Dusan Vlahovic has drawn interest from Juventus, Arsenal and Tottenham among others.

The 21-year-old has 18 months remaining on his contract and Fiorentina are keen to maximise their profit on him.

Vlahovic has netted 38 goals in the past 18 months in Serie A.

TOP STORY – FRESH TALKS ON VLAHOVIC DEAL

Juventus are set for fresh talks on Thursday on a deal to sign Fiorentina's Vlahovic, reports Fabrizio Romano.

The Serbia striker has attracted plenty of interest but an agreement between the Bianconeri and Fiorentina is in place.

The stumbling block is Vlahovic's final contract and agent's fees, with a deal potentially set to trigger Alvaro Morata's exit to Barcelona, although Romano claims there are no new talks on that.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal claims that Barcelona are working on a plan to raise €100million (£83m) in funds to lure Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland to the Catalan club. The Blaugrana are determined to win the race to sign Haaland despite interest from wealthy giants Real MadridManchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Bayern Munich's 32-year-old forward Thomas Muller has drawn interest from Newcastle United and Everton as he approaches the final year of his contract, claims Sport Bild.

- L'Equipe claims that Bruno Guimaraes had told Lyon he wants to join Newcastle after the Magpies tabled a bid.

- The Sun reports that Manchester United have put their search for a new manager on hold as they consider whether to make Ralf Rangnick's stay permanent.

- Staying at United, numerous reports in England suggest Jesse Lingard is angry with the club as their demands have put off Newcastle's attempt to sign the player on loan.

- Ousmane Dembele wants to stay at Barcelona after all, according to Sport. The France international's representatives met with Barca boss Xavi this week.

- Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele is set to join Valencia on loan, reports Telefoot.

Anthony Martial has made no secret of his desire to leave Manchester United in the January window – and the France international appears to have been granted his wish.

Restricted to just four starts in all competitions this season, Martial has very much been on the periphery at United in what is his seventh campaign at the club.

However, there are no shortage of suitors for Martial and it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will spend the remainder of the campaign away from Old Trafford.


TOP STORY – SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla had a loan bid for Martial rejected earlier this month, but Goal reports that the issues have been ironed out and the out-of-favour forward is now set to undergo a medical.

Juventus are said to have been among a number of other European sides in the running to sign Martial, but Sevilla were always his preferred destination.

The LaLiga club are expected to pay a loan fee for the former Monaco man, potentially as much as €5.96million (£5m), while the player himself will accept a cut in wages.


ROUND-UP

– After growing frustrated in their attempt to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, The Sun reports that Arsenal may now instead go after Real Madrid's Luka Jovic this month.

– Calciomercato claims that Serie A leaders Inter are close to strengthening their squad with the addition of striker Felipe Caicedo from Genoa.

Watford are set to move quickly on the back of sacking head coach Claudio Ranieri by bringing in Roy Hodgson as early as Tuesday, according to Sky Sports.

– Goal suggest that Bayern Munich are targeting Chelsea's Andreas Christensen on a free transfer after Niklas Sule turned down the offer of a new contract in Bavaria.

Manchester City are increasingly confident of wrapping up a deal for Julian Alvarez. However, the Daily Mail reports that the striker will initially remain on loan with River Plate.

Newcastle United have made a fresh approach for Man Utd winger Jesse Lingard, according to The Telegraph. The Magpies are happy to pay a £6m loan fee.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has probably played his last game at Arsenal because the club never learnt "how to forgive", according to former Gunners striker Emmanuel Adebayor. 

Aubameyang was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy in December for a disciplinary breach, which reportedly related to him returning late from a trip abroad. 

It was by no means Aubameyang's first indiscretion, having also last year been reminded of his responsibilities after it was claimed he broke COVID-19 guidelines to get a tattoo. 

The punishment did not stop at having the armband taken off him, though, with Mikel Arteta excluding Aubameyang from the squad for the rest of the month. 

His exclusion led to Gabon asking for him to be released early for Africa Cup of Nations duty and Arsenal granted that request, only for him to return to his club without playing a single competitive game in Cameroon as he required medical follow-ups after contracting COVID-19. 

Adebayor knows what it is like to have a fractious relationship with Arsenal and the club's fans, having hit out at both following his 2009 move to Manchester City. Two months later he scored against his former club and ran the length of the pitch to goad Gunners supporters, a celebration that has gone down in Premier League folklore. 

Such have been his experiences with Arsenal, he seemingly sees no way back for Aubameyang. 

He told reporters: "I know he's definitely going to go through a lot because that's Arsenal for you. You can't do whatever you do. 

"They never learn or they never knew how to forgive. So, I know he will go through a lot. 

"But he's a strong player, he's a good player, he's a fantastic player. I wish him all the best. 

"I sent him a message already because we just want him to bounce back. 

"He's our African brother and we want him to keep representing Africa the way he was doing it before the problem. 

"This is what I know because it happened to me also. Not in the same way, but a way back? At Arsenal, I would be surprised. 

"But as I'm telling you, he's a great player so let's see how he ends up." 

Aubameyang has apparently rejected a move to Saudi Arabia, with the 32-year-old said to be eager to stay in Europe. 

Fiorentina have received "important offers" for Dusan Vlahovic and would even be willing to let him move to rivals Juventus. 

Vlahovic is one of the most in-demand players in Europe after a sensational 2021 saw him join Cristiano Ronaldo and Luca Toni as the only players in the past 60 years to score more than 30 Serie A goals in a calendar year. 

The 21-year-old has found the back of the net 20 times in 24 appearances in all competitions this season alone, with Ciro Immobile (21) the only Serie A player to have registered more. 

Vlahovic will be out of contract at the end of next season and has been heavily linked with Juve, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Fiorentina are open to selling him and have received offers, but the lack of responses from the player's camp have hampered their chances of doing a deal during the January transfer window. 

The Viola are hoping to receive in the region of €70million but have also offered the striker a new contract in an attempt to avoid losing him for nothing when his deal expires. 

"We've received some important offers for him but have never received feedback from his agents," Fiorentina sporting director Daniele Prade told Sportitalia. 

"There has always been great transparency on our part in all communication. All the doors are open. We really want to understand what the agents and the player want to do. 

"We're ready to spend money with important offers for his renewal. We also have important offers to sell him. A club like Fiorentina cannot afford to lose a player on a free transfer.  

"They were all valid and satisfactory offers, with payment methods that suited us. We couldn't go ahead with the deal because there was never any contact with the player's agents. 

"It's an important valuation, over €70million with no swap deal and no way of paying in instalments. The president has imposed this on us." 

Asked specifically if Fiorentina would even be willing to sell to Juve, Prade replied: "The doors are open to everyone." 

Fiorentina have demanded clarity from Dusan Vlahovic amid ongoing transfer speculation but Viola director Joe Barone reiterated that no offers have been made for the striker.

Several of Europe's biggest clubs, including Juventus, Manchester City and Arsenal, are said to be interested in the Serbia international.

Reports in Italy suggest Juve are the 21-year-old's preferred destination.

Vlahovic has scored 17 times in 21 Serie A appearances this season, finding the net every 109.5 minutes on average and outperforming his expected goals tally of 12.2.

He also ended 2021 in impressive fashion, equalling Cristiano Ronaldo's 21st-century record for the most goals in the Italian top flight in a calendar year (33), set in 2020 – only Gunnar Nordahl in 1950 (36) has ever scored more across the same period.

But Fiorentina, who have already confirmed they are open to selling their star forward, want Vlahovic to provide them with some clarity on his future.

 

Barone told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Sunday's clash with Cagliari: "I want to talk about Fiorentina, who are playing today [Sunday] and deserve all the focus of the club and fans.

"We talk every day about this, we said a lot recently, Fiorentina have not received any offers. We have been very clear, we are open to anything, but we want clarity.

"We want clarity from the player and his entourage. Fiorentina have a future, which isn't just today's game, but also the future of a group, a fanbase, a city. We need to concentrate on that too."

Vlahovic was left out of the squad for the trip to Cagliari with Fiorentina announcing, but not naming, that two members of their matchday squad had tested positive for COVID-19. Riccardo Saponara was also absent.

Pep Guardiola declared James Ward-Prowse as the best free-kick taker in the world, but he added Kevin De Bruyne to second after his assist against Southampton.

Ward-Prowse was lauded by the Manchester City manager ahead of Saturday's clash, which ended in a 1-1 draw as an Aymeric Laporte's header cancelled out Kyle Walker-Peters' opener.

Southampton captain Ward-Prowse has scored 12 times from free-kicks in his Premier League career, with only David Beckham (18) managing more in the history of the competition.

But De Bruyne staked his claim for a place on Guardiola's list at St Mary's when he perfectly whipped his free-kick onto Laporte's head for City's equaliser.

That assist led to follow-up questions to Guardiola on his Ward-Prowse comments, which he firmly stood by after the game with Ralph Hasenhuttl's side.

When asked if De Bruyne had knocked Ward-Prowse off the top of the free-kick taking perch, Guardiola responded: "Absolutely not. He [De Bruyne] is the second one!"

The Belgium midfielder's expert delivery was his 80th assist in the Premier League, as many as Beckham has, but the 30-year-old has achieved the feat in 68 fewer outings than the former England international.

However, how does De Bruyne match up against other top-flight set-piece specialists this term?

Ward-Prowse sits top of the direct free-kick goals chart in the Premier League, with two to his name in the 2021-22 campaign. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Maxwel Cornet, Michael Olise, Ruben Neves, Jonjo Shelvey, Marcos Alonso, Martin Odegaard, Raphinha, Son Heung-min and Matt Ritchie are all tied for second as the other players to score from a dead-ball opportunity this season.

Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold also excels in terms of chances created from set-plays (26), with a league-leading three assists from dead-ball situations.

Ward-Prowse (22), perhaps unsurprisingly, ranks second to Alexander-Arnold under that metric, while Raphinha, Son and Ritchie (all 16) make up the top five in the league.

De Bruyne is tied for 15th on the list for chances created from set-pieces, with 10 to his name from 17 appearances in the league this term. That is as many as Chelsea's Mason Mount and Aston Villa's John McGinn.

The City star has created 41 chances in total in this year's Premier League, however, with only Bruno Fernandes (57) and Alexander-Arnold (58) able to better that tally, as the reigning champions prepare for their next league clash at home to Brentford on February 9.

Christian Eriksen had his contract terminated with Inter last month.

The Danish midfielder has been training with Ajax in recent weeks.

But the 29-year-old former Tottenham star is set to return to England.

 

TOP STORY – ERIKSEN SET TO COMPLETE BEES DEAL

Former Inter midfielder Eriksen is set to complete a deal to join Brentford in the next 72 hours according to the Mirror.

Ex-Tottenham star Eriksen has agreed terms but needs to pass a medical with the Bees to seal the imminent deal.

The Denmark international, who suffered a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, was unable to play for Inter this season due to Italian football regulations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United will open new talks with Brighton as they move to sign Yves Bissouma, claims the Daily Mail. The Magpies are also pondering an offer for Tottenham's Dele Alli.

- The Sun reports that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola may be lured away with by the offer to take over as the Netherlands national team boss. The Dutch deal would start in 2023 when his current contract expires.

- West Ham will make a bumper move for Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin claims The Sun. The deal would be worth £60million.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that ex-Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj is set to extend his current deal with Real Sociedad .

- Diego Carlos' representatives are trying to convince Sevilla to sell him to Newcastle with a £60m deal on the table according to 90min.

Pep Guardiola became the fastest manager in Premier League history to accrue 500 points with Manchester City's 1-1 draw against Southampton on Saturday.

The Catalan coach, who first took charge of City in August 2016, reached the milestone figure in 213 matches – 18 fewer than previous quickest Jose Mourinho.

Jurgen Klopp is next on the list having reached 500 points in 236 games with Liverpool, while legendary Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson needed 242 matches to do so.

Arsene Wenger (249 games) completes the top five, with Rafael Benitez (267), David Moyes (340), Martin O'Neill (351), Mark Hughes (367), Sam Allardyce (386), Harry Redknapp (392) and Steve Bruce (441) also members of the 500 club.

City have taken more points against Arsenal (34) than any other opponent under Guardiola, followed by Burnley, West Ham (both 31), Leicester City and Watford (both 27).

Reigning Premier League champions City have put together four runs of 12-plus victories in the competition in Guardiola's five-and-a-half-year tenure, the most recent of which came to an end with their draw against Southampton.

The Citizens dropped points for the first time in 13 matches in a run stretching back to a 2-0 home loss against Crystal Palace on October 30, leaving them 12 points clear of second-placed Liverpool having played two games more.

Kyle Walker-Peters fired Southampton into an early lead with a sensational outside-of-the-boot strike – just the third first-half goal City have conceded in the league this term – but the visitors hit back through Aymeric Laporte's header.

Despite his side's losing run coming to an end, Guardiola was pleased with their display at St Mary's Stadium.

"We played really well. Unfortunately, in the first half we conceded a goal, but I think this was one of our best performances of the season, by far," he told Sky Sports.

"They were incredibly organised and this is one of the best performances we played against them. Yes, the result was not good, but in terms of performance and the way we played, it was excellent.

"We played better than in the Arsenal game, when we won, and today we drew. Sometimes you deserve it and you don't win, but the way we played here was excellent.

"Southampton are a really good team. They are organised, they play 4-4-2, long balls, good pace in counter-attack, good build up. But we were brilliant today.

"Why should we lose belief in what we have done? It was a good performance. We are going to drop points, but the way we behave is very good."

Liverpool could move to within six points of City should they win their games in hand, while the sides still have to meet at the Etihad Stadium in April.

"People will say the Premier League race is not over and that is good for this side," Guardiola added. "We have many tough games ahead of us, but we will try to behave until the end.

"I would like to have a 40-point lead ahead of Liverpool, but that is not possible in January. I didn't expect to have this lead, but now we will rest and come back as best as possible."

Manchester City's 12-match winning run in the Premier League came to an end with a 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium on Saturday. 

The runaway league leaders conceded a first-half goal for just the third time this season through Kyle Walker-Peters' sublime finish on the half-volley after seven minutes.

Southampton had an Armando Broja goal ruled out for offside and continued to pose a threat, though City dug deep and levelled through Aymeric Laporte's 65th-minute header.

City dominated possession and looked the more likely side to claim all three points, but they failed to do so in a league game for the first time since October 13.

Walker-Peters gave Southampton a shock early lead with his first Premier League goal after carrying the ball down the right, exchanging passes with Nathan Redmond and sending a controlled outside-of-the-boot strike away from Ederson.

Having survived another scare when Broja had a goal chalked off, City showed signs of life and would have been level before half-time if not for a fine close-range save from Fraser Forster to deny Raheem Sterling, who had plenty of the goal to aim for.

The lively Broja headed against the post from a couple of yards out and Jan Bednarek skewed the follow-up off target, while Rodri skimmed the top of the crossbar at the other end as the game opened up.

Southampton had conceded in each of their last 10 league matches, however, and they were once again undone by a set-piece as Laporte got away from his marker and guided home Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick. 

That sparked a City onslaught, with De Bruyne hitting the post from range and having a penalty appeal rejected, but Southampton held on to make it two points from their two meetings with the champions this term.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka accepts he needs to "improve" his disciplinary record, but he does not think he can change his approach.

Xhaka attracted widespread criticism after he was sent off in Arsenal's EFL Cup semi-final first leg draw with Liverpool.

The Switzerland international made a wild lunge on Diogo Jota in the first half, with the Liverpool man looking to bring down a lofted pass before he received a high kick from Xhaka.

It was by no means the first time Xhaka's discipline has been called into question – that was his fifth red card since joining Arsenal in 2016, the joint-most of any Premier League player in that time.

But he does not think changing his game is possible, pointing out that it is not as if he is doing it on purpose.

"It's not like I'm planning this," he told Sky Sports prior to Liverpool's 2-0 win in Thursday's semi-final second leg. "It's not like I'm doing this on purpose, but sometimes I am in a position where I have to take a 50:50.

"It's risky, of course. Now people will say, 'Yeah, but why do you always [take] risks?' This is who I am. I can't change myself from today to tomorrow.

"Of course, I need to improve and I know I need to improve, but in this moment, if Jota takes the ball and he scores, they will say again, 'Why didn't you stop him?' Now, I stop him, they say, 'Why do you get the red card?'

"In the end, after the game, everyone is smarter than in the moment – myself as well. Of course, when I see it back now and say, 'Do I need to go into the duel or not?' No.

"But it is a moment, a second, where I have to make a decision and this time I made the wrong one and I feel sorry for the team, I feel sorry for the supporters, but thank God they did an amazing job after that."

Concerns over Xhaka's decision-making has not been limited to just red cards, though, as he also has a poor record when it comes to conceding penalties.

He has committed six offences that led to spot-kicks during his Arsenal career, with only David Luiz, Fernandinho (both seven) and Wilfred Ndidi conceding more over the same period.

The most recent of Xhaka's six came against Manchester City on New Year's Day, with the Arsenal man penalise for a coming together with Bernardo Silva – while there was contact, the Portugal star appeared to throw himself to the floor in a theatrical manner.

Referee Stuart Attwell did not immediately award the penalty, only doing so after a VAR check, and Xhaka voiced his frustration with situations like these.

"If you if you look in slow motion, every duel, every foul looks too much," he added. "[Against City], he [Attwell] had decided already it wasn't a penalty.

"But after, they go to VAR and check and check and check. The thing is, they are checking two pictures, three pictures, and they are not seeing all the action.

"I hope that in the future the referees can make their own decisions. Don't let the people from outside look in slow motion and stuff like this because I believe in a slow motion, everything looks harder than it is.

"In the end, they are human beings as well. They make mistakes as well. This is part of the job. Everyone makes mistakes. We have to accept decisions and look forward."

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

Pep Guardiola reiterated his admiration for the free-kicks of James Ward-Prowse, insisting the Southampton midfielder is the world's best over dead balls.

The Manchester City manager described Ward-Prowse as the best free-kick-taker he had ever seen in December 2020 after his side won 1-0 at St Mary's Stadium.

The England international scored a spectacular long-range goal in the 3-1 loss to Wolves last week that took him to 12 goals from direct free-kicks in the Premier League, a tally bettered only by David Beckham (18) in the history of the competition.

Since the start of 2012-13, Ward-Prowse's first in England's top flight, only Hakan Calhanoglu (14), Miralem Pjanic (15) and Lionel Messi (33) have scored more often directly from set-pieces. His 12 goals have come from just 90 attempts, though, giving him a 13.3 per cent conversion rate, a figure only bettered by Paulo Dybala (13.5 per cent) among players to score at least 10 such goals in that time.

Ward-Prowse's repertoire goes beyond spectacular goals, though: he has created 224 chances from set-pieces over the past 10 seasons, providing 19 assists, numbers only beaten by Calhanoglu and Dani Parejo in Europe's top leagues.

Ahead of Saturday's match on England's south coast, Guardiola again drew attention to the threat the 27-year-old poses.

"He is the best taker I have ever seen, right now in the world," he said. "No player is a better taker than Ward-Prowse.

"He is so good, maybe we miss a little bit this quality of a football player: a guy who adapts in the same position, a team player, great quality without the ball, with the ball, understanding the game.

"Set-pieces and corners are exceptional. We need to pay more attention."

Beating Southampton away on the final day of the 2017-18 season saw City win their first Premier League title under Guardiola and become the first side in England's top tier to score 100 points in a single season.

Their latest visit offers the chance of another moment of history, as a draw will see Guardiola reach 500 points since he took charge in 2016. City have already accrued at least 38 more than any other team in the competition in that time, and 108 more than Manchester United.

However, when asked about the milestone, Guardiola said: "I'm not thinking of this when it hasn't happened. It will happen sooner or later. Southampton.

"We struggled in the first game last season when we played there. When we played home, we won, but we struggle in the actions. Southampton are a tough team. A real tough team."

Guardiola, who confirmed Riyad Mahrez has been given a week off after Algeria exited the Africa Cup of Nations, has seen his side build up an 11-point lead at the top of the table with one game to go until the Premier League takes a two-week break.

He said there will be no warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi during that interval due to concerns around coronavirus.

"We spoke with the club and it’s not safe to go all together with the virus," he said. "Instead, we decided everyone to go for themselves with family and friends."

Fiorentina are open to selling Dusan Vlahovic in January but the Viola's director Joe Barone denied they have reached an agreement with Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta's Gunners are among a plethora of Europe's elite who are chasing the in-form striker in the mid-season transfer window, with Premier League champions Manchester City also linked.

Vlahovic has scored 17 times in 21 Serie A appearances, netting once every 109.5 minutes on average and comfortably outperforming his expected goals tally of 12.2, and his stock continues to rise.

The 21-year-old ended 2021 on a high as well, matching Cristiano Ronaldo's 21st-century record for most goals in the Italian top flight in a calendar year (33), set in 2020.

In fact, only Gunnar Nordahl in 1950 (36) has ever scored more times in a calendar year than Ronaldo and Vlahovic.

But Barone revealed Vlahovic's time in Tuscany will likely come to an end soon with the Serbia international unwilling to sign a new contract, with his current deal expiring at the end of the next season.

 

"Some English clubs have made contact, but there is no agreement yet. We are open [to selling]," Barone told Italian outlet La Nazione on Friday.

Barone previously asked Vlahovic to publicly state whether he wants to leave the club or not, while suggesting no bids had been made for the forward in the last week.

But the Fiorentina chief claimed he is still yet to hear from Vlahovic's entourage as the Viola reportedly hold out for €75million for their prized asset.

"I haven't heard anything from them, I had asked Vlahovic's agent to be clear, but I haven't heard anything, no contacts at all," he added.

Fiorentina sit sixth in Serie A on 35 points ahead of their next clash with Cagliari on Sunday.

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

Ousmane Dembele's future with Barcelona has been unclear for months.

The 24-year-old has snubbed a fresh contract extension offer at Barca.

On Thursday, it was confirmed the Blaugrana have subsequently put him up for sale in January.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY FOR DEMBELE MOVE

Chelsea are ready to make a January move for Barcelona's Dembele, claims The Sun.

France winger Dembele is out of contract at the end of this season and Barca now want him to leave this month.

Chelsea have interest in Dembele, although it is unclear if they want to sign him on loan or permanently.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are prepared to offer Jordan Veretout in exchange for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Goal and The Athletic claim that Paris Saint-Germain  are in talks with Spurs and Ndombele over a loan move.

- The Telegraph claims Tottenham are ready to make a January swoop for Milan's Franck Kessie, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

- Sevilla are still keen to sign Manchester United forward Anthony Martial on loan, according to Marca. The Spanish club had an initial offer rejected and could move for Lyon's Moussa Dembele as an alternative.

- Real Betis want to sign Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko this month, with the lure of regular football, claims The Sun.

- Crystal Palace have pulled out of the race to sign Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsey has had interest from Newcastle United, Wolves and Burnley.

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