Manuel Locatelli is hot property after helping Italy win Euro 2020.

The Sassuolo midfielder is understood to have an ambition to play Champions League football in 2021-22.

Sassuolo are ready to cash in on their prized asset with interest coming in.

 

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS RAMP UP LOCATELLI INTEREST

Juventus are ready to usurp Arsenal in the hunt for Sassuolo's Italy international Locatelli, according to The Guardian.

Sassuolo want €40 million (£34.3 million) for the midfielder but Juventus offered €30m as a loan for the 2021-22 season with an option to buy, which Sassuolo declined, insisting they want an outright transfer.

Arsenal were previously understood to be in the box seat to sign Locatelli, given they are prepared to pay their asking price, but Juve's interest may have changed that situation.

ROUND-UP

- New Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot, claims Mundo Deportivo. Dalot spent last season on loan with Milan.

- Jose Mourinho's Roma have joined the race to sign Villarreal's 25-year-old winger Alfonso Pedraza, according to Calciomercato. ChelseaMilan and Barcelona are also keen on the Europa League winner, who can play at left-back.

- L'Equipe reports Chelsea have offered Bayern Munich a player swap deal with Callum Hudson-Odoi in exchange for Kingsley Coman.

- The Daily Express claims Brighton and Hove Albion will prepare a move for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard once the reported £50m sale of Ben White to Arsenal goes through.

Arsenal are also reportedly keen on Norwich City full-back Max Aarons as they prepare for Hector Bellerin's exit, according to the Express.

Christian Pulisic admitted to being "very frustrated" at being left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with Real Madrid.

The United States international scored a crucial away goal for the Blues in last week's first leg but was named among the substitutes for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge.

He again made his impact known, however, by setting up a goal for Mason Mount 18 minutes after being introduced from the bench in the 2-0 win, which saw Chelsea through 3-1 on aggregate.

"I'm very frustrated," Pulisic, who has struggled with injuries this term, told CBS Sports. "There's not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do.

"I've had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always I reach out to God and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me really."

A look at the Opta stats shows Pulisic has a right to be frustrated, having now scored and assisted a combined four goals in the Champions League in nine appearances this term.

Only Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner have been directly involved in more (both six) - in eight and 11 games respectively.

For comparison, Mount - who has been superb for Chelsea this season - has three direct goal involvements in 10 Champions League games, while Kai Havertz has two from 11 respectively.

Focusing on the Premier League, meanwhile, Pulisic has four goals and one assist in 23 appearances this term, just 14 of those being starts.

Pulisic's average of a 0.26 goals per 90 minutes is slightly better than Havertz's return of 0.25 and behind only Giroud (0.5) and Tammy Abraham (0.52) among Chelsea's attackers. Werner, for context, averages 0.23.

The 22-year-old also performs better when it comes to chances created per 90 minutes in the English top flight when compared to Havertz - 1.37 to the German's 1.07.

But Pulisic still ranks some way below Hakim Ziyech, who has created 2.54 chances per 90 minutes this season and will also perhaps feel that he should be starting more often.

Mount (2.68) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (2.71) lead that particular metric, incidentally, which only highlights just how many options Thomas Tuchel has available in that zone.

One area Pulisic struggles in comparison to his attacking rivals is passing accuracy in the opposition half - 80.95, which is lower than Havertz's 84.3, Mount's 85.45 and Hudson-Odoi's 85.65. ​

The American's win rate when starting games also does not make for good reading.

The Blues have won 13 and lost just two of the 20 league games Pulisic has not featured from the beginning this term, compared to four wins and five losses in the 14 games he has been included in the XI.

Chelsea average 1.8 league goals with Pulisic in their starting line-up, as opposed to 1.3 without, while their average goals against rises from 0.6 to 1.4 when he starts.

Tuchel ultimately knows best when it comes to his team selection - and he is backed up by the possibility of a Champions League and FA Cup double - so Pulisic will simply have to keep proving himself if he is to hold down a regular starting spot.

England's best hopes for a trophy in 2021 might just be their Under-21 squad.

Aidy Boothroyd's youngsters head into the group stage of the Euro Under-21 finals as legitimate contenders for the trophy, despite being placed in a seriously tough group with Croatia, Portugal and Switzerland.

History is against England, too. They have reached the finals for eight consecutive tournaments but have only progressed from the group stages three times in that sequence. Since winning the trophy in 1984, they have reached the final only once, in 2009, where they lost to Germany.

Still, Boothroyd is undoubtedly blessed with a rich pool of talent, despite leaving out stars such as Phil Foden, Reece James and Jude Bellingham, who will all be involved in the senior side's World Cup qualifiers this month. There is a strength in depth to the Young Lions that should give them real hope of going all the way.

Perhaps the current crop can also buck the trend when it comes to breaking into the senior fold. Only 17 of the 48 players from the previous two Euro Under-21 squads have gone on to play for the full England side, and only Jordan Pickford could consider himself a regular there.

In short, this undoubtedly talented group has plenty to play for…

 

Max-imum opportunity

In front of keeper Aaron Ramsdale, who was in goal for all but one of their qualifiers, sits an encouraging defence.

Norwich City full-back Max Aarons has not only kept 15 clean sheets with the Championship leaders, but his attacking threat has been marked this season. Aarons has created 51 chances from open play and completed 52 dribbles, both the second-best figures among defenders in the competition. At the same time, Aarons has only been beaten by an opponent's dribble 13 times, the lowest number among the top nine of that particular group of attack-minded defenders. Little wonder he is a reported target for Bayern Munich and Everton, among others.

Japhet Tanganga of Tottenham is untested at this level but Jose Mourinho's young protege will not have far to look for a (relatively) experienced guide. Spurs' Ryan Sessegnon, one of just two England players who also played at the 2019 finals, has enjoyed an impressive loan spell at Hoffenheim this season, winning more tackles per 90 minutes (1.7) than anyone else for the Bundesliga side. He has also contributed two goals and two assists – only five Bundesliga defenders have had more direct goal involvements.

There's Rowe stopping him

Arguably England's most in-form young midfielder outside the senior squad has amazingly never played before for the Under-21s.

Emile Smith Rowe has been the big success story of Mikel Arteta's time in charge of Arsenal. Since the start of last season, as well as scoring twice and registering six assists, he has created 1.5 chances from open play per 90 minutes in all competitions, the best number among Gunners midfielders to start at least 10 matches in that time.

 

In 2020-21, Smith Rowe (nine) is second only to Mason Mount (14) for players 23 and under in the Premier League when it comes to multi-chance involvements – the number of unique shot-ending sequences in open play where a player both creates the chance and is involved in the build-up.

Exactly how Boothroyd deploys Smith Rowe remains to be seen, but he could offer a potent combination with rising Liverpool star Curtis Jones, a major plus in an otherwise troubled Premier League title defence for Jurgen Klopp.

Jones, the youngest Liverpool player to score in the Premier League away from Anfield in seven years, averages the most successful final-third passes (22.5) this season of any Reds player to feature in at least half of their league games.

Among Premier League midfielders in this age group this season, only Mount (nine) has been involved in more sequences that ended in them taking a shot at goal than Jones (seven) – and the Liverpool man has played fewer than half the minutes of the Chelsea star.

On the wings, Callum Hudson-Odoi might have experience of playing for England at the highest level, but a strong performance at these championships could be just what he needs as he begins to build up the trust of Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel. Since the German took charge on January 26, no Blues player has played more games (13) than Hudson-Odoi and only two have created more chances per 90 minutes (1.71). His directness down the wing could be a major asset: among players 23 or under in the Premier League, only Ferran Torres (0.59) has a better rating than Hudson-Odoi (0.55) when it comes to Expected Assists from a take-on.

Madueke's chance to shine

With Mason Greenwood having withdrawn due to injury, much of the goalscoring burden may fall on the Under-21s' all-time top marksman, Eddie Nketiah.

 

Arsenal's young striker has one goal in three league starts this season and three in six in the Europa League, but the international stage is where he really shines: 13 goals in nine qualifying games helped him become the Young Lions' record goalscorer, surpassing Alan Shearer.

If Nketiah should struggle for form, Boothroyd can turn to Noni Madueke. An unknown at this level on the international scene, Ruud van Nistelrooy's PSV pupil has 11 direct goal involvements in the Eredivisie this season – no teenager has more – with his seven goals coming in just six starts in the Dutch top flight, at an average of just over one for every four non-penalty shots.

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has expressed his delight at Mason Mount's performance against Fulham and Callum Hudson-Odoi's recent form.

Mount scored the winning goal in the Blues' narrow 1-0 victory at Fulham, who played more than half the match a man light following Antonee Robinson's sending off just before the break.

That goal was just the tip of the iceberg for Mount, who laid on a remarkable seven key passes – only three times in the Premier League this season has a player produced more in a single game.

Lampard was overjoyed with the England international's display and highlighted the midfielder's already considerable experience despite only just turning 22, before suggesting Mount is even playing at a higher level than he was at a similar stage of his career.

"I thought Mason's performance all round was fantastic," Lampard told reporters. "He has been very, very good for us in the past year, this year. He is a big example of why I talk about youth.

"Mason turned 22 years old last week, the age I came to Chelsea at. I wasn't blowing the world away in my first year or so, Mason already has so many games under his belt.

"Across out frontline, we've got; Christian Pulisic – similar age bracket, Kai Havertz – similar age bracket, Callum Hudson-Odoi – younger age bracket, Tammy [Abraham], Timo [Werner] – they're all young.

"But to go back to Mason, his effort, attitude and quality of play today was outstanding."

Hudson-Odoi was bright after coming off the bench in the final 15 minutes, though he was seemingly unfortunate not to start.

The winger endured a difficult 2020 due to fitness problems and a lack of form, but he is starting to show why he had been so highly rated in his teenage years.

In the past month, only Mount and Pulisic have created more Premier League chances than his six among Chelsea players, despite Hudson-Odoi playing just 176 minutes.

That means he is averaging 3.1 key passes per 90 minutes in that time – Mount (4.2) is the only other player with a tally of more than two, and Lampard has been impressed by the 20-year-old's attitude.

"There has been a real uplift in his form," Lampard added. "That's a sign of his development, he is coming on, going by people and showing confidence. And a lot of that will be down to the injury he had to get over last season.

"Hakim [Ziyech] obviously gives us something different and was outstanding when fit. Christian [Pulisic] is always a threat. When I have the three, there is one who maybe can't start the game, but they must then come on and impact the game. Generally, a winger is where you make your changes.

"Yes, I had Leicester in mind [when selecting the team] and we will see how players react in the next day or two. In this busy, busy period players will have to accept to be an impact player sometimes and then come in and start.

"For Callum, I am delighted with how he is playing at the minute and he is approaching it in the right way. He will get many, many minutes for us."

Callum Hudson-Odoi once again impressed Frank Lampard as the winger pushed his case to play more regularly with a starring role in Chelsea's FA Cup triumph over Morecambe. 

The arrival of high-profile signings Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech during the previous transfer window increased competition for places in Chelsea's attack - and Hudson-Odoi has often found himself stuck on the fringes.

However, Lampard made room for all four players in his starting XI for Sunday's third-round tie at Stamford Bridge, with the hosts running out comfortable 4-0 winners.

Hudson-Odoi certainly seized his opportunity, scoring a goal and creating three chances. The England international completed 85.5 per cent of his passes and sent in seven crosses, four of which were rated as 'good' by Opta.

He has started just two Premier League games this season so far, though Lampard acknowledges the 20-year-old is doing everything right in his push to get consistent minutes.

"Callum is playing well. He's improving, he has improved and there is much more to come," the Chelsea boss told the media after the tie.

"For the goal today, it was a fantastic example of running and breaking the lines and ending up in the area like a striker, because that is what the modern winger does.

"He's making it [his case to get a run of games] now. Probably when fit, we have three natural wingers, maybe one or two others who can play in that position.

"There is always going to be times when I have to make decisions over selection, which means Callum might be in, or someone else may be in.

"But the way he is playing now absolutely at this minute means he's assisting, he scoring goals, he's a threat every time he plays. It makes me really happy, because today was definitely an uplift from Callum, there are more gears he can go through.

"He is another young player [at Chelsea] with a lot to come and we shouldn't expect too much, but when he's playing like he's playing now, it's good to expect more from him because he's showing a lot."

While Hudson-Odoi is pressing to feature for the first team, Fikayo Tomori could be on his way out of Chelsea.

The centre-back came on as a second-half substitute against Morecambe but Lampard confirmed afterwards that a loan move could happen in January - provided it is right for all parties.

On Tomori potentially leaving, Lampard said: "The situation is kind of open at the moment. There's a possibility he could go on loan to get games somewhere else.

"That would have to be the right solution for him and the club. It was part of my thinking in not starting him today, but giving him some minutes at the end. While we are looking at that, I want to make sure it's the right thing for him and the club.

"His attitude, while not playing so much recently with five or six centre-backs at the club, has been fantastic, in terms of working in training every day and how he is."

Chelsea eased into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 4-0 win over Morecambe on Sunday to end a three-match run without a victory.

Perhaps in a sign of the growing pressure on his position after a run of one win in seven games in all competitions, Frank Lampard named a very strong team for the visit of the League Two side to Stamford Bridge.

Mason Mount's fine strike on the midfielder's 22nd birthday opened the scoring before Timo Werner ended a goal drought of 827 minutes shortly before half-time.

Callum Hudson-Odoi got his side's third and only goalkeeper Mark Halstead denied the Blues further goals until Kai Havertz powered in a late header.

Morecambe almost snatched a shock lead with 11 minutes played, Kepa Arrizabalaga - on his 100th Chelsea appearance - doing well to stop Adam Phillips' drilled cross from going over the line.

Chelsea's breakthrough came with 18 minutes gone, Mount given time to pick his spot from 20 yards out, leaving goalkeeper Halstead with little chance.

Werner had missed an early header but could not pass up the chance to make it 2-0 just before half-time, the forward prodding into an empty net after Havertz headed back across goal.

Any lingering doubts about the result were removed four minutes after the restart, Hakim Ziyech's pass beating the offside trap and allowing Hudson-Odoi to power a shot through Halstead.

Havertz should have made it 4-0 only for Halstead to block at the near post and the keeper made a second fine stop to deny Christian Pulisic on the rebound, the keeper's best moment of a good display.

He could do nothing to prevent Haverz from finding the back of the net five minutes from time, though, the midfielder meeting Cesar Azpilicueta's deep cross with a thumping header.
 

What does it mean? Light relief for Lampard ahead of testing run

It would have been an almighty shock had Morecambe become the first team since Manchester United in 1997-98 to knock Chelsea out of the competition in the third round.

Lampard took no chances, fielding a formidable line-up against a fourth-tier side who had to isolate for 10 days after a coronavirus outbreak in late December.

The Blues sealed a comfortable win that will have lifted spirits ahead of a run of five league games that includes visits to Fulham, Leicester City and Tottenham.

Ziyech enjoys roaming role

His shooting was a little wayward but Ziyech was certainly precise with his passing, albeit against modest opposition who only returned to training this week.

He made more passes in the Morecambe half (56) and created more chances (four) than any other Chelsea player in his 67 minutes on the pitch.

Can Werner kick on?

It will have been a relief for Werner to score his first goal since November, but there was still a feeling of disconnect between the striker and his supporting cast and he only completed one more pass (14) than goalkeeper Kepa.

Lampard will have hoped to give the £47.5million man a confidence boost. Time will tell if it worked.

What's next?

Chelsea return to league duties at Fulham next Friday in a west London derby, with the game at Leicester to follow on January 19.

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