Manchester United, Inter and Ajax were the big Champions League casualties as the group stage wrapped up - but who have been the stars of the show so far?

Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland featured prominently, scoring half of Borussia Dortmund's goals as they topped Group F.

But what should we make of Lionel Messi, whose three goals all came from the penalty spot for Barcelona? And were Inter incredibly unlucky to bow out?

Using Opta data, we took a closer look at how Europe's elite performed.

Haaland's hammer blows

The Norwegian's left foot is about the deadliest weapon in world football at the moment and it comes as no surprise to see him topping the scoring charts with six goals in four games.

That put him alongside Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, United's Marcus Rashford and Juventus striker Alvaro Morata, all of whom played more games and minutes than the Dortmund marksman.

Five of Haaland's goals came from his trusty left boot, and it continued his rich vein of form in Europe after he hit eight goals in six group games for Salzburg last season and two for Dortmund in the knockouts. The 20-year-old's Champions League goals this season have come at one every 57.5 minutes, and among players to have scored more than twice that minutes-per-goal mark was second only to Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (five goals, one every 28.4 minutes).

Yet when it came to overall goal involvements in this term's group stage, it was another Bundesliga star who led the way in Europe, with Alassane Plea of Borussia Monchengladbach tallying eight - five goals and three assists.

Germany had a productive group stage as Dortmund, Gladbach, RB Leipzig and holders Bayern Munich all reached the last 16 - the first time four teams from the Bundesliga have advanced since the 2014-15 season (Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund, Schalke, Bayern).

Haaland would have been disappointed to see Salzburg bow out, however, with the Austrian side becoming just the second team to score 16 or more goals in the first group stage yet be eliminated, after Chelsea in the 2012-13 campaign.

Messi's mixed bag

For the first time since registering his first Champions League goal in 2005-06, Messi failed to score from open play in the group stage.

From highs of eight open-play goals in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, his number crashed to zero this time even though Barcelona qualified with ease for the knockout stage.

The 33-year-old Argentinian stuck away a group-stage high of three penalties - a total matched by Chelsea's Timo Werner and Lazio striker Ciro Immobile - to ensure it was not a complete goal famine.

Going goalless was not for the want of trying - Messi had seven shots on target in this week's 3-0 defeat to Juventus, which is more than any other player has had in a Champions League game without scoring since at least 2003-04.

He also created more chances across the six games than any other player, with Messi's total of 16 putting him one ahead of Ajax's Dusan Tadic and United's Bruno Fernandes, both of whom only have Europa League football to enjoy in the new year.

Of those chances, however, only two gave Messi assists. Leading the way on that score was Juventus' Juan Cuadrado, who set up five goals.

Barcelona created more chances than any other team (84), followed by Real Madrid (77), Sevilla and Bayern (both 73). Eventual champions Bayern had 106 chances in the group stage last year, as they set the high standard they maintained all the way through the competition.

Barcelona also had the most opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' over this season's six rounds of games, with 26. They converted 46.15 per cent of those openings, which ranked them eighth among teams to have at least 15 – United led the way by scoring from 68.75 per cent of their 16 such opportunities.

Were Inter framed?

Inter could not get the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk this week that would have carried them through to the last 16, with Lautaro Martinez hitting the bar early on, extending his run of bad luck.

The Argentine striker hit the goal frame four times in the group stage, more than any other player and the most by anyone across an entire Champions League season since Robert Lewandowski struck the woodwork five times for Bayern during 2016-17.

Martinez only scored once as Inter bowed out, unlike Lewandowski who put away eight goals in nine games during that campaign.

Inter hit the woodwork seven times in total over their six games, the joint-highest number along with Real Madrid.

Antonio Conte hit back at criticism of his Inter side and claimed mistakes from officials also contributed to their Champions League exit after a goalless draw with Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Nerazzurri crashed out of Europe on a wet Wednesday at San Siro as Real Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach advanced to the round of 16 following a 2-0 win for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Lautaro Martínez hit the crossbar early on and missed several other chances, while Alexis Sanchez's powerful stoppage-time header struck Romelu Lukaku when it may have been heading for the back of the net.

That summed up Inter's night, which ended with them finishing bottom of Group B and Shakhtar having to settle for a Europa League spot.

It is the first time the Serie A side have come last in their Champions League group but Conte did not take kindly to questions about their desire.

He told a Sky Sport Italia reporter: "These are your opinions that I respect, but I disagree.

"I think the team gave everything they had, it's unbelievable that we weren't able to score in 180 minutes [against Shakhtar]."

"The boys gave everything. We cannot make assessments now, there is much regret. I don't feel like there was a lack of determination. There was a lack of goals and if you don't score, you don't win. 

"We weren't lucky with referees and VAR throughout the Champions League, Inter were not respected. Go and see all the situations that have happened to us. We could have gone through."

Conte also defended his substitutions and disagreed with Sky pundit Fabio Capello's suggestion that he did not try a different approach with so much at stake.

"I introduced Alexis Sanchez with 20 minutes to go including stoppages. We would've been unbalanced with three strikers, but then I think Lautaro ran out of steam. In midfield, those were the players I had," the Inter boss said.

"It was either Alexis or [Christian] Eriksen for [Roberto] Gagliardini, but I preferred to add another striker and go for the win. When I saw Lautaro was out of steam, I introduced Eriksen."

He added in response to former Milan coach Capello: "Of course I have plan B. We have it but we don't want to make it public, otherwise the opponents also prepare themselves for that."

Misfiring Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk missed out on the Champions League round of 16 following a goalless draw on a miserable Wednesday night at San Siro.

All four sides in Group B started the final round of matches with a chance of progressing and it was Real Madrid who advanced along with Borussia Monchengladbach after a 2-0 victory for the LaLiga giants.

Lautaro Martinez struck the crossbar early on and missed several other chances of a frustrating evening for Antonio Conte's side, who could not fashion a winner to put them through and ended up bottom of the group.

Injury-hit Shakhtar posed more of a threat in the second half but were similarly unable to make it count, though they do have the consolation of a place in the Europa League.

Inter started strongly and they were almost in front when Martinez rattled the crossbar from eight yards out after Nicolo Barella squared the ball from the right just six minutes in.

Martinez then turned sharply and blazed over and Stefan de Vrij was unable to finish from close range when Shakhtar failed to deal with a corner.

Vitao was substituted after seemingly picking up an injury, having been fortunate to escape with a yellow card for a cynical foul on Romelu Lukaku, and Martinez headed straight at goalkeeper Anatolii Trubin late in a first half dominated by the Nerazzurri.

Trubin produced a fine reflex save to keep out Lukaku's glancing header early in the second half and Martinez sliced an effort wide as Inter's anxiety mounted.

Milan Skriniar's strike deflected just wide of the far post, but Shakhtar could have snatched an opener on the break, with Mateus Tete's shot palmed away by Samir Handanovic and Maycon firing off target following up.

Substitute Alexis Sanchez nodded a great chance over in the closing stages and then rose to meet a corner but saw his powerful header hit Lukaku, which summed up Inter's night, and Trubin tipped over Christian Eriksen's drive as both sides bowed out.
 

While Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Porto have already secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages, some big names are in danger of a shock elimination.

After making history by leading Real Madrid to three straight Champions League titles during his first stint as head coach, Zinedine Zidane is on the verge of another first that could well place his future at the club in serious jeopardy.

Inter are also fighting for their future in the competition, as are Atletico Madrid and semi-finalists from the past two campaigns Ajax and Atalanta.

Ahead of what is sure to be a thrilling finale to the group stage, we take a look at the best stats courtesy of Opta.

 

Midtjylland v Liverpool: A first in reach for Reds

Jurgen Klopp's men are already guaranteed to finish top of Group D but victory over bottom side Midtjylland will see them register five wins in a single Champions League group stage for the first time.

Their form on matchday six in the competition is strong too. They have triumphed in each of their past three final group stage matches by an aggregate score of 10-0.

Taking three points would see the Reds become just the third Premier League side, after Chelsea in 2003-04 and Manchester United in 2010-11, to win all three of their away games in the group stage.

Should Caoimhin Kelleher be given another opportunity between the posts, he could become the first Liverpool goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in their first two Champions League starts.

Salzburg v Atletico Madrid: Shoot-out for progression

Atletico will be looking to avoid just a second exit at this stage in their eighth campaign in the competition under Diego Simeone.

They will need to be wary of Salzburg forward Mergim Berisha, who has scored four goals in as many Champions League starts for the club this season – only Erling Haaland (eight in 2019-20) has scored more for the Austrian side in a single campaign in Europe's premier club competition.

Enock Mwepu will be another threat for the visitors, having attempted six shots and created four chances in Salzburg's 3-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow last time out.

Ahead of matchday six, only two players had been directly involved in more shots in a Champions League game this season – Lionel Messi and Munir El Haddad played a part in 11 against Ferencvaros and Krasnodar respectively.

Real Madrid v Borussia Monchengladbach: Blancos on the brink

A win will see Zidane's struggling Madrid into the knockout rounds and avoid the ignominy of suffering their first Champions League group stage exit after 28 consecutive progressions.

The drop-off this season can be seen in the fact their defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk last time out was Madrid's fourth in their past seven matches in the competition – they only lost five of their first 39 Champions League games under Zidane (W25 D9).

Goals should be expected at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, with the previous five meetings between the teams seeing 20 goals scored with 10 apiece.

Gladbach just need to avoid defeat to advance and some game time for Alassane Plea would likely help them achieve that; he has been directly involved in eight goals (five scored, three assisted) in his five Champions League appearances at an average of one every 45 minutes.

Inter v Shakhtar Donetsk: Conte's San Siro woe

Failure to win against high-flying Shakhtar at San Siro will see Inter bow out at the group stage for a third consecutive season. Before this run, they had advanced from 11 of their 12 pool appearances (including the second group stage) in the competition.

Shakhtar may have beaten Madrid twice but they have a goal difference of minus seven; the only teams to have advanced with such a record after five games are Galatasaray in 2013-14 and Atalanta in 2019-20.

Inter will therefore be hoping Romelu Lukaku can help get them over the line. The Belgium striker has played a role in 17 goals in his 15 European matches for the Nerazzurri, including scoring a double in a 5-0 success over the Ukrainian side in last season's Europa League semi-final.

A strong performance from Lukaku would go a significant way to ensuring Antonio Conte does not become the first Inter coach to oversee a Champions League group stage campaign without a home win.

Other fixtures:

Ajax v Atalanta

2 - Ajax are unbeaten in their last seven games against Italian opponents in the Champions League, but five of these have ended in draws. They must win to reach the last 16.

4 - Atalanta went winless at home in the Champions League group stage this season (D2 L1), yet will qualify for the knockout rounds if they avoid defeat here. It will be just the fourth time a team has picked up as little as two points at home in a group stage and still qualified for the next round, after Roma in 2002-03 and Milan in both 2009-10 and 2012-13.

Bayern Munich v Lokomotiv Moscow

13 - Bayern drew 1-1 against Atletico in their most recent Champions League outing – the first time they failed to win in the competition under Hansi Flick after he oversaw 12 straight victories.

1 - Lokomotiv have drawn both of their away games in the Champions League this season and have never previously gone unbeaten away from home in a single season in the competition.

Manchester City v Marseille

16 – If City beat Marseille they will have accrued 16 points in the Champions League group stage this season, the joint-most of any English side in a single campaign along with Arsenal in 2005-06 (finalists), Manchester United in 2007-08 (winners), and Tottenham in 2017-18 (last 16).

8 - Marseille have lost each of their past seven away games in the Champions League and another defeat here would see them record their worst ever losing run on the road in the competition.

Olympiacos v Porto

100 - Olympiacos have won all three of their home Champions League matches against Porto, in three successive seasons between 1997 and 1999 – it is their best 100 per cent record on their own patch against any side in the competition.

4 - Porto have kept a clean sheet in four consecutive Champions League matches since conceding three goals away to Manchester City in October – the last side to record five or more consecutive shutouts in the competition was Juventus in 2016-17. Manchester City are also on a run of four.

Is a blockbuster swap deal on the horizon?

Paul Pogba is unhappy at Manchester United, and Juventus are believed to be keen on re-signing the Frenchman.

Juve's Paulo Dybala could be used as a makeweight to prise Pogba back to Turin, where he played between 2012 and 2016.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA OUT, POGBA IN AT JUVE?

Juventus want to swap Paulo Dybala for wantaway Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Tuttomercatoweb journalist Tancredi Palmeri.

Pogba appears set to leave United after his agent stated the star midfielder's time at Old Trafford was "over" prior to Tuesday's Champions League defeat to RB Leipzig.

The World Cup-winning France international has been heavily linked with a return to Juve, while LaLiga champions Real Madrid are long-term admirers.

But Juve – looking to re-sign Pogba without paying a transfer fee in January – hope to tempt United with attacker Dybala, who has also been linked to Inter, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Madrid are set to choose between Pogba and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga. Los Blancos head coach Zinedine Zidane prefers Pogba, while president Florentino Perez would rather Camavinga move to the Santiago Bernabeu due to the difference in salary demands. United and PSG are also believed to be eyeing Camavinga.

Juventus, Milan and Atletico Madrid are looking to sign Lazio's Joaquin Correa, reports Calciomercato. It will reportedly take between €50m-€55million to prise Correa away from the Italian capital.

- According to Calciomercato, Serie A duo Milan and Juve are battling Barcelona to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.

Antonio Conte has told Inter to "dig deep" and not worry about how Real Madrid get on as the tightest of all Champions League groups heads for a thrilling finale.

Inter looked "down and out", according to coach Conte, after they followed up draws with Shakhtar and Borussia Monchengladbach by losing home and away to Madrid.

But Zinedine Zidane's Spanish giants have since faltered, losing to Shakhtar last week, and Inter picked up a first win.

That has created an unusual situation where each of the four teams in Group B stand a chance of achieving the top-two finish required to advance to the knockout stage.

It means Wednesday's final round of games could see high drama. Should bottom side Inter beat Shakhtar, they will reach the last-16 stage providing Madrid lose at home to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Such a prospect cannot be written off, with Gladbach looking to hit back after a 3-2 defeat to Inter last week and Madrid on an inconsistent run of form.

"We need to focus on the facts. We have to win our match," Conte said.

"We have problems going into the game. We have issues with the starting XI, but we need to dig deep.

"Last week we were down and out, but now we are back in it. We have to win the game. That is what matters most. As for the rest, I am not worried."

Conte certainly does not expect Madrid to play with a plan to force the draw in their clash with Gladbach, even though that would see Zidane's men through if Inter beat Shakhtar.

"We are talking about the Champions League. We are not talking about a local pub tournament," Conte said, replying to a question floating that idea. "It is worrying if we hear these kinds of things such as teams only playing for a draw."

The encounter will be the third time Inter and Shakhtar have faced each other in 2020, with the first of those resulting in a 5-0 win for Conte’s side in the Europa League semi-finals.

The Nerazzurri will inevitably be looking to Romelu Lukaku to provide the big threat to Shakhtar, with the former Manchester United striker having been directly involved in 17 goals in his 15 matches in the Europa League and Champions League for Inter (13 goals, 4 assists).

The Belgian has four goals in four Champions League appearances this season, which is as many as he plundered in his previous 14 matches in the competition.

Those four goals have come from just 12 shots, with Lukaku converting three of his five opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances'.

Inter have midfield problems, with the likes of Matias Vecino, Radja Nainggolan and Arturo Vidal set to miss the crunch game.

Vidal was injured in the weekend Serie A win over Bologna, with Conte saying it would be "too risky" to play the former Barcelona man on Wednesday.

Shakhtar will be certain of going through should they win, and a draw may also be enough for the Ukrainians.

"We have only one option available. We will do our all to win," Conte said.

Mario Balotelli has signed a contract with Serie B club Monza for the remainder of the season.

The 30-year-old Italian striker had been a free agent since his contract with Brescia was terminated following their relegation from Serie A last season.

Balotelli had been training with Serie D side Franciacorta to maintain his fitness and was linked with a surprise move to Championship club Barnsley.

Monza are co-owned by Silvio Berlusconi, who was previously the owner of Milan between 1986 and 2017, where Balotelli also had two spells as a player.

Balotelli began his career with Lumezzane and also played for Milan's city rivals Inter as well as Manchester City, Liverpool, Nice and Marseille.

A statement from Monza, who are ninth in Serie B, said: "Mario Balotelli comes to reinforce Monza and has signed a contract until June 30, 2021.

"Balotelli is one of only seven footballers who from January 1, 2000, has scored at least 20 goals in three of the top five European Leagues. Welcome Mario!"

Balottelli has scored 14 goals for Italy and won the last of his 36 international caps against Poland in July 2018.

He has been given the number 45 shirt at Monza and could be in line to make his debut in their Serie B clash away at Venezia on Friday.

A new deal for Bruno Fernandes already?

Manchester United brought Fernandes to Old Trafford in January, and he has taken the Premier League by storm.

With reported interest from Spain, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side want to reward Fernandes.

 

TOP STORY – FERNANDES SET FOR NEW DEAL

Manchester United are set to offer Bruno Fernandes a new bumper deal to fend off interest from Barcelona and LaLiga champions Real Madrid, according to the Mirror.

Fernandes has been a revelation since joining United from Portuguese giants Sporting CP in January – the star midfielder has been directly involved in 36 goals in 38 games across all competitions, five more than any other Premier league player in this period.

With Fernandes dominating, United are prepared to double the Portugal international's wages at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Manchester City could sign both Lionel Messi and Neymar. Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar wants to reunite with Messi, while the Barcelona superstar is unhappy at Camp Nou. PSG have also been linked to Messi and any move would impact the future of Kylian Mbappe, who is reportedly wanted by Madrid and Liverpool.

- Calciomercato claims Bayern Munich star David Alaba will cost Juventus around €15million. Alaba is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and he has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barca, PSG, Chelsea and City.

Milan are chasing Hellas Verona centre-back Matteo Lovato, says Calciomercato. Inter and Juve have also been credited with interest in the 20-year-old.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte compared Romelu Lukaku to an NFL quarterback, while he also hailed two-goal hero Achraf Hakimi following Saturday's 3-1 win over Bologna.

Conte's Inter closed the gap on Serie A leaders and city rivals Milan to two points thanks to Lukaku and full-back Hakimi at San Siro.

Inter star Lukaku broke the deadlock in the 16th minute before Hakimi doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Emanuel Vignato's 67th-minute goal threatened to make things tense for Inter, but Hakimi's second wrapped up proceedings as the Nerazzurri took their tally to 26 goals in the first 10 Serie A games of the season for the first time since 2009-10.

Conte heaped praise on in-form forward Lukaku, who has scored eight goals in his first nine league appearances this term – the Belgium international has scored more than seven goals before the 11th match of the season for the first time in his career.

Lukaku has also scored in all of his first four home appearances in Serie A in 2020-21, joining Christian Vieri as the only Inter players to achieve the feat in the league's three-point-win era.

"I believe he can still get stronger," Conte told DAZN. "I described him as a rough diamond when he arrived and felt that work would help him become one of the best strikers in the world.

"He is on the right track, as he has everything, the physicality of a centre-forward, but also the pace and power of an American Football quarterback.

"He is doing well, has understood what needs to be done, is humble and works for the team. I am very happy with him."

Hakimi, who arrived from LaLiga champions Real Madrid ahead of the current campaign following two successful seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund, became the only Serie A defender this term to score at least two goals and provide two assists.

"This lad is 20 years old and had just two seasons at Dortmund, where they play a much less tactical style of football. Haki is working hard, he has realised the difference between playing in Italy and Germany, where the opponents don't study you as much, where they don't identify your characteristics as precisely," Conte added.

"I think he is in the right team and with the right coach to become one of the best in the world in his role. It will require a lot of work, but I'm very happy, because this type of performance will boost his confidence, whereas errors in the past might've dented his self-belief.

"He needs a balance, it's going to be a process and I am glad he got this personal satisfaction of a brace."

Christian Eriksen, who is out of favour and heading for a January exit just a year after swapping Tottenham for Inter, was a stoppage-time substitute against Bologna.

"My rapport with Christian is the same as all the other players. I will never tire of explaining that what I do and the choices I make are for the good of Inter," Conte.

"The last thing I do is look at the face of the player, it's about everything else. Eriksen is working and he is at our disposal."

Inter closed the gap on Serie A leaders Milan as Achraf Hakimi scored twice to help Antonio Conte's team to a 3-1 victory over Bologna.

With Milan not playing until Sunday, Inter took the chance to move to within two points of their city rivals as they claimed a third straight league win.

Romelu Lukaku got the ball rolling with his 12th goal of the season in all competitions, before Marcelo Brozovic's sublime pass played in Hakimi for a second.

Emanuel Vignato's 67th-minute goal threatened to make things tense for Inter, but Hakimi's second – a fine finish at the culmination of a fantastic run infield – wrapped things up.

Inter's early dominance told 16 minutes in when, having initially missed his attempted volley from Ivan Perisic's cross, Lukaku reacted sharply to curl a finish into the top-left corner, with covering defender Danilo only able to help it in.

Lukaku should have doubled Inter's tally just after the half-hour, but a heavy touch allowed Lukasz Skorupski to make a brave stop.

Inter did get their second on the stroke of half-time, however – Hakimi cruising in behind Bologna's defence and coolly side-footing in his second Serie A goal after latching onto Brozovic's inch-perfect pass.

Another chance went begging for Lukaku after the restart, the Belgian just failing to sweep home after Alessandro Bastoni had flicked on Brozovic's cross.

Lukaku turned provider when he teed up Alexis Sanchez, but Skorupski once more stood firm in a one-on-one.

Bologna's goalkeeper rushed out to deny Lukaku again on the hour and Sinisa Mihajlovic's side – looking to win consecutive Serie A games against Inter for the first time since 1999 – made it count when Vignato lashed in from close range.

Yet the contest was all but settled three minutes later as Hakimi cut in on his left foot and drilled in a low finish that Skorupski failed to get enough on.

Lionel Messi reportedly remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi, 33, is contracted at Barcelona until the end of the season, having stayed at the club after sensationally requesting to leave earlier this year.

With uncertainty still surrounding his future, the Barcelona star is apparently wanted by PSG.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EXPLORING POSSIBILITY OF SIGNING MESSI

PSG are exploring the possibility of signing Barcelona star Messi, according to ESPN.

Along with Manchester City and Inter, PSG have been among the clubs most heavily linked with a move for the Argentina international.

The report says Neymar and sporting director Leonardo have discussed bringing Messi to PSG.

It comes just days after Neymar said he wanted to play with Messi again and was keen for it to happen "next season".

 

ROUND-UP

- Still linked with Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Manchester United could look elsewhere. The Sun reports United are eyeing Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes as a possible alternative.

- Staying at Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been under some pressure. Bild reports the Premier League giants are interested in PSG coach Thomas Tuchel if they decide to sack Solskjaer.

- With Christian Eriksen seemingly set for an exit, Inter are considering their midfield transfer targets. CalcioMercato reports Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante remains Inter's dream signing, but Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum is also an option with his contract expiring at the end of the season. However, the report also says Inter could challenge Liverpool for the signing of Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Yves Bissouma.

- Also at Liverpool, the Premier League champions are reportedly still eyeing a centre-back amid their injury woes. Bild reports RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is on their list, as is his 21-year-old team-mate Ibrahima Konate.

- Atlanta United could be close to appointing a new coach. TyC Sports says former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze, most recently in charge of Velez Sarsfield, is a step away from taking over at the MLS club.

Neymar has sparked speculation over Lionel Messi's future.

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar enjoyed a successful period alongside Messi at Barcelona before leaving in a world-record deal in 2017.

Now, Neymar wants to team up with Messi again.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, MESSI IN?

Paris Saint-Germain will have to sell Kylian Mbappe if they sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to Diario AS.

Messi has been linked with a move to Ligue 1 champions PSG after former Barca forward Neymar expressed his desire to reunite with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

If Manchester City target Messi arrives in the French capital, it could send Mbappe closer to LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has not ruled leaving the Spanish giants, reports El Transistor. Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with PSG, Juventus, Milan and Manchester United.

Mauricio Pochettino has been contacted by Madrid to replace under-fire head coach Zinedine Zidane, claims Sport. Pochettino, who has been out of work since he was sacked as Tottenham boss last year, has also been linked to United.

- Diario AS says Atletico Madrid are lining up a January bid for Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik. The Poland international has been frozen out since making it clear he will not re-sign with the Serie A side. Tottenham, Everton and Roma have also emerged as possible destinations.

Romelu Lukaku is on Pep Guardiola's shortlist of forwards at City but Inter insist the Belgian star is non-transferable, according to Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports Chelsea's plan to sign West Ham midfielder Declan Rice rests on the success of off-season recruit Ben Chilwell.

Arsenal and Tottenham are reportedly lining up moves for Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai, while three Premier League giants are monitoring Ben White.

Szoboszlai, 20, has been linked with a move from Salzburg after starring for the Austrian club.

And several European heavyweights are eyeing the Hungary international.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, TOTTENHAM PUSH FOR SZOBOSZLAI

Arsenal and Tottenham are ready to push to sign Salzburg star Szoboszlai, according to Eurosport.

But the report says RB Leipzig look likely to win the battle to sign the star, despite interest also coming from Milan and Atletico Madrid.

Contracted until 2022, an offer of around €20million will reportedly be enough.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea are monitoring Brighton and Hove Albion defender White, according to Sky Sports. Liverpool have also been linked with the 23-year-old previously.

- Eyeing a defender in January amid an injury crisis, Barcelona have two targets in the Premier League. Mundo Deportivo reports Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi and Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger are among the players on Barca's list.

- After starring for Inter, Milan Skriniar is linked with a move. Football Insider reports Tottenham are still keeping tabs on the defender.

- Other Premier League giants could also be set for a transfer fight. The Daily Star reports Manchester United and Chelsea are facing a battle with Manchester City to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria.

- Set to re-sign with Ajax, Nicolas Tagliafico could still be on the move. The Daily Mail reports the Manchester City and Leicester City target will still be allowed to leave the Eredivisie giants if a suitable offer arrives, despite re-signing.

- Catching the eye with Cagliari, Nahitan Nandez is being targeted by Roma and Napoli, according to CalcioMercato.

Antonio Conte hailed Inter's "spirit" as they kept alive their chances of progressing in the Champions League with a pulsating 3-2 win away at Borussia Monchengladbach.  

Inter put aside the disappointment of failing to win any of their first four Group B matches to edge past Gladbach, who could have sealed their own qualification for the knockout stages with a win on home turf.  

Matteo Darmian put the Serie A side ahead with his first goal for the club before Alassane Plea pulled the hosts level on the stroke of half-time.  

Lukaku then scored two fine goals to put Inter 3-1 up and despite Plea's second 15 minutes from time, Inter held on to ensure they go into the final round of fixtures next week with something to play for.  

They will need to beat Shakhtar Donetsk and hope Gladbach do them a favour against Real Madrid, who lost for a second time this season to the Ukrainian side in the early kick-off on Tuesday.  

Inter were good value for the win too, carving out 15 shots on goal to Gladbach's 10, and Conte revealed a supportive team talk at half-time was crucial to their success.

"Gladbach are in an excellent period of form, in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League," Conte told Sky Sport Italia. "If you are not a team, tactically, physically, in terms of character, you don't come here and win. 

"We absolutely deserved to win and could've frankly avoided suffering quite so much towards the end. We beat the group leaders and we are alive.  

"I thank the lads; they had the right spirit. When they have this desire to help each other out and be a real team, we cause problems for the opposition. 

"What I ask of the lads is to increase their level of responsibility, each and every one, because if they all do that, then we can become an ambitious side. 

"Performances like this prove the team is there, we are united, we're all working in the same direction and want to give our fans joy. 

"Conceding that equaliser on the stroke of half-time against the run of play could've killed us. We analysed some situations during the break, as we made some mistakes towards half-time, but these lads needed my support at that moment.  

"I told them we had to keep going and rediscover the quality we had early in the game and that we'd be rewarded with the victory. 

"I am glad that I was proved right, because when a coach talks and those things don't happen, you risk losing their trust!" 

Lukaku's double means he has now scored 12 goals in European competitions over the past two seasons, a tally only bettered by Robert Lewandowski (18) and Erling Haaland (16).  

The Belgian, who scored with his only attempts on target, joined Inter in a big-money move from Manchester United in August 2019 and says his time in Italy has been the most enjoyable of his career so far. 

"I am one of the 25 players," he said. "There are far more experienced players here than me. I want to help the team to win, that's what I do in every training session and every match. I want to help Inter. 

"I am so happy to be here with these lads. I've had the best year-and-a-half of my career at Inter, so I thank the coach, his staff and my team-mates." 

Inter take on Bologna in Serie A this weekend before their crunch clash with Shakhtar in Europe.

Antonio Conte hailed Inter's "spirit" as they kept alive their chances of progressing in the Champions League with a pulsating 3-2 win away at Borussia Monchengladbach.  

Inter put aside the disappointment of failing to win any of their first four Group B matches to edge past Gladbach, who could have sealed their own qualification for the knockout stages with a win on home turf.  

Matteo Darmian put the Serie A side ahead with his first goal for the club before Alassane Plea pulled the hosts level on the stroke of half-time.  

Lukaku then scored two fine goals to put Inter 3-1 up and despite Plea's second 15 minutes from time, Inter held on to ensure they go into the final round of fixtures next week with something to play for.  

They will need to beat Shakhtar Donetsk and hope Gladbach do them a favour against Real Madrid, who lost for a second time this season to the Ukrainian side in the early kick-off on Tuesday.  

Inter were good value for the win too, carving out 15 shots on goal to Gladbach's 10, and Conte revealed a supportive team talk at half-time was crucial to their success.

"Gladbach are in an excellent period of form, in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League," Conte told Sky Sport Italia. "If you are not a team, tactically, physically, in terms of character, you don't come here and win. 

"We absolutely deserved to win and could've frankly avoided suffering quite so much towards the end. We beat the group leaders and we are alive.  

"I thank the lads; they had the right spirit. When they have this desire to help each other out and be a real team, we cause problems for the opposition. 

"What I ask of the lads is to increase their level of responsibility, each and every one, because if they all do that, then we can become an ambitious side. 

"Performances like this prove the team is there, we are united, we're all working in the same direction and want to give our fans joy. 

"Conceding that equaliser on the stroke of half-time against the run of play could've killed us. We analysed some situations during the break, as we made some mistakes towards half-time, but these lads needed my support at that moment.  

"I told them we had to keep going and rediscover the quality we had early in the game and that we'd be rewarded with the victory. 

"I am glad that I was proved right, because when a coach talks and those things don't happen, you risk losing their trust!" 

Lukaku's double means he has now scored 12 goals in European competitions over the past two seasons, a tally only bettered by Robert Lewandowski (18) and Erling Haaland (16).  

The Belgian, who scored with his only attempts on target, joined Inter in a big-money move from Manchester United in August 2019 and says his time in Italy has been the most enjoyable of his career so far. 

"I am one of the 25 players," he said. "There are far more experienced players here than me. I want to help the team to win, that's what I do in every training session and every match. I want to help Inter. 

"I am so happy to be here with these lads. I've had the best year-and-a-half of my career at Inter, so I thank the coach, his staff and my team-mates." 

Inter take on Bologna in Serie A this weekend before their crunch clash with Shakhtar in Europe.

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