Milan striker Olivier Giroud believes it will be a "special game" when he lines up against former club Chelsea in the Champions League.

Giroud returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since departing the Blues on a free transfer at the end of the 2020-21 season.

The 36-year-old spent three-and-a-half years with the Premier League side; scoring 39 goals in 119 appearances across all competitions.

He notably scored 11 times - then the highest tally by a French player during a single European season - as Chelsea won the Europa League in 2019, while adding another six during their Champions League-winning campaign two years later.

And Giroud is excited to be returning to the English capital, where he also scored 105 goals in 253 appearances for Arsenal between 2012 and 2018.

"I think it'll be a special game for the team because it's a great Champions League match-up," the France international told Milan Channel.

"It's also personally for me, as I spent nine years in London playing for Arsenal and Chelsea, so I expect it to be a great game.

"It's always a pleasure when the people you met while playing for your former clubs have so much respect for you, also because I want to be seen not only as a good player on the pitch, but also a good person off it.

"I have many friends in London. Chelsea have just one point so far, so they will play aggressively and in an energetic way, aiming for the win, so we expect a tough game.

"I have a lot of hope for our Champions League journey this season. I am very proud of this squad and I think we can do well with this group of players in the Champions League.

"This match can also give the team great confidence if we win, to boost us for the next games."

Having collected four points from their opening two games, Milan will remain top of Group E with victory at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are targeting their first win of the campaign under Graham Potter.

Head coach Stefano Pioli has urged the Rossoneri to asset their authority on the contest as they look to launch a genuine title challenge, with the most recent of their seven triumphs coming in 2007.

"Chelsea won the Champions League a short time ago. From there, it has strengthened again, and the level is very high," he said. "But we want to try to be there, at that level.

"Chelsea changed coach, and so we’ll face a highly motivated team. Very simply, either we dominate the game, or the other team will dominate us.

"We want to take control of the match, knowing full well we are up against an opponent with great quality, who have a rapid attacking unit with good technique, so we have to be solid and focused in defence.

"What matters though is that we play with our spirit and try to attack, to be dangerous, because that’s what we can do and what we want to do.”

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier believes his players will have to show they can "play under pressure" if they are to take three points from Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Benfica.

The fixture sees two sides with 100-per-cent records so far in Group H face off, with PSG top by virtue of scoring more goals than their Portuguese counterparts.

Both teams also lead their domestic leagues and are yet to lose a game so far this campaign, suggesting the match in Lisbon could be an exciting and tight affair between two sides in excellent form.

And Galtier acknowledged the challenge that faces his players, telling reporters at Tuesday's pre-match press conference: "What we are going to have to do, to perform well and beat Benfica, is have this ability to play under pressure.

"This team will come and get us, it's the DNA of the club and their coach. It puts enormous pressure on us. We have to be much more effective on an offensive level.

"It's a team that has been undefeated since the start of the season. It's very interesting to watch them play, very well organised, with quality. They bhave significant collective strength.

"I'm not surprised that they're at this level. Today, Benfica can claim to be a favourite of this group."

Benfica's strong start has been aided by their excellent home form, having won all seven of their games at the Estadio da Luz in all competitions.

But Galtier is confident his players will be able to cope, adding: "There will be an extraordinary atmosphere. This stadium is growing very strong, but I have players who have a lot of experience, a lot of experience in relation to that.

"Will we be able to play and play well with public pressure? Will we be able to do it? I think we have the qualities. We can also be very dangerous."

Former England captain David Beckham has backed the Three Lions to go all the way in Qatar, despite a woeful sequence of results this year.

Gareth Southgate's side head to the World Cup after failing to win any of their six Nations League matches and suffering relegation from the top tier of the UEFA competition.

That run is England's longest winless streak in almost 30 years, while it also marks the worst run of form the side has ever faced before a major international tournament.

Despite that and rising pressure on Southgate, Beckham believes England have the capability to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

"I will always say England. It's going to be difficult but the fact we are now going into a big competition like the World Cup, only playing 25 games in the season, player energy will be up, they won't be injured," he told Sky Sports.

"They've not played 60 games in a season, so I think they are going to be ready. We have a big opportunity.

"Gareth Southgate has done an incredible job with the players. The unity, which I think is a big part of it, we saw that in the Euros. My prediction is that, hopefully, England will go all the way, but it is not going to be easy."

England begin their campaign on November 21 against Iran, then facing the United States and Wales in Group B.

England captain Leah Williamson will miss Friday's friendly against the United States at Wembley after sustaining an injury in training.

Williamson, who led Sarina Wiegman's team to a remarkable European Championship triumph in July, requires further assessment on the unspecified injury.

Fellow Euro 2022 winners Lotte Wubben-Moy and Nikita Parris have been added to England's squad, the Football Association said, with West Ham defender Lucy Parker withdrawing through injury. Former skipper Steph Houghton remains out of the picture for now, but Wiegman has said the door remains open to her.

The sell-out clash with the reigning world champions will represent a stern test of England's credentials ahead of next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

England have picked up just two victories in their last 16 meetings with the USA in all competitions (D2 L12), failing to win any of their last four such games since a 2017 victory in the SheBelieves Cup.

However, England are still yet to lose under Wiegman, winning 20 of their 22 matches since she took charge last year, scoring a total of 118 goals.

England will head to Brighton and Hove Albion's AMEX Stadium to host the Czech Republic next Tuesday after facing the USA.

Chelsea and Liverpool are reportedly both interested in Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer, who could become available at the end of this season.

Bennacer, 24, spent time at Arsenal's academy before heading to Empoli, where he impressed enough to earn a €16million move to Milan in 2019.

He already has 42 international caps for Algeria after debuting as an 18-year-old, and he has started in seven of Milan's eight Serie A fixtures to begin this campaign, but his contract situation could accelerate his exit from Italy.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE HEAVYWEIGHTS CIRCLE BENNACER

Bennacer's contract expires in 2024, at the end of next season, but the more time that passes before signing an extension, the more pressure Milan will be under to cash in as opposed to letting him leave for free.

According to Calciomercato, Milan value him at €50million as Chelsea, Liverpool and Serie A rivals Juventus all keep a close eye on his progress.

The report says to pry him away from Milan in January would take a "sensational offer", but if Milan decide to see out the rest of the season their leverage in negotiations will be significantly weakened.

Both Bennacer and team-mate Rafael Leao have high levels of interest from elite clubs, and Milan will likely not have the budget to hand out two big extensions.

ROUND-UP

– The Telegraph is reporting Manchester United will not stand in Cristiano Ronaldo's way if he wishes to leave in January.

– According to the Daily Mail, Chelsea are interested in signing Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli.

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are also trying to push RB Leipzig into accepting deals for centre-back Josko Gvardiol and forward Christopher Nkunku as soon as possible.

Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of getting Lionel Messi to agree to a new contract with his deal set to expire at the end of this season, although they will hold off on negotiations until after the World Cup, per Mundo Deportivo.

– January will mark 18 months remaining on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's contract with Lazio, and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's top clubs are all keeping a close eye on the 27-year-old's availability.

Gonzalo Higuain will retire from professional football at the end of the 2022 MLS season, he announced on Monday.

The veteran striker, a 75-cap former Argentina international who was a member of the squad that came second at the 2014 World Cup, will bring the curtain down on a glittering 17-year career.

Higuain played over 100 games for each of Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus, having began his playing days with River Plate, while he also had brief spells with Milan and Chelsea before joining Inter Miami.

A six-time domestic league champion – with three LaLiga crowns and three Serie A triumphs – he signed for the MLS club in September 2020.

Higuain has been in top form for Miami in the second half of this season, scoring 12 goals and assisting a further two in the past 14 games.

Phil Neville's side are seventh in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the final playoff place with two games of the regular season remaining.

Victories over Orlando City on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Sunday would extend Miami's season and Higuain's career.

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz are set to play Paraguay in two international friendlies next month as they continue preparations for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi believes his team need to play with "aggression and determination" against Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Inzaghi is under fire after a run that has seen Inter lose four of their last six in all competitions, with a 2-1 home defeat to Roma at the weekend leaving the Nerazzurri ninth in Serie A, already eight points behind joint-leaders Napoli and Atalanta.

And Tuesday's match will see them host a Barcelona side in red-hot form, top of LaLiga and yet to lose a league match this season under the leadership of former midfielder Xavi.

In his pre-match press conference, Inzaghi outlined just how tough a task the game was going to be, while explaining how his team need to play at the San Siro if they are to get a result.

"Tomorrow is a great opportunity, knowing that we meet a very strong team, probably one of the best in Europe," Inzaghi told reporters.

"It is a complete, strong team with a lot of quality. They know how to do everything, they have pressing and ball recovery. It is a team that knows how to do everything in possession and non-possession.

"Barcelona are a very strong team, complete in all departments. They have a lot of quality, plus they have [Robert] Lewandowski.

"We will have to play a game of aggression and determination."

Inzaghi also had positive news about striker Lautaro Martinez's availability for the fixture, adding: "This morning Lautaro made an exam where no injury was evident.

"He finished the game [against Roma] fatigued, today he will do a partial training and we will see what his condition will be."

Julian Nagelsmann may shuffle his pack for Bayern Munich's Champions League game against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, with the depleted Bavarians set to host Borussia Dortmund four days later.

Bayern have started their Champions League campaign with back-to-back wins over Inter and Barcelona, and lead the duo by three points at the top of Group C.

Should they record another European win at the Allianz Arena next time out, Bayern will have won their first three Champions League matches for a fourth season in succession.

On the domestic stage, however, Bayern trail surprise pace-setters Union Berlin and Freiburg after an inconsistent run of results, and host rivals Dortmund on Saturday.

With Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich set to miss the Plzen match after contracting COVID-19, Nagelsmann is aware of the need to manage his squad.

"We need to rotate because of Joshua and Thomas, so there are different ways, there are so many options," Nagelsmann said at his pre-match press conference.

"You'll see tomorrow which I decide. We're still in a situation where we need to grab points. 

"It's important for the Champions League to win the game against Plzen, and also to keep the rhythm for the game against Dortmund, where there might be more pressure than in the Champions League.

"Plzen like to play defensively and counter-attack, and that could be a challenge. We'll try to get into our optimum phase considering what is still ahead."

Bayern have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 recently, with Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka withdrawing from the Germany squad after contracting the virus last month.

Nagelsmann offered a positive update on the conditions of Muller and Kimmich, and hopes to have them back after Tuesday's match, adding: "Thomas and Joshua don't have any symptoms, they're doing well. Of course, they would love to play, but nothing has changed.

"We can do the tests on Friday and if those go well, they are candidates against Dortmund. It depends on the tests we will do.

"In general, the incidence is high in Munich so it's a factor that concerns us. We've talked with the players. 

"They've had the suggestion that they're not going to go to the Oktoberfest since the officials took part, so no partying there!

"Outside of the pitch, professional players are normal people. Everybody's looking after themselves."

Nagelsmann also revealed Kingsley Coman will not feature against Plzen despite recovering from a muscle injury, but said Serge Gnabry had his full support if selected to start out wide.

"First of all, with Kingsley, he is doing well," Nagelsmann said. "He practiced well, he was great, but he's not going to be a part of tomorrow's game.

"We'll try to heighten that [his condition] in the next couple of days and then he's an option against Dortmund, but he's not going to start, that's for sure.

"He is doing well. I have good expectations that he can fill a position in the squad against Dortmund, it would be great to have him, and not so great for the opponent.

"I haven't decided 100 per cent, but Serge is certainly a candidate there. We have to see also what we will do against Dortmund, and what happens with Thomas.

"I've known Serge for ages and I think a lot of him. He doesn't worry too much on the field and plays freely. We have a good connection with each other."

Jurgen Klopp says there are no "instant" solutions in football as Liverpool look to bounce back ahead of their Champions League clash with Rangers.

The Reds failed to turn their rough form around upon their return to Premier League action this weekend when they were held to a 3-3 draw by Brighton and Hove Albion.

With just one win in their last four games across all competitions, Klopp's side - FA Cup and EFL Cup winners last term as well as Champions League finalists - risk falling short on multiple fronts this term.

But the German feels his side will be able to work out their problems, stating they must "go back to the basics" and that they cannot expect an immediate revival of fortunes.

"We realised after Napoli it was a real low point, and we had to change things quickly," he stated. "We didn't play Wolves, played Ajax, then didn't play Chelsea and couldn't keep up any momentum from the Ajax win."

"When you spot a problem and think you have the solution, you expect the solution to be instant and influential, that's never the case in football.

"When it doesn't work out, you realise step by step that you have to go back to the basics. We have to be patient again to do the right thing, and then we will be fine again."

Liverpool's mixed form has made it hard for new signing Darwin Nunez to have the desired impact after an early season red card, but Klopp is unconcerned over the forward's personal attributes.

"He is still adapting," he added. "New players come in and everybody talks about them and wants them to shine immediately and that happens from time to time.

"We had a long talk yesterday and we told him we are completely calm. It's really important in our situation that he isn't worrying. The three-game suspension didn't help him to settle, that's clear.

"The team isn't flying and that doesn't make it easier for a striker, especially a finisher. It's not that everything is clicking, that is not our situation at the moment."

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid "deserved" to beat Osasuna in Sunday's draw, but called for a reaction from his players as he defended his decision to keep Eden Hazard benched.

The Belgium international was a spectator as Los Blancos slipped to a 1-1 draw against their visitors, with Karim Benzema fluffing a potential match-winning penalty to ensure the spoils were shared.

The club's first dropped points of the domestic season saw them surrender top spot to rivals Barcelona, with the pair's Clasico encounter – which takes place in just under a fortnight – set to represent a huge moment in the title race.

Speaking after Sunday's stalemate, Ancelotti acknowledged his team's frustrations after they dominated for long periods, but added that he anticipates a response.

"This team is upset when it doesn't win," he stated. "The game was under our control and we deserved to win. 

"We're not happy and that's the reason why this side won a lot last year. We're not happy with the draw and we will react soon. 

"We shouldn't be making excuses about the [international] break. We need to manage the break. We've got a very good squad."

Mariano Diaz was preferred to Hazard when Ancelotti required attacking reinforcements in the second half, and the Italian was succinct in his reasoning for the Belgian's absence.

"It was a game that needed a strong centre forward who was good in the air like Mariano, who had chances to score with his head," he added. "It wasn't the right match for Hazard’s qualities."

Meanwhile, Thibaut Courtois missed the game through a case of sciatica, but Ancelotti is hopeful he could return as soon as the club's midweek Champions League encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk.

"He's got some tests and we'll see if he can get back," he stated. "It's a muscular issue, I think it's with the sciatic nerve. We'll find out if he can play on Wednesday."

Sampdoria have parted company with head coach Marco Giampaolo after Sunday's 3-0 home defeat to Monza.

It brings an end to Giampaolo's second spell at the club, having also been in charge between 2016 and 2019, but after recording just two points from their first eight games of the Serie A season, the 55-year-old has departed again.

After returning in January to replace Roberto D'Aversa, Giampaolo took charge of 24 Serie A games, winning five, drawing three and losing 16.

The former Milan and Torino coach was finally relieved of his duties after goals from Matteo Pessina, Gianluca Caprari and Stefano Sensi condemned Samp to a hefty loss to newly-promoted Monza at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium.

A statement on the club's website read: "U.C. Sampdoria have announced that they have relieved coach Marco Giampaolo of his duties.

"The club would like to thank Marco and his staff for the dedication and professionalism they showed while working for Sampdoria."

Sampdoria travel to Bologna on Saturday.

Real Madrid saw their perfect start in LaLiga halted by 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, as Karim Benzema missed a late penalty on his return from injury in a dramatic 1-1 draw.

Injuries to Luka Modric and Thibaut Courtois left Madrid depleted at the Santiago Bernabeu, but they took the lead in fortunate fashion when Vinicius Junior's cross beat Sergio Herrera.

Courtois' replacement Andriy Lunin was caught out by Kike Garcia's header as Osasuna equalised shortly after half-time, but the hosts were awarded a penalty when David Garcia pushed Benzema, earning himself a red card.

However, Benzema hammered his spot-kick against the crossbar as Osasuna clung on, ending Madrid's 100 per cent record in LaLiga this season.

Osasuna gave as good as they got during a frantic opening, twice going close through tricky winger Abde Ezzalzouli on the break.

Benzema almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion from Vinicius' cross after 37 minutes, clipping the left-hand post with an acrobatic volley, but Madrid did not have to wait long for their opener.

Vinicius' in-swinging cross evaded Benzema before nestling in the bottom-right corner after 41 minutes, with a VAR review awarding the goal after ruling Benzema was not interfering with play from an offside position.

Osasuna needed just five minutes to level after the break, however, as Kike's glancing header looped beyond Lunin to find the top-left corner, stunning the Bernabeu into silence.

Just as Madrid appeared to be running out of ideas, Garcia's clumsy foul on Benzema saw the defender dismissed and handed the France striker the chance to win the match with 11 minutes left.

However, the Ballon d'Or favourite stuck the bar with a poor effort before heading Rodrygo Goes' stoppage-time cross wide as Osasuna held on.

Goals from Filip Kostic, Dusan Vlahovic and Arkadiusz Milik helped Juventus snap their month-long winless streak as they returned to Serie A action with a 3-0 victory over Bologna.

Heading into Sunday's encounter, Massimiliano Allegri's side had not won across all competitions since the end of August, to leave the head coach's future at the club in serious doubt.

But an assured display from the Bianconeri against Thiago Motta's embattled side has likely assuaged immediate fears at Allianz Stadium, while the scope of the Bologna boss' task is becoming readily apparent.

Aside from an off-target Manuel Locatelli effort in the first minute, the early exchanges provided scant entertainment in Turin as both sides sought to settle into the game.

But it was Juventus who looked the livelier of the two and when Vlahovic picked off a loose ball in midfield, the crowd rose to roar on his blazing run.

Kostic ran crafty support along the left flank, and when the ball came wide to him, his low strike beyond Lukasz Skorupski back across the box was a worthy opener.

Bologna seldom looked like they would disturb that lead and the visitors were made to pay again just before the hour mark when Vlahovic powered Weston McKennie's cross home with a header.

Merely three minutes later, Milik took advantage of a defensive lapse to rifle a vicious volley into the roof of the net, and from there the hosts cruised to full-time for a morale-boosting result.

Aurelien Tchouameni has dismissed talk of him being the new Paul Pogba and explained why he turned down Paris Saint-Germain to join Real Madrid.

Tchouameni has emerged as another big French talent, prompting Madrid to lure him to Santiago Bernabeu from Monaco for a fee of €80million that could rise to €100m in June.

PSG are among the top European clubs who were also eager to land the midfielder, but he had already agreed to sign for the European champions.

Tchouameni has been likened to France team-mate Pogba, but the 22-year-old does not want to hear those comparisons after making a name for himself.

He told Telefoot: "I am not the new Pogba, I am Aurelien Tchouameni, I try to write my own story. Pogba is a player I followed a lot when he was little and whom I follow a lot. We play in the same position, but there is only one Pogba."

Tchouameni revealed he had no intention of staying in his homeland with PSG after giving Madrid his word that he would move to the Spanish capital.

He added: "No, no, I didn't hesitate with PSG. It is also a very big European club, but I had already decided to play for Real Madrid."

Tchouameni has fierce competition for a place in the Madrid midfield and knows he must grasp his opportunities.

"No matter the price of the transfer, at this club there is always pressure," he said. "But I'm trying to live up to expectations, to do what I can do on the pitch and so far it's going quite well.

"It was not me who was in the office to give the numbers of my signing. So whether it's 80 [million Euros], 60, 40... in the end, when you arrive in Madrid and you're a starter, you always have to perform."

Pogba hopes he will be a starter when Les Bleus attempt to retain the World Cup in Qatar.

He said: "I try to contribute to the team, then if [N'Golo] Kante and Pogba return, the coach will be the one I choose and I will always do my best to be the starter.

"I think about the World Cup every day. I'll try to win points with Real Madrid and then we'll wait for the list."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.