On April 26, 2016, Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a tepid 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final at the Etihad Stadium. 

Back at the same ground, in the same round of the same competition six years later, they produced a spectacle that had the contrast cranked up to the maximum.

It was the joint-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, and it was a story that twisted and turned from the first minute until the last.

But the opening chapter reached its conclusion with City holding a 4-3 advantage after an enthralling 90 minutes.

A start for the history books 

City pressed Madrid high from the off and it was shortly after regaining possession in the final third that Kevin De Bruyne made a phenomenal dart into the box to head home Riyad Mahrez's pinpoint delivery. 

There were just 95 seconds on the clock, making it the quickest goal in Champions League semi-final history. The previous mark was 2 minutes 44 seconds, which was set by Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich against Madrid in May 2018. 

It did not stop there, though. De Bruyne picked out Gabriel Jesus, who, after a somewhat fortuitous first touch, guided a cool finish beyond Thibaut Courtois to make it 2-0. 

Madrid had never before conceded twice in the first 11 minutes of a Champions League match and it looked like they could be seriously up against it with Mahrez, Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko all going close. 

Benzema brings it back 

It has already been the best season of Karim Benzema's career and he showed just how important he has become to Madrid in his 600th appearance for the club – the most by a non-Spanish player. 

He got in front of Zinchenko to steer home a brilliant volley from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute for his 40th goal of the season. The Frenchman now belongs to an exclusive club of just five players to hit that mark in a single campaign for Los Blancos, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez. 

No let-up 

Madrid lost their best defender in David Alaba at half-time and the momentum they had built before the break quickly dissipated. 

Los Blancos concede an average of five more shots per game when Alaba does not feature and City had already had four efforts on goal – two of which came when Mahrez hit the post and Foden saw his goal-bound follow-up blocked by Dani Carvajal – before restoring their two-goal cushion through Foden in the 53rd minute. 

Makeshift right-back Fernandinho, who replaced the injured John Stones in the first half, set up Foden with an excellent cross but his defending belied his years of experience just two minutes later. Vinicius Junior got the better of his fellow Brazilian with a clever dummy by the halfway line, and no one could catch him before he tucked the ball into the bottom-right corner. 

It was the first time two players aged 21 or younger had scored in the same Champions League semi-final match.  

Don't look away

The drama was far from over, though. Bernardo Silva capitalised when referee Istvan Kovacs wisely played the advantage following Toni Kroos' challenge on Zinchenko by slamming the ball into the top-left corner in the 74th minute.

City consequently became the first English side to score four against Madrid in the Champions League since Liverpool in March 2009. It would have been five had Mahrez been able to add a finish to his coruscating run.

But Aymeric Laporte inexplicably handling a cross enabled Benzema to score his ninth goal of the knockout stages – a Panenka from the penalty spot moving him one adrift of Ronaldo's record (10) from Madrid's triumphant 2016-17 campaign. The Portugal captain (13) is also the only player to have scored more Champions League semi-final goals than Benzema's seven.

Madrid were unable to stop Pep Guardiola claiming a 12th win in his 20 meetings with them across his entire coaching career, though. The Catalan's record in the semi-final has been met with a lot of questions, but he has never been eliminated after winning a first leg at this stage.

He will hope to get the job done at the Santiago Bernabeu and get a chance at redemption after last season's final defeat to Chelsea.

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus said he is a "big fan" of compatriot Vinicius Junior ahead of facing the Real Madrid winger in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg.

Jesus, who became the first Brazilian to score four goals in a Premier League match during City's 5-1 demolition of struggling Watford on Saturday, is aiming to help Pep Guardiola's men to a first Champions League title after losing last season's final to Chelsea.

Jesus' international team-mate Vinicius has recorded 31 goal involvements for Real Madrid in all competitions this season (17 goals, 14 assists), as Carlo Ancelotti's men bid for a 14th European title.

Recalling City's last Champions League tie with Madrid in the 2019-20 last 16, in which he netted in both legs of a 4-2 aggregate triumph, Jesus said the emergence of players like Vinicius meant Tuesday's encounter represented a different prospect.

"It was very difficult and tense, as always when you play at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid," Jesus told Marca of City's trip to Madrid in March 2020. "We won, but they could have. I was happy to help my team, but now it will be different, with other players. 

"Vinicius will be playing, who was playing then but is now much more mature. He is the same player, but is now more mature. 

"I am a big fan of his, I hope he can continue to get better and better in the future. I wish him good luck, but not against me!

"It is difficult because you arrive as a young player at a club of Real Madrid's size, you play, you have opportunities, and it doesn't go well because of a lack of experience, of maturity. 

"Criticism comes and goes. I am happy for him, because of the quality he has. Everyone knew that he was as good as this. Football is like that, with highs and low. I hope that he keeps this level up to be happy in his football."

Vinicius has made the most 10-yard progressive carries of any player in the Champions League this season (62), and no player in the competition has been generated a shot following a carry (moving five or more metres with the ball) more often than the 21-year-old (21 – 10 shots, 11 chances created).

 

City are undefeated in their last three home Champions League matches against Los Blancos, winning one and drawing two, and City boss Guardiola could become the first manager to eliminate the Spanish giants from three separate Champions League knockout ties.

Jesus, meanwhile, has been linked with a move away from the Premier League leaders after making just 17 league starts for Guardiola's men this season. However, the striker says he will not make any decisions on his future until the season is over, stressing the "need" for City to win a first European crown.

"I have been here for five years and a bit. When I arrived I was very young, only 19, and both the club and the players have won many trophies," he added. 

"We need to win the Champions League, as we were so close last year and this year we are in the semi-finals. 

"I am focused on the rest of the season, on these games, which are all decisive. Then we will see what happens in terms of renewing my contract or ending a cycle."

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus wants to solely focus on this season amid ongoing speculation surrounding his future and the possible arrival of Erling Haaland.

Jesus' contract does not expire until June 2023, but there are suggestions he could make way for the in-demand Haaland to sign from Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola's reigning Premier League champions have repeatedly been linked with Norway striker Haaland, with a €75million release clause reportedly coming into play at the end of the season.

While talk persists around the future of Jesus, who is said to be a target of Arsenal, the 25-year-old delivered on the pitch against Watford, finding the net four times and assisting the other in a 5-1 rout on Saturday.

That made him the fifth Brazilian hat-trick scorer in the Premier League, after Afonso Alves, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura, but the first of those to score four times in a single match.

Jesus was also just the second City player to be directly involved in five goals in a single Premier League game, after Sergio Aguero netted five against Newcastle United in October 2015.

However, the former Palmeiras attacker refused to commit his future to City amid questions of whether he will stay and fight for his place should Haaland be brought in.

"It's not time to think about this," he told reporters. "You expect me to say this, but it's true.

"This is no time to think about this. Now is the best moment of the season. I want to enjoy, to keep focused on my team, with my team-mates, to fight for the Premier League. I won it with my team-mates three times.

"And I know how that feels, and I want to have that feeling again. And then of course we also have the tough game on Tuesday against Real Madrid [in the Champions League] and that is my focus."

City's wealth of attacking riches has them in contention for the Premier League, leading Liverpool by a point with five games to play, and the Champions League, where they face Madrid in the semi-finals.

But that plethora of creative and goalscoring talent is often what has kept Jesus on the sidelines, with Guardiola preferring to utilise the likes of Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne as forwards after missing out on Harry Kane before the 2021-22 season.

Indeed, out of City's attacking group – which also includes Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez – only the Algeria international has played fewer minutes (1,332) in the Premier League than Jesus this season (1,545).

"It's not just me, it's [all] the players. If you ask, everyone's going to say 'I want to play' and the season that I arrived here I played a lot, I think," Jesus responded when asked if he would like more regular chances.

"I know what I expect of course, but I know we have very good players who can play every game as well.

"Sometimes it's not just me, it's Riyad, sometimes Raz [Sterling], and Grealish arrives this season and sees how it is here. We have a lot of good strikers, wingers and forwards."

After becoming the third player to score four goals in a Premier League match for City – after Edin Dzeko and Aguero, who did so on three occasions – Jesus will hope to get the opportunity to deliver again at home to Madrid on Tuesday.

A 10th Ligue 1 title for Paris Saint-Germain has evidently left a bitter-sweet taste.

Their devastating elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League made for a fourth last-16 exit in the past six seasons, following final and semi-final defeats to Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively.

Amid protests that culminated in fans walking out of the Parc des Princes as PSG claimed the domestic title at the weekend, the remedy reportedly appears to be a new coach.


TOP STORY – CONTE TO REPLACE POCHETTINO AT PSG

Paris Saint-Germain appear set to dismiss Mauricio Pochettino as their head coach and have lined up Antonio Conte as his replacement, Le Parisien is reporting.

Pochettino's exit is reportedly imminent and all that is left for the club is to come to a financial settlement, with another season left on the contracts of Pochettino and his staff.

PSG's preferred choice as Pochettino's replacement is apparently Zinedine Zidane, but he appears more intent to replace Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach if he leaves after the World Cup.

Tottenham boss Conte would be brought in on a two-year deal. 


ROUND-UP

Lucas Paqueta has told Lyon head coach Peter Bosz he will let the club know of his desire to stay or leave at season's end, according to the Chronicle.

- Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus is also yet to commit to his future beyond the end of this season, the Guardian reports.

Real Betis are keen to sign Real Madrid's Isco, who will be leaving at the end of the season, per Marca.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Barcelona are considering a bid for Ajax centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

Pep Guardiola described Gabriel Jesus as "fantastic" after the striker hit four goals in Manchester City's 5-1 rout of Watford.

Jesus scored his first Premier League hat-trick on his 155th appearance in the competition. It made him the fifth Brazilian hat-trick scorer in the competition, after Afonso Alves, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura, but the first of those to score four times in a single match.

The 25-year-old also assisted Rodri for a brilliant 25-yard strike in the first half, meaning he recorded five goal involvements as City kept the Premier League title race in their own hands.

City moved four points clear of title rivals Liverpool with the resounding victory, ahead of Jurgen Klopp's team hosting Merseyside rivals Everton on Sunday.

Guardiola, who has won all of his 11 managerial clashes with Watford by a combined score of 47-5, said City could still improve upon their five-star display, but he was full of praise for his versatile Brazilian forward.

"We didn't defend well, we were not aggressive enough," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "But the players up front, not just Gabriel for his incredible four goals, all of them were brilliant.

"If there's one person who deserves the best in life for him, his family and his friends, it's Gabriel.

"All of us at the club, when he has one of these situations, we're happy for him because he's so generous. It doesn't matter what position he's going to play, we know how he fights for his mates. He's fantastic."

City also became the first English side in history to record 15 consecutive competitive wins over a single opponent by hammering the Hornets, but Guardiola insisted the victory didn't alter the Premier League title race.

"Nothing changes," he said. "When we won against Brighton we were two points behind [before the game], now we're four in front. Brighton was a 'final'. We had another 'final' today and we won it. Now we have an opportunity to play a 'final' against Leeds [next Saturday].

"Nothing changes. We have to win all five [remaining] games to be champions."

Jesus, meanwhile, was beaming after his four-goal haul, praising his team-mates' creativity after moving from three goals for the Premier League season to seven in under an hour at the Etihad Stadium.

"Today was my day," the striker told Sky Sports. "We played very good today, we created a lot of chances, that's what we need to do.

"We made passes and passes to create chances and try to score, and today we were very good on the finishing. I'm very happy with the three points. The team played so well, and we deserved it.

"It was my first hat-trick in the Premier League. I've tried. Sometimes I've scored two then I've hit a post, the defender has blocked [my shot], or the keeper has saved, but today was my day!"

Jesus is just the second City player to be directly involved in five goals in a single Premier League game (four goals, one assist), after Sergio Aguero scored five against Newcastle United in October 2015.

Saturday's City hero also became the third player to score four goals in a Premier League match for the club, after Edin Dzeko and Aguero, with the latter doing so on three occasions.

Gabriel Jesus scored four times as Manchester City kept the Premier League title race in their own hands by thrashing Watford 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

Jesus netted twice within 23 minutes, with Rodri drilling home a stunning third after Hassane Kamara pulled one back for the Hornets midway through an entertaining first half.

The Brazilian celebrated twice more within eight minutes of the restart as relegation-threatened Watford collapsed, Jesus first winning and converting a penalty before sweeping home from Kevin De Bruyne's pass.

All eyes will now turn to Anfield on Sunday, where title challengers Liverpool will attempt to keep pace with Pep Guardiola's men by beating rivals Everton.

Jesus needed just four minutes to give City the lead, turning home Oleksandr Zinchenko's fierce left-wing cross after the Ukrainian latched onto Joao Cancelo's overhit ball.

City almost doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Ben Foster got down well to turn away Cancelo's left-footed shot, but Jesus was soon on hand to grab his second when meeting De Bruyne's excellent right-wing cross with a firm header. 

Watford briefly halved the arrears when Kamara raced through to power a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner, but Rodri restored the two-goal cushion in stunning fashion after 34 minutes, unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard volley into the top-left corner.

Jesus then completed his hat-trick just four minutes into the second half, rolling home a penalty after chasing down a poor clearance and being felled by Foster, and helped himself to a remarkable fourth four minutes later when he converted from De Bruyne's cut-back.

Riyad Mahrez could have added a sixth when sending a wild right-footed volley over late on, as City saw out an incredible 15th consecutive victory over Watford. 

What does it mean? Reigning champions keep title destiny in their hands

City's dominant win meant they established a four-point lead at the Premier League summit ahead of Liverpool's Merseyside Derby against Everton on Sunday.

Their bid to retain the title is gathering steam at the perfect moment, with Guardiola's team now unbeaten in seven league games (five wins, two draws).

Jesus show downs Hornets

Having been linked with a move away from the Etihad in recent days, Jesus bettered his Premier League goals tally for the rest of the season (three) in less than an hour against the sorry visitors. 

Jesus also teed up Rodri's thunderous first-half strike, meaning he has contributed more Premier League assists than any other City player this term (eight).

City dominate favourite opponents again

City made history with Saturday's victory, becoming the first English league side in history to win 15 consecutive competitive games against a single opponent.

Meanwhile, Guardiola maintained the best 100 per cent record of his managerial career; he has now won all 11 of his meetings with Watford in all competitions by an aggregate score of 47-5.

What's next?

Guardiola's men must switch their attention to Europe as they host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday. Watford, meanwhile, host fellow strugglers Burnley next Saturday.

It was billed as the title decider of all title deciders, a clash of titans to determine who would go on to win the Premier League, and yet at the end of 90 breathtaking minutes it remains as you were.

Manchester City, for all their attacking intent and brave play, could not find a killer knockout punch against Liverpool and so it will all come down to the final seven games and who can hold their nerve.

The Citizens have the advantage given they retain a one-point lead, but Pep Guardiola will feel his team deserved more, and Jurgen Klopp can still dream of a quadruple after what he described as a "wild" game.

As it turns out, fortune does not always necessarily favour the brave – though credit must also go to Liverpool for themselves contributing to another Premier League classic between these heavyweights.

It became clear an hour before kick-off that Guardiola would be true to his word: City had no intention of playing for a point in the biggest game of a thrilling campaign that had seen the chasers close the gap on the leaders from 14 points to just one heading into this showdown.

With Gabriel Jesus recalled for his first league start since New Year's Day in an attack that also included Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, City were out for blood against a Liverpool side on a 10-game winning run in the competition.

For a manager now famed for over-thinking his team selection, this was a masterstroke from Guardiola. De Bruyne and Jesus were on the scoresheet, the latter ending a run of 37 shots without scoring in the competition, while Sterling had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR.

But the reward at the end of it all was only a point as Liverpool, who went with the line-up many had been expecting, twice hit back to ensure this enthralling title race has another chapter of drama still to come.

Five minutes was all it took for City's attacking approach to pay off. Moments after Sterling was denied by Alisson from close range, De Bruyne's long-range strike – via a telling deflection off Joel Matip – went in off the post to give the reigning champions lift-off.

That was the 10th goal City have scored in the opening 10 minutes of Premier League games this season, each of the last four netted by De Bruyne in the fifth minute – a remarkable quirk. The outcome when City have taken the lead, regardless of the minute, had always been the same: won 22, drawn none, lost none.

The title race was over, on that basis. Except of course it wasn't.

Diogo Jota's leveller eight minutes later, following brilliant interplay between full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, had Liverpool back on level terms in a match that lived up to its pre-match billing. Did you really expect anything else?

If the previous omens had been stacked in City's favour, now Liverpool had something similar to cling to given Jota had not lost in any of the previous 32 Premier League games in which he had scored. Make that 33 on a day when Klopp's own selection calls were justified by the final result.

Jota's record was under threat when City continued to probe with more intent than their rivals and regained the lead through Jesus, who got on the end of Joao Cancelo's pass in behind Alexander-Arnold and finished past Alisson.

Trailing in a Premier League game at half-time for the first time in exactly a year, when coming back to beat Aston Villa, Liverpool needed just 46 seconds of the second half to level through a Sadio Mane goal assisted by Mohamed Salah – the Egypt international's 159th Premier League goal involvement for the Reds, a tally only Steven Gerrard (212) can better.

It was the first time City had conceded in the first minute of the second half in a league game since November 2004 against Norwich City, though once again their response did not take long to arrive, albeit with Sterling's finish against his former club rightly ruled out for offside.

That attacking intent remained clear to see when Riyad Mahrez replaced Sterling, rather than a more cautious option being introduced, and the Algeria international twice went close to winning the game when clipping the post from a free-kick and chipping over both Alisson and the crossbar when through on goal from the final act of the game.

And so for all the to-ing and fro-ing, 2-2, and one point the gap between the sides, is how it remained come a full-time whistle that no neutral was ready to hear. A second meeting between these sides this season, a second four-goal thriller, and still there is next to nothing to separate perhaps the two greatest sides in world football.

It sets up a tense and intriguing final six weeks of the season and, the best of all, we get to do it all over again when the sides face off in an FA Cup semi-final next Saturday.

Unlike on this blockbuster day of Premier League football, there has to be a winner at Wembley.

Sadio Mane kept Liverpool in the Premier League title hunt with a priceless second-half equaliser in a gripping 2-2 draw with leaders Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp's side sat 14 points behind City in January, but a 10-game winning run cut the gap to just one point to set up what many billed as a title decider at the Etihad Stadium.

Diogo Jota cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne's opener in an enthralling start, and Mane followed suit swiftly after the interval following Gabriel Jesus' 36th-minute strike.

Neither side could find a winner, with Raheem Sterling seeing a goal disallowed, as Pep Guardiola's side kept their slender lead intact with seven games left to play.

Sterling squandered a glorious chance after five minutes as he was denied by the onrushing Alisson following a square Jesus pass, but City were ahead just seconds later.

De Bruyne profited from a quick Bernardo Silva free-kick before arrowing a left-footed effort home, the ball going in off the right post following a fortuitous deflection off Joel Matip.

Liverpool responded within eight minutes, with Andy Robertson finding Trent Alexander-Arnold, who played the ball back from the far post for Jota to squeeze a low strike under Ederson.

De Bruyne whipped narrowly wide in search of his second before Jesus latched onto a Joao Cancelo cross and coolly finished via the underside of the crossbar.

Mane levelled up within a minute of the second half getting under way, racing onto Mohamed Salah's throughball to slot powerfully past Ederson, who thwarted Jota's prodded effort shortly after.

Sterling thought he had nudged the hosts ahead again, but a VAR check showed the forward was offside when De Bruyne passed the ball, while Salah curled just off target at the other end.

Substitute Riyad Mahrez provided a late scare for the visitors as he clipped the post with a free-kick, and then chipped over after a sublime De Bruyne pass, but there would be no decisive goal.

Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden were recalled to Manchester City's starting line-up for Sunday's Premier League clash against Liverpool, with the Reds making three changes.

Brazil international Jesus made his first league start since City's New Year's Day win against Arsenal in place of the benched Riyad Mahrez.

Foden made an instant impact from the substitutes' bench by assisting Kevin De Bruyne's winner against Atletico Madrid in midweek and was rewarded with a place in the XI.

He had scored in each of his past three top-flight games against Liverpool, including a goal in October's 2-2 draw at Anfield in the reverse fixture.

Kyle Walker was also included from the beginning, with Ilkay Gundogan and Nathan Ake the other two players to make way from City's European win against Atletico.

Ruben Dias missed out through injury as expected, meaning John Stones again partnered Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool also brought in three new faces from their 3-1 Champions League win against Benfica in midweek for what was billed as a likely Premier League title decider.

Diogo Jota replaced Luis Diaz alongside Sadio Mane and the out-of-form Mohamed Salah up top, while skipper Jordan Henderson took over from Naby Keita in midfield.

Salah had scored in four of his last five Premier League games against Man City, including each of his last three in a row.

The Reds' other change saw Joel Matip recalled alongside Virgil van Dijk in place of Ibrahima Konate.

Liverpool entered the contest on a 10-game winning run in the Premier League, which had seen them close the gap on the leaders to just a point ahead of Sunday's huge clash.

City had lost just one of their past 12 home league games against Liverpool ahead of their latest showdown, going down 4-1 at the Etihad in November 2015.

The Reds were also without a clean sheet in any of their past 11 Premier League away meetings with City since a goalless draw in February 2010.

Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Cancelo, Stones, Laporte; De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva; Sterling, Foden, Jesus.

Subs: Steffen, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, McAtee, Lavia, Grealish, Gundogan, Ake.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Jota.

Subs: Kelleher, Jones, Tsimikas, Konate, Gomez, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Diaz.

Spotify's new $235million deal with Barcelona has given the Spanish side some extra spending money, and all eyes are on Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

The Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, and currently occupy fifth spot in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season.

Pogba recently made headlines after his home was burgled while he played in the second leg of United's tie against Atletico, coming off the bench in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA CLOSE IN ON POGBA 

According to The Daily Star, Barcelona's recent windfall has the club looking around at options to add to Xavi's side, with Pogba now considered within their price range and near the top of the list.

Pogba, 29, has nine assists and one goal in his 16 Premier League appearances this season, with his contract set to expire this summer.

Meanwhile, TuttoJuve say Manchester United have identified Dutch 19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch as a potential replacement if they can pry him away from Ajax. 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona coach Xavi has said club legend Lionel Messi will "always be welcome" back at Camp Nou. However, Marca also report that Messi does not plan to leave Paris Saint-Germain during his two-year contract.

- According to Fichajes, Newcastle United are interested in signing superstar forward Neymar, who is under contract at PSG through 2025.

- Juventus are to target a move for Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus, The Daily Star reports, if the English giants manage to sign Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport suggest that Antonio Rudiger is set to join Juventus when his Chelsea contract expires this summer, signing a four-year deal with the iconic Italian club.

- Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta has agreed to a free transfer to Barcelona, with the deal expected to be completed at the end of the season according to Football Insider.

- The agent of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho said he would one day like to return to Serie A, according to The Daily Mirror. The 30-year-old Italian spent three seasons with Hellas Verona, and five seasons with Napoli before heading to the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino's future at Paris Saint-Germain is unclear amid rumblings that he wants out.

Manchester United have been linked with the ex-Tottenham manager, who took over at PSG in January last year.

The Red Devils dismissed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, with Ralf Rangnick taking over on an interim basis.


TOP STORY – LOS BLANCOS KEEN ON POCHETTINO

Real Madrid are set to rival Manchester United to land Pochettino this off-season, claims the Daily Mail.

The Red Devils are understood to be circling for the Argentine, who is reportedly unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain.

But the report claims Madrid have doubts over current boss Carlo Ancelotti's future and believe that Pochettino is obtainable in the off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City's Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva is dreaming of a switch to join Real Madrid, claims Calciomercato.

- Calciomercato also reports that Inter are monitoring Gabriel Jesus' status at City, with a view to bolstering their attack.

- Nicolo Schira reports that Atalanta are keen to move for Torino's Italy international striker Andrea Belotti in the off-season when he is a free agent.

- TuttoMercatoWeb claims Arsenal, Newcastle United, Borussia Dortmund and Inter are all in the race to sign Lille's Canadian forward Jonathan David.

- GiveMeSport claims Liverpool are "seriously interested" in West Ham United's Jarrod Bowen.

- Roma are keen on signing Barcelona's USA international defender Sergino Dest according to Fichajes.

Manchester City ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over hosts Swindon Town in Friday's FA Cup third-round clash.

City, under the guidance of assistant coach Rodolfo Borrell after Pep Guardiola contracted COVID-19, never looked in danger of suffering a first FA Cup defeat to a side from the fourth tier or lower since 1984.

The visitors were cruising by the half-hour mark, with Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus getting the goals.

Ilkay Gundogan buried a fine free-kick with just under an hour played to put the game beyond doubt, before Harry McKirdy got a consolation.

Cole Palmer's gorgeous late strike finished the League Two side off and capped a great performance late on.

Swindon were lucky to hold out for 14 minutes, but Silva – who had previously wasted two great chances – was never going to miss when the excellent Palmer presented him with a tap-in.

City then pounced on Louis Reed's questionable flick just outside his own area as Swindon attempted to play out from the back, with Kevin De Bruyne feeding Jesus into the box for a simple finish.

The contest was over – if it wasn't already – in the 59th minute as Gundogan cleverly curled his free-kick around the wall and into the bottom-right corner.

The Swindon goalkeeper's wall positioning may have played a part, though Lewis Ward went some way to making amends when saving Jesus' penalty after Jordan Lyden fouled the Brazilian.

City could not keep a clean sheet, with Jonny Williams capitalising on Rodri's error and playing McKirdy into the area to finish past the suspect Zack Steffen.

But the away side had the last laugh, Palmer planting an exceptional finish into the top-left corner.

 

Santa's been! Santa's been! Santa's been!

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year and we're all awfully excited that the big man has been.

But we're even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days!

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.

A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of six goals).

That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.

Divock Origi has eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn's eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 102.1.

MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.

LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea.

SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.

RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (2) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.

SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

Premier League games are coming thick and fast, with European competition now on hiatus until the New Year.

The next few weeks provide fantasy football managers with a great opportunity to quickly rack up the points, but smart selections will be more important than at any other point of the season as rotation takes place amid the congested schedule.

In our latest batch of picks, Manchester City and Chelsea are particularly well represented, while a Manchester United talent will be hoping to kick-start his campaign.

Squeezing all of these into your team might be a little costly, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest they will reward you handsomely.

EDERSON (Manchester City v Wolves)

Brazil international Ederson is usually a pretty safe bet between the posts in fantasy football – you could argue this weekend makes him an even more interesting option.

For starters, no one has more than his 26 Premier League clean sheets since the start of last season, and then there's the form of visitors Wolves.

Bruno Lage's men have scored just once in their past five league games, the fewest in the division. Is that clean sheet number 27 incoming?

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Wolves)

For the reasons mentioned above and also the fact Wolves' 12 Premier League goals this term are the second-fewest after Norwich City, you might be inclined to get as many City defenders in your team as possible.

If that is your tactic, Joao Cancelo should be your first pick given he also offers a threat going forward. Granted, he's not scored yet this season, but the statistics would suggest it's only a matter of time.

Based on the quality of chances that have gone his way, Cancelo's 1.88 expected goals (xG) is the third-highest among players not to score in 2021-22 – he's also had the most shots (33) of all the goalless players. Surely his luck will turn soon?

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Leeds United)

If we're honest, you should probably have Reece James in your team already given how good he's been this season – but if you've not got him, consider this your final warning.

The England international is thriving in Thomas Tuchel's wing-back-friendly system, boasting comfortably the most goal involvements per 90 minutes (0.98) among Premier League defenders. Ben Chilwell is second with 0.67.

He's creating 2.47 chances per 90 minutes, a figure only bettered by Kostas Tsimikas and Trent Alexander-Arnold, while he's level with Chilwell for the most touches in the opposition's penalty area (4.33).

MARCUS RASHFORD (Norwich City v Manchester United)

It's been a slow start to the season for Marcus Rashford, who missed the first few weeks due to injury and has subsequently struggled to build up sharpness.

But if there's any opposition he'd back himself to impress against, Norwich would be the one.

In 149 minutes played against the Canaries, Rashford has four goal involvements (three scored, one assisted) – that works out at one every 37 minutes.

Only against Sunderland, whom he's played only 26 minutes against, does Rashford have a better record.

MASON MOUNT (Chelsea v Leeds United)

A curious quirk of Tuchel's time at Chelsea has been the lack of goals scored by recognised strikers, but that's translated into a healthy spread across the squad.

Mason Mount is Chelsea's top scorer in the league since Tuchel took charge, his nine efforts three more than anyone else. Similarly, his six assists also represent a club-high.

Mount's recent purple patch has undoubtedly played a role in that, with the England international both scoring and assisting in three of his past four top-flight starts.

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Wolves)

He may not have been expecting to play such a regular role for City this term, but Gabriel Jesus has been quietly effective out on the right flank.

Jesus will be keen to build on his fine record in clashes with Wolves, too, having scored in all of his three previous league starts against the Molineux club.

That equates to a total of five goals – only against Everton (eight) has Jesus scored more, although he's played 256 more minutes in meetings with the Toffees.

JOSHUA KING (Brentford v Watford)

If Watford are going to avoid the drop, Joshua King will have to play an important role. He's certainly shown signs of his quality this season, such as his hat-trick at former club Everton back in October.

That's contributed to him registering nine goal involvements in his past nine away starts in the Premier League.

Granted, that run does stretch back to 2020 and his time with Bournemouth, so it only counts for so much, but at the very least it suggests he can be an effective option when Watford's backs are against the wall.

International football is officially over for another year. *Pauses for cheers or jeers*

With the November international break done with, we turn our attention back to domestic football, with a hectic period set to begin in the Premier League.

More fantasy points will be available over the next seven weeks or so than at any other period in the season, such is the jammed nature of the schedule, and there's no better time to get ahead of the curve.

Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data to pick out seven picks for this week, hopefully giving you the edge...

EDOUARD MENDY (Leicester City v Chelsea)

Leicester City may represent a tricky opponent for any team, particularly given their good options going forward, but if anyone can keep them at bay, it's Mendy.

Not only has the Senegal international conceded the joint-fewest goals (four, excluding own goals, minimum of three appearances) in the Premier League, he also leads the way with 3.4 goals prevented, according to expected goals on target data.

In terms of form goalkeepers this season, Aaron Ramsdale runs him close, but Mendy is the outstanding candidate.

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Everton)

City's versatile Portuguese full-back enjoyed an exceptional 2020-21, but he seems to have stepped things up even further this term.

In 17 games in 2021-22 across all competitions, Cancelo has already reached seven goal involvements (two goals, five assists), just one fewer than his haul of eight in 43 outings last term.

He has been hugely influential at City, while it would also hardly be a surprise if they keep a clean sheet against an out-of-sorts Everton.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool v Arsenal)

Liverpool's right-back became something of a scapegoat – fairly or not, that's a discussion for another day – in 2020-21. It is safe to say his critics are rather quieter at the moment.

Only Bruno Fernandes (37) can better Alexander-Arnold's 30 chances created in the Premier League this term, while no defender has more than his four assists.

A resurgent Arsenal could cause Liverpool issues, so a clean sheet is no guarantee, but there is no defender more likely to nab you an assist or two.

CONOR GALLAGHER (Burnley v Crystal Palace)

On-loan Chelsea youngster Gallagher has been a revelation for Palace this season, with his all-action style proving a great addition to Patrick Vieira's team.

He has also provided plenty of quality in the final third, having a hand in a team-high six goals (four goals, two assists).

Gallagher has already beaten his combined tally (two goals, two assists) from 2020-21 when he was on loan at West Brom, and he won his first England cap against San Marino earlier this week.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Watford v Manchester United)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have seemingly hobbled from 'crisis' to 'crisis' this season, and while Fernandes arguably has not been as impressive as last season, he is still essential to the Red Devils.

He leads the way with the most chances created (37) in the league this term, and that fits into his wider excellence ever since joining United, a period that has seen him supply the most assists (22) and craft the most goal-scoring opportunities (162) of anyone in the competition.

Additionally, only Mohamed Salah (55) has been involved in more goals than Fernandes (52) in the same period. Regardless of perceptions of his form, the Portugal star is a must-have, particularly given United will fancy their chances of bouncing back at Vicarage Road.

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Everton)

While he may not be playing in the striker role many might have expected before the season started, instead featuring largely as a right-sided winger, Jesus has made a strong start to 2021-22.

With the South American World Cup qualifiers not extended to a triple-header this month, Jesus is also less of a selection risk than he was after the international breaks in September and October.

But above all, he loves playing Everton. In eight Premier League games against them, Jesus has scored eight times, or roughly one every 69 minutes, and he will be aiming to give the Toffees plenty to chew on yet again this weekend.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Leeds United)

Among the players Antonio Conte will be hoping to get more out of after a slow start to the season, Son is surely near the top of the list.

Since the start of last season, no player has outperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by a greater margin than the South Korean (8.2), with 21 goals from 12.8 xG.

Obviously that can suggest a degree of unsustainable fortune on Son's part, but we all know he is an exceptional player capable of the extraordinary. Leeds are a side who let other teams play, and that might be just what the doctor ordered for Son and Spurs.

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