Stefano Pioli felt Milan demonstrated their strength in depth in a 2-0 Serie A victory over Venezia at San Siro.

Pioli rung the changes following the draw with Juventus on Sunday, with Fode Ballo-Toure coming into a new-look defence for his first start.

The Rossoneri dominated possession but did not register a shot on target until Brahim Díaz turned in a first-time cross from substitute Theo Hernandez midway through the second half.

Marauding full-back Hernandez, who came on along with Fikayo Tomori and Alexis Saelemaekers just before the hour-mark, doubled Milan's advantage eight minutes from time as they moved level on points with leaders and fierce rivals Inter.

It had been a frustrating evening for Milan until Diaz struck with his third goal of the season but Pioli believes they showed the progress they have made, with key men absent once again.

The Milan head coach said: "The team broke [Venezia down] by playing a game with intelligence and clarity, continuing to push and create. We have more than one quality player and they are used to win games."

He added: "I disagree that we were not brilliant in the first half, just a little bit of quality was lacking. I am not surprised by the players who have not played much so far, they are all strong.

"Importantly, it means that the team is there and is fine, they believe in it [his approach] and play. We are only at the beginning, I have a very deep squad, apart from a few too many injuries at the moment. They are all players who can help the team."

Pioli knows there is plenty of room for improvement after his side made it four wins out of five games without defeat in Serie A this season.

"In the first half we lacked precision but we managed it in the second half playing with intensity and attention," he said.

"In many things you can improve. All the matches give us interesting ideas, there are many situations where we can grow "

Pioli revealed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Olivier Giroud and Simon Kjaer are making progress with their recoveries from injury, but he is unsure if they will be fit to face Spezia on Saturday.

Hernandez became the first Milan defender to have both scored and delivered an assist in a Serie A game since Opta collected such data (2004-05), finding the back of the net with a sweet strike.

Milan moved level on points with Inter at the top of Serie A after Theo Hernandez came off the bench to inspire a 2-0 win over Venezia.

Stefano Pioli rung the changes following the draw with Juventus on Sunday and the Rossoneri endured a frustrating evening until Hernandez set up Brahim Diaz for the opening goal midway through the second half.

Neither side had registered a shot on target until Diaz volleyed home from point-blank range at San Siro on Wednesday, but Hernandez added a second goal to seal all three points.

Victory for Milan continued their impressive start to the Serie A season despite being depleted by injuries, with this their fourth win out of five matches without defeat.

France forward Anthony Martial's future at Manchester United is unclear.

The 25-year-old is struggling to fit into United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans.

Martial signed a five-year deal with United in 2019, meaning he is contracted until 2024.

TOP STORY – MARTIAL FREE TO LEAVE IN JANUARY

Martial will be free to leave United in the January transfer window with Barcelona an option, according to Eurosport.

Red Devils officials have given Martial's representatives the green light to explore his options, although he is understood to be willing to remain in the Premier League.

Cash-strapped Barcelona are willing to take a chance on Martial who has fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival along with competition from Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.

ROUND-UP

- Dean Henderson is pushing for a loan move away from United in January, according to The Sun. Henderson has lost the battle with David de Gea for the number one shirt at Old Trafford.

- TeamTalk claims Manchester City are keeping an eye on Real Sociedad's Spain international forward Mikel Oyarzabal.

- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has set his sights on signing Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi in the January transfer window, reports the Daily Express.

- The Daily Star claims that there is a "special release clause" in Chelsea target Matthijs De Ligt 's contract with Juventus that becomes active in mid-2022.

United are monitoring Milan's Franck Kessie, who they see as a potential replacement for Paul Pogba, claims The Sun.

Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan has alleged he was subject to racial abuse during Sunday's 1-1 draw away to Juventus and has called for change and "comprehensive action".

The 26-year-old French goalkeeper stood up to the abuse in a social media post but demanded action, with AFP reporting that Juventus have launched an investigation into the alleged incident.

Video on social media showed fans directing a torrent of abuse at Maignan as he warmed up prior to Sunday's game at Turin's Allianz Stadium.

The incident is the second in Serie A this season after grounds were re-opened to fans, with alleged racist chants from Lazio supporters towards Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko earlier this month.

Maignan posted on Twitter saying it was time for change and calling for comprehensive action.

"On Sunday evening at Allianz Stadium, Juventus supporters targeted me with racial slurs and cries," Maignan wrote on Twitter. "What do you want me to say? That racism is wrong and that these supporters are stupid? It’s not about that.

"I am neither the first nor the last player to have this happen. As long as these events are treated as ‘isolated incidents’ and no comprehensive action is taken, history is bound to repeat itself over and over and over again.

"What are we doing to combat racism in football stadiums? Do you really believe it’s effective? I am in a club that strives to lead the way by opposing all forms of discrimination. But we need to be more numerous and to be united in this battle for society which goes beyond football.

"In the proceedings, do the people who decide know what it feels like to hear insults and cries relegating us to the rank of animals? Do they know what it does for our families, for our loved ones who see it and who do not understand that it could still happen in 2021?

"I am not a ‘victim’ of racism. I am Mike, standing, black and proud. As long as we can give our voice to change things, we will."

Italian media reports have claimed that the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) are also considering their own investigation into the incident in Turin.

Stefano Pioli believes Milan's 1-1 draw with Juventus shows how far his side have come as they no longer require a "miracle" to win a game they are second best in.

Milan battled back to claim a point in Sunday's Serie A clash at Allianz Stadium after Ante Rebic headed in 14 minutes from time to cancel out Alvaro Morata's early opener.

Without a number of key players through injury, including strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud, the Rossoneri struggled in the first half and could have been further behind.

But they took more control of the game in the second half, when seeing 62.7 per cent of the ball, and almost snatched the win late on through a well-saved Pierre Kalulu strike.

The draw ended Milan's perfect start to the league season, but they are level on points with champions and early pacesetters Inter after four matches.

Pioli, who guided the Rossoneri to second place last season – their best finish in nine years – is pleased with the way his side recovered to avoid defeat in Turin.

"We came here to win the game," he told DAZN. "We found a better opponent than us in the first 20 minutes especially, but we did much better in the second half.

"It was definitely a positive performance from us on the whole. Maybe last year to win these games we had to hope for a miracle; now we are aware that we can win these games.

"We tried until the end to claim the victory."

 

Rebic led the line in the absence of Giroud and Ibrahimovic and responded with his second goal in as many games, having also netted in the 3-2 Champions League loss to Liverpool in midweek.

The Croatian forward is the first Milan player to score against Juve in three successive Serie A games in the three-points-per-win era (since 1994-95) and Pioli heaped praise on Rebic.

"Ante has immense intensity and quality to his game," Pioli said. "He can play in more or less any role and he helped us today. He is a very important player to break games open.

"I've always seen my players ready to overcome any limitations. They have quality and work throughout the week with a sense of belonging. 

"The opposition might be better on the day, but we will always give it our best shot going for the victory."

Rebic's header from a Sandro Tonali corner ensured Milan avoided defeat at Juventus in a match they trailed for the first time since February 1996.

While Milan are well positioned at the top end of the table, opponents Juventus are winless after their first four games for just the fourth time in their history.

Despite boasting an eight-point gap on Massimiliano Allegri's men, who are inside the relegation zone, Pioli insisted it is too soon to look at the league standings.

"We are only four games in," he said at his post-match news conference. "There is time for every team to improve their position. But of course were are satisfied with what we've done."

Massimiliano Allegri accepted his share of the blame for Juventus' 1-1 draw with Milan, but also felt his players lacked focus as they slipped into the Serie A relegation zone.

Alvaro Morata put Juve ahead in Sunday's clash at the Allianz Arena inside four minutes with his side's earliest goal against Milan in Serie A since February 1996.

Juve were on top for the rest of the first half, but they dropped off after the interval and were punished by Ante Rebic's header 14 minutes from time.

The Bianconeri are winless in their opening four games to a league season for just the fourth time in their history and find themselves 18th in the 20-team division.

Allegri took off Morata, Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala in a 13-minute period prior to Milan's leveller, with Moise Kean, Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski brought on.

And the experienced coach, who has one win from five matches in all competitions since returning to Turin, is annoyed that his side could not see out a much-needed victory.

"Tonight I'm left angry," he told DAZN. "The team played well in the first half and only conceded one long-range shot, but in the end we could have even lost the match.

"That's despite being in control until the equaliser. Unfortunately we lost attention and determination. We have to improve. 

"The thing you have to quickly learn is that in these games, the final moment you have to be tough. You have to remain concentrated, determined and focused.

"We know we have to play better, and that is part of the growth of some players. But I also made a mistake with the changes today – I should have brought defensive players on.

"The likes of Dybala and Morata perhaps could have made themselves more available when on the field, but the last 15 minutes is what makes me angry."

 

Allegri's side have already dropped seven points from winning positions this season, compared to 10 such points in the whole of 2020-21 under Andrea Pirlo.

Juve have now conceded in 18 successive Serie A games and could easily have shipped a second goal late on as Pierre Kalulu forced Wojciech Szczesny into a big save.

"Luckily the referee whistled when he did because otherwise we may have lost," Allegri said. "Nobody remembers the good performances because we lost two points in the end."

The draw – just the second in the last 25 league meetings between the sides – leaves Juventus eight points adrift of early pacesetters Inter and Milan in the top two.

Asked if his side are already out of the title race, six-time Scudetto-winning boss Allegri said: "It was important to take a positive result against Milan today.

"If they'd have won they would have pushed us further back. The draw leaves their advantage unchanged.

"The problem is that winning a game is one thing; winning a league is another. It means not conceding goals due to errors like we saw today.

"There were positives, mainly in the first half, but we should have suffered more and been ready to defend tooth and nail. You have to take the win even if it's ugly."

Juventus' winless start to the Serie A season stretched to a fourth game after they were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Milan at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Alvaro Morata had opened the scoring inside four minutes with Juve's quickest goal against Milan in Serie A since February 1996, but the Bianconeri could not hold on for a maiden victory.

After inviting pressure onto themselves, the hosts were eventually undone 14 minutes from time when Sandro Tonali whipped a corner into the box and Ante Rebic guided it in off the far post.

Juve have now gone four games without a win to start a Serie A season for just the fourth time in their history and are inside the relegation zone, while Milan move level on points with leaders Inter.

Massimiliano Allegri's side had given their season lift-off with a 3-0 win over Malmo in the Champions League in midweek and two of their goalscorers from that game combined early on against Milan.

Paulo Dybala played Morata through with a smart flick after Juve had defended a corner and the forward rounded off the counter by dinking the ball over Mike Maignan.

Maignan produced a fine save to keep out Morata's next shot and Adrien Rabiot had an even better chance to add a second but could not outpace Fikayo Tomori when played in.

Rabiot could not quite connect with a Leonardo Bonucci pass over the top early in the second period as the half-chances continued to fall Juve's way.

Juve had not kept a clean sheet in the league since March, however, and that poor run continued as Rebic climbed highest to meet Tonali's corner and head in the equaliser from six yards.

Both sides pushed for a winner in a frantic conclusion to the match, with substitute Pierre Kalulu going closest to snatching victory for Milan with a powerful drive that Wojciech Szczesny did well to palm over the bar.

 

Massimiliano Allegri has reminded Matthijs de Ligt's critics that even Giorgio Chiellini had his struggles as a young player and is convinced the Dutchman has a long future ahead of him at Juventus despite Mino Raiola encouraging speculation.

De Ligt joined Juve on the back of Ajax's unlikely journey to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals, in which he played a vital role as he helped build moves from the back with his passing abilities but also proving a dominant physical presence despite his tender age.

His 0.45 headed shots on target every 90 minutes was the most of all defenders in the competition to play at least 270 minutes that season, while only four of them bettered his 4.2 aerial wins per game.

While De Ligt has not made quite the same use of his physicality at Juve, those strengths could lend themselves to a future in the Premier League, where he is thought to be admired by numerous clubs, with his agent Raiola suggesting on Saturday that the Dutchman may not see out the rest of his contract, which runs to 2024, at Juve.

Raiola's comments came after seeing De Ligt dropped for last week's 2-1 defeat at Napoli and playing in only one of the Netherlands' three recent World Cup qualifiers, with the centre-back yet to truly convince since signing two years ago.

 

The spotlight is very much on Juve's defence ahead of Sunday's clash with Milan, as they have conceded in each of their previous 17 league games, the third-longest run in club history and the worst currently across Europe's top five leagues.

But Allegri appears to retain belief in De Ligt, backing him for a long future at Juve.

"I've already said it before; De Ligt is 22 years old, he's very good, but when you arrive at Juve with an enthusiasm that overwhelms you, it's normal to lose some clarity," the Juventus head coach told reporters when asked about Raiola's comments.

"When he was signed, someone described him as a future Ballon d'Or winner, but it requires tranquillity. He was a 20-year-old boy who arrived at Juventus, a shirt that weighs heavy.

"Chiellini at 20 was like De Ligt, or maybe worse. Then at 28 he became a serious player.

"There is a path for everyone, players and coaches. De Ligt is still a young, good player, who can stay at Juve for many years, regardless of whether he plays one more or one less game."

Massimiliano Allegri claims Sunday's Serie A clash between Juventus and Milan is more important for the Rossoneri despite him overseeing a miserable start to 2021-22.

Allegri is three league matches into his second spell in Turin but there has been no sign of a honeymoon period, with Juve yet to win any of those matches.

They relieved a hint of pressure with a 3-0 Champions League win on Tuesday, though the good will from that victory will only last so long given it was against Malmo.

Failure to get off the mark on Sunday will leave Juve winless across their first four Serie A matches in a single season for only the fourth time, the most recent occasion being in 1961-62.

By contrast, Milan – who this season are in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 – have won all three of their Serie A games in 2021-22, with Stefano Pioli's men second only to Roma on goal difference.

Despite their differing starts to the season, Allegri insists Sunday's encounter is a bigger deal for Milan than Juve, and he also wanted to stress there is no reason to panic for their title hopes if Pioli's side do leave with a positive result.

"Tomorrow's game is more important for them than for us," Allegri told reporters, though he would not openly elaborate on why he felt this way. "That's what you have to say, otherwise I will help you too much."

On the title race, he added: "I believe there is no team that can crush the championship. Maybe I'm wrong.

"You can lose points, but you can also quickly recover them. We must not think that if we lose then we will be 11 points behind, we have to work thinking about making up for the ground that we lost at the beginning.

"I have always said that, the championships are won against the smaller teams. We don't know what tomorrow's result will be because the devil invented football: you can play well and still maybe you lose or draw.

 

"It's not that before Malmo we had become poor drunks and now we are phenomenal again. We need balance. You have to work and have the ambition to win.

"I have to be a coach, because the team goes out on the pitch, but I also have to hammer on the psychological aspect because Juve is a team that has to play not to win games, but to win championships.

"Everyone wins matches, all teams, but the championship will only be won by one. In the end, the team that was the best will win the championship."

Allegri's return after two years away understandably conjured up memories of Juventus' remarkable streak of nine successive Scudetti, with the 54-year-old in charge for five of them.

But he feels comparisons between the two distinctly different teams and eras are unhelpful.

"I have found a Juventus with different players," he continued. "We must not think of comparing Juve today with what it was in the past.

"This team has its own identity as well as individual characteristics of the players. You need to become a team by improving many things, in terms of personality, technique and patience in playing. But it's just a different Juve."

In a potential blow for Juve, Allegri confirmed Federico Chiesa is a doubt for Sunday's game.

The Italy international has been involved in six goals against Milan in Serie A, a haul he has bettered against no other team.

He also scored his only brace with Juventus in the Italian top-flight against the Rossoneri in January.

For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

 

Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

"I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

 

Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

 

Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

 

The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

"It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

"You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

Milan maintained their 100 per cent start to the Serie A season as goals from Rafael Leao and the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed them a 2-0 win over Lazio at San Siro on Sunday.

After winning their opening two games of the 2020-21 campaign against Sampdoria and Cagliari, victory over Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, who had also won their first two games, means the Rossoneri have won their first three league fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Leao's second goal of the campaign set them on their way, although Stefano Pioli's side missed the opportunity to extend their advantage moments before the break when Franck Kessie struck the crossbar with a penalty.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – spared his team-mate's blushes just seven minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute, tapping in as Milan's superb start to the season continued in style.

There was drama at the full-time whistle, with Sarri shown a red card by referee Daniele Chiffi after Ibrahimovic and Lucas Leiva had exchanged heated words.
 

Milan were dominant in the opening stages, taking seven shots by the half-hour mark, yet Pepe Reina had only one save to make in that time.

Davide Calabria was guilty of squandering their best early chance, the full-back lashing wide from 10 yards after being teed up by Ante Rebic.

The hosts did go in at the interval ahead, though, Leao stroking the ball into the bottom-left corner after a one-two with Rebic.

Pioli's men should have doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time, but Kessie struck his spot-kick against the crossbar after Chiffi penalised Ciro Immobile for a foul on the Milan midfielder following a pitchside review.

Milan picked up where they left off after the break and sealed maximum points in the 67th minute when Ibrahimovic stole in unmarked to nudge Rebic's cross into an empty net – the first time the Croatian has supplied two assists in a Serie A game.


What does it mean? Title tilt in Rossoneri’s sights

Their title charge faded in the closing months of the 2020-21 campaign, but Pioli's side have dusted themselves down and look ready to challenge again this term.

Lazio had scored nine goals in their opening two games of the season, yet Sarri’s outfit were swatted aside with the minimum of fuss at San Siro, with the hosts taking a whopping 21 shots to their opponents' eight.

Leao ready to shine

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season and looks set for a breakthrough campaign. The Portuguese prospect was a handful for the Lazio defence throughout and had taken three shots when he was substituted on the hour mark – a tally not bettered by anyone on the pitch by the end of the game.

Immobile sums up Lazio's woes

Immobile scored four goals in Lazio's first two Serie A games this season, but he did not get a sniff against Milan's miserly defence. The Italy international had just one shot and conceded a penalty before his substitution late on.

What's next?

Milan travel to Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday before visiting Juventus in the league on Sunday. Lazio take on Galatasaray in Turkey on Thursday in the Europa League before a home Serie A clash against Cagliari three days later.

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Real Madrid are desperate to bolster their attack.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland are both on the list.

But, if their efforts to sign Haaland are unsuccessful, Robert Lewandowski could reportedly be targeted.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI TO MADRID?

Real Madrid will turn to Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski if they are unable to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, according to Diario AS.

Madrid are reportedly determined to sign in-demand star Haaland, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern.

But Lewandowski has emerged as an alternative for Madrid should they miss out on Haaland.

Madrid are also eyeing PSG star Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are considering a move for Barca forward Ousmane Dembele. The France international has been linked with United and Liverpool, while he is yet to agree terms over a new deal at Camp Nou.

City are interested in Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, claims the Manchester Evening News. The Frenchman has flourished at San Siro, also attracting the attention of PSG.

- The Manchester Evening News says United have earmarked West Ham star Declan Rice as their principal midfield target at the end of the season.

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