Barcelona want to sign Alvaro Morata and it would appear the Juventus striker wishes to join Xavi's team.

After bringing in Ferran Torres, Xavi would reportedly like to add experienced Spain international Morata to his ranks at Camp Nou.

Morata has scored five Serie A goals for the Bianconeri this season.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS WANT MORATA REPLACEMENT BEFORE AUTHORISING BARCA SWITCH

According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona target Morata has informed Juve of his desire to leave the club in January.

Massimiliano Allegri met with the 29-year-old on Monday, with the upshot being that Juve will only grant Morata his move should they be able to find a replacement.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mauro Icardi is seen as a possible option for the Bianconeri, who are having a poor season in Serie A, sitting 12 points off the summit.

However, further complicating matters in Morata's potential switch to Barca is that he is on loan at Juve from Atletico Madrid, who would need to authorise any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland , who has been holidaying in Marbella, has told people close to him that he sees his next destination being Spain, with Real Madrid and Barcelona on high alert. That is according to Marca.

- Sky Sports believe that Romelu Lukaku will stay at Chelsea after holding talks with Thomas Tuchel following his comments in an interview with Sky Italia, which resulted in the striker missing Sunday's clash with Liverpool.

- The Daily Mail, citing Gianluca Di Marzio, claim that Barcelona are monitoring the situation of Lukaku's Chelsea team-mate Andreas Christensen, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Another Chelsea defender into the last six months of his deal is Antonio Rudiger, with Sky Sports reporting Real Madrid , Bayern Munich , PSG and Juve have all entered talks with the Germany international's representatives. 

- According to The Daily Mail, Newcastle United are aiming to sign Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun. The Iran forward has agreed personal terms with Ligue 1 club Lyon, but the French side may be unable to match Zenit's asking price for the 27-year-old.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has demanded more from his players after seeing his team lose top spot in Champions League Group H following a 3-3 draw against Zenit in Russia.

The Blues had come from 2-1 down at the break to lead 3-2 going into stoppage time, only for a fine Magomed Ozdoev strike to deny them victory, meaning that Juventus leapfrogged them into top spot after they beat Malmo 1-0 in Turin.

Two goals from Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku's first since returning from injury looked to be enough for Chelsea before Ozdoev equalised in the 94th minute in the Gazprom Arena.

Tuchel's side were forced to settle for second place in Group H, and the German was particularly annoyed to concede three goals in a game for the second time in a week, having seen Chelsea lose 3-2 at West Ham on Saturday, which also cost them top spot in the Premier League.

"If you are coach of Chelsea and you concede six goals in two matches, four times we've given the lead away, my ambition to talk about individual performances is not so high," he told reporters after the game. "We can't be happy today or against West Ham.

"It is like that now not to talk about individual performances. Nobody can be happy.

Chelsea started brightly, taking the lead in just the second minute through Werner, but were put under plenty of Zenit pressure for most of the first half, with the hosts scoring twice from nine shots they were allowed in the opening 45 minutes, before a back and forth second half.

"I think we had a very good first 15 minutes but we stopped doing the things we did," Tuchel added. "I had the feeling, and this is my opinion, that we forgot why we were the better team. And once this drops, once we start managing results, we get punished.

"It happened against West Ham and today. The reaction is good because it shows that it's not about what we can do. When we concede goals we can show a reaction but once we have the lead, we give it away again.

"We start playing balls back, not attacking with the same aggression and hunger than before. We got punished twice and it is for me the level of investment we have to do right no matter what is on the scoresheet."

When asked whether a deeper look was required having seen his team give up leads against both West Ham and Zenit, Tuchel said: "My analysis is very clear: our behaviour changes when we have a lead and this is something we've never done and should never do.

"The challenge is to close the door and minimise the possibility. We need a higher level of sprints, runs, concentration levels. The basics need to be pushed while we are in the lead. They can't drop when we are in the lead. It's not the big picture."

Chelsea were forced to settle for second place in Group H after an injury-time equaliser from Magomed Ozdoev clinched a 3-3 draw for Zenit in the Champions League.

Two goals from Timo Werner and another from Romelu Lukaku were not enough to secure the victory for the Blues, with Claudinho, Sardar Azmoun and Ozdoev all scoring for Zenit in Russia, and the Blues will now not be seeded in Monday's draw for the last 16 after finishing below Juventus, who beat Malmo in Turin.

The momentum of the game swung back and forth several times, with Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga kept particularly busy.

Blues boss Thomas Tuchel was missing a number of midfielders, including Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, and started Ross Barkley and Reece James in the middle, with Atletico Madrid loanee Saul Niguez being utilised at left wing back.

Chelsea took the lead in just the second minute when a Barkley corner was flicked on at the near post by Andreas Christensen, allowing Werner a simple tap-in.

Zenit should have been level on 26 minutes when Malcom was played in on goal, but the former Barcelona winger was denied by Kepa.

The equaliser did arrive 12 minutes later when Douglas Santos played a ball into the box that was glanced in by the head of Claudinho.

The hosts then took the lead before half-time when Barkley was dispossessed in midfield, with Malcom sliding Azmoun in behind a chaotic Chelsea defence. The Iran international took the ball round Kepa before slotting home, with the Blues goalkeeper forced to make another save from Azmoun just moments later.

Chelsea improved in the second half and were level just after the hour as Werner and Barkley played a one-two on the edge of the box, with the German giving Lukaku an easy tap in to make it 2-2.

Azmoun was denied another as Kepa made a fine save down to his left following a header from the striker, before Werner finished off a nice move five minutes from time, narrowly remaining onside.

However, the visitors failed to hold on as a tremendous strike from substitute Ozdoev deep into stoppage time levelled it up to ensure the spoils were shared.

Barcelona head to Bayern Munich on the final matchday desperately needing a positive result to secure their spot in the Champions League knockout stages.

Benfica, who face Dynamo Kiev in Group E's other clash, hold the head-to-head edge over Xavi's new side as Barca travel to Germany knowing they likely need a win to make it through to the next round.

Manchester United and Chelsea are already through their respective groups, while Juventus host Malmo with the Bianconeri's place in the last-16 sealed before the final matchday as well.

As Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo edge towards more records, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data heading into the games taking place on Wednesday.

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Blaugrana face thankless task to qualify

Bayern have won their last three Champions League meetings with Barca, which is already the longest run against the Blaugrana in European history by any side.

Julian Nagelsmann's team, who have averaged five goals per home game in this season's competition, have cruised through to the next round, while Barca could fall to their second-worst performance in terms of points if they fail to avoid defeat.

The visitors will have to deal with Lewandowski, who is the top scorer in the group stage with nine goals and the Poland forward could become the only player in history to net 10-plus times in the group stage on multiple occasions. Ronaldo (11 in 2015-16) and Lionel Messi (10 in 2016-17) are the only other players to have achieved this once.

Zenit v Chelsea: Blues edge towards more defensive milestones

Chelsea could become just the second English team, after Manchester United in 2003-04 and 2010-11 to win four consecutive games in the competition while keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.

Indeed, with a clean sheet the Blues and Thomas Tuchel could become the fastest team and manager combination to reach 10 shutouts in the competition, having already recorded nine in just 12 games since the German's appointment.

The defending champions have also had 14 different scorers, excluding own goals, the most of any team in the Champions League since Tuchel's Blues bow in Europe.

Manchester United v Young Boys: Ronaldo looks to repeat history

Ronaldo has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances since returning to United (six goals), while Bruno Fernandes boasts the most assists in the competition so far this term (five).

Portugal captain Ronaldo will be looking to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in a single campaign, having previously done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this in the competition’s history.

Worryingly for Young Boys, who never kept a clean sheet in 11 attempts in the competition, the Swiss side have lost their last six away games between 1986 and 2021, last tasting European Cup/Champions League victory in August 1960.

Juventus v Malmo: Bianconeri aim to match record home dominance

Juve have won each of their last five Champions League home matches, only registering more consecutive such victories in a run of six between December 2016 and 2017.

While the Bianconeri did suffer their heaviest defeat in the history of the competition against Chelsea, Juve have a perfect record against Malmo in their opening three games – only Barca have ever won their opening four games against a specific opponent in the competitions.

Meanwhile, Malmo have only managed one win in their last eight against Italian opponents in the European Cup/Champions League, with their lone triumph against Inter in September 1989.

 

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Villarreal:

21 - There have been 21 goals scored in Atalanta’s five games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (11 goals for, 10 against), at an average of 4.2 per game. Only one of these five games have seen a team manage to keep a clean sheet, with Real Madrid doing so in a 1-0 victory back in February.

1 - Villarreal have won just one of their eight visits to Italian opponents in major European competition (D3 L4), though it came in their most recent such outing, defeating Roma 1-0 in the Europa League in 2016-17.

Benfica v Dynamo Kiev:

4 - Since losing their first ever meeting with Dynamo Kiev in European competition (0-1 in November 1991), Benfica are unbeaten in four games against the Ukrainian side (W3 D1), with all four coming in the European Cup/Champions League.

60 – Dynamo Kiev have lost 60 per cent of their away matches in the competition, only Olympiakos (75) and Galatasaray (71) have lost a larger percentage out of teams to have played at least 50 such games.

Red Bull Salzburg v Sevilla:

5 – Red Bull Salzburg are winless in their last five fixtures against Spanish opposition in the Champions League and have only won one of their last 11 meetings against such sides.

3 – Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic has managed three goal involvements in his side's five goals in the competition, despite only starting two games – only for Barca in 2015-16 did he record more (four).

Wolfsburg v Lille:

5 - Wolfsburg have gone unbeaten in their last five games against French opponents in European competition (W2 D3) after previously going eight games without recording a victory against French teams across all competitions (D3 L5).

8 – Lille have claimed eight points from their opening five games and could equal, or improve on, their best ever return in a group stage in the competition - nine points in 2006-07, where they qualified with a second-place finish.

Thomas Tuchel vowed to never give up on Saul Niguez after Chelsea's midfield selection issues deepened with the loss of Mateo Kovacic to coronavirus.

Kovacic returned to training on Monday following a six-week injury lay-off and was expected to be part of Chelsea's squad to face Zenit on Wednesday.

However, Kovacic returned a positive COVID-19 on Tuesday and will miss the Champions League trip to Russia, while he is also set to sit out the league games with Leeds United and Everton.

Chelsea are without fellow midfielders N'Golo Kante and Jorginho, plus defenders Ben Chilwell and Trevoh Chalobah, and Tuchel is cautious about overworking his players.

"We had a bit of an acute overload due to injuries and the schedule," he said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Due to injuries in some positions, like central midfield, we have struggled. The game tomorrow is not the problem, it's more the game that comes up on Saturday [against Leeds].

"We had an early game against West Ham and then a late game against Zenit. We had a day off and good training session today. 

"The problem is the next match because we will lose time to sleep and arrive back very early on Thursday. Leeds are an intense team who have prepared to face this match."

Asked about Kovacic's positive coronavirus test, Tuchel said: "I was aware this can happen and I'm not happy, but this is the reality right now. We have to be ready to adapt.

"There is a huge chance that we make changes against Zenit."

Kovacic had previously been recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in training, with the Croatia international's most recent appearance coming on October 26.

Kante has missed Chelsea's previous three games with an ailment sustained in the 4-0 win over Juventus, meanwhile, and Tuchel has no intention of rushing the France international back.

"I'm careful with bringing him back. I have quite an open relationship with him," Tuchel said. "He's a careful person and takes care of his body. 

"I agree he's a superman who makes the difference and everyone in the world wants him on their team. It's not related to age or overload – it was an accident in the match."

The absence of Kovacic, Kante and Jorginho may see Saul come into the side for what would be just his eighth appearance in all competitions since joining on loan in September.

Saul has struggled to impose himself so far, with his passing accuracy of 77.98 per cent the lowest of any Chelsea central midfielder, but Tuchel is hoping to see more from the Atletico Madrid loanee.

"He's one of the guys that needs minutes. He is always in our thoughts and we think about every training session and form," he said. 

"I think he struggled a bit with the intensity and he's a bit unlucky he played against Aston Villa, Southampton and Watford, all three were high-intensity games, above average.

"We try to encourage him because he grows into Chelsea more and more. We won't stop encouraging him and trying to bring out the best. It's possible he will improve tomorrow."

Chelsea have won only three of their past six games in all competitions, most recently losing 3-2 to West Ham on Saturday as they lost control of the Premier League title race.

The Blues are already assured of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League ahead of their clash with Zenit, but they are battling with Juve for top spot.

However, Tuchel is not panicking as his side aim to become the second English team after Manchester United (in both 2003-04 and 2010-11) to win four straight games in the competition without conceding.

"We dropped some points against Man United, found a solution to win at Watford, and we lost with a freak shot against West Ham," Tuchel said.

"We had this before. We lost games and we don't like it. But we're not worried. We have a certain anger and ambition when you don't win. 

"Everyone hates to lose but it happens. But when we analysed the game, the data, watched the game back, I don't think we need to ask big questions."

The only previous meeting between Zenit and Chelsea came in September, the Blues recording a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge through Romelu Lukaku's second-half winner.

Kylian Mbappe has had an extended flirtation with Real Madrid.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of this season.

Mbappe has stalled on signing a new deal with PSG amid speculation of a move.

TOP STORY – REAL CONVINCED OF MBAPPE DEAL

Real Madrid are convinced they will win the race for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe's signature, according to AS.

Los Blancos are certain the 22-year-old France international will join the club on a free transfer at the end of this season.

Mbappe has long flirted with Madrid and has decided he will not renew with PSG. The LaLiga giants are already planning Mbappe's arrival at the sporting and commercial level.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have joined the race to sign Fiorentina's hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic, claims La Repubblica.

- Barcelona have held discussions with Manchester City about the potential to sign Spanish forward Ferran Torres in January, according to ESPN.

- Fichajes reports that Liverpool are interested in signing Lille's Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches. Lille have valued him at £34m.

- Arsenal are homing in on Lille's Canada international forward Jonathan David, according to the London Evening Standard. David is currently Ligue 1's leading scorer.

- Calciomercato claims Christian Eriksen is close to terminating his deal with Inter, having been unable to play since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

- Bayern Munich midfielder Marc Roca is in the sights of Roma who have considered a move for the Spaniard, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Chelsea have opened talks with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy over a new deal, claims Football Insider.

- Everton have joined the race to sign Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun, according to 90min.

Manchester United start life without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a huge Champions League showdown at Villarreal, while Chelsea and Juventus face a blockbuster battle.

A 4-1 Premier League hammering at Watford was the final straw for the United board as Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Michael Carrick has stepped in to take charge on an interim basis and must rally the troops for the clash between the top two in Group F at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Juventus are already assured of a place in the round of 16 and Chelsea will join them in qualifying from Group H if they avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Barcelona take on Benfica in their first Champions League match with Xavi as boss knowing a win will see them through. 

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data for the fixtures on Tuesday.

 

Villarreal v Manchester United: Red Devils in troubled waters ahead of Yellow Submarine showdown

Villarreal have failed to beat United in five Champions League matches, drawing four and losing one.

The LaLiga side did get the better of the Red Devils in the Europa League final last season on penalties, though, and may never have a better opportunity to consign them to a defeat in Europe's premier club competition.

Carrick takes charge for the first time following Solskjaer's departure and will need United to tighten up at the back as they look to end a four-match winless away run in the Champions League. The wounded Premier League side have not kept a clean sheet in the competition this season.

Chelsea v Juventus: Bianconeri plotting another Italian job on holders

Juventus could win the group if they halt Chelsea's nine-match unbeaten run, as they lead the holders by three points.

The Premier League leaders have not lost since they went down 1-0 to Juve in September and they are overdue a victory against Italian opponents.

Chelsea have not come out on top in their past four meetings against Italian teams and Juve could become the first side to record three consecutive wins over the London club in the Champions League.

 

Barcelona v Benfica: Pressure on for Xavi's Champions League bow 

Xavi celebrated a derby victory over Espanyol in his first game as Barcelona boss on Saturday and another win over Benfica will secure qualification from Group E.

Third-placed Benfica beat Barca 3-0 in September and will attempt to become only the third side to do the double over the Catalan club in the group stage, Dynamo Kiev in 1997-98 and Bayern Munich in 1998-99 being the others to achieve that feat.

Barca are two points ahead of Benfica following back-to-back 1-0 wins over Dynamo and are looking to keep clean sheets for three consecutive Champions League games for the first time since May 2019.

 

Sevilla v Wolfsburg: Los Nervionenses nearing last chance saloon

Sevilla dropped points when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday, and they can ill afford to slip up when they face Wolfsburg.

Bottom of Group G and without a win from four matches, they have not been victorious in their past seven meetings with German sides, losing four and drawing three.

Third-placed Wolfsburg have not been a Spanish team away from home in Europe, losing to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid either side of a draw with Villarreal.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kiev v Bayern Munich

17 – Bayern have scored 17 goals in their four Champions League matches this season, the joint most by any team after four matches in a season alongside Paris Saint Germain's tally in 2017-18. Already through to the round of 16, the Group E leaders have also had the most shots (84) and shots on target (34) of any side this campaign. 

9 – Dynamo have failed to score in any Champions League matches this season, attempting just nine shots on target – three fewer than Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has managed in 2021-22 (12).

Lille v Salzburg

43 – Following their 2-1 victory away at Sevilla, Lille will be aiming to record back-to-back wins in the Champions League for the very first time. This will be their 43rd game in the competition.

2 –  Salzburg have only won two of their previous 12 away games in major European competition (excluding qualifiers), drawing twice and losing eight times. These 12 games have seen a total of 46 goals scored (19 for, 27 against), at an average of 3.8 per game.

Malmo v Zenit

– Zenit have only won one of their past 11 games in the Champions League (D1 L9). That solitary victory and clean sheet in this run of games came in their last meeting with Malmo (4-0 in September). 

8 – If Malmo fail to score in this game, they will equal the record for most consecutive games without finding the back of the net in the European Cup/Champions League (currently on 7). The previous instances of a team going eight games in a row without scoring are Dinamo Zagreb (2016), Deportivo La Coruna (2004) and Avenir Beggen (1986).

Young Boys v Atalanta

3 – Since winning three consecutive away Champions League games without conceding a goal between October and December 2020, Atalanta have failed to win each of their past three away games in the competition (D1 L2), conceding eight goals in the process.

4 – Young Boys won their opening group game against United but have since suffered three consecutive defeats in the competition. Bottom of Group F, If they lose this game, they will have suffered four defeats in a row in major European tournaments for the first time.

Massimiliano Allegri hailed Juventus' response after they beat Zenit 4-2 to qualify for the Champions League round of 16 following defeats to Sassuolo and Hellas Verona.

Paulo Dybala opened the scoring at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday and restored Juve's lead with a retaken second-half penalty after Leonardo Bonucci's own goal had brought Zenit level.

Federico Chiesa added a third for the Bianconeri – becoming the first Juve player since David Trezeguet in 2001 to score in four consecutive home games in the competition – and Alvaro Morata netted as Allegri's men cruised to victory.

Sardar Azmoun scored a late second for Zenit, but that could not stop Juve from sealing their fourth win from their opening four games for just the third time in the Champions League after doing so in 1995-96 and 2004-05.

After their ninth win in 10 home games in the competition, the Group H leaders secured qualification and Allegri saluted his side's desire following back-to-back Serie A losses.

"It's a question of wanting things, nothing else," Allegri told Mediaset post-match.

"The team has technique, everyone is growing. In the meantime, we have reached the first goal of the season."

Allegri sensed Juve were ready to put two poor results behind them.

He added: "We went to a retreat yesterday morning, we met and we had a good workout. Tomorrow morning as a reward I gave a day off, on Thursday we meet again for training."

Dybala moved past Bianconeri legend Michel Platini with a brace and imitated the Frenchman's famous celebration as he posed on the floor after his first goal.

Asked after the game about his celebration, Dybala – who has six goals and four assists in ten appearances this campaign - spoke of his adoration for Platini.

"Platini is an idol for me and for football, I hope he will watch it," Dybala said.

"I wanted to celebrate like this when I equalled his goal tally against Inter, but it was not the case in that game.

"We played as a great team and we achieved the result. We’ve reached the first target, now we want to go to London [to play Chelsea] and get the first place [in Group H]."

Paulo Dybala scored twice as Juventus confirmed their place in the Champions League round of 16 with a 4-2 victory over Zenit.

The Bianconeri had suffered consecutive domestic defeats but Dybala's first-half finish edged them ahead before Leonardo Bonucci's own goal.

Dybala restored the hosts' lead in contentious fashion after the break. The Argentina international dragged a first penalty wide but converted after a retake was ordered, with goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk adjudged to be off his line.

Federico Chiesa then scored for a fourth consecutive home game in the competition and Alvaro Morata got in on the act as Massimiliano Allegri's men maintained their perfect record in Group H and claimed their spot in the knockout stages.

Sardar Azmoun's late strike was too little, too late for third-placed Zenit at Allianz Stadium.

Dybala drilled against the post from outside the area in the opening stages but the forward was on target after 11 minutes, capitalising on a loose clearance to steer a left-footed strike into the top-right corner.

The lively Dybala then set up a chance for Morata, who blasted over, and that miss proved costly when Bonucci looped a header into his own net following Vyacheslav Karavaev's cross.

Juve had a goal from Morata ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time and the lively Dybala whipped narrowly wide after the interval, but Juve did not have to wait much longer to regain the lead.

Claudinho's foul on Chiesa gave them a penalty, which Dybala skewed wide before rolling into the bottom-right corner with a retake after Kristyuk had moved too early.

Wojciech Szczesny pushed away from Malcom as Zenit attempted to respond, while Weston McKennie fired against the crossbar at the other end.

Chiesa added a third when he latched onto Federico Bernardeschi's throughball and drilled into the right-hand corner before Morata sealed the victory with a low finish following Dybala's pass.

Azmoun poked home a late second for Zenit, but that could not stop Allegri's side from coasting through.

Juventus relied too heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo over the past three seasons, Leonardo Bonucci suggested after Wednesday's Champions League win over Zenit.

Ronaldo joined Juve in 2018 and helped the Bianconeri win Serie A twice, though they fell short of winning a 10th straight Scudetto last season.

The 36-year-old left Juve in August, heading back to Manchester United in a shock transfer. He hit the ground running at Old Trafford and, after going two games without a goal, scored the winner in the Red Devils' 3-2 comeback victory over Juve's fellow Serie A side Atalanta midweek.

While Ronaldo spearheaded United's attack in Manchester, Juve moved onto nine points in Champions League Group H as Dejan Kulusevski's 86th-minute header sealed a 1-0 win over Zenit.

It is the first time Juve have won all three of their opening Champions League group-stage matches since Massimiliano Allegri's last season in charge, back in 2018-19.

Though they have made an impressive start in Europe, Juve have laboured in the league and sit seventh heading into Sunday's derby d'Italia clash with Inter, though a win would take them onto level points with the defending champions.

Ronaldo scored 36 goals in all competitions last season, with only four players across Europe's top-five leagues managing more, but Bonucci believes Juve lost a will to "suffer and sacrifice".

"It's absolutely true, it is what we all said," Bonucci told Sky Sport Italia after the win in St Petersburg. "In the recent past, we had lost that characteristic of Juve.

"We were all playing with a great champion and wanted him to do well, so perhaps we lost that desire to all suffer and sacrifice ourselves together, because we assumed he would sort it out.

"The coach has done really well to get that spirit and humility back and we all work together now to get the result."

While Juve may have their spirit back, they did lack cutting edge for a significant portion of Wednesday's match.

Weston McKennie had passed up two previous opportunities, including what was the best chance of the game, as per Opta's expected goals (xG) value, when he saw a close-range effort saved by Stanislav Kritsyuk in the 51st minute.

Kulusevski eventually broke the deadlock when he glanced Mattia De Sciglio's cross in off the post to become Juve's second-youngest Champions League goalscorer, after the great Alessandro Del Piero.

"I will never forget this goal for as long as I live," Kulusevski told Juventus TV. "It was my debut Champions League goal, the first I have scored this season and it was even a header!"

Juve's cause in attack might have been helped by Paulo Dybala, but the Argentine forward, whose next Champions League appearance will be his 50th in the competition, was unavailable due to an injury he sustained last month.

Before the match, vice-president Pavel Nedved revealed talks over a new deal are almost resolved.

Nedved told Sky Sport Italia: "We all hope he can be on the pitch and sign the new contract. I believe we are very close to the signature, we're very happy. Paulo is very important for this team."

Juventus made it three wins from their opening three Champions League matches as Dejan Kulusevski's late header downed Zenit 1-0.

A match of few clear-cut opportunities appeared to be petering out to a draw, with Weston McKennie having previously squandered Juve's best chances.

Massimiliano Allegri's team were far from their best in St Petersburg, though Zenit offered little threat going the other way.

The decisive moment came four minutes from time, Kulusevski glancing Mattia De Sciglio's cross in off the post to bring up his maiden Champions League goal and keep Juve three points clear at the top of Group H.

Massimiliano Allegri insisted Juventus should not get carried away with their upturn in form as they have not yet achieved any success this season.

The Bianconeri struggled at the start of Allegri's second tenure, losing consecutive league matches after drawing their Serie A opener against Udinese.

However, after defeating Roma 1-0 on Sunday, Juve have now won four top-flight games in a row and six consecutive fixtures across all competitions as they prepare to face Zenit in Wednesday's Champions League clash.

But despite the positive change in results, Allegri dismissed suggestions that his side's upturn in form could be seen as a breakthrough – warning that Juve have not achieved anything yet.

"It is not the turning point of the season, we needed results," Allegri responded to reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"The performances have improved as an approach; we have also improved in the final third where we needed a bit of clarity.

"At the beginning, we made good performances, but the results went against us with our mistakes.

"It takes calm; we don't have to be enthusiastic now because we have not done anything."

Juve have never lost against Russian opposition in Europe across eight previous encounters, while they are also looking to win their opening three matches of a Champions League campaign for the first time since 2018-19 – again under Allegri.

The Bianconeri have managed to keep four clean sheets in their last four games in the competition as well, and Allegri pinpointed their willingness to defend as a decisive factor for the improvement in results.

"I feel like smiling when they tell me 'your Juve'," the head coach said of his team's identity.

"I have good players, it's normal that at the beginning I didn't know everyone well. Right now, the team also likes to defend and this is a good thing.

"We need to improve – both the offensive and the defensive parts – then, the results increase self-esteem and you work with more serenity."

Newcastle United look set to enter the transfer market in January following their change of ownership.

The Magpies are 19th in the Premier League, with no wins and three draws from seven games this term.

The Saudi-led ownership takeover at St James' Park was officially completed on Thursday.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENTER CHASE FOR ICARDI

Following their big-money buyout, Newcastle have entered the race to sign Argentine forward Mauro Icardi from Paris Saint-Germain, reports Calciomercato.

Tottenham and Juventus are reportedly already interested in the 28-year-old former Inter player, who joined PSG permanently in 2020 on a four-year deal after a loan spell.

The Telegraph claims Newcastle could spend up to £190m in January without breaking Financial Fair Play rules.

ROUND-UP

- Spanish newspaper Sport claims former Liverpool winger Philippe Coutinho could join Newcastle as Barcelona seek to offload the Brazilian in January.

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is Real Madrid's number one transfer target next year, claims Spanish newspaper ABC. Rudiger's contract is due to expire at the end of this season.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are open to a swap deal with Everton which would see Aaron Ramsey and Brazilian midfielder Allan exchange places.

Liverpool are ahead of Arsenal and Everton in the race to sign Olympiacos' Senegalese centre-back Pape Abou Cisse according to the Daily Mail.

Arsenal are considering a move for Zenit's Iranian forward Sardar Azmoun as they seek a replacement for Alexandre Lacazette, according to Onze Mondial.

- Cristiano Ronaldo wants former Juventus team-mate Federico Chiesa to join him at Manchester United, claims Calciomercato.

- The Sun reports that ex-Chelsea manager Antonio Conte would decline the chance to replace Steve Bruce as Newcastle boss.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel lauded "world class" Romelu Lukaku and praised the star's off-field impact after leading the Champions League holders past Zenit 1-0.

Lukaku was the difference on Tuesday, scoring his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, who opened their title defence with a hard-fought victory at Stamford Bridge.

After scoring a brace against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, club-record signing Lukaku backed that up with a towering 69th-minute header against the Russian champions in Group H.

Lukaku has scored four goals since arriving from Serie A champions Inter and Tuchel hailed the in-form Belgium international.

"The performance of Romelu was not easy. We didn't create many chances for him, we did not create many deliveries. But he's the type of guy who doesn't lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is here and makes him a world-class striker," Tuchel said during his post-match news conference.

"You don't find many strikers of that quality and the guys who are there to score regularly for their teams are so, so important. There are not many goals in football and goals change the momentum of the match. It gives the whole team a lot of belief that maybe one half chance, one chance is enough for him to score.

"It's not the only talent he brings, he brings belief, he himself has the belief and he takes the pressure off the shoulders of other guys around him. He has the personality not to be impatient or lose confidence. He does what he does at a very high level and we are very happy he’s with us. There are a lot of reasons we are maybe not at our top level at the moment. But right now with pre-season, new guys coming in, international breaks, and so on, I am happy with how we play and find us very competitive. We know how to handle difficulties during matches and today I liked what I have seen on the sideline because I felt the energy and the effort.

" They are a strong opponent and we have accepted and respect that. It was a tough [Aston] Villa team at the weekend and a tough Zenit team today. They changed their line-ups, their mentality when they arrived when they played us, we need to adapt and find solutions. This is what we do at the moment."

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (22), Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (20) and Manchester United attacker Bruno Fernandes (17) have scored more goals than Lukaku (14) in major European competition since the start of 2019-20.

Lukaku's 14 Champions League goals have come in his last 14 appearances.

Tuchel added: "He was the type of guy we were missing in our team, the profile, but not only for the talent but also for his personality. The guy is a super humble guy, loves football, loves to train, is such a good communicator in the dressing room, and is open to everybody. That creates a certain atmosphere and energy around him within the team that we are proud of and what we want to have because we believe in it.

"The atmosphere and the spirit last year took us very far and it's important we have it again. We have it with Romelu because he loves Chelsea, he knows Chelsea, he knows what this club is all about. As I said, he is not shy to speak out loud that he’s here and to help with his goals. If we miss him for one game, or hopefully not more games, we will try to find different solutions, maybe the style will be different in how we create chances.

"But now we have him and we are very pleased that he can show these things because he gives us belief and everybody around him a lot of confidence. It is the best start for strikers to score, to be decisive. There is no talk, no video of any coach in the world that can have the same impact."

"It feels really good," Lukaku told BT Sport. "I'm really happy with the win. We kept the game under control. We have to keep growing. I think today was a better performance than on the weekend. I'm really happy with the win and really happy with the goal."

Romelu Lukaku's winner showed why Chelsea signed him, according to Thomas Tuchel after his side defeated Zenit 1-0 in their Champions League opener.

Lukaku's first European goal for the Blues proved the difference as they made it 12 group-stage games without defeat on Tuesday.

The Belgium forward now has four goals in three games against Russian opponents and only Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland and Bruno Fernandes have scored more than Lukaku's 14 European goals since the start of 2019-20 when he signed for Inter.

Tuchel splashed a club-record fee on the former Manchester United striker but he insisted that performances like this outing justify the transfer.

"It was an excellent header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well-timed cross by [Cesar] Azpilicueta," Tuchel told BT Sport post-match.

"He was brave enough to step up and we had bodies in the box. That's why he [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he's decisive for us."

In the history of the competition, only on two out of 28 occasions have the reigning champions lost the opener and no title defender has ever been beaten at home in their first group-stage tie.

Only Manchester City (11) have won more Champions League matches than Chelsea (10) since the start of last season and Tuchel was happy with his side's start to Group H.

"We had to be at our top level," the head coach continued. "I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was not easy. It's tough to perform consistently at that level.

"We expected a tough game because it's the highest competition in Europe and it's the Russian champions. It took us a while to make them tired but I liked what I saw.

"Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished but we are in a good place to improve.

"The first step is done. But there are five more matches to go [in the group stage]."

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