And so, the countdown begins…

The 2022 World Cup is just over a year away, with Qatar set to begin the tournament against a still-to-be-decided opponent on November 21, 2022.

Even writing it feels strange. A World Cup… starting in November. But that is the reality, with Qatar's controversial – to put it kindly – hosting of the competition effectively rendering a tournament in June/July impossible due to the conditions.

With only a year to go, 13 of the competing nations (including Qatar) have confirmed their qualification, including record five-time winners Brazil and defending champions France.

Of course, most countries will have a fairly settled group of players, but a year is a long time in football, and a few newcomers will make the breakthrough.

As such, Stats Perform has identified 11 uncapped players who could break into their respective national teams by this time in 2022, and those players' progress will be tracked over the next 12 months in follow-up features.

Without any further ado, here are the chosen players...

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 22, goalkeeper, Granada

Yes, yes, Maximiano's inclusion here already implies a massive assumption that Portugal will even make it to Qatar, given their 2-1 home defeat by Serbia left them needing to go through the play-offs.

Nevertheless, it's reasonable to expect them to make it, and if they do, Maximiano may fancy himself as being in with a shot, particularly after a strong start to 2021-22.

He replaced compatriot Rui Silva – who left for Real Betis – between the posts at Granada after falling out of favour at Sporting CP, and he's showing his quality.

 

According to Opta's xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded data, Maximiano has already prevented 3.7 goals in LaLiga this season, the second-most in the division.

Of course, such metrics are weighted in favour of goalkeepers in teams are that kept defensively busy, and Granada are 17th in LaLiga, but we can create a fairer comparison by standardising for the number of shots each keeper faced by looking at their 'goals prevented rate'.

Maximiano's goals prevented rate of 1.37 means he was expected to concede 1.37 goals for every goal actually conceded, and again this is the second best in the league this season.

His shot-stopping abilities have reportedly caught the attention of Barcelona, and given Portugal's lack of a standout goalkeeper (and that's including first-choice Rui Patricio), Maximiano certainly isn't out of the running for Qatar 2022.

Jonathan Clauss (France) – 29, right-back, Lens

Football loves a late bloomer; maybe it's because they convince some of us we can still make it as a professional player. Lens star Clauss is a fascinating embodiment of the phenomenon.

Now 29, Clauss did not make his top-flight debut until the start of 2020-21, but it's fair to say he's been a revelation in a Lens side who have truly captured the imagination since they were promoted back to Ligue 1 in 2019-20 – 13 games into the current campaign, they're second to PSG.

A year out from Qatar 2022, Clauss is being mentioned in France media conferences, with Didier Deschamps last week asked why he wasn't called up. Of course, the coach's decision to go with options he knows when qualification wasn't assured is fair enough, but the Lens man is seemingly now in contention.

He has already had a hand in eight Ligue 1 goals this season, with six assists the joint-most in the division. His positivity on the flank as a wing-back is proving a massive asset to Lens, for whom he also set up six goals last term.

Of course, his greater comfort as a wing-back rather than an orthodox full-back may in the long run count against him, but Clauss is demonstrably effective going forward – usual France right-back options Benjamin Pavard and Leo Dubois aren't, and that may be his 'in'.

 

Bremer (Brazil) – 24, centre-back, Torino

Playing in a generally poor team can go one of two ways for a centre-back: you're either considered a big part of the problem, or you thrive because you're given more opportunities to show your strengths.

For Bremer in a Torino team that have finished 16th and 17th in the past two seasons, it's definitely been the latter.

The 24-year-old has reportedly attracted the interest of numerous Premier League clubs, with Liverpool seemingly the team that are most keen.

While he's not a particularly great progressor of the ball, his 4.9 passes into the final third per 90 minutes since the start of last season being almost half the figures of the highest-ranking Serie A defenders, Bremer is a reliable centre-back first and foremost.

His four clearances per game is up there with the best (only one player averages more than 4.7), while Bremer's positional sense is highlighted by 2.6 interceptions every 90 minutes, a figure bettered by only five defenders (min. 1,000 minutes played since 2020-21 started).

Similarly, the centre-back wins 3.2 aerial duels per 90 minutes, which again is the sixth-highest among that group of defenders.

Brazil don't have outstanding depth at centre-back, all the more reason why Bremer is in with a shot – a move to Liverpool or another 'giant' would only help his cause.

Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 21, centre-back, Lille

Ball-playing centre-backs grow on trees in the Netherlands, or so you'd think. Botman is another off the very reliable production line, having come through the esteemed ranks at Ajax.

Lille signed him for roughly €9million in July 2020 after he enjoyed a promising loan spell with Heerenveen, and he went on to play in all but one Ligue 1 match as Les Dogues won the title.

Life's been a little tougher for Lille this term following the loss of coach Christophe Galtier to Nice, but Botman remains a key player and retains a fine reputation from 2020-21.

Since the start of last season, his 1,295 forward passes is the second most in the division and he ranks 11th for the most ball carries (635).

He's a progressive centre-back who offers plenty of forward-thinking but is also reliable when it comes to getting stuck in.

Over the same period, he's come out on top in 67.8 per cent of his duels, which is the second-best success rate among players to have engaged in at least 150.

Granted, the Netherlands' centre-back options are deep, but Botman's been in the squad before and there's little doubt he would be a good fit for them stylistically.

Angelino (Spain) – 24, left-back, RB Leipzig

It may surprise a few people to learn Angelino has never played for Spain. In fact, he's never even received a call-up to the senior side.

Let's not forget, Spain are blessed with a lot of quality in left-back and wing-back roles. Currently, Jordi Alba, Marcos Alonso, Jose Gaya and Sergio Reguilon are the favoured options, but Angelino is arguably in better form than any of them.

All five players are probably at their best as wing-backs rather than full-backs, and Luis Enrique's current system does allow for such players, which is another reason for Angelino's suitability. Then it comes down to effectiveness on the pitch.

Since the start of last season, in league competition Angelino tops a host of attacking metrics among the aforementioned players. He creates 2.2 chances per 90 minutes on average, with Alonso and Alba next on 1.6.

While Angelino's 0.16 assists every 90 minutes is lower than Alba's 0.22, the Leipzig man is seemingly being let down by poor finishing as his expected assists each game is 0.31 – again, this is the highest.

On a per-90-minute basis, Angelino creates the most chances from open play (1.6), plays the most crosses (5.5) and passes into the box (9.9) most frequently among this group.

Of course, this is partly explained by him playing slightly further forward than his counterparts, but Spain spend most of the time on the ball anyway – having someone as effective as Angelino in attack must be a consideration for Luis Enrique.

 

Riqui Puig (Spain) – 22, midfielder, Barcelona

It feels like Puig has been around for a long time, because even before he was around the first-team squad, Barca fans were singing his praises.

He had been considered as potentially their next legendary midfielder, such was his blend of technical excellence and fine passing skills, two staples of Barca's La Masia academy.

But it's not quite worked out that way.

In the past three seasons, he's only played more than 300 minutes over the course of a LaLiga campaign once, under Quique Setien in 2019-20. While he did feature in 14 league games for Ronald Koeman last term, that amounted to 283 minutes at an average of 20.2 mins in each appearance, and that did not improve this term prior to the Dutchman's sacking.

So, why is he even on this list?

Well, as much as anything because his progress will be intriguing to watch once again now that Xavi is at the helm. If there's anyone who can appreciate Puig's qualities, it'll surely be him.

Christopher Nkunku (France) – 24, midfielder, RB Leipzig

While Nkunku has generally been considered a versatile central midfielder for much of his career, he's excelled in a slightly different role since Jesse Marsch's introduction as Leipzig coach.

He's operated more from the flanks and is getting into the opposition's penalty area with greater frequency, his touches in the box up from 5.2 per 90 minutes to 7.7 this season.

As such, he's getting more shots away in the area (2.2 every 90 minutes, up from 1.7) and that's unsurprisingly led to an increased xG average of 0.45 each game.

He's already got 11 goals across all competitions, four more than he managed in 2020-21, suggesting the change in role is paying dividends, though he remains an able option in the middle such is his quality on the ball and ability to break forward.

In each of the past two seasons, Nkunku didn't manage to start more than 21 league games, but he's already on 11 this term. He's maturing and seemingly found his niche – now all he needs is that elusive first call-up.

 

Alan Velasco (Argentina) – 19, winger, Independiente

Lionel Scaloni has restored a significant amount of respect for Argentina's national team, guiding them to Copa America success earlier this year – that was their first international title at senior level in 28 years.

During his three years in charge, Scaloni has used 75 different players in matches, which shows both the wealth of options he has but also how willing he is to give individuals a chance.

In attack is arguably where Argentina's depth is greatest, but Independiente talent Velasco is surely one of the likeliest to earn a first cap over the next 12 months.

A positive and direct left-winger who likes to cut inside onto his right foot, Velasco has been enjoying something of a breakthrough season in Argentina's Primera Division, particularly during the second stage.

 

He has five goal involvements (one goal, four assists) since mid-July, with no one in the division managing to set up more than five in the entire year, and he has unsurprisingly become a bit of a target for opponents, as highlighted by his 2.9 fouls suffered every 90 minutes being the third-most among players with at least five appearances.

But that doesn't deter him. His 41 chances created is the third highest in the division, and the most among under-21 players, while his 91 dribbles completed and 4.8 per 90 minutes are both league highs.

Velasco also works hard off the ball, making 47 recoveries in the opposition's half, which is fifth among all players. The teenager is a big talent who also boasts strong work ethic – Scaloni will surely have him earmarked as one to watch.

Cade Cowell (United States) – 18, forward, San Jose Earthquakes

There aren't many countries in the world producing more exciting young talent than the United States at the moment, with their squads for the next few World Cups shaping up to be very promising.

While 2022 will probably come too soon for Cowell – arguably the wildcard of this list – he certainly shouldn't be written off, given he has already spent time training with the senior squad before.

A dynamic, quick and strong attacker who play out wide as well, Cowell is the third-youngest player in MLS history to reach 50 appearances, having reached that landmark at 18 years and 16 days old. Only Freddy Adu (16y, 2m, 25d) and Alphonso Davies (17y, 7m) got there quicker.

 

This season, despite only starting for 14 of his 33 MLS appearances, Cowell has amassed 11 goal involvements (five goals, six assists), which only Jesus Ferreira (17 – 8g, 9a) and Ricardo Pepi (16 – 13g, 3a) can better among under-21 players.

There's no mistaking Cowell is very much a rough diamond. He doesn't create a huge amount of chances (1.3 per 90 mins), his duels (32.2 per cent) and dribble (47.6 per cent) success rates aren't great, but he's young and raw. Improvements here should come naturally, and a big 2022 might just propel him into a national side that's not afraid to give youngsters a chance.

 

Amine Gouiri (France) – 21, forward, Nice

If there's one team in international football that would be the toughest to break into as a forward, it's probably France, but Gouiri looks special.

It now looks utterly astonishing that Nice managed to get him for as little as an initial €7million from Lyon in 2020, and the versatile forward – who is comfortable on the left or through the middle – is enjoying the kind of consistency not always associated with young players.

The 2020-21 season was his first as a regular starter in top-flight football and he went on to score a highly respectable 12 goals. While that failed to match his 14.6 expected goals (xG), perhaps showing a degree of inexperience, he did also lay on seven assists.

 

Once again, Gouiri's goals haul of six is a little behind his xG (8.1), suggesting a hint of wastefulness, but only three players are providing greater service than him, with his 3.3 expected assists (xA) ranking high.

Technically, Gouiri is exceptional and explosive, and this undoubtedly helps him create openings and space in the final third, with his combined average of 0.97 expected goals and assists every 90 minutes this season the second-highest in Ligue 1.

Gouiri is too good to never play for France – it's only a matter of time until he gets the call-up, and if he carries on his current trajectory for the next 12 months, Qatar will beckon.

 

Matias Arezo (Uruguay) – 18, forward, 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.

The teenager turns 19 this November, so he's still got lots to learn and much room for growth, but the early signs are hugely promising – his stocky appearance, powerful style of play and feistiness (13 yellow cards over 2020 and 2021) have earned him the nickname 'Buffalo', and he's already a reliable source of goals despite his youth.

Arezo scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he's matched that haul from 26 outings this year. 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.

Qatar 2022 will almost certainly be the last World Cup for Suarez and Cavani if Uruguay make it, so they are likely to be involved – but otherwise, La Celeste's forward options are up in the air.

Arezo has been coping well in the physical competitiveness of South America's domestic football and must be in with a great shout of forcing his way into contention for the mission to Qatar.

Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo have returned to Italy's squad for their next World Cup qualifiers, while Torino midfielder Tommaso Pobega has earned a first call-up.

Roberto Mancini's men face Switzerland at Stadio Olimpico next Friday in a likely shootout for top spot in Group C, with the sides level on 14 points.

The Azzurri then round off their Qatar 2022 group qualifying campaign with a match in Northern Ireland three days later.

Milan midfielder Tonali is part of Mancini's 28-man squad for the double-header, a year on from the most recent of his four senior caps, with Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti out injured.

Zaniolo is back involved after a shorter absence from the team, meanwhile, the Roma attacker having missed out on the squad for October's Nations League Finals games.

Pobega is the only new face in the Italy contingent after impressing for Torino, where he is on a season-long loan from Milan.

The 22-year-old, yet to make a senior appearance for the Rossoneri, has two goals and an assist in nine Serie A outings this term.

Elsewhere, Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile are back from injury, but this final international window of the year has come too soon for Moise Kean to return.

Italy are back in qualifying action after their hopes of Nations League success were ended with a 2-1 loss to Spain in last month's semi-finals.

That ended the European champions' world-record run of 37 games unbeaten, but they ​bounced back with a 2-1 victory over Belgium to clinch third place.


Italy squad: Cragno (Cagliari), Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Meret (Napoli), Sirigu (Genoa); Acerbi (Lazio), Bastoni (Inter), Biraghi (Fiorentina), Bonucci (Juventus), Calabria (Milan), Chiellini (Juventus), Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Palmieri (Lyon), Mancini (Roma); Barella (Inter), Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Locatelli (Juventus), Pellegrini (Roma), Pobega (Torino), Tonali (Milan), Zaniolo (Roma); Belotti (Torino), Berardi (Sassuolo), Bernardeschi (Juventus), Chiesa (Juventus), Immobile (Lazio), Insigne (Napoli), Raspadori (Sassuolo).

Nuno Espirito Santo's replacement at Tottenham will be no surprise.

Antonio Conte had been rumoured as the top choice.

The ex-Inter man looks set to make it official on Tuesday, barring any late hitches.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE SET FOR SPURS MOVE

With Nuno Espirito Santo officially out, Antonio Conte is set to step in at Tottenham.

According to widespread reports, Conte has agreed a contract through June 2023 and the move will be finalised on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old left Inter by mutual consent after last season.

The Sun claims Spurs will give Conte £150million to spend on new players.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Paul Pogba prefers Paris Saint-Germain over Real Madrid or Juventus once he makes his expected departure from Manchester United, Fichajes reports.

- PSG are eyeing Karim Adeyemi as a potential replacement should Kylian Mbappe leave, Sky Sport in Germany reports. The 19-year-old Red Bull Salzburg striker also has drawn interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

- Real Madrid's Marco Asensio will be in demand in January, with El Nacional reporting Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus, Milan and Dortmund all have offers ready.

- Arsenal are eyeing Torino striker Andrea Belotti, says Calciomercato.

- Villarreal's Unai Emery is the new favourite to take over as Newcastle United manager, says the Mirror.

Olivier Giroud acknowledged Milan's display in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Torino was by no means impressive but applauded the team for still managing to get the job done.

Giroud got the only goal of the game in the 14th minute, tapping in from close range after Rade Krunic flicked on a corner.

Precious few clear-cut opportunities came for Milan thereafter – their 1.1 expected goals (xG) value was better than Torino's (0.6), but 0.8 of the Rossoneri's total was attributed to Giroud's goal, highlighting the dearth of quality chances after the breakthrough.

Torino came on strong in the latter stages, with Tonny Sanabria forcing a save from Ciprian Tatarusanu and Dennis Praet having a deflected effort hit the crossbar.

It was hardly an emphatic performance from Milan, who had great trouble in their 4-2 weekend win at Bologna as well, but it moved them to the top of the table at least until Thursday and also ensured they reached the 10-match mark with nine victories for only the second time ever (also 1954-55).

And Giroud feels Milan can cut themselves some slack as long as they get results.

"We play every three days, and that's just not easy on the body," Giroud told DAZN. "Not everything was perfect, but we won and that's the most important thing.

"We played a good game, I think. Torino are a strong, physical team. They're aggressive in tackles and there were plenty of challenges with Bremer, who's a great defender.

"I'm really happy because we started well and Torino didn't really create lots of scoring opportunities. That shows we were really solid at the back, and we've taken the three points, which is the most important thing.

"We can do better at times. It's not perfect, but Torino are very tough to play against, and we got the three points. That's what I really like about this team [Milan], especially when playing at home, we want to make the fans happy with a lot of energy and passion."

Milan took full advantage of Napoli's Sunday slip-up as the Rossoneri beat Torino 1-0 in Serie A thanks to Olivier Giroud's early goal, the win putting them top of the table on Tuesday.

Napoli's 0-0 draw with Roma at the weekend meant the Partenopei only sat at the top of the pile thanks to goal difference, but Milan just about got the job done at San Siro to go first at least until Thursday.

Giroud's early effort was one of few clear-cut chances in the entire match, with the Frenchman becoming only the second player in the three-points-for-a-win era to score in his first three home league appearances for Milan (after Mario Balotelli in 2013).

For the vast majority of the match, Torino looked the better side but their inability to consistently worry the Milan defence meant the hosts were able to hold on to a slender victory.

A scrappy opening was devoid of excitement, but Milan went ahead with their first meaningful attack in the 14th minute, as Giroud met Rade Krunic's flick-on and tapped in from close range.

It was not until the final action of the first half that Milan went close again, with Krunic getting another header away, although this time it landed just wide with Giroud not there to guide it in.

Andrea Belotti let Milan off the hook early in the second period when his mishit shot asked little of Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Torino came on strong towards the end, with Tonny Sanabria forcing a necessary save from Tatarusanu and Dennis Praet's deflected effort clipping the top of the crossbar, but it was too little, too late.

What does it mean? Milan not convincing

While the win puts Milan top at least until Napoli face Bologna on Thursday, their performance was hardly an emphatic statement.

The Giroud goal aside, Milan never really looked like scoring – their cumulative expected goals figure was 1.1, though 0.8 of that was attributed to the France forward's tap-in.

Thankfully for them, once Pierre Kalulu went off at the break, Milan were mostly solid in defence, with Torino restricted to only one major opportunity.

Kalulu caught short

Deployed at left-back from the start, the youngster was withdrawn at the break after struggling in the first half. He was careless in possession on several occasions and just never looked an assuring presence defensively.

Tonali takes plaudits

It was a match with few standout performances in truth, but Sandro Tonali did catch the eye. He was one of only two Milan players to play more than one key pass (two) and he worked hard throughout his 65 minutes on the pitch – his 14 duels were bettered by only three team-mates, all of whom played at least 22 more minutes.

What's next?

A trip to Jose Mourinho's Roma awaits Milan on Sunday. Torino host Sampdoria the day before.

Bayern Munich could be set for a busy transfer window.

With Barcelona struggling financially, clubs are eyeing some of their talent.

Bayern are reportedly interested in a number of players at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG, TER STEGEN WANTED IN MUNICH

Bayern Munich are eyeing Barcelona quartet Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Pedri and Sergino Dest, according to Sport.

Barca are a club in crisis amid their financial woes, which led to the departure of superstar captain Lionel Messi on a free transfer at the start of the season.

Now, Bundesliga champions Bayern are looking to capitalise, having previously been linked with midfielders De Jong and Pedri, goalkeeper Ter Stegen and right-back Dest.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca's move for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is dependent on the future of Ousmane Dembele, says Sport. Dembele has been linked with Liverpool and Manchester United previously.

- Calciomercato claims Milan will wait to sign wantaway Torino star Andrea Belotti on a free transfer at the end of the season. Monday's Tuttosport reports Serie A champions and city rivals Inter are also interested in the Italy international.

Bruno Fernandes' contract extension is a priority for United, according to Fabrizio Romano. United are also looking to re-sign Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Newcastle United are eyeing a move for Ralf Rangnick as their sporting director following the club's huge takeover. Rangnick currently works for Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Massimiliano Allegri claimed Juventus have rediscovered the desire to defend after triumphing 1-0 against local rivals Torino on Saturday.

Juve had to rely on Manuel Locatelli's late strike to secure all three points in the Derby della Mole as the Bianconeri kept their first clean sheet in 21 Serie A games.

Only in 1955 did Juve go longer without a top-flight clean sheet but that run finally ended as Allegri's side secured bragging rights with their fourth consecutive win in all competitions.

The winning streak has put an end to Juve's early-season struggles, at least temporarily, and Allegri pinpointed his team's desire to defend as a primary reason for their resurgence in form.

"After the break for international duty, we discovered the desire to defend when we needed to defend and attack when we needed to attack," Allegri told DAZN post-match.

"It would’ve been disappointing not to win a game after that performance which, after the first half against Milan, I feel was our best of the season."

 

Juve combined experience with youth at the back as Giorgio Chiellini, who equalled Gaetano Scirea as the player with the fourth-most Serie A appearances for the Bianconeri (377), partnered Matthijs de Ligt.

Allegri stated before the season that players such as De Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski were too young to be key figures, however, the head coach believes his younger players can learn from the experience around them.

"It’s a matter of experience," he continued.

"De Ligt is a good player, despite being 22 years old, and let’s not forget he came from a different type of football, so in Italy he needs to improve his reading of the situations and his aggression in marking.

"He's coming off good performances and can only improve. The same goes for Kulusevski, we have talented young players and are working to improve them individually.

"They have the advantage of playing with team-mates like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci."

Manuel Locatelli came up with another precious Juventus goal to keep their winning run going in a 1-0 Derby della Mole success at Torino.

After an awful start to the season, the Bianconeri came into this game against their city rivals on the back of three victories in a row in all competitions.

Wednesday's Champions League triumph at home to holders Chelsea provided a particular highlight, but it looked as though Juve's momentum would be checked as the final match before the international break remained goalless heading into the closing stages.

Locatelli – whose first goal for the club proved decisive against Sampdoria in Juve's previous league game – came up with a winner four minutes from time, however, reward for a much-improved second half and enough to take Massimiliano Allegri's men eighth.

Massimiliano Allegri warned Torino will be preparing for the "match of their lifetime" against Juventus in Saturday's Serie A clash.

After opening their campaign without a win in four league games, Juve finally picked up a victory against Spezia before defeating Sampdoria to string together back-to-back 3-2 triumphs.

Federico Chiesa then inspired Juve against Chelsea as he fired in the fastest second-half goal in Champions League history, claiming a 1-0 win as Allegri's resurgent players continue to turn around their season around.

However, the Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 20 top-flight games – only conceding more consecutively in 1955 (21) – and Allegri warned that local rivals Torino could prove tougher opponents than Chelsea.

"For Torino this will be like the match of a lifetime," Allegri told Friday's pre-match news conference ahead of the key away match.

"It's the derby and they're preparing for it to the maximum. It will be even more difficult than Wednesday.

"On paper, we have five fewer points than expected. We have to recover them at every step.

"On Saturday we have to improve our position in the table a bit more. The Derby della Mole is the perfect opportunity, also with the fans returning to the stadium."

Juventus have lost only one of their last 30 Serie A meetings with Torino, but the pair meet on the same number of points (eight) for the first time since October 2015.

Despite earning a well-deserved three points against Chelsea on Wednesday, Allegri is expecting Torino to provide a different challenge.

"On Wednesday night we felt the closeness of the stadium that had great enthusiasm and passion," he continued. "It filled me with joy, both for the team and for the atmosphere.

"Against Chelsea, the game went well in a certain way. We have another one on Saturday. We will have to be good at finding spaces.

"[Ivan] Juric has given great quality to Torino. They're a team that gives away very little. We will have to be switched on and give as good as we get.

"Let's try to bring home a win in order to go into the international break in the best possible way. Let's make the most of the positive energy of the moment."

Juventus' players are working to ensure that Cristiano Ronaldo's absence is not felt following the forward's recent move to Manchester United, according to Juan Cuadrado.

Ronaldo scored 101 goals in 134 appearances during a three-year stay at the Allianz Stadium, which surprisingly came to an end in August when he returned to United.

Only Kylian Mbappe (111), Lionel Messi (120) and Robert Lewandowski (143) scored more goals than Ronaldo in all competitions across that period from Europe's top five leagues.

The Portugal captain has made a great start to his second spell at Old Trafford with five goals in as many matches, including a late winner against Villarreal in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Juventus, meanwhile, have made a slow start to their Serie A campaign and sit 10th after six matches, albeit having won their last two games in the competition.

While acknowledging Ronaldo's importance to the side over the past few years, Cuadrado insists no player can be considered bigger than Juventus. 

"We know his class and what he represented for us," Cuadrado told La Stampa. "But the most important thing is Juventus. We are working to avoid his absence being felt."

 

Juve beat Chelsea 1-0 in the Champions League in midweek to make it three victories on the spin in all competitions ahead of Saturday's Derby della Mole showdown with Torino.

Cuadrado has been involved in four goals in his past three Serie A games against Torino – scoring one and providing three assists – for a tally that is more than any other Juve player since 2020.

Juve have lost only one of their past 30 league meetings with their city rivals – a 2-1 defeat in April 2015 – but Cuadrado is expecting a tough contest this weekend.

"I see them as a more solid team than in the past," Cuadrado said. "It will be a special challenge for us and the fans. A battle.

"But in this moment, any match for us would be important. We are behind where we want to be in terms of points, but there are many more matches to play.

"We believe in ourselves. It is in our DNA to fight until the end."

Juventus pair Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata will not return from injury until after the October international break. 

The two forwards were injured in the Bianconeri's 3-2 win over Sampdoria and head coach Massimiliano Allegri revealed in his post-match press conference that they would not be available for the Champions League clash with Chelsea on Wednesday. 

However, Dybala and Morata have since been assessed and their injuries will also prevent them from facing Torino in the Derby della Mole. 

Juventus' Serie A clash against Roma on October 17 is likely to be the earliest either player will feature again. 

The victory over Sampdoria was the Bianconeri's second successive league victory, having failed to register a win in their first four domestic fixtures. 

Dybala notched the opening goal in the game on Sunday, but was forced off with a thigh injury in the first half, with Morata following suit with a hamstring problem late on. 

After a difficult start to the campaign, the loss of the club's two top scorers - with three goals apiece in all competitions - comes as a real blow to a side that was just beginning to pick up momentum ahead of two difficult fixtures. 

Juventus host Chelsea in their Champions League Group H contest, before facing Torino in Serie A action three days later. 

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Could the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga be nearing a conclusion?

Long linked with Real Madrid, Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain's attempts to re-sign Mbappe have been fruitless up until this point and the Ligue 1 giants are reportedly willing to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE NEARING MADRID?

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to accept an offer for Kylian Mbappe should one arrive from Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window, according to RMC.

PSG have been fighting to re-sign Mbappe, who is in the final year of his current deal in the French capital.

However, PSG have reportedly accepted defeat in their efforts to retain Mbappe beyond the 2021-22 season as Madrid look to lure the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Premier League pair Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror writes United are prepared to offer cash plus a player-swap – believed to be Jesse Lingard – to sign West Ham's Declan Rice.

- Atletico Madrid are closing in on a deal to sign Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, says Fabrizio Romano. LaLiga champions Atletico had been linked with Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic – also wanted by the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, Inter and Arsenal – but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Tottenham are preparing a £40million bid to reunite Nuno Espirito Santo with Wolves star Adama Traore.

Napoli are eyeing unwanted Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic, per Correire dello Sport. Pjanic had looked set to return to Juventus.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira will move to Fiorentina after turning down Eintracht Frankfurt, according to Romano.

Chelsea are continuing to eye Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, claims Romano. The Frenchman is ready to swap Seville for London after agreeing personal terms on a deal until June 2026.

- Inter are monitoring Torino star Andrea Belotti as they seek to replace Romelu Lukaku, says Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked to Lazio forward Joaquin Correa.

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and no closer to re-signing in the French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly holding onto hope of securing his services before the end of the transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL DREAMING OF MBAPPE

Real Madrid have not given up on signing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Mbappe is into the final year of his PSG contract and while he has been tipped to make the move to Madrid, he has reportedly told friends he will remain in Paris.

However, LaLiga powerhouses Madrid – also linked with Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland – believe it is a strategy to secure a friendly exit from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in Monaco defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, say reporters Sacha Tavolieri and Jonathan Shrager. United have also been linked with Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, who is reportedly wanted by PSG and Madrid.

- RB Leipzig star Marcel Sabitzer is interested in a move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, claims Bild.

- Goal and widespread reports say Arsenal are close to signing Martin Odegaard from Madrid. Odegaard spent six months on loan at Arsenal last season.

Duvan Zapata is Inter's priority signing, according to Calciomercato. Despite signing Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries after Romelu Lukaku's, the Serie A champions are eyeing the Atlanta forward. Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram, Joaquin Correa of Lazio, Torino forward Andrea Belotti and Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst are other options.

- Italian journalist Sara Meini reports Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit of Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic amid their struggle to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham. Atletico Madrid and Spurs have also been linked with Vlahovic.

Juventus are nearing a deal to re-sign Miralem Pjanic from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Juve, according to Di Marzio, are also listening to offers for Weston McKennie.

Lionel Messi seems certain to stay at Barcelona, and he could reportedly be joined by Renato Sanches.

While Messi came out of contract at the end of June, he seems set to stay at Barca, who remain central to plenty of transfer talk.

They are apparently interested in Sanches, who helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA EYE SANCHES

Barcelona want Lille midfielder Sanches, according to Le 10 Sport.

The report says Tottenham are also targeting the Portugal international, who has previously played for the likes of Benfica and Bayern Munich.

Barca have already signed Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay ahead of the 2021-22 season, though missed out on midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

 

ROUND-UP

- One player whose future at Barcelona is uncertain is Antoine Griezmann. La Vanguardia reports the forward wants to remain at Barca, where he is contracted until 2024, but could leave given the financial uncertainty at the club.

- Could Kalidou Koulibaly finally be set to leave Napoli for the Premier League? 90min reports Everton manager Rafael Benitez has recommended the defender as a transfer target for the club.

- Also in Serie A and Sky Sport reports Andrea Belotti is set to decide in the coming days whether to renew his contract with Torino beyond 2022. The report says Jose Mourinho's Roma are interested in the striker.

- Barcelona are looking to offload goalkeeper Neto, but finding a suitor for the shot-stopper is complicated, according to Mundo Deportivo.

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