Inter's Serie A clash at Bologna on Thursday was called off at the eleventh hour due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the home club's squad.

Bologna had requested that their game against the leaders be postponed, along with Sunday's meeting with Cagliari, after "a number" of positive tests in the camp were returned.

Although there was no immediate confirmation from league authorities, Inter confirmed less than an hour before the game was due to start at Renato Dall'Ara that it would not go ahead.

Bologna had revealed on Wednesday that their entire squad had been ordered by the local health authority to quarantine for at least five days.

The Inter players warmed up on the pitch, but there were no Rossoblu opponents for what should have been their first game after the winter break. It remains to be seen whether league chiefs order it to go ahead on a new date or award the points to Inter.

Nerazzurri CEO Giuseppe Marotta said there should be no repeat of the decision to call off the game so late, and he wants it to be made mandatory for players to be vaccinated.

Marotta said in Bologna : "First of all, we reaffirm the primary objective of all: to safeguard the health of the players, the fans, all those who revolve around this sport.

"Bologna were ready to take the field and had to accept the decision of the ASL [local health authority]. There is no guideline for sport: we need a protocol that limits the competence of the ASL, otherwise these situations will be repeated.

"The issue of the protocol was addressed in the Lega Council, which will be announced with an official communication. We are faced with a scenario of great confusion and difficult to interpret.

"There are matches postponed and others that will be played: this is because every ASL decides autonomously. So here are cases like that of Bologna-Inter, which will not be played, or that of Spezia-Hellas, which will be played despite the 11 positives in the Venetian team.

"We need a guideline, a discussion with the government. The autonomy of the ASL in the decisions, taken to safeguard public health, causes differences, from case to case.

"I certainly hope for the introduction of full vaccination obligation for all players. If all players had the third dose, the spread of the virus and damage to health would be severely limited.

"The fourth wave caught us off guard, some leagues postponed the matches, others did not. The situation is difficult to assess.

"The postponement of these rounds would have ensured a more fluid management, but then the calendar would have been very compressed: it would have been really difficult to find days of recovery."

Aaron Ramsey has not had the best of times since moving to Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined Juve from Arsenal in 2019 on a four-year deal.

Ramsey has only managed 70 appearances in an injury hit two and a half years with Juventus.

 

TOP STORY – RAMSEY TO LEAVE JUVENTUS IN JANUARY

Aaron Ramsey is set to exit Juventus in the January transfer window, reports Sky Sports.

Italian transfer supremo Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Ramsey is likely to return to the Premier League, having already turned down an offer from Burnley .

Newcastle United have been linked with Ramsey, along with Everton.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich will consider swapping Kingsley Coman with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele in the off-season, reports L'Equipe. Coman's contract expires in 2023 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled.

- Sky Sports have reported that Newcastle are contemplating a bid for Lucas Digne. The full-back is set to leave Everton this month after a falling out with Rafael Benitez, though supposedly prefers a move to London, with Chelsea and West Ham also said to be interested.

- Everton, meanwhile, hold an interest in Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and have already made a bid, according to the Daily Mail and Sky Sports.

- Paris Saint-Germain may look to sign Lyon's Lucas Paqueta next off-season, so say L'Equipe.

- Manchester United are determined to secure Wolves' Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves in January, according to The Sun.

- Lazio have opened talks with Liverpool on a deal for Belgium international forward Divock Origi, claims LazioNews24.

- According to Sky Sports, five Premier League clubs have held talks with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

Massimiliano Allegri was pleased with Juventus' improved "attitude" as they ran out 2-0 winners over Bologna at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on Saturday.

The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw by Venezia in their last Serie A outing, but they cruised to all three points against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side thanks to goals in each half from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado.

Juve have now kept five clean sheets in Serie A since November – a joint-record among the top five European leagues in this period, level with Inter.

The performance was a marked improvement from the one at Venezia, and Allegri wants plenty more of that from his sixth-placed team as they bid to climb the table.

"Everyone collaborated when defending, which is how it ought to be," he told DAZN. "Compared to Venezia, we had a better attitude from the start, but we need to do more going forward.

"Bologna have a lot of quality, so it's natural they were going to have some chances. We did well here, but cannot lower our guard now, as there are many head-to-head clashes coming up in January before the Champions League resumes.

"It is a good result that keeps us in the running for fourth place, but we mustn't lower our guard now. It's a long journey, with many young and inexperienced players. We knew from the start it would not be easy to finish in the top four or challenge for the Scudetto.

"We've got one game left in 2021, then we look forward to these exciting clashes in January."

 

Midfielder Arthur was replaced after 61 minutes by Manuel Locatelli, with the former Barcelona man looking less than impressed with the decision.

Allegri expressed no regrets over the call and had some words of advice for the Brazil international.

"We still need to improve our reading of the game and various moments of the match, for instance just before half-time Arthur made this vertical pass when it was the time to hold on and control the possession," he explained.

"It's different at Barcelona; he was in a three-man midfield and not accustomed to sitting in front of the defence.

"He also is used to taking a lot more touches than we do here. I think if he plays in front of the defence with the right mentality and his technique, he can do well.

"His head was wobbling as he ran. He seemed tired so I took him off."

Juventus racked up an 11th consecutive Serie A win over Bologna as goals from Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado sealed a 2-0 win at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw by Venezia in their last top-flight outing but they never looked in danger of dropping more points after Morata's early opener. 

Massimiliano Allegri's side largely toiled in the second period, yet Cuadrado ensured there was to be no nervy finish with a deflected strike in the 69th minute. 

The result lifted Juventus up to sixth, level on 31 points with fifth-placed Roma, while Bologna remained in 10th.

Juve went ahead in the sixth minute when Morata lashed past Lukasz Skorupski from six yards after being superbly picked out by Federico Bernardeschi.

Mattias Svanberg went close with an audacious overhead kick midway through the first half as Bologna responded well to that early setback, though they could not find a leveller before the interval.

Juve offered little in the way of attacking threat immediately after the break, only making sure of the win when Cuadrado's powerful strike from just inside the penalty area was deflected past Skorupski by Aaron Hickey. 

That goal freed up the visitors to push forward in the closing stages, with Bernardeschi's low strike tipped wide by Skorupski, yet they ultimately failed to add further gloss to the scoreline.

What does it mean? Juve swat aside hosts

It has been a challenging return to Juve for Allegri this season, but there were signs here that things might be clicking into place. They looked robust in defence – limiting Bologna to just three shots on target – while they were ruthless in attack.

He will be looking for plenty more of that as they look to cut into Inter’s 12-point lead at the Serie A summit.

Morata enjoying life on the road

Morata has now found the back of the net in three consecutive away games. It is the first time the Spain international has done that in one of the big five European leagues since May 2017 when he struck in four straight matches on the road with Real Madrid.

Kean off the pace

Moise Kean endured a difficult 71 minutes before he was replaced by Dejan Kulusevski, the Italy international failing to have a single shot or play a key pass. This was his sixth straight Serie A outing without a goal.

What's next?

Juve wrap up 2021 with a home game against Cagliari on Tuesday, while Bologna travel to Sassuolo a day later before the mid-season break. 

Fiorentina sporting director Daniele Prade said it is "still too early" to discuss Dusan Vlahovic's future as the wantaway star entered the Serie A history books.

Vlahovic is set to leave Fiorentina after opting against signing a new deal in Florence, with the Serbia international's current contract expiring in June 2023.

The 21-year-old has been linked to Serie A champions Inter, Juventus, Premier League holders Manchester City, Manchester United, Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich, LaLiga titleholders Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Amid the growing speculation, Vlahovic maintained his red-hot form with another goal in Sunday's 3-2 victory over Bologna.

Vlahovic became only the fourth player in Serie A history to score 30 goals or more in a calendar year aged under 22 after Giuseppe Meazza in 1930, Felice Borel in 1933 and Antonio Valentin Angelillo in 1968.

Prior to taking his season haul to 13 goals in 16 games, Prade was asked about Vlahovic.

 

"It's still too early to say what will happen with him," Prade told Sky Sport Italia pre-game.

"We are in a delicate moment and talking about the transfer market would be wrong for everyone.

"He's being a professional, [coach Vincenzo] Italiano is happy with this and so are we."

Before Vlahovic, only three Fiorentina players in the three points for a win era (since 1994-95) have managed to score at least 13 goals in the first 16 Serie A games of the season – Giuseppe Rossi, Luca Toni and Gabriel Batistuta.

Since 2004-05, only David Suazo (14/14), Romelu Lukaku (12/12) and Vlahovic (12/12) have converted 100 per cent of penalties taken among those who have attempted at least 12 in Serie A during this period.

Fiorentina are sixth in the standings – level on points with Juventus, and seven points behind fourth-placed Atalanta.

The Viola have collected at least 27 points in the first 16 Serie A matchdays for the first time since 2015-16.

Is Robert Lewandowski's time at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich coming to an end?

Lewandowski has called Bayern home since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

However, the 33-year-old Poland international is reportedly ready for a new challenge.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI SET ON MADRID MOVE

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has ordered his agent to finalise a transfer to LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Lewandowski has repeatedly excelled for Bayern, where he has broken numerous records, while he was unfortunate not to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Previously linked with a move to the Premier League, Lewandowski appears to be set on a switch to Madrid, where his former team-mate David Alaba now calls home.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Fiorentina want to sell Dusan Vlahovic abroad but the Serbia international is not interested in Arsenal as he eyes Juventus. Vlahovic has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Bayern. It comes as Sky Sport Italia says Fiorentina are close to signing Lille forward Jonathan Ikone.

- Interim United manager Ralf Rangnick will try to convince Erling Haaland to leave Dortmund for Old Trafford, per Bild. Rangnick and Haaland worked together at Salzburg. Haaland is a player in demand amid interest from Madrid, Barcelona, Juve, Bayern, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. Since Rangnick's arrival, United have also been linked with RB Leipzig pair Christopher Nkunku and Amadou Haidara, as well as Chelsea forward Timo Werner.

- Record reports Dortmund are keen on Benfica and Uruguay attacker Darwin Nunez amid uncertainty over the future of Haaland.

- Premier League champions City have scouted Bologna and Sweden sensation Mattias Svanberg, according to Nicolo Schira.

Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne insisted he is focused on playing amid growing speculation over his future as the Partenopei challenge for the Scudetto.

Insigne led the way with two successful penalties in Napoli's 3-0 win over Bologna on Thursday – a result that sent Luciano Spalletti's back to the Serie A summit ahead of Milan on goal difference.

Napoli star Insigne has converted all four of his Serie A penalties this season – no other player has scored more among the players who found the net exclusively via spot-kicks in the top five European leagues.

Insigne also became the first Napoli player in Serie A to score a brace from the penalty spot since Dries Mertens in September 2017.

Afterwards, Insigne was asked about his contract situation, with the Italy international and Euro 2020 winner due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

"You always think about the same thing," Insigne – who emerged from the youth team of boyhood club Napoli in 2010 – told Sky Sport Italia amid links with Inter and Milan. "I only think about playing.

"The president [Aurelio De Laurentiis] and my agent take care of the other things."

Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring with a stunning long-range goal in the 18th minute – the Spain international has scored the most goals from outside the box in the top five European leagues in the last three seasons (nine since 2019-20) among the players who have not scored a goal from inside the box over this period.

Insigne then scored a penalty four minutes prior to half-time before converting another spot-kick just past the hour at home to Bologna.

Napoli have now collected 28 points after their first 10 Serie A games, equalling their best record at this stage of a top-flight season after 2017-18.

Eyeing their first Serie A title since 1990, Napoli have won all their first five seasonal home games for the seventh in the club's top-flight history.

"It's a great response, the championship is still long," Insigne said. "We know we are strong. Those who go on the pitch, those who enter off the bench…

"As the coach said, the five changes are even more important, they are five other starters. We must continue like this; the path is long and we must be calm."

Milan were made to work more than they expected after taking an early lead against short-handed Bologna on Saturday. 

After taking a 2-0 lead at the interval with Bologna down to 10 men, the Rossoneri had a second-half scare at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara before prevailing 4-2. 

Stefano Pioli lamented his side's over-confidence heading into the break, with Milan fortunate to prevail after Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted late to secure the win. 

"We struggled because we mistakenly thought that the match, with two goals and one more man, was over," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"Fortunately we have the qualities to take it back and we won an important match. Even in numerical superiority we have lacked clarity, we were too frantic. 

"With Ibra and [Olivier] Giroud ahead we made too many crosses, we had to play it more and move it more quickly. In the first 10 minutes of the second half we had to manage it better. 

"It is a very important victory. We know very well that the matches after the European commitments are difficult."

Coming off a 1-0 Champions League defeat to Porto on Tuesday, Milan went top of the table in Serie A with Saturday's triumph. 

Pioli said afterward that Ibrahimovic told him during the game he was "really tired" and indeed the talisman started the Bologna comeback with an own goal in the 49th minute. 

Musa Barrow equalised three minutes later before Bologna's momentum was blunted when Robert Soriano was given a straight red card in the 58th minute, leaving the home side with just nine men. 

Ibrahimovic played the full 90 minutes in starting his first league match of the season. His goal in the final minute capped the scoring. 

"We are showing that we always believe in it, that we never give up," Pioli said. "It is clear that there is a bit of tiredness because there are so many players missing and we play so many games, but it is the mentality that makes the difference and we want to win games until the end."

Milan moved to the Serie A summit as Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck late to hand them a pulsating 4-2 win over nine-man Bologna.

Rafael Leao and Davide Calabria scored either side of Adama Soumaoro's dismissal to give the Rossoneri a healthy advantage at the interval.

That was wiped out in the space of seven minutes at the start of the second period, however, with an Ibrahimovic own goal and a Musa Barrow strike restoring parity at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

Bologna had a second man sent off before the hour mark, Roberto Soriano given a straight red card for a late challenge, and Stefano Pioli's Milan landed a memorable three points thanks to fine late strikes from Bennacer and Ibrahimovic.

Leao put Milan ahead in the 16th minute with a deflected strike, before Soumaoro was shown a red card for bringing down a clean-through Rade Krunic just outside the area four minutes later.

Milan took advantage of their numerical superiority in the 35th minute, Calabria lashing home a second from 15 yards.

The hosts stormed back at the start of the second period, though, with Ibrahimovic – making his first start since May 9 – heading into his own net four minutes after the interval to give Sinisa Mihajlovic's side hope.

Barrow then remarkably drew Bologna level in the 52nd minute, slotting past Ciprian Tatarusanu after being played in by Soriano.

Rossoblu captain Soriano was then given his marching orders after a VAR review six minutes later for an ugly challenge on Fode Ballo-Toure.

The hosts held firm until the 84th minute when Bennacer powered into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards, while Ibrahimovic added gloss to the scoreline with a whipped finish from the same distance six minutes later.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make his first start since May when Milan look to bounce back from more Champions League disappointment against Bologna.

Milan suffered their third successive defeat in the Champions League in midweek as they were beaten 1-0 by Porto.

They sit bottom of Group B, but results are going much better for Stefano Pioli's men in Serie A.

The Rossoneri are unbeaten domestically and sit second, two points behind leaders Napoli.

Ibrahimovic has played in only three games in all competitions and has not started since Milan's win over Juventus on May 9.

However, the 40-year-old could be in line to end that wait on Saturday, against a Bologna team sitting eighth in Serie A.

"Ibrahimovic needs to train and play," said Pioli ahead of the trip to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

"He's been training with the group for a week, but I still have to decide who will start between him and [Olivier] Giroud.

"I will decide the line-up tomorrow [Saturday] morning. Right now, we can't play with two strikers. When they feel well, they could play together."

Simone Inzaghi expressed his relief after Inter crushed Bologna 6-1 on Saturday to move top of Serie A. 

The Nerazzurri have now won 18 home successive league games but they did suffer late heartbreak at San Siro in the Champions League in midweek, going down to a late goal against Real Madrid. 

Inzaghi admitted that result left him concerned ahead of the visit of Bologna, though any such worries quickly subsided when Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring in the sixth minute. 

Substitute Edin Dzeko scored a second-half double as the reigning champions cut loose to make it three wins in a row against their opponents, a feat they had not managed when facing Bologna since Jose Mourinho was in charge.

"I was afraid of this match after the night against Real Madrid but the guys approached the match in the best way," Inzaghi told DAZN after the resounding triumph. 

"It was important, we knew the importance of the match. We came from an excellent performance with Madrid, in which only the result was missing. We asked the boys to put the anger that would be needed to win. 

"Today at the first opportunity we were good at unlocking it [the Bologna defence], it immediately went downhill even though we were facing a good team. Then it happens that you shoot 18 times against Real Madrid and you don't score a goal." 

Marcelo Brozovic was central to the team's performance against Bologna, completing the second-most passes in the game (61), two less than Nicolo Barella. 

And Inzaghi claimed there is a reason why the Croatia midfielder remains an integral part of Inter's side whoever is in charge, as well as praising forward Martinez. 

"Brozovic is irreplaceable, there will be a reason if he has played with all the coaches who have passed from Inter," the former Lazio head coach said. 

"I only knew him [Lautaro Martinez] as an opponent, I knew he was a very important player and when I was lucky enough to coach him I understood the importance. I'm sorry he couldn't score another goal."

Edin Dzeko scored twice as impressive Inter crushed Bologna 6-1 to move top of Serie A on Saturday. 

Lautaro Martinez's fourth goal in four top-flight games put Simone Inzaghi's side ahead, making it 23 consecutive league games that Inter have scored in, only managing a longer run way back in 1950. 

Milan Skriniar and Nicolo Barella inflicted further damage in the first half, with Matias Vecino and Dzeko's double completing the rout after the interval. 

Arthur Theate headed a late consolation goal for the visitors but Inter made it four league games unbeaten to sit at the summit, albeit their nearest rivals in the table are still to play. 

Martinez had gone five Serie A games without a goal against Bologna but ended that barren run when he ghosted in to poke home Denzel Dumfries' low delivery. 

Samir Handanovic kept his side's slender lead intact with a magnificent save to deny Roberto Soriano's drive, after which Nicola Sansone volleyed wide. 

Instead it was Inter who fired in a second, Skriniar towering above goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski to nod in from inside the six-yard area following Federico Dimarco's inviting corner. 

Just four minutes later and Lorenzo De Silvestri's failed clearance fortuitously fell to Barella, who finished emphatically from close range. 

Martinez almost scored his second early in the second half but was denied by the crossbar, while he also wildly lashed over moments later. 

Vecino did manage to grab a fourth goal for his team with a simple tap-in at the back post after Dimarco's deflected cross had evaded the incoming Dumfries. 

Substitute Dzeko joined in on the act just after the hour-mark, prodding into the corner after Martinez's intelligent dummy before smashing his second into the roof of the net from a tight angle. 

Bologna did finally beat Handanovic when Theate nodded in at a corner, but that did not spoil what was a memorable victory for the hosts at San Siro. 

Arsenal have signed versatile defender Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna and allowed Hector Bellerin to join Real Betis on loan for the rest of the season.

The Gunners are reported to have paid Serie A side Bologna £17million (€19.8m) to land the Japan international on deadline day.

Tomiyasu, 22, had previously been linked with Tottenham but has instead joined their north London rivals on a long-term contract.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta told the club's official website: "Takehiro is a strong defender with good experience in Serie A and at international level.

"He's a versatile defender with great defensive qualities, high technical ability and composure on the ball.

"He will be an important member of our squad. We look forward to Takehiro joining up with us when he returns from international duty."

Long-serving full-back Bellerin has left the bottom side in the Premier League to return to his homeland with Betis.

The 26-year-old, who joined the London club a decade ago, won the FA Cup three times during his time with the Gunners.

Goalkeeper Alex Runarsson and midfielder Reiss Nelson also departed on loan for the rest of the season before the window closed, though Ainsley Maitland-Niles has remained at the club.

Transfer deadline day has already been a busy one, even if the biggest move of all was one that was expected.

Manchester United, Juventus and West Ham have all made moves, while changes are expected at Arsenal and Tottenham before the window closes.

There is also a good chance of a young France star joining Real Madrid – but it's not Kylian Mbappe.

Here is a round-up of some of the deadline-day deals, and what could be coming...

Ronaldo in, Cavani out?

The biggest deal of the day was concluded early, as Manchester United completed the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus for an initial £12.9million (€15m).

The Portugal star dedicated his return to Old Trafford to Alex Ferguson after his two-year contract was announced by the Red Devils.

Ronaldo's arrival has complicated things for Edinson Cavani, though. The striker was convinced to spend another year at the club by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after impressing last season, but his pre-season was disrupted due to personal reasons and he did not start any of United's first three league games of the season.

There are reports Barcelona are interested in signing Cavani as Ronald Koeman is desperate for another striker, but the Red Devils are expected to resist offers unless they are particularly lucrative. Of course, if Cavani does leave, it would free up the number seven shirt for Ronaldo.

United's business is mostly concluded but Dan James is expected to sign for Leeds United on deadline day for a reported £25m.

Real Madrid close to Camavinga

With Kylian Mbappe apparently not going to get his move in this window, Real Madrid have turned their attentions to Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who is expected to sign for Carlo Ancelotti's side before the deadline.

With Mbappe staying put at Paris Saint-Germain for now, any dramatic late offer for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland looks unlikely. BVB have in fact bolstered their squad, signing Marin Pongracic on loan from Wolfsburg.

Kean and Vlasic on the move

Juventus moved quickly to confirm Ronaldo's replacement, announcing a two-year loan with a potential obligation to buy for Everton striker Moise Kean. Kean returns to Turin for an initial €7m (£6m) after having left for the Toffees two years ago.

There was also video footage early on Tuesday of Junior Messias arriving for a medical at Milan, the 30-year-old apparently poised to sign on loan from Crotone.

Croatia international Nikola Vlasic has secured his move to West Ham from CSKA Moscow for a fee said to be worth £25m. His arrival would appear to cast doubt on any further bid from the Hammers for Jesse Lingard, who impressed on loan last season.

Brighton and Hove Albion have also been active, signing Getafe left-back Marc Cucurella – formerly of Barca – after the Seagulls matched his €18m (£15.5m) release clause.

Leicester City are said to be exploring the opportunity to bring in Ademola Lookman on loan from RB Leipzig, while Odsonne Eduoard is close to a move to Crystal Palace from Celtic.

Spurs and Arsenal still active – but will Chelsea spend again?

Tottenham are expected to complete a deal for Barca's Emerson Royal for around £25.8m (€30m). That sale could give Barca just a little leg room when it comes to pursuing the striker Koeman wants.

There are also likely to be changes at Arsenal. With Hector Bellerin tipped to sign for Real Betis on loan, the Gunners are said to be close to signing Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna.

Meanwhile, Reiss Nelson could be on the verge of a loan move to Feyenoord, who had agreed to sign Amad Diallo from Manchester United for the rest of the season until the winger suffered a thigh injury.

Chelsea have already spent huge money on Romelu Lukaku, but it remains to be seen whether a loan for Saul Niguez or a permanent deal for Jules Kounde could be concluded.

Jurgen Klopp says Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will be involved for Liverpool when they play Bologna on Thursday.

The Reds step up their preparations for the forthcoming Premier League season with two 60-minutes matches against the Serie A side.

The central defensive duo made their long-awaited returns from injury against Hertha Berlin last time out, playing the final 21 minutes of the 4-3 defeat.

Van Dijk had not played since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October 2020, while Gomez played his first minutes since damaging a tendon in his left knee while on international duty with England the following month.

Klopp is pleased with the progress the pair are making and is confident they can get more minutes under their belts against Bologna.

"Hopefully, yes. That's how it looks in the moment," he told the official club website. "I want to make it really clear, we push nothing. 

"We know exactly how they feel – how they really feel and not what they tell us because they obviously are desperate to play again. 

"It looks good, this morning [it was a] normal training session. Sometimes in moments, we swap Virgil and Joe a little bit so maybe the intensity doesn't get too high, but in general it looks really good. 

"How many minutes on Thursday, I don't know but there will be some minutes for sure."

Klopp may also have Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino available for selection.

All three have returned from their extended break after helping Brazil reach the Copa America final, which they lost 1-0 to Argentina.

With Liverpool launching their Premier League campaign away at Norwich City on August 14, Klopp admits the returning trio's preparation time is far from ideal.

Nevertheless, the German said they could feature against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side, who finished 12th in Serie A last term.

"The players who play international football never have enough time; that was always like this," he added.

"You never have enough time to train and stuff like this – a week, two weeks before the season.

"[The Brazilian players] will start tomorrow with training properly with us.

"Maybe on Thursday in our two 60-minute games against Bologna, we can involve them already. I don't know yet – maybe 15, 20, 30 minutes. We have to see how they look exactly."

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