Germany head coach Joachim Low has batted away talk of "world-class" Toni Kroos retiring from international football after this year's European Championship.

Real Madrid midfielder Kroos withdrew from the Germany squad at the start of last week, ahead of their opening World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Low's side claimed maximum points from their first two Group J games against Iceland and Romania and will expect to make it a hat-trick of triumphs when North Macedonia visit Duisburg on Wednesday.

Kroos is Die Mannschaft's most-capped active player – and joint 10th overall – having featured 101 times since his Germany debut in 2010.

His last appearance was in November's humiliating 6-0 Nations League defeat to Spain, although he did emerge with some credit.

Kroos enjoyed a pass completion rate of 97.7 per cent – the highest of any starting player across both sides – while no German starter lost possession fewer times than him (four).

Reports have circulated recently that 31-year-old Kroos is ready to call time on his international career after the rearranged Euro 2020 finals, but Low is not ready to write off the midfielder just yet.

"It's a media issue," Low told a media conference. "Toni is a world-class player with an enormous wealth of experience. We won't start to doubt his quality now."

Low also hailed the "step forward" made by Leroy Sane over the past week.

The Bayern Munich forward made three key passes against Romania – matched only by Serge Gnabry for Germany – and won 11 of his 12 duels.

Low was particularly impressed with the 25-year-old's defensive contributions.

"In the last two games Leroy had extremely good moments in defence," Low said. "He won four or five balls against Romania and some against Iceland.

"You haven't seen that before. He made a clear step forward."

Germany are red-hot favourites to progress to Qatar 2022 as Group J winners, but Low has warned his players against complacency when they host North Macedonia.

"I have the feeling that North Macedonia have rolled up their sleeves", said Low, who will step down from his position at the end of Euro 2020. "They are no worse than Romania. It will be a real show of strength.

"We're not taking anything for granted. North Macedonia are shrewd opponents. It will be another tricky task to come away with all three points."

Tottenham and England star Harry Kane said he will decide his future after the upcoming European Championships.

Kane has been linked with Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City, as well as LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old striker, who emerged from Tottenham's youth team in 2009, is contracted to Spurs until 2024.

But Kane is shutting out speculation over his future as he prepares for Tottenham's EFL Cup final against City next month and England's bid to claim their first piece of international silverware since 1966 at the rescheduled Euro 2020.

"I think that's a hard question to answer right now," Kane told the Telegraph when asked about the noise surrounding his future at Tottenham.

"It's important that all my focus is on the two England games coming up now and the rest of the season with Spurs and then the Euros.

"To be thinking about speculation or rumours would be damaging in terms of my own performance.

"I always like to be focused on one goal and one job and that's to finish strong with Spurs, win these qualifiers with England and hopefully go on and have a great Euros.

"Look, I try to stay out of that speculation as much as possible.

"I'm fully focussed on doing the job on the pitch from now until the end of the summer, and then we'll see where we go from there."

Jose Mourinho's Tottenham are sixth in the Premier League, three points outside of the Champions League qualification places ahead of the April 25 EFL Cup decider against City.

England have been drawn in Group D for Euro 2020, which gets underway in June, alongside Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.

Kane has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, while he has netted 27 across all competitions for Tottenham in 2020-21.

Gianni Infantino says FIFA must be open to revolutionising the international calendar, after Arsene Wenger proposed radical changes.

Speaking on beIN SPORTS this week, former Arsenal manager Wenger claimed more focus had to be put on FIFA's flagship competitions, including the World Cup.

The Frenchman is currently serving as FIFA's chief of global football development.

Wenger put forward a plan to host major tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championship every two years, to give more players the opportunity to play at these events during their prime years.

Such changes would mean major alterations to the calendar, but Infantino insists FIFA will rule nothing out, and decisions could be taken within the next 12 months.

"We need to be open to everyone, to everything, to every proposal, every idea," said the FIFA president.

"Arsene Wenger is not only a successful and brilliant manager, he is a professor of football but besides that we have, of course, our bodies and we will debate and discuss the calendar, starting now, because we need to come to a decision in the next few months, the sooner the better, by the end of the year or in the course of next year, for everyone to be able to plan."

The international schedule is not the only item up for debate, with Infantino also interested in a possible merger of North America's leading leagues – Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX.

MLS commissioner Don Garber commented in December that a merger was "a long way away", while FIFA has previously ruled out leagues spread across regions or continents, rather than individual countries.

However, Infantino seemingly sees things differently, as he stressed the need for other areas of the globe to challenge the quality on show in Europe.

"I think the potential in the United States and Mexico is enormous, each country by itself," he said.

"But of course if you could bring those two together that would be incredible and that could quite well be the best league in the world.

"Any discussion about organising such a competition, of course respecting the rules of member associations and FIFA and with the agreement of all stakeholders, any discussion in that respect is interesting and we see that in a positive light.

"Of course if we want club teams to be at the highest level around the world and not just in Europe, we need to have new ideas.

"We see the potential in North America, the economic potential and the potential in footballing terms. I trust them to take the best decisions in that regard."

Trent Alexander-Arnold has not made the cut for England despite being one of the few Liverpool players to deliver high standards during the Reds' poor run.

Gareth Southgate named a 26-man squad for this month's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

Five full-backs were included in the selection, but Alexander-Arnold, a Champions League and Premier League winner in the past two years, was not among them, casting doubt over his participation in Euro 2020.

Manchester City's Kyle Walker, Chelsea's Reece James and Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier were preferred to Alexander-Arnold at right-back, while left-backs Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw were also selected.

Trippier has just returned from a ban imposed by the Football Association for a breach of betting rules.

Alexander-Arnold and his Liverpool team-mates have endured a tough time in the Premier League since the turn of the year, picking up just four wins.

The reigning champions have lost eight league games in 2021, though 22-year-old Alexander-Arnold has kept his performance levels high.

Manchester United full-back Shaw is the only defender to have created more chances (52) than Alexander-Arnold (47) so far this season, while the Liverpool man ranks highest of any player in the competition for passes played into the box (315).

Alexander-Arnold's accuracy from crosses and corners tallies at 18.81 per cent, which does represent a dip compared to 21.41 last season, and 29.21 in 2018-19.

His efforts this season have resulted in one goal and three assists – he teed up 13 goals last term – though Liverpool's misfiring strike force have to shoulder much of that responsibility, with only club-mate Andrew Robertson and West Ham's Aaron Cresswell (both nine) having crafted more big chances among Premier League defenders than Alexander-Arnold (eight).

Alexander-Arnold also boasts an impressive 69.05 per cent tackle success rate, from a total of 42 attempted tackles, higher than James (68.42) and Walker (65.38), though slightly lower than Trippier's rate of 69.23 per cent from 39 attempted tackles in LaLiga. Alexander-Arnold had a 61.82 per cent success rate last term, so there has been a marked improvement.

The youngster's set-piece delivery could also be a miss for England, with Alexander-Arnold having created 21 goalscoring opportunities from corners or free-kicks in the league this term – only four players have managed more in the top flight.

A SUPER TALENT

Explaining his decision, Southgate conceded Alexander-Arnold was "unfortunate" to miss out, though he singled out Matty Cash of Aston Villa and Luke Ayling of Leeds United as examples of the strength in depth England possess at right-back, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka was not even mentioned.

Wan-Bissaka's international future is up in the air, with reports the Manchester United defender may choose to represent DR Congo having been consistently overlooked by Southgate, but the England boss has no doubt over Alexander-Arnold's long-term importance to the Three Lions.

"There's some areas of the pitch where we've got incredible competition for places," Southgate told a news conference.

"Trent has been very unfortunate. The last few weeks he's definitely taken steps in the right direction. Reece and Trippier have had exceptional seasons. Kyle is in great form.

"Matty at Aston Villa, Luke at Leeds. It's a remarkable position of strength. What I said to Trent – I've made that same call to Kyle and Kieran in the past, their response was a good one.

"Trent is a super talent and I'm certain he'll play a big part with England in the future. We could be sat here [for the Euros] and he's with us."

Hansi Flick is the ideal candidate to succeed Joachim Low as Germany's next head coach, according to Lothar Matthaus.

Low announced on Tuesday he will step down from his role with the national team after the Euro 2020 finals, having been in charge for the past 15 years.

Bayern Munich's Flick was installed as one of the early favourites to take over from Low, whom he previously worked alongside as assistant head coach for eight years.

Flick masterminded a magnificent Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble last season, which Bayern have added to with the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and DFL-Supercup this season.

The 56-year-old appeared to rule himself out of the running earlier this week as he remains under contract at the Allianz Arena until 2023.

But Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge will leave his role at the end of the year and Matthaus has urged the DFB to move for Flick should he become available.

"He's a person of harmony, but he has to feel good," Matthaus told Sky Sport Germany. "If he no longer feels comfortable at Bayern, he will tell his bosses and then he will be the ideal candidate for the national team."

Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann, in charge of Liverpool and RB Leipzig respectively, have also distanced themselves from one of the top positions in international football.

Meanwhile, Matthaus previously stated he had no interest in leading the country he represented 150 times as a player, but he has now changed his stance.

"The DFB has to think about what it wants. Pros and cons are weighed up against each candidate," he said.

"I'm someone who likes to help. If I had the feeling that those responsible were united behind the decision, I would start to think about it."

Germany Under-21s coach Stefan Kuntz and former Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick have also been linked with the position, though the latter is reported to be in talks with Schalke over the possibility of returning to the club as sporting director.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes it is "unlikely" Virgil van Dijk or Joe Gomez will feature at Euro 2020 this year.

Netherlands star van Dijk has been sidelined since October after suffering a serious knee injury, while England defender Gomez has been out since November due to a knee injury.

The European Championship was pushed back to this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and is set to begin on June 11.

Klopp said he did not expect van Dijk or Gomez to be ready for the tournament after their serious injuries.

"That's not my decision, but to be honest, the information I have in the moment [is] it will be unlikely," he said.

"So, not that I don't let them go because I don't want to have to do that anyway, but it's because of the extent of the injury. We all hope that they will be ready to start the pre-season with us. That's what we hope.

"And, by the way, with Joel [Matip] it's pretty much the same, he's just not qualified for the Euros but it's with him the same.

"These are really serious injuries. And it's not about now that we talk [about] which competition they can play. As far as I know – and I'm always open for positive surprises, now they all of a sudden show up in team training – but nobody told me that.

"The two of them [Gomez and Van Dijk] look in the moment better than Joel looks because he's still in his [what] looks like skiing boots. But he is here as well. Joe is not running, Virgil is already running, but this is really a tough one.

"We are completely over the moon when they are ready to train with us for the start of pre-season. About the Euros, I didn't think about it.

"I don’t know when you would have to be back that you are able to play the Euros. The week before? The day when the Euros start? I don't know. That's it. I understand maybe the need of that but we cannot make this decision and we will not.

"It's just about when they will be fit, they will be fit. That's how it is."

The Netherlands will face Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia in Group C, while England will take on Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D.

Germany head coach Joachim Low has insisted no final decision has been made on possible recalls for Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller and Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels.

The experienced pair have not played for their country since being told by Low in March 2019 that they, along with Jerome Boateng, had no future with the national team.

Low's decision to focus on younger talent has not always paid dividends, though, and last November's 6-0 demolition by Spain prompted loud calls from the likes of Mesut Ozil to bring those senior players back into the fold.

A report in Kicker claimed Muller and Hummels are set to be handed places in Low's Euro 2020 squad, which will be his last major tournament in charge before he steps down after 15 years in the role.

While insisting he has made no promises over either player's future, Low did admit the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could mean his planned "upheaval" of the team may have to be put on hold.

"I neither opened nor closed the door," he said when asked about Muller and Hummels' possible return.

"I said that, under normal circumstances, you shouldn't interrupt a radical change. We have the pandemic situation, and perhaps you can consider: should I interrupt the upheaval [of the squad] for a tournament?"

Muller, 31, has played 100 times for Germany since making his debut in 2010 and, like Hummels – who has 70 caps – he was part of the squad that won the World Cup in 2014.

Muller's club form in the past two years, particularly during Bayern's treble triumph in 2019-20, has led to a clamour for his return to the national team.

Since the start of last season, as well as scoring 27 goals in all competitions, he has provided 37 assists, the most of any player in Europe's top-five leagues apart from Kevin De Bruyne (38).

Only two Bundesliga players – Erling Haaland (65) and Robert Lewandowski (109) – have had more direct goal involvements than Muller in that time.

Speaking of a possible Germany comeback, he said: "I feel comfortable in the [Bayern] team. Standing on the pitch with the boys is fun, and there are a lot of national team players on the pitch.

"I feel like chasing titles in the summer. We will see if it is the end for me after the Champions League final or whether I will play for the national team. I'm definitely ready."

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

Appointed in 2006, Low led Germany to global glory in 2014 when Mario Gotze's extra-time goal earned a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final.

Germany consistently challenged at the business end of international tournaments during Low's reign, until the 2018 World Cup, when a group-stage exit raised the first major doubts about the coach's continuing hold on his job.

Low was due to reach the end of his current contract following Germany's 2022 World Cup campaign.

A new face will be in charge for Qatar 2022, however.

Low said: "I take this step very consciously, full of pride and enormous gratitude, but at the same time I continue to be very motivated as far as the upcoming European Championship tournament is concerned.

"I am proud, because it is something very special and an honour for me to be involved with my country."

Low was previously assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, who had two years in charge of Die Mannschaft before leaving his post after Germany's run to the semi-finals at their home World Cup in 2006.

Germany were runners-up to Spain at Euro 2008 and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, as well as advancing to the last four at the 2010 World Cup.

Low spoke of his joy at having the chance to lead Germany's elite players on the world stage.

In a statement issued by the German Football Association (DFB), he added: "I associate them with great triumphs and painful defeats, but above all many wonderful and magical moments - not just winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I am and will remain grateful to the DFB, which has always prepared an ideal working environment for me and the team."

Low, who is 61, is eager to go out on a high.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November has prompted him to consider recalling Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, senior players that he exiled after the World Cup disappointment three years ago, and it could be there is a final flourish to come from Low.

"I still feel the unconditional will, great energy and ambition for the upcoming European Championship," he said. "I will do my best to make our fans happy and successful at this tournament. I also know that this applies to the entire team."

National teams director Oliver Bierhoff said: "Joachim Low and I have worked closely together for almost 17 years. We were able to experience so much together and also endure together.

"It is a special relationship that is characterised above all by absolute trust. Under Jogi, the national team once again stood for the joy of playing attractive and attacking football.

"This team and its players have developed incredibly with him. I regret that our professional paths will separate after the Euros.

"We will remain close on a personal level, but I'm not thinking about that now because I know that Jogi's full concentration and energy in the coming weeks and months will only be used to prepare for the European Championship. We will continue to have a big common goal in the summer."

The Euro 2020 finals, delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 crisis, will run from June 11 to July 11, with Germany in a tough first-round group that also includes France, Hungary and Portugal.

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

UEFA is committed to its plan of hosting Euro 2020 across 12 host cities, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Euro 2020 was due to take place last year, with 12 nations having been selected to host matches in celebration of the competition's 60th anniversary.

However, the COVID-19 crisis resulted in UEFA taking the decision last March to push the tournament back to 2021.

Although Europe is still struggling to deal with the pandemic, with many nations under lockdown rules and travel severely restricted in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, UEFA has reaffirmed its intention for the competition to take place later this year.

In a statement released on Wednesday, UEFA also said it is retaining hope that the 12 venues will be able to accommodate some fans, despite club competitions continuing behind closed doors.

The statement read: "UEFA repeated its commitment to holding the Euro across the 12 cities according to the timetable that has already been published.

"All parties recognise the need for flexibility around decisions to be made on the arrangements for the tournament, in order to reflect the different challenges and circumstances that cities find themselves in. 

"As a result of that and the fast-changing nature of the situation around the pandemic, the deadline for the submission of plans to accommodate fans inside the stadiums has been moved to early April."

In limited numbers, spectators had been allowed into venues in certain European nations – including Germany, England and France – in 2020, though those schemes were ended as infection rates increased again.

"UEFA is committed to holding Euro 2020 in the 12 cities originally planned," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said.

"The Euro is the flagship competition for national team football in Europe and is a vital source of funding for grassroots and wider football development. 

"I am optimistic that things are highly likely to be very different with regard to the virus as we move closer to the tournament and it is important that we give the host cities and governments as much time as we can to formulate an accurate picture of what will be possible come June and July. 

"Fans are such a big part of what makes football special and that is true of the Euro as much as it is of any game. We must allow ourselves the maximum space to allow their return to the stadiums."

London, Rome, Glasgow, Bilbao, Dublin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Baku, Budapest, Bucharest, Saint Petersburg and Munich are the designated host cities for the finals.

Each city will host three group games, and one match in either the round of 16 or quarter-finals, with the semi-finals and final to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Paulo Sousa has been appointed as the new Poland head coach.

Former Portugal midfielder Sousa replaces Jerzy Brzeczek, who was surprisingly relieved of his duties on Monday.

Brzeczek was sacked despite Poland's qualification for Euro 2020 as Group G winners, having won eight of their 10 qualifying matches.

Sousa has been out of work since leaving his role as Bordeaux boss last August and was linked with the Juventus job before Andrea Pirlo landed the role.

The 50-year-old's appointment on Thursday came less than five months before Poland's first game of the rescheduled European Championship, with Slovakia their opponents in a Group E contest on June 14.

Sousa said: "I am honoured and proud to be the coach of the Polish national team. At the beginning, I would like to thank president [of the Polish Football Association] Zbigniew Boniek and the entire management board for the fact that I can take up such a great challenge.

"Poland is a country of football and I am convinced that your enthusiasm will give us strength, support and faith in the representation. Together, we will be able to fight for victories at the European Championship.

"With the right mentality, discipline, organisation and approach, together with me, my staff, federation employees and the support of the entire nation, we will be strong. I am sure that all of Poland will be proud of its national team."

FIFA has warned that any player competing in a European Super League would become ineligible to take part in World Cups, European Championships or the Champions League.

Amid speculation that the biggest clubs from the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 are keen on forming a breakaway competition, football's world governing body has taken a strong stance against such ideas.

A joint statement from FIFA and the six continental federations read: "In light of recent media speculation about the creation of a closed European 'Super League' by some European clubs, FIFA and the six confederations (AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA) once again would like to reiterate and strongly emphasise that such a competition would not be recognised by either FIFA or the respective confederation.

"Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation.

"As per the FIFA and confederation statutes, all competitions should be organised or recognised by the relevant body at their respective level, by FIFA at the global level and by the confederations at the continental level.

"In this respect, the confederations recognise the Club World Cup, in its current and new format, as the only worldwide club competition, while FIFA recognises the club competitions organised by the confederations as the only club continental competitions.

"The universal principles of sporting merit, solidarity, promotion and relegation, and subsidiarity are the foundation of the football pyramid that ensures football's global success and are, as such, enshrined in the FIFA and confederation statutes.

"Football has a long and successful history thanks to these principles. Participation in global and continental competitions should always be won on the pitch."

It was reported in October that FIFA were hoping to create a closed 18-team tournament that would be dubbed the 'European Premier League'.

However, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he was "not interested" in the idea and felt the existing Club World Cup had greater potential.

Prior to his resignation as Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed at a news conference that he had accepted a proposal for the club to join the proposed European Super League.

Dejan Kulusevski urged evergreen Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come out of retirement and play for Sweden at this year's rearranged Euro 2020.

Ibrahimovic has not represented Sweden in more than four years after retiring from international football following Euro 2016.

The 39-year-old forward – Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 62 goals in 116 appearances – has hinted he is ready to end his international retirement ahead of the European Championship as he continues to light up Serie A with Milan.

Sweden international and Juventus attacker Kulusevski talked up an Ibrahimovic comeback following Sunday's 3-1 win over 10-man Sassuolo.

"We write to each other. He is an idol for me, as hardly anyone in the world can do what he does," Kulusevski told Sky Sport Italia of Ibrahimovic, who has scored 10 league goals this season and 11 across all competitions for Serie A-leading Milan.

"When he speaks highly of me, it makes me work even harder the next day in training, because I am so proud.

"I really hope he returns for international duty with Sweden at the Euros. It would be wonderful for me and all of Sweden. Come on, Ibra!"

Juventus recorded their third consecutive league win for the first time since July after overcoming visiting Sassuolo in Turin.

Goals from Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo kept fourth-placed Juve in touch with Milan, after Sassuolo's Pedro Obiang was sent off prior to half-time – the defending champions are seven points adrift.

Ronaldo completed the scoring at the death as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner made it 15-plus goals in 15 different seasons in the top five European leagues.

Juve also conceded a goal in a Serie A home game while playing with a numerical advantage for the first time since October 2013 against Milan after Gregoire Defrel cancelled out Danilo's 50th-minute opener 13 minutes into the second half.

Kulusevski came off the bench to replace the injured Paulo Dybala before the interval and he added: "I had just one thing in my mind when I came on, which was to win the game. I could've done much better, but I am glad we got the points.

"I see myself at Juventus for many years. I see myself closer to the goal, where I can do a quick one-two with my team-mates. I enjoyed where I played this evening."

Things are moving very quickly for Pedri.

This time last year he was 17 years old and preparing for a Copa del Rey clash against Badajoz with Las Palmas, now he is playing for Barcelona and his coach is fielding questions about the possibility of him representing Spain at the delayed Euro 2020.

Calls for him to be considered by Luis Enrique intensified after he produced a fine display in Barca's 3-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, becoming the youngest player in LaLiga history to score and assist in a single game.

At 18 years and 42 days old he headed home an equaliser after Inaki Williams' opener at San Mames and then produced a lovely backheel that Messi steered home to put the Blaugrana on the path to a 3-2 win.

Asked on Friday if Pedri is deserving of a first call-up to the senior Spain squad, Barca boss Ronald Koeman said: "It's not my decision.

"We can say a lot of positive things about Pedri's career so far. Nobody expected a boy of his age to play almost every game. He deserves it.

"It seems like he's been at the club for years, but young players always have ups and downs, you have to see how he continues to evolve, but I have no doubts that he will continue to improve.

"He has to show this level for a longer time, but you don't have to rush."

But how does Pedri stack up against the other options available to Luis Enrique?

A FINE PLAYMAKER

Among Spanish midfielders and attackers playing in the top five European leagues to have featured in at least 10 games in all competitions this season, Pedri ranks sixth in terms of chances created with 26 – 11 shy of Iago Aspas at the top of the list.

Only Isco (31.4) and Cesc Fabregas (30.9) have attempted more passes ending in the final third per 90 minutes than Pedri (30.6), though the Barca star averages more successful ones (24.6) than Fabregas (21.2). Isco leads the way with 25.6 successful passes ending in the final third each game.

AT THE HEART OF THINGS

When looking at the performances of Spanish midfielders in the top five European leagues, only Napoli's Fabian Ruiz (93) has been involved in more unique open play sequences ending with a shot than Pedri (79). Nine of the sequences featuring Pedri have ended in a goal, a tally that only Denis Suarez (10) and Marcos Llorente (13) can better.

The overall expected goals value of the open play sequences ending with a shot or goal that Pedri has been involved in is 10.5, putting him top of the list. It means that not only is the 18-year-old involved in a many passages of play compared to his contemporaries, he is involved in dangerous ones.

Pedri has initiated 16 open play sequences that ended with a shot this season, enough for joint-fourth alongside Dani Parejo. Rodri is top on 22 but his role at Manchester City means he is relied upon to regain possession and start moves from there. Barca would not expect breaking up the opposition's play to be a huge part of Pedri's game, but he is still able to get them moving forward.

Of the shot-ending sequences in open play that Pedri has been involved in, he created the chance and was also involved in the build-up on eight occasions. Luis Alberto (9) of Lazio is the only player with more multi chance involvements.

VERDICT

Spain have an abundance of attacking midfield options, but Pedri is already showing a level of involvement in Barca's build-up play that must surely put him in Luis Enrique's thinking. He has also proved versatile, with Koeman using him out wide, behind the striker and also in a deeper midfield role at times this season. Regardless of where he plays, Pedri is regularly involved in sequences that lead to goalscoring opportunities and looks set to continue doing so for years to come.

Virgil van Dijk is on track to be fit for the European Championship later this year, according to Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk has been out since a 2-2 draw with Everton in October, when he sustained a serious knee ligament injury following a heavy challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Van Dijk's influence has since been notable in its absence for the Reds, for whom he played an integral role in ending their 30-year wait to win the English top-flight title in 2019-20.

Last season Van Dijk attempted more passes (3,255) than any other defender in the Premier League, while only two other defenders with more than 1,500 had a better completion rate than him (89.2 per cent).

On top of that, Trent Alexander-Arnold (3,664) was the sole defender to have more touches of the ball than Van Dijk (3,624), his 239 duels won was the fifth best among rearguard players and his 191 aerial wins was bettered by only James Tarkowski (199).

Van Dijk has posted a series of videos on social media recently, including one in Dubai where former Netherlands midfielder Clarence Seedorf assisted the defender with his rehabilitation.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently said Van Dijk still "has a long way to go" and it is uncertain if he will play for the defending champions in the rest of this campaign.

But De Boer has optimistically claimed the 29-year-old, who captains the Dutch national team, should be contention to play in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament provided he does not suffer any setbacks.

De Boer told De Telegraaf: "If Virgil doesn't get a kick-back and things go a little faster than expected, he should be able to make it for the opening European Championship match on June 13 against Ukraine.

"He is busy with so much energy. If you see what he's doing…In my time you were only allowed to kick in the swimming pool.

"He is very important for our team, on and off the field."

Van Dijk has won 38 caps for the Netherlands since he made his debut in October 2015.

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