Chelsea are reportedly weighing up a potential £102million move for Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt.

The Stamford Bridge club have been actively searching for ways to plug the gap in the centre of their defence since losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers, and are said to have also enquired about Inter's Milan Skriniar and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly.

Kouliably appeared the most palatable option at a fee in the range of £40m, but Chelsea may have decided the 22-year-old Netherlands international is a stronger long-term investment, and they could also potentially include a player swap to avoid forking out the full £102m release clause.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA SET SIGHTS ON ONE OF THE WORLD'S TOP YOUNG CENTRE-BACKS

The Telegraph is reporting that Juventus are holding firm on making any De Ligt suitors meet his release clause, while Football.London claims Chelsea are hoping to get a deal done with £60m plus sending Christian Pulisic to Turin.

All reporting agrees that De Ligt desires a move to the Premier League and that talks are progressing well, indicating it could just be a matter of time before a transfer fee is agreed.

Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake is also said to be on the move to Chelsea – the club he spent five years with before departing to Bournemouth in 2017 – in a deal Calciomercato claims to be in the range of £40m.

Chelsea could theoretically land both Ake and Koulibaly for less than it would take to bring in De Ligt, but if their transfer budget in this current window is close to the reported figure of £200m, money may not be an issue.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Times claims that Barcelona's finances are in better shape after their recent television rights deal, and the club are now willing to match the £60m required to secure Leeds United winger Raphinha.

– According to Calciomercato, Paris Saint-Germain have raised their bid for 23-year-old Sassuolo striker Gianluca Scamacca, although it is short of their £50m asking price.

Tottenham are reportedly in advanced talks to land Middlesbrough full-back Djed Spence in a deal worth at least £15m, per Sky Sports.

– The Sun is reporting that Ruben Neves is likely to remain with Wolves for the upcoming season as clubs are unwilling to meet their demands of £75m.

– According to Sky Sports, Kalvin Phillips will undergo his medical on Friday before confirming a £45m move to Man City.

Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro might make a seemingly eternal midfield composition, but Real Madrid still need to prepare for life after them.

Following the signings of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni over the past two off-season transfer windows, Los Blancos will look for a third.

Reports suggest that what they are looking for is penalty area threat, and the intent is not necessarily to replace the attributes of the three veterans. All signs point to Germany, and Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE BELLINGHAM AS FINAL PIECE OF MIDFIELD PUZZLE

Real Madrid will look to sign Bellingham in the 2023 off-season transfer window, according to Diario AS.

According to reports, Bellingham does not have a release clause in his deal at Dortmund and with his contract running to 2025, with the German club seeking a sale in excess of €100million.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid will not look to be the only suitors, with Chelsea and Liverpool also interested.

ROUND-UP

- Having already opened talks over Raheem Sterling, the Telegraph reports Chelsea are also looking to sign Manchester City's Nathan Ake.

- Meanwhile, Milan are considering a move for Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, per Calciomercato.

Tottenham want to sign Everton duo Richarlison and Anthony Gordon, according to Sky Sports.

- Christophe Galtier is close to being named as PSG's new boss, with Mauricio Pochettino on the way out, ESPN reports.

Romelu Lukaku lasted less than half an hour of Belgium's Nations League opener against the Netherlands on Friday.

The Chelsea forward, who endured a difficult first season back at Stamford Bridge, started up front for Roberto Martinez's side in Brussels.

But Lukaku stayed down for an extended period after tangling with Manchester City defender Nathan Ake midway through the first half.

While his Belgium team-mates appealed for a red card – or at least a foul, with Ake, the last man, not penalised – Lukaku required lengthy treatment.

The striker eventually lifted himself and continued playing but pulled up soon after when attempting to close down Frenkie de Jong.

The former Manchester United and Inter man immediately signalled he would have to be replaced, with Martinez bringing on Leandro Trossard as a substitute.

The Premier League witnessed drama at both ends of the table on an absorbing Saturday, as Manchester City and Liverpool continued to trade blows in the title race.

Jurgen Klopp's men downed in-form Newcastle United thanks to Naby Keita's first-half strike, before City responded by cruising to a 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United at Elland Road.

At the other end of the table, Norwich City were condemned to a record sixth Premier League relegation at Aston Villa, and Watford look destined to join them after Burnley continued their incredible upturn in form at Vicarage Road.

After another frantic day of action, Stats Perform looks at some of the key Opta facts from Saturday's contests.

Newcastle United 0-1 Liverpool: Keita continues Reds' run

Liverpool's bid for a remarkable quadruple faced a tough test when they travelled to Eddie Howe's in-form Newcastle in the first clash of the day.

However, Naby Keita's 19th-minute goal proved the difference in a competitive encounter, and was Liverpool's earliest winning goal in a 1-0 Premier League victory since December 2016, when Georginio Wijnaldum netted after eight minutes against Manchester City.

Klopp's side had chances to extend their lead, with home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka making nine saves, his highest tally in a single Premier League match. Since 2003-04, when Opta data began, the only Newcastle goalkeepers to make more saves in a Premier League game are Tim Krul (14 against Tottenham in November 2013) and Karl Darlow (11 against Tottenham in September 2020).

However, a 21st clean sheet of Liverpool's league campaign was enough to move them to the top of the table - only in 2005-06 (22) have the Reds kept more shutouts in a single Premier League campaign.

Liverpool have now picked up 40 points from the last 42 on offer in the competition, and the win turned up the pressure on City ahead of their trip to Leeds later on Saturday.

Leeds United 0-4 Manchester City: Visitors draw on set-peice prowess to reclaim top spot

The Reds were not top of the table for long, however, as City claimed a 4-0 win over relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road. Goals from Rodri and Nathan Ake both came from set pieces, meaning City have now scored 18 set-piece goals (excluding penalties) this season, their most in a Premier League campaign since 2013-14 (22).

Pep Guardiola's men have also kept five consecutive away league clean sheets, the best such sequence in the club's history.

After Gabriel Jesus had made the points safe, Fernandinho stuck a superb fourth goal late on, becoming the club's oldest ever Premier League goalscorer at 36 years and 361 days old, overtaking Frank Lampard in 2015 (36 years and 338 days old).

Leeds, meanwhile, are looking over their shoulders after another heavy defeat. They have conceded a remarkable 20 league goals against the two Manchester clubs this season (11 against City, nine against Manchester United) – a new top-flight record for goals conceded against the duo in a single season.

Watford 1-2 Burnley: Clarets' revival continues after Cork ends barren run

Elsewhere, Burnley continued their incredible revival by coming from behind to defeat Watford, making Mike Jackson the first Clarets boss to win three of his first four league games in charge since Jimmy Mullen won his first four in 1991.

After James Tarkowski's own-goal put Watford ahead, Jack Cork ended his run of 84 Premier League games without a goal with his first strike since December 2018 (against Liverpool), before Josh Brownhill scored a late winner.

The Clarets are now five points above the bottom three after winning three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since April 2019, having won just three of their previous 21 games.

Roy Hodgson's Watford, meanwhile, look destined for relegation after becoming the first side in English top-flight history to lose 11 consecutive home league matches.

Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City: Canaries suffer another relegation at Villa Park

Burnley's win had other ramifications, contributing to Norwich suffering their sixth relegation from the Premier League – the most of any club in the competition's history – after the Canaries were beaten at Villa Park.

Remarkably, Norwich have been relegated in each of their last four Premier League seasons (2013-14, 2015-16, 2019-20 and 2021-22). They are only the second side in English league history to suffer relegation in four consecutive campaigns in the top-flight, after Crystal Palace (1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2004-05).

 

Dean Smith's men saw their fate sealed after becoming the first team to concede 70 Premier League goals this season after just 34 games, representing the earliest point in any league campaign they have reached 70 concessions since 1956-57 (in their 34th game in the old Third Division South).

Ollie Watkins set the tone for Villa's win with his first-half strike, and he has now scored at least 11 more goals than any other Villa player since his September 2020 debut (25 goals in all competitions).

Manchester City kept the outcome of the Premier League title race in their hands with a 4-0 win over Leeds United.

After Liverpool claimed a 1-0 victory at Newcastle United earlier on Saturday, City needed a win to regain a one-point advantage in their hard-fought battle with the Reds.

City faced few problems in grinding out the result they needed, with Rodri and Nathan Ake converting from set-pieces in either half before Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho wrapped up the points late on.

Pep Guardiola's men simply need to win each of their four remaining games to wrap up the Premier League title, while Leeds remain in danger of relegation after slipping to 17th.

The visitors rested several players, including Kevin De Bruyne, ahead of Wednesday's trip to Real Madrid, and could have fallen behind early on when Rodrigo Moreno delayed his pass after capitalising on Joao Cancelo's slip.

But City took the lead after 13 minutes when Rodri met Phil Foden's left-wing free-kick with a glancing header, diverting the ball into the top-right corner.

Junior Firpo fired over when presented with the hosts' best opening in a quiet first half, and Jesse Marsch's men lost Stuart Dallas to a serious-looking injury shortly before the break.

Jack Grealish bent a shot narrowly wide of the top-right corner after Raheem Sterling danced through the home defence after 52 minutes, but Ake doubled their lead soon after, prodding home after Ruben Dias met a right-wing corner. 

City made the points safe when Jesus latched onto Foden's pass to fire past Illan Meslier after 78 minutes, before Fernandinho drilled a 25-yard strike into the bottom-left corner as the visitors cruised.

Christian Eriksen scored two minutes into his international comeback as Denmark fell to a 4-2 loss against the Netherlands in Saturday's friendly at Johan Cruijff ArenA.

The midfielder was back in Denmark's squad for the first time since suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 and made an instant impact after being brought on at half-time.

Eriksen's well-taken goal, coming at the ground where he made a name for himself with Ajax, got Denmark back into the game after the hosts opened up a 3-1 lead at the break.

Steven Bergwijn and Nathan Ake netted either side of Jannik Vestergaard's leveller before Memphis Depay converted a penalty, with Bergwijn rounding things off after Eriksen's strike.

 

The Netherlands had already tested Kasper Schmeichel three times before Bergwijn met Daley Blind's left-sided cross and headed in a 16th-minute opener.

Denmark's response was a swift one, with Joakim Maehle sending in a cross for Vestergaard to glance in a leveller four minutes later after Jesper Lindstrom's free-kick was blocked.

Ake restored the Netherlands' lead shortly before the half-hour mark with another headed goal, finishing from close range once picked out by a fine Steven Berghuis delivery.

Louis van Gaal's men had some breathing space before the interval thanks to a Depay penalty, which was awarded for Vestergaard's challenge on Berghuis.

Denmark lost Yussuf Poulsen and Thomas Delaney to injury but were given a lifeline when Eriksen converted fellow substitute Andreas Skov Olsen's pass with a first-time finish.

Bergwijn's curled effort with 20 minutes to go ended Denmark's hopes of claiming a draw, though there was still time for Eriksen to send a long-range shot off the post.

Pep Guardiola hailed his "brilliant" Manchester City attackers as the decision to play without an established striker against Leeds United paid off with a 7-0 victory.

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus were unused substitutes as Guardiola backed his playmaking magicians to show they can wreak havoc.

The likes of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and particularly Kevin De Bruyne tormented Leeds, with Rodri employed in the holding role.

"Congratulations to the team, it was a good performance from us," Guardiola said afterwards.

"The vibes of the stadium was nice today. It was sold out and they supported us incredibly well. We started in a good rhythm. We were patient with the ball and the quality of the players did the rest."

Ten-man Leeds pulled off a shock 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium last season, and held Guardiola's men to a draw at Elland Road, but there was never any danger of stalemate or a City defeat this time.

"We lost five points last season when we were playing Leeds," Guardiola told NBC. "I'm pretty sure every opponent knows what it means to play against Leeds."

Foden's eighth-minute opener was City's 500th Premier League goal under Guardiola, in just his 207th game in charge. It is the fastest any manager has seen their side reach 500 goals in the competition, beating Jurgen Klopp's record of 234 games.

And with seven goals, who needs strikers?

"You're not going to convince me... When we lose a game you're going to say, 'Yes it's because they don't have a striker'," Guardiola said. "I know this theory quite well. We have strikers, but sometimes we play [this way] because I could say Phil is a guy who scores a lot of goals.

"But it is the way that we try to play. This is the reason why today we did a good performance."

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola added: "When you get these results, it's because individually they are brilliant. 

"Kevin in this type of game when we're open up and down, Kevin is devastating and so he can do whatever he wants."

Nathan Ake got in on the goals, heading in the seventh after a double for De Bruyne, with Foden, Grealish, Mahrez and John Stones also finding the net.

Mahrez has both scored (10) and been directly involved in (13 – 10 goals, 3 assists) more goals in all competitions for City this season than any of his team-mates.

This was his 100th Premier League appearance for City and he marked it with a deflected strike. He also scored on his 100th game in the competition for Leicester City and is the only player in the competition's history to score on his 100th match for two different sides.

Grealish, meanwhile, scored his 17th Premier League goal and second for City, but it was his first headed goal in the top flight. Mahrez supplied the cross.

"From the first minute, I think you could see we were on it," said Dutch defender Ake.

"We had a lot of energy, a lot of drive going forward, and then we scored the goals."

Ake was reluctant to set goals, but City's is obvious enough. They are hunting a fourth league title in five years and on this form will take some stopping.

"I think we do it game by game," he added. "There's another one on Sunday [at Newcastle], but we're in a great flow, we're doing really well, everyone feels good and we just want to continue that."

Pep Guardiola insisted he was more than satisfied with Manchester City's work in the Champions League group stages despite a 2-1 defeat to RB Leipzig.

City travelled to the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday on the back of a 14-game unbeaten run against German opposition in the competition but fell behind to Dominik Szoboszlai's first-half strike.

Andre Silva then doubled the hosts' advantage before Riyad Mahrez pulled a goal back for the visitors, who were hampered by the late dismissal of Kyle Walker for a reckless challenge on Leipzig's second scorer.

Guardiola's side were unable to mount a late comeback, though their place at the top of Group A was already confirmed before the final matchday.

City failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their six group stage games and have only recorded one shutout in their past 11 European outings, but Guardiola was pleased with his team's work.

"In the first half we lacked rhythm, we had problems connecting and they have a really good team – we knew from before the group stage," Guardiola told reporters.

"The second half was much better but unfortunately we made one or two mistakes and they punished us. 

"We played better in the second half. We were more aggressive, we played to win the game and we lost. Congratulations to Leipzig.

"We made an incredible group stage, we qualified with one game left from a tough group, so I am more than satisfied with the performance in every single game and in February hopefully we can arrive in the best condition possible."

Alongside Walker's needless dismissal, Guardiola also left Leipzig with two injury concerns, with Phil Foden – who became the youngest Englishman to reach 30 Champions League appearances – and Nathan Ake suffering knocks.

"Phil [Foden] had problems in the beginning with his ankle, as a precaution I decided to play Raheem [Sterling] in his position," he continued.

"Nathan [Ake] has a back problem, we'll see tomorrow [Wednesday]."

Premier League leaders City return to domestic action at home to Wolves on Saturday as they look to return to winning ways.

Riyad Mahrez turned in a dazzling display as Manchester City swept aside Barnsley 4-0 in a friendly at the Etihad Campus on Saturday.

Mahrez was City's record signing when he joined from Leicester City in 2018 and Jack Grealish is reportedly close to taking that distinction for himself, with the Premier League champions rumoured to have tabled an offer worth £100million for the Aston Villa star.

Some observers have predicted Grealish could experience the sort of slow start to life under Pep Guardiola that Mahrez endured three years ago, but the Algeria winger showed himself to be in full flight against City's overmatched Championship opponents.

Mahrez charged down the right flank to retrieve Ruben Dias' raking ball and crossed for Samuel Edozie to tap in a 23rd-minute opener – the teenage forward having also netted during the midweek win over Preston North End.

Another youth teamer, Ben Knight, doubled the advantage after Mahrez released an underlapping Joao Cancelo and the right-winger got in on the act himself in the 34th minute when he clipped home a wonderful half-volley from Benjamin Mendy's centre.

It could have been worse for Barnsley before half-time when Cole Palmer wriggled away from Cauley Woodrow to win a penalty, although Bradley Collins guessed correctly to save the young playmaker's spot-kick.

Mahrez was inevitably involved again when Nathan Ake made it 4-0 midway through the second-half, while Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko came off the bench to enjoy their first action of pre-season after returning from Euro 2020 duty.

City will face Blackpool on Tuesday in their final friendly before next weekend's Community Shield meeting with Leicester at Wembley.

Manchester United wanted Jadon Sancho ahead of the 2020-21 season.

But, United were unable to prise Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.

United, though, are reportedly still pursuing the England international.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT SANCHO

Manchester United are lining up a bid for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Star.

United were heavily linked with Sancho at the start of the season but a move did not materialise, while the Red Devils have since been mentioned as suitors for fellow Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

But United have reportedly cooled their interest in Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich target Haaland as they make Sancho their top transfer priority.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Juventus have rejected a renewed effort from Barca to sign Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt.

- Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso, City defender Nathan Ake and RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer are on Jose Mourinho's list of targets as he prepares to take charge of Roma, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. Corriere dello Sport also claims Lille midfielder Renato Sanches is wanted by Mourinho.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barca are continuing to chase Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravernberch. Barca have also been linked with Liverpool's soon-to-be free agent Georginio Wijnaldum, who has since emerged as a reported target for Bayern.

Chelsea are frontrunners to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham according to Football Insider. Kane has been linked with United, City, Barca, Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid, while Chelsea have also emerged as a possible destination for Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski.

Pep Guardiola insisted he had no regrets over ringing the changes as Manchester City went down to a shock 2-1 defeat at home against Leeds United.

Stuart Dallas broke away to score his second of the game in stoppage time to give Marcelo Bielsa's men a hard-fought triumph over the Premier League leaders, despite losing captain Liam Cooper to a red card shortly before half-time.

Ferran Torres cancelled out Dallas' first-half opener with 14 minutes to play but it was a frustrating outing in front of goal for Guardiola's men overall as they racked up 29 largely fruitless attempts and Leeds scored from their only two shots.

City will defend a slender 2-1 advantage in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Borussia Dortmund and Guardiola named an XI showing seven changes from the initial encounter with the Bundesliga side.

Spain forward Torres was making only his third Premier League start since the beginning of February, while centre-back Nathan Ake played for the first time in 2021 following a serious hamstring injury.

"When you win I'm a genius, when you lose you have to take it," Guardiola said at a post-match news conference.

"I don't have regrets about the 11 selected because I trust them a lot. Maybe they don't trust me, but I trust them. If I didn't trust them they would not play.

"John [Stones] was fantastic, Nathan, Benja [Benjamin Mendy], all of them. Everyone was good.

"Playing against Leeds is difficult because they are used to winning duels and when you beat that duel they come back more aggressive than before to dribble again."

Guardiola blamed the defeat on City failing to stem counter-attacks when Leeds emerged from their defensive shell during the closing minutes, with Ederson making a vital sliding challenge to deny Raphinha before Dallas latched on to Ezgjan Alioski's throughball with aplomb.

"It is a game of transitions. We had to avoid it, they did it. We defended well at their goal kicks, short and long. And after, 10 against 11, we needed inspiration of the players and especially don't let them run," Guardiola said, having withdrawn Ake in favour of playmaker Ilkay Gundogan before the hour mark – a move that appeared to leave City more vulnerable on the break.

"We did it during 37 minutes [in the second half] but before the goal we conceded Raphinha had a chance and Edi saved. The second one at the end we could not control it and we had to.

"In the last five years, always we work and talk about that. When you attack and attack and attack, always we have to control and don't let them run. If you don't, then it's impossible to play in this way."

If that is a lesson Guardiola is preparing to repeat once again before his squad heads to Signal Iduna Park, he will also be keen to draw attention to their recent achievements with pivotal fixtures on the horizon.

City take on Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley next weekend before returning to England's national stadium on April 25 to face Tottenham and attempt to win a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"What happens when you lose a game is you realise how difficult it is, what we've done so far," he added, with a maximum of 10 points required from their final six Premier League games for City to secure the title.

"When you see in the last 28 games we have won 26, you realise how difficult it is what we have done.

"The Premier League must be won. We need points still because now our opponent can win all the games. We need to do it again.

"We have Aston Villa in the middle, but three of the next four games are finals - in the Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

"If you tell me about faith, wow, we have incredible confidence in the guys. Sometimes defeat is necessary to understand what we have done and what we need to do to move forward."

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