Jorginho and Roberto Mancini could cap a golden year for Italy by landing UEFA honours after both were shortlisted for top awards on Thursday, though Manchester City duo Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola could spoil the Azzurri's party.

Azzurri midfielder Jorginho won the Champions League with Chelsea and followed that by helping his country to Euro 2020 glory, under the leadership of coach Mancini.

Jorginho, 29, is joined on the three-man shortlist for UEFA Men's Player of the Year by Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante, a standout in the Champions League final, and by City playmaker De Bruyne.

Kante played for France at Euro 2020 and De Bruyne featured for Belgium, but neither side made the progress many anticipated, with Les Bleus eliminated in the last 16 and the Red Devils bowing out to Italy in the quarter-finals.

The three players received the most votes from a panel consisting of the 24 head coaches at Euro 2020, the 80 coaches from the Champions League and Europa League group stages, and journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations.

The Men's Coach of the Year shortlist consists of the two coaches from the Champions League final, Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel and City's Guardiola, plus Italy boss Mancini.

It means there is no place for Gareth Southgate, who guided England to their first major men's final since the 1966 World Cup. He finished seventh in voting, UEFA announced, behind Villarreal's Europa League winning boss Unai Emery, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and former Inter coach Antonio Conte.

Like Guardiola, both Simeone and Conte led their club sides to domestic league title success.

The winner of each award will be announced at UEFA's Champions League group stage draw on August 26 in Istanbul.

Barcelona had a clean sweep of the players shortlisted for the Women's Player of the Year prize, following their Spanish league and cup and Champions League treble.

The Spanish duo of Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas were joined on the list by Dutch club-mate Lieke Martens.

UEFA's women's awards stem from votes from each of the coaches in the Champions League last 16 and the leading 12 coaches according to UEFA's national team rankings, plus a pool of 20 journalists.

Former Barcelona boss Lluis Cortes is joined on that list by Chelsea's Emma Hayes and Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

Reported Tottenham target Nikola Milenkovic has committed his future to Fiorentina by signing a contract extension until 2023.

The Serbia international had been widely linked to Spurs, Wolves and West Ham, with just a year left on his previous deal.

However, with Cristian Romero arriving to bolster Nuno Espirito Santo's squad and the other two Premier League clubs wary of finances, talks broke down and Milenkovic has signed a one-year extension.

Head coach Vincenzo Italiano will be delighted to have secured the defender's services for another term, given it seems fellow centre-back German Pezzella is on the brink of moving to Real Betis.

Milenkovic joined from Partizan in 2017 and has racked up 133 appearances across all competition for Fiorentina, scoring 11 goals during his four-year spell in Italy.

The 23-year-old has played the most minutes of any Viola player since his debut in December 2017 – his 11,696 way ahead of second-place Pezzella's 10,381.

In the same time period, no Fiorentina player has made more headed clearances (276), successful tackles (131) or won more duels (651) than Milenkovic, who ranks only 33 behind Pezzella in first place for interceptions with 190.

By comparison, among Serie A defenders, only Federico Fazio (377) and Berat Djimsiti (353) have succeeded in more aerial battles than Milenkovic (349) since his arrival in Italy.

Fiorentina have managed to tie down their star defensive asset and their chairman Rocco Commisso also outlined his desire to keep Spurs, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid target Dusan Vlahovic for at least one more season.

"I didn't put Vlahovic up for sale, on the contrary, we made him an important renewal proposal," Commisso told TGR Rai Toscana on Thursday.

"There are teams interested in him but I have not set prices. I want him to stay one more year.

"For the player – we remember – in the last hours the strong interest of Manchester City has also arrived, willing to offer over 70 million euros for him. The pressing of Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, seems weaker after the contacts last week."

Italiano is expected to name Milenkovic and Vlahovic, who netted twice in a 4-0 Coppa Italia first-round win over Cosenza last Friday, in his starting line-up for their Serie A opener away at Roma on Sunday.

Is it time to ring the changes after a poor start or stick with the players who got you off to a flying start?

If you picked Bruno Fernandes for the opening round of Premier League fixtures, the Manchester United midfielder delivered with interest as he scored a stunning hat-trick against Leeds United.

Whether your team is sitting pretty or languishing in the lower reaches of the league, you have no doubt spent this week pondering potential selections.

Using Opta data, here are Stats Perform's Fantasy Picks that can rack up the points.

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Edouard Mendy started the campaign with a clean sheet as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The European champions face another London derby at Arsenal on Sunday and Mendy can ensure the Gunners fire a blank.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other top-flight goalkeeper with 10. His clean sheet record of 53 per cent from 32 matches is the best in Premier League history for those who have played at least 10 games.

 

KIERAN TIERNEY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by newly promoted Brentford in the first game of the campaign.

Mikel Arteta could have no complaints over Kieran Tierney's performance, with the marauding full-back creating six chances.

That was more than any other player in the opening round of fixtures and he can pose questions of the Chelsea defence in the London derby.

 

AARON CRESSWELL (West Ham v Leicester City)

West Ham defender Aaron Cresswell made a great start to the campaign and scored in a 4-2 victory at Newcastle United.

Cresswell has played a big part in the Hammers' success under David Moyes and is definitely one to consider picking for their home clash with Leicester City.

Since the start of last season, Cresswell has provided more assists (eight) than any other defender in the competition. No player has been involved in more goals than his tally of nine.

 

JOE WILLOCK (Aston Villa v Newcastle United)

Newcastle fans were delighted when Joe Willock returned to the club from Arsenal on a permanent deal following a successful loan spell last season.

Willock was not involved in a home loss to the Hammers, but can hit the ground running at Aston Villa.

The midfielder could become only the fourth player to score in eight consecutive Premier League games after ending last season in sensational form.

 

KEVIN DE BRUYNE (Manchester City v Norwich City)

Midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne was restricted to a late substitute appearance as champions Manchester City were beaten at Tottenham last weekend.

Norwich City will be hoping the Belgium playmaker plays a limited role again, as he can cause all sorts of trouble if Pep Guardiola unleashes him from the start.

De Bruyne has been involved in five goals in four games against the Canaries, scoring three and setting up two. He has scored four and assisted seven in his past eight appearances versus newly promoted teams.

KELECHI IHEANACHO (West Ham v Leicester City)

Striker Kelechi Iheanacho was another player who started the Premier League as a substitute but he can make a big impact at West Ham.

He has been involved in four goals in his past four appearances against the Hammers, netting three times and providing an assist.

Iheanacho has enjoyed capital gains, scoring in his last three appearances in London.

 

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Liverpool v Burnley)

Brazil striker Roberto Firmino was on target in Liverpool's comfortable opening-day win at Norwich.

He has fond memories of coming up against Burnley, scoring five times and setting up a goal in his past six appearances versus the Clarets.

Firmino opened the scoring in a 3-0 victory at Turf Moor when the two sides last met in May and can strike again at Anfield.

Lionel Messi and Neymar have been training together for Paris Saint-Germain, but Mauricio Pochettino refused to comment whether the pair would feature against Brest.

PSG travel to Brest on Friday fresh from back-to-back Ligue 1 wins against Troyes and Strasbourg, the first time in three years they have begun a new domestic season in such fashion.

Despite a positive start to their campaign, interest continues to centre around Messi, who arrived in Paris after a shock exit from Barcelona amid the club's financial difficulties in August.

However, it remains unclear whether the highly anticipated pairing of Messi and Neymar will be reunited to form a formidable trio with Kylian Mbappe at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

"We haven’t decided the squad yet but we will do so shortly," Pochettino responded in Thursday's news conference when asked about Messi.

"We will analyse whether he can be in the squad. In terms of what Lionel Messi brings, everybody knows that.

"His presence here in terms of what he represents is something we have talked about a lot in recent days.

"I am pleased with how he has settled in and how he has connected with squad. When you have talent at this sort of club, the understanding is not just in the dressing room but also on the pitch."

 

As part of a fearsome frontline with Luis Suarez at Barcelona between 2014 and 2017, Messi and Neymar between them created 2.1 chances for one another per 90 minutes, resulting in 22 assists for the duo.

But, like Suarez when he moved to Barcelona, it is Messi who will have to quickly link-up with an already established pairing, Mbappe and Neymar.

Neymar's injury troubles have meant that he and Mbappe have only played 3,552 minutes together – less than half as many as Messi and Suarez – though they have combined for 102 chances (2.6 per 90) and 21 assists (one every 169 minutes).

However, as with questioning over Messi's inclusion, Pochettino kept his cards close to his chest as to whether Neymar would feature.

"As I said, we are assessing that and of course, we take physical and footballing attributes into account," the head coach reiterated. "Within the squad, we have to find the right balance."

Mbappe, who is the only player to have recorded more than one assist following a ball carry in Ligue 1 this term (two), is the third part of Pochettino's forward puzzle, but his future remains in question.

With just a year left on his current deal, links to Real Madrid were expected to be quashed by Messi's arrival as the Frenchman realises his opportunity to challenge for Champions League glory at the Parc des Princes.

"I think he [Kylian Mbappe] is very motivated and working hard ahead of this season," the former Tottenham boss added. "We are thinking the same things we have been thinking in recent weeks. He is our player and I want him to be here this season."

"The most important thing is Kylian Mbappe is calm and knows what he is doing. He knows what he wants to do. We know that he is our player. We want him to be here.

"My conversations with Kylian Mbappe are all about football. He has another year on his contract and even if he doesn’t renew, he is still a PSG player and we are pleased with him, and from what I understand, he is pleased with us."

Lazio have completed the signing of Pedro from arch-rivals Roma.

The former Spain winger will remain in the Eternal City in a new era for Lazio under Maurizio Sarri.

Lazio did not state whether they had paid a fee for Pedro or the length of contract he has signed.

The 34-year-old was not part of Jose Mourinho's plans and has now been reunited with Sarri, who he played under at Chelsea.

Pedro has been given the number nine shirt after passing a medical on Thursday.

The former Barcelona wideman made 27 appearances for Roma in Serie A last season, scoring five goals and providing two assists.

Pedro created 29 chances and had a dribble success rate of 64.44.

Lazio travel to Empoli for their first game of the 2021-22 Serie A season on Saturday.

Manchester United great Denis Law has revealed that he has been diagnosed with dementia.

The former United forward, who scored 237 goals in 404 games for the Red Devils and is their third-highest all-time top scorer, released a statement on Thursday to announce a diagnosis of  'mixed dementia' – in his case, a combination of Alzheimer's and Vascular dementia.

After former team-mate Bobby Charlton's diagnosis in 2020, the ex-Scotland international becomes the latest former footballer associated with the illness.

Law, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1964, wrote: "I am at the point where I feel I want to be open about my condition. I have been diagnosed with 'mixed dementia'.

"It is an incredibly challenging and problematic disease and I have witnessed many friends go through this. You hope that it won’t happen to you, even make jokes about it whilst ignoring the early signs because you don’t want it to be true.

"You get angry, frustrated, confused and then worried, worried for your family, as they will be the ones dealing with it."

Law and Charlton – who combine to partner George Best on a statue outside Old Trafford – are just two of a growing list to suffer from dementia post-retirement.

A study in October 2019 found that former footballers are three-and-a-half times likelier to develop dementia, leading to calls to eliminate heading from football altogether.

While the Football Association (FA) have not eradicated heading completely, they have introduced new heading guidance in July, which limits the amount of heading each player can do in training sessions across all levels of the English football pyramid.

The 81-year-old said he wanted to address his illness outwardly to the public while he was still capable of doing so.

"However, the time has come to tackle this head on, excuse the pun," Law continued in his statement.

"I have good days and bad days and aim to take each day as it comes adjusting my lifestyle accordingly.

"I don’t want people to be saddened if I forget places, people or dates because you need to remember I enjoyed all those memories and I am lucky to have experienced what I have in my life.

"I am trying to be positive and determined to continue watching my club, Manchester United at Old Trafford, hopefully this will be a season of success and I am excited by the new signings that Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] and the club have made."

In a separate statement on Thursday, United added: "Denis Law will always be one of this club’s greatest legends and everybody at Manchester United sends our love and best wishes to him and his family.

"We know our fans around the world will also rally behind him.

"We applaud Denis’s brave words and will continue to offer whatever support we can as he adapts to this challenging condition."

Newcastle United midfielder Joe Willock has revealed he considered quitting social media due to the racist abuse he has been subjected to online.

Willock, who completed a permanent move from Arsenal to Newcastle last week, says more must be done to prevent individuals from sending such vile messages.

"Every day I get messages," Willock told BBC Radio Newcastle. "Messages saying about my colour or different things that are disgusting, really.

"There's not much you can do - you just have to try and ignore it. I don't think Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have put up enough of a fight for us to do anything else.

"I feel like the only thing you can do in this day and age is just ignore it and try to put it at the back of your head.

"It comes up on your phone and they have a way of direct messaging you on to your phone these disgusting things and it sort of hurts. It hurts a lot - even speaking about it."

He added: "If you come off social media, you lose that connection with all the wonderful fans that are supporting you every day, want to see your everyday life and see what you do and have that connection with you over the platform that they wouldn't have in real life."

Willock spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at St James' Park and scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances for Steve Bruce's side.

The 21-year-old had netted only once in 40 Premier League games for the Gunners before his move to Newcastle, for whom he scored 16 minutes into his debut at home to Southampton.

Willock had an outstanding end to the campaign with goals in successive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United to become the youngest player to net in six consecutive Premier League games.

Bayern Munich could be without Manuel Neuer for Sunday's home clash with Cologne after the goalkeeper missed training on Thursday.

Neuer pulled off four saves to help Bayern to a 3-1 win over DFB-Pokal holders Borussia Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old was on top form to deny Marco Reus – who later curled in a sublime consolation goal – and Erling Haaland in the first half at Signal Iduna Park.

His save from Reus was particularly excellent, the Germany goalkeeper sticking out a leg to deny the Dortmund captain, whose effort had an expected goals (xG) estimation of 0.596, which registered it as the second-best chance of the match overall.

However, in the second half, Neuer had to take extra time over taking a goal-kick after he had been clipped on the ankle by Haaland, who had attempted to pressurise the Bayern captain.

That tackle has now resulted in an injury for Neuer, with Bayern confirming he was unable to train on Thursday.

"Manuel Neuer sustained a capsule [joint] injury in his right ankle during the Supercup victory over Dortmund, so the captain will not take part in today's training," a Bayern tweet read.

It remains to be seen whether Neuer will be fit enough to be involved in Julian Nagelsmann's first Bundesliga home game in charge of Bayern.

Leicester City have handed winger Harvey Barnes a new four-year contract.

The 23-year-old has signed improved terms and is now tied to the Premier League club until June 2025, one year longer than his previous deal.

Barnes joined Leicester as a nine-year-old and has become a key first-team player since returning from loan spells with MK Dons, Barnsley and West Brom over recent years.

He made his England debut last year but a knee injury in February ended his season early and dashed his hopes of appearing at Euro 2020.

"I've been here for so many years now, it feels like home," said Barnes, who has played 101 times for the Foxes and scored 21 goals.

"For me, it was a no-brainer. Of course, I wanted to extend my stay here.

"It's been something that's been going on in the background and to sign now is great. It's right at the start of a new season as well, which I know everyone is excited about."

Barnes scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for Leicester last season prior to his injury and had returned in time to play in the FA Cup winners' Community Shield victory over Manchester City to kick off the new campaign this month.

He impressively outperformed his expected goals (xG) number of 5.9 in league action in 2020-21, scoring nine times from 56 shots while also creating 26 chances for his team-mates.

As well as defeating Manchester City, Leicester also beat Wolves to open the Premier League season but face a tough test away to West Ham in their second game on Monday.

West Ham completed a league double over Leicester last season and the Foxes have kept a clean sheet in just three of their 28 Premier League games against the Hammers (11 per cent).

Of teams they have faced at least 15 times, they only have a lower percentage against Manchester United (seven per cent).

Paris Saint-Germain's new goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma believes he needed to move away from Milan to grow as a player.

Donnarumma left Milan upon the expiration of his contract at the end of June, subsequently joining Ligue 1 giants PSG on a free transfer.

The 22-year-old – who made his Milan debut at the age of 16 in 2015 – is one of five star recruits PSG have made this transfer window, with Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldium and, of course, Lionel Messi also arriving at the Parc des Princes to bolster an already remarkable squad.

After making 30 Serie A appearances in 2015-16, Donnarumma missed just five league games for Milan over the past five campaigns, establishing himself as one of the world's best goalkeepers.

He only helped his reputation at Euro 2020, playing a starring role as Italy won the competition – indeed, Donnarumma made two saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England in the final on July 11.

While he awaits his PSG debut having only just resumed training following an extended break, Donnarumma revealed his reasons for leaving Milan.

"I spent eight years at Milan, it was my home, I experienced wonderful moments there," he told Corriere dello Sport.

"Milan still excites me today, I have great respect for the people who work there and for the fans. But life is made up of choices, we had different ambitions.

"I will always be a fan of Milan. Eight years are not forgotten, but I needed to change to grow, to improve and become the strongest. I felt the need for new spaces, for a new reality."

Donnarumma also insisted the decision to leave the Rossoneri was his alone, with agent Mino Raiola having little influence.

"There are decisions that have a maturity. I have always made my career choices alone, my family has always left me free and supported me," Donnarumma continued.

"Mino did the same. He respects the wishes of his clients 100 per cent, then of course he does everything to satisfy their requests. I left Milan and I had no contact with other teams, I swear, but I was sure that with a good Euros, someone would show up."

With three of their new additions, along with star names such as Marco Verratti, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Marquinhos, yet to feature, PSG have nevertheless made a winning start to their first full Ligue 1 campaign under Mauricio Pochettino, though they did lose the Trophee des Champions to Lille, who won the top flight last term.

Donnarumma, though, knows PSG's true goal comes in the form of European glory.

"Last season, the team did not win Ligue 1 but the real objective is different – the Champions League," he said.

Donnarumma's switch to Paris does raise some questions, as PSG already had a superb goalkeeper in the form of Keylor Navas.

Both played 45 games in all competitions for their clubs last term, though Navas conceded 36 goals, 14 fewer than Donnarumma's tally of 50.

Donnarumma did face more shots (561 compared to 503), yet Navas' save percentage was still noticeably better – the former Real Madrid shot-stopper keeping out 79.55 per cent of the attempts he faced, in contrast to a rate of 68.55 from his new team-mate.

Navas saved three penalties, with Donnarumma making one save from a spot-kick, while the Italy international also made two errors leading to goals – his Costa Rican counterpart, on the other hand, made none.

In terms of distribution, the players are similar, with Donnarumma tallying up more passes (1,310) though with a slightly lower accuracy (79.08 per cent compared to Navas' 80.23 from 1,123 attempts).

On the subject of competing with such a high-quality goalkeeper for the number one shirt, Donnarumma said: "It's an additional motivation, something that fascinates me."

Steve Smith, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins are the big names who will return to the Australia set up for the T20 World Cup.

The four stars did not feature in Australia's recent tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh. Aaron Finch's team suffered a 4-1 defeat in the latter series, while they also lost the T20 series to the Windies.

However, Australia's white-ball captain will be able to call on big hitters Smith, Warner and Maxwell, as well as paceman Cummins, for the World Cup, which takes place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman in October and November.

They are joined by Josh Inglis, who has been rewarded for his outstanding form with a first international call-up.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has had a brilliant domestic season in both Australia and England, having been the leading run scorer in county cricket's T20 competition, and takes his place in the 15-man squad.

"Josh has been on our radar for some time with his performances in white ball cricket and more recently in the Vitality Blast where he topped the run charts," selection chair George Bailey said.

"He offers the squad flexibility in the batting order with his adaptability, counterattacking ability and power striking. He is a player we are excited about for the future."

Alex Carey is the biggest name to miss out at Inglis' expense, with Matthew Wade the first-choice wicketkeeper.

Nathan Ellis, Dan Christian and Daniel Sams have been named as travelling reserves.

Australia's T20 World Cup squad: 

Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Dan Christian, Nathan Ellis, Daniel Sams.

This should have been a season for Inter fans to enjoy, on the back of a title triumph and with European football returning to some semblance of normality.

Instead, they have lost coach Antonio Conte, top scorer Romelu Lukaku and standout wing-back Achraf Hakimi. Talk of a Tottenham move for Lautaro Martinez – seemingly linked to Harry Kane's future – has not been ruled out entirely.

It leaves the reigning Serie A champions picking up the pieces, with the club's dire financial situation dampening hopes of a successful title defence.

Although there have also been new arrivals, Simone Inzaghi and a 35-year-old Edin Dzeko clearly are not in the same class as Conte and Lukaku.

Inter will be slightly different this season and it is highly likely they will be slightly worse for it.

Downgrade to Dzeko

In Lukaku, Inter have sold a player in his prime coming off his best campaign to date. In Dzeko, the Nerazzurri have brought in a veteran whose Serie A career just plunged to new depths.

Lukaku netted 24 times en route to Inter's Scudetto, while Dzeko's final year with Roma brought only seven league goals.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international did play a mere 1,825 minutes, but it was his poor form while on the pitch that saw him limited to 20 starts despite featuring in 31 matchday squads.

Dzeko's shot conversion rate of 10 per cent was higher than in two of his seasons in the capital and only margainally lower than 2017-18's 10.5 per cent when he scored 16 times. The decreasing frequency of his attempts was an issue, managing just 3.5 shots per 90 minutes, a trough to contrast to the 2016-17 peak of 5.3.

Inter's new forward fell some way short of his expected goals (xG) total of 13.3 – a failing only partially explained by the expertise of opposition goalkeepers, who prevented 3.6 Dzeko goals according to expected goals on target (xGOT) data, which analyses the quality of the shot rather than the quality of the chance.

Lukaku, on the other hand, outstripped his xG figure of 23.8, even if his attempts were only worth 22.9 xGOT.

It is not only as a scorer that Dzeko slips below Lukaku's standards either. Chelsea's latest record buy was a creative force last term, providing 11 assists. Dzeko had three.

 

Indeed, Lukaku crafted a team-high 52 chances – or 9.4 per cent of Inter's 552 shots across the campaign – while Dzeko laid on 29 (5.3 per cent of Roma's attempts). Dzeko was more involved in build-up play than Lukaku, averaging 49.7 open play sequences per 90 to his predecessor's 44.4, but he could not match Lukaku in terms of passing accuracy (68.8 per cent), passing accuracy in the opposition half (64.8) or passing accuracy in the final third (58.5).

Unsurprisingly, the former Giallorossi favourite also cannot play at the same pace as Lukaku. Dzeko was involved in only six fast breaks to Lukaku's league-leading 17, although he did score twice from such situations. Roma were second in the league in this regard – behind Inter.

But even if the Nerazzurri do slow slightly with Dzeko in the side, his work in moving the ball up the field is still comparable to Lukaku's. He had more carries (7.9) and progressive carries (4.5) than Lukaku last term, while operating in the same ballpark for carry distance (92.6 metres), attempted dribbles (2.9) and completed dribbles (1.3) – all numbers per 90.

The percentage of his touches Dzeko took in the opposition box (17.3) tallied closely (18.3 per cent for Lukaku), too, with the previously prolific attacker's game peculiarly now suited to work away from goal.

An aerial force

As part of his link-up play, Dzeko offers a clear focal point. His 60.4 per cent success rate in aerial duels ranked fourth among Serie A forwards with 100 or more such tussles. Lukaku won only 42.9 per cent in a category led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (65.7 per cent). Dzeko's 52 flick-ons also put him fourth.

But Dzeko's heading ability does also give Inter a greater threat inside the penalty area. The striker was joint-third for headed attempts (20, excluding blocks), with his 1.0 per 90 double Lukaku's 0.5. As with his feet, Dzeko was wasteful in this regard, scoring only one header while new Inter colleague Martinez nodded in four goals, but a greater sample size shows the danger he can pose. Since his 2015 Serie A debut, Dzeko leads the way for headed attempts (203, excluding blocks) and his 16 goals – making up 18.8 per cent of his total of 85 – are tied for third.

Dzeko therefore looks a good fit in an Inter side who last season topped the charts in succeeding with 24.6 per cent of their open play crosses, leading to a joint-high 92 headed shots and 14 headed goals.

Whether that crossing quality is still at the club is another matter.

Inter's wings clipped

Only nine defenders in Serie A last term attempted 100 crosses, but Hakimi, marauding up the right, was one of them. Within that select group, his crossing accuracy of 23.9 per cent ranked third – just ahead of Leonardo Spinazzola, another exciting wing-back and Dzeko's former Roma team-mate (23.5 per cent).

Hakimi's departure for Paris Saint-Germain robs Inter of that quality and the 36 chances he created. There is pressure on Denzel Dumfries, a €12.5million recruit, to fill that void. He created 41 chances in the Eredivisie last season, yet only five of his 50 crosses were successful.

That ability to deliver from wide positions is merely one of Hakimi's array of attributes, too, with the €60m man carrying the ball 22.7 metres further per 90 than Dumfries while also contributing a goal or assist every 178.1 minutes, compared to the Netherlands international's 308.5 minutes.

 

Inter should at least have increased creativity from midfield, where free signing Hakan Calhanoglu offers an upgrade on the recuperating Christian Eriksen. Calhanoglu, playing for rivals Milan, had league highs in chances created (98) and chances created from set-pieces (50) in 2020-21. Milan led Serie A in goals from set-pieces (16, excluding penalties), but Inter ranked joint-fourth (16) and will surely now improve.

Trying to run it back

If mixed results are anticipated from direct replacements for Lukaku, Hakimi and Eriksen, those moves at least indicate some unlikely joined-up thinking in spite of the chaotic nature of this off-season. Inzaghi's appointment also suggests Inter plan to change little from last season, even with the numerous notable departures.

Like Conte and Inter, Inzaghi's Lazio consistently lined up with a 3-5-2 formation in 2020-21, with their approaches also not dissimilar.

Lazio's press was a little more aggressive, allowing 11.6 passes per defensive action to Inter's 12.8 and also engaging in more pressed sequences (543) despite having slightly more possession (52.9 per cent) than Inter (52.0 per cent). Lazio also scored eight goals from high turnovers.

However, between the replacement of a speedy Lukaku with a slower Dzeko and Inter's pre-existing preference for build-up attacks (119) over direct attacks (80), Inzaghi's playing style might have to be a little more patient this term, even if the new number nine's physical presence will give them an outlet.

These are minor tweaks, though, that should mean Inzaghi can adapt to Inter or Inter to Inzaghi.

Defending champions have rarely had it so tough when preparing for a new campaign, but Inter have done all they can to ensure a new-look side can continue to find success.

Two-way Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani produced another masterclass in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers.

Ohtani hit his 40th home run of the MLB season and dominated across eight innings on the mound midweek.

The Japanese sensation allowed six hits, while striking out eight batters and walking none.

Ohtani became the first MLB player to register 40 homers in a season that he pitched at least 15 games. The previous record was Babe Ruth's 29 in 1919.

He also has 18 steals in 122 games for the Angels this season. According to Stats Perform, the only player in major history to reach 40 homers and 15 stolen bases in fewer team games was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 (117th game).

 

Dodgers roll on

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-0 for their sixth consecutive victory. Max Muncy had two home runs to fuel the Dodgers, who moved within three games of the National League (NL) West-leading San Francisco Giants. San Francisco lost 6-2 to the New York Mets. Mitch White became the first Dodgers reliever to go 7.1 scoreless innings pitched since Ed Roebuck in 1960.

The Atlanta Braves edged the Miami Marlins 11-9. Freddie Freeman hit for the cycle for the second time in his career. According to Stats Perform, Freeman is the first NL first baseman in history to hit for the cycle more than once.

 

Red Sox swept by Yankees

The Boston Red Sox left New York emptyhanded after being swept by American League (AL) East rivals the Yankees following a 5-2 victory. Nick Pivetta gave up four runs in the second inning.

 

Polanco does it again

Jorge Polanco delivered another walk-off win for the Minnesota Twins, this time an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians after 11 innings. Polanco hit a game-ending based-loaded single. Each of the last three Minnesota victories have ended with a Polanco walk off. He is the first player with a walk-off RBI in three consecutive team wins since David Ortiz in the 2004 playoffs and first in the regular season since Tony Pena in 1982, per Stats Perform.

 

 

Wednesday's results 

Chicago Cubs 7-1 Cincinnati Reds
Minnesota Twins 8-7 Cleveland Indians
Colorado Rockies 7-5 San Diego Padres
New York Mets 6-2 San Francisco Giants
Washington Nationals 8-5 Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees 5-2 Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels 3-1 Detroit Tigers
Atlanta Braves 11-9 Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 Baltimore Orioles
Milwaukee Brewers 6-4 St Louis Cardinals
Seattle Mariners 3-1 Texas Rangers
Kansas City Royals 3-2 Houston Astros
Chicago White Sox 3-2 Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks 4-2 Philadelphia Phillies
Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Mets at Dodgers

The Dodgers (75-46) will put their winning streak on the line when they host the Mets (60-60) on Thursday. Max Scherzer toes the mound for the Dodgers, while the Mets will counter with Rich Hill.

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