A 23-member Reggae Girlz squad assemble in the United States tomorrow without inspirational captain Khadijah Shaw for two upcoming international friendly games as part of the 2021 Women's National Team Summer Series hosted by the US Soccer.

The local delegation from Jamaica will depart on Thursday, June 3 out of Montego Bay at 2:20 pm.

The squad will have a camp in Houston from June 4-7 after which it will relocate to the host hotel.

Jamaica will play number 38 ranked team Nigeria on June 10 and World champions the USA on June 13. Both games will be played at the BBVA stadium in Houston, Texas. The games will be the first for the Jamaican team since they participated in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in February 2020 and they will do so without their prolific striker Shaw.

Jamaica's number-nine, the leading scorer for Bordeaux in the Division 1 Féminine, the highest division of women's football in France, has reportedly asked for time to recover from what was an intense season in which the team fought successfully for a Champions League spot.

Shaw was the joint-leading scorer, alongside PSG’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto, with 21 goals for Bordeaux, which finished third in the division.

Meanwhile, five new players have been named to the squad including Rebecca Spencer of Tottenham Hotspur, Drew Spence of Chelsea, and Shania Hayles of Aston Villa as well as Mikayla Dayes of the University of Maryland and Satara of FC Austin Elite.

They will join 14 veterans who represented Jamaica at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

According to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), once the teams arrive in Houston both for training camp as well as the tournament, they will operate under a highly controlled environment that will include testing on arrival for the camp and testing at the host hotel.

The staging of the official training and matches will fall under the comprehensive US Soccer Return to Play Protocols and Guidelines and in accordance with CONCACAF Return to Play Protocols. The JFF has also developed protocols for the training camp in keeping with these guidelines.

The full squad comprises Sydney Schnieder (Washington Spirit FC USA), Rebecca Spencer (Tottenham Hotspurs FC), Chantelle Swaby (Glasgow Rangers) Konya Plummer (Orlando Pride), Allyson Swaby (AS Roma), Deneisha Blackwood (Houston Dash), Havana Solaun (Carolina Courage), Chinyelu Asher (Washington Spirit FC), Olufolasade Adamamouken (University of Southern California), Drew Spence (Chelsea FC), Peyton McNamara (Ohio State University), Sashana Campbell (Petah Tikva), Tiernny Wiltshire (Maccabi Emek Hefer), Jody Brown (Florida State University), Shania Hayles (Aston Villa WFC), Gabrielle Gayle (South Alabama), Kayla McCoy (Training with Glasgow Rangers), Vyan Sampson (Charlton FC), Cheyna Matthews (Racing Louisville), Yazmeen Jamieson (Unattached) Tiffany Cameron (Ferencvaros), Mikayla Dayes (University Of Maryland), and Satara Murray (FC Austin Elite).

The pre-tournament camp which is mainly financed by the JFF has received support from the Bob Marley Foundation, the Reggae Girlz Foundation, Cool Runnings based in Houston, Arm Wave and Wisynco with its Wata brand.

 

Brisbane Roar confirmed their place in the A-League Finals thanks to a 2-1 win over Perth Glory, whose own top-six hopes were ended on Wednesday.

Glory required a win to remain in contention for a spot in the Finals, but found themselves trailing early in the second half.

Jonathan AspropotamItis could not get out of the way of a cross and diverted it into his own net as Brisbane edged closer to the Finals.

Riku Danzaki ultimately got the goal that sealed their qualification in brilliant fashion.

He raced on to Alex Parsons' pass in behind the defence on the break and, although Daryl Lachman caught up, Danzaki produced a clever turn to leave him in his tracks before slotting into the bottom-left corner with 17 minutes to go.

Perth pulled one back through Brandon Wilson, who volleyed in from close range in the 85th minute, but it was too little, too late.

Mark van Bommel has been appointed as the new Wolfsburg head coach on a two-year contract.

 

Wolfsburg finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, Glasner's second at the club, to reach the Champions League group stage for the third time in their history, and first occasion since 2015-16.

Van Bommel's only previous managerial job came when he spent 18 months with PSV between 2018 and 2019.

He has also worked in support of Bert van Marwijk, his father-in-law, holding assistant roles with Netherlands, Australia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates at international level.

Van Bommel spent five years of his playing career in the Bundesliga with Bayern, with whom he won two top-flight titles.

Van Bommel told his new club's website: "I'm really looking forward to working for Wolfsburg and I'm excited about my new environment, the people and the task that awaits me.

"The ideas of those responsible are identical to my view and I can identify very well with the path the club has taken.

"Being able to work as a coach in the Bundesliga, in which I have played for so long, is a great honour and challenge for me, which I will tackle together with everyone involved with a lot of joy and great commitment."

Barcelona have exercised their option to bring Emerson back to the club following two seasons at Real Betis.

Emerson was party to a three-way deal in January 2019, which saw Betis and Barca each pay half of the €12million fee that was sent to Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro.

At the time it was reported that right-back Emerson would stay with Betis for two-and-a-half years with the view to aiding his adaptation to Spanish football.

It was also claimed upon the completion of the complicated deal that Barca would have to reimburse Betis their initial outlay of €6m plus an additional amount in relation to his value at the time, while the Verdiblancos will be owed a percentage of any future sale.

Barca are said to be paying Betis €9m for the right to finally bring Emerson to Camp Nou, though the deal seemingly represents something of a coup given his performances in LaLiga.

Emerson – who is in the Brazil squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers ahead of the Copa America – has proved to be both a dependable defender and a capable attacking outlet.

His 10 assists over the past two seasons is bettered by only one LaLiga defender (Jesus Navas, 13), while his 62 key passes is the fifth-highest among full-backs.

He has played 170 open-play crosses in that time, a haul bettered by only 10 other right-backs and left-backs, highlighting how he can be expected to offer significant support in attack on the flank.

His forward-thinking nature has not impacted negatively only his defensive output.

Emerson's 853 duels over the past two years is nearly 200 more than any other defender, while his 492 duel wins is also a LaLiga high for players in the backline.

It is a similar story for tackle attempts (165) and tackles won (98), while he also has an impressive tally of 92 interceptions.

This paints a picture of an all-action defender who will work tirelessly up and down the right flank, potentially making him effective competition for Sergino Dest.

Emerson is Barca's third new signing following the acquisitions of Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia from Manchester City.

Georginio Wijnaldum is expected to join the influx, with his Liverpool contract set to expire.

Alvaro Morata says he has no idea who he will be playing for next season amid reports the Spain striker is set to extend his stay at Juventus.

Morata returned to Juve on loan from Atletico Madrid for the 2020-21 season last September.

The Serie A giants have the option of bringing the 28-year-old back to Turin for the 2021-22 campaign on loan or signing him permanently for a fee of €45million - which would be paid in instalments.

It has been reported that Morata will head back to the Bianconeri on loan at the start of a new era under Massimiliano Allegri, who replaced Andrea Pirlo last week.

Yet that is news to former Real Madrid and Chelsea striker Morata as he prepares to represent Spain at Euro 2020.

Asked about his future, he told Radio MARCA: "I don't know. I'm here. Juanma [Morata's agent] is the one who takes care of everything.

"I don't have any news and tomorrow he will call me and say: 'here you have to play'. We have a house in Madrid and there we are very well.

"In the last six or seven years, it is the summer that I am calmer. When they decide, the calmer I will be."

Morata scored 20 goals in 44 games in all competitions for a Juve said that finished fourth in Serie A.

With just nine days to go until the start of Euro 2020, preparations are hotting up.

There are systems to train, friendlies to navigate and injuries to heal – hopefully – for the 24 teams involved before the delayed competition begins on June 11.

That year-long wait for the finals has helped some, with certain players able to recover form and fitness after looking likely to miss out entirely had the tournament gone ahead last year.

However, there are others for whom the rescheduling has come as a bit of a blow.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform examines some of the major contenders for the trophy and why the postponement could prove a particular problem...

 

Belgium

Roberto Martinez has been left with a major headache around three of his biggest names.

Eden Hazard may have hoped the extra year would help him recover peak form with Real Madrid but, if anything, matters have become worse.

He was limited to just 21 Madrid appearances in 2020-21, scoring four goals and providing two assists from a mere nine chances created, as fitness problems and fan frustrations persisted.

There are also worries now around Kevin De Bruyne, whose magnificent season for Manchester City ended with broken facial bones in a losing Champions League final, while Axel Witsel has not played since January 9 due to an Achilles injury.

 

Croatia

Ivan Rakitic caused a shock last September when he announced his retirement from international football, having been all set to play at the Euros had they gone ahead as planned.

While the 2018 World Cup finalists still have Luka Modric at the heart of their midfield, the Real Madrid man will be 36 this year and has come off a hectic season in which he played 48 games.

Another veteran, Ivan Perisic, last played a full match for Inter in February and Mateo Kovacic missed seven of Chelsea's final nine games of the season through injury.

England

England have some concern around Raheem Sterling, who has scored one league goal since February and fell out of favour at Manchester City. There are also problems with Marcus Rashford, who has been managing an ankle issue for several weeks and only has four league goals to his name since the turn of the year.

In midfield, Jordan Henderson has not played since undergoing groin surgery in February, Jack Grealish missed three months of action for Aston Villa and Harry Maguire's ankle ligament damage has left him battling to be fit enough for the start of the group stage.

And what of Trent Alexander-Arnold? The Liverpool right-back, sensational in 2019-20, was left out of the World Cup qualifiers in March after an inconsistent season and is hardly guaranteed a starting spot under Gareth Southgate.

 

Netherlands

The Netherlands will have to make do without Virgil van Dijk. The Liverpool star was integral to the Oranje's run to the inaugural Nations League Finals and seemed destined to head into the tournament as Europe's best centre-back. As it is, he will watch from afar, having failed to recover from the knee injury he sustained in October.

Frank de Boer became the first Netherlands head coach to fail to win any of his first four fixtures, and though he managed to correct that dismal form, his record since leaving Ajax does not exactly bode well heading into a major tournament.

There is also the issue of Donny van de Beek, who has started just four Premier League games for Manchester United and finished his first season with the Red Devils as an unused substitute as they lost on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.

Spain

Ansu Fati is the big new hope for Barcelona and Spain, but injury ended the winger's season prematurely and he has not recovered in time to make Luis Enrique's 24-man squad – a selection that does not feature Sergio Ramos or any of his Real Madrid team-mates.

Ramos has only played only once – in a Champions League defeat to Chelsea – since March, and it was felt he needed time to recover away from the international stage.

It also seemed as though Adama Traore would prove a valuable impact player in the Spain attack, but the Wolves forward managed only two goals and two assists in 37 Premier League games in 2020-21.

Speculation has swirled for months about the future of Lionel Messi following a season of change at Barcelona.

Barca have been busy already this off-season, signing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Compatriot Aguero had implored Messi to extend his Barcelona stay, which dates back to 2000, and it seems the striker may get his wish.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI RE-COMMITS TO CATALANS

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is set to pen a new two-year contract with Barcelona, according to AS.

The Argentina forward has practically agreed to the deal, with only "structural details" to complete.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both shown interest in Messi but he looks set to commit until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are in the market for a new manager after Carlo Ancelotti's sudden departure and The Athletic reports they will consider Rangers boss and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. TalkSPORT claims ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is also on their radar.

- COPE claims that new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti will not push to recruit James Rodriguez from the Italian's former club Everton.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are in pole position in the race to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. 

- The Sun also claims any potential Sterling move to Arsenal may scupper Manchester City's plans to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane , as they want to use the winger in a swap deal given Spurs hefty asking price.

- Manchester United are keen on Sevilla defender Jules Kounde but Barcelona have joined the pursuit for his signature, claims Mundo Deportivo.

France captain Hugo Lloris says the return of Karim Benzema does not guarantee the world champions anything ahead of the 2020 European Championship.

Les Bleus take on Wales in a friendly on Wednesday ahead of Euro 2020, where France have a tough group alongside Germany, Hungary and Portugal.

Real Madrid forward Benzema, 33, has been recalled to the France squad for the first time in almost six years.

The forward had been frozen out by France head coach Didier Deschamps since 2015 having been embroiled in a blackmail scandal over a sex tape.

Benzema has forged an outstanding club career in the meantime, netting 23, 21 and 21 league goals over the past three seasons in Spain and looms as a major addition for the 2018 World Cup winners.

"Karim's return does not change anything," Lloris said at the pre-game news conference prior to the Wales friendly in Nice. "His reinstatement went well, it happened naturally.

"There is a lot of respect, even more from the younger players. There is admiration for what he has done in his career at Real Madrid. We ignore what is said from the outside.

"We have the talent but matches are won on the pitch and not on paper. It will be necessary for us to be strong as a team."

France loom as one of the favourites for Euro 2020, along with England, Belgium, Germany, Spain and reigning champions Portugal.

Lloris added: "Karim never gave up, he gave himself the chance to come back, and his presence adds talent to this generation, but there are no guarantees of success.

"It is up to us to create the conditions for a positive dynamic, to create an energy to enter this competition well and to stay there as long as possible, while remaining solid when it is more complicated."

Deschamps is expected to unleash Benzema alongside Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against the Dragons in a star-studded front line.

"Our performance will also depend on what everyone brings," Deschamps said.

"The midfielders, the full backs. I don't want to dissociate the three forwards from the rest of the team."

Roberto Mancini has included Sassuolo forward Giacomo Raspadori in Italy's final 26-man squad for Euro 2020.

Raspadori is a surprise selection considering he is yet to make his debut for the national team and has only played 39 games in Serie A.

The 21-year-old did make 27 league appearances in the 2020-21 campaign but only 13 of those were starts, scoring six goals as Sassuolo finished eighth.

All of his goals came since the turn of the year, though, including finding the net against Milan in April and then also Juventus the following month.

He was part of Italy’s squad that was knocked out of the European Under-21 Championship on Monday, losing 5-3 after extra time against Portugal in an eventful quarter-final tie.

As well as Raspadori, Mancini also found a spot for Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi, though his club colleague Matteo Pessina failed to make the final cut.

There is no place for Matteo Politano either, while Roma defender Gianluca Mancini misses out.

Italy face the Czech Republic on Friday in their final friendly before the tournament, which was postponed last year due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Azzurri will then go up against Turkey in their opening game on June 16, with Switzerland their next opponents four days later. They round out the group stage by taking on Wales on June 20, with all of those fixtures taking place in Rome.


Italy squad for Euro 2020:

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has revealed how he has fallen in love with Roma after extending his contract with the Serie A club, meaning he will once again work with Jose Mourinho.

Having already spent a season on loan at the Giallorossi, Mkhitaryan joined on a permanent basis a year ago and was a regular during the 2020-21 campaign under Paulo Fonseca.

The Armenia international scored 15 goals and provided 11 assists as he made 46 appearances in all competitions, including a run to the Europa League semi-finals that came to an emphatic halt against one of his former teams in Manchester United.

His new deal will see the 32-year-old stay for a further season after embracing life in Rome.

"Over the last two years at Roma I've fallen in love, both with the club and the city, thanks in large part to the incredible passion of the fans," Mkhitaryan said.

"The club's ambitions are very high and I am proud to have the chance to play my part as we take on all the challenges that await us next season. Daje Roma!"

However, Mkhitaryan will no longer be working with Fonseca, the Portuguese coach having been replaced by compatriot Mourinho at the Stadio Olimpico.

Mourinho was in charge at United when the Premier League side signed Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund in July 2016.

The midfielder played in 41 games during his first campaign at Old Trafford but did not make it through the next year. Criticised by Mourinho for his lack of consistency, he joined Arsenal in January 2018 as part of the deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move in the opposite direction.

Now, though, Mkhitaryan and Mourinho are reunited at Roma, who will be playing in the Europa Conference League after finishing seventh in Serie A.

Carlo Ancelotti is the new head coach of Real Madrid after Florentino Perez attracted the Italian from Everton.

Ancelotti dramatically jumped to the front of the queue for the job when it had looked as though Raul and Mauricio Pochettino were the main contenders.

His appointment means a return to the club that sacked him six years ago, with Perez having been head of the board that reached that decision at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Perez said at the time he had a good personal relationship with Ancelotti, and that will have been a factor in bringing the veteran coach back to the Spanish capital.

Ancelotti could not deliver a LaLiga title during his previous two-year stint, but he helped Madrid win the Champions League in 2014 - the 10th time in their history they had become European club champions, famously recognised as 'La Decima'.

Madrid also landed the Copa del Rey in the same season and the Club World Cup in December 2014.

Since leaving the Santiago Bernabeu, Ancelotti has coached Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton, joining the latter in December 2019.

Madrid confirmed his appointment on their official website, stating: "Carlo Ancelotti is Real Madrid's new manager. The 61-year-old Italian coach comes from Everton and returns to our club after making history in his first spell.

"He managed Real Madrid for two seasons, between 2013 and 2015, and became the coach of La Decima. With him at the helm, the team reigned again in Europe 12 years later after the unforgettable Lisbon final against Atletico."

Madrid relinquished the league title in the 2020-21 season as Atletico Madrid were crowned champions in Spain.

Under the guidance of Zinedine Zidane, they finished the campaign without a trophy, after an early Copa del Rey exit to minnows Alcoyano and a Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea.

Zidane resigned last week, bringing an end to his second stint in charge, and now another coach gets a second opportunity at one of the most demanding jobs in football, where winning trophies is everything.

Ancelotti's Everton finished 10th in the 2020-21 Premier League season.

That position has been viewed as a failure in some quarters, given the investment in a world-renowned coach. Yet of all managers to have taken charge of at least 10 Premier League games with Everton, Ancelotti's average of 1.53 points per game is unsurpassed.

LaLiga is the only one of Europe's top five leagues that Ancelotti has not yet won, having triumphed in Serie A with Milan, in the Premier League with Chelsea, in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain and in Germany's Bundesliga with Bayern.

He has also won the Champions League three times in his coaching career – twice with Milan and once with Madrid – which is a record he shares with former Liverpool boss Bob Paisley and Zidane.

Harry Maguire is facing a race against time to be fit enough to play in England's Euro 2020 opener against Croatia on June 13, according to Gareth Southgate.

Manchester United captain Maguire suffered an ankle injury last month which saw him miss the end of the season, including the Red Devils' Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.

Southgate has nevertheless picked the centre-back in his 26-man squad for the Euros, which was confirmed on Tuesday.

However, the England manager admitted to being unsure if the 28-year-old would be able to play against Croatia.

"We don't know that yet. It's going to be tight for the first game [v Croatia], there's no question," he said when pressed on Maguire's availability.

"I think he's such a good player and we had the additional size of squad, the fact that that leadership which is growing in him all the time, we wanted to take that opportunity to bring him into the squad."

Another player recuperating from a lay off is Jordan Henderson, who has not featured since going off injured for Liverpool during the Merseyside derby in February.

However, Southgate revealed Henderson will play a part in the friendly against Austria on Wednesday.

"Jordan has trained with the team all week so that’s been good. We've had to modify him through certain parts of the session. He’ll be involved in the game tomorrow," Southgate said of the Liverpool captain. 

"His progress is good but we're realistic about what that might look like."

Jack Grealish is also coming back from injury, though he did play for Aston Villa in May, while Marcus Rashford is another concern.

"Jack has trained with the team, but not every day so we've got to manage his load," added Southgate, who will also be without Jadon Sancho, who is ill, for the Austria match.

"Again, we want to get the players to the best possible point but we don't want to break them in the process. Marcus, we haven't seen him on the grass but he assures me he's happy with where he’s at. We go from there with that one."

Didier Deschamps has said Aymeric Laporte was incorrect to say the France coach ignored a message from the defender prior to him switching his international allegiance to Spain.

Manchester City centre-back Laporte declared for La Roja last month after being granted Spanish citizenship, leading to him being included in their 24-man Euro 2020 squad.

Laporte represented France at youth level, including the Under-21s, but was never handed a senior cap despite being called up by Deschamps.

It has previously been suggested that Laporte reached out to Deschamps to ask why he was continually overlooked, but the France head coach has strongly refuted that claim.

"He has the freedom to do what he likes," Deschamps said in an interview distributed to regional media in France.

"Ten seconds with the senior side would have been enough. But I don't select a player with the purpose of blocking him from having another choice. I was not going to do that.

"He was always included on the shortlists, but there is competition as well. What annoys me is what has been said, which is a lie.

"The only message I have received from him was in October, and that was regarding a specific situation after sustaining an injury.

"We considered him in November and March, and this time around. Leaving him out is not a mistake, it is just my decision. I wish him the best and he's free to make that choice."

Laporte spent nearly a decade in the Basque region while with Athletic Bilbao, initially as part of the youth squad before then graduating into the first team.

The centre-back's most recent call-up to the France squad was in August 2019 during qualifying for Euro 2020, which was pushed back by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He scored City's winner in April's EFL Cup final against Tottenham and collected a third Premier League title in four seasons, but 2020-21 was still a mixed campaign for Laporte.

John Stones and Ruben Dias were Pep Guardiola's preferred pairing at the back, though Laporte still made 27 appearances in all competitions during a gruelling campaign.

That total includes 16 outings in the Premier League, with the 27-year-old averaging 0.87 tackles per 90 minutes, as well as 0.47 blocks.

To put that into context, Raphael Varane – who looks certain to be a regular for France at Euro 2020 – averaged 0.73 tackles for Real Madrid in LaLiga this term, though did manage 0.6 blocks and won 2.42 aerial balls.

Presnel Kimpembe, meanwhile, impressed for Paris Saint-Germain with 1.09 tackles per 90 minutes, 0.43 blocks and 1.44 aerials won across his 28 Ligue 1 appearances.

Deschamps also has Jules Kounde, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Digne, Lucas Hernandez, Clement Lenglet, Kurt Zouma and Leo Dubois to call upon in terms of defensive options.

France face Wales and Bulgaria in friendlies over the next week before beginning their Euro 2020 campaign against Germany in Munich on June 16.

Gareth Southgate joked he would select more right-backs in England's Euro 2020 squad if he could, after four players who fill the role were picked in his 26-man pool.

Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Reece James and – despite several media reports to the contrary – Trent Alexander-Arnold were selected in England's squad for the tournament, which starts on June 11.

Liverpool defender Alexander-Arnold missed out on the March internationals and reports suggested he would be the biggest name to be cut from England's provisional squad.

Asked to explain his decision, Southgate told a news conference: "We went through this last week, yes we have four players who play sometimes at right-back for their clubs, Kieran, Reece have been playing wing-back or right of a three, Trent plays at right-back, Kyle Walker has played in the right of a three for us.

"Basically they're in our best 26 footballers and if I could have picked a fifth or a sixth right-back, I probably would have done!"

Alexander-Arnold has won acclaim for his attacking qualities, and Southgate last week said he felt the 22-year-old, who has 12 caps, could be versatile enough to play in midfield.

Pressed on that suggestion in Tuesday's media conference, Southgate said: "We're here to play nine games and we already have some injury doubts, I'm sure we're going to face other difficulties in the next four or five weeks.

"We need adaptability, good professionals, tactically savvy players – we're fortunate we've got old and young players who fit all of those categories."

There can be little doubt over his proficiency going forward, though there has been debate over Alexander-Arnold's defensive abilities.

In the Premier League, he made three errors leading to shots and one that led to a goal in the season just ended, whereas James and Walker made no such mistakes.

Trippier, who helped Atletico Madrid win LaLiga, made just one error that led to a shot. Alexander-Arnold's tackle success rate (58.9 per cent) was below that of each of his rivals for the England role (Walker 65.5 per cent; Trippier 63.9; James 63.6), and he was part of a Liverpool team that conceded a goal on average once every 76 minutes when he featured.

Trippier, a key part of Atleti's tight-knit defence, could point to the new Spanish champions conceding only once per 191 minutes when he was on the pitch.

In Alexander-Arnold's defence, he played far more minutes in league games than each of his rivals (3,033 - next most is Trippier with 2,477), and Liverpool's backline frailties were to a large extent affected by the injuries that kept Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip out for much of the season.

Should Alexander-Arnold indeed be utilised as an alternative midfield option, it may go some way to support Southgate's reasoning for leaving out Jesse Lingard.

Out of favour at Manchester United, the midfielder enjoyed a brilliant loan spell at West Ham, scoring nine goals in 16 league appearances as David Moyes' team secured European football for next season.

"Jesse's done incredibly well to get back in the race. Back in January he was a million miles away from being selected for an England squad," Southgate said.

"He had a good spell with West Ham, he's been a player who's played so well for us with England, we've got total trust in the way he plays, he's reliable, a great member of the group.

"He will play tomorrow [in the friendly against Austria] because we've got [Jadon] Sancho ill and we've got a lot of players not available and for the balance of the team he'll start, so he deserves that opportunity to go and show me that I'm wrong, straight away!"

Carlo Ancelotti is back in charge of Real Madrid and has plenty on his plate after succeeding Zinedine Zidane.

The Italian called time on an 18-month stay at Everton in order to return to the club where he won the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup in a spell between 2013 and 2015.

However, Ancelotti inherits a Real squad with plenty of question marks over it.

The Spanish giants have just endured their first trophyless season since 2009-10 and so there is plenty for the 61-year-old to consider as he starts his second stint.

Sergio Ramos' future

Ancelotti joins a Madrid side who are on the cusp of losing captain Sergio Ramos for nothing. The Spaniard has long been in talks over a new deal but, with his current contract days from expiry, no breakthrough seems imminent.

Although his last season was hampered by injury that has cost him a place at Euro 2020 with Spain, Ramos still proved his worth time and time again.

Looking at his performances in LaLiga, the 35-year-old posted better statistics in tackle success rate (80 per cent) and tackles won per 90 minutes (0.85) than any of his fellow Real centre-halves.

He was also dribbled past fewer times per 90 minutes (0.28) than Raphael Varane (0.3), Eder Militao (0.48) and Nacho (1.03).

These statistics could well be enough to convince Ancelotti to keep him around.

Does Hazard have a role?

With 21 appearances, four goals, and further injury issues all Eden Hazard has to show for last season, it has been suggested a departure could be the best outcome for all parties.

But Ancelotti will no doubt be tempted to try and get the best out of the Belgian as he looks to fix an attack that needs to offer a wider threat.

Karim Benzema remains from the Italian's first stint, but no other Madrid player got close to the French striker's 23 goals in LaLiga last term, with Casemiro (6), Marco Asensio and Luka Modric (both 5) next best.

Hazard could be key to bridging that gap if he can stay fit for long enough periods.

What next for returning loanees?

One man who could help on the goal front is Gareth Bale, who scored 11 times in 20 Premier League appearances for Tottenham during a season-long loan stay in 2020-21.

The Welshman first joined Real under Ancelotti in the summer of 2013 and could be more open to staying put with a manager who has faith in him after becoming frustrated under Zidane.

It remains to be seen what happens with Martin Odegaard, who will return from a loan spell at Arsenal where he impressed but perhaps not to the degree necessary to earn a starting place in Madrid.

The futures of Luka Jovic and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain as they return from Eintracht Frankfurt and Milan respectively.

One big sale?

With Real feeling the pinch of a season without supporters, it is likely that the new manager will have to generate his own funds in the transfer market.

And, with moving on fringe players likely to be tricky, the possibility of selling a more in-demand asset increases.

Raphael Varane is one possible contender as he heads into the final year of his contract amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester United.

The Frenchman established himself as a regular starter in Ancelotti's second season and has missed just 68 of the 266 league games played since that point.

Real conceded an average of 1.1 goal per game without Varane across the past seven seasons, and 0.9 in the fixtures in which he featured.

Interestingly, though, their win percentage rose to 73.5 per cent without him in the side from 66.2 per cent with - will these statistics inform the manager's decision?

One big signing?

Money may be tight at Real Madrid, but that won't stop them being linked to the biggest names in world football.

Kylian Mbappe is one of them, the Frenchman having enjoyed another remarkable season in which he scored more goals (21) and landed more shots on target (55) than anyone else in Ligue 1.

The 22-year-old also converted 60.5 per cent of his big chances - a rate that would help ease Real's problems with lack of goals outside of Benzema.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Ancelotti can pull together the funds to start off his reign with such a high-profile signing.

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