Leeds United have signed Max Wober for an undisclosed fee, the third player the Premier League club have acquired from Salzburg in the last two transfer windows.

Head coach Jesse Marsch, who was in charge of Salzburg between 2019 and 2021, brought in Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen at the end of last season, and has gone back to the Austrian club for his first signing of the January transfer window.

Wober spent three and a half years at Salzburg, making 125 appearances and scoring nine goals as he picked up three league and cup doubles.

The 24-year-old has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at Elland Road and could make his debut in Sunday's FA Cup third-round clash with Cardiff City.

Wober, who can play at left-back or centre-back, has 13 caps for Austria and had spells with Rapid Vienna, Ajax and Sevilla before Marsch signed him for Salzburg in 2019.

Leeds host West Ham in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Wober told Salzburg's website: "It was not an easy decision, but I have decided to leave Salzburg.

"The last three and a half years in this city and at this club really influenced me as a player and a person. The numerous highlights, which I have gained both on and off the pitch, will be remembered by me for as long as I live.

"If I think back to our first season in the Champions League, our very first match in the competition against Genk or our comeback against Liverpool, then it still gives me goosebumps. Thank you for all these moments we have enjoyed together. I have grown to love Salzburg and see it as a second home."

With a new year upon us, it's only natural to look ahead at the next 12 months and the footballers who could enjoy breakthroughs at the top level.

From one player who bears a striking resemblance to Diego Maradona, to another hoping to follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Stats Perform has identified eight youngsters who could be worth keeping an eye on in 2023.

Gavin Bazunu – goalkeeper, 20, Southampton

It's been a difficult introduction to the Premier League for Bazunu. The Republic of Ireland international joined from Manchester City at the end of last season for a reported £12million, highlighting just how highly rated he is in the game.

But his 30 goals conceded (excluding own goals) have come from 21.3 expected goals on target (xGOT), which suggests Bazunu has been at fault for 8.7 goals this term – that's comfortably the worst such record in the Premier League.

Can he turn his season around and bolster Southampton's survival hopes? Bazunu has potential but is struggling to live up to it at the moment.

Devyne Rensch – full-back, 19, Ajax

With Noussair Mazraoui moving on to Bayern Munich in pre-season, Rensch has been given greater exposure to first-team football, with his 12 Eredivisie starts already four more than in the 2021-22 campaign.

He's less of an obvious attacking threat than Mazraoui, but Rensch is an elegant player, as you might expect of an Ajax academy product, and quick.

Comfortable on the ball and versatile enough to play across the back four, Rensch is a very well-rounded defender with a big future.

Giorgio Scalvini – 19, centre-back, Atalanta

Scalvini broke into the Atalanta first-team picture in 2021 as a 17-year-old. Since then, he has progressed quickly and impressively, to the extent where the club are expected to cash in on him to a significant degree in 2023.

An imposing yet classy central defender, Scalvini is very much the archetypal modern centre-back in terms of how he operates, with his 22.9 forward passes per 90 minutes this season among the very best in his role in Serie A.

Also comfortable playing in midfield, Scalvini likes to defend on the front foot as highlighted by his 2.7 tackles per 90 minutes ranking highly among centre-backs as well.

Atalanta are reportedly expecting to fetch at least €40m for him over the next year, with Inter, Juventus, Tottenham and Manchester City all said to be admirers.

Kobbie Mainoo – 17, central midfielder, Manchester United

Mainoo looks to be one of the most talented players United have produced in a while. The teenager has caused a stir with his performances in the club's youth teams over the past few years, and that has recently led to an internal promotion.

A silky central midfielder, Mainoo was a key part of the United side that won the FA Youth Cup last season.

Given his technical ability, comparisons with Paul Pogba are to be expected, though the early signs suggest Mainoo may be able to offer the deep-lying playmaking qualities the Frenchman lacked.

He signed his first professional contract in May, was named on the bench for the second time this season in the Premier League during Saturday's win at Wolves, and featured prominently for United in the World Cup break after being promoted to the senior squad.

If there's any teenager in line to follow Alejandro Garnacho in establishing himself at Old Trafford, it's Mainoo.

Andreas Schjelderup – 18, left-winger, Nordsjaelland

Martin Odegaard, Haaland... could Schjelderup be Norway's latest superstar? The early signs are extremely positive.

The 18-year-old is still waiting for his first senior cap, but he's really making a name for himself in the Danish Superliga, with his dazzling dribbling abilities and eye for a goal causing defences no end of issues.

Schjelderup's 74 dribble attempts are the second-most in the league this season, while no one has bettered his 10 goals, with the teenager very effective coming in off the left flank on to his right foot.

Benfica are reportedly one of the clubs keen on him. Wherever he ends up, 2023 looks likely to be a breakthrough year for the youngster.

Carlos Alvarez – 19, attacking midfielder, Sevilla

It takes just a few seconds to realise why Alvarez is compared to Maradona. The stature, his tucked-in jersey, the hair – then he gets on the ball and the realisation hits home even more.

Left-footed, blessed with exceptional dribbling abilities and a remarkably low centre of gravity, Alvarez looks to be the most naturally gifted player to come through Sevilla's academy since Jose Antonio Reyes, and probably beyond.

But the club have been very protective over him and his development, so much so that his 75 minutes against Juventud Torremolinos in the Copa del Rey last week were his first for the senior side.

He made his debut for their B team just a couple of weeks after his 16th birthday in August 2019, and finally it would appear his senior breakthrough has arrived, with Isco's departure certainly not hurting his cause.

Alberto Moleiro – 19, attacking midfielder, Las Palmas

A gifted young midfielder who plays for Las Palmas – the 'new Pedri' tag is almost too obvious. Moleiro tends to operate in a more advanced role, though he is clearly similarly blessed.

Skilful and a talented dribbler, Moleiro is in his second season in Las Palmas' senior side and playing a key role in their promotion push.

He's yet to score a league goal this term, but Moleiro's creativity and bravery on the ball are real assets, with only two players in the Segunda bettering his 29 chances created in open play and just three tallying more than his 70 dribble attempts.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barcelona are said to be keeping tabs on him – but even if he doesn't earn a move away from the Canary Islands, it would appear there's a strong possibility he'll be in LaLiga anyway before the end of 2023 with Las Palmas top of the second tier.

Karim Konate – 18, striker, Salzburg

Salzburg's conveyor belt of striker talent has been impressive in recent years. First there was Haaland, then Karim Adeyemi, and Benjamin Sesko has already secured a big-money move to RB Leipzig for the end of the season.

Konate will hope to be the next.

Like Adeyemi and Sesko before him, Konate – a well-rounded forward who is excellent in the air – has been honing his skills at Salzburg's sister club Liefering in Austria's second tier this season, scoring 10 times in 14 league games.

He's also been featuring for Salzburg's Under-19s in the UEFA Youth League, with his five goals in six games bettered by only five players.

Konate probably won't get his chance in the senior side until next season, but with Salzburg Champions League regulars these days, he will be one to look out for.

Jesse Marsch revealed a joke with his former Salzburg striker Erling Haaland ahead of Manchester City's visit to Leeds United on Wednesday.

Haaland – who spent half a season under Marsch before joining Borussia Dortmund in 2020 – has scored 18 Premier League goals this season, six more than his closest rival Harry Kane.

The Norway international was born in Leeds, where his father Alfie Haaland spent three years as a player before himself joining City in 2000.

Haaland was perhaps the most high-profile player not to feature at the recent World Cup in Qatar, and Marsch is concerned about what that could mean for Leeds when they resume their Premier League campaign against the champions.

Asked if he had been in contact with Haaland ahead of the game, Leeds boss Marsch said: "He texted me as soon as the schedule came out. 

"He said he's most excited for this, and I gave him permission to have a small hamstring injury for that match!

"He was born in Leeds, his father has history here, and he has the club in his heart because of that. 

"We have talked about it. When I got the job, he and his father were supportive. We'll expect him to be fully ready, and that causes issues for us."

Leeds lost their two Premier League meetings with City by an aggregate score of 11-0 last season, and they have not won any of their last seven home games against reigning top-flight champions.

While City boss Pep Guardiola is waiting for several players to return, Marsch would have preferred to see more of their key men remain involved in the World Cup until the latter stages.

Kevin De Bruyne's Belgium and Ilkay Gundogan's Germany did not make it out of the group stage, while Spain exited in the last 16 and England, Portugal and Brazil in the quarter-finals. Argentina forward Julian Alvarez was the only City star involved from the semi-finals onwards.

"Right now, it is Man City we are focused on. I would have hoped their players would have gone deeper in the World Cup, but it is so competitive," Marsch said.

"They have a great squad and the best manager in the world. We are not afraid of the biggest opponents. 

"We've proven we can compete and get points, but we need a good plan and execution to do that, and we know that."

Real Madrid have reportedly pivoted away from Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and are now treating Benfica's Enzo Fernandez as their top transfer target.

Bellingham, 19, was considered the top priority for the Spanish giants, but a report from Marca claims they now believe he is destined for the Premier League and will instead focus their resources on 21-year-old Fernandez.

Fernandez arrived at Benfica in June after they were able to pry him away from River Plate for a deal worth up to €18million including add-ons, but his exploits on the Champions League stage – including assists against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus – have that price looking like a steal.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID SET THEIR SIGHTS ON ARGENTINA'S NEW STAR

Fernandez was handed his international debut as a 20-year-old back in November 2021, and his continued growth on the European stage earned his spot in Argentina's World Cup squad.

Not content to purely come along for the ride, Fernandez was brought on as a substitute in each of his side's first two group games, and against Mexico he became Argentina's youngest goalscorer at a World Cup since Lionel Messi in 2006.

His ability to both break into and perform for such a quality international side – entering the tournament on a 35-match unbeaten streak before falling to Saudi Arabia – has reportedly sent Fernandez's transfer value through the roof.

Marca's report claims he is now viewed as a €100m talent by Benfica, and they expect to field offers in that neighbourhood soon.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Relevo, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag views the Netherlands' World Cup hero Cody Gakpo as his ideal replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

– Fichajes is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are all showing interest in 22-year-old Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus amid his excellent performances for Ghana.

Bayern Munich remain interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane and are working on an offer between €80-100m, per Sky Sports Germany.

– The Sun is reporting Chelsea are not happy with both Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga and will look to bring in a new first-choice goalkeeper.

– With Rafael Leao likely leaving Milan at the end of the season, Gazzetta dello Sport claims they will try to fill the void with RB Salzburg's 22-year-old Swiss international Noah Okafor.

Cristiano Ronaldo became a free agent earlier this week after mutually agreeing with Manchester United to terminate his contract.

Ronaldo's availability has prompted numerous clubs to weigh up moves for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Brazilian giants Flamengo and Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al Hilal have been linked with Ronaldo in recent days.

AL NASSR OFFER LUCRATIVE DEAL TO FREE AGENT RONALDO

CBS claims Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr have offered Cristiano Ronaldo a three-year deal worth £186m.

The deal would see Ronaldo play into his 40s, with Al Nassr having resumed talks with his representatives having initiated them in the close season.

An unnamed Saudi Arabian club reportedly made an offer for the 37-year-old Portuguese prior to the start of this campaign.

Al Nassr are nine-time Saudi Arabian champions and ex-Lyon and Roma boss Rudi Garcia is their head coach.

ROUND-UP

Cody Gakpo and Milan's Rafael Leao are top of Erik ten Hag's wish list to replace Ronaldo at Manchester United in January, claims ESPN.

- Arsenal are set to beat Newcastle United to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk for approximately £40 million, reports The Mirror.

- Bayern Munich are the latest club to enter the race to sign West Ham's England international Declan Rice, according to El Nacional.

- Juventus are planning a move for Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams, reports AS. Williams is contracted with Athletic until 2024.

- Milan are keen on Salzburg forward Noah Okafor, with the Austrian club asking €35m for him, according to Calciomercato.

Some of the Premier League's top clubs are reportedly keeping a close eye on Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram – including Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.

Thuram, 25, is a towering presence up front, standing at six-foot-four and, after arriving at Gladbach from Ligue 1's Guingamp in 2019 for a fee of €12million, he has continued to grow as a goalscorer.

Through just 15 Bundesliga games this season, Thuram has matched his career-high tally of 10 league goals, including strikes against both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

His recent run of form has seen him earn a late inclusion into France's World Cup squad as they look to defend their title, and although he may not receive a start, he was worked his way onto the radar of some of the world's elite clubs.

 

TOP STORY – 25-YEAR-OLD FRANCE INTERNATIONAL LIKELY AVAILABLE ON FREE TRANSFER

Thuram has spent four seasons with Gladbach, and this is looking like his last as he is yet to renew his contract ahead of its expiry date at the end of this campaign.

With a transfer value likely north of €40m, the ability to land a powerful striker entering his prime as a free agent is a deal too good to pass up for forward-hungry Premier League sides.

90min is reporting Tottenham sent scouts over to Germany recently to watch him play, while Liverpool and Arsenal are also mentioned as interested parties.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Express, Cristiano Ronaldo could move to Chelsea after the departure of Thomas Tuchel, who was said to be the one blocking the idea.

– Express is also reporting Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City have identified 19-year-old Las Palmas midfielder Alberto Moleiro as a target. 

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting 22-year-old Salzburg striker Noah Okafor is available for a January transfer, with City, Liverpool and Milan named as suitors for the €40m-rated Switzerland international.

Chelsea are confident they have done enough to secure 25-year-old RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku in the January window, per 90min.

– According to Relevo, Barcelona are willing to let Memphis Depay leave on a free transfer in January.

Barcelona will face Manchester United in their return to the Europa League after the Blaugrana were drawn against the Premier League club in the knockout round play-offs.

Xavi's side dropped into Europe's second-tier competition for the second season running after failing to progress from the Champions League group stages, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter.

It sets up the outstanding tie with Erik ten Hag's United, who are looking to end a trophy drought stretching back to when they last won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

United came second to Real Sociedad in the Europa League group stage, ultimately missing out to La Real by one goal.

They have paid the price for their failure in that regard, with Barca arguably the toughest draw they could possibly get and La Real already through to the competition's last 16.

Joining Barca in dropping down from the Champions League are Juventus, though they will likely be much more content with their draw after being paired with Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Europa League knockout round play-offs:

Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting CP v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV
Salzburg v Roma

Stefano Pioli wants to see Milan enjoy a deep run in the Champions League after the Rossoneri sealed their progress from Group E in emphatic fashion.

A defeat to Salzburg on Wednesday would have seen Milan crash out, but there was never any danger of that at San Siro as Olivier Giroud scored a double and added assists for Rade Krunic and Junior Messias in a 4-0 triumph that sealed second place in the group, behind Chelsea.

Pioli, who signed a contract extension earlier this week, was delighted with his team's performance as they qualified for the knockout stages for the first time since 2013-14, though he wants his players to kick on and reach the later rounds of the competition.

"This is only the first step," Pioli told reporters. "We must not stop mentally.

"We must not be happy to have reached the second round, but aim to go further. This group is hungry and wants to do everything possible and even more.

"We are the Italian champions, we are not here by chance. I have strong players, whoever draws us will face a strong team."

At 36, Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League double for Milan since Filippo Inzaghi did so against Real Madrid in 2010, with the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker also setting up Milan's other two goals.

Since Opta have collected such data for the Champions League (from 2003-04), Giroud is the third-oldest player to both score and assist a goal in a match, after Didier Drogba for Chelsea v Schalke in 2014 and Edin Dzeko for Inter v Viktoria Plzen this season, and Pioli was enthused by the France international's performance. 

"He is a strong person, a great leader and a great worker," Pioli told Sky Sports.

"He does what a player of his level has to do. He is a point of reference. He is always smiling and motivated. He is helping us a lot to grow up."

Olivier Giroud scored twice and assisted two others as Milan sealed their place in the Champions League knockout stages with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Salzburg at San Siro on Wednesday.

Milan knew a point would be enough to secure their progression and Giroud's early headed finish set them on their way.

Giroud's brilliant assist allowed Rade Krunic to get on the scoresheet shortly after half-time before the former Chelsea striker fired home a loose ball in the box.

Junior Messias added further gloss late on as Milan registered consecutive Champions League wins for the first time since 2011 and eased into the knockout stages at Salzburg's expense.

Theo Hernandez almost put Milan in front inside three minutes but his low effort across goal hit the post and deflected wide.

The hosts took the lead after 14 minutes, Giroud powerfully nodding Sandro Tonali's corner into the back of the net with the help of sloppy Salzburg marking.

Giroud thought he had his second when he tapped home after Salzburg goalkeeper Philipp Kohn fumbled Hernandez's shot into his path, only for the offside flag to curtail his celebrations.

Krunic made it 2-0 just after half-time with an excellent header after Giroud deftly nodded Ante Rebic's delivery back across goal to set him up.

Giroud added another in the 57th minute, smashing home after the ball rebounded kindly to him in the box.

Rafael Leao should have scored a fourth for Milan when he was picked out with a superb Hernandez cross, but his first-time effort came back off the crossbar.

Substitute Messias' curled finish in injury-time was the final dagger to Salzburg's Champions League campaign, though, as Milan cruised through.

Salzburg will have to do what no other Austrian side has done before at Milan to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, while Jude Bellingham has his eyes on an achievement managed by only two players previously.

The Rossoneri need only a point from the game at San Siro and the historical facts suggest they will achieve their aim to make it out of Group E.

For Bellingham, he can put his name in the record books alongside former team-mate Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe by scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Copenhagen.

There is plenty to play for as the Champions League group stage wraps up on Wednesday, and Stats Perform has trawled through the data to shine a light on the most interesting angles.

Milan v Salzburg

With a win, Salzburg will advance to the knockout stages for the second consecutive season after never making it out of the group stage previously.

They will need to defy the odds on their trip to Milan, where the Italian side are undefeated in home fixtures against Austrian opponents in the competition (W4 D1), while averaging 3.8 goals per game.

Salzburg have never beaten Milan in their three previous Champions League meetings, but after losing the first two, they collected their first point with a 1-1 draw in this campaign's reverse fixture.

While Olivier Giroud became the oldest player in Champions League history to reach 20 goals (36 years old) during Milan's win at Dinamo Zagreb last time out, Salzburg boast the youngest starting XI in the competition with an average age of 22 years and 279 days.

Shakhtar Donetsk v RB Leipzig

Shakhtar have only won one game in the group stage, but sit three points behind second-placed. A win would see them through to the knockout stages for the third time in the past four seasons.

The reverse-fixture was a memorable one for Shakhtar and exciting young winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who showed why he is so in-demand with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 away win.

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian side, that was their only victory from their past 12 Champions League matches (D6 L5).

Meanwhile, Leipzig have found some form in the competition, with back-to-back victories against Celtic before making it three wins in a row when they beat Real Madrid 3-2.

Manchester City v Sevilla

City are eyeing an undefeated group stage when they host Sevilla, having only conceded one goal in total from their five games until this point.

English sides have given Sevilla trouble for years now, with their last Champions League win over a Premier League team coming back in 2007 against Arsenal. 

If Jorge Sampaoli's side are to stand any chance of a shock win, they will need to pay special attention to Jack Grealish, who has impressed in the group stage with 10 chances created from open play, the most in Pep Guardiola's squad.

Maccabi Haifa v Benfica

If Juventus can salvage even a draw in their clash with Paris Saint-Germain, then Benfica will be able to win Group H by defeating Maccabi Haifa.

It has been a special run of form for Benfica, who for the first time since 1990 have gone six Champions League games without a loss (W3 D3).

Maccabi will have their backs against the wall, as only Malmo have a worse winning percentage (17 per cent) than their 24 per cent among teams to have played at least 15 Champions League games.

Also working in Benfica's favour is manager Roger Schmidt's record in the competition. Between his time with Bayer Leverkusen (2014-2017) and Benfica in this campaign, his run of 13 games unbeaten is the most by any active manager qualified for this season's Champions League.

Other fixtures:

Juventus v Paris Saint-Germain

- Juventus are looking to avoid becoming the second Italian side to ever lose five matches in a Champions League group stage, after Roma in 2004-05.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe has six goals in the group stage. With one more he can tie Christopher Nkunku (last season) for the most by a French player in a single group stage, while with two more he can tie Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club-record of eight in 2013-14.

Copenhagen v Borussia Dortmund

60  - Despite Copenhagen still being without a win in Group G, they have kept a clean sheet in 60 per cent (nine-of-15) of their Champions League home games – the best ratio of any team with at least 10 appearances.

- With a goal, Bellingham can become just the third teenager to ever score in all three away games in a Champions League group stage, following Mbappe (2017-18) and Haaland (2019-20).

Chelsea v Dinamo Zagreb

10  - Chelsea are undefeated in their past 10 group stage games in the Champions League dating back to September 2019 (W6 D4). Over that period, they are averaging 2.3 goals per game.

10  - Along with City's Grealish, Chelsea's Mason Mount is the only other Premier League player from this Champions League campaign to tally at least 10 shots and 10 chances created.

Real Madrid v Celtic

20  - Since the beginning of last season's Champions League, no player has been involved in more open-play sequences that have resulted in a goal than Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior (20).

14  - Celtic's Matt O'Riley has attempted the most shots in the Champions League this season without scoring, with no goals from his 14 shots.

Stefano Pioli wanted to share the credit around after signing a contract extension to keep him as Milan coach until the end of the 2024-25 season.

Former Inter coach Pioli took over at Milan in 2019, and has overseen a rejuvenation in the Rossoneri's fortunes.

Having finished second in the 2020-21 campaign, Milan clinched their first Serie A title in 11 years last term.

Milan, who sit third in Serie A 12 games into this season, are also on the verge of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign. They need only to avoid defeat against Salzburg on Wednesday to join Chelsea in progressing from Group E.

When asked about signing his new deal in Tuesday's pre-match press conference, Pioli said: "The credit belongs to everyone. The club is giving me great confidence.

"I am very happy with the renewal. I thanked the players because without them this renewal would not have been possible.

"We started our three-year journey, now we really care about passing [our objectives for] the season.

"I really appreciated this. The club could have extended my contract by a year, but they did it with a longer time frame. 

"It is a sign of our vision, of our collaboration, to try to make Milan bigger and bigger. I really appreciated the renewal and I can only thank the owners. I have always felt appreciated."

The omens are promising for Milan, seven-time European champions, ahead of their meeting with Salzburg at San Siro, given they are unbeaten in all three of their previous encounters with the Austrian side.

They do come into the match on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Torino in Serie A, however, though Pioli – whose side lost successive matches to Chelsea before bouncing back with a 4-0 thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb – is confident Milan can get the job done.

"We are a strong team, we have values and a lot of motivation," he said. "We know the difficulties of the match. Salzburg have not lost away from home [in this season's Champions League].

"We have strong players and we play this match in front of our fans, I can tell you that we have all the right cards to do well.

"Doing well would mean a lot, we had our first goal clearly in mind. We built this possibility, it was conceivable that if we hadn't won a match with Chelsea the last one would have been decisive. 

"The team now knows how to manage these heavy commitments. We are disappointed, but now it's another game."

Stefano Pioli insisted Milan were not distracted by Wednesday's decisive Champions League meeting with Salzburg during their demoralising Serie A loss to Torino.

Koffi Djidji and Aleksey Miranchuk scored in quick succession in the first half as Milan collapsed to a 2-1 defeat in Turin on Sunday.

Junior Messias got the Rossoneri back in the contest following a defensive mix-up after the break, but the Serie A champions never looked likely to complete a comeback on a chastening outing.

Milan will approach the European clash with Salzburg requiring just a point to join Chelsea in qualifying from Group E, but head coach Pioli is certain that was not on their minds.

"We could have done better in the flow of the ball, in defence and in attack. It was not the best evening," he said at his post-match press conference.

"To prepare well for the Champions League we had to do well tonight, we didn't think about it at all.

"We could have done better. It was a difficult and physical game, but we had to move better without the ball. You have to go looking for the chances, and you have to exploit them. They succeeded, with two goals in a few minutes.

"In the second half, we had a different attitude, but we didn't score immediately. The match went on the tracks preferred by Torino."

Djidji's opener halted a 499-minute streak in which Torino had not scored in their Serie A meetings with Milan, while the Rossoneri saw a 17-game unbeaten run on the road in Serie A come to an end.

Milan's frustrations were summed up by the efforts of Rafael Leao, who approached the trip to Turin in excellent form but was hauled off at the break after a poor opening period.

The Portugal forward failed to hit the target with four shots amounting to 0.51 expected goals (xG) during his 45-minute outing, leading Pioli to confirm he was substituted due to his poor display.

"It was not his best evening, this is evident," Pioli told DAZN after the defeat. "I tried to change the attack, but we needed to take a chance a little earlier, to play a little earlier, and we did not manage to get it back."

Chelsea manager Graham Potter praised his side for qualifying for the Champions League last-16 with a game to spare having lost their opener to Dinamo Zagreb.

The Blues booked their ticket for the knockout stages with a 2-1 away win over Salzburg, after impressive strikes from Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz in each half, either side of Junior Adamu's goal.

Chelsea had lost their opening game of the group stage, 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb, leading to Thomas Tuchel's dismissal, but under Potter have bounced back with 10 points from four games, including strong away wins at Milan and Salzburg, securing top spot in Group E.

"Very [satisfied]. It’s not easy to win here as you can see from the record they have and the quality of the team," Potter told reporters.

"We had to play well and I thought we did. We created some good chances in the first half and were unlucky not to go more than 1-0 up.

"Then one action, with the quality at this level, and it’s 1-1. I thought our response was really good then, so I am delighted to go through, delighted with the performance of the players. I thought they were fantastic tonight.

"To go through with a game to spare is brilliant considering where we started the competition."

Havertz's 64th-minute winner was a spectacular left-foot strike that cannoned in off the crossbar.

The goal was the German's first this season in the Champions League, and third in all competitions. It was also Havertz's first goal away from Stamford Bridge for the Blues since April.

"His quality is there; he’s an incredibly talented player," Potter said. "He’s been nearly there and obviously, scoring a goal like that is bound to help.

"I wouldn’t be able to score a goal like that to be fair, I can only imagine. It’s a fantastic strike and an indication of the quality he has, so I’m really pleased for him."

Potter brushed off concerns about his side's wastefulness in front of goal, having had 15 shots, including 11 on target, while he hinted they may rotate their squad for their final group game against Dinamo having already qualified.

The Blues take on Potter's former club Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, followed by Dinamo (November 2), Arsenal in the Premier League (November 6) and Manchester City in the EFL Cup (November 9) in quick succession.

"We're at home at Stamford Bridge [against Dinamo] and we'll try our very best," he said. "We want to win every game we play, that is the mentality we have to have.

"But clearly, we have a game at the weekend and another game the weekend after, so maybe we can rotate a little bit. But we will try our best."

Stefano Pioli will set his Milan side out to qualify for the Champions League round of 16 in style by beating Salzburg in a decisive San Siro showdown next week.

The Rossoneri moved above Salzburg into second place in Group E on Tuesday with a 4-0 demolition of Dinamo Zagreb at Stadion Maksimir.

Matteo Gabbia opened the scoring with his first Milan goal, heading in a Sandro Tonali free-kick, and the Serie A champions ran away with it in the second half.

Rafael Leao's solo strike doubled their lead, and Olivier Giroud added a third from the penalty spot before a bizarre Robert Ljubicic own goal completing the scoring, with Dinamo's hopes of qualifying emphatically dashed.

Milan now only need a point to advance along with group winners Chelsea, who beat Salzburg 2-1, but head coach Pioli will not be taking a cautious approach to such a crucial game against the champions of Austria at San Siro next Wednesday.

He said: "Two out of three results are not a double-edged sword. We are not mentally and tactically built to manage, we have to play our best to get the win."

The Rossoneri finished bottom of their group last season, and Pioli believes reaching the last 16 would show the strides they have made.

He added: "I think it is clear that our growth comes from qualification. We have to play with our mentality, and it is the next step, where we would show that we are doing better than last year.

"We must close the discussion next Wednesday without forgetting the championship. We need concentration for the league match against Torino [on Sunday]. Then we will have the time and attention necessary to take care of the next Champions League match in the best possible way."

Pioli praised centre-back Gabbia, who was rock solid at the heart of the Milan defence after coming in to replace the suspended Fikayo Tomori.

"I continue to be convinced of the strength of my group," he said. "I emphasise Matteo's seriousness, but also his skills. He has a sense of position, physicality and skill in aerial duels."

Kai Havertz fired Chelsea through to the Champions League last-16 stage as his second-half strike secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Salzburg.

Mateo Kovacic's first-half effort gave the Blues the lead, but the hosts hit back swiftly in the second half, Junior Adamu capping off a fine counter-attack.

Goalkeeper Philipp Kohn was called upon in both halves to keep the visitors at bay but could do nothing with Havertz's winning effort, as the Germany international drilled in to end Salzburg's 40-game unbeaten home run.

Victory means Chelsea's spot in the knockout stages is confirmed, while Graham Potter's side could still be confirmed as group winners if Dinamo Zagreb fail to beat Milan in the Croatian capital.

Opportunities were few and far between until Chelsea took the lead after 22 minutes, Kovacic drilling a shot into the top-left corner after the ball fell kindly to him just outside the area.

Three minutes after the break, Salzburg equalised on the counter as Maximilian Wober's superb cross-field pass found Adamu and the 21-year-old jabbed a first-time finish past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Adamu then had a major impact at the other end, superbly clearing Jorginho's header off the line to prevent the visitors swiftly retaking the lead.

There was no denying Havertz three minutes after the hour mark, however, as he collected Christian Pulisic's pass just outside the box and fired home a fine finish in off the left post to leave Kohn helpless.

The hosts had chances for an equaliser, notably with Thiago Silva needing to be alert to clear Strahinja Pavlovic's header off the line as the Chelsea defence stood firm.

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