Marseille have struck a deal to sign Azzedine Ounahi after clubs from across Europe targeted the midfielder who dazzled in Morocco's World Cup semi-final run.

Ounahi was pivotal as Morocco became the first African team to reach the last four at a World Cup, catching the eye as the Atlas Lions saw off Spain and Portugal before falling to France.

The 22-year-old will leave Angers to join fellow Ligue 1 outfit Marseille for a fee reportedly of around €10million, having previously been linked with the likes of Napoli, Leicester City and Leeds United.

Both clubs announced a deal was in place on Saturday.

Marseille, who sit third in the table, said in a short statement: "Olympique Marseille announces an agreement in principle with Angers for the permanent signing of Azzedine Ounahi."

Ounahi has played 15 games in the French top flight this season, having also been a regular last season, and he will leave Angers just 18 months after arriving from minnows Avranches.

His arrival at Stade Velodrome could pave the way for Matteo Guendouzi to depart.

The France international is rumoured to be a target for Aston Villa and West Ham.

Newcastle United are reportedly confident they will be able to secure Everton forward Anthony Gordon before the end of January.

Gordon, 21, has been with Everton since arriving as an 11-year-old back in 2012, and he broke into the first team this last season with 25 starts among his 35 Premier League appearances.

He appeared to be in the midst of a stellar campaign after scoring in back-to-back matches in August, but along with Everton, he has tailed off dramatically, finding the back of the net just once in his past 11 league fixtures.

Despite his recent lack of success – having only made one league start since the beginning of November – the young Englishman still has his fans, although he still carries a hefty price tag.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE PUSHING FOR GORDON MOVE IN THE NEXT WEEK

According to Goal, Newcastle believe they are in "pole position" to land the England Under-21 representative, with Gordon reportedly missing training on Tuesday as speculation builds.

The report states Everton will hold firm at £50million as their asking price, and with his contract tying him to the club until 2025, there is little incentive to budge from that figure for the time being.

With Frank Lampard fired as Everton boss, it remains to be seen if his replacement would like to feature Gordon prominently, but if not, he could provide the club with some much-needed spending power and manoeuvrability.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Guardian is reporting 21-year-old Villarreal forward Nicolas Jackson will undergo a medical at Bournemouth on Wednesday ahead of confirming a £20.3m (€23m) signing.

– After missing out on Nicolas Jackson, Southampton will now focus their attention on 22-year-old Marseille winger Bamba Dieng, per the Daily Express.

– According to The Evening Standard, Arsenal will join Chelsea in the pursuit of 21-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Moises Caicedo at the end of the season, while The Times adds the Seagulls are valuing him at £100m.

Aston Villa were prepared to break their club-record signing and activate the £45m (€50m) release clause in the contract of Athletic Bilbao forward Nico Williams, but the Spanish international rejected their advances. The English club will instead turn to 22-year-old Real Betis forward Luiz Henrique, who is believed to cost £20m (€22m), per the Daily Mail.

– The Daily Mail is also reporting Nottingham Forest are investigating a potential loan deal for 36-year-old Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas after an injury to first-choice shot-stopper Dean Henderson.

Former Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only returned to London in September to join Chelsea, but his time at Stamford Bridge could soon be up.

The Gabon international has scored three goals in 16 games but has only started four times in the Premier League under Blues boss Graham Potter.

Chelsea have been active in the January transfer window, already bringing in Joao Felix, Andrey Santos, Benoit Badiashile and David Datro Fofana.

TOP STORY – AUBA COULD EXIT CHELSEA FOR BARCELONA RETURN

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is eager to leave Chelsea and wants to return to Barcelona, reports Spanish newspaper Sport.

Aubameyang reportedly had interest from Atletico Madrid too, but FIFA rules state a player can only be registered for a maximum of three clubs in a season, but only play for two.

Any move for the Gabon international, who played for the Blaugrana earlier this season, could hinge on Atletico's interest in Barca's Memphis Depay

ROUND-UP

Atletico Madrid are weighing up a move for Leicester City's Turkish defender Caglar Soyuncu, reports Italian journalist Matteo Moretto. Wolves are pushing to sign Brazilian centre-back Felipe from the Spanish club, according to the Daily Mail.

– Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters has interest from Manchester United and Chelsea, reports Talksport.

– The Sun reports Manchester United are also interested in World Cup stars Goncalo Ramos and Mohammed Kudus from Benfica and Ajax respectively.

– Foot Mercato reports Fiorentina's Moroccan midfielder Sofyan Amrabat would prefer to join Atletico Madrid instead of Liverpool or Tottenham. Fiorentina appear set to sell him for more than €50million after impressing at the World Cup.

– The Daily Mail says Marseille could receive a bid from Aston Villa for ex-Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi. New Villa boss Unai Emery worked with Guendouzi at Emirates Stadium.

– Leeds United have agreed a deal that could be worth up to £35.5million (€40m) to sign Hoffenheim forward Georginio Rutter, claims Sky in Germany.

Jack Grealish's future at Manchester City has been the subject of speculation lately despite being only 18 months into a six-year contract.

The 27-year-old England attacking midfielder has not quite met expectations since his big-money switch from Aston Villa.

Grealish has scored one goal in 16 appearances this season, after netting five times in 33 games in his maiden season at City.

 

TOP STORY - MILAN PLOT SHOCK MOVE FOR GREALISH

Serie A champions Milan are set to launch a shock transfer bid for Grealish, according to Calciomercato.

City are open to selling the playmaker, who they signed from Villa last year for £100 million, the most expensive transfer of an English player.

The Premier League champions are willing to let Grealish go to fund their bid for Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham. Milan would likely make a move for Grealish at the end of the season.

ROUND-UP

Bellingham's management have informed Real Madrid that Liverpool are ahead in the race for the Dortmund midfielder's signature, according to Bild.

Liverpool have joined the pursuit of Valencia's United States international Yunus Musah, competing with Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, reports Calciomercato.

– 90min claims both Tottenham and Liverpool are considering a move for Fiorentina's Morocco international midfielder Sofyan Amrabat in January.

Milan may be interested in Barcelona target Gabriel Martinelli, should the Italian giants sell Rafael Leao in January, claims Calciomercato. Martinelli is contracted with Arsenal until 2024.

Marseille are interested in a move for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha when his contract is up at the end of the season, reports 90min.

– Bild reports that Bayern Munich are close to agreeing a new deal for 19-year-old whizzkid Jamal Musiala.

Franck Ribery's playing career has come to an end.

On Friday, the former France and Bayern Munich winger announced his retirement at the age of 39, having agreed to terminate his deal with Serie A club Salernitana.

He signed for Salernitana ahead of last season, though for the first time since the 2004-05 season, failed to score in the league.

His sole Serie A appearance this season came in a 1-0 defeat to Roma back in August, as a second-half substitute, and in truth it was no surprise when rumours recently emerged of his imminent retirement.

There can be no doubt, however, that Ribery will go down as one of European football's greats of the modern era.

In 2013, Ribery was nominated for the Ballon d'Or, finishing third in the voting behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Falling short against two of the best to play the game is no shame, and using Opta data, here are some of the key facts from Ribery's glittering career.

Ligue 1 breakthrough

Having made a name for himself with Brest in Ligue 2, Ribery was recruited by Metz in 2004. He spent only half a season there and scored just one goal before joining Turkish giants Galatasaray, yet he made a big impact, with comparisons drawn to one of the club's greatest exports, Robert Pires.

His only goal in Turkey came in the Turkish Cup final against Gala's great rivals Fenerbahce, in a 5-1 victory. Having claimed his first trophy, Ribery headed home to France, signing for Marseille.

It was a messy move, with FIFA ultimately ruling in Ribery's favour after the player claimed he had not been paid his wages by Gala, as well as alleging to have been threatened by his former agent and a club director. 

Ribery spent two seasons with Marseille and became a star, being named the National Union of Professional Footballers' (UNFP) Young Player of the Year in 2006. 

His performances at the 2006 World Cup (more on that later) only increased his profile, with Marseille seeing off interest from Real Madrid, Arsenal and, controversially, rivals Lyon to keep hold of Ribery.

 

That decision paid off for OM. In his final campaign in France, in 2006-07, Ribery provided eight assists, behind only Nancy's Benjamin Gavanon (nine), and had the highest tally of chances created per 90 minutes (2.95) among players who had featured for over 100 minutes across the season.

Marseille finished second, after losing in the final of the Coupe de France, and Ribery was named the French Player of the Year by France Football.

Flourishing for France

Ribery made his debut for Les Bleus in May 2006, ahead of the World Cup in Germany, where he truly made his name as a superstar.

Between making his debut and playing his final international match in March 2014, Ribery featured in more France games than any other player (81) in the same period, 11 ahead of second-ranked Florent Malouda.

Indeed, his 37 goal involvements (16 goals, 21 assists) was more than any other French player, and puts him sixth on the nation's goal involvements list in the 21st century.

He helped France reach the final of the 2006 World Cup, though they failed to make it out of the group stage in South Africa four years later, while success also eluded them in the Euros during Ribery's stint on the international stage.

Greatness in Germany

In 2007, Bayern paid Marseille €25million for the 24-year-old. It was an investment worth every cent.

Ribery went on to play 425 times for Bayern in all competitions, making him the non-German player with the second-most appearances for the club, behind David Alaba (431), since 1965.

When it comes to French players, only Jonathan Schmid has made more Bundesliga appearances (296) than Ribery (273), who scored 124 goals in all competitions for Bayern.

Since detailed data collection of the Bundesliga began in 2004, Thomas Muller is the only player to provide more assists than Ribery, who set up 92 goals.

Ribery was at the peak of his powers in the 2012-13 season, as he helped Bayern win the treble and was named UEFA Men's Player of the Year, before going on to come third in the Ballon d'Or rankings.

That season, he provided 14 assists in the Bundesliga, a total trailing only Andres Iniesta (16) when it came to players in Europe's big five leagues.

Ribery left Bayern as a club great, having formed one of the all-time most fearsome wing partnerships with Arjen Robben. He won nine Bundesliga titles, a tally that trails only former club-mates Alaba and Robert Lewandowski (10 each) when it comes to foreign players in Germany's top tier.

 

Italian swansong

After leaving Bayern, Ribery tried his hand in Italy, joining Fiorentina.

Over his two seasons in Florence, Ribery created 70 goalscoring opportunities in Serie A, behind only Erick Pulgar (104) in Fiorentina's squad. His dribbling ability was still top class, too, with Gaetano Castrovilli his only team-mate to complete more dribbles (123 to Ribery's 117).

Ribery played 51 times for Fiorentina in all competitions, starting on 47 occasions. He scored five goals, contributed nine assists and had 182 touches in the opposition's box. Surprisingly, he played only five successful crosses, though he was often deployed in a more central role for La Viola.

In his 25 matches for Salernitana, Ribery failed to score, though his three assists in Serie A mean he is the club's joint-top creator of goals, alongside Milan Djuric and Pasquale Mazzocchi, in the same timeframe. 

In each of the past two seasons, there were periods where Sevilla could consider themselves genuine threats in LaLiga's title race.

That was perhaps more relevant in 2020-21, though it shouldn't be forgotten that Sevilla looked like the only team capable of stopping Real Madrid in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign.

But much has changed in 2022. They head to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday as bigger outsiders than they've been for years in this fixture.

That's certainly not to say they've ever been considered favourites against Madrid in recent memory, but there will be some Sevilla fans just hoping they can hold on to a respectable scoreline – it's a pretty significant come-down for a club that in the past three years felt they weren't far from establishing themselves as genuine title candidates.

Saturday's game will be new coach Jorge Sampaoli's first trip to either of the big two since his return, and it'll provide the clearest indication yet of what his team's ceiling is.

Jump before you're pushed

Julen Lopetegui should've left Sevilla in pre-season. It was clear even then that the team needed an injection of fresh ideas, and the departures of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde – Sevilla's bedrock for three seasons – seemed like a natural indicator of the required change.

During Lopetegui's time at the club, Sevilla were solid at the back but fairly unremarkable in attack. He'll have known his go-to centre-back partnership – arguably the best of its kind in Europe – was going to be lost, so Sevilla would either need to sign another exceptional pairing – unlikely – or buy a dependable striker.

 

Granted, Lopetegui can only work with the group of players provided to him by sporting director Monchi, so it's not all on him. However, in the early weeks of the season there was no sign of an improvement in attack, and the insurance policy represented by a sturdy defence was no longer there.

The result? Sevilla's five points after the first seven league games of the season was their worst at that stage since 1996-97 (four points). They were relegated that campaign.

That was their record following a 2-0 home defeat by Atletico Madrid at the start of October, a loss that essentially ended Lopetegui's reign. A few days later, he was dismissed right after the 4-1 battering by Borussia Dortmund, though it was clear a decision on his future had already been made as he tearfully waved farewell to supporters from the middle of the pitch at full-time.

The 4-1 defeat to BVB was Sevilla's fourth loss by at least two goals this season, three more than in the entirety of 2021-22.

 

A Europa League title, three successive fourth-placed finishes, a new club-record points total for one season (77) – Lopetegui did a fine job on the whole, but their form in the second half of last season hinted at a decline.

Their haul of 32 points after the turn of the year (20 matches) was only the sixth-most in LaLiga and 13 fewer than Barcelona. Before January, they'd amassed 38 points in two fewer games – only Madrid (46, 19 matches) had more.

That hint of decline proved to be more like a foreshadowing.

Back to the Future

There aren't many players or coaches who return to Sevilla. Those that do generally fall into one of two categories: fan favourite returning to see out their later years in top-level football; individual whose 'big move' away didn't go as planned and is hoping to rebuild their reputation.

The latter category is more fitting for Sampaoli.

French football fans might suggest that's doing his Marseille work a disservice, and maybe it is. After all, he did guide them to only their second runners-up finish in nine seasons last term, steadying the ship after arriving at a time of great unrest.

However, even with that, it's fair to suggest Sampaoli's stock still hasn't fully recovered to where it was when he first left Sevilla in 2017. At that point, he'd been successful in three consecutive jobs with Universidad de Chile, Chile's national team and then Sevilla, whom he guided to a first top-four finish in seven years playing vibrant football – along the way, they were also the team to halt Madrid's Spanish-record unbeaten run of 40 matches.

 

Argentina came calling, and given the coach's reputation at the time, expectations were sky-high. But turbulence in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup showed Sampaoli and La Albiceleste weren't necessarily a good fit. He just about got them to Russia but their campaign was chaotic, with a 3-0 defeat to Croatia leading to an apparent confrontation between players and coaching staff.

A 2-1 win over Nigeria got Argentina out of the group, but eventual champions France were up next and Les Bleus edged a modern classic 4-3 in Kazan – unsurprisingly it was Sampaoli's final game in charge.

Whether the fiasco made Sampaoli a pariah in European football terms is difficult to prove. But in a little over a year he went from one of the most sought-after and promising coaches in the world to being virtually forgotten in Europe, with his next two jobs coming in Brazil with Santos and Atletico Mineiro.

The aforementioned bright spell with Marseille provided Europe with a reminder of Sampaoli's charms; his boisterous personality, his often-chaotic brand of football. In many ways he was the perfect man for Marseille, a club from a city that is unapologetically itself and intense.

Seville has some similar characteristics, particularly in its deep passion for its football clubs, and there's undoubtedly a sense Sampaoli has unfinished business in LaLiga and at Sevilla.

Four games in and he's yet to lose – a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is no ordinary task, however. In fact, Sampaoli's last away game during his first spell at Sevilla was a 4-1 defeat to Madrid, who all but wrapped up the 2016-17 title with that victory.

Of course, what happens at the Bernabeu won't define Sevilla's season. They have a long road and rebuild ahead of them; let's not forget, this is a squad built for Lopetegui, yet he and Sampaoli are very different coaches.

Re-energising the team is Sampaoli's task, and if he succeeds, his reputation will be restored. Saturday provides an opportunity for a depleted Sevilla to show they're at least making positive strides. 

Christophe Galtier and Marco Verratti insisted there are no problems in the Paris Saint-Germain dressing room, after fresh speculation linked Kylian Mbappe with a move away from the Ligue 1 giants.

Despite signing a new contract with PSG in May, newspaper claims from Spain in the past week suggested Mbappe wanted to get away from the Parc des Princes.

The France international, who has appeared far from content at times this season, denied after Sunday's 1-0 win over Marseille that he has asked to leave, and said he was in fact "very happy" in Paris.

Mbappe played the full 90 minutes of the Marseille game.

Head coach Galtier, who fumed at reporters on Friday after rumours of unrest within the squad, insisted the situation was under control.

"What's going on with Kylian? I said at a press conference that I was very honest, and I am very honest, even if some people make me look like I am not," the head coach told Amazon Prime Video.

"Nothing happens with Kylian. Obviously, I heard Kylian and heard not his discomfort, but the fact of really being in his preferred position, and that's also why we looked for a different system.

"But believe me that everything is going well in the dressing room. I have players who have a big character and strong personalities, but who are very great professionals."

Midfielder Verratti concurred with the PSG boss that there was no unrest in the ranks, after the reigning Ligue 1 champions ended a run of three successive draws across all competitions thanks to Neymar's strike in first-half stoppage time.

"Everything's fine," said Italy international Verratti, who became the first outfield player to appear 20 times in the Classique – a tally only bettered overall by former Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda (30).

"Sometimes in Paris, a small thing passes for a big thing, but we are used to it. We do a little abstraction, we try to be focused on the field. We play every three days, we don't have time to think about these things.

"We knew it would be a battle [against Marseille]. It was a tough game, which comes after three draws; it was a game to win absolutely.

"We could also score a second goal. We had chances, and it would have been important not to suffer until the last minute. We managed to win, we are happy."

Neymar's ninth goal of the season moved Paris Saint-Germain three points clear at the Ligue 1 summit following a 1-0 victory over 10-man Marseille.

The Brazil international's strike in first-half stoppage time was enough to settle the Classique as PSG registered 23 shots on goal in a deserved triumph at Parc des Princes.

Marseille had Samuel Gigot sent off for a dangerous challenge on Neymar as the visitors suffered their first away defeat of the season.

Meanwhile, Christophe Galtier's side stretched their unbeaten league run to 20 matches – their longest streak in the French top flight since going 21 games without defeat between May 2018 and January 2019.

Marseille had Pau Lopez to thank for keeping PSG at bay early in the first half as he denied Lionel Messi twice inside the opening four minutes, while also blocking Achraf Hakimi after Kylian Mbappe picked out the full-back less than 60 seconds later.

Lopez then demonstrated wonderful reflexes to tip over Mbappe's deflected 25-yard effort, before Messi's fierce free-kick rattled the crossbar.

But the hosts broke the deadlock just before the break. Marco Verratti robbed Amine Harit of possession before Vitinha and Mbappe combined to set up Neymar, whose first-time shot went in off the post.

Marseille came close to equalising early in the second half, with Jonathan Clauss latching onto Alexis Sanchez’s lofted throughball before drawing smart reflexes out of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Verratti and Mbappe almost doubled the lead at the other end, but the visitors' hopes of salvaging a point were effectively dashed 18 minutes from time when Gigot was shown a straight red card for rashly taking out Neymar.

Messi was marginally off target with an attempted dink from Mbappe's throughball later on, but PSG held out to pull clear at the top of Ligue 1. 

This might be the perfect time to play Paris Saint-Germain, or it could be the worst possible time to face them.

It's been a chaotic week for the Ligue 1 champions, with rumours of in-fighting, betrayal, and possible walkouts.

Kylian Mbappe apparently wants out, and that in turn led to speculation about the possibility of football consultant Luis Campos and head coach Christophe Galtier departing as well.

Everyone remains for the time being and they must all now turn their attention to Sunday's game, Le Classique.

Victory for Marseille will move them level on 26 points with PSG – victory for the Parisians at the Parc des Princes will likely have many already declaring them champions again even after just 11 games.

A rival emerging?

Throughout Qatar Sports Investments' (QSI) ownership of PSG, genuine title rivals have been few and far between.

Marseille certainly can't claim to be so competitive yet, though there's clearly some cause for optimism.

After all, this will be the third successive Classique that has been contested by sides in the top three, which is as many as in their previous 13 meetings.

That may not mean a huge amount in isolation and even Marseille's second-placed finish last term saw them 15 points adrift of PSG, but Igor Tudor's men do appear to be making progress, with 23 points after 10 games their third-best start in the top flight.

A shock win in the capital on Sunday might force a few people to sit up and take note.

Classique, c'est bleak

Any Marseille optimism is likely to be tempered by the recent history of this fixture, however.

PSG have only lost one of their previous 25 games against Marseille across all competitions, a 1-0 Ligue 1 defeat in September 2020.

 

In fact, PSG's nine wins from 11 home meetings with OM since the QSI takeover in 2011-12 is their joint-most against a single opponent.

To make matters worse for Marseille, PSG haven't lost any of their past 19 Ligue 1 games – which is their longest such run since 21 between May 2018 and January 2019 – and are unbeaten at home in 26 top-flight matches.

But, as the saying goes; the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Right?

Verratti closes on landmark

Marco Verratti is one of the players who is most synonymous with this ultra-successful era of PSG given he arrived in 2012.

He is now set to make Classique history as he will be the first outfield player to make 20 appearances in the famous fixture.

In fact, only one player has ever made more appearances in Le Classique; former Marseille favourite Steve Mandanda.

Marquinhos isn't too far behind the Italian, though, and unlike Verratti, the Brazil defender has remarkably never lost to Marseille in Ligue 1.

That's a run of 15 games without defeat – only three players have ever played more Ligue 1 games against one team without losing. Jean-Paul Bertrand Demanes (21 versus Laval for Nantes) holds that particular record.

Galtier's point to prove

The off-field circus of this week has undoubtedly had its toll on Galtier, with the PSG embarking on a bit of a rant during Friday's pre-match news conference.

Former Nice coach Galtier fumed about questions relating to off-pitch matters, barking that he just wanted to concentrate on football.

Clearly, then, Galtier will be more motivated than anyone to get a positive result and ensure the focus is on football again after Sunday – though he'll need to put a poor run behind him if he's to do so.

Galtier has only won four of 25 games against Marseille as a coach, giving him a measly win percentage of 16.

Only against Auxerre (no wins from five games) has he a poorer record.

 

Christophe Galtier angrily articulated his frustration about the latest Kylian Mbappe transfer speculation as the Paris Saint-Germain boss questioned why his point of view is never believed.

In his first season with PSG, Galtier has had to cope with reports and rumours of unrest within his squad, and this week saw newspaper claims from Spain that Mbappe is once again thinking about a future away from Paris.

That seemed improbable when the France striker signed a new contract in May, having been urged to do so by no less an authority than France's president, Emmanuel Macron.

The 23-year-old turned his back on a possible free transfer to Real Madrid, but he has at times appeared unhappy this season, and now there are suggestions he would welcome a move away from PSG as soon as January.

Galtier has already scoffed at such talk, and he has claimed Mbappe's focus is where it should be, on delivering results for the French champions.

Those results have tailed off at an unfortunate time, with a pair of Champions League draws against Benfica coming either side of a 0-0 stalemate with Ligue 1 strugglers Reims.

Ahead of Sunday's Classique against Marseille, Galtier was asked how he coped with the incessant news cycle, the focus on the team, and situations such as that with Mbappe.

"You have to have experience and be a certain age to be able to manage these things," he said, before launching into a tirade about media coverage.

"What I'd like to say is you never speak about football. You ask me lots of questions. I'm not talking about you individually, but you, the media.

"I've been here many times as the Paris Saint-Germain coach and I have a feeling that match after match, press conference after press conference, we have to speak for 10 or 15 minutes and for maybe one minute about football. It is topics away from football.

"Whatever I say to you, you don't believe me, because you write the opposite and you say the opposite. Whether it is the written press, the radio, television, you say the opposite of what I say.

"So when I say that this [player] is well, they get on well, they are serious, they are professional, they have solidarity, it interests nobody. Other things are written.

"I am not here to comment on rumours. To answer your question about Kylian Mbappe, there is a rumour that came out before the game [against Benfica on Tuesday]. He had the best answer. He was named man of the match. He played well, he put in a great performance and showed solidarity.

"As for what is happening away from that, you have the right to talk about other things, but when you ask me questions I answer honestly. I have lots of faults, but I am very honest. When I say it, it is true. But when I say those things, nothing is written in the press, and you often see the opposite anyway.

"So to answer about Kylian Mbappe, have I spoken to him regarding the rumour, no.

"I am very proud to be the coach of Paris Saint-Germain and to be in charge of these players. Please, write that and let's talk about football."

Talking about football does not always make for comfortable reading either. Galtier has won just four of his 25 encounters as a coach against Marseille in Ligue 1 (D10 L11), a 16 per cent win-rate, and he only has a worse such ratio against Auxerre (D4 L1 in 5 games).

Previous clashes have been during his time in charge of Saint-Etienne, Lille and Nice, however.

As PSG boss, the expectations are different, and the leaders will be expected to get the better of a side who sit third heading into the weekend.

Galtier said PSG have been in a "very intense" spell of games, but he recognised the same applies for Marseille, who are also involved in the Champions League.

Sergio Ramos misses out through suspension this week after his red card against Reims, but Lionel Messi should be back from a calf injury.

Messi trained on Friday and barring any problems on Saturday he will be in Galtier's squad.

"It's the match that everyone looks forward to in the French league," said Galtier. "When I wasn't the Paris Saint-Germain coach, I was always excited to watch it. It is the Classique. Everybody is excited about it."

Galtier, who hails from Marseille, was adamant the vibe in the PSG dressing room is one of unity rather than division.

"Of course we don't all kiss each other every day, but things are going much better than elsewhere," he said.

"It is going much better than you might write or imagine. Kylian Mbappe is doing very well."

Inter have a chance to become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in a Champions League campaign when they meet at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Club Brugge are on the brink of their first trip to the knockout stages as they play Atletico Madrid.

Mohamed Salah can make history with one more Champions League goal for Liverpool on their trip to Scotland to take on Rangers, and Bayern Munich are one win away from their own record as they try to win an 11th consecutive group stage match.

Tottenham will look to break out of a scoring slump when they host Eintracht Frankfurt, while Porto and Bayer Leverkusen are battling it out in Group B.

With plenty of important matchups, Stats Perform has parsed through the data to preview the eight fixtures on Wednesday and shine a light on some of the more interesting angles.

Barcelona v Inter

Inter's 1-0 victory against Barcelona at San Siro last week was their first triumph over the Spanish giants since April 2010, with Barca collecting four wins and one draw since.

With another win, Inter can become the first Italian side to ever beat Barcelona twice in the same Champions League campaign, although they have lost all five of their away fixtures at Camp Nou – their most losses at any away venue in the competition.

In fact, Camp Nou has not been a happy hunting ground for Italian sides in general, with a 3-0 victory for Juventus in 2020 marking the country's only win at the venue in the last 17 tries (L13 D3).

It is not just Barcelona who have given Inter trouble on away days, with their last away win in the Champions League against a Spanish opponent coming back in 2004 against Valencia.

Working in Inter's favour is road warrior Lautaro Martinez, who has scored six of his seven Champions League goals away from home.

Tottenham v Eintracht Frankfurt

After banking four consecutive wins against Borussia Dortmund between 2017 and 2019, Tottenham are now winless in their past five Champions League fixtures against German sides (D1 L4).

On the other side, Eintracht have enjoyed success when travelling to England in European competition, winning both of their previous two attempts – against Arsenal in 2019, and West Ham in April this year – in the Europa League.

However, this is a clear step up from the Europa League, and after winning their first ever Champions League away game last month (1-0 at Marseille), Frankfurt will be looking to become the only German team to ever win their first two away fixtures in the competition.

The 0-0 draw between these two sides in Frankfurt a week ago was the second consecutive Champions League game where Tottenham have failed to score a goal – also losing 2-0 to Sporting. The last time they went three games in the competition without scoring was back in 2011.

Striker Harry Kane will be key, as he boasts the best minutes-per-goal figure – 20 goals in 27 appearances for a goal every 118 minutes – of any English player with at least 10 goals in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge

Not many, if any, would have tipped Club Brugge to top Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto, but they have defeated all three to lead with a perfect nine points and zero goals conceded.

One more win for Brugge would see them progress past the group stage for the first time, in their 10th Champions League campaign. By defeating Atletico, they would become the first Belgian side since Anderlecht in 2000 to win four games in a row in the competition.

Brugge are also one goal away from matching their highest goal tally from a single Champions League campaign, with eight goals in 2020-21.

Surprisingly, Atletico have struggled at home in the Champions League, snapping a streak of eight games without a win (D5 L3) by defeating Porto this season.

Brugge's Ferran Jutgla has registered a goal and an assist in each of his past two Champions League games, and if he can manage to do it again, he will join Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane as the only players since 2003-04 to have a goal and an assist in three straight games in the competition.

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

With Brugge seemingly cruising, Porto, Leverkusen and Atletico are likely fighting it out for one automatic qualification spot, and Leverkusen will feel good about their chances as Porto are winless in their last seven away games against German teams (D2 L5).

After defeating Atletico at home on the second matchday, Leverkusen will be looking to win consecutive Champions League home fixtures in the same campaign for the first time since 2014.

Patrick Schick is Leverkusen's focal point going forward, attempting more than twice as many shots (12) as any of his team-mates this Champions League season, but he is yet to score, having missed a penalty against Porto in last week's 2-0 loss.

Porto's Mehdi Taremi assisted both goals in the reverse fixture, marking the first time he has been involved in multiple goals in a Champions League game, while the sending-off of Jeremie Frimpong gave Leverkusen their 11th red card in their history in the competition, trailing only Bayern Munich (21) amongst German sides.

Other fixtures:

Napoli v Ajax

5 – Napoli beat Ajax 6-1 in the reverse fixture at Johan Cruyff Arena, with the five-goal margin marking the heaviest defeat Ajax have ever suffered in European competition.

10 – With one more win, Napoli would become the fourth Italian club to ever mount a 10-game unbeaten streak in the Champions League, with six wins and three draws from their past nine fixtures.

Rangers v Liverpool

5 – Rangers have failed to score in their past five European games against English competition, including a 2-0 loss against Liverpool last week.

35 – Mohamed Salah has scored 35 Champions League goals for Liverpool – only Didier Droga (36 for Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (36 for Manchester City) have scored more for a single Premier League club in the competition.

Sporting v Marseille

9 – Marseille have lost their past nine away fixtures in the Champions League, and with one more loss they would become the sixth team to ever post 10 consecutive away defeats in the competition, and the first from France.

18 – It has been 18 years since Sporting lost a home fixture against a French side in European competition, with that loss coming against Sochaux in the 2004 UEFA Cup.

Viktoria Plzen v Bayern Munich

31 – Bayern Munich are undefeated in their past 31 Champions League group stage matches (28W 3D) – which is an all-time high – and with one more win they will set the new record for consecutive group stage wins with 11.

32 – Viktoria Plzen have faced 32 shots on target in their first three games of this Champions League campaign – more than any other side. In the reverse fixture, Bayern had 13 shots on target.

Champions League football resumes on Tuesday, with Robert Lewandowski's return to Bayern Munich with Barcelona being an obvious highlight.

Barcelona travel to Bavaria in a match few would be disappointed to see replicated in next year's final, with Atletico Madrid also travelling to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen.

After Premier League football was suspended at the weekend as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen, Liverpool are back in action against Ajax and are seeking to respond to a defeat to Napoli last week, while Tottenham travel to face Sporting CP.

Elsewhere, Inter face Viktoria Plzen after both sides lost their opening fixture and Eintracht Frankfurt, following defeat to Sporting, travel to Marseille – and the only remaining match of the day is Porto against Brugge.

For a closer look at all the action you can look forward to, Stats Perform has dived into the Opta data to highlight the most interesting facts for each match.

Bayern vs Barcelona

Scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Barcelona against Viktoria Plzen, Lewandowski returns to Bavaria with a devastating record this season and his goals in the 5-1 triumph saw Barcelona scoring more in one game than they had in their previous nine matches in the competition (4).

While that will give the visitors confidence, Barcelona have a poor record against the Bundesliga champions having suffered eight defeats in the competition to Bayern – twice as many as they have lost against any other opponent (4 vs Milan, Chelsea and PSG).

Four of those losses have come in the group stages, with Bayern winning both matches in 1998-99 and 2021-22 to boast a 100 per cent record against Barcelona in that regard, who have not lost more than twice against any other opponent in the group stage.

On top of that, Bayern have won 35 of their last 37 home matches in the group stages of the Champions League – the only exceptions being a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in December 2013 and a 1-1 draw with Ajax in October 2018.

Liverpool vs Ajax

Liverpool won both meetings with Ajax in the 2020-21 Champions League group stages, the only campaign in the competition when they have met, with the Dutch side not beating Liverpool in any competition since a 5-1 win in December 1966.

Ajax's defeat to Liverpool in December 2020 is one of only two defeats that the Eredivisie champions have experienced in their last 25 matches (W13, D10) away from home in UEFA competition, the other being a 2-0 defeat to Getafe in February 2020 in the Europa League.

Having suffered defeat to Napoli last week, Liverpool are looking to avoid back-to-back defeats to start a Champions League campaign for the first time, while they have only lost their first home match in two of their previous 46 major European campaigns (W35, D9).

With seven Champions League wins in a row, Ajax travel to Anfield with a stellar run in the competition as only Bayern (8) boast a better winning streak currently.

Sporting vs Tottenham

While the two sides have never met competitively, Sporting are winless in all six of their Champions League matches against English opposition (D1, L5) and have lost all three of those games in Lisbon without scoring a single goal.

Tottenham's record against Portuguese opponents is scarce, winning against Pacos de Ferreira in the qualifying phases for the 2021-22 Europa League but not facing an opponent from the country in the Europe's premier competition since a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Benfica in the 1962-63 semi-final.

Sporting have never won their opening two matches in the Champions League, while Antonio Conte is looking to follow in the footsteps of Mauricio Pochettino as Spurs seek back-to-back wins to open a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2017-18 season under the Argentine.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico

Neither side has a particularly good record to encourage them heading into Tuesday's tie, with Leverkusen having won just four of their last 20 Champions League matches (D8, L8), while Atletico have only kept one clean sheet in 21 away matches against German opposition in major UEFA competitions.

Atletico have only won one of four away matches against Leverkusen, a 4-2 victory in February 2017 in the Champions League, and have won only one of their last seven matches in Germany – though that was the match in 2017.

Late drama is to be expected whenever Atletico compete in the Champions League, with five of their last 10 goals in the competition coming in the 90th minute of matches.

Other fixtures:

Viktoria Plzen vs Inter

8 - Viktoria Plzen have won their last eight home European matches (including qualifiers), scoring at least twice in every win (21 in total). They have only lost one of their last 19 on home soil in European football (W16 D2), a 5-0 reverse against Real Madrid during their last UEFA Champions League campaign in November 2018.

2 - Since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Inter striker Lautaro Martínez has scored just two goals from 48 shots (inc. blocks) in the UEFA Champions League. The Argentine’s shot conversion rate of 4.2 per cent (including blocks) is the lowest of any player to have attempted 30+ shots during this period.

Porto vs Brugge

3 - Porto have lost their last three UEFA Champions League matches, with two of those coming against Atletico; they have never lost four in a row in the competition before.

1 - In major European competition, Club Brugge have lost five of their six away matches in Portugal (W1), their one win coming against Sporting Braga in September 2011 in the UEFA Europa League.

Marseille vs Eintracht Frankfurt

15 - Marseille have lost 15 of their last 16 UEFA Champions League matches (W1), with the exception coming in their last home game in the competition in December 2020 against Olympiacos.

2 - Marseille and Eintracht Frankfurt will face in European competition for only the second time, also meeting in the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League group stages. Frankfurt won both matches (2-1 away, 4-0 home).

Antonio Conte hailed Richarlison's versatility after the Brazilian opened his Tottenham account with a brace to seal a 2-0 Champions League win over Marseille on Wednesday.

Spurs took full advantage of Chancel Mbemba's red card as Richarlison twice headed past Pau Lopez inside the final 15 minutes, ensuring Conte's men won their opening match in a Champions League campaign for only the second time.

Richarlison became the 39th Brazilian to score on his debut in the competition, the most of any nation, but is the first Brazilian since Oscar in September 2012 to net a brace on his Champions League bow.

The 25-year-old joined from Everton in a £60million deal in July and Conte believes his display was a perfect demonstration of why they signed him.

"First of all, I am happy for Richy," Conte said in a news conference. "He deserved to have a night like this.

"I remember very well when we signed him, he said he cannot wait to listen to the Champions League music and play in competition. 

"This morning I said I remember what he said and you have your opportunity and chance. I think he did his best.

"We signed him to enhance the quality of team and support our three strikers. Last season when you have a team with Son [Heung-min], Harry [Kane] and Deki [Dejan Kulusevski], we tried to sign a player that was able to play in all three positions.

"For this reason, we didn't have any doubts about signing him and we did it quickly because our idea and ambition was very clear.

"He is more of a striker than Deki but at same time he can play in the Son position, Kane position, and Deki position. This is very important for sure, as when you make rotation, you don't drop the quality."

 

Spurs travel to champions Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday and Conte acknowledged he will likely have to shuffle his pack, given the tight turnaround.  

"I have a big decision. Honestly, I am a bit worried as we are playing against City in only two days and it is not easy," he added.

"I think some players need to recover as many have played every game until now. You know very well we have to rotate our team."

Richarlison scored his first two Tottenham goals as they marked their return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2019-20 season with a 2-0 win over 10-man Marseille on Wednesday.

Spurs started slowly in their first competitive clash against the Ligue 1 side, but their cause was helped significantly just after half-time when Chancel Mbemba was shown a straight red card for a professional foul. 

Antonio Conte's men took full advantage of that numerical advantage inside the closing 15 minutes as Richarlison twice headed past Pau Lopez to the delight of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium crowd. 

The result means Spurs are level on three points with Sporting CP at the Group D summit after the Portuguese side beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 earlier in the day.

Spurs did most of the pressing in the first half, yet their only chance of note fell to Harry Kane five minutes before the interval, the England captain dragging wide after being played in by Son Heung-min.

Marseille's hopes of going back to France with a positive result were dealt a blow two minutes into the second half when Mbemba received his marching orders for bringing down a clean-through Son just outside the penalty area. 

Substitute Dejan Kulusevski injected some much-needed spark into Spurs' attack following his introduction on the hour mark, and the new-look hosts went ahead in the 76th minute when Richarlison headed home Ivan Perisic's cross. 

The former Everton man put the result beyond doubt five minutes later with another header – this time from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's cross – that left Lopez with no chance. 

Antonio Conte has criticised Tottenham's fixture crunch in the run-up to the World Cup, stating it is the first time in his career he has seen such a "crazy" schedule.

The Premier League side get their Champions League campaign under was on Wednesday when they host Marseille, marking their return to the competition after two seasons away.

Coupled with English domestic commitments, they will play 17 games over the next nine and a half weeks, due to the mid-season staging of this year's World Cup in Qatar.

Reflecting on the calendar, Conte has been left stunned by the crush of clashes on his team's schedule, and says he believes organisers can do better to avoid such issues.

"It's crazy," he stated at a pre-match press conference. "We played three games in six days against Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Fulham, and now we play three games against Marseille, [Manchester] City away [and] Sporting Lisbon away in six days.

"I think [this is the] first time in my career [I have] seen a schedule like this. I think we can do much better for the future."

Conte added that Spurs' return to the top competition in European club football was a chance to show further progress on a strong 2021-22 season.

"First of all, we are having a Champions League press conference for what we did last season," he stated. "I think last season we did a fantastic job with the club and with the players.

"We are to enjoy this important competition in Europe. For sure, we want to play to try to do our best.

"We have to play with ambition and with great desire, with great will. I know very well this tournament is really difficult, it is the most difficult in the world.

"But at the same time, it's a great opportunity to show we are going in the right way, that we are making a step forward and we want to try to improve and to give satisfaction to our fans and then to give satisfaction to ourselves."

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