With Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines, Manchester City are looking for reinforcements.

Laporte's knee injury has left City with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as their only recognised centre-backs.

Could a star defender from Serie A be the answer in January?

 

TOP STORY – CITY LOOK TO SKRINIAR

Pep Guardiola wants defensive reinforcements in January and Manchester City are set to target Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to CalcioMercato.

Aymeric Laporte is set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, depleting City's options as they eye a third consecutive Premier League title.

Inter star Skriniar has emerged as an option for City, though the Italian side are not keen on losing the 24-year-old – who was linked to Manchester United in the off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Real Madrid will try to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season. Madrid were linked with Neymar prior to the transfer deadline but now appear set to target his PSG team-mate.

- According to Aksam, Liverpool will monitor the form of Trabzonspor goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir throughout the season.

- Tuttomercatoweb says Napoli are ready to re-sign Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski and Nikola Maksimovic, while a contract extension for Gianluigi Donnarumma is AC Milan's priority.

- Former AC Milan forward Jeremy Menez wants to return to Serie A via Sampdoria, according to CalcioMercato. The 32-year-old former France international is a free agent after leaving Mexican side Club America.

- Serie A champions Juventus are eyeing a double swoop for Tottenham stars Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, says the Daily Mail. Eriksen and Alderweireld are set to become free agents at the end of the season and Inter are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

- Valencia are determined to tie down Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres to new deals, reports SuperDeportes.

Jason Roy has not changed despite his struggles so far in Test cricket, according to England team-mate Rory Burns.

Surrey batsman Roy - such a key cog in the England side that won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier this year - has found runs hard to come by during the Ashes series against Australia.

The right-hander managed just 57 runs in six innings at the top of the order and, due to his issues against the new ball, was moved into the middle order for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, swapping positions with Joe Denly.

However, the switch failed to yield immediate results on Friday, with Roy bowled by Josh Hazlewood for 22 as the hosts finished day three on 200-5, still some way shy of Australia's first-innings total of 497-8 declared.

Burns, who battled hard to make 81 on an attritional day, was quick to back his county colleague after play, insisting Roy can build on his latest knock after failing to get into double figures in the previous two Tests.

"I think he's alright. He's still the same old Jason, which is what you like to see," Burns told the media.

"He hasn't changed too much in terms of how he is off the park, so I think that's a good thing.

"Obviously he'd have liked to score today, he got a good start but it's one to build on."

Marcus Rashford said he tests himself against Harry Kane during England training sessions in a bid to improve as a striker.

England take on Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying on Saturday, with Rashford seemingly likely to start in a front three alongside Kane and Raheem Sterling.

The 21-year-old Rashford got his Premier League campaign off to a fine start with two goals in Manchester United's 4-0 victory over Chelsea, but has failed to score since, missing a penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

With Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez having left United, the onus is now on Rashford and Anthony Martial to lead the line, though former Red Devils forward Michael Owen believes the academy graduate may not have the desire to become a top goalscorer.

Rashford, however, refuted Owen's claims, insisting he is always aiming to improve, and uses England captain and Tottenham star Kane as his benchmark.

"If you watch training, then you'd see how it all works," Rashford said in a news conference.

"I could use Harry as an example. He's one of the best finishers that I've played with and whenever we do finishing, in my head, it's about being as close to him as possible.

"So if he scores six, you want to score six, if he scores seven, you want to score eight. Little things like that are the bits that people never see.

"Even though we're fighting for the same position, or to be in the same team, we really do drive each other on and it's very important that you have that sort of atmosphere within a team.

"He [Owen] can only go on what he sees. Whereas the people around me [know]. Especially when I was younger, the reason why you started playing is because you see things that you like and for me, it was goals and watching exciting people doing exciting things with the ball.

"So, the important thing is I know what I want, what I want to become and what I will become if I keep my mind on it."

Rashford acknowledged missing chances plays on his mind but he was adamant he feels no extra pressure due to competition for places within the England squad.

"Yes, it haunts you, it's the same for when you score and you know you've had other chances in the game, you're looking [at] what went wrong," Rashford said.

"Here, it's a bit more simple because Harry's record is unbelievable. That's a way for him to get his goals and the squad support that.

"I don't think it's something to fear, I think you need it. If you don't have [pressure], it's difficult for motivation to improve. You need the players around you to push each other."

England rounded out their preparations for the Rugby World Cup with an emphatic 37-0 win over Italy at St James' Park on Friday.

Eddie Jones' much-changed side completed their warm-up fixtures by scoring four tries without reply in Newcastle, captain Owen Farrell converting them all as he finished with a personal haul of 17 points.

However, while they stretched their winning record against Italy to 26 Tests, England produced a performance of two contrasting halves in their final outing before this year's tournament in Japan.

They led only 9-0 at the break thanks to a hat-trick of Farrell penalties and were fortunate not to concede in defence, Tommaso Benvenuti appearing to get around Jonny May only to drop the ball as he headed for the line.

Farrell failed with a penalty attempt early in the second half but England crossed for their first try not long after their skipper's miss, scrum-half Ben Youngs getting over from close range.

Joe Marchant marked his first Test start by crossing in the 53rd minute, the centre – picked by Jones for the game despite not being included in the final 31-man party for the World Cup – slicing through some flimsy tackling to score.

Replacement Ellis Genge benefited from his colleagues in the pack to get his maiden international try when finishing off a powerful maul, Farrell's successful conversion making it 30-0.

The fly-half was also on target after setting up the final try for team-mate Anthony Watson, who capitalised on a tiring Italy defence to breeze through a huge gap and slide over.

Jones will hope to receive a clean bill of health from those involved before England fly out on Sunday. Their opening Pool C fixture is against Tonga on September 22.

Josh Hazlewood hailed "machine" Pat Cummins after Australia's pacemen summoned up a final-session burst to put England in trouble on day three of the fourth Ashes Test.

Rory Burns and Joe Root frustrated the tourists with a third-wicket stand of 141 at Old Trafford after Hazlewood removed nightwatchman Craig Overton in the second over of the day.

Australia were eager to make up for lost time, with no play possible before lunch due to rain in Manchester, but Burns and Root dug in on a slow, dry pitch.

Hazlewood (4-48) did the damage after tea, removing Burns (81), Root (71) and Jason Roy (22) to leave England with work to do on 200-5 in reply to 497-8 declared.

Cummins was outstanding, particularly in a relentless, hostile 10-over spell at the Brian Statham End.

At stumps, Hazlewood was full of praise for the top-ranked Test bowler in the world.

Hazlewood said: "Patty rarely bowls a bad spell to be honest. He was fantastic in the evening session.

"He's always at the batsman, just keeps getting better each time he bowls. It is good to have him in the team.

"He's a machine really. He had all that bad luck with injury during his late teens and early 20s.

"He has always been a great athlete so it was always a matter of time until his body hardened up. He is the all-round package. Hopefully, it continues for him."

Josh Hazlewood did the damage but a magnificent spell from Pat Cummins set up Australia's final-session momentum swing at Old Trafford on day three.

Rory Burns and Joe Root frustrated the tourists after no play was possible before lunch on Friday due to rain.

Hazlewood removed nightwatchman Craig Overton in the second over when play finally got under way, but Burns and Root dug in to prevent any further damage from being done before tea.

Steve Smith's double-century on Thursday enabled Australia to post a mammoth 497-8, making them strong favourites to take a 2-1 lead - and retain the urn.

Burns and Root were in no mood to roll over a fortnight after England were humiliatingly dismissed for only 67 in their first innings at Headingley, before going on to pull off a stunning victory.

Try as they might, the elusive breakthrough simply would not come for the Australia bowlers, but persistence paid off after tea on a gloomy evening.

Hazlewood removed Burns (81), Root (71) and the vulnerable Jason Roy (22) as England lost three wickets for 30 runs before closing on 200-5.

Yet it was Cummins who was the standout bowler in batting friendly-conditions and a 10-over spell either side of tea in particular showed why he is the top-ranked Test bowler in the world.

The paceman was relentless as he pounded in time and again without reward on a cold day in Manchester, where the recalled Mitchell Starc failed to make an impact.

He rapped Burns on the gloves and peppered the left-hander with rapid short deliveries, beating the bat and drawing edges on a slow, dry pitch.

Cummins, blighted by injuries earlier in his career, continued to steam in with an exhibition of control, hostility and skill, leaving Root writhing in agony after hitting him on the knee.

A brilliant 10 consecutive overs from the Brian Statham End kept Burns and Root on their toes before he was finally replaced by Hazlewood.

Hazlewood's burst left England in the mire, but it was Cummins who softened them up.

Gareth Southgate believes more English players will follow the example of Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier in moving abroad to European leagues.

Sancho left Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund in 2017, and has since become a star in the Bundesliga.

Trippier, meanwhile, joined LaLiga heavyweights Atletico Madrid in the close season, after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Tottenham.

There has been an uptick in the amount of English players moving abroad to further their development in recent seasons, and Southgate has no doubt the success Sancho in particular has achieved in Germany will continue to inspire England hopefuls in testing themselves across the continent.

"I think it is brilliant for the perspective of playing out of the country, it is a brilliant life experience for Jadon and Kieran," Southgate told a news conference ahead of England's Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria.

"I don't see a negative, it clearly is not harming their chances with us and we monitor players very closely.

"There are players who have played in France, Germany, the Netherlands such as Mason Mount, so it would become more apparent young people from England are more prepared to travel, whatever happens politically.

"They are different styles, Kieran is playing for one of the most successful teams and coaches in European football and Jadon is playing in front of 80,000 people at Dortmund.

"It is definitely a positive and I am certain more players will follow their path."

Sancho scored 12 Bundesliga goals last season and made his England debut in October, and striker Marcus Rashford has been thrilled to see the 19-year-old – along with other youngsters such as Mount and James Maddison – adapt swiftly to the squad.

"It has been brilliant, the [new faces] seem to fit right in," Rashford, who at 21 has 32 caps to his name, told the news conference.

"Since Gareth has come in, the younger players have trained the same as the main squad and they fit in seamlessly. The more we get coming in the better."

Josh Hazlewood picked up three late wickets to scupper England's fightback with the bat on day three as Australia maintained their grip on the fourth Ashes Test.

Rory Burns and Joe Root made 81 and 71 respectively as they shared in a 141-run stand in England's reply to Australia's mammoth first-innings total of 497-8 declared.

Yet both well-set batsmen departed before the close – while Jason Roy's Test match troubles continued despite dropping down the order – as the hosts slipped to 200-5, still 98 shy of the follow-on target.

Hazlewood claimed all four wickets to fall during Friday's shortened play after the first session was lost to rain, including picking up his 50th Ashes scalp when he tempted nightwatchman Craig Overton (5) into an edge that was comfortably pouched by double centurion Steve Smith at second slip.

However, that proved to be the tourists' only success in an extended afternoon session, Burns and Root combining to deliver England's highest partnership in the series so far.

That is not to say the batsmen had it easy, though. Burns was peppered with short balls, the opener managing to weather the storm through a mixture of skill and determination, as well as the occasional slice of good fortune.

Still, it was Root who was seemingly in the firing line. The England captain was grateful to his protective box after being struck in a particularly sensitive area, the protective piece of equipment splitting with the force of the blow.

He also took a delivery flush on the knee during an excellent Pat Cummins spell that ended without reward, the bowler's cause not aided by an edge off Root's bat going between wicketkeeper Tim Paine and first slip David Warner, neither moving as the ball flew away to the boundary.

But, after replacing his luckless team-mate, Hazlewood (4-48) produced an impressive late burst to change the complexion of proceedings.

Burns was the first to go when he fended a rising delivery to Smith, leaving the score at 166-3, while Root fell just nine runs later when a full delivery nipped back to trap him lbw.

Roy's switch from the top to the middle order failed to result in an immediate upturn in form, the right-hander bowled emphatically by Hazlewood for 22.

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow made sure there were no further losses before stumps, meaning the duo will resume on seven and two not out respectively on Saturday.

Rory Burns and Joe Root dug in as Australia could only dismiss nightwatchman Craig Overton in a long afternoon session on day three of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

Josh Hazlewood removed Overton in the second over of the day after no play was possible before lunch due to rain, reducing England to 25-2 in reply to 497-8 declared.  

Burns (62 not out) and Root (47no) prevented any further damage from being done, getting England through to 125-2 at tea with an unbroken stand of 100 in Manchester.

Mitchell Starc was expensive as Burns and Root frustrated the tourists on a slow, dry pitch, but England trail by 372 runs as they strive to avoid a defeat that would put Australia 2-1 up - and ensure they retain the urn.

Hazlewood wasted no time in dismissing Overton when play finally got under way, the nightwatchman edging to day-two double-centurion Steve Smith to become the paceman's 50th Ashes victim.

Burns was rapped on the glove by Burns as the Australia fast bowlers peppered him with short stuff, which the disciplined opener coped with impressively.

Lyon generated turn as he engaged in a battle with Root, who was much more at ease facing the quicks with the floodlights on in fading light.

The runs flowed more freely after a drinks break and Burns reached 50 for the third time in the series with two boundaries in an over from a struggling Starc.

Root ticked along but almost chopped on to Lyon - who was cheered by the crowd every time he caught the ball after a costly spill at Headingley - before the captain's box was cracked by a fast ball from Starc.

The skipper pulled Hazlewood for four and was closing in on a half-century at the end of an excellent session for England, who still have plenty of hard work to do.

Andrew Flintoff says he would be keen to coach England one day and revealed he has applied for the position in the past.

The former Ashes hero retired from Test cricket in 2009 and has since gone into television work, but he harbours a desire to return to the game as a head coach.

Trevor Bayliss is set to leave his role with England at the end of the Ashes and a replacement has not yet been appointed.

However, Flintoff, while serious about holding the position in the future, is not ready to take on the job at this stage.

"Coaching is definitely an ambition," he told BBC's Test Match Special. "There are probably two or three coaching jobs I'd like - England, Lancashire or Lancashire Academy.

"I'd love to be England coach one day, just not quite yet."

Flintoff went on to explain he had previously shown his interest in taking over the England job but had not been taken seriously.

"I like to come and watch, I turn up with a sense of excitement," he said.

"A few years ago I applied for the England coaching job - we were getting beat, I was in the office and thought, 'I'm going to apply'.

"I wrote an email for the interview, a month passed and I'd heard nothing. I chased it up, then I got a phone call saying they thought it was somebody taking the mick.

"I've got two of my coaching levels - me and [friend and former team-mate] Steve Harmison might do our level threes soon."

No play was possible in the morning session on day three of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford due to rain.

Lunch was brought forward to 12:30 local time, with a pitch inspection due at 13:00pm provided there is no further wet weather.

Australia racked up 497-8 declared on day two, Steve Smith the star of the show with a magnificent 211 as the tourists eye a 2-1 lead that would ensure they retain the urn.

England were 23-1 in reply at stumps after losing Joe Denly in the evening session on Thursday.

A wet outfield due to dismal weather on Friday morning kept the players of the pitch, but the sun was out when it was announced lunch would be taken early.

Lionel Messi will get to decide his Barcelona future, regardless of when the star is contracted until.

Messi, 32, re-signed with the LaLiga champions two years ago, extending his contract until 2021.

But such extensions may not matter when it comes to arguably the world's best player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CAN LEAVE BARCELONA AT THE END OF ANY SEASON

Messi can choose to leave Barcelona at the conclusion of any campaign regardless of his contract, according to El Pais.

The Argentina superstar made his debut for the club in late 2004, and his future is seemingly in his own hands.

It remains to be seen when, or if, Messi decides to depart Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho eventually left Barcelona for Bayern Munich on loan, but it could have been different for the playmaker. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola rejected the chance to sign the 27-year-old, according to Marca.

- Left out of Juventus' Champions League squad, Mario Mandzukic is eyeing a January exit, according to Calciomercato.com. The striker was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United during the transfer window.

- Staying in Turin, Juventus could have signed Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng in the close season. Calciomercato.com reports Maurizio Sarri rejected a move for the centre-back.

- Ousmane Dembele was reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain while they were in talks with Barcelona over a move for Neymar. But the attacker refused to leave because he is at his dream club at Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

- Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is reportedly in talks with Monaco, but the 55-time Italy international turned down a move to Scottish giants Rangers, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Left out of the England squad, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is worried he has no international future under Gareth Southgate, the Daily Star reports.

Steve Smith continued to dominate England on day two of the fourth Ashes Test but Jonny Bairstow insists the hosts will not change their approach against the in-form Australia batsman.

After sitting out the one-wicket loss at Headingley that levelled the series due to concussion, Smith marked his return to the line-up by scoring a stunning 211 at Old Trafford on Thursday.

The former Australia captain was dropped on 65 and also granted a reprieve when he edged Jack Leach to Ben Stokes at slip on 118, only for replays to show the spinner had overstepped.

It was the third time Smith has reached triple figures in the series and his third double century in Tests – all of which have come against England.

Despite the top-ranked batsman again proving the main source of frustration for the hosts, who lost Joe Denly as they reached stumps at 23-1 in response to Australia's 497-8 declared, Bairstow does not anticipate Joe Root's men to alter the way they try to dismiss Smith.

Bairstow said: "Fair play to the way Smith has come out and played. He's obviously got the bit between his teeth and is in great form.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit for the way he's applied himself and scored the runs that he has.

"I am not sure we are the only team around the world who have tried a few different plans [to get him out]. We'll be sticking to the plans that we've got.

"He's played and missed to a few balls today which he hasn't previously in the series. On another day we get him out earlier."

England need a strong third day in Manchester to eat into Australia's 474-run advantage, but Bairstow is confident the hosts can turn the tide.

"There are three innings and three days of cricket left," he said. "If we can go out and apply ourselves tomorrow, bat for a long period of time like we did at Headingley there is no reason why not.

"Let's look at the next day, let's look at the next session and see where we get to."

Steve Smith felt wasteful England played into Australia's hands as he scored a magnificent double century on day two of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

The prolific top-ranked Test batsman piled more misery on England by reaching three figures for the third time in an outstanding series, putting the tourists in total command.

Smith was dropped by Jofra Archer in the second over of the day on 65 and called back after edging Jack Leach to Ben Stokes at first slip with 118 to his name, the spinner eventually called for a no-ball after overstepping.

The former captain went on to craft a magnificent 211 - his third double hundred against England - as Australia racked up 497-8 before declaring, Tim Paine making 58 after he was dropped twice.

England were 23-1 at stumps and Smith thought Joe Root's men got their tactics wrong by bowling too short in his first Test innings since suffering concussion after being struck by an Archer bouncer at Lord's

He said: "Them bowling there (short) means they can't hit me on the pad or nick me off and it softened the ball up, so it played in our hands, I think, for us to score some big first-innings runs.

"I said before the game that if they're bowling up at my head then they're not bowling at my stumps trying to get me out lbw or caught behind the wicket. 

"I think that perhaps played into our favour a little bit. When Stuart Broad came on with the new ball he hit some really nice lengths and beat my bat a couple of times. 

"He was quite challenging when he hit that length.

"For them to go as short as they did with the new ball and soften that ball up played into our hands."

Sacked interim West Indies coach Richard Pybus believes the regional team was on the verge of something special before his abrupt dismissal at the hands of the new Cricket West Indies (CWI) administration a few months ago.

Pybus, who was previously held the role of director of cricket, was controversially appointed to the post by former CWI boss Dave Cameron, in December of last year.  Despite the ferocious debate, however, Pybus got off to a flying start after overseeing the team to a 2-1 win in a three-Test series against England.  The Windies also held England to a 2-2 draw the preceding three-match One-Day International.

Following the defeat of Cameron in the CWI elections by the Ricky Skerritt led team, however, Pybus was replaced with interim coach Floyd Reifer.  The move was particularly controversial with the World Cup only a few weeks away and captain Jason Holder later requesting that the change be made after the tournament.  

“Of all the sides I have coached around the world, this group was fantastic. We had a very good understanding as a collective group,” Pybus told the Jamaica Gleaner.

“The attitude was right, and we had mutual respect and belief as to what we wanted to achieve as a whole, and this team was ready to start winning,” he added.

“We had some really good guys in our back-room staff, guys such as Vasbert Drakes, Mushtaq Ahmed, Toby Radford, and Esuan Crandon. All these guys did an excellent job. The players responded to them well as most of them are well known around the region.”

“I have had persons tell me that they loved the way the team played in that England series with passion and aggression,” Pybus said.

 “That is the philosophy that we wanted across the board, and yes, I am disappointed that I was not able to carry on, but that is the nature of a democratic process, and these things do happen.”

 

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