Tottenham coach Jose Mourinho says he is expecting the upcoming off-season transfer window to be "strange" in light of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic of football clubs.

Spurs have attracted speculation around potential off-season transfer activity revolving around goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and forward Harry Kane.

Mourinho played down any talk of Kane exiting, insisting they have not spoken about his future and that he expects this off-season to be unusual although he would not be drawn on Spurs' transfer priorities.

"We know what we want, but at the same time we can all expect a strange summer," Mourinho said ahead of Tottenham's Premier League match with Newcastle on Sunday.

"I believe that it is going to be a bit strange in the sense of a different transfer window than in previous seasons, but in this moment I don’t think it is about anyone fighting for his future.

"I think it is about everyone fighting for the points we need to finish the season the best that we can."

Kane is a regular topic of transfer speculation with Manchester City the latest club linked with the England forward.

"No. He works so well every day," Mourinho said when asked if the pair had spoken about his future.

"He is such a professional, committed with the team, performing well. I've nothing to speak with him.

"Three years of his contract [left]. I have nothing to speak with him about. Unless he wants to speak with me about it and until now he never approached me in relation to anything."

On Lloris, who has just over 12 months left on his Tottenham contract, Mourinho added: "You know I don’t want to offend anyone and I hope that people just accept my opinion.

"We have, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in England and the best English goalkeeper [Joe Hart].

"So I am so happy with that that I don’t think about what can happen or not happen. Hugo has a contract, Joe has a contract. I'm so happy with both."

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia legislation passed in March that restricts voting rights.  

MLB has yet to announce a new site for this year's Midsummer Classic, which had been scheduled for July 13 at the Braves' Truist Park, but said a new host city would be chosen "shortly". 

The league had also planned on holding the draft in Atlanta but that also will be switched to another location, along with All-Star break staples like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby.   

The decision comes just over a week after the passage of a bill in the Georgia legislature that president Joe Biden and others have criticised and characterised as voter suppression.  

Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that he consulted with current and former players – as well as officials with the Players Association – before making the decision.  

"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 

"We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."

Reigning NL MVP and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman previously said that he hoped the game would still be held in Atlanta but used as a platform to promote voting rights.  

The move is reminiscent of the NBA's activism in the summer of 2016, when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina after a law was enacted that did not allow transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities in government buildings, public schools and public universities.  

The North Carolina "bathroom bill" was later altered and the NBA held the 2019 All-Star festivities in Charlotte.  

Change in Georgia may be more difficult, as the state has become a lightning rod for passionately divided political issues after its pivotal role in the 2020 elections for president and U.S. Senate.  

Proponents of the bill, titled SB 202, say that it will ensure election integrity, while opponents say that the new restrictions are targeted to reduce turnout by black and other minority voters.  

Among the provisions in the bill that has since been signed into law by govenor Brian Kemp are heightened identification standards for absentee ballots and a ban on distributing food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places. 

President Biden called the law "Jim Crow on steroids", while MLB's position was further complicated by its plans to celebrate the life and career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was the target of racism when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and throughout his 23-year career.  

Other major sports figures connected to Atlanta have also publicly condemned the new law. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer's Atlanta United, denounced the legislation, saying: "We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen." 

Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also made a statement against SB 202 and said that the franchise will continue to "promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot".

Jurgen Klopp "didn't understand" Gareth Southgate's decision to leave Trent Alexander-Arnold out of his England squad, claiming the Liverpool right-back's form "cannot be the reason".

Alexander-Arnold was a surprise omission from Southgate's group for last month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

The 22-year-old has been a Liverpool regular in recent seasons but has earned only 12 England caps to date.

Kieran Trippier was preferred at wing-back at the 2018 World Cup, with Kyle Walker playing inside in a three-man defence.

The Manchester City defender and Reece James shared starting duties in March, while Trippier was also in the squad, with right-back a clear position of strength for the Three Lions.

As well as Alexander-Arnold and Southgate's current preferred trio, England could call upon Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Manchester United or England Under-21 pair Tariq Lamptey and Max Aarons.

But Klopp believes his player deserves to be at the forefront of the conversation.

"I was surprised when he didn't get a call-up," the Reds manager said.

"I'm a manager myself, I make decisions every day, every weekend, every midweek about team selections, squad selections. You always make decisions other people don't understand.

"I respect that Gareth makes his own decisions, of course, obviously, but I didn't understand it."

Alexander-Arnold is widely accepted to be enduring a more difficult campaign after playing a starring role in Liverpool's Champions League and Premier League successes in the previous two seasons.

The defender provided 15 assists in each of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns but has supplied just five this term.

He has created a relatively meagre 59 chances, down from 109 last season, his per-90-minutes average dropping from 2.46 to 1.87. His crossing accuracy has steadily declined over the past three years, too, to stand at 17.9 per cent in 2020-21.

But Alexander-Arnold still leads James (39), Trippier (29), Wan-Bissaka (26) and Walker (14) in key passes, while only the Atletico Madrid man has more assists (six).

On the other hand, Walker's defensive statistics are more impressive, having been dribbled past on just 12 occasions – Alexander-Arnold is at 22 – while not committing a single error leading to a shot.

Klopp continued: "Trent Alexander-Arnold was in the last two years at least the stand-out right back in world football at an unbelievably young age.

"I have no problems when my players get criticism – from me, from other people if they are not performing – but that's the truth.

"Now he started the season with COVID-19 early on, which is not good. As you can imagine, it took him a while to get in the season.

"From the moment he was in the season, he was one of our most consistent players, a standout player – Robbo [Andy Robertson] the same, who played at this high level.

"That cannot be the reason that he was not in the squad.

"If you compare Lionel Messi every year with his best season ever, you'd say he's not playing like he performed in 2005 and 2006, but he's still the world's best player."

Alexander-Arnold was left out due to England's style of play, Klopp theorised, and his club boss still felt he should have been included.

"If you have to play against a deep defending side, for sure, the crosses and the passes of Trent, I don't know anyone who can do them like him," Klopp said.

However, Alexander-Arnold's crossing accuracy ranks third among Southgate's five senior options and Walker, Trippier and James combined to find team-mates with a solid four of their 11 deliveries for England in March.

But frustrations with Southgate's selection at least created the opportunity for Klopp to work with Alexander-Arnold in training ahead of the run-in.

"Can he get the benefit? Of course," Klopp said. "He was not with the national team, so he had time to train, trained at an extremely high level.

"You could see he showed a reaction. There was no need, but he was really in the session; that was good. He really enjoyed the session.

"He's a very ambitious boy, so I'm sure he wants to be in the England squad. I know he wants to be, and he will try everything to get there again.

"If Trent Alexander-Arnold is not in the squad of England, England must have an extremely good squad. I'll say it like this. That's the situation.

"I respect the decision, of course I did, but I didn't understand it."

Thomas Tuchel has defended Timo Werner amid his latest goal drought at Chelsea.

Werner has just five Premier League goals this term, while he has not scored in 10 matches for club or country since the win over Newcastle United on February 15.

His woes were highlighted by a dreadful miss as Germany lost to North Macedonia this week.

But Tuchel backed Werner at his news conference ahead of Saturday's home Premier League game against West Brom, a match in which he insisted the forward would start.

Tuchel has since gone into further detail in explaining what Werner must do to emerge from his slump.

The Blues boss stressed the run is nothing unusual, saying he could compile a video featuring horror misses from any striker in world football.

Tuchel told reporters: "It is pretty natural that he feels safe here. He knows what we and his team-mates demand from him.

"This is not an environment where we are scared to talk about things. We do everything we can as a team to win football games, but we behave like a family, we put things on the table and look at it honestly.

"I refuse to look at the chance from this game against North Macedonia.

"From every striker in the world I'm sure I can make a video from the biggest misses because this is normal, there are big misses in the career of a striker, so why do you look at it, speak of it and all the time? 

"He feels safe here. It is not the atmosphere and situation where we all hug him and say this doesn't matter, but it is also not a moment to point all the finger at him all the time.

"We demand certain things, he needs to have his head up, have a smile on his face, he needs to work his way out of the situation.

"The truth is the situation is not the most enjoyable in his career, but it's not so bad like everybody wants to describe it or maybe as Timo feels it every time he opens up the newspaper or the internet. 

"So, don't do it, look on the positive side. We have reached the point where it is necessary not to overdo it or do extra training sessions or finishing. Rely on your brain; the body will remember naturally how to score goals.

"To find this zone is maybe the hardest thing to do and easiest to talk about but this is where he is. He will start the game for us, why not? It is clear he is our striker, he is our number nine, so go for it."

 

Since taking over from Frank Lampard in January, Tuchel has been keen to highlight positive aspects of Werner's game.

"He is overthinking and puts too much attention on the situation," Tuchel added.

"Why does he do this? Because he's a good guy and because he cares about the team. 

"He feels bad when he does not score. But the point for Timo is he cares first for the team [and] second for himself, which is unlike a normal number nine player. 

"You can see how he works for the team defensively. This is what I mean when I say to Timo, 'Don't overthink the situation where you don't score in the moment and it never happened in your career'. 

"[When you miss] it is already the past. You missed a chance, okay. The next chance will come. 

"As long as he delivers sprints and hard work against the ball, runs with the ball and keeps his head up, we will protect him. We will not overprotect him but value the part he plays. 

"He is a big part in this [unbeaten] run, this excellent run. He can also acknowledge and accept this and focus on the good things. 

"Honestly, I'm a little bit fed up about all that [discussion] so I hope he also develops that feeling [of being fed up with it]. It is enough said now. He will be scoring sooner or later."

MIXED RECORD FOR WERNER

Tuchel is right to suggest Werner has offered plenty beyond goalscoring with his all-round play.

The Germany international has the most Premier League assists (5) of any Chelsea player this season, while his total of 24 chances created is bettered by only three.

Only Hakim Ziyech (0.31 per 90 minutes) has a higher per-game assist tally than Werner (0.22) among the Chelsea squad.

Werner also has two Champions League assists, the joint-most for the Blues in that competition.

In front of goal, though, he has converted just 23 per cent of his 13 shots (excluding blocks) in the Champions League, the seventh best mark in the team.

In the Premier League, he fares a lot worse, with just 11 per cent of his 46 shots (excluding blocks) finding the net, the 11th best total at Chelsea and below fellow strikers Tammy Abraham (23 per cent) and Oliver Giroud (20 per cent).

Even more alarmingly, he has only converted four (20 per cent) of 20 big chances, opportunities where Opta judge a player should be reasonably expected to score.

That is the worst record of any Chelsea player to have had such an opportunity.

Mikel Arteta wants to help Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rediscover his best form as Arsenal plan to treat every game as a final for the remainder of the season.

With the international break over, the Gunners resume their campaign on Saturday when Liverpool visit Emirates Stadium.

Both teams are desperately in need of points with just nine games remaining in the Premier League, or else run the risk of missing out on qualifying for Europe via the domestic route.

While Liverpool still have their sights set on a top-four finish, Arsenal go into the fixture well off the pace having won just three of their previous nine in the competition.

Like the team itself, Aubameyang has struggled for consistency in the competition. The Gabon international scored 22 league goals in each of the previous two seasons but has yet to reach double figures in 2020-21.

"We talked for months about the ratio of goals we need him to score to give us the best possible chance of being at the top," Arteta told the media ahead of the Liverpool game.

"He's not been what he has been in recent years, a factor that is contributed by a lot of other things that the team has to do on the pitch – it's not just his thing.

"Obviously, we need Auba in different form in the next games to give us the best chance to finish where we want to finish this season, that is clear."

Aubameyang could point to playing regularly in a wider attacking role as a reason behind the decrease in his productivity, with a nine-goal haul still one behind the total he managed in his first 13 league appearances after signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

His position in the team may also explain why his average of 2.28 shots per 90 minutes is comfortably lower than in previous seasons at the club, along with a shot conversion rate of 18.37 per cent (which is still better than Harry Kane's number of 16.67 per cent).

Yet when it comes to converting big chances – those Opta define as a situation where a player is expected to score – the 31-year-old sits at a healthy 45.4 per cent, well above his 2018-19 total of 36.1 per cent when he finished tied with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah for the Golden Boot. He is slightly outperforming his expected goals tally of 6.8 this term too, managing seven non-penalty goals from 47 shots.

Arteta recognises it is not necessarily all down to the player himself, with the Gunners manager asking for different requirements from his captain while instilling a more controlled approach to proceedings, laying the foundations for what he hopes will be long-term success under his guidance.

"He can play off the left, off the right, in the middle. He has done it, it's nothing new," Arteta replied when asked about Aubameyang's best position.

"When you look at his stats from the past, there is no difference. But it does depend [on] how we play, how much we provide for him and how efficient he is when he has these chances.

"When he has got this form of confidence, well, he is unstoppable. It is dependent on many factors."

The north London club rewarded Aubameyang for his previous exploits – including two goals to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last August – with a bumper new contract.

With the goals drying up since signing to stay for a further three years, questions have been raised over his commitment to the cause. He was also dropped from the starting XI prior to the derby with Tottenham in March for disciplinary reasons, though Arteta quickly drew a line under the issue in the aftermath of a much-needed 2-1 victory.

Arteta has no doubt Aubameyang remains ambitious, stating: "It's easy to connect things when they relate to it like that, but I'm not suspicious about that.

"We have had many conversations about what he wanted to do from last year's point of view with his future in the next three years. He was very ambitious with that, but to maintain that level is really complicated. He is trying hard and that's what he is aiming to do."

Arsenal could do with their captain leading from the front during the run-in, starting against Liverpool in what is the highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history.

"It's like a final every game," Arteta said ahead of the final stretch. "Three points mean a lot in the table and we need to go for them, we need to win as many games as possible. We know that."

Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City will not make "any special signings" before next season, which appears to close the door on a big-money move for Erling Haaland.

The City boss refused to directly discuss the in-demand Borussia Dortmund striker, who has been linked with the Premier League leaders as well as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Catalan broadcaster Esport3 reported Madrid and Barcelona are the teams that Haaland is most interested in joining, although Dortmund would want a huge transfer fee to allow the 20-year-old Norwegian to move on before the 2021-22 campaign.

There have been unconfirmed claims that Haaland has a €75million release clause that comes into effect at the end of next season, but his current market value would be substantially higher.

City will lose Sergio Aguero at the end of this season, having elected to release their record scorer, but he has been so scarcely involved recently that the Argentinian's absence may not be sorely felt.

"I understand completely the situation of the club, and of all the other clubs bar a few. We are not going to do any special signings," Guardiola said in a news conference.

"I'm always honest. If you ask me now, it's not going to happen. All the clubs are struggling a lot and we are not an exception."

The COVID-19 crisis has seen clubs suffer major reductions in their anticipated income, with stadiums staying largely closed over the past year, meaning matchday income has been lost.

Barca and Madrid have also been majorly affected, yet both may find a way to propose a move for Haaland.

Former Barca boss Guardiola could lead City to a spectacular quadruple this season – they face Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday, heading into the weekend with a 14-point lead at the summit. Leicester sit third, a point behind second-placed United.

The continuing success of his City team, who remain in the Champions League and could land a domestic cup double, means Spanish manager Guardiola does not feel inclined to ask the owners to fund a spectacular transfer coup.

City have also been linked with Barca great Lionel Messi, but Guardiola's tone suggests that may be another non-starter.

Although Messi might be available on a free transfer, his wages far outstrip those of any Premier League player. Such a move would involve jaw-dropping figures.

"You know my opinion – we never spend big money on one player," Guardiola said. "We have spent a lot of money on a lot of players, but none of them for incredible figures, and that is what we will continue to do in the coming years."

Asked directly about Haaland, and whether he accepted the striker would not be with City next season, Guardiola said: "You understand that I cannot talk about players from other clubs.

"It will not be polite for Borussia Dortmund or for Haaland. It is not my business. The players I have here deserve respect from their manager not to talk about other players when we have two important months ahead.

"If I was a player and the manager was talking about other players, I'd say 'what the f*** are you doing?'. We are here to do what we have to do. In five years here I have not talked about a player from another club."

Guardiola said releasing Aguero at the end of his contract "was the best decision for the club", albeit that meant there had to be a "difficult" conversation.

The City boss added: "He will help us until the end of the season."

Jannik Sinner followed in the footsteps of three all-time tennis greats as he became the fourth teenager in history to reach a men's singles final at the Miami Open.

The 19-year-old Italian hit three huge backhand winners to break serve in the final game as he pulled off a 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory over Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in their last-four clash.

It means Sinner matches Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - players who went on to be ranked number one in the world - in becoming a finalist at the Masters 1000 tournament while still in his teens.

The hotly tipped world number 31 will contest a final at this level for the first time in his career on Sunday, awaiting the winner of the second semi-final between Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz.

Sinner said of his feat: "It sounds incredible. I'm very, very happy about today because obviously being the first semi-final it's not easy to play, especially on a Masters event, and playing against a very, very solid player in Roberto.

"We had a tough battle two weeks ago, and coming out as a winner today it means a lot to me."

Sinner also won that previous match, another tight three-setter, in Dubai.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, he explained how he recovered from a slow start to win the Miami tussle.

"In the beginning I think we were both a little bit tight and then we both played a little bit better," Sinner said.

"Today was not easy, it was a little bit windy, and in the end I tried to serve better and try to move him a little bit more, try to mix it up a little bit, and that was the key today.

"He was serving a few second serves in the last game and I just tried to go for it and even if I lost the game I was 5-5, so I was up in the score and it was the right decision."

Agassi, in 1990, and Djokovic, in 2007, were both teenage champions at the event, beating Stefan Edberg and Guillermo Canas respectively in the title matches.

Nadal lost to Roger Federer in the 2005 final, with the Swiss coming from two sets down to win what was then a five-set finale to the tournament. It has since gone back to being a best-of-three match.

Sinner may have benefited from Nadal, Djokovic and Federer electing to skip this year's tournament, but many believe he has the potential to follow them to the very top of the game.

Former women's world number five Daniela Hantuchova hailed Sinner's "braveness and calmness", adding: "When it really mattered, he stepped it up big time and to be able to do that at such a young age, we are looking at something very, very special here."

Greg Rusedski, runner-up at the 1997 US Open, added on Amazon's broadcast: "Rafa was the youngest to be in the Miami finals. Mentally they have a lot in common. Different styles but just bold and brave."

Paris Saint-Germain will be without Marco Verratti for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich after the midfielder tested positive for COVID-19.

Verratti had suffered a thigh injury while away on international duty with Italy, forcing him to miss his country's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old was already set to sit out PSG's pivotal clash with Lille this weekend as the top two in Ligue 1 go up against each other in the French capital.

However, confirmation of his positive test result means a period in isolation, ruling him out of contention for the trip to Bayern on Wednesday, too. The second leg takes place on April 13.

Verratti is the latest confirmed case connected to the Azzurri squad. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced on Wednesday that four staff members had isolated away from the group following testing carried out prior to the midweek fixture in Vilnius.

Juventus revealed on Thursday that Verratti's international team-mate Leonardo Bonucci had also returned a positive result upon returning to his club, while Sassuolo have taken the preventative step of leaving out their Italy players for the game against Roma on Saturday.

While PSG will be hampered by the absence of Verratti, Bayern will also be without the services of a key figure for the repeat of last year's final.

Robert Lewandowski has been ruled out of the last-eight meeting entirely after suffering a knee injury while playing for Poland. The striker – who has scored 42 goals for his club in all competitions this season – is expected to be sidelined for a month.

Arsenal rising stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe face late fitness tests and David Luiz has been ruled out of the clash with Liverpool on Saturday evening.

Brazilian centre-back David Luiz must miss the Premier League game at Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal stating the 33-year-old has encountered "discomfort" in his right knee.

How serious that discomfort proves to be remains to be seen, with Arsenal saying the problem would continue to be examined.

Arsenal have a 36.8 per cent win rate in the 19 Premier League games that have featured David Luiz this season, compared with 50 per cent in the 10 games for which he has been absent.

They have collected an average of 1.4 points when he has played and 1.6 when he has not, with Arsenal heading into the weekend in ninth place, four points adrift of Liverpool who sit seventh.

In an injury update issued on the club website, Arsenal indicated winger Saka's right hamstring problem remained under observation.

The injury forced Saka out of England's three World Cup qualifiers in the past fortnight and although Arsenal posted a picture on Twitter of the 19-year-old in training, they said he "will be assessed ahead of Saturday's match regarding his availability".

The same applies for Smith Rowe, who suffered tightness in his right quad on England Under-21 duty, with Arsenal prepared to leave final decisions until closer to the game.

Manager Mikel Arteta faces a further wait to learn whether former captain Granit Xhaka is ready for the game, with the Swiss midfielder having missed training on Friday due to feeling unwell on his return from international duty.

Willian is available to Arteta, however, with the former Chelsea midfielder fully recovered from a left calf injury.

The 32-year-old has had the most assists (7) of all Arsenal players this season, across all competitions, with Smith Rowe and Saka (both 6) just behind the Brazilian.

Arsenal have lost just two of their last 20 Premier League home games against Liverpool (D9 W9).

Babar Azam's 13th ODI century propelled Pakistan to a dramatic three-wicket victory over South Africa as Temba Bavuma suffered defeat in his first game as limited-overs captain.

Bavuma, who replaced Quinton de Kock as skipper, could only manage one run with the bat at Centurion, but Rassie van der Dussen's unbeaten 123 helped South Africa to 273-6.

Captain Babar (103) struck 17 fours as he went at almost a run a ball, with Pakistan 186-2 when he departed.

However, they lost five further wickets for just 85 runs from there as South Africa threatened an unlikely turnaround, with some impressive death bowling from Andile Phehlukwayo fraying the nerves.

But Faheem Ashraf got Pakistan over the line off the final ball to give them a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

South Africa were reduced to 55-4 after being put into bat by the tourists, whose early inroads owed to a blitz from Shaheen Shah Afridi (2-61), who removed openers Aiden Markram and De Kock before then catching Bavuma at third man off Mohammad Hasnain.

Van der Dussen's 116-run stand with David Miller (50) gave South Africa's innings momentum, though, with Phehlukwayo sharing a stand of 64 as the Proteas' centurion found crucial support from the lower order.

The impact of that assistance looked to be minimal when Pakistan set about their reply, Babar and opener Imam-ul-Haq (70) combining for 177 to lay the platform.

Mohammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan appeared to have steadied the ship after Anrich Nortje (4-51) accounted for Pakistan's talismen as he ripped through the middle order.

But there was to be great drama in the closing overs. Rizwan holed out to deep midwicket off Phehlukwayo and, when Shadab fell to the same bowler going for the big shot on the first delivery of the final over needing only three off six balls, comeback hopes were very much alive.

Phehlukwayo then produced three successive dot balls but Faheem took advantage of a slower ball and a wide delivery to produce the final three runs as Pakistan survived a nervier conclusion than was necessary.

Stefano Pioli feels qualifying for the Champions League could "change everything" for Milan – particularly when it comes to retaining three key members of his first-team squad.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all out of contract at the end of the season, while the Serie A club also face a decision over whether to sign on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal.

However, ahead of the resumption of domestic duties after the international games in March, Pioli made clear the focus for everyone is on finishing the campaign strongly.

Milan sit second in the table and despite their form tailing off in 2021 – they have lost five times in the league since the turn of the year, having gone unbeaten in the competition in the first half of the season – they have a glorious opportunity to finish in the top four.

"In the eyes of Ibra, Calhanoglu and Donnarumma I see serenity," Pioli told the media about the trio on Friday.

"Their future is now for us - it would change everything for us to go to the Champions League. I see a lot of concentration and attention."

Tomori had made 12 appearances in all competitions since his arrival from Chelsea in the mid-season transfer window, with the temporary deal including a purchase option.

"We are very satisfied with how he has started, he is a smiling boy, he gives us important characteristics," Pioli said of the centre-back. "We must continue to do well without thinking about the future."

Milan are in early action on Saturday, taking on Sampdoria at San Siro.

The Rossoneri have failed to win in any of their last five home games in all competitions, a run that included a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United that ended their involvement in the Europa League.

Catching Serie A leaders Inter - who sit six points clear and have a game in hand - may be difficult but Pioli has set a points target for his players to work towards in the closing months.

"We have always taken responsibility with great conviction and confidence," he said.

"There comes a decisive moment - everything we have done so far is to be here right now. We want to get to the end of the season without regrets.

"Ten games are a lot and there are still many points to play for, 75 could be the right threshold to reach the Champions League but it is difficult to make calculations.

"The fight will be very tough, we have to think about the next game."

Antonio Conte has told his players to do their talking on the pitch by holding off Milan and winning a first Scudetto in 11 years.

Inter edged out Torino 2-1 late on in their most recent match and boast a six-point lead on Milan with a game in hand on their closest challengers.

That made it eight Serie A victories in a row for the Nerazzurri and they will be looking to make it nine on the spin for the first time since 2017 when they travel to Bologna.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli and midfielder Ismael Bennacer have both warned Inter that the title race is not yet over, but Conte does not want to engage in mind games.

Asked at his pre-match news conference on Friday what mistakes have to be avoided, Conte said: "Speaking inappropriately. We need to shut up and pedal.

"The best advice I can give the players is to pick up from where we left off, even if it is never easy after returning from international breaks. There aren't many more games to go."

Inter have twice finished as runners-up since last winning the Scudetto in 2009-10, including last season in Conte's first at the San Siro helm.

Conte won three Serie A titles during his time as Juventus boss and wants his squad to embrace the pressure that comes with leading the way late in the season.

"Inter is a team that, throughout the course of its history, is used to always managing pressure in the right way," he said.

"Many of them are in this situation for the first time, but we can only think about ourselves and do our best until the season finishes."

Inter's sole focus is on Serie A over the remainder of the season, with the trip to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara the first of 11 remaining fixtures.

Bologna have won their last two league matches to move up to 11th and are seeking three wins in succession for the first time since February 2020.

The Rossoblu have lost 11 and drawn three of their last 14 home league meetings with Inter, but Conte is anticipating a difficult match against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side.

"It's always important to start well when you return to action, but we have to pay a lot of attention against an excellent Bologna side," Conte added.

"They are led by a very good coach who likes attacking football. We need to prepare for the match in the best possible way if we are going to win."

Inter's clash with Sassuolo prior to the international break was postponed after four of their players tested positive for coronavirus.

Samir Handanovic, Matias Vecino and Stefan de Vrij have all since returned to training, however, while Danilo D'Ambrosio is due back soon.

Providing a fitness update, Conte said: "Samir has been back for a while now and has had time to work. Matias has had three days of training and is in a good condition.

"Stefan only returned yesterday and will inevitably not be fully fit, and Danilo will be back as soon as possible. We need to get them all back in top condition."

Juventus trio Arthur, Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie have been left out by head coach Andrea Pirlo as punishment for their breach of coronavirus protocols.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that police were called to McKennie's home late on Wednesday to break up a social gathering, with such events forbidden under current social restrictions.

Arthur and Dybala were among those to attend, despite a nationwide curfew put in place amid the global health pandemic.

Ahead of Saturday's derby with Torino, Pirlo confirmed the three players would not be involved – and did not make it clear exactly when they will be considered again for first-team action.

"The three players involved in the episode are not called up for tomorrow's match and we will see when they will resume," the Juve boss told the media on Friday. "Having said that, let's talk about the derby.

"I took the decision not to call them, the club did the rest. This certainly wasn't the right time to have a dinner until late, both because it was two days away from a match and out of respect for those who respect the rules."

For Dybala, it is the latest setback in a difficult season. The forward has featured in just 11 Serie A games in 2020-21 and has been sidelined since the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Porto through injury.

The Argentina international issued an apology via Instagram on Friday having attended the gathering with his colleagues, adding: "I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner."

Pirlo is also without defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral after both tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

It is hardly ideal for the reigning league champions as they desperately look to stay in the title race; Juve suffered a shock 1-0 home loss to Benevento last time out and trail leaders Inter by 10 points.

"Tomorrow is very important, we will speak to each other before the match in order to face it in the best possible way. The approach doesn't change, you play to win, always," Pirlo said.

"After defeats you have to get up and react as best you can. We are ready to do that, we will show great pride, we have champions and a great group who want to react."

Pirlo will have Alex Sandro available after he returned to training without any issues, while Danilo offers an option for Juve in either defence or midfield.

Torino have won only one of their past 29 Serie A derbies between the sides, though they too are in need of points as they sit precariously placed in 17th, just above the relegation zone.

Juve are unbeaten in their past 33 league fixtures against teams starting the matchday in the bottom four (W29 D4), their last defeat against such opposition coming back in May 2016 against Verona.

The 2020 season is not one fans of the New England Patriots will remember fondly.

Not only did they lose Tom Brady after 20 years, but the star quarterback went on to win a famous seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Pats, meanwhile, suffered with the tight salary cap left behind after years of pushing for postseason glory with Brady.

They went 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, a season that saw Brady suffer a serious knee injury in Week 1.

While their record was by no means the league's worst, it was their first losing season since 2000.

Head coach Bill Belichick is not used to that and, with their cap situation looking much better, he has been aggressive in attempting to put things right with a free agency spending spree.

Here, we have used Stats Perform data to look at their disappointing 2020 season and some of the moves they have made to turn their fortunes around.

Offense

Cam Newton was a late addition ahead of the season on a bargain contract, but he was unable to recapture his Carolina Panthers peak as he returned from injury with a new offense.

His 82.9 passer rating was 28th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks and he had just eight touchdown passes through the air, with 10 interceptions.

Still, Brady had not impressed in his last season either, with New England having one of the weakest supporting casts in the NFL.

Jakobi Meyers, who was undrafted in 2019, had a good year at wide receiver (59 catches for 729 yards), though no other player topped 400 yards receiving.

Julian Edelman was only healthy for six games, while the top tight end Ryan Izzo had just 199 receiving yards.

The Pats were 30th in the NFL with just 181 passing yards per game, 49 YPG below the league average.

New England had 38 passing plays of 20+ yards – only the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals faring worse in that category.

Newton attempted 22 passes of 21+ air yards – 30 NFL QBs threw more – highlighting the limitations of the offense.

He did, however, add 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, offering a new dimension the Pats' offense.

That at least helped the Pats, with a strong offensive line, to a fourth-ranked rushing attack (147 YPG), though only two of their 20 rushing TDs were runs of 10+ yards

Newton went a solid but unspectacular 7-8, missing one game due to coronavirus, which he said had a lingering effect on his performance even after he had returned. 

On the whole, it was an offense that was tough to watch and while Newton may have underwhelmed, it was a very difficult situation in which to succeed.

Defense

The Patriots' defense was hit hard by COVID-19 opt outs, but the talent that remained combined with Belichick's coaching meant it was still a top-10 unit that was usually tough to move the ball against.

New England were seventh in points allowed (22.1) and while they were 15th in yardage (354 YPG), that ranking improved to eighth against the pass (222 YPG).

Stephon Gilmore was a Pro Bowl selection at cornerback for a unit that allowed seven TDs of 20+ yards, a figure bettered by just six teams.

The run defense struggled (26th in NFL at 131 YPG), forcing only 26 rushing plays to go for negative yardage – with only the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs faring worse.

New England had 22 takeaways, close to the league average (21), though 24 sacks was way below the par score recorded by the rest of the NFL (35).

Chase Winovich led the team in sacks (5.5) as well as in combined QB knockdowns and hurries (44), but the Patriots did not have anyone in the top 40 in either category, making pass rush an area of need.

Offseason

Armed with a strong cap situation and a point to prove, Belichick embarked on a spending spree that went against the team's usual philosophy.

Whereas previously the second wave of free agency would have been targeted along with bargain veterans desperate to secure a ring, New England were aggressive in chasing some of the top names on the market.

Their tight end situation has been among the league's worst since the departure of Rob Gronkowski, but they doubled down at the position to land Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Henry ranks sixth among tight ends with 1,265 yards since the start of the 2019 season, while only four TEs have more than the 11 TDs grabbed by the athletic Smith over that period.

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor arrived after a career year (896 yards) for the Las Vegas Raiders as the pass-catching options were significantly boosted, albeit amid some concerns over the size of the contracts handed out.

It is hoped Matt Judon (four years, $56m) can help bolster the pass rush. He is 25th in the NFL with 30.5 sacks since 2017 for the Baltimore Ravens, while linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned from the Miami Dolphins.

The biggest loss was guard and two-time Super Bowl winner Joe Thuney, who signed a huge five-year, $80m deal with the Chiefs after playing last season on the franchise tag, though a former Patriot offensive lineman - Trent Brown - was brought back in a trade with the Raiders.

Newton, meanwhile, returned on another team-friendly deal worth an initial $5m with incentives that could reach $13m, though that contract will not preclude the Patriots from making other moves at QB.

The talent on the roster has undoubtedly improved, giving the Pats some flexibility when they pick at number 15 in the draft.

A move to further strengthen at wide receiver would make sense, as would a cornerback to add to a group including Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, with the latter set to hit free agency in 2022.

But Belichick may have one more move up his sleeve at QB. With the top five options all in the mix to go in the top 10, he may have to move up the board, or perhaps a trade to bring Jimmy Garoppolo back appeals after the San Francisco 49ers jumped up the draft order themselves.

Life after Brady continues to be fascinating for the Pats.

While many NFL fans relished their 2020 downfall, followers of New England will settle for a solitary 7-9 season if that proves to be the worst of their struggles and a turnaround begins in 2021. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.