What does the future hold for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez?

The pair helped Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

But both could depart San Siro as Inter look to cut costs.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU AND LAUTARO TO LEAVE INTER?

Inter could be forced to sell star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Antonio Conte's Inter have been crowned Serie A champions this season, but the Nerazzurri have financial problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku has been linked with former club Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while team-mate Martinez has long been tipped to join Barca.

Alessandro Bastoni is also listed in the report amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, while star full-back Achraf Hakimi is said to be of interest to Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

 

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- The front page of Thursday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barca look at the idea of signing City's Sergio Aguero favourably. Aguero is out of contract at season's end and he has been linked with Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham. But the Argentina star reportedly wants to play alongside countryman Lionel Messi. A move for Aguero would not prevent Barca from signing fellow free agent and Lyon captain Memphis Depay. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is also a target for the LaLiga giants. It comes amid doubts over the future of head coach Ronald Koeman.

Manchester United and Arsenal are battling to sign Sparta Prague sensation Abdallah Sima, claims the Mirror. Sima is reportedly valued at £25million (€29m).

- Sky Sports says United are interested in Juventus defender Cristian Romero, who could cost £34m (€40m). The 23-year-old Argentinian joined Atalanta on a two-year loan deal from Juve and the Serie A side have an option to buy Romero. United have also been linked with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres and Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after emerging as a leading contender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

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- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City's wait for a third Premier League title in four years went on after they suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola's side do have an unwanted statistic to their name in that ratio, however, having now lost three of their past four league outings at the Etihad Stadium.

Another trend to continue was Manchester United falling behind before beating Aston Villa 3-1.

As the season reaches its final stretch, players will be well aware it's a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, one of the division's most noted pace merchants has proved again he is adept at lasting the course.

Using Opta data, we take a look at these talking points from the most recent round of Premier League fixtures.

Aguero's Panenka woe continues City's penalty torment

Sergio Aguero knows a thing or two about scoring the goal to clinch a Premier League title, so City probably felt they had the perfect man standing over Saturday's penalty against Chelsea, with Guardiola's much-changed side 1-0 up thanks to Raheem Sterling.

But Aguero's awful chipped effort gave Edouard Mendy chance to go to ground, stand up again and catch the ball – a moment of complete embarrassment for the Premier League's all-time leading overseas goalscorer.

None of the misses have been quite as, well, hilarious as the one Aguero conjured up, but he joins Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling in having failed from 12 yards this season.

These are not new problems, with those misses making City the first team since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95 to fail from four or more penalties in consecutive seasons.

Overall, City have missed 32 of 130 Premier League penalties, with Spurs (33), Liverpool, Aston Villa (both 34), Arsenal (36) and Manchester United (40) the only teams more profligate.

Of teams to have taken at least 50 Premier League penalties, Villa's 67.6 conversion percentage (71 from 105) is the worst. City have scored 98 out of 130 (75.4 per cent).

Marcos the marksman

When wing-back Marcos Alonso scuffed home Chelsea's winner at the Etihad Stadium, the inclination was to celebrate an "unlikely hero". However, the Spain international is no stranger to the scoresheet.

Alonso has now netted 24 goals for the Blues – the same number as Alvaro Morata and Daniel Sturridge and three more than Andriy Shevchenko.

In the Premier League era, only John Terry (61), Branislav Ivanovic (34) and Gary Cahill (25) have scored more often as Chelsea defenders.

Among his current team-mates, strikers Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, with 39 and 30 respectively, are the only players with more goals for the club.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the forthcoming transfer window sees Alonso go into next season as Chelsea's leading club scorer.

Premier League record in sight for Solskjaer's comeback kings

When Bertrand Traore put them ahead on Sunday, Villa might have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Sure enough, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani were on target after Bruno Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side now have 31 points from losing positions, bettering their previous best of 29 in 2012-13, when Alex Ferguson rounded off his celebrated tenure with one last title success.

In their four remaining games this term, United could overhaul the Premier League record of 34 points gained after falling behind, set by Bobby Robson's Newcastle United in 2001-02. Their 10 wins after conceding first in 2020-21 is already a competition best.

The Red Devils also claimed 24 points after going behind in 1999-00, when they retained the title. Arsenal emulated that feat in the same season, also doing so in 2011-12.

The equivalent of eight wins from behind has also been achieved by Everton in 2002-03 and Tottenham in 2010-11, the same campaign when West Brom turned deficits into 27 points.

Game of two halves for Traore

Coming from behind to win obviously requires a certain level of collective improvement throughout games. Individually, Adama Traore certainly seems to warm to his task as matches progress.

The Wolves winger netted the equaliser before Nuno Espirito Santo's men beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1.

That was his seventh career goal in the Premier League – all of which have been scored in the second half.

Traore's haul is the highest of exclusively second-half goals in the competition's history. His old Villa team-mate Rudy Gestede, former Middlesbrough midfielder Phil Stamp and ex-Newcastle and Ipswich Town forward Alex Mathie each have six.

Karel Poborsky, Gerald Sibon, Emre, Craig Fagan, Pablo Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Jose Holebas and Adam Smith all have five second-half Premier League goals, having never troubled the scorers before half-time.

Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

Liverpool kept their first home clean sheet in nine top-flight games as they overcame Southampton 2-0, while Leeds United cruised past Tottenham 3-1 at Elland Road.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

Stats Perform News uses Opta data to take a look at the best facts from the four games.


Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea: Aguer-woe for leaders as Blues hit back

City suffered more penalty woe as they missed the chance to be crowned Premier League champions.

It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

Aguero should have doubled their advantage before the interval, but his woeful Panenka attempt from the spot was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy. City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

There was worse to come for Pep Guardiola, who has now lost four home league games this season – twice as many as he had lost in any other campaign in his managerial career.

At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: Mane helps sink former employers

Liverpool kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive with victory at Anfield in the late kick-off.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: VAR bars Kane as Spurs suffer

Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors, but Patrick Bamford restored Leeds' advantage to move onto 22 Premier League goal involvements this term (15 goals, seven assists). Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have been involved in more (34).

Rodrigo then added a third late on as Spurs suffered a fifth defeat in 10 top-flight away games in 2021 – more than they experienced in the entirety of 2020.

Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Benteke helps Eagles deal with blunt Blades

After a run of three consecutive defeats, Palace could not have wished for more accommodating opponents than the already relegated Blades.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

Benteke has now scored more goals this season (seven in 27 appearances) than he managed in his previous three Premier League campaigns combined (six in 71).

Eberechi Eze continued his impressive season with a second late on. Only Wilfried Zaha (12) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Palace this season than Eze (four goals, five assists), while no Eagles player has laid on more goals than the former Queens Park Rangers man.

The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

Sergio Aguero has apologised to Manchester City's supporters after his dismal penalty in Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea. 

Pep Guardiola's side would have wrapped up the Premier League title with victory over the Blues in a rehearsal of this month's Champions League final. 

They would have been well on their way to sealing a third championship in four seasons had Aguero – who will leave City at the end of the season – added a swift second to Raheem Sterling's breakthrough strike on the stroke of half-time. 

Yet City's record goalscorer got it all wrong.

His tame Panenka attempt from 12 yards was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy, with Chelsea subsequently roaring back to seal all three points through Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso. 

City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first side to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Writing on Twitter, Aguero said: "I would like to apologise to my team-mates, staff and supporters for missing the penalty. It was a bad decision and I take full responsibility."

Guardiola refused to be too critical, saying: "Always I say to the player in the penalties, take one decision. Panenka, right, left, short, whatever you want, but commit.

"He was committed. If he misses it, he misses it. Everyone is disappointed but the first disappointment is for him."

Including his spot-kick, Aguero had two attempts on Saturday, while also creating two chances, albeit one of those came with his seemingly inadvertent assist for Sterling's opener – the 32-year-old taking a heavy touch when presented with a gaping goal.

He registered 23 touches in total, the lowest of any City outfield player to start the match, but did complete all 11 of his passes before making way for Phil Foden in the 70th minute.

Pep Guardiola had no doubt Raheem Sterling should have been awarded a late penalty before Manchester City went down to a 2-1 defeat against their Champions League final opponents Chelsea.

Sterling gave City a 44th-minute lead at the Etihad Stadium in a game where victory would have secured a third Premier League title in four seasons.

Sergio Aguero, so synonymous with such triumphs during his decade at the club, had a glorious chance to bring glory much closer when Billy Gilmour blundered into Gabriel Jesus, but City's all-time record goalscorer chipped a Panenka attempt into Edouard Mendy's arms.

Chelsea made the most of that let-off by turning in a superb second-half display – Hakim Ziyech equalising after the hour and Marcos Alonso sealing the points in stoppage time after Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi had efforts chalked off for offside.

However, Guardiola's post-match ire was focused upon a clumsy challenge on Sterling by Kurt Zouma when the England forward went through on goal in the 88th minute.

Referee Anthony Taylor opted not to give a penalty and the VAR did not think it was necessary for him to consult the pitchside monitor, which Guardiola felt would have painted a very clear picture.

"It's a penalty," he told Sky Sports when asked for his thoughts on why the spot kick was not awarded.

"It's a penalty, that's all. It's happened. It's football.

"Try the next to time to score our penalty and that's all.

"The opinion of the fourth official and Anthony, they know it. That’s all.

"Sometimes we make mistakes, maybe they believe they didn't make a mistake. Okay. I saw it on the TV and it's a penalty.

"You have to score, of course, but what can I say?

"In 21 days we are going to face them again in the Champions League, we have to learn from that. Now, we try for the three points we need to be champion."

How much of a psychological advantage Chelsea will claim for the European showpiece is up for debate given Guardiola made nine changes to the line-up that beat Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.

Still, Thomas Tuchel's side also beat a heavily rotated City in the FA Cup semi-final last month, meaning they should not be short of confidence the next time the sides meet.

It might have been very different if Aguero had opted for a more conventional spot-kick, but Guardiola – who reacted furiously on the touchline at the time – refused to lambast the striker, who will leave City at the end of the season.

"He is selfish because he misses?" he responded to a question making that suggestion in his post-match media conference. "If he scores he is a genius. That is the reality.

"Always I say to the player in the penalties, take one decision – Panenka, right, left, short, whatever you want. But commit.

"He was committed, if he misses it, he misses it. Everyone is disappointed but the first disappointment is for him."

Manchester City's Premier League title celebrations were delayed by a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday in a rehearsal of this month's Champions League final.

Pep Guardiola's side are on the brink of a third championship in four seasons but could not complete the job at the Etihad Stadium after Sergio Aguero allowed Edouard Mendy to save a tame spot-kick.

That effort would have added a swift second to Raheem Sterling's breakthrough strike on the stroke of half-time.

Instead, Chelsea rallied after the interval and scored through Hakim Ziyech – their FA Cup semi-final hero against City – and then, in the final seconds, Marcos Alonso to boost their top-four aspirations and keep the leaders waiting, unable yet to turn their focus to the European showpiece.

Although Guardiola's puzzling 3-3-4 formation initially had Chelsea on the back foot, it was a defensive mishap rather than a tactical manoeuvre that forged the opening on 44 minutes.

Andreas Christensen misjudged a bouncing ball and was brushed aside by Gabriel Jesus, who squared for Aguero in front of an open goal, only for Sterling to sweep into the net when his team-mate dallied.

Aguero did not have to wait long for his next chance, as Christensen hobbled off and Jesus tangled with Billy Gilmour before Chelsea were able to introduce a substitute, prompting a City penalty.

However, as Thomas Tuchel fumed at the officials, a dreadful Panenka attempt from Aguero was gathered by Mendy.

The shortcomings of the City system were then laid bare shortly after the hour mark when Rodri – their sole central midfielder – lost out to Ziyech and left space for a Chelsea attack which ended with the same man arrowing a low finish beyond Ederson.

Chelsea pushed for a winner but were twice denied by the offside flag. Timo Werner had already strayed before netting in the first half and did so again, before a closer call kept substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi off the scoresheet.

City furiously appealed for a second penalty when Sterling went down under pressure from Kurt Zouma, but the final twist was in Chelsea's favour as Alonso's scuffed shot looped over Ederson.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is reaping the benefits of taking a patient approach with the "absolutely sensational" Phil Foden, according to Stuart Pearce.

Foden has long been tipped for stardom with boyhood club City, having been part of the England squad that won the Under-17 World Cup four years ago.

However, he has had to bide his time to get opportunities under Guardiola, making just 12 Premier League starts prior to this season.

His lack of minutes led to speculation over possible loan moves to get regular football, yet the talented playmaker has instead remained at the Etihad Stadium to continue his development.

This season, however, Foden has become a key figure. The 20-year-old has scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists to help City enjoy success at home and abroad, with a league title within touching distance, the EFL Cup already secured and a Champions League final to come on May 29.

"Pep [Guardiola] was the only one who was patient [with Foden]," former City boss Pearce told Stats Perform News.

"When everyone in the media was fluttering around and wants him to go out on loan and making statements about what's best for Phil Foden, the only two that really mattered in this whole scenario was the manager and Phil Foden.

"Phil's had to be a little bit patient, but we're seeing the rewards now, he's been absolutely sensational.

"He's a regular starter for Manchester City, he's got the trust of the manager and he's had to work for that. I don't think that's a bad thing to be honest with you, the manager's handled Phil Foden brilliantly well."

While Foden is part of the long-term plans, a club legend is coming towards the end of his time with the blue half of Manchester.

Sergio Aguero will be leaving when his contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, ending a decade-long stay that will see him depart as City's all-time leading scorer.

Pearce – who spent a season as a player at City at the end of his career, then returned to take over as manager in 2005 - pinpoints Aguero's dramatic winner against Queens Park Rangers to seal the 2011-12 title as a pivotal moment, helping to lay the foundations for future success.

"His goal got the title for City some years ago which was the start of this journey that the club are on," the former England international said.

"When arguments come up about who’s been the best Premier League centre forward there has ever been, his name is certainly going to get mentioned, there’s no doubt about that.

"I was looking at his stats, someone asked me if I'd keep him for another year, and the important thing to do is to look at his stats.

"If you go back the last 10 years or so, or even more, he's played 30-odd games each year, sometimes 40, sometimes 50. That's a mark of a player that plays game after game after game, his goal tally replicates his appearance tally, near enough.

"He's been one of the best we've ever had, he's been a wonderful import for this country and he deserves all the accolades he gets. He will do at City, the fans know the value of Aguero."

Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe – the two parties have long been tipped to come together.

Mbappe is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 and no closer to renewing his deal.

Madrid are reportedly moving closer to prising the France international to the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE POISED FOR MADRID MOVE?

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is edging closer to joining LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap PSG for Madrid, though the Ligue 1 holds continue to try to re-sign the World Cup-winning forward.

PSG's Mbappe is determined to win the Champions League as he eyes the Santiago Bernabeu.


 

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- Le Parisien, though, claims PSG are holding out hope on teaming Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi with Mbappe and Neymar in Paris. Messi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he has been linked with PSG and Manchester City. Neymar has also been linked with a Barca return. However, Le Parisien reports PSG are prioritising a move for Messi while trying to retain Neymar and Mbappe.

Lautaro Martinez is on the verge of signing a new contract with Serie A champions Inter, says Gazzetta dello Sport. The Inter forward has been linked with Barca previously.

- Tuttosport reports star Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is a primary transfer target for Serie A rivals Juventus. Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international has not agreed fresh terms with Milan.

Borussia Dortmund will ask for less than €100million (£86m) to sell Jadon Sancho amid interest from United, Chelsea and Liverpool, says Fabrizio Romano.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are eyeing Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini as incoming Giallorossi boss Jose Mourinho looks to overhaul the squad in the Italian capital. The front page of Thursday's Gazzetto dello Sport, meanwhile, claims Mourinho is looking to bring Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Madrid's Isco to Roma.

- Soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero is dreaming of a Barcelona move, according to Romano. InterTottenham and Chelsea have also emerged as options for the veteran forward.

Maurizio Sarri is a candidate to take charge of Milan if Stefano Pioli fails to guide the Rossoneri into the Champions League, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Sarri was reportedly set to join Roma before Mourinho's appointment.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad are on Barca's shortlist to replace Sergio Busquets, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Will Lionel Messi stay or leave?

The superstar Barcelona captain is set to become a free agent, though the LaLiga giants are determined to re-sign Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested but Messi could reportedly extend his Camp Nou career.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET FOR BARCA STAY?

Lionel Messi is closer to staying at Barcelona than joining Paris Saint-Germain, according to L'Equipe.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with his contract due to expire at season's end amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Barca are keen to re-sign Messi, who is encouraged by the Copa del Rey triumph and Joan Laporta's plans, despite an offer from PSG.

 

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Barca have reached out to PSG regarding a possible reunion with Neymar, however, RAC1 says the Ligue 1 holders are not willing to sell the Brazilian superstar.

Everton are plotting a bid for soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero, reports the Daily Star. Aguero will leave the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer and the forward has been linked with Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter and Tottenham.

- Fabrizio Romano says Leicester City are working on a deal to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter and Napoli.

- The Sun claims Borussia Dortmund have joined United and PSG in the battle sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Milan ultras met with star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and demanded he sits out the fixture against Serie A rivals Juventus if he does not renew his contract. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and he is yet to re-sign amid reports he is in talks with Juve. The Italy international has also been linked with United, Chelsea and PSG.

United are prepared to sell Paul Pogba if he does not commit to a new contract, according to The Sun. Juve and Real Madrid are reportedly eyeing the French star. It comes as The Sun also claims United are not willing to part ways with Donny van de Beek following a difficult first season at Old Trafford.

Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City can get ready to pop the champagne corks, with their third Premier League title in four seasons "already there" after a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

City are one victory away from an unassailable lead and could be champions by the end of the weekend if Liverpool beat Manchester United on Sunday.

Guardiola does not care if his team are crowned without being on the field, telling a post-match news conference he simply wanted the title "as soon as possible" after second half goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres dispatched Palace.

"We can start to think about putting it in the fridge. Not yet, but we can put it in the fridge," he told BT Sport, before discussing his football-watching plans for Sunday – juggling preparation for Tuesday's Champions League semi-final showdown against Paris Saint Germain with keeping an eye on events at Old Trafford.

"It's [about] PSG right now. We start to see the game we played there [a 2-1 win on Wednesday] and what we have to do, but I will take a look [at United v Liverpool], yeah.

"The Premier League is already there, it is in our hands. We need one more victory or two points

"Now there is a game where we need to give absolutely everything to reach the final."

Aguero has been a marginal figure during his final season at City, grappling with form and fitness issues.

But his opening strike at Palace - a fabulous touch and half-volleyed finish from Benjamin Mendy's low cross – showed the value he could still have over the closing weeks of his City career.

"I'm incredibly delighted he is back. He was many, many times injured," Guardiola told reporters.

"In the last weeks he trained really well and he is another weapon that we have on Tuesday for our semi-final."

 

Aguero is now one behind Wayne Rooney's single-club record of 183 Premier League goals and Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to the 32-year-old, who is City's all-time leading goalscorer.

"He's an absolutely top legend, extraordinary, the most humble and nicest human being. That is not easy to find," he said.

"That's why I love him as a man. Another player in his situation, he could create conflict, he would create a difficult situation.

"When one guy is beloved, like he is by all our fans, it is not just for the scoring 1,000 million goals, that is the truth. It is because he has something that the people realise, that you cannot hide away, as a person.

"This season, we took a decision, a difficult one - one of the toughest ones I took, especially because he was injured a long time. This club, next season need to make another step and maintain this level for a longer time.

"But what he has done in this club remains, will remain forever and we want to finish the best way as possible.

"He's going to help us in the Champions League [and] is going to help us in the Premier League to finish it."

Sergio Aguero reminded Pep Guardiola that he is "always ready" for action, even as his Manchester City career winds down.

Knee and hamstring problems on the back of meniscus surgery last June have hindered Aguero during his 10th and final season at the Etihad Stadium.

However, the Argentina striker produced some of his vintage best on Saturday, taking a single touch to control Benjamin Mendy's cross before netting a blistering half-volley to open the scoring in City's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

The result means Guardiola's side are within two points of the Premier League title and their status as champions will be confirmed if Liverpool beat Manchester United on Sunday.

"Yeah, finally I could play so I am so happy," Aguero told BT Sport.

"All the time not playing 90 minutes… the goal is good. Maybe we can win the Premier League tomorrow.

"Always Mendy tries to pass to me. [That was] the only one inside the box, I needed one touch or two touches – that is my show.

"Finally I got the goal, I am happy for that."

It was only Aguero's second Premier League goal of the campaign and first from open play.

He was only starting due to Guardiola's decision to make eight changes to the side that beat Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, with City defending a 2-1 advantage back in Manchester on Tuesday.

Aguero, whose 182 Premier League goals for City overall is only one shy of Wayne Rooney's single-club record of 183 set at Manchester United, believes he can still be the man for the big occasion before his contract expires next month.

"Always I'm ready. Like I said before, I'm feeling good, my knee is so good," he said.

"I just wait for the opportunity to play like today. If on Tuesday, I don't play, it doesn't matter - I want to be with my team-mates.

"Every player wants to play, but we'll see."

Manchester City could be crowned Premier League champions by the end of this weekend after Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres secured a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

Aguero, City's all-time record goalscorer, will leave the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires next month and has endured a campaign ruined by fitness issues.

But the Argentina striker relocated some of the old magic with a sublime touch and thumping finish to find a 57th-minute breakthrough and his second league goal of the campaign.

There were just 83 seconds between Aguero's opener and Torres' calmly taken second, and City will win the title for a third time in four seasons if Liverpool beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Palace full-back Tyrick Mitchell made an important block when Torres met Benjamin Mendy's ninth-minute cross on the volley.

Raheem Sterling darted onto Aymeric Laporte's lofted pass and inside a couple of Palace challenges, but Mitchell was able to get back for another vital intervention.

Christian Benteke had a chance to breakthrough before the half hour – the Belgian striker's shot on the turn smothered at close quarters by Ederson.

As their phalanx of playmakers rested up on the bench, City struggled for their usual fluency. Gabriel Jesus volleyed home Fernandinho's 36th-minute cross but had strayed needlessly offside.

With attempted intricacy failing, Aguero opted for something more uncomplicated – in terms of conception rather than execution – when he controlled Mendy's low cross then thumped a half-volley past the helpless Vicente Guaita.

City's four-pronged attack went for the kill and Aguero was involved once more in a swarming attack as Torres picked out the bottom left corner from the edge of the area.

As in their 2-1 Champions League semi-final first-leg win at Paris Saint-Germain, City were a team transformed after the break. Sterling thumped Jesus' pass against the base of the post and Benteke made the last-ditch block to prevent last weekend's EFL Cup final hero Laporte from adding to his tally.

Joao Cancelo thundered just over from a Torres backheel and Sterling curled agonisingly wide as Guardiola's men swaggered towards full-time and overall glory.

Speculation is beginning to grow around the vacant Tottenham coaching position after Jose Mourinho's exit last week.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is on the hunt as Spurs try to return to England's top echelon.

Spurs appear set to miss out on Champions League football for the second straight season.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS PLOT RODGERS SWOOP

Tottenham are planning a move to recruit Brendan Rodgers from Leicester City as their new head coach this off-season according to The Sun.

Levy is a long-time admirer of the former Liverpool coach although he reportedly needs to convince his fellow Spurs board executives after disparaging comments Rodgers made about the club years ago.

Rodgers has been in charge of Leicester since 2019 with the Foxes firmly in the hunt for a top four finish this term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Borussia Monchengladbach forward Alassane Plea is being tracked by Premier League pair Arsenal and Manchester United claims the Mail.

- Inter Milan are interested in outgoing Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, but Barcelona remain favourites to land him reports Tuttosport.

- The Sun reports Manchester United could make a surprise move for 35-year-old goalkeeper Tom Heaton who spent time with the club as a youngster and is currently back-up at Aston Villa.

- Ajax are ready to sell full-back Nicolas Tagliafico as his admirers circle, including Leeds United, Inter Milan and Manchester City according to the Mail.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are back in training ahead of Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's side are aiming to win the trophy for a fourth consecutive season, returning to Wembley eight days after a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The pain of that defeat was compounded by star midfielder De Bruyne hobbling off with an ankle injury, although the problem is not as bad as first feared.

De Bruyne sat out Wednesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but resumed work with Guardiola's first-team squad alongside Aguero.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured a final campaign at the Etihad Stadium beset by knee and hamstring issues after meniscus surgery last June, while he also suffered the effects of coronavirus.

"Both [De Bruyne and Aguero] they are training today," Guardiola said, meaning each man appears to have better prospects than Harry Kane, who was unable to take part in Tottenham's Friday session.

"Today was the first training session after the last two weeks [for Aguero]. Tomorrow he will have the last training session and we are going to decide."

Final successes in the past three campaigns over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa mean City can become the second team in history after Liverpool between 1981 and 1984 to lift the cup for a fourth season in a row.

However, as was the case in the Chelsea reverse, Guardiola hinted there might be wholesale changes as he casts an eye towards Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

"We've said many times. every game must be taken seriously. But the Premier League is the most important competition this season. After that it is the Champions League, the FA Cup and after the Carabao Cup," he said.

"When you play this competition at the beginning of the season when every player is fit, it is perfect to rotate and everybody can be involved.

"We have to play right now in the middle of the decisive part of the season. I would say the Premier League is the first title of the season and the second to qualify for the Champions League – ask all the teams who are fighting to qualify for next season.

"Once we are there and arrive in this position, normally the Carabao Cup is over, but now we are going to play [the final] in the middle part of the important part of the Premier League season. And three days before, like a dream come true at the end [of the season], we play the semi-final of the Champions League."

Guardiola added: "That’s why we have a mix of contradiction; that it's a final we have to win, but we have one eye on the Champions League and one eye on Crystal Palace [in the Premier League next weekend].

"Carabao Cup is nice - we want the four, we will play to win the fourth. But PSG and Palace are there and PSG [in the second leg] is there. We'll see what happens on Sunday."

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