Lucas Hernandez is determined to prove his worth for both club and country as the Bayern Munich defender aims to hold off competition, including potentially from his own brother, to remain a regular for France.  

Hernandez suffered knee and ankle injuries in his first year at Bayern, though he has by no means been a regular this season when available for head coach Hansi Flick.  

The 25-year-old has made 17 Bundesliga appearances – 12 of which have been starts – and also eight outings in the Champions League, helping the German club reach the quarter-final stage in Europe.  

He started at left-back for Les Bleus on Wednesday, the reigning world champions opening their qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022 with a 1-1 home draw against Ukraine.  

"Yes, of course. I'm someone who always wants to play," Hernandez - who joined Bayern from Atletico Madrid in June 2019 - told the media on Thursday.  

"I was injured a lot last year but this year the injuries have left me alone. I played, I wanted to restore confidence to the club that bought me two years ago. There were times when I was frustrated, angry when I was on the bench.   

"At Bayern, the competition is very strong. I had times when I played less, but I still have confidence in myself, I have always worked in training.  

"There is also a lot of competition in the France team too, we are always in danger. It's up to me to hang on."

Hernandez was a reliable option for France boss Didier Deschamps in the successful World Cup campaign in Russia in 2018, though appreciates he cannot just take his place for granted.  

Younger sibling Theo is one of those hoping to force his way in. The 23-year-old has yet to make his debut for the senior team but is excelling at Milan, contributing five goals and six assists this season.  

He has created 45 chances in total in the 2020-21 campaign, putting him behind only Hakan Calhanoglu for Stefano Pioli's squad. His tackle success rate, meanwhile, sits at 64.1 per cent.  

"At the moment offensively, he is very strong," Lucas said of Theo. "He has this confidence to take the ball and break through the lines easily. He is having a very good season.   

"It was already the case last year; I hope that one day he can be here [with the France squad]. It is not for me to choose that. It is not my choice.   

"In previous years, when he was at Real Madrid or Real Sociedad, he had a little more trouble. But since he has been in Milan, he is confident – and it shows in the stats, with assists and goals. He's very offensive. 

"He's my brother, I have that family feeling. He's a very good player, I like him a lot. I hope he can be here one day."

There was not the gulf some might have anticipated at Old Trafford last week as Manchester United welcomed an injury-hit Milan side.

Four days on from a superb win at rivals Manchester City, United came within two minutes of another big result and a 1-0 lead to take to San Siro, but it was an advantage they scarcely deserved.

A moment of ingenuity from Amad Diallo, heading his first United goal from an excellent Bruno Fernandes pass, had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in front.

At the other end, without Theo Hernandez, Hakan Calhanoglu and, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan repeatedly threatened but lacked the same quality. They had 15 attempts - worth just 1.0 expected non-penalty goals (xG) - and only scored with the last of them, when Simon Kjaer's close-range header evaded the clutches of Dean Henderson.

That away goal sets up an intriguing second leg in which United must now score, although they might have put this Europa League last-16 tie beyond Milan prior to Kjaer's equaliser.

As the Rossoneri fashioned only one 'big chance', from which Opta would expect them to score, United had two from just seven shots. Harry Maguire somehow hit the post and Daniel James stabbed wide, chances that contributed heavily to a superior xG total of 1.4.

Those misses may well prove costly when the tie continues at San Siro on Thursday.

Hernandez and Calhanoglu returned to the Milan XI against Napoli on Sunday and are set to be joined against United by the team's talisman.

In the week his return to the international stage for Sweden at Euro 2020 was confirmed, Ibrahimovic will enjoy another reunion, fit to play some part against his former club.

"His return is important," head coach Stefano Pioli said of Ibrahimovic, who has been out since February with a thigh injury. "He will not be able to have 90 minutes in his legs and tomorrow we will see what to do."

United were hanging on against short-handed opponents, restricted to just 41.2 per cent of the possession in the final 15 minutes, 36.4 per cent of which played out in the home side's own third. It was an encounter that should give Milan huge confidence now Hernandez, Calhanoglu and Ibrahimovic are available.

For all their exciting build-up play, the final pass was missing in Manchester. That cutting edge is returning in Milan.

Among Serie A defenders this season, Hernandez ranks joint-third for goals (five), joint-fourth for assists (six) and fourth for chances created (45) in all competitions. He is seventh across all players in the division for expected assists from open play (xG - 3.9) in league action.

Hakan Calhanoglu's numbers are even more impressive. He has created 99 chances in all competitions this term, second only to opposite number Fernandes (107) across Europe's 'top five' leagues.

Having failed to handle Kjaer and Co. from set-pieces last week, United have reason to fear Calhanoglu's delivery. No player can top the 51 opportunities he has forged from set plays. Five of his 10 assists have come from such scenarios.

Crucially, too, of course, Calhanoglu will have a 39-year-old Swede to look for, a focal point also absent last time out.

Rafael Leao played up front for 90 minutes and attempted only a single shot, having four touches in the United box. Ibrahimovic this season averages 4.8 shots and 8.5 touches in the opposition area per 90 minutes.

His xG rate is the highest in Serie A among those to play 500 minutes or more, at 0.8 per 90, and he usually takes those chances, too. With 16 goals from 80 attempts in all competitions, he scores one in five.

Maguire and James were wasteful in the first leg; it seems unlikely Ibrahimovic, always one for the big stage, will be similarly so.

If Milan can dictate the play again this week, they have the attacking talent to settle this tie.

Ante Rebic, Rade Krunic and Theo Hernandez have been cleared to return to action for Milan.

It was confirmed prior to Milan's game with Juventus on January 6 that Rebic and Krunic had tested positive for coronavirus and they have not played since.

Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu returned positive results from tests administered last Saturday, ruling them out of the game with Cagliari on Monday.

However, Milan revealed on Thursday that Hernandez's result was a "false positive", while Rebic and Kurnic have now tested negative.

A club statement read: "Milan announces that both Ante Rebic and Rade Krunic underwent a molecular swab test with negative results and this morning had the medical exams required to resume professional activity.

"Further examinations have shown that Theo Hernandez was a 'false positive'. The documentation has been provided to the health authorities and the player can now resume training."

Milan sit top of Serie A with a three-point advantage over local rivals Inter, who they face in the Coppa Italia next week.

Before that, though, they entertain Atalanta in a league clash at San Siro on Saturday.

Stefano Pioli confirmed Milan will consider adding further to their squad in January amid speculation Mario Mandzukic is set to join the club.

Mandzukic – who previously played in Serie A with Juventus – is a free agent after terminating his contract with Al-Duhail by mutual consent in July.

The Rossoneri are reportedly going to sign the Croatian striker on an 18-month deal, boosting their forward options as they look to maintain their push to win the league for the first time in a decade.

Pioli was not willing to discuss individual names at his pre-match news conference ahead of Monday's trip to Cagliari but did admit the club are ready to act if the right player becomes available.

"I don't want to and cannot comment on players that I don't have," he told the media. "I have a lot of confidence in the club and the management team. I leave that task to them.

"We know that if there is the possibility of strengthening the team, we will do it. We will be ready in January if there is the possibility of improving this group." 

Milan have already made one signing in the mid-season transfer window, midfielder Soualiho Meite arriving on loan from Torino.

"Meite makes a department that already had good solidity even more competitive," Pioli said of the new recruit.

"I really liked the move. We have combined quality and quantity. I also liked how he spoke, saying he was ambitious. To join our group, you have to be like that."

The Serie A leaders head to Cagliari without Hakan Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez, both players currently isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.

Pioli admits it is a blow to be without the influential duo – they are also set to miss next Saturday's home fixture with Atalanta – but is confident he has the quality within his squad to cope with such situations during the course of the season.

"They are important absences, but this season is like that," the Milan boss said. "There are critical issues that can come at any moment, so we must always be prepared and attentive.

"The quality of the players that I will have available tomorrow will certainly make us have a good match.

"We are prepared, that's why I expect the players to always be ready. We can all be decisive and help the team."

Milan have announced Hakan Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez have tested positive for COVID-19.

The two cases were discovered following swab tests carried out on Saturday, with the club immediately informing the health authorities upon learning the results.

Both players are asymptomatic and the rest of the squad tested negative, Milan confirmed in a statement released on Sunday.

Calhanoglu and Hernandez are now isolating at home, leaving Milan without the duo for some key fixtures coming up in January.

The Serie A leaders - who have lost just once in league action this season so far - visit Cagliari on Monday, then host Atalanta at San Siro next Saturday.

There is also a Coppa Italia quarter-final clash with rivals Inter looming on the horizon, that tie due to be played on January 25. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival at Milan last year "was a godsend" that helped transform the club, according to head coach Stefano Pioli.

The ex-Sweden international returned to San Siro for a second permanent spell with the Italian giants roughly a year ago, making his second debut as a substitute against Sampdoria on January 6.

He has been in sensational form since then, scoring 20 and assisting six goals in 24 Serie A matches in 2020, a tally bettered only by Ciro Immobile (34 goal involvements in 33 games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (38 in 29).

Ibrahimovic's haul includes a return of 10 goals in six league matches in the first half of this season, two of those strikes coming in Milan's 3-1 win over Napoli in November before he limped off with an injury that has kept him sidelined since.

That double saw him match Gunnar Nordahl for the second-most Serie A goals from the first eight games played of a season, behind only Marco van Basten (12 in 1992-93).

Ibrahimovic is also the oldest player to net at least 10 goals in the first eight Serie A matchdays, and Pioli has hailed the veteran striker's impact over the past 12 months.

"When he arrived, we knew it was a delicate moment, it was a godsend, it gave a shock and energy that the team did not have at that moment," Pioli said at a news conference previewing Sunday's trip to Benevento. 

"The January transfer market has given us a hand in the past. But let's think about the match against Benevento."

As well as struggling with niggling injuries, Ibrahimovic has also spent a spell on the sidelines this term with coronavirus.

Milan have fared well in the 39-year-old's absence, however, winning six and drawing two of the eight Serie A matches he has missed for a 75 per cent win rate, compared to 66.7 per cent across the six games he has started.

But while Pioli is unwilling to rush Ibrahimovic's return, he is understandably eager to get one of his key men back on the field.

"He can't wait to get back, but we need caution," he said. "I hope he can come back as soon as possible."

Another key performer for Serie A table-toppers Milan this season has been full-back Theo Hernandez, who has chipped in with three goals and an assist in his past three outings.

Hernandez was directly involved in 11 league goals – six scored and five assisted – in 2020 and also completed the most successful dribbles in the competition (57).

That includes a last-gasp winner against Lazio last time out, though Pioli can see the former Real Madrid man getting better with time.

"He has played for [Real] Madrid and has incredible potential," Pioli said. "With work, he is improving day by day, proving to be at a high level. 

"But he can still improve in both phases of the game."

The past 12 months saw another Juventus title in Serie A, but 2020 comes to a close with Milan back in the trophy hunt at the top of the table.

Although the Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011, they lead the way through 14 matches heading into the new year.

Rivals Inter are a point further back, while Juve are back in sixth after losing their unbeaten record last time out against Fiorentina.

To mark the end of an intriguing year, Opta calculated a 'Top XI' for Serie A in 2020, including a host of big names - but notably missing one superstar.

GOALKEEPER: MARCO SILVESTRI

Hellas Verona have conceded just 14 goals so far this season and, across the year as a whole, Silvestri saved 74 per cent of the shots he faced, trailing only Juan Musso among keepers with at least 10 appearances.

DEFENDER: JUAN CUADRADO

Juventus' converted winger Cuadrado continues to display his attacking qualities from right-back. Among all defenders in 2020, he played the most passes into the opposition half (1,044) and trailed only Cristiano Biraghi (eight) for assists with a haul of seven.

DEFENDER: MATTHIJS DE LIGT

Lining up next to his Bianconeri team-mate, De Ligt has played a huge role in Juve's continued success. They won 65 per cent of their Serie A matches and conceded 1.0 goals per game with the Dutchman in the side in 2020, coming out on top just 36 per cent of the time while conceding 1.4 goals on average when he was missing.

DEFENDER: FRANCESCO ACERBI

Lazio's form has fallen away a little this season, but Acerbi is certainly not to blame. He recovered the ball 177 times in the league in 2020; Rafael Toloi (179) was the only centre-back to do so on more occasions.

DEFENDER: THEO HERNANDEZ

The first Milan entry unsurprisingly belongs to left-back Hernandez. He was directly involved in 11 goals (six goals, five assists) in 2020 and also completed the most successful dribbles in the competition (57).

MIDFIELDER: RODRIGO DE PAUL

De Paul has been linked with a host of clubs, including Inter, where another player in this list would surely thrive on his service. The Udinese midfielder played more accurate crosses (36) than anyone else in Serie A this year.

MIDFIELDER: FRANCK KESSIE

A key part of Milan's climb up the table, Kessie has been a dominant force in the middle of midfield. He recovered the ball 246 times in 2020, the most of any outfield player in the league.

MIDFIELDER: HAKAN CALHANOGLU

Once Kessie wins the ball, it is over to Calhanoglu to get Milan on the attack. He created 99 chances and provided 14 assists in 2020, both league highs.

FORWARD: ALEJANDRO GOMEZ

Talisman Papu Gomez looks set to leave Atalanta in January but starred again in what may prove to be his final full year in Bergamo. Complementing his creative talents, he led the press by winning possession 28 times in the final third of the pitch - ranking third in this regard.

FORWARD: ROMELU LUKAKU

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been outstanding back at Milan, but he does not make the cut. Nor does Ciro Immobile. It is Inter striker Lukaku who leads the line after scoring 22 times in 2020, the most of any player to attempt fewer than 100 shots. Sixteen were from open play, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Immobile (both 17).

FORWARD: CRISTIANO RONALDO

Who else? Aged 35, Ronaldo scored 33 times in the league for Juve in 2020. Only Felice Borel (41 in 1933) and Gunnar Nordahl (36 in 1950) have ever topped that mark in Serie A.

Not content just to lead the Italian top flight, Ronaldo has the edge over Robert Lewandowski (32) across Europe's 'top five' leagues heading into the final matches of 2020. He scored the most goals across the continent in five calendar years between 2011 and 2019.

It has been a year like no other, but football eventually managed to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic and give fans across the world something positive to focus on.

Ligue 1 was curtailed and a streamlined version of the Champions League knockout rounds took place in Lisbon in August, before a new season got under way.

There have still been plenty of performances to savour, though, and Stats Perform News has used Opta data to calculate a Team of the Year from the top five European leagues.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi made the grade in 2020 but the same could not be said of Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe earned a spot that his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar could not.

Supporters of Premier League clubs may not be rejoicing about the selections, which were made based solely on data.

 

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico lead the way in LaLiga on goal difference and have two games in hand on nearest rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone's side owe much of their success to Oblak, who has kept 17 clean sheets in 33 LaLiga appearances this year – the most of any keeper in the division during the same period.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)

Juve won a ninth straight Scudetto this year and Cuadrado has played an important role throughout 2020, creating 45 chances (including seven assists) for the Bianconeri in Serie A – only Paulo Dybala (56) supplied more key passes for the club.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Bayern Munich may be the dominant force in the Bundesliga, but Hummels has continued to show his worth since returning to Dortmund. He made the most interceptions (57) and completed the most passes (2,056) of any Bundesliga defender in 2020.

Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

France international Upamecano is one of the hottest properties in European football and has been linked with a host of elite clubs. He shows great coolness in possession – as evidenced by him completing 24 of the 33 dribbles he attempted for a success rate of 73 per cent, the best of any Bundesliga defender to try at least 30.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez (Milan)

While Upamecano has established himself with Les Bleus, Hernandez's continued absence from the France set-up despite stellar showings for a resurgent Milan remains a source of much debate. The Rossoneri will end the year top of Serie A and Hernandez has been directly involved in 102 shots (46 chances created, 56 attempts on goal) in the league in 2020. That is more than any other defender in the same period.

Centre midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Kimmich's looping goal against Dortmund at the back end of last season was pivotal to Bayern retaining their German league title, which came as part of a treble. It has been the Germany international's distribution that has stood out this year, though. He completed an average of 75 passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga in 2020, the most of any midfielder in the competition to feature for at least 1,000 minutes.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Madrid regained the title in LaLiga in 2020, with Kroos a central figure in Zinedine Zidane's midfield. Of all players who attempted at least 1,000 passes in the opposition half in the Spanish top flight this year, Kroos was the only one who had a completion rate higher than 90 per cent.

Right wing: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

This year may have proved to be terminal to Messi's tight relationship with Barcelona, and while he was not quite up to his previous goalscoring exploits he still proved massively influential in the final third. He was the only player in LaLiga in 2020 to both score at least 15 goals and register as many assists.

Attacking midfield: Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

His time with Atalanta may seemingly be coming to an end after a falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Gomez has been one of the club's most important players. He had more assists (12) and created more chances (81) in Serie A this year than any of his team-mates.

Left wing: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG were crowned Ligue 1 champions despite the season being cut short in April, meaning they have played just 26 games this year. Mbappe only featured in 21 of those, but he was still directly involved in 24 goals (19 scored, five assisted) which was more than any other player in the competition in 2020.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was no surprise to see Lewandowski named The Best FIFA Men's Player after an incredible campaign with Bayern. He scored 32 Bundesliga goals in 26 appearances this year and only five of them were spot-kicks. His tally of 27 non-penalty goals was the most of any player in the top five European leagues.

Milan maintained ensured they will end 2020 atop Serie A as Theo Hernandez's stoppage-time goal secured a 3-2 win over Lazio at San Siro on Wednesday.

Stefano Pioli's side wasted little time stamping their authority on the game, racing into a two-goal lead inside 17 minutes courtesy of Ante Rebic's header and Hakan Calhanoglu's penalty.

Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile – who had a spot-kick saved prior to the Spaniard's goal – restored parity by finding the net either side of the interval, but Hernandez powered home from a corner in the 92nd minute to dramatically seal the three points for the Rossoneri.

The result restored Milan's one-point lead at the Serie A summit after neighbours Inter had temporarily leapfrogged them following a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona earlier in the day.

 

Theo Hernandez struck twice as Milan recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Parma and keep their unbeaten start to the Serie A season intact.

The hosts looked to be heading for a first defeat in 23 league outings - and a first in 11 games this term - after Hernani and Jasmin Kurtic had put Parma in control.

But Milan showed exactly why they are top thanks to a couple of goals from Hernandez - the equaliser in the 91st minute - as they dug deep in Sunday's clash at San Siro.

The point was the least Stefano Pioli's men deserved, having hit the frame of the goal four times - Hakan Calhanoglu responsible for three of those - and had a strike disallowed between the visitors' two goals.

Milan extended their 100 per cent start to the Serie A season with a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Spezia at San Siro on Sunday. 

Six players kept their places after Thursday's penalty shoot-out win over Rio Ave in the Europa League, and a lack of freshness was apparent in the first half, with Milan struggling to break down their less illustrious opponents. 

They looked sharper at the start of the second period, though, and duly went ahead shortly before the hour mark when Rafael Leao prodded home from close range. 

Theo Hernandez added a second in the 76th minute before Leao made sure of all three points with another predatory strike two minutes later, as Milan made it three wins from three.

After a largely dismal opening period, the game burst into life on the stroke of half-time. 

First, Alexis Saelemaekers blazed over from 15 yards after being teed up by Davide Calabria, while at the other end Gianluigi Donnarumma pawed away Daniele Verde's powerful strike. 

Milan belatedly woke from their slumber at the start of the second period and were rewarded with the opener 12 minutes after the resumption when Leao stole in at the back post to stab home Hakan Calhanoglu's teasing free-kick. 

Donnarumma made a smart stop from Kevin Agudelo before Hernandez doubled Milan's advantage, the French full-back racing forward from just inside the opposition half and drilling past Rafael from 15 yards. 

That knocked the stuffing out of Spezia and Milan added a third shortly after when Leao met Franck Kessie's headed knock-down with a simple finish inside the six-yard box to wrap up an ultimately routine win. 

There was a predictable champion at the end of the 2019-20 Serie A campaign as Juventus clinched a ninth successive Scudetto, and their success is reflected in Opta's Team of the Season. 

Although Juve finished 2019-20 just a point ahead of second-placed Inter, they had wrapped up the title with two games to go – beating Sampdoria 2-0 on July 26.

Cristiano Ronaldo was unsurprisingly key, finishing as his team's top scorer, but for much of the season there were a few sides that looked like they might push Juve all the way.

Inter, Atalanta and Lazio all had their moments where they were able to dream and they each had individuals who impressed.

Following the conclusion on the campaign on Sunday, we teamed up with Opta to outline the Serie A Team of the Season.

OPTA'S SERIE A TEAM OF THE SEASON

GK: Wojciech Szczesny, Juventus

Poland international Szczesny has come a long way since struggling in the latter part of his Arsenal career. He was once again a dependable option between the posts, remaining first choice despite the return of Gianluigi Buffon. He ended the season with a 74.4 per cent save success rate, the best of the Serie A goalkeepers to have played 20 or more times.

RB: Juan Cuadrado, Juventus

Hardly the most convincing of defenders, granted, but Cuadrado boasts the versatility to play in a few roles down the right flank and he became an important figure for Maurizio Sarri – his 28 Serie A starts is just one fewer than he managed in the previous two seasons combined. The Colombian was certainly influential, too, as he was involved in more open-play sequences that ended with a shot made by someone else (132) than any other player this term. He also chipped in with two goals and five assists.

CB: Stefan de Vrij, Inter

No team conceded fewer goals in Serie A this season than an Inter side that Antonio Conte ensured was well-drilled. Netherlands centre-back De Vrij played a major role in that as he featured 34 times – though his efforts were not notable just for his defensive effectiveness. The former Feyenoord man scored three goals and also set up another three, making him the most productive centre-back in the league in this regard.

CB: Francesco Acerbi, Lazio

After Inter, the next-best defensive unit in Serie A was Lazio, who let in 42 (six more than Conte's men). Acerbi missed just two games all season and his form at the start of the season also saw him make three starts for Italy. The 32-year-old has proven himself to be one of Serie A's best stoppers, as evidenced by the fact he was dribbled past just six times this term. No other outfield player with more than 35 appearances did better than that.

LB: Theo Hernandez, Milan

Former France youth international Hernandez has rediscovered the early promise he showed during a fine loan spell at Deportivo Alaves in 2016-17. While question marks remain over his defensive abilities, the Atletico Madrid youth product has excited with his attacking tendencies in 2019-20. No defender completed more dribbles (57) than him, while he also had a hand in nine goals (six goals, three assists).

CM: Luis Alberto, Lazio

Since leaving Liverpool for Rome in 2016, Luis Alberto has arguably developed into one of the world's best creative midfielders. The Spain international sees passes few others can and he has put that to particularly good use in 2019-20, with his 106 chances created being a Serie A high. Similarly, his 15 assists was second only to Alejandro Gomez (16), as he helped Simone Inzaghi's men mount a title challenge. Often linked with a return home to Sevilla, Lazio will surely be doing everything they can to keep Luis Alberto at Stadio Olimpico.

CM: Fabian Ruiz, Napoli

The other half of a Seville-centric midfield, Real Betis product Fabian probably hasn't impressed quite as much as he did in 2018-19, but he has nevertheless continued to show plenty of promise. Still only 24, Fabian attempted the most passes (2,331) of any player in the league this season, while he had a hand in nine goals, the same amount as in the previous campaign.

AM: Alejandro Gomez, Atalanta

Like a fine wine, 'Papu' Gomez just seems to get better with age. Now 32, the Argentinian has enjoyed a fantastic season for the often-exhilarating Atalanta. He scored seven goals for a second successive season, but his haul of 16 assists is five more than 2018-19. That figure is the highest since Opta records began in 2004-05.

FWD: Paulo Dybala, Juventus

The Sarri-Juventus combination continues to puzzle many, but if there's one thing he has got right, it's helping Dybala get back to something resembling his best. He had been strongly linked with a move away last year, but Dybala was involved in 17 Serie A goals this term (11 goals, six assists) and managed to coexist with Ronaldo more effectively. Of his 11 strikes, eight (73 per cent) were the opening goals of matches, the biggest quantity among players with 10 or more.

FWD: Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

Considering there being murmurs of discontent between himself and Sarri, and suggestions the coach hasn't been able to get the best out of the Portugal great, Ronaldo's had a pretty effective year. With 31 league goals, it's been his best goal-scoring campaign domestically since getting 35 with Real Madrid in 2015-16, while his goals have secured 24 points, more than any other player.

FWD: Ciro Immobile, Lazio

What a season Immobile has had. With 36 league goals, the Italy international equalled Gonzalo Higuain's record for a single campaign, while that haul also won him the coveted European Golden Shoe. On top of that, his record of nine assists was bettered by only Gomez, Luis Alberto and Domenico Berardi. If he can keep it up, Lazio will surely fancy themselves of challenging Juve again next term.

Manchester City are set to make a splash in the transfer market and defence is the area in the spotlight.

City struggled defensively in the absence of injured star Aymeric Laporte following Vincent Kompany's exit, while there are doubts over John Stones' future in Manchester.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake are reportedly high on Pep Guardiola's wish list as he attempts to strengthen his squad after watching Liverpool coast to the Premier League title.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOTIFY NAPOLI OF KOULIBALY INTENT

Manchester City have informed Napoli they are ready to make an offer for star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Sky Sport Italia.

Pep Guardiola has set his sights on Koulibaly, who has also been linked to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

City are willing to bid €65million (£58m) but Napoli are still holding out for €100m (£90m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Manchester and Sky Sports says City are in talks with Bournemouth over the signing of another defender – Nathan Ake. The Guardian claims City are poised to beat neighbours United and Chelsea to the Netherlands international.

- Sky Germany reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz has agreed terms with Chelsea as he moves closer to arriving at Stamford Bridge. Havertz has been linked to Madrid, United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona but he appears set to join Chelsea. Win Sports TV journalist Pipe Sierra, meanwhile, claims Chelsea and Leverkusen have agreed an €85m (£77m) fee plus €15m (£13.5m) in bonuses.

Juventus are eyeing former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a possible replacement for head coach Maurizio Sarri, according to La Stampa.

- The Daily Mail says Southampton are set to sign Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu. The 21-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from United and Atletico Madrid.

Theo Hernandez has no plans to leave Milan amid interest from Ligue 1 champions PSG, reports Calciomercato. Hernandez is enjoying a fine season with a resurgent Rossoneri team under Stefano Pioli.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims there is a €60m agreement between Napoli and Lille for Victor Osimhen but the Serie A outfit still has to resolve matters with the forward's new agent.

Two goals in four minutes, including a thunderbolt from Franck Kessie, helped Milan come from behind to beat Parma 3-1 on Wednesday.

The Rossoneri's European chase under Stefano Pioli appeared to be losing momentum when Parma went ahead at San Siro through Jasmin Kurtic 44 minutes in.

But Kessie pulled his side level with a spectacular effort after 55 minutes and Alessio Romagnoli's header turned the game on its head in quick fashion.

Hakan Calhanoglu made it 3-1 to secure all three points for Milan in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 100th game for the club.

Milan saw a Romagnoli header bounce back off the left-hand post in a dominant opening spell.

Giacomo Bonaventura had a tap-in ruled out for offside and Kessie missed a great chance from Rafael Leao's cross, with Parma not really threatening until Gervinho ran through the heart of the Milan defence but fired over.

It was Gervinho who helped to fashion the breakthrough, though, his clever pass sending Alberto Grassi clear to cut back for Kurtic, who fired low past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Parma were largely restricting Milan to speculative shots from distance, a tactic that was working well until Kessie thumped an unstoppable strike in off the right-hand post 10 minutes into the second half.

It was 2-1 before the hour mark, Romagnoli escaping into space to nod in Calhanoglu's expert delivery, and Dejan Kulusevski's shot that deflected onto the crossbar suggested fortune was not favouring the visitors.

Calhanoglu made certain of a seventh Milan home league win over Parma in the past eight meetings, the midfielder drilling home a fine finish from Bonaventura's pass.

 

What does it mean? Never mind top four - Milan are finishing as one of Serie A's form sides

Milan could still qualify for the Champions League after this win, although it would require Lazio to lose all of their remaining games and a few favourable results involving Napoli and Roma.

A sixth season without playing among Europe's elite might be almost certain, but the Rossoneri can at least be pleased with their form since Italian football returned - especially since Pioli appears destined to be replaced by Ralf Rangnick for next term.

Calhanoglu holds the key

Calhanoglu had more touches (80) and passes (58) than any Milan player except Kessie, set up their first two goals and scored the third himself. You will struggle to find a more influential display in that regard.

Theo loses track

Theo Hernandez wasted a couple of good openings at 0-0 and Parma's opener came when they found far too much space down the left of the Milan defence.

What's next?

Milan host Bologna on Saturday, with Parma at home to Sampdoria a day later.

Franck Kessie's penalty earned Milan a 2-2 Serie A draw against Napoli, but they had to ride out a tense finale with 10 men at the San Paolo on Sunday. 

Milan claimed a stunning victory over Juventus last time out and took the lead through Theo Hernandez in the first half, but goals either side of the interval from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Dries Mertens put Napoli in control. 

After Gianluigi Donnarumma let the second goal slip through his legs, Kessie spared his blushes by converting from the spot in the 73rd minute after Nikola Maksimovic felled substitute Giacomo Bonaventura. 

Napoli pushed for a winner after Alexis Saelemaekers picked up two bookings in as many minutes, but Milan avoided a blow to their hopes of European qualification and the difference between the sides remains at two points. 

Stefano Pioli's side owed a debt to Donnarumma for stopping them from falling behind in the early exchanges, as he thwarted Mertens before diving on Jose Callejon's scuffed effort from six yards in the 19th minute. 

Milan took full advantage by going straight up the other end and taking the lead, Hernandez volleying home at the back post after Ante Rebic showed great awareness to pick him out. 

However, Napoli got back on level terms when Donnarumma failed to deal with a whipped free-kick from Lorenzo Insigne and Di Lorenzo stuck the loose ball into the open goal. 

Milan started the second half positively but fell behind when Callejon cut the ball back to Mertens, his low drive finding a way through Donnarumma as it squirmed over the line. 

Pioli responded by sending on Bonaventura and he won the spot-kick that Kessie coolly converted into the bottom-left corner. 

Substitute Saelemaekers chopped down Di Lorenzo and Eljif Elmas in quick succession to leave Milan a man light for the final three minutes of normal time, though the visitors stood firm. 

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