Real Madrid's top defensive transfer target is apparently known, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic may be set for Paris Saint-Germain.

While Madrid are said to be chasing a goalscorer, it seems they also have a defender in mind.

Meanwhile, PSG's interest in Milinkovic-Savic has reportedly been renewed.

 

TOP STORY – UPAMECANO MADRID'S TOP TARGET

RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is top of Real Madrid's defensive wish list, according to AS.

Upamecano, 21, has regularly been linked with a move, with Arsenal among those understood to be interested in the France youth international.

AS reports Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants to freshen up his defensive options.

ROUND-UP

- Contracted at Lazio until 2024, Milinkovic-Savic is still wanted by Europe's top clubs. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports PSG are interested in the midfielder, with €100million likely to be needed to land the 25-year-old.

- Valencia could be ready to let Geoffrey Kondogbia go. The Evening Standard reports they may be prepared to sell the midfielder for around £26.4m (€30m) amid apparent interest from Tottenham. Kondogbia is believed to have a release clause of €80m.

- Could Hector Bellerin head back to Spain? The Mirror reports Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are interested in the Arsenal right-back, who is a three-cap Spain international and started his career at Barcelona.

- Felipe Anderson has impressed at West Ham and is linked with a move away. The Mirror says the Premier League club could listen to offers of €47.8m (£42m) for the Brazilian, who is apparently wanted by Napoli.

- Chris Smalling may return to Manchester United after all. The Sun reports the defender, who has starred on loan at Roma, is set to head back to the Premier League club with the Serie A side unable to make the move permanent.

With most of the world still operating under lockdown conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, most professional sport is on hold for the foreseeable future.

Given the outbreak occurred at a particularly inopportune moment for top-level football in Europe, the situation has bred uncertainty across most leagues – including Spain's LaLiga.

Competitions in Europe are facing the question of whether finishing the season, regardless of the impact it may have on future campaigns, should be the priority once normality returns.

The current focus does appear to be on concluding the 2019-20 campaign. However, even with Euro 2020 pushed back by 12 months, clubs and leagues are still having to work to tight schedules, with UEFA hoping seasons finish by the end of June.

While the discussion over how to complete the schedule continues, the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes.

With all of the division's teams having completed 27 of 38 matches, their goal was to simulate how the rest of the season would pan out if the games were played now to produce a predicted 2019-20 table.

The statistical model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

BARCELONA CROWNED CHAMPIONS WITH 83 POINTS

The results in the statistical model see Barcelona crowned champions with a final total of just 83 points.

With 11 games to play, they presently lead rivals Real Madrid by two points, a gap that is predicted to have increased to four by the conclusion of the campaign, giving Quique Setien a first league crown.

Such have been the struggles of the big two this season, the final tally would be the lowest points recorded by a team to win the LaLiga since Fabio Capello's Madrid.

That team defeated Barca by virtue of their superior head-to-head record in a dramatic finish to the 2006-07 campaign, when the two sides accumulated 76 points.

It also suggests the chasing pack missed a rare opportunity to strike on a down year for both Clasico rivals, which will frustrate 2014 champions Atletico Madrid, who spent big on Joao Felix.

REAL MADRID FALL FOUR POINTS SHORT

The likelihood of Barca winning the title is 70.1%, with Real Madrid's chances rated at 29.9%. No other team is in with a chance of topping the table, according to the model.

But Zinedine Zidane's men are unlikely to face a challenge for second place, meaning they at least improve on their third-place finish from the 2018-19 season.

That third spot is poised to be grabbed by Atletico, who have a projected final points total of 65 and a 41.6% chance of claiming the position.

Atletico's closest challengers for third are predicted to be Sevilla (who are given a 26.1% chance) and Getafe (16.8%), with just two points separating those three sides in the final reckoning.

Diego Simeone would be thrilled with third place given his side went into the coronavirus-enforced break down in sixth, with Real Sociedad (9.1%) and Valencia (5%) the other teams in the mix.

UCL HEARTBREAK FOR LA REAL & GETAFE AS SEVILLA CLINCH 4TH

Sociedad and Getafe go into the break dreaming of a Champions League place amid fine seasons, but they are the two teams who will be worst affected by Atletico's predicted surge.

As part of a thrilling finish in the race for the top four, they are set to suffer heartbreak as Atletico pass them and they fall agonisingly short of catching Sevilla, who went into the halt in action sitting third.

Sevilla are anticipated to finish with 64 points, just one behind Atletico and one ahead of Getafe. 

Sociedad are then a further two behind Getafe with 61 as they are forced to settle for sixth, with Valencia staying in seventh on 59.

The four teams scheduled to finish between fourth and seventh all have a greater than 10.7% chance of finishing fourth, with none greater than Sevilla's 28.5%, so one bounce of the ball in a key game could still make an enormous difference.

Villarreal are predicted to finish in their current position of eighth, though they are given a 1.3% probability of breaking the top four.

Athletic Bilbao pass Granada for ninth position as Real Betis and Levante narrowly miss out on a spot in the top half.

Osasuna drop from 11th to 13th, where they are predicted to finish one point above Deportivo Alaves.

ESPANYOL SUFFER THE DROP AFTER 26 YEARS IN TOP FLIGHT

Mallorca, Leganes and Espanyol are the current bottom three in LaLiga and all are forecast to suffer relegation.

Espanyol have been in the top flight since 1994 but they go into the break six points adrift of safety and the model predicts they will be unable to make a great escape.

They are forecasted to collect 13 points from their last 11 games, but that is not even enough to get them off the bottom of the standings, highlighting the scale of the task they have ahead of them.

Similarly, Mallorca (36 points) and Leganes (35) are not expected to pick up enough victories to secure survival.

That means Celta Vigo, presently just one point clear of the drop zone, are predicted to survive with a final tally of 40, giving them a four-point cushion.

Celta are credited with 14 points between now and the end of the season to finish just behind Eibar (15th) and Real Valladolid (16th).

That means they would avoid a return to the Segunda Division, which is where they started the last decade.

Jadon Sancho is the name on everyone's lips.

The Borussia Dortmund teenager has taken Europe by storm and clubs are queuing up.

But Manchester United are reportedly at the front of the line.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED IN TOUCH WITH SANCHO AGENT

Manchester United have contacted Jadon Sancho's agent as they look to sign the Borussia Dortmund sensation, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Sancho tops the list of United's transfer targets following his exploits for the Bundesliga side, with Liverpool and Chelsea also reportedly interested.

But Dortmund – who will not stand in Sancho's way of a departure – are unwilling to budge on their €110million (£98m) valuation.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Chelsea are preparing a huge contract offer for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. It comes as the Blues reportedly look to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Juventus are interested in Achraf Hakimi, says Calciomercato. Achraf is set to return to Real Madrid following a two-year loan spell at Dortmund. Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked to the Moroccan full-back.

Inter have named their price for Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, Calciomercato reports. With a release clause of €111m, Inter want at least €80m in cash.

- Birmingham City's 16-year-old star Jude Bellingham is set to reject a transfer to United in favour of Dortmund, says Bild.

Tottenham and Arsenal, along with Crystal Palace and West Ham, are eyeing Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, according to Team Talk.

- Calciomercato claims Inter have not given up on signing Napoli forward Dries Mertens on a free transfer. The Belgian star is out of contract at the end of 2019-20.

Madrid is the preferred option for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, says Marca. Liverpool, Dortmund and PSG have also emerged as possible suitors for the 17-year-old.

- Corriere dello Sport says Valencia are eyeing Inter centre-back Diego Godin, who has been linked to United and Tottenham.

Roma are lining up a move for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, says Diario AS. Clubs in Brazil and Qatar are also reportedly circling.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

When Ferran Torres scored the fourth and final goal of Valencia's 4-1 Champions League win over Lille in November, he further enhanced his burgeoning reputation and announced himself to another mass of admirers.

While the goal mattered little in the grand scheme of the match, and it wasn't a contest that was likely to draw in all of the indecisive neutrals on that night, it gave him his own slice of history, becoming the first player born in 2000 to net a Champions League goal for a Spanish club.

His cool top-corner finish after an incisive run into the box will have been met with nods of approval from those being alerted to Ferran, but his talent was no secret at that point.

A skilful and direct winger capable of playing on either flank, Ferran appears destined to terrify full-backs across European football in the 2020s.

THE EXPLOSION

Despite only being 20, this is Ferran's third season in the Valencia first-team squad and he already has 62 LaLiga appearances to his name – 20 of which have been as a starter this term.

He had only played 12 times for Valencia's B team in the third tier before Marcelino Garcia Toral promoted him permanently to the senior side in December 2017, his LaLiga debut as the fifth-youngest player in the club's history a rare ray of sunlight as he came off the bench in the rain during a 2-1 defeat at Eibar.

"All of us within the club were sure that we were looking at a very high-level footballer," Marcelino told Panenka magazine earlier this month. "It was only a matter of time before he exploded, because it was clear this player had to play. He still has a significant margin for improvement, but along with [Martin] Odegaard, for me, he is one of the revelations of the season."

Ferran's form for the Spain Under-19s in July further highlighted his potential, scoring the both goals in the 2-0 final win over Portugal and earning himself a spot in the Team of the Tournament.

He has since established himself in Valencia's starting XI, taking full advantage of Goncalo Guedes' injury absence – but with great exposure comes a greater worry for Los Che.

TEEING UP A FRENZY

Ferran and his sister Arantxa have a tattoo in common. "An anchor. It was a reminder for us not to let ourselves be sunk by anything or anyone," she told OTRO last year.

Perhaps that should serve as a portentous warning to Valencia at this time, with Ferran's future becoming more uncertain by the week and his contract due to expire in 2021.

While that agreement is reported to contain a €100million release clause, Valencia would rue holding out for such a figure at this point, as to do so will surely see him ultimately leave on a free transfer next year.

Local sports paper Super Deporte remain optimistic, some might say naively so. His silence in replying to an offer "should not necessarily be interpreted as a no forever", they wrote this month, suggesting they are trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else. Strong reports elsewhere suggest he plans to depart.

If Ferran enters the final 12 months of his contract, a transfer frenzy is bound to occur, with Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester City all said to be keen admirers. 

The fact of the matter is, Valencia are running out of time. 

NOT THE FINISHED ARTICLE

There's no doubting Ferran's ability to excite – after all, only five midfielders in LaLiga have attempted more dribbles this season than his 92. But he certainly hasn't hit his ceiling.

Ferran has many areas in which he can improve, particularly with respect to increasing his chance creation frequency. 

Although his record of 21 opportunities crafted this term is by no means terrible, he is way behind Jose Campana (58), Lionel Messi (55) and Odegaard (54) leading the way in LaLiga.

His dribble map suggests a potential reason for this, as it shows that on many occasions he attempts to carry the ball, he is not in the final third of the pitch.

The greater awareness he requires should come with experience. It would be a bigger problem if he was struggling to ever find dangerous positions.

But he has touched the ball more times (51) in the opposing area than any of his midfield team-mates this term.

And while eight goal involvements (four goals, four assists) may not sound remarkable, that's only one fewer than Odegaard – a standout performer for many this term – and no one with more than eight is younger than Ferran.

Football may be on hiatus in most of Europe and across the globe due to coronavirus, but Fabian Ruiz's future is still making headlines.

The Napoli and Spain star has established himself as one of the best midfielders on the continent since arriving from Real Betis in 2018.

Now, Liverpool are desperate to prise Fabian to Anfield but they have competition.

 

TOP STORY – REDS MAKE FABIAN TOP TARGET

Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is Liverpool's top transfer target, reports The Express.

Fabian has attracted interest from his homeland, where LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling for the Spain international's signature.

However, Premier League leaders Liverpool are ready to pay £74million (€80m) for Fabian.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror says Manchester United – led by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward – have re-opened talks with star midfielder Paul Pogba's agent Rino Raiola. It comes amid uncertainty over Pogba, who continues to be linked to Madrid and former club Juventus.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave Milan at the end of the season, reports Sport Mediaset. The 38-year-old return to San Siro on a one-year and had been discussing a renewal before chief football officer Zvonimir Boban was sacked, angering the Swede.

Liverpool and Arsenal are among a number of clubs monitoring Eintracht Frankfurt's Evan Ndicka, claims Sky Sports. The defender has also been linked to Milan, Inter, Valencia and Sevilla.

- According to The Mirror, Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham have enquired about Barca's Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich.

United are confident of beating Borussia Dortmund to the signing of Birmingham City's 16-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham.

- Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard is being eyed by Arsenal, The Mirror reports, amid doubts over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aubameyang has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and United.

Deportivo Alaves have confirmed 15 players and staff at the club have tested positive for coronavirus.

Like the vast majority of European football, Spain's LaLiga is on hiatus at least until April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted several teams.

Real Madrid were put in quarantine after a basketball player at the club was found to have contracted the virus, while Valencia confirmed 35 per cent of tests on those associated with Los Che came back positive.

Some have put Valencia's high infection rate down to them facing Atalanta of Italy in the Champions League earlier this month – they were then Alaves' last opponent before the league was suspended.

A statement on Alaves' website read: "A total of 15 people have tested positive, three of them belonging to the Deportivo Alaves first team, seven more to the coaching staff and none to the basketball team. Five workers have also been affected.

"The club made the decision to carry out the tests with respect to the responsibility policy with the people who are part of our family and the results have shown that it was the best way to urgently locate the cases and implement preventive measures to reduce, as far as possible, more infections.

"The people detected are asymptomatic and in good health."

COVID-19 has infected 208,000 people worldwide since his emergence from the Hubei region of China late last year.

With 13,910 confirmed cases, Spain is the second worst-affected European nation behind Italy.

Valencia defender Eliaquim Mangala was taken aback by his coronavirus diagnosis and has still not experienced any symptoms as he continues 14 days in isolation.

Mangala was one of five first-team players from the Spanish club to test positive for COVID-19, with Ezequiel Garay and Jose Gaya the other players from that group to have confirmed their diagnoses.

On Monday, Valencia announced 35 per cent of all tests carried out on people associated with the club had come back positive.

Speaking to L'Equipe, Mangala said: "On Friday at the club, we did some tests, simple ones. I didn't have any symptoms, I was just like every day.

"So, when Sunday morning the doctor told me I was positive, I was shocked. I thought it was a joke at first. But when he talked about quarantine, for 14 days, staying away from my kids, I understood it wasn’t a joke."

Mangala detailed how he has managed to maintain a training routine within the family premises.

"I'm quarantined at home. I’m lucky, I have a house where my family can remain isolated," he explained.

"There is one floor where I stay, and my family is upstairs. We’re trying to avoid each other as much as possible.

"My day is simple : I don’t have any symptoms, so I can continue to train. They [Valencia] gave us a schedule. 

"With a mask, I go out in my garden to keep training. And then I watch documentaries, movies, I play video games. There’s Netflix, I read as well."

Spain is the second-most affected country in Europe by the coronavirus pandemic, with 11,178 reported cases and 491 deaths.

Valencia have confirmed 35 per cent of coronavirus tests conducted on people associated with the club have come back positive.

The Spanish club acknowledged there had been five cases of COVID-19 among first-team players and staff on Sunday, with Ezequiel Garay, Jose Gaya and Eliaquim Mangala all confirming their diagnoses.

Further testing has since led to "several" more confirmed cases within the club, who in the past month – including just last Wednesday – have played two matches against Atalanta of Italy, the European nation worst affected by the pandemic.

Valencia calculate they have a positive test rate of 35 per cent since facing Atalanta in Milan – an area designated as high risk for the virus – on February 19.

A club statement published on Monday read: "Several further tests for the COVID-19 coronavirus among Valencia coaching staff and players have come back positive.

"All cases are asymptomatic and those involved are currently isolated at home, receiving medical assessment and carrying out their scheduled training plan.

"Despite the strict measures adopted by the club after the Champions League game against Atalanta on February 19 in Milan – an area confirmed as 'high risk' by the Italian authorities days afterwards – which included maintaining a distance between the squad and club employees/the general public, these latest results show that the exposure inherent to such matches has caused a positive test rate of around 35 per cent."

With Spain in lockdown, the previous round of LaLiga fixtures were postponed and there will be no games this weekend either.

Spain has reported 9,682 COVID-19 cases, with 342 deaths.

Jose Gaya revealed he contracted coronavirus but the Valencia full-back called on Spain's population to think about the elderly and not collapse the healthcare system in an encouraging social media message.

On Sunday, LaLiga side Valencia confirmed five cases of COVID-19 among the first-team players and staff amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ezequiel Garay was the first LaLiga player to confirm a positive test before Valencia team-mate Eliaquim Mangala followed suit, and Gaya also announced his diagnosis on Sunday.

"I have tested positive for the coronavirus," the 24-year-old Spaniard wrote on Instagram. "I am isolated in my house and totally asymptomatic.

"Therefore, I want to take advantage of this social network so that we do not collapse our healthcare. Now it's the elderly people who need it the most, and it's the serious cases that need to be taken care of by our health heroes.

"I want to thank all members of the Spanish health service - cleaning staff, guards, nurses, doctors, ambulance and laboratory personnel.

"I also can't forget the security forces and all the people making it possible for us to be lacking nothing right now.

"They're the true heroes of this pandemic. Together we will be victorious."

With Spain in lockdown, LaLiga has been postponed for at least the next two rounds of fixtures.

Spain has reported at least 7,800 COVID-19 cases, with more than 290 deaths.

Globally, the death toll has risen to over 6,500 from almost 170,000 cases.

The coronavirus pandemic is still raising questions across sport, even with the global calendar decimated by cancelled and postponed events.

Coronavirus has, according to official figures, caused around 6,500 deaths from approximately 170,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

As the pandemic continues, there are going to be some big decisions made in the world of sport over the coming week, with UEFA's 55 members set to come together – via video conference – on Tuesday.

The fate of this season's Champions League and Europa League will be up for debate, while Euro 2020 is also to be discussed.

Here is a look at the latest developments:

 

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting with UEFA, Italian football federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina confirmed he will call for Euro 2020 to be postponed, in the hope that might allow the Serie A season to be finished in June.

This proposal will likely be backed by LaLiga boss Javier Tebas, who is convinced the top-flight season in Spain will be completed. Swiss FA president Dominique Blanc, meanwhile, has confirmed he has coronavirus.

It is not yet clear what will happen in the Premier League, with the teams set to reconvene for another meeting on Thursday and, after coming under criticism for stating that the season should be considered "null and void", West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady defended her comments.

"The Premier League and EFL are doing all we can to ensure the season is finished. Including suspending games, isolating players, and if required playing games behind closed doors and into the summer months," she wrote on Twitter.

"My point was safety of fans, players, staff come first and if the remaining games just cannot be played the only fair and reasonable thing is to declare [the] season null and void."

In a newspaper column, Wayne Rooney backed the decision to postpone fixtures in England, but criticised the Premier League and EFL for taking so long to make the call.

More players have confirmed they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay became the first LaLiga player to be named as having the illness, with the club adding four more members of the first-team playing and coaching staff had also tested positive.

Valencia's former Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala confirmed later on Sunday that he was one of those with the virus.

In Serie A, Sampdoria's Omar Colley posted a video to his official Instagram account in which he refuted his club's claim that he too had received a positive test result.

Meanwhile, Manchester United's Paul Pogba joined the raft of sports stars pledging to support people during the crisis, as he launched a fundraiser to mark his 27th birthday.

In France, Paris Saint-Germain announced they had extended the suspension of all club operations until March 18.

In the United States, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the first NBA player to be diagnosed with coronavirus – provided a positive update on his recovery, while also stating: "I wish I would have took this thing more seriously and I hope everyone else will do so because we can do it together."

Not all sport has been postponed just yet, with rugby league in both Britain and Australia continuing for now.

In Super League, Castleford Tigers ran out winners over defending champions St Helens, though in the National Rugby League (NRL), Melbourne Storm's Cameron Smith called for the competition to be suspended.

Round two is set to go ahead next week, albeit behind closed doors, while New Zealand Warriors have elected to remain in Australia rather than return to Auckland, where they would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Eliaquim Mangala confirmed he has contracted coronavirus, but the Valencia defender said he is "feeling good".

Valencia team-mate Ezequiel Garay – who was due to miss the rest of the season due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – became the first LaLiga player to confirm a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday.

The Spanish club later released a statement, revealing five members of the first-team playing squad and coaching staff had been diagnosed with coronavirus – though they did not name Garay or Mangala.

Former Manchester City centre-back Mangala, however, announced via social media he was one of five Valencia players to have tested positive.

"I knew today that I am #Coronavirus positive," Mangala, who has only made four LaLiga appearances this season, said in a Twitter post.

"I'm feeling good and I have no symptoms associated with the virus. However, I am confined in house and separated from my family.

"I learned that we can carry the virus without having symptoms, that's why I recommend everyone to follow the confinement measures and avoid contact with other people, as much as possible, even if you feel well.

"If everyone respect these instructions, together we will avoid the propagation as much as possible and fight to avoid transmitting it to people, who may have aggravating symptoms.

"Many thanks for your support message, take care of yourself and your loved ones and respect the confinement instructions to avoid the spreading."

Mangala spent five years at City before moving to Valencia in 2019 and the Premier League giants tweeted: "Everyone at Manchester City wishes you a speedy recovery, Eliaquim".

There have been at least 7,800 coronavirus cases in Spain, with more than 290 deaths.

Globally, more than 6,400 people have succumbed to the virus from almost 170,000 cases.

Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay has become the first LaLiga player to confirm he has contracted coronavirus.

The defender, who was due to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last month, made the announcement on Instagram on Sunday but said he feels "very well".

LaLiga is currently at the start of a two-matchweek break while the Spanish government is set to declare a 15-day national lockdown on Monday in an attempt to fight the pandemic.

Garay wrote: "It is clear I have started 2020 badly.

"I have tested positive for coronavirus but feel very well. Now it only remains to pay attention to the health authorities and, for now, be isolated."

Garay, 33, started 17 LaLiga games for Valencia this season and four in the Champions League.

Albert Celades' team are seventh in the Spanish top-flight, four points adrift of fourth-placed Real Sociedad. Their Champions League adventure came to an end last week with an 8-4 aggregate defeat to Atalanta.

Josip Ilicic said he improves with age after scoring four goals as Atalanta's fairytale Champions League run continued against Valencia.

Ilicic's stunning haul led Atalanta to a 4-3 win away to LaLiga outfit Valencia on Tuesday and an 8-4 aggregate triumph in the last 16.

The 32-year-old attacker became the oldest player to score a hat-trick away from home in the Champions League as Serie A side Atalanta reached their first quarter-final in Europe's premier club competition.

Slovenian veteran Ilicic also became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League knockout away game.

"Atalanta aren't a surprise any longer. We're doing great things and want to carry on," Ilicic, who scored in the first leg, said afterwards.

"We want to show we deserve to be here and improve day by day.

"I improve with age – I am having fun and want to carry on improving."

Atalanta continue to fly high this season – Gian Piero Gasperini's side having scored a league-high 70 goals to sit fourth in Serie A.

The Italian entertainers have also netted 16 goals en route to the Champions League quarters.

"It's never normal to score so many goals – often four – it truly is special, both in the domestic league and in the UEFA Champions League," head coach Gasperini said.

"We've won four games in a row, and the Champions League helps us improve. For now we're very happy with what we've achieved."

Atalanta have requested supporters do not celebrate their historic Champions League quarter-final qualification with public gatherings after Italy was put on lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side played out a thrilling 4-3 win over Valencia at Mestalla on Tuesday, with Josip Ilicic scoring all of Atalanta's goals in a wonderful individual display.

Victory secured Atalanta an 8-4 aggregate win, seeing them qualify for the last eight for the first time.

But the club has urged fans to not greet them at the airport or have public gatherings to celebrate, with a government decree on Monday putting the country on lockdown following the spread of COVID-19.

A statement posted on Twitter read: "Atalanta, in compliance with the Ministerial Decree of March 9, for the purpose of safeguarding public health, invites all people not to create gatherings in the center of Bergamo, at the Orio al Serio airport or at the Centro Bortolotti [Atalanta's training base] in Zingonia when the team returns from Valencia."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.