier League leaders Liverpool are reportedly at the front of the queue for the 20-year-old attacker.

 

TOP STORY – REDS IN POLE POSITION FOR SANCHO

Liverpool are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho is a player in demand, the former Manchester City youngster linked with a return to England via Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested, but Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be favourites to land the England international if Sadio Mane leaves Anfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims United are considering a move for Lazio striker Ciro Immobile. The Italy international has scored a Serie A-high 27 goals this season amid links to Liverpool and Napoli.

Chelsea are not close to reaching an agreement over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, says The Athletic. Chelsea have emerged as favourites to sign Havertz, who is also reportedly wanted by United, Liverpool, Madrid and Barcelona. But Chelsea – who are set to bring RB Leipzig's Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge – are apparently nowhere near matching Leverkusen's asking price.

- The Independent reports Dortmund are set to beat United to Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old is coveted by Dortmund and United, however, the Bundesliga side are viewed as the more attractive option to give the wonderkid game time.

- Could Dries Mertens leave Napoli for Barcelona? Mertens' contract is set to expire, though the Belgium forward has been tipped to sign an extension. Het Nieuwsblad says Barca could turn to the Napoli star if they are unable to prise Lautaro Martinez from Inter.

Chelsea believe Champions League football will convince Leicester City's Ben Chilwell to snub Manchester City for the London club, according to the Daily Mail. Chelsea have been linked to another full-back – France Football claims the Blues are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, who is available on a free transfer and wanted by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter.

- Tuttosport says Inter are targeting Nice centre-back Malang Sarr. The 21-year-old has also been linked to Pep Guardiola's City.

- According to The Telegraph, Barca are prepared to pay a portion of Philippe Coutinho's wage to help the Brazilian leave Camp Nou. Tottenham and Newcastle United are possible destinations.

Liverpool are eyeing a double transfer raid on Wolves for stars Ruben Neves and Adama Traore, says The Sun.

Arsene Wenger has warned about the motives of foreign investors in French football, suggesting a commission should be set up to ensure they are not solely seeking to make money. 

Former Arsenal boss Wegner, who now works as FIFA's chief of global football development, believes an increase in purchases from overseas sources can have a negative effect on the game if not monitored closely. 

Marseille, Bordeaux and Le Havre all have American owners, while Toulouse – who were relegated to Ligue 2 following the decision to abandon the 2019-20 top-flight campaign – are in talks with an investment firm out of the United States. 

In the Premier League, Newcastle United are expected to be purchased by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium. 

Wenger believes a process needs to be implemented to ensure "football culture" is not eroded away by those with eyes only on finances. 

"Unfortunately, I think today we are witnessing a reverse phenomenon," Wenger told beIN SPORTS. 

"For example, if you take French clubs, they gradually fall into the hands of people who are not real builders for the future of the club, but rather investors who seek to earn money very quickly. 

"We can see in France today there are a lot of problems at this level because the clubs are dissatisfied, the supporters feel that the primary goal is not to build a good team but to achieve financial game. 

"Perhaps we should create a Club Purchasing Ethics Commission to see what the real intentions of the people who buy our clubs are. 

"You can't squander a country's football culture just for financial reasons."

Patrick Vieira praised Mikel Arteta's impact on Arsenal, saying the head coach had brought energy back to the club.

Arteta has been praised since taking the helm in December last year, having lost just two of 15 games in charge.

Former Arsenal captain Vieira, who was also linked to the job, hailed Arteta for his work so far at Emirates Stadium.

"When you're a Gunner, always a Gunner, so I'm watching them all the time, I watch their games," the Nice head coach told Ian Wright in an interview for Adidas.

"What is really interesting with Arteta is that he brings the energy back and it looks like they are playing for the club, but for the manager as well, and I think that is really important."

Vieira has been at the helm of Nice since 2018, and was linked with a return to Arsenal after Unai Emery was sacked last year.

The Frenchman said he wanted to manage a big club, but he is happy at Nice.

"I really don't know what the future will be, but doing this job it was like being a player," Vieira said.

"I wanted to play at a high level, I wanted to play for the national team, I wanted to go to the World Cup, I wanted to play with the best players and there is no doubt as a coach I have the same kind of ambition.

"I would want to manage a team that will have a chance to win the Champions League, to play the Champions League competition.

"But at the moment, honestly, right here at Nice I am in the perfect place, perfect place because I can fulfil my ambitions, the club is really ambitious and the club give me the tools to grow as a manager, but to be a part of a winning team and to play good competitions as well.

"The team is growing up really fast, really quick and hopefully I can get my ambitions with OGC Nice."

Nice have declined to sign Moussa Wague, Adam Ounas and Riza Durmisi on permanent deals and allowed the loanees to return to their parent clubs.

The Ligue 1 club had options to sign each of the players as part of the loan agreements.

However, they confirmed on Tuesday that Wague, Ounas and Durmisi would be returning to Barcelona, Napoli and Lazio, respectively.

Wague, who joined from Barca in January, made five appearances in Ligue 1 before the season was suspended and later brought to an end due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His final appearance was in Nice's last game before the league was halted, in which he set up Kasper Dolberg to secure a 2-1 win over Monaco.

Durmisi played in four league games after joining from Lazio, while Ounas registered four goals and four assists in 19 domestic matches after arriving on loan last year.

Nice finished fifth in Ligue 1 after the final standings were determined on an average-points-per-game basis.

Malang Sarr will leave Nice at the end of the season after turning down a new contract, with Arsenal, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen among the clubs linked.

The France Under-21 international has long been considered a potential future pillar of Les Blues' senior side, such has been his development.

Now 21, centre-back Sarr is already in his fourth full season in Nice's first-team squad, having made the breakthrough in the 2016-17 campaign as a 17-year-old.

After making 35 Ligue 1 appearances last term, Nice managed to hold on to Sarr for the 2019-20 season and he played 19 times in France's top flight prior to the coronavirus pandemic bringing things to a halt.

With the Ligue 1 season now officially over, it appears Sarr has already played his final match for his hometown club, announcing he will not sign a new deal in an encouraging turn of events for many clubs supposedly interested in his services.

The pause in the football calendar (except in Belarus, of course) gives players across Europe plenty of time to reflect on their efforts so far this season.

While some have a few things to work on when matches return, there are others for whom 2019-20 has been a showcase of the very best they have to offer.

In the latest piece in our series, we look at the best-performing forwards in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.

Goals might be the most obvious (and fundamentally important) of metrics for these players, but the number of times the ball crosses that white line is not the only measure of their quality.

To that end, we have also examined seven other parameters: minutes-per-goal rate, shots on target, shooting accuracy, shot conversion rate, big chance conversion rate, dribbles completed and dribble success rate. And these are for those players to make at least 10 league appearances this season, to avoid any unfair imbalance in the results (we're looking at you, Florin Andone).

Without further ado, we present the most ruthless forwards elite-level football in Europe has to offer...

THE MOST RUTHLESS FORWARDS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

 

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals scored: Robert Lewandowski (25)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Robert Lewandowski (81.7)
Most shots on target: Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Marcus Thuram (76.3 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Paco Alcacer (35.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Rouwen Hennings (71.4 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Marcus Thuram (57)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Lucas Alario (83.3 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Lionel Messi (99.5)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Lionel Messi (68.9 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Lucas Perez (40.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Charles (83.3 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Lionel Messi (118)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Pione Sisto (76.9 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most goals scored: Kylian Mbappe and Wissam Ben Yedder (18)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Kylian Mbappe (84.1)
Most shots on target: Kylian Mbappe (49)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Mauro Icardi (37.5 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Moussa Dembele (72.2 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Neymar (90)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Zaydou Youssouf (85.7 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most goals scored: Jamie Vardy (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Sergio Aguero (87.6)
Most shots on target: Mohamed Salah (43)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Anthony Martial (68.2 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (36.2 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Harry Kane (70 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Cristiano Ronaldo (53)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Romelu Lukaku (65.5 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Jeremie Boga (106)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Sergio Floccari (72.2 per cent)

AND THE TOP EIGHT:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

Barcelona right-back Moussa Wague has joined Ligue 1 side Nice on loan until the end of the season with the view of a permanent move.

The 21-year-old made his LaLiga debut last April and was promoted to Barca's first-team squad ahead of the current campaign.

He has started a couple of league and Champions League matches in 2019-20, but Nice confirmed on Friday an agreement has been reached to sign the Senegal international.

Nice have the option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season for €10million, plus €500,000 in add-ons.

As part of the agreement, Barcelona have the right to trigger a €15m buy-back clause in Wague's contract up until June 2021.

Wague is the fourth player to leave Camp Nou on loan this month, along with Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Perez and Carles Alena.

Meanwhile, the Spanish champions announced the signings of Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on deadline day, with both players officially arriving at the end of the season.

 

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