Alexis Mac Allister's father and representative Carlos has labelled Juventus "one of the most prestigious clubs in the world" amid growing speculation over the midfielder's future.

Brighton and Hove Albion star Mac Allister is a player in demand after starting six of Argentina's seven games in their triumphant World Cup 2022 campaign.

The 24-year-old signed a new three-year deal in October, with the option for Brighton to extend it by a further year, yet that has done little to quell interest from elsewhere.

Premier League trio Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have been linked, but Juventus are reportedly the frontrunners to sign Mac Allister next year.

And Mac Alister's agent spoke highly of the Serie A giants when providing an update on the former Boca Juniors loanee's future on Thursday. 

"Juventus is a huge club, one of the most prestigious in the world," Carlos Mac Allister told Tuttomercato. 

"I can only say that together with [Brighton] we will analyse the offers we receive, then we will decide what will happen to Alexis' future. 

"He is doing very well in England and he is grateful to Brighton because they gave him the possibility to play in Europe. 

"However, we cannot provide a price, nor do we say who has called us. We don't want to give information that could prejudice imminent negotiations, if any."

Mac Allister scored a crucial goal for Argentina in their group-stage win against Poland and assisted Angel Di Maria's goal in a thrilling final with France.

The 14-cap midfielder has started 14 of Brighton's 15 matches this season, missing only Monday's 3-1 win at Southampton as he enjoys a post-World Cup break.

Discussing the speculation surrounding Mac Allister earlier this month, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said he is confident the club can keep hold of their prized asset.

"As we've always said, when players do well, when their profile increases, there's always going to be interest in them," Barber said. 

"This will be no different; Alexis is no different. There was interest in him before the World Cup and I'm sure there will be more interest in him afterwards.

"All we can do in situations where you've got a great asset is to try and protect yourself as best as possible. We've done that with several of our players and staff.

"That's all you can do in these situations. We hope Alexis will continue to be playing for us for some time to come."

Jorginho has been offered a new contract by Chelsea amid speculation he is wanted by a number of clubs, according to the midfielder's agent.

The Italy international, who has been a regular for Chelsea for the past five seasons, is due to become a free agent at the end of the current campaign.

Barcelona and Juventus are reportedly eager to open talks with Jorginho in January, while Chelsea's Premier League rivals Newcastle United have also been linked with the former Napoli man.

However, Jorginho's agent Joao Santos has revealed the 31-year-old will first discuss fresh terms with Chelsea over prolonging his stay at Stamford Bridge.

"His contract expires on June 30," Santos told Tuttomercato. "We have a renewal proposal from Chelsea and we will give them priority."

Napoli have also been credited with an interest in taking Jorginho back to the Serie A leaders, and Santos suggested a return is a possibility should an approach be made.

"Naples was Jorginho's home and he's greatly appreciated there. For us it's a special club, so we'd be happy with any interest. But at the moment, Napoli have not contacted us." he said.

Jorginho has played 20 times for Chelsea this season – only Kai Havertz (21) and Mason Mount (22) have featured more – with 16 of those appearances being starts.

He is level with Thiago Silva for the most interceptions (25) among Chelsea players this campaign, while only Marc Cucurella has won as many tackles (22).

The power dynamic at Paris Saint-Germain is a curious watch, with Lionel Messi set to formalise an agreement to remain for another season.

Kylian Mbappe re-signed with the French champions in May until 2025 but has still been linked with moves away from the club.

Messi came out on top over Mbappe in the World Cup final earlier this month, and Barcelona believe an opportunity might arise. 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA SET TO SWOOP FOR FRUSTRATED MBAPPE

Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona are set for a shock move to sign Mbappe.

Speculation over Mbappe's future is growing amid reports he was further frustrated at Parc des Princes after Messi committed to extending his PSG stay.

The 24-year-old was close to joining Real Madrid in the past but he has been turned off by Los Blancos, since copping heavy criticism after opting to renew with PSG, and could now move to their fierce LaLiga rivals instead.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano claims Barca have identified 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko as a potential target and want to sign him as a free agent next year.

Liverpool want to sign Brighton and Hove Albion's World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, reports La Repubblica. The Reds have joined Juventus, Dortmund, Inter and Benfica in pursuing the Argentina midfielder.

– Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham is set to choose Real Madrid over Liverpool, with the Spanish champions to prioritise a deal in 2023, claims Goal. The Liverpool Echo reports Bellingham and Dortmund will sit down in January to discuss his future.

Liverpool are interested in Inter defender Milan Skriniar , according to Fichajes. The Reds are looking at defensive reinforcements, with Skriniar out of contract at the end of this season.

Chelsea are interested in signing Celtic's Croatia international Josip Juranovic as cover for the injured Reece James, according to Sky Sports.

– Il Tempo claims that Roma have sounded out PSG about terminating Georginio Wijnaldum's season-long loan. The Dutchman suffered a serious injury in August.

Dusan Vlahovic "should have done more" at Juventus, according to former Fiorentina team-mate Borja Valero.

The Serbia striker joined the Bianconeri for €70million in January, having scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for La Viola since the start of the 2020-21 season.

But the 22-year-old has subsequently struggled to kick on, despite finishing as the second-highest scorer in Serie A last term with 24 goals - a tally only bettered by Lazio's Ciro Immobile (27).

Vlahovic has only netted 16 times in 36 games for Juve with a groin injury hampering his progress this season, while also limiting his participation for Serbia at the World Cup in Qatar. 

 

Valero played alongside Vlahovic at Fiorentina during the 2020-21 campaign, and the ex-midfielder is disappointed with his former team-mate's spell in Turin.

"The Bianconeri fans had very high expectations of Vlahovic, especially for everything he had done in Florence," he told DAZN.

"Considering the amount that Juve paid to get him, it's true to say that I expected more from him. He should have done more."

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is enjoying life at Napoli amid reports linking him with a move to the Premier League, recalling how he was desperate to sign for the Partenopei ahead of this campaign.

Kvaratskhelia has been a revelation since joining Luciano Spalletti's side from Dinamo Batumi in July, scoring six goals and adding five assists in Serie A this season.

With Napoli eight points clear at the summit ahead of Serie A's resumption next month, no player in the Italian top flight has bettered the Georgia winger's total of 11 goal contributions.

While the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham have previously been touted as possible future destinations for Kvaratskhelia, recent reports have suggested Newcastle United have made him their top target for the January transfer window.

However, the 21-year-old cited life in Naples and his enjoyment of Spalletti's style of play as being key to his happiness while recalling his decision to join the club.

"The negotiations with Napoli lasted a long time, about two years, I was very happy that such a great team was interested in me," he told DAZN. "I couldn't wait to wear the Napoli shirt. 

"I felt every now and then that there was interest from other teams as well, but having the offer from Napoli, I never thought about anything else. I wanted to play for Napoli.

"When I happened to watch their matches, I thought I could adapt perfectly to that type of game. I really liked how they played and it happened. 

"Here, the city lives for the love of football, everyone knows football in Naples. It is motivating when the whole city cheers for you and transmits love to you in every moment." 

 

Asked whether he had surprised himself by emerging as one of Europe's most dangerous attackers, Kvaratskhelia added: "I'm still a long way from this definition, but I'll do my best to confirm it. 

"In any case, no, I didn't expect it. It's very difficult to think that from such a small country you can get to play in such a big team. 

"It was my dream to play in a renowned top club like Napoli. However, I still have a long way to go and many goals to achieve."

Kvaratskhelia leads his Napoli team-mates for dribbles completed (19) and carries ending with a chance created (12) in Serie A this term, leading supporters to dub him 'Kvaradona' in reference to club legend Diego Maradona.  

The Georgian failed to hide his glee when asked about that nickname, saying: "When just a small part of the Maradona name is associated with yours, it's an honour.

"It creates an emotion different from the other [nicknames] – it fills me with pride. Today 'Kvaradona' is definitely my favourite."

Uncertainty about Jordan Pickford's future with Everton has piqued the interest of fellow Premier League sides including Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea.

Pickford, 28, is in his sixth season as Everton's shot stopper, having risen through the international ranks to become England's number one in the process.

He started all five of England's World Cup games to reach 50 international caps, keeping clean sheets against Senegal, Wales and the United States.

While he is reportedly happy to stay at Everton long-term, the club are reportedly continuing to drag their feet with regard to his contract extension, sending up a signal that he could be available for the right price.


TOP STORY – ELITE CLUBS CIRCLE ENGLAND'S TOP GOALKEEPER

According to the Daily Mail, Pickford agreed to a five-year contract extension before heading to Qatar for the World Cup, but the club are yet to sign off on it, with the delay coming at boardroom level.

The report states it is still more likely that the deal is finalised than not, but their hesitance has caught the eye of some top English sides who are seeking a long-term solution between the sticks.

United are looking to move on from David de Gea, as are Tottenham with Hugo Lloris, while Chelsea are also in the market following Edouard Mendy's rejection of a six-year contract, calling the proposed financials "disrespectful", per an earlier Daily Mail report.

Pickford's current contract has 18 months remaining, so if Everton do not or cannot extend him, the time to sell will be rapidly approaching.


ROUND-UP

– The Evening Standard is reporting Arsenal will return with another bid for 21-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk after their £55million offer was rejected.

– According to AS, Real Madrid are planning a 2024 move for Bayern Munich left-back Alphonso Davies.

Newcastle United are interested in bringing in 31-year-old Chelsea midfielder Jorginho on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, per the Daily Mail.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting Inter will look to Bayern Munich right-back Noussair Mazraoui as the replacement for Denzel Dumfries should the Netherlands international leave the club in the near future.

Inter are also pursuing Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram, who has interest from Premier League sides Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham, per 90min.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli still thinks his side can defend their Serie A crown despite their eight-point deficit to league leaders Napoli.

The Rossoneri beat rivals Inter in a title race that went down to the wire last season, taking a first Scudetto since the 2010-11 campaign.

But their hopes of a second successive triumph look to be under serious threat, with Napoli having romped away at the summit after 15 games.

Milan remain their nearest rivals, however, and Pioli argues his team can still turn it around, although he knows they must hit the ground running in 2023.

"It is clear that we arrived at this prestigious [title] victory ahead of time, because the club's desire was to invest in players, especially young players, so maybe we expected to win a little later," he told Italia Uno.

"But we managed almost immediately, so it is clear that for me and for us 2022 was a really important year and full of satisfaction.

"You have to think that you can still win the championship [this season], this in the most absolute way.

"Then it is clear that if Napoli continues like this they can make 100 points and then we must congratulate them, but we must think about making many points.

"Last year, 86 were needed; perhaps this year they could need even more. There are still 69 points available – that's a lot – but we have to start pedalling hard and we definitely have to believe in it."

Chelsea are reportedly closing in on a loan deal for Atletico Madrid club-record signing Joao Felix in January.

Felix, 23, was signed in 2019 for €126million after winning the European Golden Boy award with Benfica, shattering Atletico's previous transfer record of Thomas Lemar by over €50m.

However, despite netting 33 goals for his new club, Felix has struggled to consistently earn a spot in their starting XI, with seven of his 12 LaLiga appearances this season coming as a substitute.

Having made such a substantial investment, Atletico are not willing to sell him at a massive loss just yet, and while they have made him available for transfer, a loan move to rehabilitate his value appears far more likely.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO LOAN DEAL TO ADDRESS FORWARD WOES

Chelsea have been actively seeking reinforcements up front, but with significant investment also planned in defence, a cheaper loan deal could be the band-aid solution for their goalscoring issues.

The Telegraph is reporting Chelsea and Atletico are deep in discussions about a deal that would involve either an option or an obligation to turn the loan into a permanent move at the conclusion of the season.

ESPN added Atletico will also demand a loan fee in the range of €9m for the half-season rental.

It remains to be seen if Chelsea can afford to secure a quality forward option in January on a permanent basis, with Fabrizio Romano reporting they are also in the final stages of negotiations for a €35m purchase of 21-year-old Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiashile.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to CBS, Cristiano Ronaldo has a medical scheduled with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr ahead of signing a contract that will pay him €70m per year.

– The Telegraph is reporting Arsenal have submitted a £55m bid for 21-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk.

Napoli will look to sign 26-year-old Wolves winger Adama Traore in January as he enters the final six months of his contract, per Calciomercato.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Everton are one of a number of Premier League clubs showing interest in 20-year-old Manchester United winger Anthony Elanga.

– According to journalist Ekrem Konur, Premier League teams including West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa are considering offers for 28-year-old Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Chelsea have reportedly made Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiashile their top defensive target in the January transfer window.

They have been strongly linked with RB Leipzig and Croatia standout Josko Gvardiol, but Fabrizio Romano believes Chelsea will have to break the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for a defender to get a deal done.

Instead, the Stamford Bridge club are said to have pivoted to 21-year-old Monaco powerhouse Badiashile, who stands at six-foot-four and has racked up 106 club appearances since debuting at the age of 17.

Badiashile also earned his first senior caps for France this year, playing a full 90 minutes in UEFA Nations League fixtures in September against Austria and Denmark before ultimately missing out on the World Cup squad.

With just over 18 months remaining on his contract, Monaco will need to decide if they can tie him down up long term, otherwise it may be time to cash-in.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA TARGET YOUNG MONACO TALENT

According to The Athletic, Badiashile is a player who has been on the Premier League radar for some time, noting a £22million bid from Manchester United back in 2020.

The report claims Badiashile was in no rush to leave back then as he was already a first-team regular, but he has since opened up to the idea of moving on to take the next step of his career.

Chelsea are said to be preparing a £35m offer for the man who has experience playing in a back-three, which would be less than half of the potential asking price for Gvardiol.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes is reporting Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has no interest in retaining Argentinian World Cup hero Emiliano Martinez, and would prefer to replace him with Sevilla and Morocco star Yassine Bounou for a fee in the range of £40m.

Chelsea are in the best position to land 23-year-old West Ham midfielder Declan Rice as he enters the final 18 months of his contract, per The Athletic.

– Journalist Nicolo Schira is reporting Atletico Madrid have agreed to personal terms with 26-year-old Leicester City centre-back Caglar Soyuncu, and he could be allowed to join the club in January despite his contract not expiring until the end of the season.

– Atletico will allow Joao Felix to join a Premier League club on loan in January if their financial demands are met, per the Mirror.

– According to Teamtalk, Liverpool and Tottenham are included in the Premier League sides prepared to offer a contract to 27-year-old Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar for when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Tammy Abraham is unsurprised by reports suggesting both Portugal and Brazil are interested in Roma coach Jose Mourinho, who he views as an "uncle" figure.

Mourinho led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title last season, his fifth major continental triumph after winning both the UEFA Cup/Europa League and Champions League on two occasions.

However, the Giallorossi boss has been linked with an exit in the aftermath of the World Cup, with both Portugal and Brazil searching for a new coach following quarter-final exits in Qatar.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Roma striker Abraham said any side would be fortunate to have Mourinho, crediting the 59-year-old's methods for his own development. 

"Jose is a great coach, everyone wants him," Abraham said. "It's also an honour that an important national team like Portugal is looking for him, but I'm sure the coach is focused on the team. 

"We've read the news on social media, but we haven't discussed it. We're all focused on Roma.

"He's a point of reference, I consider him to be like my uncle in Rome. He wants the best for me, when I don't express myself at my best, he pushes me. 

"Even when I play well, he's never satisfied and that's what I need. I'm not the type for pats on the back, but I need that trust he shows in me every day."

Jose Mourinho is a man in demand at international level, with Brazil reportedly rivalling Portugal in pursuit of his signature.

The 59-year-old is currently employed by Serie A club Roma, having joined in 2021 on a three-year contract.

There are reports that Mourinho is not entirely happy in the Italian capital, specifically regarding player attitudes and the club's financial limitations.

TOP STORY – BRAZIL TO MAKE SHOCK MOVE FOR MOURINHO

Brazil will make a sensational swoop to make Jose Mourinho their new national team boss to replace the departed Tite, according to la Repubblica.

An intermediary of Brazil's national setup will fly into Italy to meet up with the Roma head coach – who has also been linked to the Portugal job – and begin negotiations face to face.

Brazil had been linked with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, having reportedly turned to super agent Jorge Mendes to aid their pursuit of a new head coach.

 

ROUND-UP

– Journalist Bruno Andrade claims Manchester United have "overtaken" Liverpool in the race to sign World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica. United boss Erik ten Hag is willing the trigger his €120m release clause.

Manchester United have commenced talks with PSV winger Cody Gakpo, reports The Daily Mirror. Gakpo netted three goals in three World Cup group games.

– Fabrizio Romano claims that Barcelona have no intention of selling midfielder Franck Kessie or full-back Hector Bellerin in January.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio, reports SPORT. Arsenal have also been linked with the 26-year-old, while Ara claims Barcelona are monitoring the situation and may swoop.

PSG are also interested in signing Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder Fred, claims The Sun. That is despite United recently triggering a 12-month extension on Fred's contract.

Bayern Munich have added Leeds United's French goalkeeper Ilhan Meslier to their transfer targets, reports MediaFootMercato. Bayern are looking for cover the injured keeper Manuel Neuer.

Paul Pogba's brother Mathias has been released from prison.

Lawyer Yassine Bouzrou confirmed to BFMTV his client left Maison d'arret de Villepinte on Friday after his request for bail was accepted by the authorities.

Mathias was detained for three months after being charged over the alleged extortion of the Juventus and France midfielder.

An investigation was opened in August into allegations Paul was the target of an extortion plot by his brother and childhood friends demanding a sum of €13million.

Mathias, who was denied bail 12 days after his initial sentencing, threatened to share "explosive revelations" in a video posted on social media.

The 32-year-old denied taking part in extortion attempts against his brother.

BFMTV said Mathias was placed under judicial supervision and was prohibited from contacting Paul, his mother and others involved in the case.

Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana has retired from international football at the age of 26 after being suspended by team management at the World Cup.

The Inter player was ousted from the Indomitable Lions squad during the tournament in Qatar for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

At the time, Onana denied acting against the team's interests after reports of a disagreement with coach Rigobert Song, and said his punishment was hard to understand.

Now he has elected to quit Cameroon duty completely.

Onana wrote in a Twitter post that he had fulfilled his "great dream" of playing for his country.

In the message, he spoke of "endless hours of training, endless trips and a lot of perseverance".

"But every story, however beautiful it may be, has its end," he added. "And my story with the Cameroonian national team has come to an end.

"Players come and go, names are fleeting, but Cameroon comes before any person or player. Cameroon remains eternal and so does my love for the national team and for our people who have always supported us no matter how difficult the moment was."

It was November 28 when he was suspended from the national team, and Onana has decided to focus on club matters for now. Given his young age, a future U-turn would be no great surprise.

Onana's message contained no clear dissent towards those he felt did him a disservice at Qatar 2022, and he insisted he remained loyal to his home country.

"My feeling will never change," Onana said. "My Cameroonian heart will continue to beat and wherever I go I will always fight to lift the flag of Cameroon as high as possible. I will continue to support as a fan, just as the more than 27 million Cameroonians do at every match.

"I can only thank all those who trusted me and believed that I could add and contribute to this team."

After Lionel Messi's Argentina lifted the World Cup in Qatar, attention turns back to club football with Europe's top five leagues set to resume in the coming weeks.

The Premier League is the first to restart, with all 20 teams in action on either December 26 or 27, while Ligue 1 and La Liga get back under way in the following days.

You will have to wait until the new year for Serie A to recommence, before the Bundesliga starts back up again with Bayern Munich's visit to RB Leipzig on January 20.

It has been a while since Europe's elite paused for the World Cup, so Stats Perform provide a refresher of how things were shaping up before the hiatus.

LALIGA

Title race

It looks like a two-horse race in LaLiga, as it appears giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for an epic title fight.

Barcelona have their noses in front with a two-point margin over Madrid, but Carlo Ancelotti's side came out on top when the teams met in October.

The next El Clasico will take place on March 19 at Camp Nou and could have massive implications for who lifts the LaLiga trophy come the end of the season.

Champions League spots

With Barcelona and Madrid stretching away at the top of LaLiga, Basque sides Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are the two teams that occupy the other Champions League spots.

Athletic are one of three sides on 24 points, while Villarreal in ninth are just three points behind following their Champions League heroics last season.

Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano are two teams that were not expected to be in the race for top four, but they sit in seventh and eighth respectively and are well within striking distance.

Relegation battle

Six-time Europa League winners Sevilla are in big trouble at the bottom of LaLiga, with two victories in their first 14 matches putting them in the relegation zone.

They are yet to win at home, and head coach Julen Lopetegui was relieved of his duties after their Champions League exit.

Sevilla are kept off the bottom by Cadiz and Elche, with the latter yet to win a league game this season and picking up just four points before the World Cup break.

Big performances will be needed from World Cup heroes such as Argentina's Marcos Acuna and Morocco's Youssef En-Nesyri and Yassine Bounou if Sevilla are to haul themselves away from trouble.

PREMIER LEAGUE

Title race

Arsenal hold a five-point lead at the top, but Pep Guardiola's Manchester City will fancy their chances of retaining the title and have a rested Erling Haaland itching to get back scoring goals.

Haaland has been a revelation since joining from Borussia Dortmund, scoring 18 times in 13 games, though City's quest for a fifth title in six years has been hampered by defeats to Liverpool and Brentford.

However, with Haaland ready to play and Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus out for three months with a knee injury suffered at the World Cup, Mikel Arteta's side must carry on where they left off.

Champions League spots

Newcastle United have been one of the stories of the Premier League season, with a run of five straight victories under Eddie Howe taking them all the way up to third.

There is still a long way to go, but Newcastle are in a great position to finish in the top four of the Premier League for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign under Bobby Robson.

Tottenham currently hold fourth position with Manchester United just three points behind in fifth, while Liverpool's poor start sees them 15 points off leaders Arsenal.

Surprise package Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea are both on 21 points, but a solid run of form could put the pressure on those above.

Relegation battle

It may be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire for Lopetegui as he was appointed as head coach of Wolves in November, with the Midlands club bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. Only two teams in that position have avoided relegation in the past.

A source of comfort for Wolves fans will be just how many teams are in danger of the drop, with Bournemouth in 14th just six points above them.

Everton and Leeds United are once again down there after narrowly staying up last season, while 2021-22 Europa League semi-finalists West Ham United are just a point above Nottingham Forest, who are in the bottom three after a tough opening to their first season back in the Premier League after a 23-year exile.

SERIE A

Title race

After an incredible start, Napoli currently hold an eight-point lead at the Serie A summit, the largest among the top five leagues.

They have achieved that in impressive fashion, yet to lose a league match this season and boasting the most potent attack with 37 goals in 15 matches, led by the division's top goalscorer Victor Osimhen (nine goals) and new star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (11 goal involvements), both of whom should be fresh having not played in the World Cup.

Just three points separate Milan in second and Inter in fifth among the chasing pack, but Napoli may soon be out of sight if they can pick up their incredible form from before Qatar.

Champions League spots

Just six points separate second and seventh in Serie A as teams desperately scramble to keep leaders Napoli in view.

Inter are currently out of the top four on goal difference, while Juventus are third despite Massimiliano Allegri coming under pressure during a mixed start.

Holders Milan are second and Lazio sit fourth, while Jose Mourinho's Roma are well poised in seventh place.

Relegation battle

The three teams in the relegation zone are yet to hit double figures for points, with 17th-placed Spezia six points above the drop zone.

Cremonese, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona in 18th, 19th and 20th respectively have combined for two victories from 45 matches so far.

While the likes of Spezia, Lecce and Sassuolo may be looking over their shoulders, they can remain pretty confident they will be playing Serie A football next season if the bottom three maintain their dreadful form.

BUNDESLIGA

Title race

In the Bundesliga, Bayern won six matches in a row prior to the World Cup, a much-needed run considering they had been victorious in just one of their previous six.

That upturn in form saw them build a four-point margin at the top, but the loss of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a broken ankle sustained in a skiing accident could be a big blow.

However, it is reasonable to expect Bayern to have enough quality to see off the challenges of the likes of Freiburg and Leipzig and earn an 11th consecutive Bundesliga title.

Champions League spots

Borussia Dortmund will face Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16, but they have much work to do if they are to qualify for next year's competition after a disappointing start in the Bundesliga

They currently sit sixth and are playing catch up, with Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin also ahead of them.

It should be an exciting race for the top four spots, with Werder Bremen in ninth just six points off the Champions League places, while Wolfsburg in seventh are a team to watch having gone nine unbeaten before the World Cup.

Champions League spots

Schalke have won just twice this season at the foot of the league, and could face an immediate relegation back to the second tier.

Stuttgart occupy the relegation play-off spot and have called upon former head coach Bruno Labbadia as they fight to stay up, while Bochum are between Stuttgart and Schalke.

Of the teams just outside the drop zone, Xavi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen won their last three matches prior to the break and appear to be steering themselves out of trouble, while in contrast Augsburg failed to win any of their past seven.

LIGUE 1

Title race

While a 2022-23 league title would only be Napoli's third in the club's history, Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will be collecting a ninth in just 11 years if they see the job through.

PSG's players starred at the World Cup with Messi and Kylian Mbappe facing off in a brilliant final and return to club football with the hopes of working together to finally win the Parisian club's first Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino's failure to win European football's top prize last season cost him his job, despite winning Ligue 1 at a canter, and Christophe Galtier will know the same fate could befall him should PSG be defeated by Bayern in the round of 16, with the first leg set to be played on February 14.

PSG's domestic challengers include Lens and Rennes, but they face a real challenge if they are to close the five-point gap to Galtier's side, who are unbeaten and have the division's best attack and meanest defence.

Champions League spots

While Lens and Rennes may not be able to catch PSG at the peak of Ligue 1, the two teams will certainly fancy their chances of staying in the top three.

With fourth place in Ligue 1 only enough to earn a place in the Europa League, Marseille will be striving to dislodge one of the aforementioned sides and wrestle their way into Europe's premier club competition.

Lorient have finished 16th in the last two campaigns but an excellent start sees them in fifth, above perennial European contenders Monaco, Lille and Lyon.

Relegation battle

Ligue 1's relegation scrap is wide open with the reduction of France's top tier to 18 teams meaning four teams will go down this season.

There is just six points between Reims in 11th and second-bottom Strasbourg, the latter of whom narrowly missed out on the European qualification spots last term.

Angers are propping up the league on eight points, and their survival chances could take a significant hit if they lose midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who is reportedly wanted by Barcelona after outstanding performances for Morocco at the World Cup.

Benfica will reportedly hold out for Enzo Fernandez's full €120million release clause just six months after signing him for €10million from River Plate.

Fernandez, 21, has become one of the hottest names in football since arriving at Benfica, helping his side to an undefeated group stage in the Champions League before earning his place in Argentina's World Cup squad.

After starting the group stage on the bench, Fernandez worked his way into the starting XI for the final group match against Poland, before playing every minute of Argentina's run through the knockout stages.

His rapid rise saw Fernandez become a target of both Real Madrid and Liverpool, and despite earlier reports that he would be available for €100m, the Portuguese club will now seemingly not settle for anything less than his release clause.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MADRID TOLD TO MEET €120M RELEASE CLAUSE FOR FERNANDEZ

Portuguese publication Record is reporting the €100million bid Benfica rejected came from Liverpool, with an earlier Daily Mirror story claiming the Reds had reached a pre-agreement with Fernandez on personal terms.

Liverpool have made no secret of their desire for a new midfielder, but it remains to be seen if the extra €20million to meet the release clause will be a deal-breaker.

Meanwhile, Madrid appear to be looking elsewhere, with a fresh report from AS stating they are in the driver's seat in the chase for Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, and that they view 24-year-old Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli as a reliable back-up plan if they land neither Fernandez or Bellingham.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have agreed to a £10.5million signing of 20-year-old forward David Datro Fofana from Norwegian club Molde, per Fabrizio Romano.

– According to Repubblica, Arsenal are interested in signing 27-year-old Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot on a free transfer at the end of the season.

– The Evening Standard is reporting Fulham, Villarreal and Bayer Leverkusen are considering January moves for Arsenal full-back Cedric Soares.

– The Evening Standard is also reporting Crystal Palace would like to bring right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka back to the club, three years after selling him to Manchester United.

– According to Sport, Barcelona will look to move on from Raphinha at the end of the season if he does not make himself a key part of Xavi's plans.

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