Tottenham boss Antonio Conte declared himself "happy for different reasons" after his team drew 0-0 at Everton in his first Premier League game in charge of the North London club.

In a cagey affair on Merseyside, Spurs left with a point and a clean sheet, although they were relieved to see referee Chris Kavanagh overturn his own decision to award a penalty to the Toffees in the second half after a VAR check.

The away side hit the post through Giovani Lo Celso in the 88th minute, while Everton went down to ten men in stoppage time when Mason Holgate was given a straight red card just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Despite being denied a victory, Conte said after the game that he was pleased with some of what he saw from his new team.

"Honestly, I have to be happy for different reasons and the first is that Goodison Park is not an easy place to come to play, against Everton, especially when you had a week [that was] very intensive, I am talking emotionally for my players, not for the club," he told a news conference.

"After we play the game Thursday, I have to be happy because I started to see some tactical situations for sure we can improve and we have a lot of space for improvement. In different situations, tactically, physically but also the mentality."

The former Chelsea and Inter boss was not entirely pleased with what he saw from his forward line, with several Spurs attacks breaking down during the course of the game. 

Tottenham failed to register a shot on target for the second league game in a row for the first time since this data started being collected by Opta in 2003-04. 

"I think we made many mistakes in the final pass. If we made the final pass in the right way, we could have chances to score," Conte added.

"I said to my players we have to know each other better, and they have to give me the possibility to know them very well. I like to win, and I will pick the players that I think can give us the possibility to win."

Everton manager Rafael Benitez was left frustrated by the overturned penalty decision, suggesting that had the incident taken place anywhere else on the pitch, a free-kick would have been awarded.

"If it is a foul in the middle of the pitch, it does not matter if he touched the ball a little bit or not. Richarlison touched the ball after the keeper Lloris touched him, so if it's like that in the middle of the pitch it's a foul, and in the box it has to be a foul," he said.

When asked for his thoughts on the penalty, Conte said that he believed it to be the right decision, explaining: "I have seen honestly that Lloris touched the ball before and to make a mistake after you watch VAR for me, it is impossible. Also, I have seen, he took the right decision for me."

Antonio Conte's first Premier League game in charge of Tottenham ended 0-0 in a frantic encounter with Everton at Goodison Park, with Rafael Benitez's side reduced to 10 men late on.

In a competitive clash, albeit one lacking in clear opportunities, Everton had a penalty overturned in the second half before Giovani Lo Celso hit the woodwork late on for Spurs.

Richarlison was awarded a spot-kick after Hugo Lloris lunged in, but referee Chris Kavanagh changed his decision after checking the pitchside monitor, and Everton fell foul of VAR again when Mason Holgate received his marching orders in stoppage time.

Spurs did not have enough time to make their numerical advantage count, however, as Conte – who enjoyed a good record against Everton in his time at Chelsea, winning three and drawing one of their four meetings – had to settle for a point.

The only shot on target in a cagey first half long-range effort from Ben Godfrey, which was saved comfortably by Hugo Lloris.

It was the fourth half of Premier League football in a row where Spurs had failed to have a shot on target, despite both wing-backs Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal having good chances, both directing their efforts wide.

The game finally came to life in the 63rd minute when Lloris appeared to bring down Richarlison in the box. However, after a VAR check showing that the Spurs keeper got a slight touch on the ball, referee Kavanagh reversed his decision, much to Everton's chagrin.

Everton's frustration was almost compounded in the 88th minute – the left-hand post coming to their rescue from Lo Celso's excellent effort.

Substitute Holgate then saw a yellow card upgraded to a red for catching Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg after making a clearance, though Everton held on to stop their run of defeats.

Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt has backed new Spurs head coach Antonio Conte to have an immediate impact with the club - but would prefer him to have signed a longer contract.

The former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter boss was swiftly appointed as the replacement for Nuno Espirito Santo, who was sacked on Monday.

Tottenham made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit 52-year-old Conte prior to their appointment of Nuno in the close season.

They secured their man second time round but Conte has only agreed an 18-month deal with the London club.

The Italian has left his last two posts after just two seasons in charge, parting with the Nerazzurri over a reported dispute with the club's board despite having led them to the Serie A title last campaign, breaking Juve's hold on the Scudetto.

Ahead of Conte's first Premier League match in charge of Spurs, against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, Mabbutt expressed concern about the length of his contract.

He told Stats Perform: "Ideally, as a club, you want to get a manager in there who is going to have a long-term view because you want to build something.

"We have got a fantastic academy group of players coming through.

"But he said he's got an 18-month contract initially. So that is a short-term contract he is coming in with.

"In his first two years at Chelsea, he won the Premier League title and he won the FA Cup. In Milan [at Inter], it was the first time for 11 years they won the title.

"So, he's a manager that can come in and see where the problems are. He sees how those problems can be addressed and he gets in there, and he deals with it. That's what I like about him."

Mabbutt, who played 619 games for Spurs in all competitions, won the UEFA Cup in 1984, and captained them to the 1991 FA Cup, reckons Conte will get the best out of squad available to him.

He also believes Conte's systems and managerial style will suit the club's players as Spurs desperately seek a first trophy since 2008.

"I think he's very forthright and the way he wants his teams to play," he added.

"Very famously at Chelsea he was playing sort of the 3-4-3 formation, or 3-5-2 formation, those formations that he's always tended to use. 

"I think we have the players at Tottenham who will fit into that mould and seeing the first game [against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League] you could see the players were asked to be doing different things, you could see that they were responding to what he wanted. 

"I think he can make changes very, very quickly. And what this group of players need, they need to be given the confidence to be allowed to go out there and play. 

"These need to be given the belief that they can achieve things. And I believe a manager like Conte could do that."

This weekend could perhaps spell the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United tenure, and opponents Tottenham have a player capable of causing real damage.

Elsewhere, the form of Manchester City's sort-of-striker Gabriel Jesus and Newcastle United's possibly-only-striker Callum Wilson make them worthy considerations for your fantasy teams for this weekend.

There is also a more surprising pick from Southampton who could offer some real value.

Below are Stats Perform's weekly suggestions for fantasy football players, powered by Opta data...

 

AARON RAMSDALE (Leicester City v Arsenal)

It was a signing that did more to raise supporter eyebrows than excitement levels, but Aaron Ramsdale is beginning to prove his worth for Arsenal.

Having grasped the number-one spot with two gloved hands, the former Sheffield United man boasts a save percentage of 80, having kept out 16 of 20 shots on target faced.

Given only Edouard Mendy can do better among goalkeepers to play more than 90 minutes this season, Ramsdale has surely earned a shot in your side.

TINO LIVRAMENTO (Watford v Southampton)

Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only defender to create more chances in the Premier League this season (12) than Southampton's Tino Livramento (10).

Something of a revelation on the south coast, he could become just the third 18-year-old this century to start the first 10 games of a Premier League season after Micah Richards (2006-07) and Phil Jones (2010-11).

Since Watford have won just one of their past 13 league games with Southampton, Livramento seems worth a punt.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool v Brighton and Hove Albion)

If you don't know by now that Trent Alexander-Arnold tends to get quite a lot of points for a defender, you've probably not been paying attention.

This season, the Liverpool star is ranked eighth in the Premier League for expected goal involvements (excluding penalties), while only Bruno Fernandes (34) has created more chances (25). And he's a right-back.

Alexander-Arnold might just be prime captain material for this weekend, particularly if you think the Reds can keep a clean sheet at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.

DEMARAI GRAY (Wolves v Everton)

It's not all going swimmingly for Rafael Benitez at Everton, but Demarai Gray is looking like a real bargain, having joined for around £1.7million from Bayer Leverkusen.

With three goals and two assists in nine games this season, he has already matched his best tally for direct goal involvements in a single Premier League campaign.

He also happened to score the last time he played against Wolves, for Leicester City in January 2019.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Manchester United)

Of Son Heung-min's 17 Premier League goal involvements in 2021, 13 of them have come at home, a tally bettered only by Bruno Fernandes (15).

The Tottenham star has developed a knack for playing against Manchester United, too. After going eight games without a goal against the Red Devils, he scored three and set up another in their two meetings in 2020-21.

Could he be the man to spell the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

 

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Crystal Palace)

Gabriel Jesus has scored three and assisted six goals in his most recent nine league starts for Manchester City. His five assists in 2021-22 means he is already just two shy of the most he has ever managed in a single season.

Saturday's game with Crystal Palace will be a special occasion for City, as it will be Pep Guardiola's 200th Premier League game in charge (naturally, his 146 wins in his first 199 matches is a record).

It's hard to look beyond a comfortable City win: they have lost only once to Palace in 12 league meetings, while that 3-2 defeat in December 2018 was the only one of their past 50 matches to kick off at 15:00 local time on a Saturday that has ended in defeat.

CALLUM WILSON (Newcastle United v Chelsea)

Plenty of star names could be on the horizon for Newcastle United, but Callum Wilson has looked determined to prove he has a place in the new era at the club.

The striker has six goals in his past six league games, as many as he managed in his previous 21, and is hoping to score for the fourth match in a row for only the second time in the Premier League.

Newcastle might be up against it to beat Chelsea, but the Blues have so far conceded just three times which is almost eight fewer than their expected goals-against total of 10.7. At some stage, that will have to give...

Former Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith has died at the age of 73.

Smith holds legendary status at Ibrox, having won 21 trophies during two spells as boss of the Scottish champions.

He also masterminded the Glasgow giants' run to the UEFA Cup final in 2008 and managed his country from 2004 to 2007.

Smith was also in charge at Everton for almost four years and spent time as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United.

Rangers chairman Douglas Park said in a statement on Tuesday: "On behalf of the Rangers board of directors, staff and players, I convey my deep condolences to the Smith family. Walter leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren, all of whom are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

"It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers. He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first team manager.

"I spoke with Walter as recently as last weekend. Even when he was battling illness, he was still able to provide advice and support. For that, I am personally grateful. I know that he continued also to maintain dialogue with senior members of staff, including our manager, Steven Gerrard.

"Walter will be sorely missed by all of us at Rangers.

"Winning 10 top-flight titles as manager, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups, as well as leading his club to the UEFA Cup final in 2008, he will be remembered by the football community across the world. His spells as Scotland manager as well as managing in the English Premier League underlined his credentials as one of the great modern day football managers.

"However, for Rangers supporters, he was much more than just a football manager. Walter was a friend to many, a leader, an ambassador and most of all -a legend."

Former Rangers manager Mark Warburton expressed his sorrow, writing on Twitter: "Devastating news to hear of the sad passing of Walter Smith. A man who was always on hand to help with advice and support. My thoughts and condolences are with his family at this most difficult time."

Manchester City had a relatively quiet off-season in the transfer market.

City landed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a big-money move but failed in their efforts to sign Tottenham star Harry Kane following Sergio Aguero's exit.

But the Premier League champions could be more active in the January transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLAN FOR DE JONG SWOOP

Manchester City are plotting a move for Barcelona star midfielder Frenkie de Jong, according to Calciomercato.

De Jong, who also has interest from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, signed a five-year deal with Barcelona effective from July 2019, tying him down to 2024.

The 24-year-old Netherlands international has made 11 appearances in all competitions this season and is yet to score.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims Manchester United have made no official proposal for former Chelsea and Inter boss Antonio Conte yet amid doubts over the future of Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Sunday's 5-0 rout at the hands of Liverpool. Zinedine Zidane and Ajax's Erik ten Hag are also possible options.

- Manchester United's wantaway Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek is preparing to make a January move with Voetbal International claiming he has swapped agents. EvertonNewcastle United and Juventus are all interested in Van de Beek, per Metro.

Paris Saint-Germain will switch their attention to Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso if they cannot secure a move for Manchester United's Paul Pogba, reports Calciomercato. Pogba has also been linked with Juve and Real Madrid.

Newcastle and Juve are contending to sign Barca forward Ousmane Dembele, according to Sport. Dembele is set to exit Barca at the end of this season and his agent has reportedly been in touch with both clubs about a move, while Liverpool and United are also possible destinations.

 

Sunday must have felt like a horror film for Manchester United fans as their team endured perhaps their most humiliating defeat of the Premier League era.

Still, ghoulish goings-on are not uncommon for the Red Devils during the month of October.

Elsewhere, Chelsea's demolition of Norwich City came largely thanks to their English contingent and the in-form Ben Chilwell, who is on the kind of goalscoring run that struggling Spurs could really use.

Read on for more of the stranger Opta facts to emerge from the Premier League weekend...

 

United's Oktober(goal)fest

Plenty of fans would think there must be something spooky going on at Old Trafford if the manager is not under threat of losing his job after the biggest loss to Liverpool in 126 years.

If the Glazers do indeed continue to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, perhaps it's because they have embraced as the norm United's history of some truly terrifying results during the Hallowe'en season.

The debacle against Liverpool was the fifth time United have lost a Premier League game by a margin of five goals. All of those matches have come in October: 5-0 defeats to Newcastle United (1996) and Chelsea (1999), the 6-1 thrashing by Manchester City in 2011, and last season's 6-1 loss to Tottenham.

Given their next two league games are against Spurs and City, Solskjaer must wonder whether he will still be in a nightmare after October 31.

Four England!

Battering another team 7-0 is a decent opportunity to rack up some goalscoring stats, which is exactly what Chelsea did against Norwich City.

While Mason Mount took the plaudits for his hat-trick, he was one of four English players to score in the game, the others being Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Ben Chilwell. Never before have the Blues had so many Englishman find the net for them in a single Premier League match. Indeed, the last side to do so (excluding own goals) was Bournemouth against Hull City in October 2016.

Chilwell has now scored in four league games in a row for Chelsea, having only managed two goals in his previous 26 appearances in the competition. The previous English player to score in as many consecutive matches for the club was Frank Lampard in February 2013.

If that form continues, the left-back will match Lampard's club-record 177 Premier League goals for Chelsea at some point in the 2026-27 season...

Royal rumble

Watford's 5-2 win at Everton on Saturday was... well, it was just a bit weird, wasn't it? After all, it made Watford the first Premier League team to concede five and then score five the next week since 2018, while no side in the competition's history had ever trailed by two or more goals after 75 minutes and won by a margin of at least three.

Emmanuel Dennis, a 64th-minute substitute, was directly involved in three of Watford's goals, scoring one and assisting two. That's the same return managed all season by Raul Jimenez, Jarrod Bowen and £100million man Jack Grealish. Indeed, only Paul Pogba, Gabriel Jesus, Jamie Vardy, Michail Antonio and Mohamed Salah have had more direct goal involvements than Dennis (six) in 2021-22.

And what a regal performance it was for former Toffee Joshua King. A visiting hat-trick would be a tough one to swallow for the Goodison Park faithful at the best of times, but King scored as many goals on Saturday as he attempted shots for Everton in his 11 league appearances for them.

Fifteen minutes of infamy

Paul Pogba became the first United player since Luke Chadwick in December 2000, also against Liverpool, to be sent off in a Premier League game after coming on as a substitute.

The red card changed the game only inasmuch as it prompted Jurgen Klopp's men to take pity on their opponents – only five of their 19 shots overall came in that final half-hour.

Between his introduction at half-time and his dismissal 15 minutes later, Pogba certainly tried to make an impact on more than just the shin of Naby Keita. He completed eight passes in Liverpool territory, more than half the number Cristiano Ronaldo managed in the whole game, while also losing possession five times (one of which led to the fifth goal). Scale those numbers up for a full 90 minutes, and Pogba would have ended the game with 56 opposition-half passes, by far the most of any United player, but he would have lost the ball 35 times. Only once this season has a Premier League player lost possession more often in a single match: that was Matt Lowton for Burnley against Norwich City (37 times).

Pogba, dropped from the starting line-up against Liverpool and Atalanta after proclaiming something had to change following the Leicester City defeat, presumably wanted to make a point to his manager in his time on the pitch. You'd imagine this wasn't it.

Kane unable

Tottenham didn't manage a single shot in the second half of their 1-0 loss to West Ham. That shouldn't come as a great surprise given they have only attempted 94 all season, the lowest tally in the division apart from Norwich (89).

At their current rate, Spurs will finish 2021-22 with roughly 302 attempted shots, which would represent their worst such return for a single season since... well, last season (443). In seven of the past 12 Premier League campaigns, they have managed at least double that number.

It's not all about Harry Kane, of course, but the England striker's numbers are a good yardstick. His average of 0.26 non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes in 2021-22 is his lowest rate ever in a Premier League season, and his 2021-22 tally stands at one goal in 648 minutes across eight league appearances.

Toni Kroos has fallen out of favour with Real Madrid. 

A January transfer is a top priority with the World Cup looming.

Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola await? 

 

TOP STORY – KROOS HEADED TO CITY?

Manchester City have reached out to Toni Kroos about a January transfer, El Nacional reports. 

The Germany international has played in just one league match for Real Madrid this term. 

The 31-year-old previously played for City boss Guardiola at Bayern Munich and a reunion could be on the cards. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Ferran Torres is set to land a contract extension at Manchester City, says the Daily Star, with the new five-year deal set to pay him £100,000 a week.

- Lazio midfielder Luis Alberto could be headed for a reunion with Simone Inzaghi at Inter, reports Calciomercato. 

- Everton lead several clubs in pursuit of Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, says Football Insider, with West Ham and Newcastle United also interested. 

- Liverpool and Manchester United are among the clubs queuing for 18-year-old United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi, the Mirror reports. Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich also have been linked to the teen. 

- Newcastle have increasingly focussed on Ajax's Erik ten Hag to replace Steve Bruce, the Express reports, adding that Marc Overmars could also make the move to St. James' Park as director of football. 

 

Chelsea maintained their position at the Premier League summit as they thumped sorry Norwich City 7-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Manchester City remain two points behind after cruising past Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium.

Watford produced a stunning comeback to thump Everton at Goodison Park, while Leeds United left it late to snatch a point against Wolves.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the fixtures from the day.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-4 Manchester City: Foden inspires City's latest win over Seagulls

Phil Foden was at the heart of City's big win at the Amex Stadium as Pep Guardiola's side sealed an eighth win in nine Premier League games against the Seagulls.

Ilkay Gundogan put the visitors ahead before Foden scored just his second brace in the Premier League, previously doing so against Burnley in June 2020.

Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back for Graham Potter's side to became the first player to score a Premier League penalty as a substitute for Brighton.

Riyad Mahrez added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, though, after being teed up by Foden. The Algerian has scored more goals in all competitions (16) than any other City player so far in 2021.

The result meant Brighton conceded four goals for the first time in 43 Premier League games, since a 4-2 loss against Everton in October 2020. Indeed, the Seagulls conceded as many goals as they had in their previous seven league games combined.

Chelsea 7-0 Norwich City: Mount puts Blues in seventh heaven

Chelsea made light work of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner's absences, winning a Premier League game by seven or more goals for the fourth time and the first time since an 8-0 win over Aston Villa in December 2012.

Mason Mount was the star man, the England international becoming the 20th different player to score a Premier League hat-trick for Chelsea. Only Arsenal (21) have had more hat-trick scorers in the competition.

Ben Chilwell was on the scoresheet as well, the former Leicester City left-back becoming the first Englishman to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in February 2013.

The defeat was Norwich's joint-heaviest in Premier League history, the Canaries also losing 7-0 to Manchester City in November 2013.

Their haul of just two goals after nine league games this season is the joint-lowest tally ever at this stage of an English league campaign, and just the third time a team has registered such a low return at this stage in the Premier League (Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and Everton in 2005-06).


Everton 2-5 Watford: King comes back to haunt Toffees

Watford scored four times in the final 12 minutes to complete a remarkable fightback at Goodison Park.

They were indebted to a superb hat-trick from former Toffees striker Josh King, who became just the third player to score a Premier League hat-trick against a side he has previously played for in the competition, after Andy Cole (for Manchester United vs Newcastle) and Marcus Bent (for Wigan vs Blackburn). 

It was just the second time Watford had scored five goals in an away Premier League game (also vs Cardiff in February 2019), becoming just the seventh newly promoted side in Premier League history to score five or more goals in an away game.

The result also marked the first time the Hornets had come from behind to win an away Premier League game since January 2019 vs Crystal Palace, having lost each of their previous 21 such matches in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Wolves: Rodrigo leaves it late for Bielsa's men

Despite earning a late point thanks to Rodrigo's stoppage-time penalty, seven points from nine games marks Leeds' worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1981-82 (six points), a season in which they were relegated to the second tier.

Wolves had looked destined for all three points thanks to another goal from Hwang Hee-chan. The South Korean has scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the best such 100 per cent conversion rate in the competition so far this term.

Rodrigo stepped up late on to salvage a point, though. His equaliser from the spot was just Leeds' third penalty goal scored in the final minute of a Premier League match, after Gary McAllister against Coventry City (October 1995) and Ian Harte against Derby County (December 1999).

Superstar 22-year-old Kylian Mbappe is expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of this season.

Real Madrid have long courted the France international and are expected to secure his signature.

PSG remain hopeful of Mbappe extending his contract but there could be another twist in the transfer saga.

Madrid's LaLiga rivals Barcelona appear ready to make a surprise move.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA READY FOR MBAPPE MOVE

Barcelona believe they can outspend Madrid and land Mbappe from PSG, according to AS.

Despite their financial challenges, the Catalans intend to hijack their rivals' move for Mbappe, who will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Barcelona's salary cap will increase by then and vice president Eduard Romeu reportedly wants to make one major signing.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports that Erling Haaland will demand a salary of £30million (€35m) per year for his expected transfer from Borussia Dortmund next year. Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich are among those chasing the Norwegian.

- Eden Hazard could return to Chelsea with the Blues interested in a deal for the Real Madrid midfielder, claims El Nacional.

- Everton have set their sights on a January deal for Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, according to Football Insider.

- Marca claims that Newcastle are ready to splash out £67m (€80m) to sign Porto's Colombian striker Luis Diaz.

- Manchester City are set to enter the race for Ajax's 21-year-od Brazil international Antony alongside Barcelona, according to El Nacional.

 

Raheem Sterling is open about a move away from Manchester City for more game time.

The 26-year-old dropped down the pecking order at City last season before an excellent Euro 2020 campaign, where he scored three times for runners-up England.

Sterling has only managed five starts in all competitions this season and could be on the move in the January transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PRIORITISE STERLING MOVE

Barcelona will make completing a loan deal for Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling their priority in January, claims Sport.

Sterling faces strong competition for places at City and has spoken publicly about his desire for more time on the field.

The Catalans have financial restraints inhibiting their transfer activity but view a loan deal for the England international as an attractive option given their ambition.

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have lost ground in the pursuit of Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland , who is also being tracked by Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain,  according to AS. Madrid are being squeezed out financially by the competition for Haaland's signature.

- France forward Ousmane Dembele is open to a move to Newcastle at the end of his contract, claims Goal.com. Dembele has not played a minute for Barcelona this season.

- Newcastle are also interested in signing Everton's England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin,  reports The Telegraph.

- Manchester City are keeping a close eye on Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic as the race for his signature hots up, according to Tuttosport. City are short on forward options, having not replaced Sergio Aguero following his exit for Barcelona.

- Calciomercato reports that Inter are concerned about the state of contract talks with Croatia international Marcelo Brozovic,  whose current contract expires in June.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo before the international break, adamant he is trying to learn from his own mistake of overexerting his players.

Ronaldo was surprisingly named among the substitutes as United could only draw 1-1 with Everton in their most recent Premier League match.

United produced a disappointing performance as they were left with just two wins from their past seven home games in the league.

Ronaldo came on in the second half to make his 200th top-flight appearance for United, becoming only the fifth player since 2003 to reach that milestone in two of Europe's big five leagues.

The Portugal star looked furious as he walked down the tunnel after that match and a video posted by Mixed Martial Arts star Khabib Nurmagomedov – who was a guest of the club – showed Alex Ferguson questioning Solskjaer's decision to rest Ronaldo in a conversation with him.

But while Solskjaer says he would like to play Ronaldo – who scored four goals in two games for Portugal over the past couple of weeks – as much as possible, he insists he is looking out for United's collective conditioning in the long term.

"He's an exceptional player, finisher, goalscorer and professional," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Leicester City.

"It's hard to leave him out and everyone would love to play six games [in a row] and play the same XI, it's great, but it's rotation [they need].

"We need to get to May with everyone firing. We got to May and the final stretch last season and we were a little tired.

"I'm the manager, I manage for the club, but of course it's nice to have him on the pitch because he'll always come up with the goods, and the more we have him on the pitch, the better."

While many will expect Ronaldo to start at the King Power Stadium, he could potentially be joined in attack by Marcus Rashford for the first time.

England international Rashford has not played since Euro 2020 after undergoing surgery on a persistent shoulder injury in August.

Solskjaer confirmed the forward will be in the squad on Saturday and did not rule out him starting, though the game will come slightly too soon for captain Harry Maguire.

"[Rashford] is in the squad, yes. If he's starting or not, I can't tell you because it wouldn't be right, but he's been really bright this week.

"He had a 60-minute involvement in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, so he's fit and raring to go.

"Harry's just joined us on the grass this morning, so that was the first time he's been on the grass."

Fellow England international Jesse Lingard has been the subject of significant speculation in recent months after a blistering loan spell with West Ham last season.

His contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked with numerous clubs, including Barcelona, though Solskjaer was unequivocal in his desire to keep Lingard at Old Trafford.

"Jesse's had a good start to the season, come on and scored a few goals," Solskjaer said. "He's been important for us.

"We want to prolong his contract; we see him as an important player. It's up to him to get more playing time, and maybe it's up to me giving him more playing time because he deserves to [play], but I always have to leave players out.

"Hopefully we can get a deal sorted for Jesse, because we really rate him and value him around the club. He's a top player and a top person."

Steve Bruce will still be Newcastle United head coach for the visit of Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday, despite reports of his imminent departure following a lucrative takeover.

This weekend's game is Newcastle's first since Mike Ashley sold the club, with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund taking on 80 per cent to become the richest owner in world football.

Bruce was widely expected to be sacked ahead of that encounter, with Amanda Staveley, whose PCP Capital Partners bought 10 per cent of Newcastle, initially unwilling to confirm a decision either way.

But Bruce remained involved in training this week and a statement on Friday, shortly before a news conference taking place at a later time than usual, confirmed he would remain in his position at least until the end of the week.

Staveley said it had been "an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people".

"Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy," she added.

Despite repeated reports of Bruce being set to depart, prompting uncertainty throughout the club, Staveley said: "We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.

"Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him, and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday.

"If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know, but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team."

Bruce said he only had a "brief, 10-minute conversation" with Staveley on Monday, in which he was told to "carry on until I hear otherwise".

"There were no discussions on me whatsoever," he said. "Certain discussions will need to be private, but it was all about the team, injuries, how we're looking for the weekend. It was very, very informal.

"And I have to say: they were very, very good people. It was good to see them and good to see them around the training ground.

"Let's not forget it's a great thing that's happened for the club and the city. If it takes this great club, then great."

Asked if he would hope to impress the owners and remain at Newcastle longer term, Bruce replied: "I'll have a crack. I'll try my utmost. If they see fit, then great.

"Who wouldn't want this opportunity now? Any manager would love this opportunity and love to be sitting in my chair. I'll make a fist of it, try my utmost and, as always, try what's best for the club."

A number of names have been linked to Bruce's job, with Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers prominent among them.

But he said on Friday: "[I am] 100 per cent [committed to Leicester]. I've got a contract until 2025. I absolutely love being here.

"I'm very fortunate. I've got a great chief exec and a director of football, and a group of players I enjoy working with. We have a structure here that allows us to compete. I want to be here.

"I've seen the reports around it. It doesn't help anyone, particularly Steve and Newcastle. It's the type of week I don't like in the modern game.

"We are trying to work hard but the speculation can destabilise players and supporters. I've been in the game long enough to focus on my role."

Rafael Benitez was manager at St James' Park before Bruce and would be a popular appointment, but he remains committed to Everton.

"I can tell you a lot of friends were asking me the same thing [about returning], and people there, a lot of messages, but from day one when I was talking with the board here, they didn't need to worry about that," Benitez said.

"I decide to stay here. I am really happy, trying to improve everything I can here, focused, wishing [Newcastle] all the best but when I decide to come here, I keep my word and I continue working here."

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