"We are a club in Serie C that already thinks with a Serie A mind."

Monza are no ordinary third-tier team in Italy. They are owned by former Prime Minister and Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, who returned to football in 2018 after selling his beloved Rossoneri a year earlier.

Now, Monza are dreaming big – aiming to be in Serie A in 2021. The Bagai were on track for promotion to the second division prior to the coronavirus pandemic, comfortably top of Serie C by 16 points through 27 games.

While COVID-19 has halted Monza's quest, their aspirations remain the same, despite the disruption.

"It is undoubtedly true that we are experiencing a very challenging situation," Sporting director Filippo Antonelli told Stats Perform. "We are in constant contact with the players and the staff regularly send personalised workouts. To date we have done something extraordinary, and the players remain really focused and highly motivated to achieve the Serie B objective.

"Monza's ownership is deeply solid and we enjoy a widespread network of relations and contacts developed over the many winning years, which makes it easier for the club to carry on their plans, even in difficult times, such as the one we are currently living.

"Such a situation was unpredictable, however safety comes first. With patience, once all of this will be over, we will start again with greater enthusiasm. Monza aims to be playing in Serie A. An exciting opportunity for all of us that we live with a lot of passion and commitment to make the most and best we can, day after day."

There is a Milan feel about Monza. After purchasing the club through his Fininvest company, Berlusconi turned to his trusted right-hand man Adriano Galliani – who was born in Monza – as CEO. Their partnership helped turn the Rossoneri into a superpower, with eight Serie A titles and five Champions League/European Cup crowns among the 29 pieces of silverware between 1986 and 2017.

Monza are also coached by former Milan midfielder and boss Cristian Brocchi, while the club boasts ex-Rossoneri defender Gabriel Paletta.

"When Berlusconi became the owner of the club, there was an immediate change of pace in the interest towards Monza, both from the media and the general public," Antonelli said. "The impact of such a high standing ownership on the club and the fans was indeed remarkable and significant: the sports centre has been renovated [redevelopment of turf pitches, synthetic pitches, gym, locker rooms and offices], the facilities have been secured, the Stadio Brianteo has been redeveloped through countless interventions [lighting, central grandstand, sky box], not to mention the improvements on the transfer market with the strengthening of the squad.

"I believe that all of this is what makes the difference, besides, of course, the winning mentality that Silvio Berlusconi has imprinted on the club, the team and the staff in the meetings that we were lucky enough to have with him… as for our CEO [Galliani], he often tells us that he 'belonged' to Monza for 10 years, he then was 'borrowed' to Milan for 31 years and now he's back at Monza."

Berlusconi's presence has changed the landscape for Monza, who tried to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic before the star striker opted to move 15 kilometres away to Milan – the capital of Lombardy. However, Monza continue to be linked with the 38-year-old as he faces an uncertain future at San Siro.

"Ibrahimovic is a champion, our ownership has always hired champion players," added Antonelli, who has no trouble bringing new players to Monza under Berlusconi's ownership.

"If compared to how the situation was before, now a phone call is enough to immediately make a negotiation possible, today everyone would like to receive a call from Monza: at this time it is much easier for me to convince players to come to Monza."

For Antonelli, Monza means more than most. The 41-year-old emerged from the club's youth system in 1997 before eventually returning in 2015 once his playing days were over, witnessing Monza's relegation and two seasons in Serie D.

"I am very fond of these colours," Antonelli continued.  Monza are a club with fans who have ideals. The more time passes, the more I understand this reality and I feel increasingly involved in this project."

Another day, another Lautaro Martinez rumour.

Inter star Martinez continues to dominate headlines as Barcelona reportedly circle.

Barca appear to be closing in on the Argentina international forward.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA MOVE CLOSER TO MARTINEZ

Barcelona have reached an agreement in principle with Inter forward Lautaro Martinez, according to Tuttosport.

Martinez is a player in demand amid links to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City.

But Barca are desperate to sign Martinez and the report claims the LaLiga champions have reached a deal on the contract and must now negotiate with Inter.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports United are "optimistic" they will have Paul Pogba at their disposal in 2020-21 as no club can afford him. The disgruntled star has been linked to former team Juventus and Madrid.

- Serie A champions Juve are keen on replacing forward Gonzalo Higuain with City's Gabriel Jesus, says Calciomcercato.

Barca are struggling to offload Brazilian attacker Philippe Coutinho, according to Marca. Coutinho, on loan at Bayern Munich, has been linked to Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham. However, Barca have been unable to find a team willing to spend at least €80million (£73m). Another loan spell is being considered.

- Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland has become Madrid's primary transfer target, ahead of the likes of Martinez and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, claims Marca. Madrid continue to eye Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe as his contract is due to expire in 2021, while team-mate Neymar is reportedly another option.

Napoli will demand at least €40m for striker Arkadiusz Milik, says Calciomercato. It comes as Milan and Inter reportedly circle the Poland international, who is no closer to signing a new deal in Naples.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Zlatan Ibrahimovic is considering retirement but Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis wants the 38-year-old striker to sign a new deal.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is at the top of Juve's wish list, Tuttosport claims. Tonali is also wanted by Inter, United, City and PSG. Alternatives for Juve are Roma pair Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, as well as Fiorentina duo Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli.

Football may be on hiatus in most of Europe and across the globe due to coronavirus, but Fabian Ruiz's future is still making headlines.

The Napoli and Spain star has established himself as one of the best midfielders on the continent since arriving from Real Betis in 2018.

Now, Liverpool are desperate to prise Fabian to Anfield but they have competition.

 

TOP STORY – REDS MAKE FABIAN TOP TARGET

Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is Liverpool's top transfer target, reports The Express.

Fabian has attracted interest from his homeland, where LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling for the Spain international's signature.

However, Premier League leaders Liverpool are ready to pay £74million (€80m) for Fabian.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror says Manchester United – led by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward – have re-opened talks with star midfielder Paul Pogba's agent Rino Raiola. It comes amid uncertainty over Pogba, who continues to be linked to Madrid and former club Juventus.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave Milan at the end of the season, reports Sport Mediaset. The 38-year-old return to San Siro on a one-year and had been discussing a renewal before chief football officer Zvonimir Boban was sacked, angering the Swede.

Liverpool and Arsenal are among a number of clubs monitoring Eintracht Frankfurt's Evan Ndicka, claims Sky Sports. The defender has also been linked to Milan, Inter, Valencia and Sevilla.

- According to The Mirror, Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham have enquired about Barca's Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich.

United are confident of beating Borussia Dortmund to the signing of Birmingham City's 16-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham.

- Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard is being eyed by Arsenal, The Mirror reports, amid doubts over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aubameyang has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain and United.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has launched a fundraiser to raise money for Humanitas hospitals as he called on the world to "kick the coronavirus away".

More than 8,900 people have died from the coronavirus, with Italy, where Ibrahimovic is playing with Milan, hugely impacted.

Italy has seen more than 35,000 cases, with nearly 3,000 deaths, a tally second only to China.

Ibrahimovic launched a fundraiser on Wednesday and it had exceeded €150,000 as he aims for €1million for Humanitas hospitals.

"Hi, I'm Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Italy has always given me so much and in this dramatic moment, I want to give back even more to this country that I love," he said in a video posted on Twitter.

"I decided together with the people who are working with me to create a fundraiser for Humanitas hospitals and to use my communication power to spread the message wider.

"It's a serious issue and we need concrete help that's not just about a video. I count on the generosity of my colleagues, of all professional athletes and of those who want to make a small or large donation according to their possibilities to kick this virus away.

"Together we can really help hospitals and doctors and nurses who selflessly work everyday to save our lives because today we are the ones sharing for them.

"Let's together kick the coronavirus away and win this match and remember, if the virus doesn't go to Zlatan, Zlatan goes to the virus."

Serie A has been suspended until April 3, with Italy in lockdown due to coronavirus.

Serie A is on hiatus until at least April 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and authorities expect the suspension to continue long after the initially scheduled resumption date.

Only China – where the virus was discovered – has been hit harder by COVID-19 than Italy, where, as of Monday, there have been 24,747 confirmed cases and 1,809 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Prior to the disruption, free-scoring Atalanta and title-chasing Lazio had been the stories of the season, with Simone Inzaghi's men pushing defending champions Juventus hard for the Scudetto.

Inter showed signs they were heading back towards their former heights before losing ground in the title race, though the same cannot be said for Milan, who sit seventh.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the most interesting facts relating to Serie A's top four and the Rossoneri.

JUVENTUS

- Juve have been trailing for 133 minutes in 2019-20, less time than any other team in Serie A this season.

- At home, Juve are unbeaten in their previous 34 league games (W29, D5), more than double the next best streak (Lazio's 15).

- This term, Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record of 11 consecutive goalscoring appearances in a single Serie A season. He has also already levelled his haul of goals from 2018-19 despite making nine fewer appearances, averaging 0.95 goals per game compared to 0.68 last season.

- Among the players who made their debut in the three-points era, Ronaldo was the fastest to reach 42 goals (52 appearances) – before him the record was 58 games played (Vincenzo Montella, Andriy Shevchenko and Brazil great Ronaldo).

LAZIO

- Lazio are unbeaten in their previous 21 league games (W17 D4), already an all-time Serie A record for the club. Six of the seven previous teams with streaks as long as that in a single season went on to win the Scudetto (the only exception was Roma in 2009-10).

- Lazio have scored at least two goals in 19 games in the 2019-20 Serie A season. Only Liverpool (23), Manchester City (21) and Paris Saint-Germain (21) have done so in more games across Europe's top five leagues this term.

- Ciro Immobile has 27 goals in 26 games in 2019-20. Only Antonio Valentin Angelillo (29) in has managed more after 26 matchdays.

INTER

- Antonio Conte is the first Inter coach to see his team score in each of his first 19 games in all competitions.

- Inter have won nine of their 13 Serie A away games this season (D2 L2): only in the 2006-07 campaign have the Nerazzurri won more (11).

- Romelu Lukaku is one of three players to have scored at least 17 Serie A goals in their first 25 games of a debut season with Inter, emulating Giuseppe Meazza (1929-30) and Stefano Nyers (1948-49).

ATALANTA

- Atalanta's 70 goals in this Serie A campaign already represents their second-best haul in a single season (77 in 2018-19).

- No team has scored as many as 70 goals in the first 25 matches of a single Serie A season since 1959, when Fiorentina netted 79.

- Three Atalanta players are into double-figures in terms of goals in this season: Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. Only in 1949-50 and 1951-52 have the club had as many players reach 10 goals.

MILAN

- Since Stefano Pioli joined Milan, they have kept the most clean sheets in Serie A (seven).

- Milan have increased their winning percentage since the turn of the year across Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It was 35 per cent in 2019, rising to 50 per cent in the new year – they also increased their goals per game from 0.9 to 1.7.

- Since his first spell at Milan (which began in August 2010), Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 60 goals for the Rossoneri in all competitions, more than any other player with the club in the period.

The coronavirus crisis continues to challenge decision-makers in football's corridors of power and could soon leave some of the game's biggest clubs facing contract conundrums.

Manchester United, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are among the major European outfits who are due to farewell high-profile players when free agency comes into force on June 30.

Domestic leagues across the world appear increasingly likely to run beyond that deadline, meaning sides up and down the divisions could be forced to renegotiate deals beyond the typical expiry date.

It remains to be seen how governing bodies will approach the unfamiliar territory but Edinson Cavani, Mario Gotze and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be watching closely like dozens more across Europe's top five leagues.

These are the stars and solid supporting cast members whose contract situations are worth monitoring in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

LaLiga

Athletic Bilbao: Aritz Aduriz (retiring), Benat, Mikel San Jose
Atletico Madrid: Antonio Adan
Espanyol: Ander Iturraspe
Granada: Roberto Soldado
Real Valladolid: Hatem Ben Arfa
Sevilla: Ever Banega (joining Al Shabab at end of contract), Nolito
Valencia: Ezequiel Garay
Villarreal: Santi Cazorla 

Premier League

Bournemouth: Ryan Fraser
Burnley: Joe Hart
Chelsea: Olivier Giroud, Pedro, Willian
Liverpool: Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne
Manchester City: David Silva (confirmed he will leave at end of contract)
Manchester United: Nemanja Matic, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Odion Ighalo (loan ends)
Newcastle United: Matty Longstaff
Tottenham: Jan Vertonghen, Japhet Tanganga

Serie A

Atalanta: Jose Luis Palomino
Hellas Verona: Fabio Borini
Inter: Ashley Young
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon
Milan: Lucas Biglia, Giacomo Bonaventura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Napoli: Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens

Bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen: Charles Aranguiz
Borussia Dortmund: Mario Gotze, Lukasz Piszczek
Hertha Berlin: Salomon Kalou
Schalke: Benjamin Stambouli
Wolfsburg: Robin Knoche

Ligue 1

Lille: Loic Remy
Monaco: Jemerson
Nice: Walter Benitez, Arnaud Lusamba
Paris Saint-Germain: Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier, Tanguy Kouassi, Layvin Kurzawa, Thiago Silva

For so long, Donny van de Beek has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

Madrid previously contacted Eredivisie champions Ajax over a possible deal for the midfielder at the start of the season.

The LaLiga giants reportedly have an agreement in place for Van de Beek, however, Manchester United are still fighting for the Dutchman.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED OUT TO HIJACK MADRID'S DONNY PURSUIT

Manchester United are looking to beat Real Madrid to the signing of Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to Marca.

Madrid reportedly have a pre-agreement with Van de Beek, who was close to swapping Amsterdam for the Spanish capital at the start of 2019-20.

Now, United are trying to pip Madrid to Van de Beek amid doubts over star midfielder Paul Pogba, who has been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Juventus remain the preferred option for Pogba, despite United insisting the Frenchman will be at Old Trafford in 2020-21.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland team-mates at Madrid? The LaLiga giants are interested in the pair, however, Marca has described it as an "impossible dream". That is because Mbappe and Haaland reportedly do not get along following the Champions League last-16 tie, which saw PSG mock the Dortmund forward.

- Calciomercato says Napoli and Inter are set to go head-to-head for Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga.

- PSG full-back Thomas Meunier will join Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer at the end of the season, reports RMC. Meunier's contract is due to expire in June.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future at Milan is uncertain. Gazzetta dello Sport says Ibrahimovic will only extend his contract if the Rossoneri build a strong winning team in Serie A.

Paul Pogba is reportedly ready to stunningly re-sign with Manchester United.

The midfielder has been linked with a move away from the Premier League club throughout the season, one during which he has made just eight appearances in all competitions.

However, a fresh report suggests Pogba may yet stay at United.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA OPEN TO EXTENDING MAN UTD STAY

Pogba is ready to recommit to Manchester United, according to the Daily Mail.

The France international, who is contracted until 2021 but linked to Real Madrid and Juventus, sees his long-term future at the club and could even extend his deal, the report says.

Bruno Fernandes has helped lead a turnaround in form for United, who are unbeaten in 10 games.

ROUND-UP

- With Zinedine Zidane's future at Real Madrid increasingly uncertain, Marca reports former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino would be the main candidate to replace the Frenchman.

- Amid the troubles at AC Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return at San Siro may not last that long. CalcioMercato reports the striker's future with the club is in danger with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

- Marc-Andre ter Stegen has a deal at Barcelona until 2022, but it remains to be seen how long he stays at Camp Nou. Goal reports the LaLiga club are unable to meet the demands of the star goalkeeper.

- Linked repeatedly with a move for Moussa Dembele throughout last close season, United are lining up a fresh £60million (€68.4m) move for the Lyon forward, according to The Sun. Dembele has scored 22 goals in 42 games this season.

- With Hirving Lozano seemingly unwanted at Napoli, several European clubs are said to be interested in the attacker. CalcioMercato reports Atletico Madrid, Everton and West Ham are keen to sign Lozano.

LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget claims he felt like walking off the pitch when he was a team-mate of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, adding there is "definitely a better feel around the place" since the striker's exit.

Ibrahimovic scored 53 goals in 58 MLS appearances in two seasons in Los Angeles, winning the club's prizes for most goals, best goal and best player in each campaign.

The veteran striker was also twice in the MLS Best XI and All-Star line-ups and was awarded newcomer of the year following his arrival after leaving Manchester United.

Now with Milan, the 38-year-old's undoubtedly impressive goalscoring record was not enough to deliver silverware to the Galaxy, as they failed to reach the playoffs in 2018 and lost to rivals Los Angeles FC in the semi-finals last year.

Lletget certainly feels happier without Ibrahimovic in the team, insisting the former Paris Saint-Germain star made life "super frustrating".

"There's definitely a better feel around the place, for sure," Lletget said on BSI: The Podcast. "As far as chemistry, that's only going to build with time."

Lletget claimed that, in the club's dining area, "No one sits with him [Ibrahimovic], ever" and added of playing alongside him: "You couldn't be free. It was super frustrating.

"You feel like you want to literally take your boots off and just walk off the field. It's tough to play against him and tougher to play with him."

In a match with LAFC last August, Ibrahimovic was seen pushing Lletget away from a defensive wall as their opponents prepared to take a late free-kick.

"That to me is complete insanity to do that to one of your team-mates — complete insanity," said the United States international.

"It's one of those moments I think he shows his true colours."

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are Paris Saint-Germain's star duo but they could be separated next season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are eyeing Neymar and Mbappe respectively.

Ligue 1 champions PSG have reportedly made it clear who they want to keep.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR OUT FOR MBAPPE?

Paris Saint-Germain could sell Neymar in order to keep fellow superstar Kylian Mbappe, according to AS.

Neymar continues to be linked with a return to LaLiga champions Barcelona, while Mbappe is a long-term target for Real Madrid.

Amid ongoing speculation over Mbappe and a possible move to Madrid, PSG are reportedly willing to sacrifice Neymar to retain the France international.

Deportes Cuatro adds that Barcelona could offer up Antoine Griezmann to PSG in order to lure Neymar back to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal says Tottenham star Harry Kane would consider a move to Premier League rivals Manchester United at the end of the season. The England striker is reportedly weighing up his future in London.

- The future of Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is up in the air, reports Catalunya Radio. Mundo Deportivo, however, says the Germany international is committed to Barca.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Serie A high-flyers Lazio are ready to launch a €50million bid for Lyon star Memphis Depay.

Inter are lining up a move for Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso, according to Calciomercato. A €30m (£26m) fee has been mooted.

Juventus are still looking to sign Mauro Icardi, Tuttosport claims. Icardi is on loan at PSG from Inter this season, however, Juve are reportedly willing to include either Paulo Dybala or Miralem Pjanic in any deal to sign the striker.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Everton and Premier League rivals Tottenham want to sign United defender Chris Smalling, who is on loan at Serie A side Roma.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is yet to decide his future but the veteran striker would be happy to extend his contract at Milan beyond this season, says Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira. Milan are in turmoil amid a row between board members Ivan Gazidis, Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban.

Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man and his future could become clearer.

The Inter star has dazzled in Italy this season, alongside team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

And Barcelona are reportedly keen to tie up a deal for the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TABLE MARTINEZ BID

Barcelona have made their first offer to Inter for star forward Lautaro Martinez, according to FCInterNews.it.

Martinez has reportedly been identified as a long-term replacement for Barca veteran Luis Suarez, while the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United are interested.

According to the report, LaLiga champions Barca have tabled a €70m bid for Martinez plus two players – Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph says United are favourites to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at the end of the season. Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with moves for the 19-year-old.

Athletic Bilbao are interested in Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, reports Marca. Bilbao have a Basque-only transfer policy, however, Argentina international Higuain qualifies due to the Basque-French origin of his grandfather.

- Amid doubts over Martinez's future in Milan, Calciomercato says Inter are eyeing Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata.

- According to Goal, Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is considering a move to MLS outfit and sister club New York City. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic faces an uncertain future at Milan amid doubts over directors Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini, claims Tuttosport. Boban and Maldini had reportedly been seeking to extend Ibrahimovic's contract until 2021 but the pair are reportedly set to leave San Siro following a row with Elliott Management.

MLS returns this week for the 2020 season and some of the biggest names in league history are back too.

Former New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry is the new head coach at Montreal Impact, while LA Galaxy great David Beckham is introducing expansion franchise Inter Miami.

However, Galaxy have lost the league's latest superstar after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 53 goals in two seasons, returned to Milan.

Both Los Angeles clubs are still plotting big seasons, and champions Seattle Sounders look well set for a title defence.

We pose five key questions heading into the new campaign.
 

Can Chicharito follow in Zlatan's footsteps?

The biggest departure of the offseason was followed by the most significant arrival. Javier Hernandez has long been linked with a move to MLS, and Galaxy secured the signing of the ex-Manchester United striker as Ibrahimovic's replacement.

Hernandez does not have the same global appeal as Ibrahimovic, but he may ultimately prove a better fit at Dignity Health Sports Park.

While Ibrahimovic competed for the MLS Golden Boot, Galaxy continued to fall well short of team titles, playing a direct style that suited their talisman but not the rest of their squad. Cristian Pavon and company should now thrive alongside Hernandez.
 

Are Supporters' Shield holders LAFC one-season wonders?

Galaxy did not need to look far for evidence of what could be achieved by a team all pulling in one direction, with Hernandez's Mexico team-mate Carlos Vela leading Los Angeles FC to a dominant record-breaking Supporters' Shield success.

Bob Bradley's LAFC were a joy to watch, but Shield winners have struggled in recent years to maintain standards - Toronto FC providing the most striking example as they slumped from first in 2017 to 19th a year later.

Defender Walker Zimmerman has departed, striker Adama Diomande is starting the season injured, and LAFC suddenly could have their work cut out in 2020.
 

Could Seattle finally provide a serious title defence?

It is not just the Shield that has proven tricky to retain. Not since Galaxy in 2011 and 2012 have a team won MLS Cup two years on the bounce.

Seattle have played Toronto in three of the past four finals, winning twice, and yet there is a decent argument Sounders have not been the best team in the league at any point over this stretch. That should be about to change - despite the disappointment of Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League exit.

The defence has been restructured over the past 12 months, with retired centre-back Chad Marshall a big miss, but there is real depth in midfield and attack. Joao Paulo is an exciting addition, while Jordan Morris is in the form of his career as Seattle aim to build on their second title.
 

Will Henry bounce back from his Monaco misery?

Henry turned Red Bulls into contenders in the twilight of his playing career, but his coaching exploits have not been quite so successful to date. The Arsenal legend lasted just 20 matches in his first senior role with Monaco, losing 11 times and conceding 36 goals.

There was still excitement in Montreal as Henry arrived at Impact, though, with the club in need of a boost. They have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

But this is no simple second job for Henry as he aims to prove Monaco was a disappointing one-off. Montreal have lost veteran captain Ignacio Piatti and are short in several areas.
 

Do Inter and Nashville look more like Atlanta or Cincinnati?

Beckham's Inter are not the only expansion franchise in 2020, as Nashville also make their debut. The league has swollen from 20 teams in 2016 to 26 today, and there are therefore plenty of examples to consider as they arrive in MLS.

The Miami outfit look to have taken heed of the ambitious Atlanta United, champions in their second season. For Tata Martino, Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, read Diego Alonso, Rodolfo Pizarro and Matias Pellegrini.

Nashville's spending has been more modest, trading within the league, but that does not necessarily mean they will follow miserable 2019 basement side FC Cincinnati. Nashville at least look solid.

Erick Pulgar's late penalty salvaged a 1-1 Serie A draw for 10-man Fiorentina against Milan on Saturday.

Fiorentina were heading for defeat at Stadio Artemio Franchi, but Asmir Begovic – on in place of the injured Gianluigi Donnarumma – was unable to keep out a Pulgar spot-kick five minutes from time after Alessio Romagnoli was adjudged to have fouled former Patrick Cutrone.

Pulgar's penalty cancelled out Ante Rebic's second-half opener, with the Croatia forward having netted his sixth goal in his last six Serie A appearances.

Matters looked even bleaker for Fiorentina when Dalbert was shown a red card for a foul on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but ultimately it was Milan who were left hanging on, Dusan Vlahovic and Martin Caceres missing late chances to win it.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's determination and ambition is having a positive impact on Milan, according to coach Stefano Pioli.

Milan have lost just once since Ibrahimovic made his return to the Rossoneri on a six-month contract in December.

A win at Fiorentina on Saturday would at least temporarily move Milan into the top six.

Ibrahimovic has scored three times in eight appearances so far in his second spell, but Pioli believes he has brought more than just goals.

"We are training well and that’s the truth, here you can breathe the positive air," said Pioli. "The priority is the present and you can only determine the future by thinking about the present.

"We don't think about stuff we can't impact; we don't have the time nor the energy to think about anything else.

"To have such an example of determination and ambition as Ibra has, it can do us good. If Ibra has become a champion and a unique player, it's because he is always hungry and wants to improve himself."

Though there has been speculation about Pioli being replaced at the end of the season, contrasting talk has suggested he could have his contract extended.

"It's pleasing to know that my job has been judged in a positive way," he added. "I feel that I’m the point of reference for the team.

"No coach is secure regardless of the results. In the end, the ones who make the decisions will decide.

"But I can't answer questions about my future on every press conference, let's focus on the present and see what will happen."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli claimed his players have started to embrace his football philosophy but was coy on their hopes of securing a Champions League place.

The Rossoneri moved up to eighth place in Serie A after a 1-0 win over Torino on Monday thanks to Croatia forward Ante Rebic's first-half strike.

It ensured Milan went unbeaten in nine home games in a row in all competitions for the first time since January 2017.

Pioli, 54, has regularly faced scrutiny over his position during a testing season, having replaced Marco Giampaolo in October last year.

"I am happy with both the result and the performance, we are forming an identity and a way of being on the pitch," Pioli said in his post-match news conference.

"And we still have 14 games to go up the table. We are always under scrutiny, but it is normal and also beautiful in certain respects. 

"You can't think about the future now, there is still so much to do, the future will be decided at the end of the season.

"I had asked for an important effort. We also suffered because of us because we could immediately end the game in the second half.

"I am satisfied with the team's recent performances, but it can be improved in the final phase of matches."

Pioli, however, played down his side's chances of making a sustained end-of-season surge to finish in Serie A's top four.

Milan are still 10 points behind Atalanta, who occupy the fourth Champions League spot after 24 matches of the season, with Pioli keen to keep expectation levels grounded.

"Can we dream of the Champions League? There is only room to prepare well for the next game in five days," Pioli added.

"It is a difficult match against a strong Fiorentina, then we will think about the league table from Saturday evening.

"Winning, gritting one's teeth and fighting is positive. We could certainly have finished the game earlier.

"Zlatan Ibrahimovic came out angry because he wanted to end the game, instead we missed some chances in transition and we had to suffer to the end."

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