Massimiliano Allegri compared Dusan Vlahovic's recent goalscoring drought to Cristiano Ronaldo's early struggles with Juventus as they prepare for the Coppa Italia final with Inter.

Juve will attempt to salvage silverware from a disappointing season when they face Inter at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday. The Nerazzurri beat Juve 2-1 in the Supercoppa Italiana back in January.

The Bianconeri's hopes of regaining the Scudetto have long since evaporated, with Juve 11 points behind leaders Milan with two Serie A games to play.

They have at least secured Champions League football for next season, despite a run of form from Vlahovic that has seen him fail to score in any of the past four games in all competitions.

But Allegri is backing their marquee January signing from Fiorentina to fire in the final, while drawing a comparison with Ronaldo's slow start to life in Turin, which saw the Portugal star go the opening three Serie A games of his Juve career without scoring.

Asked in his pre-match media conference about Serbia national coach Dragan Stojkovic's prediction that Vlahovic would score in the final, Allegri responded: "I hope he scores two! Not just one.

"Vlahovic is doing well and is serene. Sometimes he asks too much of himself. He is worthy of Juventus and he can improve next season.

"He has been scoring a decent amount of goals. In Italy, it isn't easy to score a goal per game.

"When Ronaldo arrived, he didn't score for five or six games. If Vlahovic looks upset, it means that he cares about what he does."

Luigi Delneri was the last Juve coach to end a season without a trophy, doing so in 2010-11. Allegri is keen to avoid that fate at the end of a season impacted by Ronaldo's departure to Manchester United.

"The team had a bad start, but we reached an important result because playing the Champions League every season is crucial," said Allegri.

"We'll try to improve things and be ready to start again from next season.

"You all know that seeing Ronaldo leave with only three days remaining in the summer transfer window wasn't easy. I had to know the team as well. Then we lost Federico Chiesa.

"We faced a few difficult moments. On the other hand, we have improved and qualified for the Champions League round of 16. The club helped us by signing Dusan Vlahovic in January, but our run was stopped against Inter last month.

"Now I know the players and the staff, I am sure that next season we'll have more chances to win our main target, the Scudetto. It would be nice to win tomorrow, end the season in the best way and prepare for the next one."

Following their exit at the hands of Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, Leicester City are at the fork in the road that faces every club their size following some success.

History says that sustainable progress will have to come at the expense of selling the players who got the club to such heights.

While James Maddison and Wesley Fofana have long been on the wish lists of bigger clubs, Youri Tielemans reportedly looks set to leave also.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, REAL MADRID SET ON TIELEMANS

Arsenal are closing in on a £40million transfer for Leicester City and Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, The Sun is reporting.

Real Madrid are waiting to pounce, however, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Leicester are now reportedly resigned to selling the 25-year-old, whose goal won the Foxes the FA Cup last term. 

Tielemans has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football, meaning Manchester United have dropped out of the race.

ROUND-UP

- Fernandinho appears set to leave Manchester City, despite having a year remaining on his contract, citing a personal decision, per Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are looking to sign Villarreal's Pau Torres for a fee below his release clause of £55million (€64.3m), Football Insider reports.

- The Daily Star are reporting Nemanja Matic, who will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, is set to join Juventus.

- West Ham are leading the race to sign 23-year-old Chile international Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers, according to The Sun.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the remaining Super League clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus could yet face sanctions, also insisting they are free to form their own competition if they give up their places in the Champions League.

Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus were the only three founding clubs not to renounce their backing for the widely derided Super League after the breakaway project's collapse in April 2021.

Last month, a Madrid court lifted precautionary measures preventing UEFA from punishing the trio, who have continued to voice their backing for a new competition – to be governed by its founding clubs – despite the withdrawals of the other nine founding members.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin hinted sanctions against the trio could be on the horizon and hit out at the "incredible arrogance" of the clubs.

Ceferin, who assumed his post in 2016 after succeeding Michel Platini, also said the clubs were free to do whatever they liked, but would not be allowed to participate in UEFA competitions if the venture was revived.  

"Of course it's possible [to sanction the clubs] but let's see what happens," he said. "The only 'hello' UEFA got from them came from the courts, as they tried to challenge us everywhere. 

"We never said that they couldn't play their own competition, because they can if they want. But it's funny that these were the clubs that first registered in the Champions League. 

"If they play other tournaments, they cannot play in our competitions. That is not a monopoly. They can create their own UEFA and do what they think is right. 

"I showed them a lot of respect in the past. I don't want to talk about the president of Juventus [Andrea Agnelli], but my relationship with him was very open and honest. 

"I never said this before, but I invited the president of Madrid, Florentino Perez, to Nyon before it all happened to talk about future competitions. He called off the meeting with a text message just 24 hours earlier because of 'a basketball-related event'. With [former Barca president Josep Maria] Bartomeu I never spoke.

"Everyone had a chance to speak, and we've never been pushy or arrogant. The announcement of that project was an act of incredible arrogance on their part, and that's probably why they don't want to communicate with UEFA. 

"But that has never influenced how we treat them in our tournaments. You can see it in their successes: Real Madrid will play in the Champions League final and Barca will play in the Women's Champions League. That is a clear sign that our competitions are healthy, fair and correct.

"Football must remain open to all, and we will not back down one millimetre to defend the European sporting model. What they want is theirs, and they are free to get together and do what they want."

Amid their refusal to back down on their support for the Super League, Real Madrid will appear in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month after a remarkable 6-5 aggregate triumph over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, although UEFA has faced criticism for proposed Champions League reforms which could allow two qualification places to be awarded based on historical performances, Ceferin said the demise of the Super League made clear that continental football must remain open to all.

"I was glad it happened because it was always up in the air," he added. "When it finally came out, we ended once and for all with this nonsense that football can be bought, that football is only for the elite, only for the rich. 

"That will never happen. People warned me that the same people killed basketball, but I told them, 'Basketball is not football. It will never be football.' Football is part of our history. It is part of our traditions."

Dusan Vlahovic's performance in Juventus' surprise 2-1 loss to Genoa in Serie A on Friday was defended by Massimiliano Allegri. 

Serbia international Vlahovic appeared unhappy on the bench after being replaced by Alvaro Morata in the 74th minute at Marassi with Juve in front through Paulo Dybala's goal. 

However, Albert Gudmundsson equalised and Domenico Criscito completed an incredible turnaround for relegation-threatened Genoa in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time. 

Vlahovic only had one shot on goal and 25 touches during his time on the pitch, but Allegri insisted he was impressed by the 22-year-old's display. 

The Juve boss said the striker was only withdrawn because he had one eye on the Coppa Italia final against Inter on Wednesday.

"He had one of his best matches on a technical level. I'm very happy with how he played technically," Allegri told Sky Sport Italia. 

"I tried to explain it before, but I was attacked like I was the one ruining Vlahovic. He's not played many matches in Serie A and we must find a balance. Sometimes I say things but they don't understand or they pretend not to understand.  

"He maybe doesn't realise it was a good performance, but slowly he will find a balance. He will find the ability to play at the right pace on a mental level. These are steps he must take. 

"He feels like it's his fault because he didn't score, but that's not the case. I'll tell him his game was technically good. If he always played like this, it would be good for the team." 

Moise Kean made his first Serie A start since March 12 but failed to take any of the six chances that came his way, including one with the goal gaping two minutes before Criscito's winner. 

"Sometimes he scores with a half-chance, tonight he didn't score with five or six chances. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes you have many chances and don't score," said Allegri. 

"He has a lot of experience but sometimes he does too much – he has to play simple and not use up too much energy in little duels that don't really help the team." 

Genoa moved one point behind Salernitana and Serie A safety thanks to the victory, which saw Criscito score a penalty just six days after missing one – also taken in the 96th minute – in a 1-0 loss to arch-rivals Sampdoria. 

"Football gives and it takes away. Tonight it gave me so much. It's incredibly emotional after the disappointment of last weekend," Criscito told DAZN. 

"I arrived at Genoa in 2001. It is my life. I'm happy to be here. I love Genoa." 

Domenico Criscito gained redemption by breathing new life into Genoa's Serie A survival bid with a late penalty winner to secure a 2-1 success over Juventus. 

Genoa captain Criscito erred from the spot in a 1-0 loss to local rivals Sampdoria on Saturday but got the better of Wojciech Szczesny with the final kick of the game from 12 yards in an incredible finale at the Marassi. 

Paulo Dybala appeared to have Juve heading into Wednesday's Coppa Italia final on the back of a win, but Albert Gudmundsson equalised in the 87th minute. 

Moise Kean inexplicably missed a chance to win it for Juve with the goal gaping, and Criscito took full advantage after Mattia De Sciglio tripped Kelvin Yeboah to spark scenes of jubilation. 

Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

Giorgio Chiellini is plotting a career in management after the Juventus and Italy captain's playing days come to an end.

Chiellini will retire from international football after the Azzurri's Finalissima showdown with Argentina at Wembley next month.

The 37-year-old centre-back's future has been the subject of speculation, as his Juve contract is due to expire at the end of next season.

Chiellini has been linked with a move to the MLS before hanging up his boots.

The veteran defender plans to use his vast experience to forge a career in management, but will not take up a role until he is ready.

He told La Stampa: "As long as you are a footballer, you are focused only on that. And until today in my head I have always been a 100 per cent footballer, when you do this job it can only be like that. 

"Certainly in the future I would like to have a managerial path, in which to enhance the wealth of experience I have gained over the years and make it available in a new context."

He added: “I would like to take care of what surrounds the pitch, but it goes beyond that, but first I would have a lot to study. I know the sport well, but it is not enough to do well as a manager. 

"About Continassa [the Juventus training complex] I know everything, even where there are cobwebs, but what happens in the office I have a superficial idea. 

"The experience I'm having with Sport Horizon helps me, but you can't improvise it."

Antonio Conte has strongly hinted Tottenham will be triggering their option to purchase Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus after an encouraging start to his loan spell.

Kulusevski joined Spurs at the end of the January transfer window, with the club reportedly paying Juve €10million (£8.3m) to take him on loan until June 2023.

That deal included a purchase option, which is reportedly set at €30m (£24.9m) for the upcoming transfer window. If Spurs do not trigger that agreement, a mandatory €35m clause could come into effect next year if Kulusevski plays at least 45 minutes in 50 per cent of their Premier League games and the club qualifies for the Champions League, according to the Guardian.

And judging from Conte's response when asked about his future, Spurs are already considering Kulusevski as one of their own.

Asked if the club is taking up the purchase option on the winger, Conte told reporters: "Yeah, I think he's on loan but it's like a deal ended.

"He's a Tottenham player, 100 per cent in every aspect. Not officially, but he's 100 per cent a Tottenham player."

Kulusevski has made a strong impact after a slow first few weeks at the club, with his creativity and ability on the ball making him a valuable asset alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in Spurs' attack.

Since his Premier League debut on February 9, Kulusevski's eight assists is a Premier League high, with Kane (six) the only other player to register more than four.

The Sweden international has also scored three times over that period, making him just one of five players to reach double figures for goal involvements, alongside Son (15), Kane (14), Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo (both 10).

Kulusevski's ball-carrying ability has also been a weapon for Spurs. He has totalled 18 shot involvements (shots taken and chances created) at the end of a carry, a figure bettered by only six players.

Similarly, five of his goal involvements have come after carries, with no Premier League player managing more over the same period.

But while Kulusevski seems a certainty to stick around at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Conte insists he is not getting ahead of himself by planning transfer talks with chairman Daniel Levy and sporting director Fabio Paratici.

"No, no, no," he laughed. "We're totally focused on this season.

"Also, because I repeat, we're finishing this season with only 15 players and at the moment, it's not convenient to give them a list, because the list it would be very, very, very big!

"You understand? It's not a good moment to give them the list."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri added his voice to those congratulating Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid on their extraordinary win against Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

Los Blancos were 5-3 down on aggregate heading into the 90th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu before two goals from substitute Rodrygo forced extra time, and a Karim Benzema penalty sent Madrid through to the final, where they will meet Liverpool in Paris.

The victory marked the fifth time Ancelotti has guided a team to the Champions League final, the most of any manager in the competition's history, surpassing the four by Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi and his upcoming opponent in the French capital, Jurgen Klopp.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Juve's game with relegation-threatened Genoa, Allegri was inevitably asked about Wednesday's remarkable game.

"It was a wonderful match," he said. "I have to congratulate Carlo Ancelotti because he did something extraordinary."

Focusing on his own team's goals, Allegri explained that while he is relieved to have secured Champions League football for next season after nearest rivals Roma could only draw 0-0 with Bologna on Sunday, he wants Juve to continue to set high standards, especially as they prepare for next week's Coppa Italia final against Inter.

"From now to the end of the championship we must try to score as many points as possible. We reached the minimum goal of fourth place with three matches to go, and we are happy with that. [Thursday] we will have to play a good match.

"The Coppa Italia is our goal [now]. At the start of the season, all competitions must be a goal. We will play this match on Wednesday and we are happy to be there."

The former Milan boss also insisted he will play the strongest team he can against Genoa as preparation for the clash with Inter, though did confirm that Danilo and Luca Pellegrini will be missing.

"Tomorrow our strongest line-up will be on the pitch. Danilo will rest and will be back with the team on Sunday morning. Pellegrini has an ankle injury and will not be available.

"Juan Cuadrado and Mattia De Sciglio will return."

Allegri was also asked about the impact of Dusan Vlahovic, January's big-money signing from Fiorentina who has seven goals in 17 appearances across all competitions since joining the Bianconeri.

"I am very happy with Vlahovic. I didn't expect him to be able to immerse himself so well in the team and in Juventus. He has done very well so far and I am really satisfied.

"He, like others, can only get better. Tomorrow he will likely play."

Carlo Ancelotti will be the first coach to oversee a team in five Champions League finals after Real Madrid's remarkable comeback against Manchester City.

Ancelotti, who returned to Madrid for a second spell in charge at the end of last season, became the first coach to win all of Europe's top five leagues when Los Blancos wrapped up their 35th LaLiga title on Saturday.

But it appeared a shot at a double would be evading Madrid when Riyad Mahrez struck in the 73rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu to put City 1-0 up on Wednesday and 5-3 up in the tie.

However, two goals in the space of 91 seconds from Rodrygo restored parity on aggregate to force extra-time and then up stepped Karim Benzema to score from the penalty spot and complete one of the most outrageous comebacks in the competition's history.

Indeed, Madrid were responsible for another one of those in the last 16, against Paris Saint-Germain, and they also fought back from the brink against Chelsea. Liverpool are up next.

That meeting with the Reds in Paris will be Ancelotti's history-making fifth Champions League final.

Stats Perform looks at how the other four played out.

2003 - Juventus 0-0 Milan (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Ancelotti first reached the final of UEFA's elite club competition as a manager 19 years ago, when his Milan team took on fellow Italian giants Juventus at Old Trafford. An infamously dull affair, it ended as a goalless draw after 120 minutes, resulting in a penalty shoot-out. Andriy Shevchenko scored the winning spot-kick.

2005 - Milan 3-3 Liverpool (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Milan and Ancelotti reached the final again two years later, and it proved a famous night in Istanbul. Milan led through Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo's brace, but Liverpool astonishingly hit back in the second half and then went on to triumph 3-2 in the shoot-out, with Jerzy Dudek – who made an outstanding stop in extra-time – the Reds' hero.

2007 - Milan 2-1 Liverpool 

The Rossoneri were back and out for revenge in 2007, and they got it in Athens. Filippo Inzaghi put Milan 2-0 up, with Durk Kuyt's late effort not enough to inspire another comeback.

2014 - Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET)

Perhaps Ancelotti's most famous Champions League triumph to date came in 2014 when, in his first spell at Madrid, he led the club to 'La Decima'. They were trailing 1-0 to rivals Atletico Madrid until the 93rd minute, when Sergio Ramos struck. Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo wrapped up a runaway victory in extra-time.

Manchester United reportedly have a clear runway to sign West Ham midfielder and England international Declan Rice in the upcoming transfer window.

Rice, 23, has emerged as one of England's brightest young talents after being released from Chelsea's youth setup back in 2014.

He is expected to command a transfer fee in excess of the £100million Jack Grealish was signed for by Manchester City in a British record – but United may not be engaged in a bidding war.

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS LOOM AS RICE'S SOLE ENGLISH SUITOR

ESPN are reporting that United will not be facing competition from fellow Premier League clubs in the pursuit of Rice.

Sources have allegedly claimed the goal is to make Rice into a "modern day version of [Paul] Ince", who helped ignite the rise of legendary boss Alex Ferguson with his arrival from West Ham in 1989.

City are said to be using their resources on Erling Haaland; Chelsea are hampered by their ownership situation and the need to replace Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Romelu Lukaku; and Liverpool would prefer to wait for Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham at a cheaper price.

Despite a lack of bidders to drive up Rice's price, West Ham are reportedly firm on their £100m-plus valuation.

 

ROUND-UP

– Everton would accept a £50m fee for Brazilian striker Richarlison, and are confident of getting such an offer, according to Football Insider.

– According to ESPN, Milan and Juventus are the leaders in the race to sign United's Jesse Lingard.

– Sport are reporting Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves has chosen Barcelona over Premier League clubs United and Arsenal.

– Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is said to be for sale for a €80m price-tag, with Sky Sport claiming United and Paris Saint-Germain are the leading suitors.

Arsenal have renewed their interest in Inter striker Lautaro Martinez, per The Times. 

Matthijs de Ligt and Paul Pogba paid tribute to their renowned former agent Mino Raiola, after he died over the weekend.

The 54-year-old's death was confirmed by his family on Saturday. He had been in critical condition in a Milan hospital.

Raiola was arguably the sport's most influential player representative.

From Pavel Nedved, to Mario Balotelli, to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Erling Haaland, Raiola represented some of the biggest names in world football, and in 2016 secured the largest transfer fee in history, at the time, for Pogba in his move back to Manchester United from Juventus.

Raiola also oversaw De Ligt's transfer from Ajax to Juve in 2019 and, in an Instagram post on Sunday, the Netherlands defender about a man he called "someone special".

"I honestly am not ready to write this message and I think I never will be," De Ligt wrote.

"It’s too early for us players, for your family but especially for you. You had so many dreams to fulfil, so many things left to do… you were always right in the end. You knew how the world worked. Nothing is impossible and you showed that to the whole world. 

"You fought for your players together with your team and that’s why you were so loved by all of them. Because as you always said: they are my sons, my family. 

"Mino, I will miss you for everything… to be my agent, but especially to be my best friend."

Pogba, who is set to be on the move at the end of the season following the expiration of his United contract, oposted a series of photos of himself and Raiola together, with the caption: "Always in my heart – thank you Mimi".

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

Leonardo Bonucci believes fresh blood is needed for a Juventus squad in the process of "rejuvenation".

Bonucci scored a double, including a 76th-minute winner, on his birthday as Juve took another step towards securing Champions League qualification for next season with a 2-1 Serie A victory over bottom club Venezia.

The result moved Juve 11 points ahead of Roma, who face Bologna later on Sunday.

Eighteen-year-old midfielder Fabio Miretti made an impressive debut, with Bonucci hailing his performance and the infusion of youth into a team that is off the pace in a Scudetto race it has typically dominated in recent years.

“Fabio had a great performance, but we already knew his qualities and had no doubts he’d do well, even if he is young," Bonucci told Sky Sport Italia.

"The squad is in the process of rejuvenation and fresh blood is welcome.

“My role is to pass on my experience, that need to never give up and fight to the end."

Referencing his wife's sponsored walk for the hospital that looked after their son when he fell ill following hernia surgery, Bonucci added: "It was a great day for my whole family, it felt like coming full circle after my wife's charity initiative.

"We needed to bring home the win to ensure the last three games wouldn't be too complicated, but Venezia deserve credit for coming here and playing open football.

"We always need to improve, because we've seen that when we've got the engine revved up, we can have our say.

"These last few games need to be training to prepare for next season."

Leonardo Bonucci marked his 35th birthday with two goals as Juventus made hard work of a 2-1 win over bottom side Venezia to all but secure a top-four finish in Serie A.

The Bianconeri had taken just one point from their previous two matches at the Allianz Stadium but did enough to claim victory against Venezia, who have now lost nine in a row.

Full debutant Fabio Miretti played a big part in Bonucci's headed opener inside seven minutes, but Juve were pegged back through a Mattia Aramu strike 19 minutes from time.

However, Bonucci bundled in a late winner to ensure that his side now require just two points from their remaining three games to keep Roma at bay in the battle for fourth.

 

Juve nearly opened the scoring four minutes in when Luca Pellegrini fired a ferocious strike against the crossbar from range.

The hosts did not have to wait much longer for their breakthrough, though, as Matthijs de Ligt nodded Miretti's delivery back across goal for Bonucci to turn in from close range.

Venezia, who sacked Pablo Zanetti this week and placed Andrea Soncin in temporary charge, took full advantage of Juve's failure to kill off the match through Aramu's long-ranger.

That had Venezia on course for successive 1-1 draws against Juve, only for the Bianconeri to snatch all three points when a corner was not dealt with and went in off Bonucci's shin.

What does it mean? A return to home comforts for Juve – just!

Juve have picked up more points on their travels (35) than they have at home this season (34 with this win) and this was another occasion in which they never truly got going.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have lost just one of their past 21 league games overall and also have a Coppa Italia final with Inter to look forward to later this month.

The immediate priority is nailing down fourth place and, barring a miraculous collapse over their remaining three games, that is as good as achieved.

Leonardo leads the way

Bonucci has now scored five Serie A goals for Juventus this season, which is his best tally in a single campaign.

The veteran Italy international has equalled team-mate Giorgio Chiellini as the defender to have found the net in the most years in the competition since 2000 (13).

Mattia makes his mark

Aramu had gone 14 matches between finding the net in Serie A, with his most recent strike prior to today coming in December's draw with Juventus.

The 26-year-old was Venezia's sole attacking spark, registering all three of his side's attempts on target, including that impressive effort from range.

What's next?

Juventus are back in action on Friday with a trip to Genoa, while Venezia travel to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday.

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