The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

We may only be a week into 2022, but the first major international football tournament of the year is on the horizon, with the Africa Cup of Nations kicking off on Sunday.

It's been a long time coming as well – it was initially due to take place in June and July 2021 but was brought forward to January 2021 due to concerns about the weather. It then had to be pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of course, fans and teams have had to put up with the usual posturing from those at certain clubs regarding the inconvenience of relinquishing players in the middle of the season, but despite that there remains a healthy selection of big names.

In fact, given the standard the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Achraf Hakimi usually play at, some might even argue this is one of the highest-quality groups of players to feature at a single AFCON.

But the beauty of every international tournament is that there's more to them than the big names – there are plenty of promising younger players looking to impress for a global audience.

Kamaldeen Sulemana, 19, winger – Ghana

Hold on to your seats! Kamaldeen is sure to ramp up the excitement at AFCON, such is his rather chaotic approach to attacking – and acrobatic celebration. The teenage winger is immensely tricky and agile, with his 246 take-on attempts in the 2020-21 Danish Superliga nearly twice as many as anyone else – to put that into context, only Lionel Messi managed more (261) in the top five leagues. He's carried that into Ligue 1 following his move to Rennes, with his average of one shot involvements from a ball carry every 43 minutes being the second best in Ligue 1 (min. 900 minutes played) after Kylian Mbappe – that's obviously pretty good.

 

Ibrahim Sangare, 24, defensive midfielder – Ivory Coast

While good performances at AFCON alone may not be enough for players to convince big clubs they're worth a punt on, showing promise might just get a few more eyes on them. Sangare is definitely one of those who could put himself 'in the shop window'. The PSV midfielder has a lot about him, particularly when it comes to defending. In this season's Eredivisie, only three players (at least 500 minutes played) have averaged more than his 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes, while he ranks fifth for interceptions frequency (2.5) and third for middle-third recoveries (5.7). He's also technically proficient and happy on the ball, with only three players attempting more passes (81.1) on a per-90-minute basis than him.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, attacking midfielder – Tunisia

A former France youth international, Mejbri may have only declared for Tunisia in 2021 but this will already be his second international tournament. The Manchester United midfielder started all six of Tunisia's games as they reached the final of the Arab Cup in December, eventually losing to Algeria in the final. Hannibal may not feature quite as prominently in a full-strength squad, but the midfielder possesses the kind of off-the-cuff abilities that endear him to fans – if not opponents. He is known to be targeted for fouls when playing for United's second team, such is his natural talent.

Ilaix Moriba, 18, central midfielder – Guinea

2021-22 hasn't quite gone as Moriba presumably thought it would. He left Barcelona after failing to agree a new contract, despite having broken into the first-team setup at Camp Nou. The midfielder had shown exceptional promise, particularly on the ball – he averaged 3.2 dribbles per 90 minutes, a total bettered by only four team-mates, and boasted a success rate of 89.3 per cent, with only Miralem Pjanic bettering him. The €16million signing has played just twice in the Bundesliga since the move to Leipzig and will surely be relishing some competitive action.

Edmond Tapsoba, 22, centre-back – Burkina Faso

If Burkina Faso go on to have a good tournament, Tapsoba will almost certainly have had something to do with it. The centre-back is an extremely elegant player for someone roughly the size of a small building and whose name sounds like a hipster bar, and at club level he performs a vital function in getting Leverkusen on the front foot, with his 13.5 progressive ball carries in the Bundesliga this term second only to Alphonso Davies. If he can translate that to the international stage, Burkina Faso will have a real weapon in the middle – even if he doesn't, he'll still give them aerial threat at set-pieces.

 

Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, 17, forward – Ghana

The case of Issahaku is a rather intriguing one. Transfer rumours in 2021 suggested Liverpool had signed him for £1.5million, but that soon turned out to be false. He remains in his native Ghana, but the exciting attacker has seemingly done enough to earn a shot at international level despite being just 17 – he's the second-youngest player at the tournament. But he's used to that sort of situation. After all, before he'd even turned 17 in March he was named Player of the Tournament at the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations. While that Liverpool move never materialised, he's got himself another opportunity to shine.

2021 is dead – long live 2022.

It's a new year, and while the one changing to a two literally overnight may seem arbitrary, it gives us an excuse to look ahead and what's on the horizon.

Of course, we're now into a World Cup year – 12 months from now, we'll have newly crowned world champions and, who knows, maybe a new superstar or two will have emerged.

While there's no guarantee about a player's trajectory, Stats Perform have at least put together a list of 22 under-22 players who could be worth keeping an eye out for in 2022.

GOALKEEPERS

Etienne Green, 21, English – Saint-Etienne

Honestly, he's not included just because of the perfection of a player called Etienne Green playing for Les Verts, Saint-Etienne – though that certainly warrants a mention. Colchester-born Green has played 23 times in Ligue 1 for the club, making Leeds United's Ilan Meslier the only goalkeeper born after 2000 to play more often (53) across the top five leagues. In April he became the fourth Ligue 1 keeper since Opta records began (2006-07) to save a penalty on his debut and he's since gone on to nail down a starting spot. Having recently declared for England over France, Green could be an outside bet for Gareth Southgate's squad at Qatar 2022.

Maarten Vandevoordt, 19, Belgian – Genk

In 2019, Vandevoordt became the Champions League's youngest ever goalkeeper at 17 years and 287 days old – it proved to be a bit of a nightmare as Genk lost 4-0, with youngster at fault for two goals. It would've been enough to shatter the confidence of most young players, but Vandevoordt's since gone on to become first-choice, playing 16 league games in 2020-21 and all 21 this term.

DEFENDERS

Kaiky, 17, Brazilian – Santos

If there's any area of the pitch that one might consider to be the hardest to establish yourself in as a young player, most would say centre-back. Yet, despite not turning 18 until January 12, Kaiky has racked up an impressive number of appearances there for Santos. He played more minutes in the 2021 Brasileirao (1,334 minutes) and the Libertadores (495) than any other under-19 player and has impressed with his comfort in possession, aerial ability and demonstrable appetite for defending. He has a long way to go, but he sure has made a promising start.

Becir Omeragic, 19, Swiss – FC Zurich

Omeragic is among the most highly rated young centre-backs in Europe and was in Switzerland's Euro 2020 squad – despite still being only 19, he's already played 71 Swiss Super League games for Zurich. This season he ranks highly in numerous metrics among defenders, such as tackle attempts (29, fifth-highest), interceptions (26, seventh-highest) and possession won (105, fifth-highest), while he offers good progression on the ball, his carry progress of 1,796.6m upfield being the fourth-best among all defenders – two of those are full-backs. Expect to see him in one of Europe's biggest leagues fairly soon.

Ilya Zabarnyi, 19, Ukrainian – Dynamo Kiev

Previously linked with Chelsea, among other major clubs, Zabarnyi caught the eye at Euro 2020 with some mature displays. Despite being the joint-youngest player in the squad, Zabarnyi was one of the five players to play every minute for Ukraine, and among those to feature for at least 100 minutes, he ranked in the top three for touches (72.8) and passes (60.6) on a per-90 basis. Similarly, only four played more passes into the final third than him (4.7), and three of those were midfielders. A move to a bigger league will give us a better idea of just how good Zabarnyi is, but the promise is there.

Ethan Laird, 20, English – Swansea City (on loan from Manchester United)

Manchester United have rated right-back Laird highly for a while – he actually made his senior debut for them as far back as November 2019 in the Europa League. Since then, he showed great promise at Milton Keynes Dons and then followed coach Russell Martin in making the jump to the Championship with Swansea City, where he's continued to impress. Only three defenders in the division have created more chances than him in open play (23), while his five big chances created is the second-most in the Swans squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka seemingly unable to kick on at United, Laird's opportunity may arrive in 2022.

Alex Balde, 18, Spanish – Barcelona

Barcelona have seemingly once again become great trusters of youth – not that their situation has given them much of a choice. Balde's not yet one of those to become a regular, and you'd think he will struggle to dislodge Jordi Alba at left-back, but in his four LaLiga appearances the 18-year-old has shown real promise with his ability on the ball and pace. Given his skillset and Xavi's desire to play with classic wingers, he may find himself used further up the pitch – either way, he's definitely one to watch.

George Bello, 19, American – Atlanta United

Nigeria-born Bello may not be 20 until late January, but he's already made a strong impression in MLS, so much so that he became a regular part of the USA's senior side in 2021. Added to that, his 2,433 minutes played was the most of any MLS player to end the season as a teenager. An attack-minded left-back, Bello is excellent on the ball and possesses great pace, and he may well be on the move soon given his contract expires at the end of 2022. If anyone takes a punt, they could be rewarded handsomely.

MIDFIELDERS

Yacine Adli, 21, French – Bordeaux (on loan from Milan)

Milan fans have every reason to be excited about Adli. The kind of silky playmaker that makes almost everything look effortless, he has created more chances after a carry (11) than any other midfielder in Ligue 1 this term. He may not be a great goal threat himself, but his six assists is the second-most among the same group of players (Dimitri Payet has seven) – all of Adli's were from open play, however, which is the most the league's midfielders. Whether he can keep that up at Milan is unclear, but if he can, they'll have a real asset on their hands.

Unai Vencedor, 21, Spanish – Athletic Bilbao

Athletic are one of LaLiga's stranger teams in that they don't win, lose, score or concede very often, yet that's not stopping Vencedor from thriving. A controlling presence with satisfying calmness on the ball in centre midfield, Vencedor is mature for his age and already has significant influence over Athletic's play. Just Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams have been involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Vencedor (47) among Athletic players, while the former (eight) is the only one with more instances of being involved in build-up and taking the shot (five) at the end, highlighting his importance to not only keeping them on the ball but also posing an attacking threat.

Nicolo Rovella, 20, Italian – Genoa (on loan from Juventus)

Granted, Rovella's hardly a hidden gem given Juve signed him in a deal potentially worth €20m last January, but he's still not quite a household name. Nevertheless, he looks a real prospect. A deep-lying midfielder, Rovella is elegant on the ball, hard-working without it and excellent at set-pieces. For struggling Genoa this season, his 4.0 possession wins every 90 minutes in the middle third is the 15th highest among Serie A midfielders (min. 500 minutes played), as is his 1.4 successful tackles – though only four players from the same group who have attempted at least 20 boast a better success rate than him (71.4). There's talk he could be recalled by Juve in January, which highlights the impression he's making.

Caden Clark, 18, American – RB Leipzig

With goals against Atlanta United and then Toronto four days later in October 2020, Clark became the youngest player MLS history to score in each of his first two games – the second was an absolute scorcher as well. The 18-year-old agreed a move from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in 2021 and he officially makes the switch in January, with no return loan planned. The technically gifted midfielder has his chance to make it in the big-time, and the Bundesliga has previously been a good next step for MLS stars.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, Tunisian – Manchester United

Some United fans are disappointed Hannibal didn't get more opportunities under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he's been restricted with Ralf Rangnick because of his involvement in the Arab Cup and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. But when he returns, there's every indication he may get more chances, or at least that's what Rangnick recently intimated. A silky and creative midfielder, but one who has a tendency to lose his head, Hannibal might be able to provide the extra injection of craft often missing from United's midfield.

WINGERS

Kayky, 18, Brazilian – Manchester City

There's every chance Kayky and Angelo could be challenging each other for a spot in the senior Brazil team one day. Now at Manchester City after joining from Fluminense in a deal apparently worth an initial £8.4million, Kayky's development is going to be fascinating to watch. With Flu, the talented winger became the club's youngest player and goalscorer in the Libertadores before making the switch to England in pre-season. He was on the bench for the Boxing Day win over Leicester City, and with COVID-19 cases proving an issue across the Premier League, there's every chance we may see a bit more of Kayky in the near future.

Angelo Gabriel, 17, Brazilian – Santos

Every year it seems there's a new Brazilian teenager causing a stir and subsequently being linked with a big move to Europe – the latest is Angelo Gabriel. The newest 'new Neymar', Angelo is actually a left-footed right winger but the similarities in style of play are at least comparable in that he's a good dribbler, skilful and likes to cut inside off the flank. Angelo's made the jump up to the first team a little earlier than Neymar, though – he only turned 17 in December but already has 51 first-team appearances to his name. In April, he became the Copa Libertadores' youngest-ever scorer (16 years, 105 days old) and was also the only under-17 player to feature in the 2021 Brasileirao.

Alan Velasco, 19, Argentinian – Independiente

Showing quality in Argentina's domestic league isn't always a guarantee of future greatness, but doing well as a tricky youngster does speak to a certain degree of bravery and resilience given the brutal reputation of the top flight. Velasco is among the league's most-promising young players, a skilful, quick and dangerous left winger. His 62 chances created this season is the fifth most in the division, while no player can better his 198 dribbles completed. Could he be a wildcard choice for Argentina at the World Cup? Don't rule it out.

Rayan Cherki, 18, French – Lyon

It feels like 2022 could be a massive year for Cherki. The versatile attacker is still nowhere near being a regular at Lyon, despite many feeling Peter Bosz's appointment might prove a boost to the teenager – after all, he played an important role in developing Kai Havertz and Florian Wirtz. Yet, the raw ability is undoubtedly there for Cherki – whether he'll be able to harness that properly at Lyon remains to be seen, with suggestions growing that he might seek a move away in the next year.

FORWARDS

Yuri Alberto, 20, Brazilian – Internacional

Yuri Alberto looks likely to be 'one who got away' for Santos. He left for Internacional in 2020 after initially showing promise at Vila Belmiro and has been a shrewd acquisition, scoring 22 times in 56 Brasileirao appearances, the most of any player currently 24 or younger. His 12 in the 2021 season was only bettered by four players and he scored more hat-tricks than anyone else (three) during the calendar year – one of those being netted in the late-finishing 2020 campaign.

Mohamed-Ali Cho, 17, French – Angers

A dynamic, exciting forward who is most comfortable out wide at the moment, Cho may only be 17 but he already has 39 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt. Where France seem to have lost out to England with Green, Les Bleus look to be winning the battle for Cho, who spent five years at Everton until 2020. Now a France Under-21 international, Cho is the youngest player to have scored in Ligue 1 this season having netted against Rennes back in August when he was aged 17 years and 222 days.

Ricardo Pepi, 18, American – FC Dallas

Yes, another American. While Clark may not make it into the United States' World Cup squad, Pepi almost certainly will. A very well-rounded striker who is tall, agile and hard-working, Pepi has also – perhaps most importantly – proven an able finisher, with his 13 MLS goals in the 2021 season being the joint-most ever managed by a teenager in the competition. Similarly, he's also the youngest player to ever score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the USA. He has a long-term contract at Dallas, but no one would be surprised to see him leave for Europe in 2022, with Germany a likely destination. Expect him to fetch the largest ever fee for an American leaving MLS.

Matias Arezo, 19, Uruguayan – River Plate (URU)

Uruguay has produced some truly great strikers down the years. After more of a barren spell in that regard since Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez came through, there is once again a cause for optimism with Darwin Nunez, Agustin Alvarez and, arguably chief among them, Arezo. He scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he surpassed that haul with 15 from six fewer appearances in 2021. For comparison's sake, Suarez got 10 in 27 in his first full season in the division with Nacional, while Cavani recorded nine in 25 appearances for Danubio before moving to Europe. A well-built striker, he's definitely one to watch ahead of the World Cup – assuming Uruguay get there.

Julian Alvarez, 21, Argentinian – River Plate

A sensational last couple of months in 2021 elevated Alvarez to a new level, one which has seen him mentioned regularly in transfer gossip columns – United are apparently especially keen. The striker, now an Argentina international, scored a total of 24 club goals across 2021, while also setting up a further 12 in the league, showing both his ability to finish chances and create them. A move abroad seems highly probable – where that takes him and how he does will be intriguing to watch, particularly ahead of the World Cup.

Barcelona are in disarray – out of Champions League and out of money.

Funds are limited at Camp Nou and it is forcing the embattled LaLiga giants to make some tough decisions.

Frenkie de Jong and Marc-Andre ter Stegen could be sold.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG AND TER STEGEN TO LEAVE CAMP NOU?

Barcelona are willing to sell Frenkie de Jong and Marc-Andre ter Stegen due to the club's finances, according to Diario AS.

Eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, Barca are in the midst of a financial crisis, having been forced to part with superstar captain Lionel Messi at the start of the season.

Barca head coach Xavi faces a rebuilding job but needs to raise funds, and star midfielder De Jong and goalkeeper Ter Stegen could be sacrificed.

De Jong has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, who have also eyed Ter Stegen.

 

ROUND-UP

- Football Insider says Real Madrid are weighing up a move for former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo if he does not fit into the system of United interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

- ESPN claims Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara and Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United are key targets for Manchester United. Erling Haaland is also a long-term target of United.

Chelsea are eyeing Leicester City's Wesley Fofana as a replacement for soon-to-be free agent Antonio Rudiger, per Goal. Rudiger has been linked with Real Madrid and Bayern on a free transfer. Preparing for life after Rudiger, Chelsea have also been linked to Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to move on Mauro Icardi, Rafinha and Abdou Diallo, says L'Equipe. Icardi has been linked with Juventus, Milan, Newcastle United and Tottenham.

Domenico Tedesco has been appointed as RB Leipzig's new head coach, replacing Jesse Marsch.

Former Schalke boss Tedesco comes in less than a week after Marsch left the club following a third successive Bundesliga defeat.

Marsch joined Leipzig from sister club Salzburg in the off-season, but the task of replacing Julian Nagelsmann proved too great for the American.

A defeat to Union Berlin on Saturday has left them 11th in the table, though Leipzig responded under Achim Beierlorzer by beating Manchester City 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

That victory ensured Leipzig drop into a two-legged play-off for a place in the Europa League last 16.

Tedesco has now been handed the reins, signing a contract until June 2023. Leipzig also confirmed assistant coach Beierlorzer has left the club.

The 36-year-old was last in charge of Spartak Moscow, spending two seasons in Russia after he was dismissed by Schalke in 2019.

Tedesco, who graduated from the DFB coaching school in the same class as Nagelsmann, finished second in the Bundesliga in his first season with Schalke in 2017-18 but was unable to maintain that form the following season.

Despite Tedesco's dismissal, Schalke's slide continued and they were relegated from the top flight last term. 

His first task will be to fix Leipzig's defensive issues. They have already committed six errors leading to shots in the Bundesliga - an increase of one from the entirety of last season - and three of those have ended in goals. None of their mistakes directly resulted in goals conceded under Nagelsmann in 2020-21. 

Leipzig have let in 18 goals in the top flight but have an expected goals (xG) against of 23.6. Their xG against in the 2020-21 top-flight campaign was 29.6.

Tedesco's first game in charge will come against Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola insisted he was more than satisfied with Manchester City's work in the Champions League group stages despite a 2-1 defeat to RB Leipzig.

City travelled to the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday on the back of a 14-game unbeaten run against German opposition in the competition but fell behind to Dominik Szoboszlai's first-half strike.

Andre Silva then doubled the hosts' advantage before Riyad Mahrez pulled a goal back for the visitors, who were hampered by the late dismissal of Kyle Walker for a reckless challenge on Leipzig's second scorer.

Guardiola's side were unable to mount a late comeback, though their place at the top of Group A was already confirmed before the final matchday.

City failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their six group stage games and have only recorded one shutout in their past 11 European outings, but Guardiola was pleased with his team's work.

"In the first half we lacked rhythm, we had problems connecting and they have a really good team – we knew from before the group stage," Guardiola told reporters.

"The second half was much better but unfortunately we made one or two mistakes and they punished us. 

"We played better in the second half. We were more aggressive, we played to win the game and we lost. Congratulations to Leipzig.

"We made an incredible group stage, we qualified with one game left from a tough group, so I am more than satisfied with the performance in every single game and in February hopefully we can arrive in the best condition possible."

Alongside Walker's needless dismissal, Guardiola also left Leipzig with two injury concerns, with Phil Foden – who became the youngest Englishman to reach 30 Champions League appearances – and Nathan Ake suffering knocks.

"Phil [Foden] had problems in the beginning with his ankle, as a precaution I decided to play Raheem [Sterling] in his position," he continued.

"Nathan [Ake] has a back problem, we'll see tomorrow [Wednesday]."

Premier League leaders City return to domestic action at home to Wolves on Saturday as they look to return to winning ways.

Dominik Szoboszlai and Andre Silva struck in either half as Manchester City fell to a 2-1 defeat at RB Leipzig in the Champions League.

Premier League leaders City headed to the Red Bull Arena on a 14-game unbeaten run against German opposition in the competition, including a 6-3 home win in the reverse fixture, but Szoboszlai broke the deadlock after 24 minutes this time.

Phil Foden responded by rattling the woodwork before the break, yet Leipzig scored the second goal when Silva converted on the counter, before Riyad Mahrez pulled one back for the visitors.

Pep Guardiola's hopes of a recovery were hit by Kyle Walker's red card, although his side had already secured top spot in Group A, with this result – combined with Club Brugge's defeat at Paris Saint-Germain – enough to take Leipzig into third and a Europa League play-off.

Kevin De Bruyne had poked narrowly off target in the opening stages before Lukas Klostermann blocked a presentable opportunity for Jack Grealish at the vital moment.

Klostermann's intervention paid dividends when Szoboszlai rounded Zack Steffen following Konrad Laimer's pass to open the scoring two minutes later.

Szoboszlai almost doubled his account but was denied by excellent Steffen reflexes, while Foden drilled onto the post and De Bruyne saw his free-kick turned away by Peter Gulacsi before the interval.

Opportunities were initially limited for City after the break, and they fell two behind when Silva coolly slotted into the bottom-right corner after Emil Forsberg's offload.

Fernandinho blasted over amid penalty claims for a foul on Raheem Sterling, before Mahrez headed in Oleksandr Zinchenko's cross to tee up a potentially nervy ending.

However, Walker was then dismissed for hacking through Silva as Leipzig held on.

For so long, Paulo Dybala has been tipped to extend his Juventus contract.

However, Dybala is yet to put pen to paper as his current deal winds down.

Liverpool are reportedly monitoring the situation and are ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA EMERGES AS LIVERPOOL TARGET

Liverpool are interested in signing soon-to-be Juventus free agent Paulo Dybala, according to Calciomercato.

Dybala is out of contract at the end of the season and while there have been negotiations, the Juve star is yet to re-sign in Turin.

The situation has reportedly alerted Premier League giants Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Nacional claims Real Madrid are eyeing Rennes sensation Lovro Majer as the successor to fellow Croatian Luka Modric at the Santiago Bernabeu. Modric is out of contract at season's end and has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City.

Ousmane Dembele wants to rebuild his career away from Barcelona, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Frenchman has been linked with Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Chelsea.

- United forward Edinson Cavani is an option for Barca as they look to bolster their attack, says Mundo Deportivo. Basel's Arthur Cabral has emerged as a possible January option.

Jose Mourinho's job at Roma is not in danger, according to Fabrizio Romano. Roma have only won three of their past nine Serie A fixtures.

- Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana is still set to join Serie A champions Inter despite interest from Barca, per Romano.

- Former RB Leipzig head coach Jesse Marsch is an option to join Ralf Rangnick's coaching staff at United. Marsch was sacked by Bundesliga side Leipzig earlier this week.

Milan host Liverpool knowing they need a win to keep their Champions League hopes alive in one of the headline fixtures on Tuesday.

Real Madrid and Inter meet in a battle for top spot in Group D, with both already qualified as the Italian side travel to Spain with a woeful recent record.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are already through in Group A as well, with Lionel Messi aiming to follow in the footsteps of George Weah and Neymar at home to Club Brugge.

Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data behind the next set of matches.

Milan v Liverpool: Reds eye English record

Milan are searching for their first win against an English side in Europe since February 2012, while the Rossoneri have recorded victory in just one of their past nine home games in the Champions League group stage.

In contrast, Liverpool have triumphed in all five of their opening games this season as they look to become the first English side to win all six of their group-stage matches in a single campaign.

The Reds are also aiming to record victories in six consecutive games in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their history, with Alisson on the hunt for three consecutive clean sheets in the continental competition for his first time.

Paris Saint-Germain v Club Brugge: Mbappe and Messi await leaky defence

Club Brugge were defeated by five goals in their last clash against RB Leipzig, the third consecutive group game in which they conceded at least four times.

No team has ever gone four straight games letting in at least four, but the Belgians will have to negotiate with Messi, who could become just the third player – after Weah in 1994 and Neymar in 2017 – to score in his first three consecutive home games for PSG in the competition.

The visitors will also have to contend with Kylian Mbappe, the France international managing five goal involvements in three matches against Brugge – his joint-most against a single opponent in the competition, along with Red Star and Istanbul Basaksehir.

RB Leipzig v Manchester City: Guardiola's men out to defend German record

City are unbeaten in their previous 14 games against German opposition, including a six-game undefeated streak on the road, in a run that stretches back to November 2014 in the Champions League.

The reigning Premier League champions have won their past nine such fixtures, scoring 28 goals and conceding just nine in return, while Leipzig are winless in their most recent three meetings with English sides.

If Leipzig fail to defeat Pep Guardiola's side, it will be the first time they have not registered a single home win during the group stages in Europe.

Real Madrid v Inter: Los Blancos looking for goalscoring milestone 

Inter have claimed just one win in their past 11 meetings with Spanish opposition in European competition and their last away win against such sides came all the way back in October 2004.

The Serie A outfit have not beaten Madrid in Europe since March 1967 as Carlo Ancelotti's side look to score their 1,000th goal in the European Cup/Champions League in just their 455th game.

Karim Benzema could be central to Madrid hitting that milestone if he is passed fit, the forward already with five group-stage goals to his name this term as he sits two behind Raul in the club charts in the competition (66).

 

Other fixtures:

Ajax v Sporting CP:

16 - Ajax have scored 16 goals in their five games in the Champions League this season, with only Bayern Munich (19) and Manchester City (17) finding the net more.

15 - The previous three meetings between Ajax and Sporting have seen a total of 15 goals scored, at an average of five goals per game. Indeed, neither side has managed to keep a clean sheet in any of their three clashes to date.

Borussia Dortmund v Besiktas:

60 - Jude Bellingham has had a direct hand in 60 per cent of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League goals this season (one scored, two assisted), with the last Englishman to enjoy more than three goal involvements during the group stages of a season before the age of 19 being Jack Wilshere in 2010-11 for Arsenal (one scored, three assisted).

5 - Besiktas remain the only Champions League side in 2021-22 to lose all five of their matches and are looking to avoid being the first team since AEK Athens in 2018-19 to lose each of their six group games.

Porto v Atletico Madrid:

5 - Porto will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for a fifth time in their past five tournament appearances (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21). The last time they failed to do so was in 2015-16 under Julen Lopetegui.

786 - Luis Suarez's only goal in 11 appearances for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League was a penalty against Milan in September, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 786. At previous club Barcelona, the Uruguay striker scored 25 goals in 55 appearances, with a minutes-per-goal ratio of 192.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff: 

1 - Shakhtar Donetsk have only won one of their past 11 home games in the Champions League (D5 L5), while they have failed to score in seven of the games in this run, including both in 2021-22 (D1 L1).

25 – Sheriff's 2-0 victory over Shakhtar in this season's tournament came despite the Moldovan side having just 25 per cent possession – since 2003-04, only Atletico (23) versus Barcelona in April 2016 have won a Champions League game by multiple goals with a lower possession percentage.

This week sees the end of the group stages for this season's Champions League with honour, ambition and, yes, prize money on the line.

Two Spanish giants are being made to sweat on matchday six as Atletico Madrid need a win and a favour to stay in the competition, while Barcelona quite probably need to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to avoid dropping into the Europa League.

Atalanta and Villarreal will battle it out for second place in Group F, while Real Madrid and Inter face off at the Santiago Bernabeu to determine who will win Group D.

Group G will perhaps be the most dramatic, with all four participants in with a chance of finishing first or second, but what exactly does each team need from their final group game? Stats Perform has the answers for you here...

 

Group A

Manchester City have already secured top spot after beating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on matchday five, with the French side definitely finishing second, sitting four points behind City and four points ahead of both RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Leipzig, who sacked coach Jesse Marsch over the weekend, host City and need to match or better Club Brugge's result to clinch third place and a Europe League spot.

The Belgians must get something from their trip to Paris and hope that they achieve a better result than Leipzig.

 

Group B

Liverpool have had first place sewn up since they beat Atletico Madrid at Anfield on matchday four and now sit 10 points ahead of second place in what had been labelled a 'group of death' when the draw took place.

It's all to play for otherwise, though, with Porto second. A win for them at home to Atletico will confirm their passage to the knockout stage. A draw will also be fine as long as Milan do not beat Liverpool at San Siro.

Milan need to win against the Reds and hope the other game is a draw, while the Spanish champions have to beat Porto and hope that the Italians fail to beat Liverpool.

 

Group C

The most straightforward group of all as every position has already been confirmed, with Ajax top, Sporting CP joining them in the knockout stage as runners-up, while Borussia Dortmund will go into the Europa League and Besiktas are out.

 

Group D

Real Madrid and Inter have both qualified, with Carlo Ancelotti's men only needing to avoid defeat to the Italians at the Santiago Bernabeu to top the group. Inter need to beat Madrid to overtake them.

Sheriff will go into the Europa League having already been confirmed in third place above Shakhtar Donetsk.

 

Group E

Bayern Munich have won the group and Dynamo Kyiv will finish bottom, but the battle for second and third is going to the wire.

Barcelona have a two-point advantage in second place, but travel to Bayern, while Benfica host Dynamo, with the Portuguese side boasting the superior head-to-head record over the Catalans.

A win in Germany sees Xavi's men safely through, but should they draw or lose, they will be reliant on Benfica failing to win as well.

 

Group F

Manchester United sealed top spot with their 2-0 win at Villarreal on matchday five.

The Yellow Submarine are a point ahead of Atalanta in second, so only need to avoid defeat in Italy, while Gian Piero Gasperini's side must win to take the other qualification place.

Young Boys can still claim a Europa League spot if they beat United at Old Trafford and Atalanta lose.

 

Group G

The tightest of groups where it all comes down to the final round.

Lille sit top on eight points, and a win at Wolfsburg will secure that spot, while a draw will still see them qualify as they have a superior head-to-head with Sevilla.

Salzburg will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Sevilla, winning the group if they win and Lille do not.

Sevilla have to win in Austria to go through. They will at least secure third and a place in the Europa League if they lose and Wolfsburg also fail to beat Lille.

Wolfsburg actually cannot finish third but can finish first or second with a win against Lille.

 

Group H

Chelsea and Juventus have both qualified from the group, and Thomas Tuchel's side will secure top spot with a win at Zenit. Juventus must better Chelsea's result when they host Malmo.

Zenit have already confirmed their place in the Europa League, while Malmo are out.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola labelled Dani Olmo a "fantastic player" ahead of Tuesday's Champions League meeting with RB Leipzig.

City have breezed through Group A as they prepare to head to Leipzig, having previously gone 14 games unbeaten against German opposition in the competition.

The Bundesliga outfit can only make the Europa League after a disappointing group-stage showing, are still without a home win in Europe this term and parted ways with head coach Jesse Marsch on Sunday amid a poor run of form.

Guardiola, though, heaped praise on Leipzig as he hailed Olmo as a standout star, although he dismissed any speculation of a reported move for the Spain international.

Asked about a potential transfer for forward Olmo, Guardiola responded: "[The] answer is no. He is a Leipzig player.

"If we are interested, I'm sure City will contact Leipzig. Saying that, he is a fantastic, fantastic player.

"I'm happy he had the courage to leave Barcelona to develop his skills and then arrive at Leipzig."

 

Olmo caught the headlines at Euro 2020 as he became just the third player – after Cesc Fabregas (2008) and Dejan Kulusevski (2021) – to assist two goals after being substituted on at the European Championship.

But the former Barcelona man has made only three starts this season across all competitions, assisting just one goal, and he is yet to find the net after struggling with a muscle injury.

Leipzig have felt the absence of one of their key players and are down in 11th in the Bundesliga, 16 points behind reigning champions Bayern Munich at the top.

While speculation persists over who will succeed Marsch, Guardiola took the opportunity to praise the environment that has been developed at Leipzig.

"Leipzig has a culture, they won't sign a manager who doesn't want to play their way," he added. "They want to play a specific way, pressing, gegenpressing, attacking, live, sleep, eat. 

"This is the culture, and the new manager will be similar like that. The impact of a new manager is clear, players open their eyes and play for the Europa League, an incredible competition, the money from UEFA. 

"We won at home, it was difficult, what they did in Bruges [a 5-0 win over Club Brugge]. There are highs and lows this season but the philosophy, the way they play versus Paris Saint-Germain, they should win 2-0,3-0. 

"They play their style. We have to be careful, impose our game. Play to improve. We don't play for the points, we play to improve. It's a perfect training game for us. We go to Leipzig [and then] do a good dinner tonight to celebrate our qualification."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed Kevin De Bruyne will start their final Champions League group game against RB Leipzig on Tuesday.

De Bruyne missed a month of action after contracting COVID-19 but made his return off the bench in Saturday's 3-1 win at Watford.

The Premier League champions have already secured top spot in Group A after their 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain on matchday five.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of City's trip to Germany, Guardiola revealed the Belgian will start the game, saying: "Kevin had the corona, was growing and after had the setback.

"It's normal, the people who have the corona feel empty. Step by step he plays the minutes, tomorrow he will start and we'll see how many minutes."

Guardiola also confirmed several youth players will travel for the game, though he also made mention that five substitutions are allowed in the Champions League, two more than in Premier League games, suggesting they may come off the bench rather than start in the Red Bull Arena.

"They are fantastic young players. They need to settle but the potential is there," he said. "Of course all the guys who play tomorrow want to win, for respect for Leipzig, and respect for Brugge and PSG.

"Hopefully tomorrow some of them can play - we have five subs, not three like here, so maybe we can use them."

The game will be played behind closed doors after the German state of Saxony was placed into a partial COVID-19 lockdown.

"In Germany the situation is not good," the City boss added. "The authorities have decided. We still have to be careful. That is my concern. The situation is dangerous.

"We need to learn that the situation is not solved. Like the PM said, wear a mask, observe social distance and be careful."

City left back Oleksandr Zinchenko also spoke at the media conference, and added: "It is sad news for both teams and the fans who wanted to go to the game and for the players as well. 

"We just play for the fans but the main reason is for our health. I wish everyone is going to be healthy."

RB Leipzig head coach Jesse Marsch has left the club my mutual consent following Friday's 2-1 loss at Union Berlin, their third straight Bundesliga defeat. 

Marsch arrived from Salzburg as the successor to Julian Nagelsmann, who left for Bayern Munich, but has overseen a series of disappointing results, with the loss to Union and Saturday's results leaving them 11th in the table. 

Leipzig have already been eliminated from the Champions League and could yet miss out on a spot in the Europa League too as they sit level with Club Brugge on four points in Group A. 

Marsch has struggled to combine a high-intensity press with a solid defence, with the departure of France international centre-back Dayot Upamecano clearly still hurting the team. 

Only Cologne (8.6) have a better PPDA than Leipzig (8.6) in the Bundesliga this season – a measure of the number of opposition passes allowed before a defensive action – while the Red Bulls lead the league in high turnovers (159) and shot-ending high turnovers (26), though they have been unable to score from any of them. 

However, the defence has been Leipzig's downfall. They have already committed six errors leading to shots in the Bundesliga (an increase of one from the entirety of last season) and three of those have ended in goals. None of their mistakes directly resulted in goals conceded under Nagelsmann in 2020-21. 

Leipzig have conceded 18 goals in the top flight but have an expected goals (xG) against of 23.6. Their xG against in the 2020-21 top-flight campaign was 29.6. 

Leipzig entertain Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday and face Borussia Monchengladbach, Augsburg and Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga before the mid-season break. 

Ralf Rangnick has been tasked with restoring the fortunes of struggling Premier League giants Manchester United.

His previous work at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga has sparked speculation regarding possible transfers.

That has led to talk regarding Amadou Haidara.

 

TOP STORY – HAIDARA WANTED AT OLD TRAFFORD

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick wants to make RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara his first signing, according to The Sun.

Rangnick has been appointed until the end of the season and talk of January incomings have already emerged.

The German brought Haidara to Leipzig during his time at the Bundesliga club and he is believed to be interested in reuniting with the 23-year-old star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and El Nacional reports United want Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, having rebuffed a proposal for Philippe Coutinho.

- Portuguese journalist Pedro Almeida claims Jose Mourinho's job as Roma head coach is in danger following another defeat, this time 3-0 to former club Inter in Serie A on Saturday. Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure amid just three wins in nine league games. Mourinho has also been linked with Everton as pressure mounts on Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both interested in Paris Saint-Germain forward Mauro Icardi, says Ekrem Konur. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Juventus.

- According to The Sun, Ligue 1 giants PSG are lining up a bid for Wolves' left-back star Rayan Ait-Nouri.

- Widespread reports claim Leipzig are seriously considering the sacking of head coach Jesse Marsch, who only replaced Julian Nagelsmann at the start of the season. Leipzig have lost three consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time in their history.

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.

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