Hugo Lloris has retired from international football after leading France to a second consecutive World Cup final.

Goalkeeper Lloris is Les Bleus' most-capped player and has captained the team since 2012.

The Tottenham man skippered his country at six major tournaments, including three World Cups.

Lloris was the man between the posts as France won their second world title in 2018, having lost in the final of their home Euro 2016 two years earlier.

With Lloris still in goal, France returned to the World Cup final at Qatar 2022, only to lose on penalties to Argentina.

Having taken time to announce a decision following that defeat, Lloris confirmed his retirement in an interview with L'Equipe on Monday.

"There comes a time when you have to know how to hand over," he said, before referencing deputy Mike Maignan.

"I don't want to own [the position]. I've always said and repeated that the France team doesn't belong to anyone, and we all have to make sure that this is the case, me first.

"I think that there remains a team ready to continue, and there is also a goalkeeper who is ready."

Maignan appeared set to push Lloris for the number one shirt in Qatar, only to join a long list of France stars who missed the tournament through injury.

Lloris kept only a single clean sheet at the finals, although that came in the semi-final against Morocco.

He retires with eight World Cup clean sheets, behind only countryman Fabien Barthez and Peter Shilton (both 10) since 1966.

"I'd rather go out at the top than wait for a decline or [face] too much competition," Lloris added. "There is also a family choice;I feel the need to spend more time with my wife and children."

Milan coach Stefano Pioli insists Napoli's first Serie A defeat of the season has done little to alter the picture in the Scudetto race ahead of Sunday's clash with Roma.

Serie A champions Milan made a successful return to action following the World Cup break on Wednesday, beating Salernitana 2-1 after taking a two-goal lead within 15 minutes. 

That result took the Rossoneri to within five points of leaders Napoli, a gap which the Partenopei failed to extend as they fell to their first league defeat of the campaign at Inter.

Milan ended an 11-year wait to capture the Scudetto with an outstanding run of form over the second half of last season, and Pioli feels they will need to produce something similar to see off the challenge of Napoli this term.

"Not much has changed with one game," Pioli said on Saturday. "We're not there to count the points behind.

"We have to make our run and we need a lot of points to win the Scudetto. We're thinking about playing well, raising the level and winning tomorrow.

"Roma are a strong, complete team, they have important offensive qualities and physicality. They lost against Napoli in the last few games and won against Inter, we will respect them a lot. 

"Then there's us, our will and our determination. Let's get back to playing at San Siro and we will do it with enthusiasm and energy."

Pioli will be unable to call upon Mike Maignan against Roma, with the goalkeeper's recovery from the thigh injury which sidelined him for the World Cup taking longer than anticipated.

Asked when Maignan might return, Pioli said: "We don't have timings, we must not take any risks and I can't say if it will be two, three, four or five weeks. 

"The muscle doesn't respond as it should, now I can't say when we will have him available."

Sunday's game will see Pioli do battle with Jose Mourinho, with the Milan boss being the only coach to face him more than once in Serie A and boast a 100 per cent winning record.

Following Roma's 3-1 defeat in this same fixture 12 months ago, Mourinho said he was "doubly happy" to have turned down the chance to coach Milan in 2019, but Pioli refused to be drawn into a war of words with his Giallorossi counterpart.

"Everyone can express their opinions," Pioli said when reminded of Mourinho's comments. "Milan was a great opportunity for me and I'll make the most of it as long as I can."

Milan have signed goalkeeper Devis Vasquez from Club Guarani with Mike Maignan still out of action.

The 24-year-old Colombian completed his medical on Monday, with his departure from the Paraguayan club for San Siro confirmed on Tuesday.

Vasquez has signed a deal with the Serie A champions until June 2026 and his arrival comes with Maignan still absent due to a calf injury that ruled the France international out of the World Cup

Rossoneri head coach Stefano Pioli revealed he is not expecting Maignan to be fit for the foreseeable future.

Asked ahead of Wednesday's Serie A clash with Salernitana whether he had a timeframe for Maignan's return, he said: "At this moment no, the evaluations we are making tell us that it is not possible to force now and therefore I do not know how to give a timing on the return. Not soon, I can say that for sure."

Vasquez joins Antonio Mirante and Ciprian Tatarusanu in competing for a starting berth in Maignan's absence.

The World Cup in Qatar is finally set to get underway, but there are a number of major players who will be watching along with the fans back home.

An unfortunate reality about the tournament is there will always be significant absences, either through a nation's failure to qualify or due to injury.

It is the latter that has been a major focus in the final week before Sunday's kick-off, with Senegal star Sadio Mane and France striker Karim Benzema both being late withdrawals from their respective squads, the latter suffering a quadriceps injury on Saturday, depriving the tournament of the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner.

Benzema's injury is just one of several significant blows for holders France, and they dominate Stats Perform's injured XI of the players unable to feature in Qatar.

Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan (France)

Maignan had a fine maiden season at Milan after joining from Lille. He kept 17 clean sheets in Serie A last term, the highest tally in the league, and conceded just 21 goals, with his save percentage of 79.4 the best of any Serie A goalkeeper to play more than 10 games in the competition.

He has made seven appearances this season, but the 27-year-old suffered a calf injury in October, leaving Didier Deschamps shorn of a quality shot-stopper to challenge Hugo Lloris.

 

Defence: Ben Chilwell (England), Reece James (England), Presnel Kimpembe (France)

Chelsea duo Reece James and Ben Chilwell were by no means guaranteed to start for England, but it's still a blow to Gareth Southgate not to have the pair available.

James has excelled at wing-back and would have been an ideal fit if England stick with a three-man defence, while he could also have slotted in at centre-back, and Chilwell would likely offer more attacking threat than Luke Shaw on the left should the Three Lions have needed to chase a game.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe helped France win the 2018 World Cup, but he had to withdraw from Deschamps' squad for Qatar due to an Achilles problem.

Midfield: N'Golo Kante (France), Giovani Lo Celso (Argentina), Paul Pogba (France), Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands)

Giovani Lo Celso was not always a key player for Tottenham but retained his place as a crucial cog for Argentina. La Albiceleste will be without the midfielder, who sustained a hamstring injury while playing for Villarreal against Athletic Bilbao late in October.

Georginio Wijnaldum scored three goals in four games for the Netherlands at Euro 2020, but shortly after joining Roma on loan from PSG, the former Liverpool midfielder suffered a fractured tibia and had no chance of recovering in time to make Louis van Gaal's squad.

Another two France stars complete the midfield, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante missing for Les Bleus. Both players were exceptional in 2018, but Kante is out with a hamstring problem, while Pogba is yet to make an appearance for Juventus this season after joining from Manchester United.

 

Attack: Karim Benzema (France), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Christopher Nkunku (France)

It's fair to say France have been hit hardest by injuries to big players, and there could arguably be none bigger than Benzema, the Ballon d'Or holder. Given he is 34, it could well have been the Real Madrid striker's final shot at a World Cup and is a huge blow not only to France but to football fans around the world who were highly anticipating the Benzema-Kylian Mbappe link-up.

A player who might have softened the blow of Benzema's injury was Christopher Nkunku, had he not already been ruled out himself with a knee issue sustained in training last week, just before Les Bleus left for Qatar. Nkunku has been in sensational form for RB Leipzig, with only Mbappe of players from Europe's top five leagues having scored more goals (58) since the start of last season than the RB Leipzig star, who has amassed 52 in 75 games.

Mane, meanwhile, was carrying the hopes of Senegal on his shoulders. The Africa Cup of Nations holders have a talented squad, but Mane was the stardust. He went down with an injury to his fibula while in action for Bayern Munich just before the World Cup break, and though Senegal named the ex-Liverpool attacker in their squad, he underwent surgery earlier this week and was duly ruled out.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has continued to have a positive impact at Milan during his recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, according to Stefano Pioli. 

The 41-year-old, who has scored 33 goals in 60 league appearances in his second spell with the Rossoneri, underwent surgery in May.

Ibrahimovic's career appeared to be in danger at that time, but the Sweden great declared last month: "If I see a player stronger than me, I'll stop. But I haven't seen him yet."

While the striker is not expected to feature for the Scudetto holders until 2023, Pioli says he has been a "positive" figure around the Rossoneri squad during his layoff. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's Serie A meeting with Monza, Pioli said: "Zlatan, in everything he says and does, is never trivial. He is very intelligent.

"He knows how we want to play and how we prepare for matches, and he confronts me. His presence is positive.

"His recovery is still a little bit long. It will take some time to see him again on the pitch; it is nice, however, to see him here in Milanello, he is fine with the boys."

 

Milan have won seven of their first 10 games of a Serie A season as defending champions for the first time since 1992-93, when they retained the Scudetto, but they still sit three points adrift of leaders Napoli.

However, Pioli believes his side deserve to have won more points than they have, adding: "The calendar is completely different, compared to the first half of last year.

"In my opinion, we deserved to collect something more, like with Napoli [a 2-1 home loss last month], for example. Then there were some negative situations that need to be improved. Our level must always be high."

Pioli also offered an update on the condition of Mike Maignan following reports suggesting the France goalkeeper could miss the World Cup after suffering a setback in his battle against a calf injury.

"We are sorry for Mike," Pioli said. "We evaluated everything possible, he wanted to play in Verona [last Sunday], we had checked everything, but this injury will keep him out at least until January."

While the absence of Maignan would leave France lacking competition for Hugo Lloris between the sticks, French media reports have since claimed the 27-year-old could still recover in time to travel to Qatar, with Pioli's words said to be referring only to his club availability.

France boss Didier Deschamps could be without Ousmane Dembele for Sunday's Nations League clash with Denmark after the Barcelona winger reported a calf problem.

The game in Copenhagen will see Deschamps make a number of changes, with the trip coming just two months before the teams meet again in the World Cup group stage.

France are eager to get the win, as that would guarantee they avoid relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, but Deschamps will not push anyone into playing.

"Ousmane felt discomfort in a calf and will train separately," said Deschamps on Saturday evening.

"We will review after the session. I will make changes, but I won't decide tonight. I will wait for the medical return and the feelings of the players. There will be changes, but I won't tell you how many."

France and Denmark will be joined in Group D at Qatar 2022 by Australia and Tunisia, and they are due to go head-to-head on November 26 in the second round of games.

Denmark got the better of Deschamps' side at the Stade de France in June in their first Nations League encounter, with Andreas Cornelius hitting a double after Karim Benzema had put the hosts ahead.

According to Deschamps, there will be little to be gained on Sunday with a view to the World Cup game, though.

"The only advantage is for players who are there and who will have the possibility of starting or coming on," he said. "I'm not going to get any particular benefit from it otherwise.

"In Qatar, it will be another game, but the teams will know each other well, that's true."

With Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan coming off injured in the 2-0 win against Austria on Thursday, West Ham's Alphonse Areola has got the nod to start against the Danes.

Areola came into the fray for the second half against Austria, with first choice Huge Lloris out through injury.

The 29-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain stopper has made five appearances for West Ham this season, albeit with four of those coming in the Europa Conference League and just one in the Premier League.

"He will start," Deschamps said. "I see goalkeepers starting in the national team and not in the club. Alphonse has been more or less a starter. Every time he plays, he performs well. Alphonse is there because he has quality."

Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan have withdrawn from France's squad for their trip to Denmark after sustaining injuries, leading Didier Deschamps to call up Rennes' Steve Mandanda.

Goals from Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud ensured France picked up the first win of their Nations League campaign against Austria on Thursday, but their injury crisis worsened at the Stade de France.

Deschamps' team were already without Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and others for their final Nations League fixtures, and Juventus midfielder Pogba is a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

They were further depleted when Barcelona new boy Kounde was withdrawn after 23 minutes against Austria, and it has now been revealed Maignan was in pain before his own half-time exit.

A statement issued by the French Football Federation on Friday read: "Mike Maignan had to give up his place to Alphonse Areola at half-time in France-Austria on Thursday evening at the Stade de France, due to pain felt in the left calf.

"The Milan goalkeeper will not be able to play against Denmark on Sunday in Copenhagen. To replace him, Didier Deschamps called on Steve Mandanda. 

"Maignan will leave the group during the day, as will Jules Kounde, who is suffering from a left hamstring injury. Both players will take exams in the morning before being released to their club.

"Kounde will not be replaced in the group that will arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday."

Mandanda has won 34 senior caps since making his France debut in 2008, and was part of the squad which won the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

France could still be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and cannot progress to the competition's finals, with Croatia and Denmark locked in a battle for top spot in Group A1.

Raphael Varane will feel "great pride" in captaining France when they face South Africa on Tuesday in Les Bleus' final game of the March international break.

The Manchester United defender has been handed the armband for the friendly clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, the 28-year-old's hometown, with regular skipper Hugo Lloris sitting the game out.

Didier Deschamps' side are looking to continue their preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup at the end of the year, as they eye a successful defence of their 2018 crown.

With regular captain Lloris set to be benched in favour of Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, Varane said it would be an honour to lead out his country in his home city.

"It is a great pride," he said. "I grew up not far from here. I was born in Lille, I grew up between Lille and Lens. 

"Of course, it's a bit special."

Varane also commented upon the selection of Maignan, who has kept 11 Serie A clean sheets in an impressive debut campaign with the Rossoneri, praising the 26-year-old's leadership and character.

"He brings great explosiveness," Varane said of Maignan. "He has a great kicking game, he brings his character, he is a leader at heart.

"He keeps progressing and continues to evolve. He has a lot of talent."

The former Real Madrid defender spoke in glowing terms about Clauss' qualities, saying that his inclusion in the squad brought "a lot of joy".

"He brings a lot of freshness," Varane added. "I did my best to welcome him, to put him at ease.

"He is living an exceptional moment, and it brings a lot of joy.

"If he is there [in the France squad], he has the qualities. The desire is there, [and] he has some very interesting qualities."

Deschamps' side will be looking to maintain their excellent attacking form when they host South Africa, having scored in each of their last 19 games, the longest such run in the history of the national team.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli insisted "four teams can still win the Scudetto" after his side moved back to the top of Serie A with a 1-0 victory over Cagliari, which was marred by abuse directed at Mike Maignan.

The Rossoneri dominated for large parts on Saturday, but a lack of clinical finishing left them frustrated until just before the hour.

Ismael Bennacer stepped up with an exquisite volley into the bottom-left corner to edge Milan past Walter Mazzarri's side, who spurned two great opportunities through Joao Pedro and Keita Balde in response.

Victory meant Milan restored their three-point lead over Napoli, who defeated Udinese 2-1 earlier on Saturday, and they are six ahead of defending champions Inter, who have played a game fewer, after they were held by Fiorentina.

Juventus could cut the gap on the leaders to seven when they host Salernitana on Sunday, and Pioli believes the Scudetto race is far from over with eight games remaining for his side.

"Every game is an important crossroads now. I liked the team, even when we didn't score in the first half, as we played with quality and intensity," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"Cagliari caused us problems, but that's inevitable when you have two teams with such strong motivation."

Milan's triumph was their third straight win by a 1-0 scoreline and, while delighted with the result, Pioli would look to see his team be more ruthless in front of goal.

"We would like to score more and went close again several times today, but the important thing is to win," he added.

"We're doing great things, but we also know there are four sides that could still win the Scudetto. There's no point looking too far ahead, there's a long way to go and we need to concentrate only on our own path."

Milan's win was tainted, however. There was a commotion between the players after the final whistle, and Pioli confirmed that goalkeeper Mike Maignan had made claims he was racially abused by some Cagliari fans.

"Mike told me there was racist abuse from behind the goal," Pioli responded when asked about the scenes at full-time.

"It's always sad when these things happen, nobody deserves that."

Rafael Leao's early goal proved the difference as Milan beat Sampdoria 1-0 at San Siro on Sunday to climb to the top of Serie A.

Saturday's 1-1 draw between Inter and Napoli provided Milan with the opportunity to leapfrog both sides and they did exactly that without ever being at their best against Samp.

Leao calmly converted inside eight minutes after being assisted by keeper Mike Maignan and that was enough for the hosts, who have now won three in a row in all competitions.

Milan are two points clear of third-place Napoli and one point better off than reigning champions Inter, who still have a game in hand to play.

 

Milan had collected just one point from their past two home matches but started brightly and took the lead early on through Leao's 10th goal of the campaign.

The Portugal international controlled a long pass from Maignan, drove away from Bartosz Bereszynski into the opposition box and coolly fired away from Wladimiro Falcone.

Falcone produced a fine one-handed save to keep out a powerful Junior Messias drive and the Milan midfielder flashed another attempt narrowly wide the other side of half-time.

Sampdoria had a brief moment on top but the big chances continued to fall Milan's way, with Olivier Giroud twice being denied by the visiting keeper from a volley and a header.

The visitors never truly looked like finding a leveller, though, with Stefano Pioli's side seeing out the job to climb to the summit.

 

What does it mean? Tight at the top

After following up a late 2-1 comeback win over Inter with a 4-0 Coppa Italia quarter-final victory against Lazio in midweek, this latest result caps a fine week for Milan.

The Rossoneri will end a gameweek top of Serie A for only the second time this season in what is by some distance the tightest title race in Europe's top five leagues.

As for relegation-threatened Sampdoria, this was their 67th Serie A defeat to Milan – only against Inter (70) have they lost more games in the competition.

Route-one Rossoneri

Leao profited from Maignan's quick thinking to release the ball early for Milan's early breakthrough goal.

Maignan is the eighth goalkeeper to assist a goal in Europe's top five leagues this term, and the first Milan shot-stopper to do so in Serie A since Dida against Ascoli in 2006.

Giroud awakening

Milan's in-form striker had scored braces in back-to-back matches heading into this contest but simply could not find a way past man-of-the-match Falcone.

Giroud had five shots in total with an expected goals (xG) return of 0.40 without finding the net, compared to one shot and one goal for Leao, who had an xG of 0.33.

What's next?

Milan travel to Serie A's bottom side Salernitana next Saturday, while Sampdoria host Empoli the same day.

Mike Maignan has returned from injury ahead of schedule and will start Milan's Serie A clash with Sassuolo on Sunday, head coach Stefano Pioli has confirmed.

The France international began the campaign in fine form, starting every game as Milan collected 19 points to match their best start to a league campaign after seven games.

But Maignan, signed from Lille for €15million to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma, underwent surgery on his left wrist in mid-October and was expected to miss around 10 weeks. 

However, having recently returned to training, the 26-year-old is now considered fit enough to make his comeback against Sassuolo in place of Ciprian Tatarusanu, who made a calamitous error in Milan's 4-3 defeat to Fiorentina last time out in Serie A.

"Maignan is fine. He has been working with the team for a week and is ready," Pioli said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. 

"He is back sooner because he has a great mentality. He is fine and will play tomorrow. Tatarusanu has done his duties well, but [Maignan] will return."

Maignan kept a league-high 21 clean sheets in 38 games for Ligue 1 champions Lille last season – seven more than next-best Keylor Navas and Benoit Costil.

The Frenchman's save percentage of 78.26 in seven Serie A games this season, meanwhile, is behind only Sergio Romero (80.56) and David Ospina (80.65) among those to have played more than twice.

Tatarusanu, for comparison, has saved 60 per cent of the shots he has faced in the six league games he has filled in for Maignan this term, keeping only one clean sheet.

Pioli also confirmed that centre-back Fikayo Tomori is closing in on a return from injury and is likely to be available for Wednesday's trip to Genoa.

Before that, Milan welcome Sassuolo to San Siro with the aim of keeping their hopes of a first Scudetto success in 11 years on track.

Milan last lost successive games in Serie A in April, which includes a 2-1 home loss at the hands of Sassuolo, but Pioli is fully focused on bouncing back.

"We have a chance tomorrow to get back on track in the league," said Pioli, who signed a new contract with the club on Friday.

"Winning games makes a difference and we all know we need to raise our game. We showed in Madrid that we have good quality in the squad, both technically and mentally."

Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan will be out for 10 weeks following surgery on his left wrist.

The Serie A giants signed Maignan from Lille in May for a reported €15million fee to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

The France international has started the season in fine form, starting every game as Stefano Pioli's side collected 19 points to match their best start in their opening seven Serie A games.

However, the 26-year-old suffered a wrist injury against Liverpool on September 15, with the problem worsening 13 days later in a clash with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez.

Milan announced on Wednesday that Maignan had undergone surgery, adding that he will rest for six weeks before beginning the rehabilitation process. He is expected to return near the end of December at the earliest.

His potential 10-week absence means he could miss the entirety of the remaining Champions League group-stage fixtures, alongside crucial domestic clashes against fellow title hopefuls Roma, neighbours Inter, and Napoli.

Up until his injury, only Bartlomiej Dragowski (1.62) boasted a better goal prevention figure than Maignan (0.94) among Serie A goalkeepers.

The news prompted Milan to sign 38-year-old goalkeeper Antonio Mirante on a free transfer until the end of the season, with Ciprian Tatarusanu Pioli's only other option until January.

Meanwhile, Milan defender Theo Hernandez has tested positive for COVID-19 after reporting back from international duty with France, meaning Milan will be without the left-back for the visit of Hellas Verona on Saturday.

Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan has alleged he was subject to racial abuse during Sunday's 1-1 draw away to Juventus and has called for change and "comprehensive action".

The 26-year-old French goalkeeper stood up to the abuse in a social media post but demanded action, with AFP reporting that Juventus have launched an investigation into the alleged incident.

Video on social media showed fans directing a torrent of abuse at Maignan as he warmed up prior to Sunday's game at Turin's Allianz Stadium.

The incident is the second in Serie A this season after grounds were re-opened to fans, with alleged racist chants from Lazio supporters towards Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko earlier this month.

Maignan posted on Twitter saying it was time for change and calling for comprehensive action.

"On Sunday evening at Allianz Stadium, Juventus supporters targeted me with racial slurs and cries," Maignan wrote on Twitter. "What do you want me to say? That racism is wrong and that these supporters are stupid? It’s not about that.

"I am neither the first nor the last player to have this happen. As long as these events are treated as ‘isolated incidents’ and no comprehensive action is taken, history is bound to repeat itself over and over and over again.

"What are we doing to combat racism in football stadiums? Do you really believe it’s effective? I am in a club that strives to lead the way by opposing all forms of discrimination. But we need to be more numerous and to be united in this battle for society which goes beyond football.

"In the proceedings, do the people who decide know what it feels like to hear insults and cries relegating us to the rank of animals? Do they know what it does for our families, for our loved ones who see it and who do not understand that it could still happen in 2021?

"I am not a ‘victim’ of racism. I am Mike, standing, black and proud. As long as we can give our voice to change things, we will."

Italian media reports have claimed that the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) are also considering their own investigation into the incident in Turin.

For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

 

Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

"I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

 

Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

 

Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

 

The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

"It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

"You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

Milan have completed the signing of Mike Maignan from Ligue 1 winners Lille ahead of the departure of fellow goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The one-cap France international, who played a key part in Lille's stunning title success this term, has signed a five-year deal at San Siro for a reported €15million fee.

Maignan kept a league-high 21 clean sheets in 38 games – seven more than next-best Keylor Navas and Benoit Costil – and his save percentage of 78.9 was bettered only by the Paris Saint-Germain keeper among those to have played at least three times.

He made 180 appearances over six seasons for Lille in total and was named Ligue 1's goalkeeper of the year in 2018-19.

Milan announced the arrival of Maignan, who is part of France's Euro 2020 squad having made his debut in October, on their official website on Thursday.

The signing comes a day after Rossoneri director Paolo Maldini confirmed current first-choice stopper Donnarumma will leave next month when his contract expires after turning down fresh terms.

Donnarumma, a rumoured target for the likes of Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United, has been with Milan since 2013 and has been a regular for the last six seasons.

The 22-year-old kept 14 clean sheets in Serie A this season – a joint-high along with Inter's Samir Handanovic – to help Milan to a second-placed finish, their best since 2011-12 when also finishing as runners-up.

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