Anthony Joshua will make a "statement" when he returns to the ring against Jermaine Franklin in April knowing he has a "major problem" if he suffers another defeat.

So says the two-time world heavyweight champion's promoter, Eddie Hearn, who revealed Joshua is set to fight American Franklin at the O2 Arena in London on April 1.

The Briton is on a mission to reignite his career after losing his WBA, IBF and WBO belts to Oleksandr Usyk in September 2021 and failing to regain them in a rematch in Jeddah last August.

Official confirmation is expected next week for Franklin to be Joshua's next opponent, and Hearn expects the 33-year-old to put on a show.

He told BBC Sport: "It's a really tough fight with loads of pressure to come back, because if AJ doesn't win this fight, then we've got a major problem.

"I believe you'll see a statement from a guy who is very dangerous, very motivated to become a three-time heavyweight world champion."

Franklin was beaten by Dillian White in his last fight in November, and Hearn expects him to suffer another loss on his return to England.

Hearn added: "There's so much contradiction: 'Anthony Joshua is finished, mentally he's shot. But he'll knock out Jermaine Franklin inside three rounds.'

"The same people that say Jermaine Franklin beat Dillian Whyte, but he's a terrible opponent for Anthony Joshua in a comeback fight after two defeats to the pound-for-pound number one.

"What this guy has done from a resume perspective is unbelievable. And I'm telling you now, this guy [is] still top-three heavyweight, capable of regaining his heavyweight world title."

On the back of a three-wicket haul from Dwayne Bravo, the MI Emirates condemned the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders to their eighth defeat in nine games in the DP World IL T20 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The Emirates first posted 180-4 from their 20 overs after the Knight Riders won the toss and elected to field first.

The UAE’s Muhammad Waseem top scored with a 43-ball 60 including one four and six sixes while captain Kieron Pollard continued his excellent form throughout the season with 43 off just 17 deliveries including four fours and three sixes.

The Knight Riders reply fell short by 18 runs despite a top score of 42 from 22 balls from Andre Russell. His knock included five fours and two sixes.

Dwayne Bravo took 3-37 from his four overs while Imran Tahir and Zahoor Khan took two wickets each.

The Emirates have now booked a spot in the playoffs with a game to spare in the league phase.

Scores: MI Emirates 180-4 off 20 overs (Muhammad Waseem 60, Kieron Pollard 43) Abu Dhabi Knight Riders 162 off 19.2 overs (Andre Russell 42, Joe Clarke 22, Dwayne Bravo 3-37, Imran Tahir 2-20, Zahoor Khan 2-33).

 

 

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been dropped from Chelsea's Champions League squad, with head coach Graham Potter bringing in new recruits Joao Felix, Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk.

The dramatic move to ditch striker Aubameyang reflects the striker's declining status with the Blues, for whom he last started a game in November.

Potter warned on Thursday there would be "awkward" conversations ahead as he finalised his group for the remainder of Chelsea's European campaign, and leaving out 33-year-old Aubameyang may have been on his mind at the time.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona frontman has scored only three goals this season in 18 appearances, of which 10 have been starts, and his absence leaves Chelsea without an out-and-out striker.

Aubameyang started in all six of Chelsea's Champions League group games, scoring home and away against Milan.

Potter has instead put his trust in Kai Havertz, who has spent much of his career as an attacking midfielder, plus attackers Joao Felix, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid, and Mudryk, who arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Raheem Sterling, named as a midfielder on Chelsea's squad list, is another front-line option.

Chelsea face Borussia Dortmund at the last-16 stage of the Champions League, with the away leg on February 15 and the home game set for March 7.

Winning that competition looks to be club's best opportunity of getting back into the Champions League for next season, given Chelsea are flagging in 10th place in the Premier League.

Joao Felix and Mudryk have been joined by fellow January signing Fernandez in Potter's squad for Europe, but four players acquired during the mid-season transfer window miss out: Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana and Noni Madueke.

Chelsea, like all clubs, were only allowed to add three new names to the squad that contested the group stage, with no more than 25 players allowed.

Another notable inclusion was Hakim Ziyech, the winger who looked set to join Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day, only for the deal to collapse late on.

Milan will attempt to recover from a miserable January when they do battle with in-form Inter in a derby at San Siro on Sunday.

The Rossoneri have suffered three consecutive defeats in all competitions, conceding 12 goals in the process to lose the Supercoppa Italiana and leave their hopes of retaining the Serie A title in tatters.

Stefano Pioli's side have slipped to fifth, but a victory this weekend would put them above their second-placed city rivals.

Either way, there are appears to be no stopping Napoli in their quest for the Scudetto, with the runaway leaders holding a 13-point advantage at the summit.

Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta numbers for a derby Milan fans may be dreading given their alarming slump.

Milan suffer the January blues

It has certainly not been a happy new year for Milan so far, and a 5-2 home defeat to Sassuolo last Sunday saw them sink to a new low.

That came on the back of a 4-0 hammering at Lazio, and Inter also capitalised on their defensive frailties to win the Supercoppa Italiana with a 3-0 victory last month.

Milan have extended the season of goodwill into 2023, and they made unwanted history in January, with the 18 goals they conceded more than they had previously shipped in any single month since records began in 1929-30.

The last time they lost four games in a row was between January and February 2017 under Vincenzo Montella.

Inter to deny Milan a long-awaited double?

Inter have won their past two games in all competitions and were able to keep defender Milan Skriniar during the transfer window, although he is expected to join Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season.

Simone Inzaghi's side have lost their past two Serie A derbies against Milan, but they have not suffered three losses in a row to their fierce rivals since a run of four defeats on the spin between November 2002 and February 2004.

Rafael Leao scored twice in a 3-2 win when Milan were the home team in the Serie A clash in September, and they will be striving to complete a first league double over Inter since the 2010-11 campaign.

Nerazzurri's strong home form built on solid foundations

While Milan can't stop conceding goals, Inter have had no such trouble at home in Serie A this season.

They have only let five goals in at home in the league, the joint-best record along with Roma.

Only Napoli (28) have earned more points at home this season than Inzaghi's men, who have 24 from 10 games – winning eight and losing two.

 

More derby delight for Giroud?

Milan striker Olivier Giroud has scored in both Serie A derbies he has played in against Inter.

The France international could become the first player to find the back of the net in his first three derbies for Milan in the three-points-for-a-win era (since 1994-95).

Giroud was on target in the drubbing at the hands of Sassuolo last weekend, that goal taking his tally in Serie A to six for the season.

Antonio Conte could be on the Tottenham bench for Sunday's Premier League game against Manchester City, just four days after having his gallbladder removed.

That possibility was revealed by his assistant coach, Cristian Stellini, who would take the reins if Conte has to wait for his return to work.

Stellini held the fort at Friday's pre-match press conference, and there is a strong chance of him remaining in charge for the home clash with title-chasing City.

Yet Conte said within hours of the operation that he was "already feeling better", and that improvement has continued according to his second-in-command.

Stellini said: "We don't know yet when Antonio is coming back. Everything is possible. The surgery was good and he's recovering well.

"At the moment he's at home. We have two days before the game and everything can happen."

Asked whether Conte could therefore be involved on Sunday, Stellini said: "We don't know yet. The decision will be made tomorrow. We are ready to do everything.

"Probably a doctor that did the surgery, they have to decide for him. We have 48 hours from today to decide, so we have time."

Conte was experiencing severe pain which necessitated the surgery, and usually a patient will need a longer recovery than four days after such an operation.

The UK's National Health Service suggests a patient will usually require two weeks of recovery before returning to a desk job, and longer for manual work.

Given Conte is usually an animated figure on the Tottenham touchline, his role seemingly falls into the latter category, and Stellini said it would be important for his fellow Italian to be prudent once he does come back.

"I think no one here can keep Antonio calm. He knows that to have a surgery and a surprise like he had, it's not easy," Stellini said.

"He's an intelligent man, so he knows what's happened to him. It's not the worst surgery you can have, but it's a surgery. You have to be careful and Antonio has to do it."

Stellini said Conte's staff, including first-team coach Ryan Mason, were ready to carry out his usual duties.

"Antonio sends me a message and he trusts us completely, one hundred per cent trust in the staff," Stellini said. "We are focused more than normal because we have to do what Antonio normally does, and Antonio is happy about our job."

He said Conte had been "so sad" about the prospect of having to have surgery, and it comes at a time when fifth-placed Tottenham do not want to risk becoming cut off from the top four.

They trail Newcastle United and Manchester United by three points, having played one game more than both, raising the stakes for a rematch with City, a fortnight after Spurs squandered a 2-0 half-time lead and lost 4-2 to the same opposition at the Etihad Stadium.

Stellini said Tottenham are "scared, in the right way" about the game, expressing optimism the outcome can be different this time, with Richarlison fit to play and new recruit Pedro Porro in line for a possible debut.

"This is the game you are waiting for, and you want to play every time this type of game," Stellini said.

"The players are excited. I feel the players are so focused on this match. For sure, we have to be worried in the right way, speaking about not only [Erling] Haaland but all the team they have.

"It's a great team, maybe it's the greatest team in the world, and they fight every time to win a trophy.

"So we are scared, in the right way. We respect them, but we think we can repeat the same first half we had in the last game and we can do it for 90 minutes."

Ford will return to Formula One for the first time since 2004 and partner with Red Bull from 2026.

Red Bull revealed their RB19 car for the 2023 season at a launch event in New York City on Friday, with reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen, team-mate Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner in attendance.

Ford, meanwhile, will return to F1 after a 22-year absence, working with Red Bull to build a power unit for F1's next engine regulations.

"We are mavericks, we are pushing the boundaries. We are looking forward to this busy season in 2023," said Horner, whose team took the constructors' title off Mercedes last year, as well as seeing Verstappen win for a second straight year.

"It is going to be an incredible season; our rivals for sure haven't stood still. Ferrari are going to be competitive, Mercedes are going to be there; there are some other teams that could make some big progress as well.

"In Bahrain, in a couple of weeks' time, we will get to see everyone's car and see if we have missed something, have we not.

"There is going to be highs and lows along the way, but I think we are in a good place. We are going to have to be at the top of our game this season."

Of Red Bull's partnership with Ford, Horner added: "To welcome the Ford brand back into Formula One, to have the Red Bull Ford powertrain is going to be very exciting.

"There was a natural synergy between the two companies, it was an easy deal – 2026 seems like a long way away, but in the engine world, it is tomorrow.

"We have recruited some incredible talent and have some great people in the team.  We are really excited about what we can achieve."

Ford's involvement in F1 began in the 1960s with a long-standing partnership with British firm Cosworth.

They are the third-most successful engine manufacturer in the history of F1, having played a part in winning 10 constructors' championships and 13 drivers' championships.

Ford chief executive Jim Farley said: "We don't want to make generic cars, faceless vehicles; we want vehicles with an attitude – this team represents that."

Horner said: "It's a huge era for the team. As Formula One moves to pretty much a 50-50 split between hybridisation and combustion power, we wanted to have a like-minded partner.

"It's great to see the Ford brand coming back into Formula One."

JOA President, Christopher Samuda, was in a “business unusual” mode in addressing the audience at the Tornadoes Swim Club’s recent 2022 Awards Ceremony held at its new home on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

President Samuda challenged Jamaica’s aspiring Olympic swimmers to “deep dive into history and there you will find the inspiration of Tornadoes’ Olympians. Deep dive into the present and there you will discover you, the present generations of swimmers, images of yourself, as you aspire to be on the Olympic stage. Deep dive into the future and you will envision what you must become – the standard by which swimmers will be judged, a model athlete and a legacy creator.”

The past year for the club was very successful with Sabrina Lyn, Israel Allen and Rhiana Gayle receiving athlete of the year awards in their respective disciplines at the RJR/Gleaner National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards Ceremony, a feat which underscores the club’s prowess.

In exhorting the swimmers, President Samuda charged them “to possess a spirit of commitment, an uncompromising spirit to transform the sport by dint of your own performances and the standards which define those performances and to possess the character of a champion that goes beyond and above the podium on which you will receive that gold medal and the admiration of a national, regional and global sporting fraternity.”

But, like an experienced diver who surfaces with the pearl, President Samuda reminded Jamaica’s aspiring Olympians that “when you deep dive you can’t remain under water. You must rise like a phoenix with the prize held aloft in victory, in triumph. For it is only when you rise that you will have understood and overcome the challenges of the deep and appreciate the horizon of the human spirit and be able to tell your story.”

The narrative of sport is equally a national as it is a community story and this truism was emphasised by JOA’s boss in delivering his address. In encouraging Jamaica’s future, he said: “Outside of the household of the Tornadoes swim club there is a community to which you, swimmers, belong and have a duty to be model citizens. The principles of fair play and mutuality in sport, the value of friendships made in sport and the character of humility in victory and resilience in disappointment experienced in sport are priceless qualities which must never depart from you and your experience in your community.”

In the sport’s recent Olympic history, Alia Atkinson, has been carrying the national flag with distinction and President Samuda, in expressing optimism for the future, comments that “there is a reservoir of talent that can provide an Olympic stream but we must, in a structured and almost scientific way, unlock the talent pipeline when they are young in opening the floodgates when they become mature.”

France will begin their quest to become the first side in six years to retain the Six Nations when they travel to perennial wooden spoon winners Italy on Sunday.

Les Blues ended a 12-year wait to get their hands back on the trophy last year, doing so in style as they claimed a Grand Slam with a perfect five wins from five.

Italy also ended last year's tournament on a high as they broke a 36-game losing run with victory in Wales and are now out to avoid finishing bottom for the first time since 2015.

While France may be reigning champions and in good form, Ireland are top of the world rankings and are many people's favourites to go one better than last year by finishing top.

Up first for Andy Farrell's Ireland side is a trip to Wales, who are in action for the first time since Warren Gatland replaced Wayne Pivac on the back of some alarming results last year.

England also have a new head coach in Steve Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones in December, with his first test a mouth-watering Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.

Ahead of the opening round of action, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.


WALES V IRELAND

FORM

Wales' loss to Italy was their third in a row in the Six Nations – only once since the start of 2008, at the end of their 2020 campaign, have they endured a longer winless run – but Gatland's return has provided fresh hope.

The Dragons won their last seven on the bounce in the championship under Gatland, who landed three Grand Slams in his previous 12-year spell in charge before stepping down in 2019.

Ireland have won seven of their past eight games in the tournament, winning the past three of those by margins of at least 17 points and conceding just one try in total.

However, the away team have not come out on top in any of the past nine Six Nations encounters between these sides, with the nations sharing four wins each over that period and one draw.


ONES TO WATCH

Wales are without the injured Leigh Halfpenny, meaning Liam Williams will start at full-back, but they have plenty of other familiar and experienced faces in their starting line-up – George North among them.

He is one try short of matching Shane Williams' record haul of 23 for Wales in the Six Nations, and behind only Brian O'Driscoll (26) of all players in the tournament's history.

Plenty of eyes will be on Johnny Sexton in what will be his final Six Nations campaign, but Ireland have many other players for Wales to concern themselves with.

James Lowe, returning from a calf injury that ruled him out of the November fixtures, will be looking to push on from last year when he finished level with Damian Penaud and Gabin Villiere as the joint-highest try scorer with three.

 

ENGLAND V SCOTLAND

FORM

Jones may have bowed out with the best win rate of any England head coach (73 per cent), but the Red Rose won just two of their final five home matches under the now-Australia boss – not since November 2008 have they had a longer winless run at Twickenham.

With former skipper Borthwick now at the helm as head coach, England are aiming to avoid losing their opening fixture in the tournament for a fourth year running, following a streak of five successive round-one wins.

Scotland have a far better recent record on the opening weekend than their opponents, having won four of their past six such matches, including the past two in a row – both against England.

Indeed, Scotland have lost just one of their past five Calcutta Cup clashes, having lost each of the previous seven. A victory on enemy territory this weekend will make it three wins in a row for the first time since 1972.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Manu Tuilagi's absence will be felt by England, who have handed a debut to wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, but Joe Marchant will add pace alongside exciting Harlequins team-mate Marcus Smith.

Smith was the top points-scorer in last year's Six Nations (71) and also registered over twice as many running metres as any other fly-half in the tournament (412), as well as beating more defenders than anyone other number 10 (10).

Hamish Watson is not ready for a return to the Scotland side this weekend in a blow for coach Gregor Townsend. The 31-year-old was one of just three players to make 50 or more tackles without missing one in the 2022 edition (70), along with team-mate Grant Gilchrist and Ireland's Caelan Doris (both 53).

Gilchrist is available, though, and he resumes a partnership with Richie Gray in the second row that impressed during Scotland's November internationals.

 

ITALY V FRANCE

FORM

The signs of improvement were clear to see from an Italy perspective in 2022 as they picked up a first win in the tournament since 2015 and then beat Australia for the first time ever in November's Test.

The Azzurri have now won five of their past seven Tests, as many as they had won in their previous 36 combined, but they have not won at home in the Six Nations since 2013 and have won back-to-back games in the championship just twice previously.

France enter the competition boasting a team-record 13-match winning run after winning every game in a calendar year for the first time in 2022. They were not always at their best towards the end of the year, though, with three of their past four wins coming by margins of five points or fewer.

Les Blues have won their opening match in each of their past four campaigns as reigning champions, which does not bode well for an Italy side who have won only two of their 23 Six Nations home matches against this weekend's opponents.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Italy are without the pace and power of Monty Ioane after he returned to Australia and became unavailable for selection in this championship. No player made more line breaks (seven), beat more defenders (21), completed more offloads (eight) and made more dominant tackles (seven) than Ioane in last year's Six Nations.

The Azzurri still have Pierre Bruno and Ange Capuozzo at their disposal, with the latter impressing on his tournament bow in 2022 en route to winning World Rugby's men's Breakthrough Player of the Year award.

Even with the likes of regular starters Jonathan Danty and Cameron Woki ruled out, France still boast a number of top-class talents in their squad.

Gregory Alldritt, who will combine with Charles Ollivon and Anthony Jelonch in the back row, made more carries than any other player in last year's tournament (65) and was one of two players, along with team-mate Julien Marchand (50), to hit 50 or more defensive rucks with 59.

 

Kylian Mbappe has not been mishandled by Paris Saint-Germain since the World Cup and injuries are "part of the job", coach Christophe Galtier said on Friday.

Mbappe is expected to miss PSG's Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich on February 14 after suffering a hamstring injury in the win at Montpellier on Wednesday.

Facing three weeks on the sidelines, Mbappe should also sit out Ligue 1 games against Toulouse, Monaco and Lille, as well as the Coupe de France clash with Marseille.

Considering Mbappe has 25 goals in 26 appearances for PSG this season, this is a major blow at a significant stage of the campaign, with Neymar also on the injured list.

The Toulouse game comes on Saturday as PSG look to extend their five-point lead over second-placed Marseille, with Lionel Messi heading into the fixture without his fellow star attackers.

Galtier has considered whether he has played Mbappe too much since the France striker returned from Qatar 2022. His verdict is that PSG have protected Mbappe as much as possible.

"We are in a unique season, with a World Cup in the middle," Galtier said, "and I realise that at many other clubs with many internationals, there has been fatigue that has generated automatically and injuries.

"As a philosophy, I am in the habit of saying injuries are part of the job.

"We're sorry above all for Kylian. He is a competitor and always wants to be involved, but we can't have a season where we don't have physical problems, that's part of a season and part of the competition. 

"It's even more so for a club with internationals who are in demand all the time, as much with club as with country."

 

Galtier said PSG "took a lot of precautions for Kylian's return".

The striker reported for duty with the capital giants in the midweek after France's World Cup final penalty shoot-out loss to Argentina in December, illustrating his eagerness to get back into club action.

He was then allowed a holiday in January, with Mbappe travelling to the United States for that break.

"I don't think Kylian played too much," Galtier said, "and from the moment you play, there is always an element of risk."

Veteran defender Sergio Ramos, hit by a thigh problem at Montpellier, is another who will sit out the Toulouse game. The onus will fall on Messi to drive PSG to victory on Saturday, and the Argentine great scored in the 3-1 success at Montpellier.

"Leo Messi was able to take matters into his own hands against Montpellier, as soon as Kylian Mbappe and Sergio Ramos went off," said Galtier.

"He was a natural leader and the players put themselves at his service. I congratulated everyone for doing the work necessary to get this victory, which was difficult to obtain.

"The absence of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe is inevitably damaging since there were many connections between these three players. I now have to organise the team, taking into account these combined absences.

"Leo Messi will continue in his usual role. It will be up to the players who will be at his side to seize the opportunities and for everyone to raise their level of play."

Jurgen Klopp is confused over how Chelsea's transfer business is possible after the Blues brought in eight January signings.

Chelsea signed World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica for a British record transfer fee of £106.8million (€121m) on Tuesday, pushing their January spending past £300m.

That capped a hectic window for Chelsea, who splashed out to sign Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana and Malo Gusto, who will spend the rest of the season on loan at Lyon.

Joao Felix also signed on loan from Atletico Madrid as, with Chelsea sat 10th in the Premier League, co-owner Todd Boehly gave head coach Potter an array of options with which to mount a push for the top four.

In contrast, Klopp's Liverpool, above Chelsea on goal difference in ninth, only brought in one signing, bringing in Cody Gakpo from PSV in January for a reported initial fee of around £37million (€42m).

Klopp is baffled over how Chelsea's spending is allowed in relation to Financial Fair Play regulations, telling reporters: "I don't understand this part of the business about what you can and can't do. It's a big number.

"I don't understand how it's possible with all the things around, but obviously it's not up to me to explain how it works."

When asked for his personal views on Chelsea's record-breaking January dealings, the Liverpool manager joked: "I say nothing without my lawyer."

Despite the eye-watering fees Chelsea have paid out, Klopp feels it could be money well spent with the quality of players they have signed.

"They're all really good players," Klopp said. "From that point of view, congratulations.

"The players they brought in, I didn't think once 'why did they do that?' They will play well together."

This term, Liverpool have failed to hit the high standards they have set since Klopp's arrival at the club in 2015, during which they have won both the Champions League and Premier League.

Liverpool have been hit by injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, while some players have struggled for form.

One such example is midfielder Fabinho, who has been benched in recent games for 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic and was fortunate not get sent off for a rash tackle in Liverpool's FA Cup defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion last week.

"He knows he's not flying and that he needs to work back," Klopp said of Fabinho. "That's how it is. 

"It's really helpful we have Stefan. You need a guy who wins challenges but plays football as well. Fab did that for us for plenty of years, absolutely brilliant. Best in the position for a long time and at the moment it's not clicking, that's true as well.

"He's not the happiest person on the planet, but he understands the decision."

Julian Nagelsmann is not buying Paris Saint-Germain's claims that Kylian Mbappe will miss the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against his Bayern Munich team.

Mbappe sustained a hamstring injury in Wednesday's Ligue 1 clash with Montpellier.

PSG subsequently announced the 24-year-old is set to be sidelined for around three weeks.

If that estimated recovery time is accurate, Mbappe would be unavailable for the first leg of PSG's clash with Bundesliga champions Bayern on February 14.

However, Bayern coach Nagelsmann is not fully convinced that will be the case.

"I don't think he will be out, I don't expect anything else. I don't know what [injury] he's got, I assume [he will be] playing," Nagelsmann said at a press conference ahead of Bayern's trip to Wolfsburg on Saturday.

"I don't know what he has. It's relatively vague on the PSG website.  If it's not a structural injury, I can't imagine him missing the game, but I don't know. Of course, they can play poker.

"I am preparing for the game as if he is going to play."

While Nagelsmann does not fully believe PSG's news about Mbappe, he could be seen as playing mind games of his own, as he revealed Sadio Mane will not be fit to feature against the French champions.

Mane missed the World Cup due to an injury sustained while in action for Bayern just ahead of last year's tournament but returned to training last month.

"I am expecting him back in the middle or at the end of February," Nagelsmann said of the former Liverpool attacker.

"Things are looking good and he's pain-free. He will definitely miss the first leg against PSG."

Bayern claimed their first win of 2023 in emphatic fashion last time out, beating Mainz 4-0 in the DFB Pokal.

They have drawn their three Bundesliga matches since the season's resumption, though face a Wolfsburg team that have lost their last two games.

Making his debut following a loan move from Manchester City, Joao Cancelo impressed against Mainz, and Nagelsmann had praise for his latest recruit.

"He's a very likeable player and will help better us," he said.

"He's a fighter who likes to play as much as possible and who wants to impact the game. He adds new options to our team. He was very strong in the first half against Mainz."

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United can only benefit from Raphael Varane retiring from international football after his distinguished France career.

The defender announced on Thursday he has pulled the plug on his time with Les Bleus, after winning 93 caps in a 10-year stint, landing World Cup glory in 2018 along the way.

The former Real Madrid centre-back, who joined United 18 months ago, featured in six of France's games at the recent World Cup in Qatar, where they were beaten on penalties by Argentina in the final.

At the age of 29, he could realistically have targeted another World Cup campaign, but Varane decided the time was right to let the new generation have its turn.

United manager Ten Hag praised his player's decision and stressed he had no input into Varane's thought process before the decision was revealed.

"For United, I think it's good news," Ten Hag told a United press conference on Friday.

"With his nation it is incredible what he achieved, big respect, and I am happy he puts all his energy and experience into the team.

"He gave me the information that he was intending to do this. I didn't discuss it with him.

"Rapha is experienced, at an age he makes his own decision about that, I can only express my deep respect for his career until now, but there is a lot to come."

Jurgen Klopp has challenged Liverpool to follow Marcus Rashford's example and roar back to match-winning form.

Klopp's side have won just one of their last six games in all competitions, with Kaoru Mitoma's stoppage-time winner for Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend ending the Reds' hopes of silverware in the FA Cup.

Out of the EFL Cup and sitting 21 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal in ninth, Liverpool have failed to match the standards they have set for much of Klopp's time at the club.

They have won the Premier League and Champions League under the German, while finishing runners-up in those competitions a combined four times.

Liverpool's slump has coincided with rivals Manchester United enjoying a strong first campaign under new manager Erik ten Hag, with the Red Devils fourth in the league and the only team left fighting for success on four fronts.

United have been able to count on the impressive form of Rashford, who has bounced back from scoring just four league goals last season to net 18 times in 31 appearances across all competitions this term.

Klopp cited Rashford's stunning return to form as a model for Liverpool to follow in their bid to get back to winning ways, saying: "One of the best examples is Marcus Rashford, the season he had last year and this year.

"I'm sure he can't really explain it. It's not like Marcus didn't want to deliver last year. Now he's flying.

"The time in between these two extremes, you have to use, you have to work and fight through it. Self-pity is not allowed in these moments. Only one person can change this, and it's yourselves. These things can happen and will happen, but it's about limiting the time to get back on track."

Having tasted victory only eight times in 19 league games so far this season, Klopp believes his team must show they are capable of winning games again if they are to finish the season strongly.

"We love this game, the boys especially because they can play it still," Klopp said. "A big part of it is the desire to win football games. When you don't achieve that, that's the hardest moment for all footballers on the planet.

"We were much better in a lot of areas [against Brighton], but in the end when the result is not right, it overshadows everything.

"When you've won the last five games, you don't have to prove that you can win football games because everybody knows. We have to prove this point, that's clear.

"We didn't win enough football games in the last few weeks and the whole season so far, so that's what we want."

Liverpool travel to Molineux to face Wolves on Saturday, a third meeting with Julen Lopetegui's side since the turn of the year following a 2-2 draw at Anfield in an FA Cup third-round game and a 1-0 victory in the replay.

Saturday's match is the first of a run that sees them face local rivals Everton and top-four hopefuls Newcastle United, before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid at Anfield on February 21.

Klopp is remaining calm ahead of the crucial juncture in Liverpool's season, explaining at his pre-match press conference: "I don't worry about a run of fixtures. We have to use the time we have to improve, to play the football we want to play, to work on the things we think are necessary or massively necessary.

"We have only played half the season, which is crazy but means the second half of the season we can do whatever we want in a positive direction.

"We decide how positive the outcome will be."

Erik ten Hag's full focus is on maintaining Manchester United's impressive form on the field, with the Dutchman unable to comment on Mason Greenwood's future at the club.

United forward Greenwood had all charges against him dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on Thursday following the "withdrawal of key witnesses".

Greenwood was arrested in January 2022 and due to stand trial in November on accusations of attempted rape, assault and controlling and coercive behaviour.

The 21-year-old said in a widely released statement that he was "relieved" the matter is over, while United said the club will "conduct its own process" before commenting further.

Ten Hag faced the media on Friday ahead of United's Premier League meeting with Crystal Palace and was asked whether he had any comments to make on Greenwood.

"Nothing. I can't add anything. I refer to the statement of the club," Ten Hag said.

Asked if he will be part of the process that decides Greenwood's Old Trafford future, Ten Hag said: "In this moment, I can't give comment about the process."

The former Ajax boss was then questioned on whether he has ever personally met Greenwood, who has been suspended by United since his arrest a little over 12 months ago.

"I can't say anything about it. I refer to the statement of the club and at this moment I can't add anything."

Ten Hag was more willing to discuss next opponents Palace, who held United to a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park prior to the Red Devils' 3-2 loss at Arsenal last time out in the league.

"We have always to focus on the game, no matter what, it is our job," he told reporters. "Two weeks ago we had a bad performance against them.

"I wasn't happy with the performance from us. We only had 90 per cent focus and energy and we dropped two points. 

"[On Saturday] we need a better game, better focus in the game, better conduct in the way of play because we have to beat them – that's quite clear."

United have won just one of their last five league meetings with Palace and are winless in the past two – not since October 1970 have they gone three in a row without a victory in this fixture in the top flight.

However, United have won their past five Premier League home games, which is their best streak since a run of eight between May and December 2017.

Ten Hag's side have won three successive cup games since their most recent league match and bolstered their squad with the loan signing of Marcel Sabitzer this week after Christian Eriksen was ruled out for three months.

The Bayern Munich midfielder has only trained once with his new club, but Ten Hag is ready to use him against Palace on Saturday.

"You can see he's a very fit player. I didn't expect anything else coming from Bayern Munich," he said. "I think he is ready to play.

"I think he's a really smart player and I think we gave him some guidance, but he knows what to do, he knows the job."

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