Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a number of games for Manchester City due to injury, Pep Guardiola announced on Friday.

Midfield maestro De Bruyne went off in the second half of Belgium's 2-1 loss to England last weekend and sat out their 2-1 victory over Iceland on Wednesday.

Guardiola confirmed ahead of Saturday's meeting with Arsenal that the 29-year-old is set for a spell on the sidelines, though he was unsure exactly how long it will be.

Asked about the condition of his players after they returned from the international break, Guardiola said: "Everyone came back a little bit better than the time before, because the previous time [Joao] Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and other were injured and couldn't play the beginning of the season.

"Unfortunately Kevin is out, but the rest they came back well. I don't think [De Bruyne's injury] is much, but for the next games he will be out."

The City boss acknowledged that injuries are inevitable with the congested schedule and did not blame the international fixtures for the loss of De Bruyne.

"I never complain about the international games. I know how important it is for the players to play for their countries, it's an honour and a privilege," Guardiola said.

"UEFA and FIFA defend their own tournaments. We always want players to come back fit but sometimes they can get injured training with us. I am more of the opinion that players are injured because we demand so much of them after tough seasons.

"That's why there arrives a moment when the body says it's enough and they go down injured.

"Bernardo and the other players, Joao, they could not have a normal pre-season, they were injured, to get rhythm in these games was good for them."

City have been without all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero since June due to a knee injury but he could make his first appearance of the season against Arsenal.

However, Gabriel Jesus, who has missed each of the team's past four matches, will continue to sit out.

"Sergio is training well and we're happy," Guardiola said. "Every team needs a striker, and we played without them in the first days. He's been training well and we're happy to see him back on the pitch after a long, long time.

"[Jesus] was injured. In some muscles you can take a risk and there are others where you cannot. He has an injury in the front part of his leg. If there was another incident we would lose him for a very long time. I don't know [how long he will be out]."

Saturday's game at the Etihad Stadium will see Guardiola go up against his former assistant Mikel Arteta, who has impressed the Catalan with his work in north London.

"Maybe we should clarify who is the master and who is the apprentice?" said Guardiola.

"We didn't have any doubts about what he's doing in a short period. He's settled really well and the way his team is playing right now is perfect for the quality they have.

"He was able to get Arsenal back in the position they were a long, long time ago. He's doing really well in all competitions and he's a competitor, a fighter, [with] clear things on the pitch.

"All the people who love him are more than happy with what he's doing in London."

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is set to be sidelined until at least the middle of next month after he was withdrawn from Brazil's squad to face Bolivia and Peru in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The nature of Jesus' injury has not been disclosed, although the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) confirmed in a statement that City informed them of 23-year-old's setback on Wednesday.

"The English team contacted the doctor of the Brazilian National Team, Rodrigo Lasmar, reporting the athlete's injury detected after the game against Wolves on Monday in the Premier League," the statement read.

Hertha Berlin forward Matheus Cunha has been added to Tite's squad, earning a first senior call-up after top scoring for Brazil's Under-23s in the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament earlier this year.

Jesus completed the scoring in an impressive 3-1 win at Molineux and looked set for an extended run in Pep Guardiola's starting XI, especially as Sergio Aguero continues his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery.

As it is, the City boss will now be without a specialist senior centre-forward for Sunday's visit of Leicester City, with an EFL Cup tie at Burnley and a Premier League trip to Leeds United to negotiate before the international break that Jesus will miss.

Teenage striker Liam Delap marked his senior debut in Thursday's cup tie against Bournemouth with a well-taken goal and gives Guardiola an intriguing option in up front, although it is more likely Raheem Sterling will revert to a central attacking role in the league, with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne among the options who could be deployed as a false nine.

After overcoming Bournemouth 2-1, Guardiola bemoaned the fact he might only have 13 senior players fit to face Leicester.

Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko all returned from the previous international break with injuries and Nicolas Otamendi missed out in midweek due to "niggles", although the Argentina centre-back has since been touted as a makeweight in a reported deal to bring Ruben Dias to City from Benfica.

Ilkay Gundogan contracted coronavirus last week and Aymeric Laporte is yet to feature this season having only recently returned to training after his own positive test for COVID-19.

With all 20 Premier League teams now back in action, fantasy football managers around the world are tinkering and tweaking as they look to find that perfect balance of solid but deadly.

It's fair to say that we've already had a few surprises (for the fantasy football world, at least) this season, with Manchester United players barely making a splash at home to Crystal Palace (looking at you, Bruno Fernandes), Liverpool shipping three to promoted Leeds United on day one and Dominic Calvert-Lewin leading the scoring chart.

Everything's been all over the place – you need as much help as you can get, and hopefully that's where we can help.

Using Opta data, here are a few tips that might enable you get back on track, or even – for those of you lucky enough – build on an emphatic start…

RUI PATRICIO

Despite the disappointing 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, Wolves appear set for another encouraging season, having seemingly recruited well and retained most of their key players.

Among those is Rui Patricio, who is second only to Ederson (0.45) in terms of goals conceded per game (0.82) since the Premier League resumed in June, while the Portugal international's six clean sheets in that time is also the second best in the division.

Up next for Wolves is a trip to West Ham, who have lost both of their first two games of the season, scoring just one goal in the process.

MICHAEL KEANE

Goal-scoring perhaps isn't a key factor for many when considering which defenders to choose in their fantasy team, but picking one who has a habit of finding the net can give you the edge.

Michael Keane heads into the weekend having scored twice since the June resumption, a record beaten by no other defender, while he also boasts the best shot conversion rate (40 per cent) among defenders to have attempted at least five in that time period.

Everton are looking impressive at the moment, and with quality deliveries from James Rodriguez and Lucas Digne floating in regularly, who's to say Keane won't find the net again at Crystal Palace?

SADIO MANE

This one's quite simple – Sadio Mane loves playing against Arsenal.

In 12 matches against the Gunners, he has scored six times. He has only managed more in meetings with Palace (nine in 11), and he goes into the game on the back of a match-winning brace at Chelsea last time out.

Matches between two of the big guns can prove a little risky in terms of captain selection, and Mane's certainly not cheap – but few have his record in such games.

MATHEUS PEREIRA

It's been a difficult readjustment to the Premier League for West Brom, who host Chelsea next having conceded eight times in two matches and scored just twice.

But those two goals should pique the interest of fantasy fans, given Matheus Pereira was involved in both (one goal, one assist) and won't break the bank.

The Brazilian will surely be key if the Baggies are to avoid the drop this term, having had a hand in 11 more goals (nine scored, 17 set up) than any other player for the club since the start of 2019-20.

RAUL JIMENEZ

Two games, two goals – Jimenez has picked up right where he left off last season, the Mexican continuing to be the go-to man in attack for Wolves.

There's every chance that will continue at West Ham as well, given his penchant for scoring against the Hammers.

Jimenez has three goals in his past three Premier League clashes with West Ham, including a brace in January.

He also has four in six domestically, though a word of caution – Jimenez hasn't netted in three successive games since November last year.

GABRIEL JESUS

With Sergio Aguero out for the time being, Gabriel Jesus has the chance to find some form and enjoy a run of regular starts – he'll likely be encouraged by what's to come as well.

Leicester City are the visitors to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and in five previous league outings against the Foxes, Jesus has four goals.

Only against Everton (seven) has Jesus netted more frequently, and given City's impressive season-starting 3-1 win at Wolves, they will be favourites when Brendan Rodgers' table-toppers (on goal difference) come to town.

On the face of it, Jesus looks a strong choice for the captaincy this week.

 

DANNY INGS

Under Ralph Hasenhuttl, Danny Ings really is in the form of his life.

Since the start of last season, his haul of 24 goals is second only to Jamie Vardy in the Premier League, while he has scored 45 per cent of Saints' league goals in that time.

Up next is former club Burnley, and although notoriously difficult to play against, they conceded four to Leicester last time out.

Speaking to Radio Catalunya in 2017, Pep Guardiola took a self-deprecating tone when considering his feted coaching reputation.

You see, life is easy with Lionel Messi in your dressing room.

"The greatest advantage of having Leo is that the other 10 players know they have Leo on their team and that sooner or later he will do it," he said.

"I was his coach and we were planning and I thought, 'We will get the ball to Messi and that's that, we will score.'"

At the start of this month, it briefly looked like Guardiola would be able to unfurl this approach at Molineux in Manchester City's Premier League season opener against Wolves.

Of course, Messi concluded an exit from Camp Nou was not viable and a fantasy football tonic to a dispiriting 2019-20 in east Manchester was taken off the table.

Nevertheless, during Monday's impressive 3-1 win over opponents that have tended to give his team fits, Guardiola settled on an update of his old template.

Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

Okay, so this is a simplification of the sparkling display City put on to get their Premier League title bid up and running.

John Stones was in from the cold alongside new signing Nathan Ake in a silky-smooth centre-back pairing - or was it a pairing? Rodri dropped in from midfield to play in between them at times during the first half, with Stones taking opportunities to join attacks down the right flank.

Captain Fernandinho enjoyed himself back in the midfield role a defensive shortfall denied him last season, and everything in front of the veteran Brazilian was all whirring, flashing, frictionless movement.

Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden were as tenacious out of possession as they were in it.

But it was PFA Players' Player of the Year De Bruyne who stamped himself all across what quickly became a pulverising opening 45 minutes for the hosts.

All the shifting plates in Guardiola's 4-2-3-1 seemed designed to put De Bruyne in the areas of the field where he can cause damage. Which, all things considered, amounts to a fair amount of turf.

Take the combination of athleticism and opportunism that saw him put down the throttle and chase Foden's pass to draw a brainless foul from Romain Saiss. Rui Patricio guessed correctly but De Bruyne struck the 20th-minute penalty sumptuously.

After the half hour he nipped into a pocked of space behind the Wolves midfield to release Sterling, who set up Foden for number two.

There was De Bruyne again, forcing a fine save from Patricio after he tore onto Jesus' flick-on, like the archetypal box-to-box midfielder.

Soon afterwards there was a devilish whipped cross from out on the touchline and, even as City's level dropped and they flirted with throwing away the sort of points they frequently fumbled last term, De Bruyne regularly carved holes in Wolves, working through the repertoire that makes him the most complete footballer in the division.

Since the start of 2019-20, the Belgium superstar has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player, thanks to 14 goals and 21 assists. He created more chances (six) and had more shots on target (four) than any other City player on Monday.

Nevertheless, De Bruyne's team-mates are still without the serenity Guardiola claimed for Messi's old colleagues. Around the hour, when Adama Traore had the shackles of his right wing-back brief loosened and Stones became reacquainted with his lackadaisical side, a clatter of Wolves chances came and went.

The impressive Daniel Podence had the audacity to nutmeg De Bruyne before setting up Raul Jimenez's nicely placed 78th-minute header.

Despite paying the price for attempting the dirty work on that occasion, the 29-year-old contested a team-high five tackles and gained possession nine times - no City player did so more frequently. He covered 11.58 kilometres at an average speed of 7.12 km/h.

It was no surprise, therefore, to see which player bustled in between a hesitant Wolves defence to set up Jesus for the game-clinching goal.

Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

Neymar and Thiago Silva featured in the Brazil squad selected by head coach Tite on Friday for the World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru.

The five-time World Cup winners had been due to get their campaign underway in March, but the coronavirus pandemic forced a delay until October.

Tite named a 23-man pool including seven Premier League-based players, with veteran Chelsea recruit Silva among them following his move from Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG superstar Neymar featured among a squad of attacking players including Liverpool's Roberto Firmino, Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus, Everton's Richarlison and Real Madrid's Rodrygo.

Barcelona winger Philippe Coutinho, whose Camp Nou future is unclear following Ronald Koeman's arrival as Quique Setien's successor, was also called in for the October games.

Brazil face Bolivia in Sao Paulo on October 9 before travelling to tackle Peru in Lima four days later, as their bid to reach Qatar 2022 begins.

Palmeiras defender Gabriel Menino and Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes will be involved for the first time in a Brazil squad gathering.

 

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Santos (Athletico-PR), Weverton (Palmeiras); Rodrigo Caio (Flamengo), Danilo (Juventus), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Menino (Palmeiras), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Alex Telles (Porto); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Fabinho (Liverpool), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo); Everton (Benfica), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Richarlison (Everton), Rodrygo (Real Madrid).

Manchester City could be without star striker Sergio Aguero for the first two months of their Premier League campaign.

Aguero missed the conclusion of last season, including City's dispiriting 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon, after suffering meniscus damage during June's 5-0 win over Burnley.

The 32-year-old Argentina international had to undergo surgery and was operated on in Barcelona by Dr Ramon Cugat, City manager Pep Guardiola's preferred surgeon.

Initially there had been hope Aguero could play a part in the latter stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and the player posted footage of himself dribbling a ball at City's Etihad Campus training base to social media this week.

But Guardiola looks set to be without the club's all-time leading scorer for a considerable time beyond Monday's trip to face a Wolves side who beat City twice last season.

"We knew that the injury was difficult," Guardiola said. "He is doing the [recovery], in maybe one month or two months he will be ready.

"Two months, because he has to come back on the pitch and regain the physical condition.

"Sergio was out for a long time and Sergio is not a guy who regains the physical condition quick, so I think in one month or two months he will be ready."

The time-frame outlined by Guardiola could mean Aguero misses City's first three Champions League group games of the season, along with Liverpool's visit to the Etihad Stadium on November 7.

Opta focus - Sterling and Jesus must find clinical edge in Aguero's absence

Earlier in the transfer window, it appeared possible Guardiola would have Aguero's international team-mate Lionel Messi to call upon.

As it is, a considerable weight of the attacking burden at City will now fall upon Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

Sterling and Jesus enjoyed their most prolific seasons individually in 2019-20, scoring 31 and 23 goals respectively across all competitions.

However, both missed glorious chances during the second half of that sapping defeat to Lyon, with Sterling's particularly glaring as he blazed over a gaping goal from five yards.

A look at how the Brazil and England forwards compare to Aguero in terms of their Premier League numbers does suggest City might be found wanting when it comes to having a clinical edge.

Although Sterling outscored Aguero in the English top flight for the first time in his career last term - scoring 20 to his team-mate's 16 - the former Atletico Madrid striker's goals came at a rate of one every 91 minutes, compared to Sterling's average of one every 133 minutes. Jesus' 14 Premier League goals came in at one every 144.8 minutes.

Aguero's conversion rate of 21.05 per cent also stood above his team-mates, although Sterling ran him close on 20.2 per cent. Jesus netted from 13.86 per cent of his 101 shots, which amounted to more attempts than Sterling (99) and Aguero (76).

However, the spectre of the Lyon game looms - as it does over much surrounding Guardiola and his squad for their forthcoming season - when considering Opta's 'big chances' metric.

Despite his well-earned reputation, Aguero was not infallible in such situations, converting 52 per cent of his big chances with 13 scored and 12 missed.

Sterling's big chance conversion rate was 42.2 per cent, with 19 missed and 14 scored, while Jesus scored from only 29.4 per cent of his most gilt-edged opportunities.

The 23-year-old Jesus missed 24 big chances, netting only 10. Those are numbers that will have to improve considerably in Aguero's absence if Guardiola's City are to once again locate the relentless rhythm that brought them back-to-back Premier League titles and make a case for dethroning Liverpool.

Wolves have pulled off what will likely be one of the coups of the transfer window in securing a club-record deal for the highly rated Fabio Silva.

The 18-year-old forward joins in a reported €40million (£35.6m) transfer, signing a five-year contract to further expand Wolves' significant Portuguese contingent.

Executive chairman Jeff Shi confirmed his signing had come at the request of head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and it sees Wolves secure a talent strongly linked with Real Madrid and Liverpool in the past.

The deal makes Silva the seventh costliest teenager in history, and he joins illustrious company, as outlined below…

Kylian Mbappe: Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain - €180m

Likely to remain the world's most expensive teenage signing for some time, Kylian Mbappe is already well on the way to justifying the €180m outlay PSG made to prise him away from Monaco three years ago. Mbappe had fired Monaco to a shock Ligue 1 title triumph before departing and his goals have continued to flow in the French capital. Still just 21, Mbappe has arguably eclipsed team-mate Neymar already, while he has won a World Cup with France. Pele has acknowledged comparisons with the forward, who looks a certain Ballon d'Or winner in the near future. It would take a world-record fee to buy Mbappe, but he has hinted he could be open to leaving PSG.

Joao Felix: Benfica to Atletico Madrid - €126m

Potentially rivalling Mbappe for top individual honours in the years to come could be Joao Felix, who was tasked with replacing Antoine Griezmann at Atletico Madrid following his move to Barcelona. Joao Felix hit 20 goals in all competitions for Benfica in 2018-19, three of those strikes coming in the Europa League, to announce himself among the world's top talents. He endured a difficult first season in Spain, as he appeared to struggle with a new position, setup and philosophy under Diego Simeone's tutelage, but some promising flashes towards the end of the campaign suggested the player compared to Kaka could establish himself in 2020-21.

Matthijs de Ligt: Ajax to Juventus - €85.5m

Barcelona were linked with De Ligt, having already sealed a deal for club and country team-mate Frenkie de Jong, but the Ajax captain instead opted for Serie A. Much like Joao Felix at Atletico, De Ligt did not have the most convincing of debut seasons, despite Juve going on to win another Serie A title. Nevertheless, after a year bedding in, 2020-21 might see the Dutchman recapture his best form as he will likely become an even more central figure under Andrea Pirlo.

Anthony Martial: Monaco to Manchester United - €60m

Eyebrows were raised when United parted with €60m for Martial in 2015, with one British newspaper describing the deal as a "waste of money" in a back-page splash. While it might have taken him a while - after a blistering start - to properly establish himself, struggling particularly under Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman is beginning to make good on his potential at 24. With 17 goals in 32 Premier League games in 2019-20, Martial appeared to cement himself as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first-choice centre-forward and formed a dynamic front three with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. He also earned a recall to the France squad, with 2020-21 looking like a season of endless possibilities for Martial.


Rodrygo Goes: Santos to Real Madrid - €45m

Real Madrid have been signing young talent in recent seasons in a departure from their Galactico-focused days, although the arrival of Eden Hazard did show they are still willing to splash out on ready-made superstars. Rodrygo Goes linked up with Zinedine Zidane's squad for 2019-20 having remained on loan with Santos after completing his initial transfer to the Spanish giants. The tricky forward showed plenty of promise in his first season and seemed to usurp Vinicius Junior in the pecking order at times. Madrid hope he can be their Neymar.


Vinicius Junior: Flamengo to Real Madrid - €45m

Rodrygo followed in the footsteps of fellow Brazilian Vinicius, who was a rare shining light for Madrid in 2018-19, scoring two LaLiga goals. In his second season, Vinicius was in and out of the team, but did enjoy a few stints of regular football. Flashy, flamboyant and difficult to tackle, Vinicius is a classic Brazilian wide player, though concerns about his end product remain despite having been at the club for a while now. Nevertheless, Vinicius could be Madrid's future along with Rodrygo.

Fabio Silva: Porto to Wolves - €40m

Silva became Porto's youngest-ever player in 2019 when he made his debut for the first-team less than a month after his 17th birthday – the previous record-holder was his new Wolves team-mate, Ruben Neves. The technically gifted forward, who has been suggested as the potential long-term heir to Cristiano Ronaldo, helped Porto to UEFA Youth League success in 2018-19 and has regularly caught the eye in Portugal's youth setup. Although he only scored three times in 20 appearances with Porto in 2019-20, Silva appears destined for a future at the top, with his technique and on-the-ball talents seemingly a good fit for Wolves' dynamic attacking options.

Luke Shaw: Southampton to Manchester United - €37.5m

Like Martial, Luke Shaw is another player who seems to have laboured under a large price tag at times. Shaw also had a fractious relationship with Mourinho but made the United left-back spot his own with 29 Premier League starts in 2018-19. The 24-year-old remained a regular last term, despite the emergence of Brandon Williams, and managed to stay relatively injury-free, but one rarely gets the impression his position in the squad is absolutely certain, particularly given his attacking output lacks in comparison to the world's best full-backs.


Wayne Rooney: Everton to Manchester United - €37m

Wayne Rooney certainly repaid his fee – he was British football's most expensive teenager – becoming United's all-time leading goalscorer and winning five Premier League titles at the club, as well as the 2007-08 Champions League. Rooney will go down as a United great despite affairs such as agitating for a move and falling out with Alex Ferguson. Rooney dropped out of favour in the latter years of his time at Old Trafford and was also sidelined for England, with a return to boyhood club Everton failing to spark. But joining MLS strugglers DC United was a clever move and Rooney helped inspire their rise. Now 34, he is back in England with Derby County.


Renato Sanches: Benfica to Bayern Munich - €35m

Bayern thought they were signing a player who would become one of the era's dominant midfielders when they snapped up Renato Sanches from Benfica, but the transfer did not work out at all. Bayern bought Sanches before he won Euro 2016 with Portugal but, four years later, that remains the highlight of his career. Sanches flopped in a loan spell with Swansea City in the Premier League and quickly appeared surplus to requirements at Bayern. He eventually secured a permanent move away last year when Die Roten recouped €25m for him - applaudable given his form - when selling him to Lille. But in France he seems to have found his feet again, enjoying a solid debut season and attracting interest from around Europe.

Manchester City appear favourites to sign Lionel Messi, should he leave Barcelona.

Messi has sensationally handed in a transfer request at Camp Nou.

City are reportedly stepping up their chase as Pep Guardiola looks to reunite with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PREPARE MEGA OFFER FOR MESSI

Manchester City are ready to offer £89million (€100m) plus Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Eric Garcia for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to Sport.

Messi wants to end his association with embattled LaLiga giants Barca amid links to City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

The Guardian also claims City are convinced they have a chance of signing the superstar captain.

ROUND-UP

- Goal says Barca forward Luis Suarez has been offered to Juventus as the Serie A champions consider a move. Suarez has reportedly been told he is not part of Ronald Koeman's plans.

Barca offered Antoine Griezmann to former club Atletico Madrid in exchange for Joao Felix, reports Marca.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Milan have made a new bid to sign Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali. The Italy midfielder has been linked to Inter, though the Nerazzurri are yet to reach any agreement with Brescia as they eye Barca's Arturo Vidal.

Inter, meanwhile, have opened talks with Roma to sign veteran full-back Aleksandar Kolarov, according to Fabrizio Romano. Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri has also been targeted but Inter are refusing to meet their demands.

- The Mirror claims Tottenham are weighing up a move for Atletico striker Diego Costa. Jose Mourinho worked with Costa during the pair's time together at Chelsea. Sky Sport Italia also reports Spurs have had a request for Nicolo Zaniolo rejected by Roma.

City remain in talks to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, says Romano. Negotiations are taking place indirectly following the fallout from Jorginho's switch to Chelsea in 2018, having been set for City.

- Bayern Munich veteran Javi Martinez has turned down a move to Fiorentina as he is close to joining David Silva at Real Sociedad, says La Razon.

- Liverpool star Sadio Mane has been offered to Barca amid uncertainty over Messi's future, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona, but where will he go?

Manchester United, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus are possible destinations.

But, both Manchester clubs are believed to be targeting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE MESSI, BUT LIONEL WANTS CITY

Manchester United are in position to sign wantaway Barcelona captain Lionel Messi, according to Deportes Cuatro.

Messi wants to sensationally leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca and United are reportedly one of the clubs capable of signing the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

However, The Athletic claims neighbours Manchester City and Messi have held talks, with the superstar open to playing for Pep Guardiola again.

Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph reports Real Madrid outcast James Rodriguez is close to joining Everton. James has previously worked under Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern Munich and Madrid.

Chelsea will complete the signing of Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell, says Fabrizio Romano. The transfer will be announced soon as Chelsea also look to bring in Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and PSG captain Thiago Silva.

- Calciomercato claims Zlatan Ibrahimovic is close to signing a new deal with Milan. The 38-year-old is out of contract after returning to Milan for a second spell in January.

Barca want City's Gabriel Jesus to replace veteran forward Luis Suarez, according to Globo Esporte. Suarez has been told he can leave Camp Nou, and former club Ajax are reportedly trying to re-sign the Uruguayan.

The Champions League has reached the quarter-final stage, with all four ties to be played over one leg in Lisbon over the next four days.

Last-eight regulars Barcelona and Bayern Munich meet in arguably the pick of the fixtures, while much-fancied Manchester City take on Juventus' conquerors Lyon.

Elsewhere, quarter-final debutants Atalanta and RB Leipzig will be looking to pull off upsets against Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid respectively.

Ahead of the mouthwatering ties, we take a look at the key Opta statistics.

Two hurdles from the final. Who makes it?

YOU decide! Sim your own Final 8 now #UCLFinalsBracket | @gazpromfootball

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 10, 2020 ATALANTA V PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

0 - PSG have never won a game against Italian opposition in the Champions League, failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their previous six encounters.

1 - Atalanta are the first Champions League debutants to reach the quarter-finals since Leicester City in 2016-2017 and the first Italian side to do so since 1999-2000.

4 - The Serie A outfit have won their last four matches in the competition - the longest current run alongside fellow quarter-finalists Bayern Munich.

16 - No team still left in the tournament has conceded more goals than the 16 Atalanta have let in across their eight games.

32 - PSG have scored in each of their last 32 Champions League games in a run stretching back to the 2015-16 quarter-finals when firing a blank against Manchester City. 

#WeAreParis@ChampionsLeague is back pic.twitter.com/ayaJPEqON7

— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) August 10, 2020 RB LEIPZIG V ATLETICO MADRID

1 - Not only will this be the first competitive encounter between the sides, it is also the first time Leipzig have been drawn against a Spanish club in European competition.

5 - Atletico are contesting their fifth quarter-final in the last seven years - only Barcelona and Bayern Munich can better that tally across the same timeframe.

0 - None of Leipzig's 14 previous Champions League games have ended goalless.

4 - Four of the German side's last eight goals in the competition have come from the penalty spot. Indeed, only Atalanta (5) have benefited from more penalties this season.

12 - Since the start of 2019, 12 of the 14 goals Atletico have scored in UEFA's showpiece competition have been scored after half-time.

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????́???? ?? ?????? at Anfield

#AúpaAtleti pic.twitter.com/4T7cyQxGxU

— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 9, 2020 BARCELONA V BAYERN MUNICH

18 - Both sides are through to the last eight of the Champions League for an 18th time, with Barcelona into a record 13th successive quarter-final.

5 - The Catalan giants have been beaten in five of their eight previous encounters with Bayern in the competition, which is more than they have lost against any other side. 

17 - Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has been directly involved in 17 Champions League goals in 2019-20 - six more than any other player.

8 - Hansi Flick's side have won their opening eight matches in the competition this term, with Barcelona the only side to have previously won nine on the spin.

2 - Barca have lost just two of their last 31 Champions League games and are unbeaten this season - Bayern and Man City being the only other unbeaten sides.

WorldLionDay pic.twitter.com/qFEph43I3v

— Memphis Depay (@Memphis) August 10, 2020 MANCHESTER CITY V LYON

1 - City have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for a fourth time in five seasons, but have only progressed from one of their previous three appearances.

4 - Lyon are unbeaten in their last four games against English opposition in this competition - a run that includes a win and a draw against City in last season's group stage.

2 - Pep Guardiola progressed from his first seven Champions League quarter-finals but has been eliminated in his two appearances at this stage with City.

3 - Gabriel Jesus could become the third player to score in three separate knockout games for City in a single season after Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, both in 2018-19.

6 - Lyon attacker Memphis Depay has scored in six successive Champions League matches. Ruud van Nistelrooy is the only Dutch player to go on a longer run (nine with Manchester United in 2002-03).

Forward Gabriel Jesus has the ambition to try and match Brazil's greats after sealing Manchester City's place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Jesus put in a tireless performance as Pep Guardiola's side beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to close out a 4-2 aggregate triumph for a spot in Lisbon.

Starting on the left-hand side of the City attack, Jesus harried Raphael Varane into an early error to tee up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal.

Karim Benzema equalised to ensure it was all square on the night at the break but Jesus, switched to a more conventional centre-forward role after half-time, seized upon another Varane lapse to produce a smart first-time finish in the 68th minute.

"I work to be a great striker, you know," he told BT Sport.

"I work every day hard to be a striker like Ronaldo was.

"I know his quality is different from me to be a great striker."

Indeed, being able to call upon Jesus' adaptability was crucial for Guardiola throughout the tie, with the 23-year-old having also put in a relentless shift out wide at the Santiago Bernabeu before switching centrally to head an equaliser.


"Like the last game we ran a lot, played good with the ball and scored goals," he said.

"That's so important for us against a club like Real Madrid, the best club in this competition. For us it is massive.

"I think it's all about belief that they can make mistakes. I always press, I press a lot to help my team. I was happy."

Lyon completed a shock win over Juventus in Friday's other tie on away goals, despite losing 2-1 in Turin on the night, and will be City's quarter-final opponents.

Jesus rejected the suggestion that dishing out a first Champions League knockout stage defeat to Zinedine Zidane had sent a message to City's European rivals.

"No, I don't think like that," he added. "We have to keep working, do the simple things and stay strong for the next game."

Back when Pep Guardiola was in his playing pomp and Zinedine Zidane was plotting his path towards the summit of the European game, elite clubs loved to look towards Brazilian brilliance to supply a vital measure of Champions League pizzazz.

Guardiola could delight in picking out the lethal Romario from midfield. Where he trod for Barcelona, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho duly followed.

"Pep has a special feeling for Brazilian players," Guardiola's former assistant and newly appointed Flamengo boss Domenec Torrent told Globoesporte earlier this year.

"In fact, he has a preference for Brazilians because they are very versatile and can adapt to any type of football."

It was little surprise to see Brazil internationals at the heart of Guardiola's plans for Friday's Champions League showdown with Real Madrid, with a 2-1 win and 4-2 aggregate victory their reward. But Jogo Bonito, this was not.

FERNANDINHO'S STEADYING HAND

Eric Garcia's decision to reject a new contract at City has the teenage centre-back heading for the exit door – a situation sure to have caused his manager anguish on the eve of Madrid's arrival in Manchester.

Guardiola has placed great faith in a 19-year-old he declares "does not make mistakes". Negotiating your way out of a potentially triumphant Champions League campaign might count as one.

Garcia had established himself as Aymeric Laporte's first-choice partner in central defence over recent weeks. His apparently pending return to boyhood club Barcelona meant a defensive recall for a man 16 years his senior.

In their first season since Vincent Kompany's departure, City have wanted for leadership and presence on the big occasions. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all have victories over them.

The sight of Fernandinho, striding out as captain felt like a grown-up heading into a situation where one was required. Converted from a central midfielder this season, he made a perfectly judged tackle when the in-form Karim Benzema lurked on the edge of the City area in the fifth minute.

TIRELESS JESUS GIVES VARANE NO REST

At the other end of the field, Fernandinho's international team-mate Gabriel Jesus resumed the hard yards he carried out in City's 2-1 first-leg win. Guardiola doesn't often have a need for left-wing donkey work. When he does, Jesus dutifully trots over from centre-forward and gets to work. Romario would never have entertained such a thing.

Jesus lined up in an ever-alert and harassing front three alongside Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling. He seized upon Raphael Varane's first error of a personal ordeal to selflessly give Sterling his 100th goal in City colours.

The Brazilian in the City line-up possessing the most flair was arguably their goalkeeper. Ederson's passing was once again bafflingly good in its range an execution, but he had the basics of his craft in immaculate order as he denied Benzema sharply and snaffled any other shot that came his way.

He had little chance when Madrid's number nine powered in a header to equalise on the night. After that wobble, Jesus bought a free-kick then won a header from a long ball pumped to his flank.

Little flecks of dirty work to draw the sting from a difficult moment. And all while a Yorkshireman at right-back was gallivanting about like gloriously renegade Cafu. Kyle Walker gained possession nine times - more than any other City player - and won all seven of his duels.

MADRID'S AURA EBBS AWAY

As has been the case over the course of City's season, chances were created and spurned by vibrant but profligate attackers. If they lose in Lisbon, it will probably be in circumstances were they feel they shouldn't have.

It felt dicey to have left the door ajar to such greats of the competition. But during an increasingly torrid second period for Madrid – in line with Juventus's woes in Turin – the layers of an aura fell away and time ticked loudly on some great careers.

Kevin De Bruyne was romping around and tearing holes in a manner reminiscent of the man in the away dugout and errors from a ragged Madrid defence were piling up.

Dani Carvajal, who could have done without Sterling's company when Guardiola shuffled his front three at half-time, coughed up possession 15 times. Ferland Mendy and Varane were also into double figures in that regard, with the latter culpable when the tie was put to bed.

Lurking with maximum nuisance value was Jesus, producing a one-touch finish to make Romario and his other great countrymen purr. A moment of triumph etched from a thousand beads of sweat rolling down Guardiola's robust Brazilian spine.

Gabriel Jesus feels Manchester City have let down their assist king Kevin De Bruyne this season. 

Jesus and De Bruyne were on target during the second half when City beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu back in February. 

The long-awaited second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie takes place behind closed doors at the Etihad Stadium on Friday. 

De Bruyne heads into the contest after a stunning domestic season where he matched Thierry Henry's Premier League record of 20 assists in a single campaign. 

Still, Brazil striker Jesus feels that number could have been much higher, insisting City were frequently wasteful in front of goal despite scoring 102 times in the league. 

"I think every game he can make three or four assists for us," he told the club's website. 

"This season we miss a lot of goals, if not Kevin would have 30 assists. He is so good. 

"He has so much quality and he always looks to the strikers. It is so good playing with him."

Praise has not always been so forthcoming for Jesus, who is likely to lead the City attack in Sergio Aguero's injury absence against the LaLiga champions. 

The 23-year-old did impress, however, in the initial clash – deployed on the left-flank to fine effect in an experimental 4-4-2 system that featured De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva as false nines until the closing stages. 

"I don't think it is my best performance," Jesus said. "It was a top game. I scored and helped the team and that's why people say that.

"They [Madrid] played so good. It is so difficult to go there and play against them.

"We suffered in the first 15-20 minutes and after we played well. We started to play our football and after we came back and could have scored three.

"We played so good with the ball, but without the ball we played one of the best games I have seen since I came to play here."

John Stones and Gabriel Jesus applauded the subtle tactical tweak made by Pep Guardiola against Bournemouth shortly before the wonderful goal by the Brazilian, who labelled his boss a "genius".

City claimed an unconvincing 2-1 win over the Cherries at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, with David Silva scoring a free-kick before Jesus netted with a lovely solo effort.

Bournemouth piled pressure on in the final stages and did pull one back through David Brooks, but Jesus' goal proved decisive.

The Brazil international's goal came shortly after Guardiola made a slight change, moving Jesus further towards the left, and shifting Phil Foden the other way.

It led to Jesus finding space in the inside-left channel, which Silva spotted, and the striker evaded two defenders before slotting home.

This tweak was not lost on Jesus, nor Stones.

"It is no coincidence, we switch and I score," Jesus said. "He [Pep] is a genius. He changes it in a second and we score.

"We can play better. I am happy to help my team and I am happy to get this victory. I try to play football, enjoy the game, be happy in the game on the pitch. That is what we have to do, go on the pitch, give everything there.

"I try to always go for goal, score, make passes, defend with my friends."

Stones added: "He [Pep] knows the quality of the players so well and those little adjustments count.

"I think how Gabby took his goal is incredible; the feet in the box, it is a defender's nightmare really. When you get in the box nowadays with VAR and things like this, everything is watched and you have got to be so careful.

"I think Gabby, and the other strikers that get chances in the box, it is a pleasure to watch and I am sure he will be pleased with that.

"As I said, the manager knows his players so well and those little tweaks, every player knows what they can bring to the team.

"I didn't realise until the end what impact the players can have in different positions and that is credit to them; credit to Phil, credit to Gabby, I am just really pleased to get another three points."

Pep Guardiola repeated his praise for Gabriel Jesus but acknowledged his return to form in front of goal represented a boost to Manchester City.

Jesus has had a key role to play for City since the season's restart, with Sergio Aguero ruled out for the rest of the domestic campaign.

However, the Brazil striker had not scored since the February Champions League win at Real Madrid until netting in a rout of Newcastle United last week.

Jesus added to that strike in a 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, then scored the decisive goal as City edged past struggling Bournemouth on Wednesday.

A third goal in three games for his front man gave Guardiola some cheer, even if he insisted Jesus' earlier contributions had also been appreciated.

"Even when it was the first four or five games and he didn't score, I said many times about the amount of things he is able to do for us," Guardiola told a news conference.

"But we are very satisfied for him, for the team. In the past three games, he's scored three goals and he's playing really well.

"He can play in different positions. It's really good."

Jesus has started City's past six games in all competitions, but his involvement against Bournemouth – when others were rested – might hint at a substitute role for this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

And Guardiola confirmed his plans for the Wembley clash were in place regardless of performances in midweek.

"No, I rotated all of the team for this period," the manager explained. "Now we have time to recover, the players who played. Some players who played are going to play."

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