Could Chelsea gazump their Premier League rivals in the race for Jadon Sancho?

According to reports, the Blues are working on a club-record deal for the Borussia Dortmund winger.

Frank Lampard was among Sancho's idols growing up and the Chelsea boss has been open about his desire to bring in a replacement for Eden Hazard.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO SET FOR STAMFORD BRIDGE?

Chelsea could celebrate the end of their transfer ban by splashing out £120million to secure Borussia Dortmund and England star Jadon Sancho, according to The Sun.

The huge price tag attached to one of Europe's brightest prospects has reportedly quashed Liverpool's interest and Manchester United are also said to be at risk of missing out on a long-term target.

The Sun claims Chelsea head coach Lampard believes Sancho, 19, can be the man to fill the attacking void left by Hazard's close-season departure to Real Madrid.

Sancho has scored nine Bundesliga goals this season and hit eight in seven games across all competitions prior to Dortmund's 2-1 defeat to Hoffenheim on Friday.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Premier League champions Manchester City are monitoring Marquinhos' contract impasse at Paris Saint-Germain, writes Le 10 Sport. The Ligue 1 leaders are reportedly unwilling to meet the Brazilian's financial demands as they seek to extend his deal beyond 2022.

- There is a "big question mark" hanging over Paco Alcacer's future at Dortmund as the striker struggles to carve out a regular Bundesliga starting spot, reports Ruhr Nachrichten.

- Tottenham have opened talks over a January move for Flamengo midfielder Gerson, says 90min. The 22-year-old started for Flamengo in their Club World Cup final loss to Liverpool on Saturday.

- Barcelona included Arturo Vidal in their starting XI against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday and are now seemingly determined to block his expected Camp Nou exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, the Chilean's agent has met with club executives in a bid to secure a mid-season switch to Serie A, where Inter are rumoured to be his strongest suitors, but €20m will not be enough to do a deal.

- The Nerazzurri's city rivals might have more success in making a midfield acquisition. La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Stefano Pioli's Milan are interested in United outcast Nemanja Matic, who has been linked to Inter.

Dani Olmo has revealed his admiration for Juventus and Milan but says he is not focusing on a move away from Dinamo Zagreb.

Barcelona academy product Olmo has scored eight times in 22 appearances for Dinamo this term and starred for Spain in their European Under-21 Championship triumph.

The 21-year-old's form earned him a first senior cap for Spain last month and has seen him linked with a number of heavyweight clubs, including Manchester City and Barca.

A move to Serie A is also a possibility, though, with Olmo saying he is a big fan of the league - and particularly Juve and Milan.

"I follow Serie A a lot. In Croatia, they broadcast all the matches on television," he told Calciomercato. "It is a very attractive championship as the teams give a great show.

"I have always admired great teams like Juventus and Milan. But I also like Inter, Roma and Napoli. They are teams that play good football."

When asked whether he would like to play in the Italy's top flight in the near future, Olmo said: "We will see. Serie A is one of the best championships in the world. I would like to play in a club that strongly focuses on me, believes in my abilities."

However, Olmo is keen to avoid getting distracted by transfer rumours and is focused on continuing his impressive form.

"I don't think about it much, I'm almost alien to all these voices," he said. "I only think about playing football, my agent and my father take care of other things."

Stefano Pioli warned transfer-linked Milan players to focus on improving the team's Serie A position or risk being excluded from his plans.

The Rossoneri have figured prominently in the rumour mill as they struggle to mount a credible bid for European qualification.

Pioli's men take a four-match unbeaten run into Sunday's trip to Atalanta but speculation continues to hang over several players.

Fabio Borini and Ricardo Rodriguez are reportedly looking for new opportunities after struggling for playing time, while Krzysztof Piatek's indifferent form has created doubt over his future.

"Unfortunately, I think the market lasts a long time," Pioli told a news conference.

"No Milan player must allow himself to think about the market. If I saw a player not very focused and determined then I certainly wouldn't select him. We only have to think about the game."

Left-back Rodriguez should make his fifth Serie A start of the season against Atalanta with Theo Hernandez ruled out through suspension.

Attacking midfielder Suso appears set to keep his place despite being booed by Milan supporters during last weekend's 0-0 draw at home to Sassuolo.

"Suso is fine," Pioli said. "He didn't like the boos but he will have to react and demonstrate his quality.

"He is an important player. I have seen him looking very well in training. I expect a lot from him because I know he can give a lot."

Milan sit 10th in Serie A, having won six of their 16 league games this season.

Everton have completed a major coup in appointing Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Ancelotti, who previously managed in the Premier League with Chelsea, returns to England after he was sacked by Napoli on December 10, despite guiding the Serie A club to the Champions League knockout stages.

He replaces Marco Silva, who was dismissed on December 5 following a 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, with Duncan Ferguson having been in temporary charge since then.

The Italian – the first coach from his nation to win the Premier League – has had a glittering career, taking charge of 735 top-flight matches in total thanks to spells at Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli.

As Ancelotti takes over at Goodison, we have used Opta data to take a look at his glittering career in numbers.

 

Parma

33 - Of his 68 league matches at the helm at Parma between 1996 and 1998, Ancelotti won 33 times, suffering 14 defeats.

2 - Parma finished second in Serie A in their first season under Ancelotti, though could only manage a sixth-place finish in the following campaign.


Juventus

61 - Ancelotti took charge of 82 top-flight games in Turin, managing 50 wins – giving him a 61 per cent win ratio. 

0 - Across 23 seasons in management, Ancelotti has never finished outside of the top seven in any domestic league, coming seventh only once, with Juve in 1998-99.


Milan

282 - Ancelotti's longest spell at one club came at Milan, where he spent eight seasons, managing the Rossoneri in 282 league fixtures.

1 - His first league title came in 2003-04, when Milan finished top of Serie with 82 points.

3 - Milan's Serie A success came on the back of glory in the Champions League in 2002-03. Ancelotti has won Europe's biggest prize on three occasions, with only Zinedine Zidane and former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley able to match that total. 


Chelsea

4 - Only four coaches to have managed 30 or more games in the Premier League have a higher win percentage than Ancelotti's 63.2 – Jurgen Klopp, Alex Ferguson, Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola.

103 - Chelsea set a Premier League goals record for a single season when they netted 103 times under Ancelotti during 2009-10. It is a record which was only surpassed by Manchester City in 2017-18.

172 - In total, Chelsea scored 172 goals in 76 league fixtures while Ancelotti was in charge at Stamford Bridge.


Paris Saint-Germain

47.4 - Fixing Everton's leaky defence will be a top priority for Ancelotti, who during his time at PSG had a clean sheet percentage of 47.4, with the Ligue 1 giants not conceding in 27 out of 57 matches.

297 - In total during his two seasons at Parc des Princes, PSG had 297 shots on target. That was, however, significantly fewer than Ancelotti's Chelsea (532) or Madrid (583) sides managed.


Real Madrid

1428 - Los Blancos had almost 1500 shots during Ancelotti's time at the club.

867 - However, they were also the most open at the back when compared to Chelsea, PSG, Bayern and Napoli, allowing 867 attempts at their own goal.

1 - Spain is the only country in which Ancelotti has not won a league title. He also won his third Champions League crown with Madrid, in 2014.


Bayern Munich

68.6 - Having taken over from Guardiola, it is no surprise to see that possession was the order of the day for Ancelotti at Bayern, who averaged 68.6 per cent of the ball under his tutelage.

89 - In Ancelotti's only full campaign at Bayern, they scored 89 Bundesliga goals, conceding just 22 in return.


Napoli

29 - From 53 matches in charge of Napoli in Serie A, Ancelotti claimed 29 victories. His record in 2019-20 was a comparatively poor one, however, with four defeats and six draws from 15 games.

735 - After leaving Napoli, Ancelotti has taken charge of 735 top-tier league fixtures, with a win percentage of 60.5.

998 - Napoli had just under 1000 shots at goal during Ancelotti's spell.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is coveted at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His French connection with Zinedine Zidane means there is constant speculation.

However, Pogba is set to remain at United for the time being.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID GIVE UP ON POGBA… FOR NOW

LaLiga giants Real Madrid will not sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba in January, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Pogba – still recovering from injury – continues to be linked with Madrid amid doubts over his United future.

Madrid, however, recognise there is "no chance" of prising the Frenchman from Old Trafford in the New Year.

 

ROUND-UP

- A return to Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake looks likely, claims Bleacher Report. Chelsea have a £40million buyback clause for Ake, who left Stamford Bridge permanently in 2017. Manchester City have also been linked to the 24-year-old defender.

- Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo has turned down a move to Milan, reports RMC. The 19-year-old has also been linked to Ligue 1 outfit Monaco and Premier League giants Manchester United.

- Qatari outfit Al Rayyan have re-opened talks with Juventus regarding the transfer of out-of-favour striker Mario Mandzukic, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. United and Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund are also reportedly interested in the veteran Croatian.

Napoli have offered Dries Mertens a two-year contract extension, says Sky Sport Italia. The Belgian, who is out of contract at season's end, has been the subject of reported interest from Dortmund.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want to swap Leandro Paredes for Juventus midfielder Emre Can, reports the Daily Mail.

- La Nazione says Fiorentina are looking to bring former Milan striker Patrick Cutrone back to Serie A. The Italian left San Siro for Premier League side Wolves at the start of the season.

- Former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta is in talks to join Javier Mascherano at Argentine outfit Estudiantes. Iniesta currently plays for Vissel Kobe in Japan, however, TNT Sports claims the 35-year-old midfielder could move in 2020.

Mikel Arteta looks to be on his way out of Manchester City, and it may not be long before he is followed by Pep Guardiola.

That is if reports linking Paris Saint-Germain with a move for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach are to be believed.

Meanwhile, Arteta is not the only big managerial appointment expected imminently in the Premier League, with Carlo Ancelotti close to being confirmed as Everton boss, and reports suggest a big-name could be in line to follow the Italian to Goodison Park.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA LINED UP BY PSG

According to Le10 Sport, Paris Saint-Germain will look to swap Thomas Tuchel with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next season.

Guardiola is currently under contract with City until 2021, though has said he is open to extending his deal. However, these reports claim PSG will aim to bring in the Spaniard, along with former Barca star Xavi, who will act as his number two.

While City are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, PSG are top of Ligue 1 and will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Mauricio Pochettino is holding off on making any commitment to Real Madrid as he waits to see how Guardiola's situation at Manchester City plays out.

- According to The Telegraph, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is open to linking up with former boss Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Ancelotti is reportedly set to be appointed by the Toffees and Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to Milan and Napoli – could follow him to Merseyside.

Mesut Ozil is close to securing a loan move from Arsenal to Fenerbahce in January, according to Turkish newspaper Fotomac.

- Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. has been linked with a move to the Premier League. El Desmarque reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves are all interested in the Brazilian.

- Another potential outgoing from Arsenal could be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with The Mirror saying one of Arteta's first tasks will be to convince the Gunners' captain to stay put.

- Sky Sports reports Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are all monitoring Lille forward Victor Osimhen, who has scored nine Ligue 1 goals this term.

- Inter great Dejan Stankovic is poised to become head coach of Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade. After Vladan Milojevic stepped down on Thursday, reports in Serbia claim the former Red Star midfielder will be unveiled on Friday. This is set to be Stankovic's first senior job.

Tottenham are considering a January move for Leicester City full-back Ricardo Pereira, says Het Nieuwsblad.

Jose Mourinho looks set to play the waiting game at Tottenham despite the looming threat of key player departures.

According to reports, Mourinho will not be spooked into a January spending spree even as Spurs consider selling out-of-contract stars to Premier League rivals.

The head coach does, however, have two England Under-19 internationals in his sights.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO TREATING TRANSFERS WITH CAUTION

Tottenham will make transfer funds available in January but Mourinho is set to put his squad overhaul on hold, according to the Daily Mail.

Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen can all walk out on the club at the end of the season and chairman Daniel Levy has said he is prepared to make deals with other Premier League teams.

The state of flux has reportedly motivated Mourinho to leave his rebuilding efforts until the campaign is complete, although the former Manchester United and Real Madrid boss remains open to sensible short-term spending.

Spurs are said to have scouted Norwich City right-back Max Aarons and West Brom's Nathan Ferguson as they look for a challenger to Serge Aurier.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool should announce the capture of Salzburg winger Takumi Minamino before the weekend, writes the the Independent.

- Mikel Arteta appears set to take charge of Arsenal and Manchester City, where he has worked as an assistant since 2016, are "furious" with the Gunners' lack of communication, according to The Guardian.

- Managerial movements are happening elsewhere in the Premier League. The Mirror claims ex-Milan and Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti has agreed a three-and-a-half year deal worth £11.5million per season with Everton.

- Europe's top clubs are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Marquinhos amid a breakdown in negotiations over a contract extension with the Ligue 1 leaders, says Le 10 Sport.

- Bayern Munich are now considering whether to bring forward their planned close-season bid for Leroy Sane after the City winger expressed a desire to join the Bundesliga giants in January, reports Bild.

- Fenerbahce have expressed interest in rumoured Napoli and Schalke target Ricardo Rodriguez, claims CalcioMercato. The Switzerland left-back has started four times for Milan in Serie A this season.

Kevin De Bruyne's barnstorming performance for Manchester City in Sunday's 3-0 win over Arsenal unsurprisingly secures him the starring role in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

De Bruyne produced a masterclass at Emirates Stadium, scoring twice and creating another for Raheem Sterling.

The Belgian's driving runs from midfield were a constant feature, while each of his goals were truly quality efforts. He almost got a third, too, only for a wonderful save to help another thunderous strike onto the post.

De Bruyne is the star man in an impressive attacking unit in this week's FIFA 20 squad, with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah leading the line after netting a brace in the Reds' 2-0 victory over Watford.

Salah is joined in attack by Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho following fine displays against Mainz and RB Leipzig, collecting two goals and two assists across those games.

Philippe Coutinho is the other standout attacking name in the starting XI, while Jan Vertonghen offers a strong option at the back.

Below, we take a look at the latest squad in full.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Benjamin Lecomte (Monaco) - 86

CB: Raul Albiol (Villarreal) – 85

LB: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) – 88

LB: Theo Hernandez (Milan) – 84

RM: Pizzi (Benfica) – 86

CM: Jose Campana (Levante) – 83

CM: Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain) – 83

LW: Phillipe Coutinho (Bayern Munich) – 88

CAM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – 94

ST: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 92

LF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Hendrik van Crombrugge (Anderlecht) – 79

LB: Lucas Olaza (Celta Vigo) – 81

CM: Dan Gosling (Bournemouth) – 81

CM: Borja Valero (Inter) – 82

LW: Gervinho (Parma) – 82

RW: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord) – 83

ST: Youssef El Arabi (Olympiacos) – 81

RESERVES

LWB: Pascal Schurpf (Luzern) – 75

CAM: Omar Govea (Zulte Waregem) – 79

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 80

ST: Jordan Rhodes (Sheffield Wednesday) – 78

ST: Conor Chaplin (Barnsley) – 74

Paul Pogba remains on the sideline but not the outer at Manchester United.

The rumoured Real Madrid target reportedly hopes to leave Old Trafford in January after missing out on a move before the season started.

But it seems the Red Devils will resist all interest in their record signing when the transfer window opens.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BLOCK POGBA'S EXIT PATH

Five months after Mino Raiola confirmed his client's desire to depart, United remain resolute in their determination to keep star midfielder Pogba.

The 26-year-old failed to engineer a close-season exit and the Red Devils will again stand in the former Juventus star's way if he asks for a move in January, reports the Daily Mail.

Pogba has not played since September due to an ankle injury and will miss Wednesday's EFL Cup quarter-final against Colchester United because of illness.

LaLiga leaders Barcelona and Serie A champions Juve, where he spent four seasons, have been linked with Pogba since his return to United, while Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is known to admire the World Cup winner.

ROUND-UP

- Mikel Arteta is on the verge of taking charge at Arsenal and plans to appoint fellow Manchester City assistant Rodolfo Borrell as his number two in north London, reports the Mirror.

- Though the Gunners are in talks with Arteta, The Athletic claims Arsenal's former captain, Nice boss Patrick Vieira, remains an outside chance to win the job.

- Has Jerome Boateng played his final game for Bayern Munich? Suddeutsche Zeitung suggests the centre-back's agent Fali Ramadani recently met with Hasan Salihamidzic to discuss a January transfer, though the prospect of a mid-season move is complicated by Bayern's injuries at the back. 

- In brighter news for the Bundesliga giants, Bild says Leroy Sane has decided he wants to join Bayern in January. The Manchester City star was heavily linked with a switch from the Premier League to his native Germany prior to suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

- Diego Simeone wants to strengthen Atletico Madrid's defence with the signing of AC Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli, according to CalcioMercato.

- Chelsea could be left frustrated in their pursuit of Wilfried Zaha. The Daily Mail claims Crystal Palace will not budge on their £80million valuation of the 27-year-old winger.

Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo has issued an apology after an anti-racism campaign received widespread criticism for its use of monkey artwork.

Italy's top flight launched a campaign on Monday to combat what De Siervo described as "the evil" that "ruins" football, but the initiative was centred around a trio of paintings from Simone Fugazzotto, an artist renowned for using primates in his work.

The works were due to be displayed permanently at Serie A's headquarters in Milan, but those behind the campaign were accused of insensitivity given the continued incidents of black footballers being subjected to monkey chants as a form of racial abuse.

Milan and Roma criticised the execution of the initiative and claimed they were not consulted.

And although De Siervo has now apologised, he also defended Serie A from those who accuse it of not doing enough to combat racism.

A statement from De Siervo read: "We want to apologise to all those who felt offended by the work carried out by Simone Fugazzotto last May, for the Coppa Italia final.

"Despite the artist's explanation that the idea of his creation was a message against racism, the work appeared to be questionable to many.

"What cannot be questioned is the strong and constant condemnation by Serie A against all forms of discrimination and racism, which we are committed to eradicating from our league.

"Serie A is working on an official anti-racism campaign, which cannot be identified with the work of Fugazzotto, and which will be presented by the end of February."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a "unique" talent but Milan's improving form means they may not make a move for a new forward, says the club's chief football officer Zvonimir Boban.

The future of veteran free agent Ibrahimovic has been the topic of much discussion in recent weeks, with Milan and Serie A rivals Napoli and Bologna all tipped with a move for his signature.

Ibrahimovic is a former Rossoneri favourite and won a Serie A and a Supercoppa Italiana during two seasons with the club between 2010 and 2012.

Boban says even at the age of 38 Ibrahimovic, who decided not to renew his stay with LA Galaxy in MLS, can have an impact on the team but says Milan – who are unbeaten in their past four matches under Stefano Pioli – must take time to weigh up their options.

"We will see if we have to make transfer moves for a forward," he told Rai Radio 1.

"However, Ibrahimovic is unique, he can give so much in the short term. He is different from the others even though he is no longer 28 years old. He is a player with plenty of personality and has what it takes to make the atmosphere around a team pivot.

"When we started negotiating, however, we were in a different position in the table."

Milan are 10th in Serie A, 11 points off the top four and 18 adrift of table-toppers Inter and Juventus.

Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and now Donny van de Beek?

Ajax lost stars De Jong and De Ligt in the off-season and Van de Beek is now reportedly nearing an Amsterdam exit.

It may be the case that the midfielder can choose between the two Spanish powerhouse clubs.

 

TOP STORY –  BARCA & MADRID WANT VAN DE BEEK

LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to reports.

Van de Beek was heavily linked to Madrid as an alternative to Manchester United star Paul Pogba during the previous transfer window.

Now, Sport claims Van de Beek could be available for between €50-60million.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayer Leverkusen are poised to sign River Plate's Exequiel Palacios, says Kicker. Palacios – previously tipped to join Madrid – is set to move to Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen in January in a €22m deal.

- Mundo Deportivo and Calciomercarto claim Barca and Milan have met to discuss the future of defender Jean-Clair Todibo. LaLiga champions Barca are reportedly happy to part with the 19-year-old.

- According to 90min, Liverpool are set to beat Manchester City and Chelsea to Coventry City left-back Sam McCallum.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has walked away from negotiations with Milan, reports Calciomercato. A free agent after leaving LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has been linked with a return to Milan, as well as Napoli. But the 38-year-old is reportedly not moving back to San Siro after failing to reach an agreement.

- Valencia teenager Ferran Torres is high on the agenda of Madrid, according to AS. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from across Europe, including Liverpool and Juventus.

- Keen to provide competition for Tammy Abraham, 90min says Chelsea are considering a January bid for Bordeaux forward Josh Maja.

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis appeared to rule out the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, insisting the club must "start from scratch" after Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti.

Ibrahimovic is a free agent after leaving MLS side LA Galaxy and the veteran striker has been linked with a return to Serie A via Napoli, former club Milan and Serie C outfit Monza.

Touted to re-join Milan, the arrival of ex-Rossoneri boss Gattuso in Naples has led to speculation Ibrahimovic could move to Napoli instead.

It comes after Napoli reportedly offered Ibrahimovic an 18-month contract before head coach Ancelotti was sacked following the club's Champions League victory on Tuesday.

Asked about Ibrahimovic, De Laurentiis told reporters: "Zlatan is a great person with a strong character. We thought about Ibrahimovic when Ancelotti was in charge, as he would've taken a certain role.

"Now before thinking about him, I have other priorities, as this is a team that must play in a different system with a very high line and a defence that cannot allow what it allowed against Parma.

"We must focus first and foremost on what we have in-house and then to reinforce the midfield. It's a pity all the work we had done for Ancelotti now has to be scrapped and we start again working for Gattuso's ideas. We start from scratch, but do not lack enthusiasm."

Gattuso's first match in charge did not go according to plan – Napoli stunned 2-1 by visiting Parma after conceding a 93rd-minute goal on Saturday.

The result left Napoli languishing in eighth in Serie A, 11 points outside the top four amid an eight-match winless streak in the league.

"I am totally in sync with Gattuso, who is a great worker," De Laurentiis said. "He did well at Milan and is the right profile for us, as was Carlo, who remains an extraordinary person.

"Now we need a great deal of patience, nerves of steel and cool heads. I tell that above all to the fans. They want to win at all costs, but football has changed and it has become far more complex."

On Ancelotti, De Laurentiis added: "I can only wish Ancelotti all the best. He is an extraordinary person and a great friend. Once we reach the end of the season, I'll look at everything and understand what went wrong or who was wrong. We will draw a definitive line."

Stefano Pioli acknowledged Milan's main focus has to be improving their proficiency in the final third after they were held to a goalless draw by Sassuolo.

Milan remain rooted in mid-table in Serie A following a wasteful display at San Siro on Sunday.

Theo Hernandez was unfortunate to have a first-half goal disallowed by the VAR, while substitute Rafael Leao hit the woodwork twice in quick succession late on.

Veteran Sassuolo goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo also made a string of impressive saves, but Pioli says his team must take responsibility for the missed opportunities.

"We could have had more pace and movement in the first half, but in the second, we had about nine or 10 shots on goal," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. "We tried everything, and it just wasn't going to happen.

"Sassuolo are a good team - we knew they would cause us problems. Rafael Leao did well off the bench, everyone played with effort, but with a little bit of sharpness and precision, we could have brought home the points.

"We made some technical errors today that can prove very costly indeed at this level. We can do better. I think we lacked determination and the ability to finish our chances.

"Our players worked hard today - the fact we had 10 clear scoring opportunities means we put in a good performance 0 but our biggest limitation right now is that we have to create so many chances in order to get a goal. We need to score earlier."

Krzysztof Piatek scored in the 3-2 win over Bologna last time out but failed to have an impact on Sunday, and the striker was taken off late on having cut a frustrated figure throughout.

But Pioli believes the 24-year-old - who has four league goals this season - has not been helped by media pressure.

"Last week, the media said Piatek was our saviour; now, people are going to criticise again," Pioli said.

"They need to be more balanced overall in their evaluation. It’s not just him - everyone needs to do better."

 

 

Theo Hernandez had a goal harshly disallowed by VAR as Milan were held to a 0-0 draw by Sassuolo in their final home Serie A game of 2019.

In-form Hernandez thought he had scored his third goal in as many games just after the half-hour mark at San Siro on Sunday, only for VAR to rule it out for a handball from Franck Kessie.

Chasing a third successive league win for the first time since last season, Stefano Pioli's side piled on the pressure after the interval, only to be frustrated by some brilliant Gianluca Pegolo goalkeeping.

Substitute Rafael Leao twice beat Pegolo in the closing stages, but the crossbar and then the post came to Sassuolo's rescue.

Early in the game, Giacomo Bonaventura's effort forced Pegolo into an unconvincing save, but Sassuolo's goalkeeper reacted brilliantly to deny Kessie's follow-up.

After turning provider for a Hakan Calhanoglu chance, Hernandez thought he had put Milan ahead with a first-time strike which took a wicked deflection on its way through.

A VAR verdict, however, intervened when picking up what appeared to be Kessie's accidental handball.

A terrible back-pass then left Pegolo in no man's land prior to the break, yet Ismael Bennacer - after rounding the stranded goalkeeper - failed to apply the finish.

Jeremie Boga struck wide as Sassuolo caught Milan on the counter early in the second half, while Gianluigi Donnarumma had to keep out a stinging shot from Georgios Kyriakopoulos.

Bonaventura was denied by a brilliant Jeremy Toljan block, before Pegolo made an outstanding stop from Lucas Paqueta's close-range effort and kept out another Bonaventura attempt.

Veteran goalkeeper Pegolo was beaten late on, but Leao's curling strike cracked away off the bar before the substitute hit the right upright. There was still time for a final stop by Pegolo to deny Hernandez as Milan's efforts proved fruitless.

 

What does it mean? Milan entrenched in mid-table

It has been a frustrating season for Milan and, approaching the halfway stage, the Rossoneri sit 10th. Pioli will at least be able to take solace in the fact his side are only four points shy of eighth-placed Atalanta, though Milan will require a mighty upturn in form to make a push for the Champions League places.

Hernandez hitting his stride

Though he was unfortunate to have his goal ruled out, Milan's full-back put in another accomplished display in both defence and attack. If there is one bright mark from the Rossoneri's season so far, it is the form of the ex-Real Madrid youngster.

Piatek's struggles continue

Having netted from the spot against Bologna last time out, Piatek will have been hoping for an upturn in his fortunes, but he cut a frustrated figure in a lone striker role and was well contained by Sassuolo's defence.

What's next?

Atalanta are Milan's final opponents of 2019 on December 22, while Sassuolo face struggling Brescia on Wednesday before rounding off their year against Napoli.

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