Rumour Has It: Juventus ramp up chase for Milinkovic-Savic

By Sports Desk April 11, 2022

Not a window goes by where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's name does not emerge in transfer speculation.

The 27-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, but Juventus are keen to move on the long sought-after Lazio midfielder.

The Serbia international has only progressed under Maurizio Sarri, attracting reported interest from the Turn giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE RAMP UP CHASE FOR MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Milinkovic-Savic's agent Mateja Kezman has commenced talks with Juventus over a possible transfer from Lazio, according to Calciomercato.

The Serbian midfielder has long been a weak area since their appearance in the Champions League final in 2015, and multiple coaches in that period have not been conducive for personnel.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito famously placed an initial €100million value on Milinkovic-Savic, but it has reportedly dropped to €70m. It is perceived that price tag is still too steep a figure for Juventus, as a consequence of compatriot Dusan Vlahovic's signing in January.

It is believed that Lazio would be open to players in return as part of a packaged deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Arsenal have joined the race to sign Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, the Mirror reports.

- Erling Haaland has dismissed interest from Manchester United, believing they do not meet the Norwegian striker's ambitions, according to ESPN.

- Paris Saint-Germain are in talks to sign Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku, only a year after he joined the London club from Inter, per the Sun.

- Roma are interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, Calciomercato is reporting.

- Spanish international Marco Asensio is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, per Mundo Deportivo, with Milan and Tottenham interested.

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    The Premier League season is over, Euro 2024 is approaching, and now it is time for the FA Cup final to round off the English domestic season.

    Manchester City and Manchester United, as they did last season, will face off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

    City won 3-1 in June 2023, with Ilkay Gundogan's stunning volley after just 12 seconds setting the tone for a dominant performance from Pep Guardiola's side, who were en route to winning a treble.

    There's no treble on the cards for City this season, though after clinching an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title, another double is in their reach.

    "We play FA Cup [and] we can do back-to-back doubles, we have [a] chance to do this," Guardiola said on Friday. "The FA Cup for itself is FA Cup, Wembley, all our fans going to London. It's the last game of season, last effort. 

    "I'm impressed how well we have trained after a few days off, so focused, everyone wants to be involved, we will do our best for sure."  

    United boss Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, looks set to take charge of his final game at the club, with the Red Devils reportedly having made the decision to sack him regardless of Saturday's result.

    Using Opta data, here's all you need to know...

    What's expected?

    Unsurprisingly, Opta's model makes Man City the favourites, with a 68 per cent win likelihood. United's chances are rated at just 14.4 per cent, with a 17.7 per cent chance it finishes level after 120 minutes, meaning penalties would be needed.

    City are unbeaten in their last 35 matches in all competitions (W29 D6) – it’s the second-longest run by a top-flight club in English football history, after Nottingham Forest’s run of 40 in 1978.

    There has been a gulf between the rivals this season. City won both of their league meetings against United by an aggregate of 6-1. The last time they beat their neighbours three times in the same campaign was in 1969-70.

    City fare well in some significant data points. They have the biggest positive difference (+83) between total shots (127) and shots faced (44) in the Premier League this season, and the biggest positive difference (+9.6) between their expected goals (xG) of 14.8 and expected goals against (xGA) of 5.2.

    With City topping the Premier League and United way down in eighth, 31 points separated the rivals.

    City scored the most goals in the Premier League, with 96, 29 more than United (57), whose xG was also 57.

    United's defensive issues have been well-documented. Their xGA stood at a whopping 70 across their 38 league matches, with only the three relegated sides and West Ham having a worse figure, while only Sheffield United (678) allowed more shots than the Red Devils (667).

    Ten Hag on the brink

    United are looking to win the FA Cup for the 13th time, something only Arsenal (14) have ever done more. However, the Red Devils have failed to win the trophy in four of their last five final appearances, with the exception coming in 2016 against Crystal Palace under Louis van Gaal (2-1).

    There have been six previous occasions of a side finishing 8th or lower facing that season’s champions in the showpiece – Aston Villa (10th) beat Manchester United 2-1 in 1957, but since then such sides have lost all five finals by an aggregate score of 15-0.

    United have won five of their last seven FA Cup games against City. However, both defeats in that run have come in games at Wembley (2011 semi-final, 2023 final).

    The Red Devils have lost six of their last seven meetings with City in all competitions (W1), including each of the last three in a row. They last lost four consecutively against them between 2013 and 2014.

    United have lost 19 games and conceded 84 goals in all competitions this season. They last lost 20 in a campaign in 1973-74 (22) and last conceded more than 84 in 1963-64 (89).

    This is only the second time in FA Cup history the same fixture has been played in the final in consecutive years, after Blackburn Rovers v Queen's Park Rangers in 1884 and 1885, and the sensible money would be on City repeating their victory from last year.

    Serial winners

    Much has been said of City's dominance in the Premier League, but Guardiola's team just have to be lauded for their incredible hunger to keep winning.

    City could complete the league title and FA Cup double for the third time, something only previously achieved by Manchester United (1993-94, 1995-96 and 1998-99) and Arsenal (1970-71, 1997-98 and 2001-02). The Citizens did so in 2018-19 and 2022-23 and thus could become the first team to do so in consecutive campaigns.

    They are aiming to win the FA Cup for the eighth time and for the first time ever in consecutive years.

    Guardiola's side have won each of their last 11 matches in the FA Cup; excluding byes and void games, there have only been two longer winning runs in the competition’s history – Blackburn Rovers (20 between 1883 and 1886) and Chelsea (13 between 2009 and 2011).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Man City: Erling Haaland

    Phil Foden is the Premier League Player of the Year, while he has been involved in 10 goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions, scoring nine and assisting one. He has also netted six goals in his last five games against United, while only against Brighton (eight) has he scored more career goals than his six against the Red Devils.

    Yet it is Haaland who United's ramshackle defence will be most fearful of.

    Haaland is the top-scoring Premier League player in all competitions this season with 38 goals. He netted 52 times last season and could become the first Premier League player to score 40+ in consecutive campaigns.

    He has also been involved in nine goals in five appearances against United in all competitions (six goals, three assists), more than he has against any other side as a City player.

    Man Utd: Bruno Fernandes 

    Fernandes scored from the penalty spot for United in last season's FA Cup final.

    He could become the fifth United player to score in the showpiece in two different years, after Bryan Robson (1983 and 1990), Norman Whiteside (1983 and 1985), Mark Hughes (1990 and 1994) and Eric Cantona (1994 and 1996).

    Marcus Rashford, having been left out of the England squad for Euro 2024, will be looking to offer a reminder of his qualities, too.

  • CF Montreal v Nashville SC: Munthali aiming to get Coyotes back on track CF Montreal v Nashville SC: Munthali aiming to get Coyotes back on track

    Nashville SC interim head coach Rumbani Munthali aims to get a more recognizable look about the team as he prepares for his second game in charge against CF Montreal.

    Gary Smith, who led Nashville for seven years, made a shock exit following their 2-0 win over Toronto FC on May 16, with Munthali stepping up from player development coach to take his place.

    Nashville’s first game under him ended in a 1-1 draw with Atalanta United on Saturday, leaving them 11th in the Eastern Conference.

    With little time to put his stamp on the team, Munthali believes being able to welcome back injured players will help to get them back on track.

    "I think as you see players come back into the team [from injury], you see that we're starting to be a little more recognizable as a team that went on a 10-game undefeated streak last season," Munthali said. 

    "What I would hope is you get a team that represents what the club is: hard-working, forward-thinking and positive, and I hope that's a team we can put onto the field that will compete from start to finish.

    "I think those are the cornerstones of who we are as a club."

    Montreal are on a four-game losing streak that started with a 4-1 defeat to Nashville, and head coach Laurent Courtois accepts they need to do more to get back to winning ways.

    "Doing my 'job' is not enough. We have to be ready to offer a little 'extra' and help each other out. For the moment, in fits and starts, I have the impression that we are just doing our job.

    "Now, we are doing our mea culpa, we are coming back to things that we thought we had figured out."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Montreal – Sunusi Ibrahim

    In the absence of top-scorer Matias Coccaro, Ibrahim netted Montreal’s lone goal in their defeat to Toronto last week. Montreal have scored in all four games during their current losing run, with the Nigerian extending that run.

    Nashville – Hany Mukhtar

    Mukhtar attempted five shots, including scoring Nashville’s lone goal from the penalty spot, against Atlanta United on Saturday, taking him to 404 career shot attempts in regular-season MLS play. No other player has attempted 300 shots since Mukhtar joined the league in 2020.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Montreal’s lone win in eight all-time meetings with Nashville SC came in their last home match against them, a 1-0 win in June 2023. Nashville has won five of the other seven meetings (D2), including a 4-1 victory on May 4.

    However, Nashville have won only one of their last 15 MLS away matches (D5 L9 incl. playoffs) dating back to early June 2023. Nashville scored three goals in the lone win in that time (3-0 at Kansas City) but have totaled just five goals in the other 14 matches.

    Meanwhile, Montreal have lost four straight matches within a single regular season for the first time since September 2020. They haven’t lost five in a row in a single regular season since a five-match losing run to end the 2017 campaign.

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    Pep Guardiola believes making more history is "extra motivation" for Manchester City as they prepare for the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Saturday.

    City became the first side to win the English top-flight in four successive seasons after edging Arsenal to the title on the final day by two points.

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    City finished the Premier League season 31 points better off than their city rivals as United finished in their lowest-ever league position in the competition.

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    "The respect is there," he added. "[You] can't compare, the last Premier League to first Premier League.

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