Romelu Lukaku could miss Inter's Champions League clash with Real Madrid after suffering a thigh injury.

The Nerazzurri striker went for an MRI scan after feeling discomfort during the goalless draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

Inter confirmed the Belgium international has strained a muscle in his left thigh and that "his condition will be monitored daily".

Lukaku is expected to sit out the Serie A match against Parma on Saturday and is reportedly likely to miss next Wednesday's visit to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The news is a blow to head coach Antonio Conte, whose side have drawn each of their opening Group B matches with Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar.

Lukaku has scored nine goals in 11 appearances in all competitions this season.

Roberto Mancini has expressed his sadness at seeing Mario Balotelli go from being Italian football's golden boy to the odd man out.

Italy boss Mancini gave Balotelli his Serie A debut for Inter when the striker was just 17 years old, in December 2007, and a first Azzurri cap came before his 20th birthday.

Balotelli followed Mancini to Manchester City, where he showed flashes of brilliance but his stay was tainted by off-field controversies and claims about his conduct.

After a string of subsequent moves, which has seen Balotelli also play for Milan, Liverpool, Nice, Marseille and Brescia, he is without a club at the age of 30.

Speaking at a sports industry event on Thursday, Mancini said of Balotelli: "I am very sorry to see him in this condition. At the age of 30 he should be in full technical football maturity and would have been very useful to the national team.

"I love him and I hope something good always happens to him."

Mancini, appointed to the Italy post in 2018, immediately recalled Balotelli to the national team after several years without a cap, but the striker could not keep his place.

Balotelli has been linked with several clubs since leaving Brescia at the end of last season and said earlier in October that he would join a new team "in a few weeks".

Quoted by Corriere dello Sport, one of the organisers of Thursday's event, Mancini said France and Spain would be the teams to beat when the delayed Euro 2020 takes place next year.

He may already be looking to life beyond his Italy role, saying of the experience of an international boss: "I find it hard to feel like a coach, I don't like this life very much. My favourite thing is to coach every day."

Mancini, 55, also expressed concern about the state of football during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"COVID is destroying us," he said. "If it were up to me, I would already send more crowds to the stadiums, perhaps well distributed among the various sections."

Lionel Messi may yet remain at Barcelona.

Messi, 33, stunningly requested to leave the LaLiga giants during the close season but ended up staying at Camp Nou.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has still been expected to leave at the end of his contract next year.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S CHANCES OF KEEPING MESSI BOOSTED

The resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu has boosted Barcelona's chances of keeping Messi beyond 2021, according to The Telegraph.

Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

Manchester City and Inter have been most heavily linked with a move for Messi.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United sent a scout to watch RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano against Nurnberg in the DFB-Pokal last month, according to Bild. Upamecano has been linked with United previously and played 90 minutes as the Premier League side thrashed RB Leipzig 5-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

- With Virgil van Dijk injured, could Liverpool be eyeing Bayern Munich defender David Alaba? The Daily Star reports the Premier League champions were handed a boost in their prospects of a January transfer for Alaba after the defender's contract talks with Bayern collapsed. Alaba is out of contract next year.

- Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus could be set for a transfer battle. The Mirror says United have joined Barcelona and Juventus in becoming interested in Ajax's 18-year-old midfielder Ryan Gravenberch.

- Inter may be in the market for a left wing-back in January. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants may look at Chelsea duo Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri, two players they have been linked with previously.

Stefano Pioli has "clear ideas" about which areas he hopes to strengthen during the January transfer window as Milan look to build on an impressive start to the campaign.

Milan are top of Serie A after the first five rounds of matches and have gone 22 games without defeat since football resumed in June.

Speaking to Tuttomercatoweb on Wednesday, CEO Ivan Gazidis outlined the Rossoneri's plans for the next window, with "some of the best talents in the world" being targeted.

But while Pioli will accept the opportunity to bring in more recruits at the turn of the year, he is not looking too far ahead with the games coming thick and fast.

"You are already thinking about January, but we don't because we still have many games," he said at a news conference previewing Thursday's Europa League match with Sparta Prague.

"We have clear ideas and if we get the chance we will improve the team."

Milan won 10 games in a row – including a penalty shoot-out success against Rio Ave – before being held to a thrilling 3-3 draw with Roma on Monday.

After beating Celtic 3-1 in their opening Europa League Group H clash, the Italian side are looking to win their opening two games in the competition for a third time in a row, but Pioli intends to rotate his side for the visit of Sparta.

"There will be some changes," he said. "We'll see if there will be repercussions from a physical and mental point of view because the match against Roma was tiring.

"You can still expect a strong and competitive Milan. I don't like to talk about player turnover. We are preparing in the best way to face Sparta."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season in the draw with Roma, is among those who could be rested for Thursday's match.

"I will do all the assessments. After tomorrow's game, we will immediately have another important match against Udinese," Pioli said.

"If I ask Ibra if he wants to play, he'll always say yes, like all my players. But it's important to have players who are physically and mentally ready.

"Even the lads do not know the line-up yet. I'm doing several evaluations, we still have two sessions to go."

Legendary former player Franco Baresi was named honorary vice-president of Milan at a shareholders assembly on Wednesday, a decision Pioli was keen to back.

"It was a very important decision. I am very happy about it," he said. "We are talking about a Milan legend who will be able to transmit the club's values.

"It is important to have people around us who know what Milan is all about."

Dayot Upamecano is a player in demand following his exploits for RB Leipzig.

Upamecano attracted plenty of interest before re-signing at Bundesliga side Leipzig in July.

Manchester United have been linked previously and are reportedly plotting another move.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT UPAMECANO

Manchester United will pursue a cut-price deal for RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano, according to The Times.

United have been keen to bolster their defence and the Red Devils were previously linked to France centre-back Upamecano, who has also caught the eye of the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Upamecano signed a new deal in July, though the contract reportedly includes a release clause of around £38million (€42m) at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports a third round of negotiations regarding a new contract for Bayern star David Alaba failed. Alaba will become a free agent at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Barca are believed to be interested.

Milan are interested in Schalke centre-back Ozan Kabak and Hellas Verona's Matteo Lovato, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Kabak has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool.

- Tuttosport reports Barca and Juventus could be involved in another swap deal. After exchanging Miralem Pjanic and Arthur at the start of the season, Juve's Federico Bernardeschi and Barca forward Ousmane Dembele could also move in opposite directions.

Barca could raid PSV for Donyell Malen as an alternative to Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Barca tried to sign Depay in the previous transfer window but a move did not material as his contract expires at season's end.

Jose Mourinho provided Julio Cesar with the high point of his career but the former goalkeeper ranks Jorge Jesus as the best coach he played for.

Julio Cesar, who won 87 caps for Brazil between 2004 and 2014, spent seven years at Inter and was a key member of Mourinho's treble-winning side in 2009-10.

The keeper joined up with Jesus at Benfica for the 2014-15 season and won a Primeira Liga and Taca da Liga double in Lisbon.

Julio Cesar was thoroughly impressed by Jesus' tactical acumen, which he feels sets him apart from any other coach he worked under.

"I really like his work. He is a coach who really has something extra. But not to belittle others, obviously," Julio Cesar said on Caioba Game Show.

"Mourinho was the culmination of my career. It was a very successful time with him at Inter. But between Mourinho and Jesus, I prefer Jesus.

"Tactically, he is absurd. He's a guy who breathes it 24 hours a day. He has a phrase: 'Everyone plays ball; now, understand the game few understand.'

"I remember when I arrived at Benfica, in the first season, I learned a lot. Thing I would never have imagined, reaching the end of my career, at the age of 34, several titles won and a nice history in football.

"In terms of management, he is a guy who knows a lot."

Fabian Ruiz continues to attract interest from his native Spain.

The former Real Betis midfielder joined Napoli in 2018 and he has starred for the Italian club.

Real Madrid are reportedly keen to bring Fabian back to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – FABIAN TOPS MADRID'S LIST

Real Madrid have renewed their interest in Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to Calciomercato.

Fabian, who is contracted to Serie A outfit Napoli until 2023, has been linked with Madrid, LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Manchester City previously.

The Spain international continues to impress Zinedine Zidane's Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United remain hopeful of signing Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland, claims The Athletic. United tried to sign Haaland before the Norwegian opted to join Dortmund from Salzburg in January. Haaland's €75million (£68m) release clause becomes active in 2022 and United are prepared to wait amid reported interest from the likes of Madrid and Juventus.

- The Athletic also says United are still trying to prise Jadon Sancho from Dortmund after failing to land the England star during the previous transfer window. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid and Barcelona.

- AS reports Milan are weighing up a January move for PSG striker Mauro Icardi. The former Inter captain completed a permanent transfer from the Nerazzurri at the start of the season.

- With doubts over Thomas Tuchel's future in Paris, Le10 Sport says the PSG head coach has received approaches from several Premier League clubs. Tuchel is out of contract at the end of the season and sporting director Leonardo is reportedly looking to move on from the German.

Lautaro Martinez said he is happy at Inter but "does not know what will happen tomorrow" as he casted doubt over his future at the Serie A club.

Martinez has been repeatedly linked with a blockbuster transfer to LaLiga giants Barcelona, though the star Inter forward remains in Milan.

The 23-year-old cut a frustrated figure after being replaced in the second half of Inter's 2-0 Serie A win over Genoa on Saturday.

Martinez, who has scored three goals in five league appearances this term, was asked about his future on the eve of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk.

"I'm working very hard to improve every day," Martinez told reporters. "I want to give my best for Inter and my team-mates.

"I'm happy at Inter. We are working hard because we want to win titles to make Inter great again.

"This is what I think today. I don't know what will happen tomorrow but today I can tell you that I'm happy at Inter.

"I'm grateful to the supporters for the love they showed to me and to all the people working at Inter. This is really important for me, that's all."

Inter – who have never lost against Ukrainian opposition in all European competition – made light work of Shakhtar in their previous meeting, winning 5-0 in the Europa League semi-final in August.

Romelu Lukaku and Martinez each scored twice in that emphatic victory in Dusseldorf as they became the first Inter striker duo to hit at least 20 goals each in a single season since Adriano and Obafemi Martins in 2004-05.

Lukaku, whose 34 goals in all competitions was the best tally for a player in his first season at the club since Ronaldo 22 years ago, has already hit seven goals in six appearances in 2020-21.

Martinez scored 21 goals across all competitions for Antonio Conte's Inter last term.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice but Milan's perfect start to season was ended by Roma after a thrilling 3-3 San Siro draw on Monday.

Ibrahimovic put Milan ahead early on with deft finish from close range but Edin Dzeko equalised shortly afterwards with a header.

Alexis Saelemaekers edged Milan in front again with a composed finish only for Jordan Veretout to draw Roma level from the penalty spot.

Ibrahimovic netted a penalty of his own 11 minutes from time, but Milan were denied a fifth consecutive victory when Marash Kumbulla volleyed in a dramatic late equaliser.

 

 

Star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has tested positive for coronavirus, Milan announced in a statement on Monday. 

Donnarumma was among five cases confirmed by the club following tests carried out on Sunday, along with Jens Petter Hauge and three other members of the group. 

The Rossoneri are top of Serie A ahead of Monday's game in hand against Roma. 

They will now be without Donnarumma and Hauge for that match at San Siro, but the remainder of the squad tested negative on Monday. 

"All are asymptomatic, were immediately subjected to home isolation and the local health authorities were informed," Milan said in a statement.

Donnarumma has been an ever-present in Milan's eight league and Europa League games this season. 

In Serie A, Donnarumma has kept three clean sheets in four matches, conceding only in the 2-1 derby win over Inter as Milan have earned 12 points. 

He has made 11 saves while his save percentage of 90.9 per cent is the best in the Italian top flight. 

Donnarumma's absence would appear to allow Ciprian Tatarusanu to make his Milan debut after signing from Lyon in September. 

Tatarusanu made just two league appearances in his single season with Lyon, keeping one clean sheet and making nine saves at a rate of 81.8 per cent. 

Hauge's positive test comes as a blow after scoring his first Rossoneri goal in stoppage time against Celtic last week. 

That was the 21-year-old's second Milan appearance, having netted against the Italian giants for former club Bodo/Glimt in Europa League qualifying prior to his transfer.

It remains to be seen whether Pep Guardiola will re-sign with Manchester City.

Guardiola's contract expires at the end of the season in Manchester.

Should the Spaniard decide to move on, there are already two men on the list to replace him.

 

TOP STORY – CITY INTERESTED IN NAGELSMANN

Manchester City are eyeing RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann as a possible replacement for Pep Guardiola, according to the Daily Mail.

Guardiola is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 campaign and the City manager – who has been previously linked to Juventus – is no closer to re-signing.

Should Guardiola decide to leave after arriving in 2016, Nagelsmann and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino are early candidates.

 

ROUND-UP

Sergio Ramos and LaLiga champions Real Madrid remain deadlocked over contract talks, claims the front page of Monday's Diario AS. The 34-year-old is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he wants a two-year deal, though Madrid are only committed to 12 months.

- Tuttosport reports Juve and Barcelona are both pursuing Ajax sensation Ryan Gravenberch. The 18-year-old midfielder emerged from Ajax's youth system in 2018.

Barcelona will block a January loan offer from Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain for Riqui Puig, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Kylian Mbappe extending his PSG contract has not been ruled out, claims L'Equipe. Tipped to eventually join Madrid, while the likes of Liverpool, Barca and Manchester United have also been linked, Mbappe could stay in Paris should certain conditions be met. The Frenchman is keen to see what unfolds in the next transfer windows.

Andrea Pirlo insisted he was unworried about Barcelona after Juventus were held to another draw in Serie A.

Juve needed a 77th-minute equaliser from Dejan Kulusevski to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Hellas Verona, who went ahead through Andrea Favilli on Sunday.

The Serie A champions are winless in two consecutive league games against Verona for the first time since 1989 as Juve moved onto nine points through five games.

Juve host Barca in the Champions League on Wednesday, but Pirlo was unfazed, saying he expected a different type of game.

"No, I am not worried ahead of Barcelona, because they're two completely different games, with two different styles of play," the Juve head coach told a news conference.

"As I said earlier, Atalanta like Verona play in a completely different way compared to Barcelona, therefore when you play against this kind of team it's a kind of game of its own.

"You have to try and do certain things, which we tried to do during the game."

The result left Juve three points behind leaders Milan, who host Roma on Monday.

But Pirlo, who only took charge in August, is remaining upbeat about the direction his side are heading in.

"No, I am not worried [about the draws] because we are under construction," he said.

"Of course, we're sorry we're dropping points along the way, but we're on the right path and we are building a long-term project.

"It's only the fifth game we play together and for our future I can only see positive things."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo was frustrated his Juventus side only started playing with intensity after they had fallen behind in their 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona on Sunday. 

Having had just one shot on target in an insipid first half, Serie A champions Juve fell behind on the hour-mark when Verona's Andrea Favilli slotted home from 15 yards. 

Juve – winless in two consecutive Serie A games against Verona for the first time since 1989 – stormed back through substitute Dejan Kulusevski's equaliser 13 minutes from time and created a number of excellent opportunities in the closing stages without converting.

Pirlo's Juve ended the game having had 22 shots but the Italian boss was not impressed that the hosts needed a "slap in the face" to start carving out chances.

"Our first half wasn't aggressive enough. We waited for them and yet we created the best chances," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"We reacted well after they took the lead, but we shouldn't need a slap in the face to wake up and play with intensity. When you play against Verona or Atalanta, it's difficult because they take you one-on-one all over the field and create many duels. 

"We worked to avoid their high press and that worked better in the second half. It's tough against them, but we could've done better."

The result moves Juve up to fifth – three points behind leaders Milan, who have played a game fewer – while Verona remain in eighth position.

Juve host LaLiga giants Barcelona in a mouth-watering Champions League clash on Wednesday before travelling to Spezia in Serie A on Sunday.

 

Dejan Kulusevski spared Juventus from their first Serie A defeat of the season as his late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw against Hellas Verona at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Andrea Pirlo's side were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Crotone last time out and looked like they would be on the end of an even worse result when Andrea Favilli put the visitors ahead after an hour.

Substitute Kulusevski had other ideas, though, cutting in from the right to score his second goal for the club following his arrival from Atalanta during the off-season 13 minutes from time.

The result moves Juve up to fifth - three points behind leaders Milan, who have played a game fewer - while Verona remain in eighth.

 

Juventus are keen to renew Paulo Dybala's contract, but managing director Fabio Paratici revealed the club's coronavirus scare made negotiations difficult.

Dybala has two years remaining on his existing deal in Turin but an extension has long been mooted, with the Bianconeri said to be discussing an agreement until 2025.

But no clarity has been forthcoming in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 season.

Paratici is not overly concerned, though, explaining the reason for the delay.

"We're in talks to extend Paulo's contract," he told Sky Sport Italia. "He wants to stay and we want to keep him - he's part of our future.

"It has been a tricky period because we were locked in the hotel for two weeks due to the COVID scare and not allowed to meet anyone.

"But we'll continue the negotiations to find an agreement."

Juve were forced into "fiduciary isolation" earlier this month after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Cristiano Ronaldo has also been missing in recent weeks having contracted the virus on international duty.

The absence of the Juve number seven allowed Dybala to come into the team against Hellas Verona on Sunday for his first start and just second overall appearance of the new campaign.

Dybala made his return off the bench against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, and Paratici said ahead of Sunday's game: "Paulo is in better shape physically now.

"Let's not forget he was out for two months with a muscular injury, then had a gastrointestinal infection in Argentina.

"It's right that he now has the opportunity to start after a few run-outs."

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