Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles will not recover from knee injuries in time to play again at the 2022 World Cup, Brazil confirmed on Saturday.

The pair had each been substituted in Friday's defeat to Cameroon, with team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirming afterwards they would have scans the following day.

Brazil have already been playing without Neymar, Danilo and Alex Sandro due to injuries, and their latest two setbacks are significant.

Reports in Brazil on Saturday had suggested Jesus would miss a month and Telles was potentially facing surgery, also representing blows to Arsenal and Sevilla.

A statement from the CBF subsequently confirmed neither would feature for the remainder of the World Cup.

"As announced by the CBF after the game against Cameroon, players Alex Telles and Gabriel Jesus underwent tests this Saturday morning," the statement read.

"Accompanied by the doctor of the Brazilian team, Rodrigo Lasmar, they performed an MRI on the right knee that confirmed the injuries and the impossibility of recovery in time to participate in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

"The coordinator of the Brazilian national team, Juninho Paulista, is in contact with the sports directors of Arsenal and Sevilla to define whether Alex Telles and Gabriel Jesus remain with the squad in Doha for continuity of treatment or if they return to their clubs."

While Jesus was set to play only as Richarlison's back-up in the knockout stage, Telles could have been in line for a prominent role.

Alex Sandro is the only other natural left-back in the squad and is uncertain to return in time for the last-16 match against South Korea.

Brazil are at least more optimistic on the status of versatile right-back Danilo, who was set to return to full training on Saturday.

Manchester United will look to sign a replacement forward for Cristiano Ronaldo during the January transfer window, according to the Manchester Evening News.

The 37-year-old Portuguese's exit by mutual consent with immediate effect has opened up all sorts of possibilities for the Red Devils.

But Erik ten Hag's side clearly need to bolster their ranks as they look to finish in the Premier League's top four this term.

 

TOP STORY – MEMPHIS WALKING BACK THROUGH THE DOORS AT OLD TRAFFORD?

Spanish media outlet Sport claims that Manchester United are keen on Barcelona's Memphis Depay in January.

The Blaugrana, who have been linked with United's Diogo Dalot, are eager to offload the Dutchman, whose contract ends in mid-2023.

The Netherlands international spent two years at Old Trafford from 2015 and 2017

 

ROUND-UP -

- Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are ready to make moves for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, according to Calciomercato. The Frenchman almost joined Manchester United in the off-season and is contracted with the Bianconeri until the end of the season.

- Football Insider claims Aston Villa are interested in Sevilla's Morocco international goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who is contracted until 2025.

- Fabrizio Romano claims RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer is determined to join Bayern Munich, meaning Chelsea and Liverpool will miss out on the Austrian.

- Leeds United have enquired about the availability of Milan's Belgian midfielder Charles de Ketelaere, reports TeamTalk.

- Atalanta are in talks with Stuttgart's Croatia international left-back Borna Sosa, claims Nicolo Schira.

Kylian Mbappe penned a new Paris Saint-Germain deal in May, extending his contract until 2025.

That came after a prolonged courtship from Real Madrid for his services, while several other top clubs were interested.

But Mbappe has again been linked with a move away from the French capital, despite re-committing only months ago.

TOP STORY – MBAPPE WANTS PSG EXIT, MAN UTD CIRCLING

Kylian Mbappe is reportedly pushing for an exit from PSG during the January transfer window, claims Sport.

According to the report, Manchester United are preparing an audacious bid to land the 23-year-old France forward, with Liverpool and Real Madrid also in contention.

Mbappe wants PSG to let him go if a reasonable offer comes in during January, although United may not suit his football aspirations in the short term.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham are keeping a close watch on Everton winger Anthony Gordon ahead of the January transfer window, reports Football London. Gordon, who also has interest from Chelsea, still has three years left on his Toffees deal.

- Chelsea's strategy with Romelu Lukaku is set to change, meaning he is unlikely to remain with Inter, claims Calciomercato. The Blues want to sell him for a major transfer fee at the end of this season, rather than loaning him back to Inter, as the Nerazzurri had hoped.

- Bild claims Borussia Dortmund have no plans to sell Raphael Guerreiro in January, amid interest from Leeds United and West Ham. Guerreiro is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri looms as a January option for West Ham, according to Calciomercato.

Memphis Depay in unsettled at Barcelona, having only managed two league appearances this campaign.

The 28-year-old Dutchman has fallen out of favour under Xavi this term, despite scoring 13 goals last season.

Depay joined the Blaugrana in June 2021 on a two-year contract, with that deal expiring at the end of this season.

 

TOP STORY – SEVILLA PLOT JANUARY MOVE FOR DEPAY

Sevilla are weighing up a January swoop for Barcelona's wantaway forward Memphis Depay, claims Fichajes.

The Netherlands international has reportedly sought a way out of Camp Nou, with claims he has requested a release letter, enabling him to be signed for free in January.

New Sevilla head coach Jorge Sampaoli is not satisfied with his side's attacking options after their dismal start to the LaLiga campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

– Napoli forward Victor Osimhen is on Manchester United's radar as they weigh up striker options for next season, according to the Manchester Evening News. Real Madrid are also interested in the Nigerian, claims Sport.

– Benfica's Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez is also garnering interest from Manchester United, reports Record.

Bayern Munich's hierarchy are split on the prospect of signing Tottenham forward Harry Kane, with concerns raised that he would not suit their style, claims Bild.

– Mundo Deportivo reports Newcastle United are interested in Real Betis' forward Nabil Fekir, but the Spanish club want €50million for him.

– The Evening Standard claims Arsenal are pondering allowing Marquinhos to exit on loan in January. The Brazilian forward has played once in the league this season.

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

Manchester City have condemned "vile" racist abuse from Sevilla fans towards Rico Lewis during Wednesday's Champions League clash, stating "we will not tolerate any discrimination".

The 17-year-old Lewis's memorable Champions League debut at Etihad Stadium was marred by racist abuse after City confirmed two arrests had been made amid a continued club and police investigation.

"Manchester City strongly condemns the racist abuse that Rico Lewis was subject to from Sevilla supporters at yesterday's match," a club statement read on Thursday.

"We understand that two arrests have been made and are continuing to work with Sevilla and GMP [Greater Manchester Police] to investigate this matter.

"We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind at our stadium and will be offering our full support to Rico following these vile incidents."

Sevilla said disciplinary action will be taken should the two culprits be proven guilty.

"Sevilla strongly condemn the behaviour of two fans in the away section of Manchester City's stadium, who were identified and accused of allegedly behaving in a racist manner towards Manchester City player Rico Lewis," a statement from the LaLiga said.

"Sevilla are awaiting official confirmation of these facts, of which they have been made aware by Manchester City, and if these are proven, the two fans will be removed from the list of members.

"Sevilla would like to point out that there have never been any racist or xenophobic episodes at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium and that its fans have always been committed to the fight against racism."

Lewis scored the equaliser in the comeback 3-1 victory over Sevilla and became the youngest player in history to score on his Champions League debut.

Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City's record-breaker Rico Lewis after he became the youngest player to score on his first Champions League start in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Sevilla.

A much-changed City team initially fell behind to Rafa Mir's header in their final Group G fixture, but at the age of 17 years and 346 days old, Lewis hammered home to beat Karim Benzema's 2005 record and level the scores.

Lewis' effort kick-started a City comeback, as Julian Alvarez put Guardiola's team in the ascendancy before teeing up Riyad Mahrez to complete the scoring late on.

Speaking to BT Sport after the victory, Guardiola credited Lewis for his intelligence and said City's win showed the future is bright at the Etihad Stadium.

"What a goal, he's a fantastic player. He's so intelligent," Guardiola said of the right-back. "Apart from the skills, he's so intelligent, so clever.

 "He understands everything. He made a fantastic goal, high past the goalkeeper, and played really well.

"We have a young squad, we have some older players but it's a young squad. Julian is young but top-class, and Rico, and of course, Sergio [Gomez].

"They played in the Champions League against Sevilla, an experienced team, and for prestige, money, everything, it was important."

Lewis' goal came on the day he became just the fifth Englishman to start a Champions League game before turning 18, after Jack Wilshere, Josh McEachran, Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham.

His strong all-round performance also earned him praise from City defender Ruben Dias, who told BT Sport: "He's an enormous talent. He's been with us a long time. 

"For him to get the opportunity of playing practically the full game and to score, you can see his quality. Brilliant things from him, he just needs to keep working.

"At this club it doesn't matter if it's a friendly, the Champions League final, or a game in the groups with everything done. We need to push each other, the same as in training.

"It was one of those games, everything is settled in the group, it's a game in which you need to perform because the rhythm is going with non-stop games."

Teenager Rico Lewis kick-started a Manchester City comeback as Pep Guardiola's side beat Sevilla 3-1 to cap a successful Champions League Group G campaign.

City were without Erling Haaland through injury and rested other key players for Wednesday's meeting at the Etihad Stadium, which was stunned into silence when Rafa Mir put the visitors ahead.

However, City deservedly levelled through 17-year-old right-back Lewis when he fired home in the 52nd minute of his full debut, becoming the youngest player in Champions League history to score on his first start in the competition, breaking the record set by Karim Benzema in 2005.

Having teed up Lewis' equaliser, Julian Avarez scored with 17 minutes remaining before playing in Riyad Mahrez to round off the victory late on.

City went close within two minutes when Cole Palmer fired over following a sloppy pass from Yassine Bounou, before Stefan Ortega pushed Mir's low strike away at the other end.

Mir sent a header narrowly wide, but City didn't heed those warnings, and it was third time lucky for the Sevilla striker when he nodded Isco's right-wing delivery into the top-right corner after 31 minutes.

City piled on the pressure, which finally told when Lewis latched onto Alvarez's pass to hammer a shot into the roof of the net.

Guardiola sent on Kevin De Bruyne in a bid to complete the turnaround, and the playmaker had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he released Alvarez, who rounded Bounou before converting.

Alvarez was not done there, however, joining a high press before finding Mahrez, who fired home left-footed to complete the scoring.

 

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.

Julian Alvarez says it is "a privilege" to play with Erling Haaland at Manchester City, calling the Norway forward "the best in the world".

The two were among the fresh faces at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, brought in to fill an attacking void left by the departure of Sergio Aguero a year prior.

Despite superb form during his final months at River Plate, Alvarez has found himself playing second fiddle to former Borussia Dortmund attacker Haaland, who has been almost unstoppable.

But the Argentina international believes it is an honour to call the Leeds-born forward his team-mate, and thinks the pair will learn from each other over the course of their partnership at City.

"First and foremost, it’s a privilege playing with him," Alvarez said ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Sevilla. "It is always great to play alongside the best in the world.

"I have played with him and without him and I think we can learn from each other both ways. I like he always wants to bring the best to the team.

"We’re very different players, but people have to adapt to different types of play and different styles when players line up. I like to occupy different positions on the pitch.

"In River I had other players who were big goalscorers so the same thing happened. I'm used to these types of situations.

"I trust in myself and in my own ability and know the other players trust me as well. It’s important that however way we can, we win."

Alvarez has managed just five starts across 16 appearances this term in all competitions, though three of those have come in the Champions League.

Haaland will sit out City's final group-stage game after he missed the Premier League win over Leicester, though he could return for their next top-flight game against Fulham on Saturday.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola is hopeful of Erling Haaland returning from injury at the weekend and feels optimistic Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker will be fit before the World Cup.

Haaland, who has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League games this season, missed the weekend win over Leicester City due to an ankle ligament problem.

The striker sustained the issue during City's 0-0 Champions League draw at his former club Borussia Dortmund last week, with Haaland withdrawn at half-time.

Guardiola confirmed on Saturday that Haaland would also miss Wednesday's visit of Sevilla, with City's confirmation as group winners meaning there is no need to take risks.

But he is seemingly positive about the prospect of Haaland returning in time to face Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

"He feels better. Comparing to Saturday, Sunday, Monday, every day he feels better, but he's still not 100 per cent," Guardiola said.

"We don't want to take a risk, there's no sense. Hopefully we have him and he feels better. Hopefully we have him against Fulham."

Fellow pre-season signing Phillips has been a longer-term absentee after hurting his shoulder in a friendly game against Barcelona in August.

The former Leeds United midfielder – who has played just one minute of Premier League football this season – ended up requiring surgery and has been out since mid-September.

He is now getting close to a return to action, though Guardiola was unsure if he will be risked for City before the World Cup.

"I don't know, he's doing really partial training sessions with the team, I would say not contact yet," Guardiola added. "But we'll see, we'll see his evolution and of course the needs.

"I know how important the World Cup is but I don't use a player I don't think is ready, in terms of the physicality or the rhythm or whatever, it depends on the results.

"My feeling now is all the games will be tight, like at the end of the season – many thoughts will be with the World Cup, many things involved, tired for the amount of games in a short period of time, so I don't think against Fulham, just for the quality of the opponent.

"Even Brentford – these aren't games that in the first half are going to be done. They will be tight, similar to the game against Leicester, so we evaluate the conditions of every player."

Guardiola suggested Walker – who had groin surgery early last month – remains a bit behind Phillips on the comeback trail, but despite that and being unwilling to commit to playing the latter in the next few weeks, the Catalan was positive about their chances of featuring in Qatar.

"It's likely [they can be ready], the way they recover," he said. "I don't know the intentions for Gareth [Southgate, England manager], but it's likely.

"I think [Southgate] spoke with them regularly, and with the doctors. They know exactly better than me, but what I hear in the dressing rooms is it's likely they can be ready. [They are desperate] you don't play a World Cup every week."

England begin their World Cup campaign on November 21 against Iran.

It's fair to say LaLiga's reputation took a battering last week as three of its four representatives were eliminated from the Champions League with a match still to be played in the group stage.

What made this scenario even uglier for Spanish football is that none of it was even that surprising.

Barcelona's elimination before they'd even played was the headline-grabber, but Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both had their fates sealed as well, albeit in rather different circumstances.

Sevilla won 3-0 at home to Copenhagen, though the score flattered them greatly, while Atletico drew 2-2 with Bayer Leverkusen, Yannick Carrasco seeing a last-gasp penalty saved before Saul Niguez headed the rebound against the crossbar and a follow-up effort was blocked on the line by Carrasco.

Last week's woes mean that for the first time since the Champions League expanded to 32 teams in 1999, there will only be one Spanish side in the knockout stages – Real Madrid.

But given LaLiga's decline, that might become the norm before long.

Dark days

Barcelona and Sevilla can at least point to having particularly difficult groups.

Most would still have expected Barca to at least get in the top two, but Bayern Munich and Inter were always likely to be problematic, and so it proved. As for Sevilla, realistically the best they could've hoped for was second behind Manchester City, but Borussia Dortmund's starting XI simply boasts far more quality than the Andalusians'.

And then there's Atletico. Alongside Club Brugge, Porto and Bayer Leverkusen, Diego Simeone's side would've been most people's favourites, and yet they head into matchday four with the possibility of finishing bottom.

They also go into Tuesday's trip to Porto winless in their past four Champions League games, their worst run since going nine without a win between December 2008 and December 2009.

That, of course, makes it their worst such run in the competition under Simeone, although Barca can beat that in the 'woes' stakes as they fail to get out of the group for the second year in a row.

Before last season, Barca got to at least the last 16 for 19 campaigns in succession, and if they lose away to Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, it'll be the first time they've lost four consecutive Champions League away games since October 1997.

The fall from grace

It wasn't so long ago that LaLiga was at worst considered the main 'rival' – if leagues can have rivals – of the Premier League. It had superstars, El Clasico, teams winning at various levels in Europe and there was a brand of football widely associated with the competition.

LaLiga still has its draws, and let's not forget we've seen Spanish teams win the Champions League and Europa League in the past 18 months, but the Premier League is now undoubtedly world football's biggest domestic league in virtually every way.

This has more or less become the case through money, something many LaLiga clubs do not have much of.

For example, last season in the Premier League, Sporting Intelligence estimated only Norwich City received less than £100million (€116.1m) across prize money and TV revenue. Even then, Norwich raked in £98.6m (€114.5m), and £79m (€91.7m) of that was the equal share every club gets.

By comparison, that's roughly the same as the €115m (£99.1m) Barcelona took in last season. Only Atletico Madrid (€154m, £132.7m) and Real Madrid (€158m, £136.1m) earned more in LaLiga, which highlights the financial might of the Premier League.

In football, few issues can be completely separated from money, but there's an argument Spanish football has suffered from a lack of evolution.

The Premier League's always been regarded as "physical", but the competition has so much power now that the clubs are able to sign most of the best technical players as well. Their resources and the improved coaching make it easier than before to turn technical players into greater physical specimens and physical players into greater technicians.

Similarly, the competition can boast a range of different playing styles and philosophies. Again, it would be unfair to say this is exclusive to the Premier League, but the point is there are signs of evolution everywhere in English football when it might once have been seen as somewhat insular.

Barcelona's ingrained principles make it pretty difficult for them to alter course; stylistically, Atletico have hardly changed at all through Simeone's tenure; and Sevilla work with the same buy-to-sell model as they have for 20 years, while on the pitch they're currently paying the price for failing to adapt to key defensive losses and signing too many ageing players over the past three years.

Of those three and Madrid, Los Blancos are probably the only ones you could say have evolved with the times, with Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti both valuing approaches regarded more pragmatic than perhaps the club is known for.

Nevertheless, there's a perception LaLiga football is slow, and this certainly doesn't help the idea the Spanish game has struggled to modernise. It considers itself a greater financial power than the German Bundesliga, and yet, in eight Champions League meetings between teams from those countries this term, Spain has one win to Germany's five.

Too little, too late?

Coaching remains a high standard in Spain, and that's highlighted by the technical qualities of the players, but with money at a premium compared to the biggest clubs and the Premier League, the best managers and players soon move on.

Evolution is difficult: you're just hoping your team lands on the perfect combination of coach and sporting director, but after one or two – if you're lucky – good seasons, one is lured away and the cycle starts again.

That may be a simplistic way of looking at it, granted, but it's difficult to shake the notion LaLiga is paying the price for its own lack of vision.

In 2015, a new TV money distribution agreement came into effect, with 50 per cent of all revenue being shared equally among all clubs. It was much needed but arguably too late.

LaLiga had the world's best players for over a decade, but much of the money from that era just went into the pockets of the big two rather than to improving the league's infrastructure or commercial clout.

However, the new TV money distribution deal was a big win for LaLiga as a whole, and the league's crackdown on financial irregularities also stands to help the competition build a sustainable future.

In that regard, the future could be quite bright for LaLiga. But will it ever be the same again? Due to the might of the Premier League, probably not.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is known to be desperate for Lionel Messi to finish his career at his long-time club.

The 35-year-old Argentine forward departed Camp Nou hastily in August last year due to Barcelona's financial issues.

Messi joined the Blaugrana in 2000 and had an association with the club for more than two decades, scoring 672 goals across 778 first-team appearances.


TOP STORY – LAPORTA PLOTTING JANUARY MOVE FOR MESSI

Laporta is planning a move for Barcelona club legend Lionel Messi in the January transfer window, according to Sport.

The report states that Barcelona want to take advantage of the Fair Play situation in January, rather than wait for the off-season where the 1/4 rule will make any move more difficult.

However, Laporta's plan is full of obstacles for the Blaugrana to overcome, not least LaLiga's financial restraints, along with convincing Messi and his current club Paris Saint-Germain to part midway through the season.

Messi has publicly said he has deferred any decisions on his club or international future until after the World Cup.


ROUND-UP

– Sporting CP head coach Ruben Amorim may have distanced the club from links with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in midweek but The Mirror reports that the Portuguese club will make a bid for him in January.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are open to selling Moises Caicedo amid interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United but have slapped a £85m price tag on the 20-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder, reports the Sunday Mirror.

– The Express claims that Arsenal are leading the race ahead of Manchester United to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans. The Belgian could move to the Gunners for free, as he is out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to pen a new deal.

– Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante - whose contract is also up at the end of June 2023 - is a major target for Barcelona who are looking at replacements for veteran Sergio Busquets, reports Relevo.

– Sport claims Barcelona are looking to offload Memphis Depay in January, with Juventus interested in signing the Dutch attacker.

Wolves are set to approach ex-Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui again, having failed to convince him previously to become their new manager, claims The Sun.

Benfica could dump Juventus out of the Champions League, while Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are among the other clubs who can seal a round-of-16 spot on Tuesday.

Juve must win at Benfica to have any chance from qualifying from Group H, while a victory will be enough to see the home side through. They can also advance with a point if Maccabi Haifa are unable to beat PSG.

The Ligue 1 champions will be through with a victory at the Parc des Princes or if they draw and Juve fail to win in Lisbon.

Chelsea travel to Salzburg as the Group E leaders and are guaranteed to progress if they win, while the Austrian side also remain in the hunt to qualify. The Premier League club can also go through if they draw and third-placed Milan defeat Dinamo Zagreb, who are bottom but only three points behind the leaders.

Borussia Dortmund will be sure to join Manchester City in getting out of Group G if they secure a home win over Pep Guardiola's side, who could win the pool with a game to spare. Real Madrid are in a similar situation to City, while RB Leipzig bid to join the holders in the knockout stage.

Ahead of another tense night of action, Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta numbers for the eight matches.

Benfica v Juventus

Juve have lost all three of their European matches away at Benfica, with their most recent loss a 2-1 Europa League defeat in 2014. 

The Turin giants only have one victory home or away in the seven previous meetings between the two famous clubs, Jurgen Kohler, Dino Baggio and Fabrizio Ravanelli on target in a 3-0 UEFA Cup clash in 1993.

Benfica could qualify for the knockout stage for a second consecutive season, a back-to-back feat they have only previously achieved in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons under Rui Vitoria. 

Juve could be eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when Antonio Conte was in charge.

Paris Saint-Germain v Maccabi Haifa

Maccabi are winless in three away European games (including qualifiers) in France, losing two and drawing in a Cup Winners' Cup tie at PSG back in 1998.

PSG have only lost one of their past 32 group stage games at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League (W25 D6), with their lone defeat during that run coming against Manchester United in October 2020 (1-2). They have averaged 2.7 goals per game in those fixtures, scoring 86.

Since Kylian Mbappe's Champions League debut in September 2016, only Robert Lewandowski has been directly involved in more non-penalty goals (55) than the France forward (54 – 34 goals, 20 assists). 

Omer Atzili has scored twice for Maccabi in the Champions League this season. The last Israeli player to net more in a single campaign in the competition was Eran Zahav, who scored three for Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2010-11.

Salzburg v Chelsea 

Chelsea have only played two away European matches in Austria, losing 1-0 at Weiner Sport-Club in November 1965 in the Fairs Cup and drawing 1-1 against Austria Vienna in November 1994 in the Cup Winners’ Cup. 

Salzburg are winless in all seven of their European matches against English teams (D2 L5), failing to beat Blackburn Rovers (D1 L1), Manchester City (L2), Liverpool (L2) and Chelsea (D1).

In-form Chelsea have won back-to-back Champions League games, beating Milan 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and 2-0 at the San Siro. The last time they won three games in a row in the competition by a margin of at least two goals was in October-November 2013.

Salzburg have scored exactly one goal in each of their past seven games in the Champions League – only one team have ever had a longer run of scoring a single goal in the competition, with Olympiacos doing so in 10 in a row in a run ending in November 2005. 

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City

No player has been directly involved in more goals than City's Erling Haaland (five goals) or Dortmund's Jude Bellingham (four goals, one assist) during the group stage this season.

Dortmund have won just one of their five Champions League matches against City (D1 L3), a 1-0 home victory in the 2012-13 group stage. 

No full-back has been involved in more sequences of play that have ended in shots (29) or goals (five) thans Joao Cancelo in the Champions League this season. The Portugal international has provided three assists in four games, equalling his season-best tally in a Champions League campaign (three in nine games last season). 

If Haaland scores on his return to face his former club, it will be the third time he has scored in five or more consecutive appearances in the Champions League. Only five players have achieved that feat on three occasions – Cristiano Ronaldo (five), Lionel Messi (three), Lewandowski (three), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (three) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (three). 

Other fixtures:

RB Leipzig v Real Madrid

13 – Madrid are unbeaten in their past 13 games against German sides in European competition (W9 D4), scoring at least two goals in every game during this run (31 in total). 

3 – Leipzig will be looking to win three consecutive Champions League games for just the second time – they won three in a row between February and August 2020, beating Tottenham twice and Atletico Madrid once. 

Dinamo Zagreb v Milan

5 – Dinamo have lost all five of their matches against Milan in European competition (including qualifiers). Against no side have they lost more games in their European history (also five v Ajax). 

100 – Milan's 100 per cent record against Dinamo – winning five out of five games against them – is their best against any side in Europe.

Sevilla v Copenhagen

29 – The average age of Sevilla's starting line-up in the Champions League this season is 29 years and 73 days, the second-oldest of any side in the competition this term after Rangers (29 years 96 days). 

13 – Copenhagen are winless in all 13 of their major European matches against Spanish teams (D5 L8), losing their last three on Spanish soil. 

Celtic v Shakhtar Donetsk 

– Celtic have lost seven of their past eight games in the Champions League (D1) and are looking for their first win in the competition since September 2017 (3-0 v Anderlecht).

0 – Shakhtar have never won a Champions League away match against a British team, losing on eight of their nine total trips. They did avoid defeat in the most recent one, however, drawing 1-1 against Manchester City in November 2019. 

Carlo Ancelotti's late substitutions paid off as Real Madrid secured a 3-1 LaLiga win over Sevilla on Saturday.

It had initially been a tale of two former Tottenham players as Luka Modric gave Madrid a quick lead on a wet night at the Santiago Bernabeu, before Erik Lamela equalised early in the second half.

Ancelotti's changes made all the difference though, as Lucas Vazquez restored the champions’ advantage just after coming on, with fellow substitute Marco Asensio involved in the build-up, before he also laid on an assist for Federico Valverde to seal victory.

The champions showed they could cope without Karim Benzema, who paraded his Ballon d’Or trophy on the pitch but was only a spectator due to muscular fatigue, as they moved six points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table.

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