The European domestic season is now back up and running, meaning we are officially into a World Cup campaign.

For some players, the main focus over the next few months will be remaining fit with the hope of entering Qatar 2022 in peak condition for their respective nations.

For others, the first part of the 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to play themselves into contention for a squad place ahead of the biggest tournament of them all.

That includes an array of talented stars who have yet to represent their countries at senior level, but who could be given the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage.

With the big kick-off now just 100 days away, Stats Perform has identified five uncapped players who still have an outside shot of glory in Qatar.


Gleison Bremer (Brazil) – 25, centre-back, Juventus

If Bremer was not on the radar of Brazil head coach Tite ahead of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old certainly will be now. He ranked first among Serie A defenders last term for duels contested (451) and also led the way for headed clearances (75), showing that he can be relied upon at the back.

Indeed, Bremer's form last time out led to Juventus splashing out a reported €50million to sign him from Torino during the close season. Brazil must be quick, though, as the Italian top-flight's best defender last season is also eligible to represent the Azzurri.

 

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Lazio

Goalkeeper Maximiano is another who moved to a club of bigger stature just a few months out from the World Cup beginning after swapping relegated Granada, where he impressed in his only campaign, for Serie A side Lazio. The 23-year-old certainly had a chance to showcase his shot-stopping abilities last season, with his 127 saves the most of any keeper in LaLiga, and the fifth-most of anyone in Europe's top five leagues.

Following the departure of long-serving Thomas Strakosha, Maximiano will be installed as first choice at Stadio Olimpico, where Portugal boss Fernando Santos may make a visit or two in the coming months.



Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Newcastle United

Despite catching the eye in Ligue 1 with Lille, particularly in 2020-21 when starting 37 of the 38 matches played in their stunning title-winning campaign, Botman has remained on the periphery of the Netherlands squad. He has been a regular for the Oranje at Under-21 level, but after joining Newcastle in a £31.8m (€37m) transfer last month, he is surely now in serious consideration for a place in the senior squad.

Having led the way among Lille players last time out per 90 minutes for successful passes (53.4), blocks (0.84) and headed clearances (2.2), the Dutchman will hope to hit the ground running in another new league.

 

Benjamin Bourigeaud (France) – 28, attacking midfielder, Rennes

Reigning world champions France are blessed with world-class talent right across the pitch, but could there be room for a wild card in the form of Bourigeaud? The versatile attacking midfielder can play in a number of positions, though was predominantly used out on the right in what was a career-best season last time out in Ligue 1.

While France are hardly crying out for another player to slot into the final third, Bourigeaud's 23 direct goal involvements for Rennes last season is a tally bettered by only four others, while his David Beckham-esque deliveries from wide can provide something a little different for Didier Deschamps' men.

 

Inaki Williams (Ghana) – 28, forward, Athletic Bilbao

Ghana's squad has been completely transformed since booking their place in Qatar, having persuaded six players to switch allegiance and represent them at the World Cup. Patric Pfeiffer, Stephen Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer are all available for selection, as are Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

Each of those players will enhance Otto Addo's squad, with Williams – capped once by Spain in a friendly – possibly a game-changing option in attack. He is someone who can be replied upon, too, having appeared in each of Athletic's past 233 LaLiga matches, a run spanning back to April 2016. 

Paris Saint-Germain striker Arnaud Kalimuendo has joined Rennes in a reported €25million transfer, penning a five-year deal with the Ligue 1 side.

Kalimuendo, a France Under-21 international who signed his first professional contract with PSG as a 17-year-old in 2019, had been strongly linked with Premier League side Leeds United after they missed out on Belgian forward Charles De Ketelaere to Milan.

The pacey forward has spent each of the last two seasons on loan at Lens, scoring 12 league goals in the 2021-22 campaign as they recorded an impressive seventh-placed finish.

Only nine players, including PSG stars Kylian Mbappe (28) and Neymar (13), outscored Kalimuendo last term, earning the 20-year-old a big-money move to Europa League qualifiers Rennes.

PSG boss Christophe Galtier had confirmed Kalimuendo's move was imminent earlier on Thursday, while Mauro Icardi is also expected to leave the Parc des Princes to make room for another attacking recruit.

Rennes lost their Ligue 1 opener to Lorient last Sunday and face a trip to Monaco in their second game of the campaign on Saturday.

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

Wales defender Joe Rodon has secured a season-long loan move from Tottenham to Rennes, with a permanent option included.

The 24-year-old leaves Antonio Conte's side in search of more regular opportunities ahead of Wales' World Cup campaign, which will be the nation's first since 1958.

Rodon made just 10 appearances for Spurs last season, including in the Conference League against Rennes, amid fierce competition for first-team football – and the signing of Clement Lenglet from Barcelona pushed him further down the pecking order.

Opportunities should be more forthcoming with the Ligue 1 side, who hold a clause to make the deal permanent next year for a reported fee of £17million.

The former Swansea City defender is a key part of Rob Page's international set-up, forging a partnership with Spurs' Ben Davies at the heart of Wales' backline and earning 28 caps to date.

Wales sealed their spot in Qatar with a play-off victory against Ukraine and will be in Group B alongside England, Iran and the United States.

A transfer to Rennes will also offer the opportunity of European football, with a fourth-placed finish in Ligue 1 last season securing a spot in the Europa League.

Rennes technical director Florian Maurice said Rodon had "no hesitation" about joining.

"He's a real central defender who likes to defend, he has that aggressive side that we need to allow us to be even more effective defensively," Maurice said.

"He is an international, a starter with Wales and will certainly be called up to play in the World Cup in November."

Bayern Munich have confirmed the capture of Rennes teenager Mathys Tel, with the highly rated forward joining on a five-year deal in a €20million-plus move.

The 17-year-old will link up with the Bundesliga champions on a contract through to 2027 after showing glimpses of his potential in Ligue 1 last season.

Tel skippered the France Under-17 team to glory in the European Under-17 Championship final last month, and he has now been rewarded with a bumper switch to one of the continent's biggest clubs.

"Bayern are one of the best teams in the world," the forward said. "I'm very much looking forward to this great challenge and I will give my all for this club.

"I've been very impressed with the discussions with Hasan Salihamidzic and the Bayern management, and I quickly realised I definitely wanted to come to Munich."

Bayern sporting director Salihamidzic said: "Mathys Tel is one of the biggest talents in Europe. We've been watching him for a long time and we were able to convince him to take his next important steps in Munich with us now.

"The development of such an exceptional young player is an exciting project for us all. We are all convinced he has a great career in front of him and that he will help our team."

Tel made 10 senior appearances for Rennes last term and is the second player to depart the French outfit in a big-money deal during the close season, following Nayef Aguerd's move to West Ham.

He takes the number 39 shirt, with the number nine still vacant after Robert Lewandowski's departure to Barcelona.

Youngster Tel is reported to have cost Bayern an initial €20million, with a further €8.5million in add-ons tied into the deal.

French hot prospect Mathys Tel is expected to clinch a dream move to Bayern Munich after announcing he is leaving Rennes.

The 17-year-old has only made 10 competitive first-team appearances for Rennes, all as a substitute, but he is so highly rated that Bayern marked him out as a priority target.

That move now looks set to come to fruition after the France Under-18 international said his farewells to the Brittany club.

He said in a statement posted on Instagram: "I want to write to you this evening to announce my departure from @staderennaisfc.

"It was a huge pride and a real honour to have worn and represented this jersey since I was 12 years old."

He said Rennes had "taught me a lot ... made me grow in all aspects" and said he would "always have great gratitude" to the club.

"I would like to say thank you, on behalf of all the moments spent together, to the staff, the coaches, the players, to all my team-mates and to the Pinault family [owners of the club] who made the rest possible," Tel wrote. "Thank you to the Rouge et Noir supporters, I sincerely wish you the best."

He signed off by adding: "A page turns. Cool head, warm heart in writing to you."

French sports newspaper L'Equipe reported Rennes and Bayern have agreed terms on a deal worth just short of €30million for Tel, who helped France win the European Under-17 Championship last month.

It is expected that Bayern will pay an initial €20million, with the rest of the fee being performance-related.

Bayern have sold star striker Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona in this transfer window, but the Bundesliga champions acquired Sadio Mane from Liverpool and also have the likes of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joshua Zirkzee as out-and-out striker options.

They have expressed an interest in England captain Harry Kane, and their number nine shirt remains vacant ahead of a Bundesliga season that begins for Bayern with a trip to reigning Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt on August 5.

West Ham have completed the signing of Nayef Aguerd from Rennes for a reported fee of £30million including add-ons (€34.9m).

The Morocco international joins on a five-year deal as Hammers manager David Moyes strengthens his backline ahead of next season.

The defender featured in 66 Ligue 1 games for Rennes after joining in 2020, while also helping his country to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar after overcoming DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate over two play-off matches.

West Ham struggled with injuries last season, especially at centre-back, but Aguerd provides much-needed depth ahead of another challenge for the European qualification spots next season.

"I am delighted to welcome Nayef to West Ham United. We have tracked his progress for some time and I'm very pleased that we have been able to complete the signing," Moyes told the club's official website.

"He's a great addition that will add to our defensive options."

Aguerd pinpointed the interest of Moyes as a crucial factor for him joining the 2021-22 Europa League semi-finalists.

"I was really excited when I heard about West Ham United's interest," Aguerd said after penning his contract with the Hammers.

"I talked with the manager and he showed me that he was very interested, so it was easy to choose to come to West Ham."

Manchester United and Chelsea are experiencing significant transformation this off-season, albeit for varying reasons.

While the Red Devils undertake yet another rebuild under a new manager, Chelsea are in the midst of ownership takeover.

It is reportedly creating the perfect storm for a shock transfer.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE SHOCK MOVE FOR MOUNT

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is considering a move for Chelsea midfielder  Mason Mount according to the Sun.

The England international has seen talks for a renewed contract at Stamford Bridge stall, amid the prolonged takeover of the club by Todd Boehly.

In dire need to rebuild his midfield, and following Mount since his loan spell with Vitesse Arnhem, Ten Hag has reportedly already relayed United's interest with Mount's camp.

Liverpool and Manchester City have also made enquiries for Mount meanwhile, who according to reports, remains one of Chelsea's lowest-paid players. 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool are tracking Rennes forward Martin Terrier as a replacement for Sadio Mane should he depart, according to the Mirror.

Barcelona boss Xavi has held talks with Portugal midfielder Ruben Neves over a potential transfer, per Sport.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is attracting interest from Everton and Newcastle United, the Athletic reports.

– The Guardian are reporting that Inter are exploring the possibility of a return for Romelu Lukaku.

Barcelona are reportedly open to "big-money" offers for Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong, who has 40 caps for the Netherlands, arrived at Barcelona from Ajax for a €75million fee in 2019, accumulating 137 appearances for the club in all competitions.

The midfielder has been a key pillar in Barcelona's line-up this season, appearing 44 times, but the Catalan giants may be ready to move on as the interest from United intensifies.

TOP STORY – BARCA ARE CONSIDERING OFFERS FOR DE JONG

The Blaugrana are open-minded about potentially parting ways with De Jong, who is being closely linked with his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag for his new venture at United.

He is one of the main players on the Red Devils' wish-list, which Fichajes reports also includes Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

The Telegraph adds that Ten Hag has identified eight players "he can trust" at the club, while being on the fence about Marcus Rashford's future.

ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku would like to leave the club after this season, with a desire to head to Manchester City, United, Paris Saint-Germain or Milan

Newcastle United have met with the agent of Watford's Ismaila Sarr but will have to match the club's £40million asking price, per FootballTransfers.

Bayer Leverkusen are planning a move for PSG youngster Eric-Junior Dina Ebimbe after failing to secure the deal during the January transfer window, according to RMC Sport.

– Sport is reporting Samuel Umtiti will leave Barcelona in the next transfer window and wants to return to Lyon, who will be competing for his services with Rennes, Montpellier and Nice

– Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unlikely to sign an extension with the club and could be sold in the next transfer window with his contract set to expire in 2023, according to The Times.

Brendan Rodgers praised Wesley Fofana’s mentality, following his goal to put Leicester City through to the Europa Conference League quarter-finals.

Leicester lost 2-1 on the night, but Fofana’s goal upon his return put Leicester through 3-2 on aggregate.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has not played since breaking his leg in pre-season, but along with his goal to separate the teams on aggregate, quickly adapted to a tense European atmosphere.

Rodgers highlighted it was the mark of a top player.

"He’s an amazing player, that’s what top players do,” Rodgers told BT Sport post-match. "He’s only been back in training a few weeks but they want to go and head it and show that determination. That’s what we’ve missed for a lot of the season.

"That’s a top player’s mentality, he’s such a top prospect. Now he’s just got to try and build his fitness up. He was exceptional on the night."

With Lovro Majer back in the Rennes starting XI for the second leg, it was an unsurprisingly fast start and Benjamin Bourigeaud put them up after only eight minutes.

Fofana equalised on 51 minutes, handing Rennes a sizeable task to eventually turn the tie around. Rodgers was still critical of his side’s performance, but was nevertheless relieved progression was secured, given the opposition.

"I think with the ball we were really, really poor," he said.

"Our football in the game, especially in the first half, was nowhere near what I would expect. What we did show tonight was real character, especially with the players missing and lots of young players tasting this level for the first time. It’s character building for them.

"We had to show resilience. You can see they’re a good side, Rennes, so to get through is a fantastic feeling. We knew they were going to make a fast start and come after us.

"They got the early goal as well, but we showed a good mentality, a good concentration level."

Mauricio Pochettino has called for "unity" at Paris Saint-Germain following fan protests during their 1-0 win over Rennes on Friday.

PSG were made to work hard for their three points against the only team to have beaten them in Ligue 1 so far this season.

Kylian Mbappe eventually scored in the 93rd minute, but that strike did little to appease frustrated supporters.

The Collectif Ultras Paris group sent a powerful message as one end of the Parc des Princes was left empty for half an hour at the start of the match, while various banners were later unveiled.

The supporters took issue with a range of issues relating to their club, with PSG's indifferent displays this term – despite a 16-point lead in the league – not helping matters.

This comes as PSG prepare for their biggest match of the season at home to Real Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

"We need unity," Pochettino said, speaking after the Rennes game. "The fans are very important for a club and they have the right to express themselves, but we need unity.

"We are entering an important moment of the season and we need to be together.

"As I always say, we can sit down at the end of the season to try to correct things, because there are probably things to improve so that our club continues to be one of the biggest in the world."

On the pitch, there remains a clear contrast between PSG's brilliant back-line and a blunt, expensively assembled attack.

The leaders have kept five consecutive home Ligue 1 clean sheets under the same coach for the first time since Unai Emery's side had six in a row in 2016.

And PSG's unbeaten run in the league has now stretched to 15 in the longest active sequence across Europe's top five leagues.

But Pochettino's men had just one shot on target across the entire match, which saw only two including one for Rennes – the lowest total in a Ligue 1 game this season.

A little too accustomed to leaving it late, that sole effort on target was Mbappe's goal and meant PSG have now earned eight points thanks to strikes from the 90th minute onwards.

A late goal from Kylian Mbappe saw Paris Saint-Germain extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 16 points with a 1-0 win against Rennes on Friday.

The PSG number seven had been his team's brightest spark but had to wait until the 93rd minute for a trademark goal from Lionel Messi's pass to spark relief at the Parc des Princes.

To that point, this had hardly been a performance from Mauricio Pochettino's men to leave their upcoming Champions League opponents Real Madrid quaking in their boots.

But Mbappe made the difference against the only side to have beaten PSG in the league so far this season.

Keylor Navas was forced to tip the ball behind in the seventh minute when Benjamin Bourigeaud's volley into the ground threatened to loop in before the goalkeeper intervened.

Mbappe was predictably a thorn in the side of the away team and came close to giving PSG the lead late in the first half when he bent a shot just wide of the far post from the left corner of the penalty area and then hit the post shortly afterwards.

The dynamic Mbappe had the ball in the net on 64 minutes when he raced onto a Messi throughball and rounded Dogan Alemdar before slotting in, but the flag went up and the goal was chalked off.

It looked like the hosts would have to settle for a point only for Messi to find Mbappe just inside the penalty area, and he made no mistake as he placed a low shot past Alemdar and into the net past Alemdar's.

We may only be a week into 2022, but the first major international football tournament of the year is on the horizon, with the Africa Cup of Nations kicking off on Sunday.

It's been a long time coming as well – it was initially due to take place in June and July 2021 but was brought forward to January 2021 due to concerns about the weather. It then had to be pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of course, fans and teams have had to put up with the usual posturing from those at certain clubs regarding the inconvenience of relinquishing players in the middle of the season, but despite that there remains a healthy selection of big names.

In fact, given the standard the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Achraf Hakimi usually play at, some might even argue this is one of the highest-quality groups of players to feature at a single AFCON.

But the beauty of every international tournament is that there's more to them than the big names – there are plenty of promising younger players looking to impress for a global audience.

Kamaldeen Sulemana, 19, winger – Ghana

Hold on to your seats! Kamaldeen is sure to ramp up the excitement at AFCON, such is his rather chaotic approach to attacking – and acrobatic celebration. The teenage winger is immensely tricky and agile, with his 246 take-on attempts in the 2020-21 Danish Superliga nearly twice as many as anyone else – to put that into context, only Lionel Messi managed more (261) in the top five leagues. He's carried that into Ligue 1 following his move to Rennes, with his average of one shot involvements from a ball carry every 43 minutes being the second best in Ligue 1 (min. 900 minutes played) after Kylian Mbappe – that's obviously pretty good.

 

Ibrahim Sangare, 24, defensive midfielder – Ivory Coast

While good performances at AFCON alone may not be enough for players to convince big clubs they're worth a punt on, showing promise might just get a few more eyes on them. Sangare is definitely one of those who could put himself 'in the shop window'. The PSV midfielder has a lot about him, particularly when it comes to defending. In this season's Eredivisie, only three players (at least 500 minutes played) have averaged more than his 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes, while he ranks fifth for interceptions frequency (2.5) and third for middle-third recoveries (5.7). He's also technically proficient and happy on the ball, with only three players attempting more passes (81.1) on a per-90-minute basis than him.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, attacking midfielder – Tunisia

A former France youth international, Mejbri may have only declared for Tunisia in 2021 but this will already be his second international tournament. The Manchester United midfielder started all six of Tunisia's games as they reached the final of the Arab Cup in December, eventually losing to Algeria in the final. Hannibal may not feature quite as prominently in a full-strength squad, but the midfielder possesses the kind of off-the-cuff abilities that endear him to fans – if not opponents. He is known to be targeted for fouls when playing for United's second team, such is his natural talent.

Ilaix Moriba, 18, central midfielder – Guinea

2021-22 hasn't quite gone as Moriba presumably thought it would. He left Barcelona after failing to agree a new contract, despite having broken into the first-team setup at Camp Nou. The midfielder had shown exceptional promise, particularly on the ball – he averaged 3.2 dribbles per 90 minutes, a total bettered by only four team-mates, and boasted a success rate of 89.3 per cent, with only Miralem Pjanic bettering him. The €16million signing has played just twice in the Bundesliga since the move to Leipzig and will surely be relishing some competitive action.

Edmond Tapsoba, 22, centre-back – Burkina Faso

If Burkina Faso go on to have a good tournament, Tapsoba will almost certainly have had something to do with it. The centre-back is an extremely elegant player for someone roughly the size of a small building and whose name sounds like a hipster bar, and at club level he performs a vital function in getting Leverkusen on the front foot, with his 13.5 progressive ball carries in the Bundesliga this term second only to Alphonso Davies. If he can translate that to the international stage, Burkina Faso will have a real weapon in the middle – even if he doesn't, he'll still give them aerial threat at set-pieces.

 

Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, 17, forward – Ghana

The case of Issahaku is a rather intriguing one. Transfer rumours in 2021 suggested Liverpool had signed him for £1.5million, but that soon turned out to be false. He remains in his native Ghana, but the exciting attacker has seemingly done enough to earn a shot at international level despite being just 17 – he's the second-youngest player at the tournament. But he's used to that sort of situation. After all, before he'd even turned 17 in March he was named Player of the Tournament at the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations. While that Liverpool move never materialised, he's got himself another opportunity to shine.

Tottenham's postponed Europa Conference League group game with Rennes will not be rearranged, UEFA announced on Saturday.

European football's governing body indicated a new date for the game could not be agreed upon by the two clubs, after COVID-19 cases in the Spurs camp caused a call-off on Thursday's fixture.

It remains to be seen what UEFA rules, with Tottenham having needed a win from the Rennes game to reach the knockout stage. Rennes sit top of Group G, after three wins and two draws from their five games. All other group-stage games have been completed.

In a statement, UEFA said it had been in contact with Tottenham and Rennes in an effort "to find a viable solution in order to reschedule the match".

"Unfortunately, despite all efforts, a solution that could work for both clubs could not be found," said UEFA. "As a consequence, the match can no longer be played and the matter will, therefore, be referred to the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body for a decision to be taken in accordance with annex J of the above-mentioned competition regulations."

This section of regulations states that in the case of it being not possible to reschedule a game by a specific deadline – in this case, December 31 is the specified cut-off – UEFA may impose sanctions.

The UEFA guidelines state: "If it is not possible to reschedule the match within the final deadline... the club that cannot play the match will be held responsible for the match not taking place and the match will be declared by the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body to be forfeited by the club, which will be considered to have lost it by 3-0."

The same section of regulations states: "Moreover, the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body may take further disciplinary measures if the circumstances so justify."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte said in midweek that eight players and five members of staff at Tottenham had contracted the virus in what he labelled a "serious problem".

Rennes released a statement claiming Tottenham had made a "unilateral" decision to postpone Thursday's clash without UEFA ratification, although the governing body later confirmed the postponement to the French club.

Rennes have two Ligue 1 matches and one Coupe de France game before they take a break over Christmas, resuming their season on January 8.

Spurs' Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday has also been postponed because of the outbreak. Unlike Rennes, they are due to play through the Christmas period.

The draw for the knockout round play-off draw is due to take place on Monday, featuring the eight runners-up from the Europa Conference League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the Europa League group stage. One seeded place remains unresolved ahead of that draw.

Tottenham sit three points behind Dutch side Vitesse in Group G of the Conference League, as UEFA moves to bring finality to the situation.

Rennes have confirmed their squad is returning to France after their Europa Conference League match with Tottenham was postponed.

Spurs stated on Wednesday that Thursday's encounter with the Ligue 1 side at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had been called off due to an outbreak of COVID-19 within Antonio Conte's squad.

Conte said that eight players and five members of staff had contracted the virus in what he labelled a "serious problem".

Spurs have reportedly asked the Premier League to postpone Sunday's meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion.

However, Rennes released a statement on Wednesday claiming Tottenham had made a "unilateral" decision to postpone Thursday's clash without UEFA ratification.

Confirmation from the governing body has now been given to Rennes, though, with the visiting club's squad and coaching staff travelling back to France following full negative coronavirus test results.

In a statement published on their official website, Rennes, who play Nice on Sunday, made clear that the rearranged fixture must not further congest a hectic schedule or disrupt their mid-season break.

The statement read: "After being informed of the cancellation of tonight's match by UEFA, Stade Rennais FC decided to return to Brittany. The entire delegation that will board at London City Airport has tested negative.

"Stade Rennais FC hope that the interests of the club will be respected given the important sporting deadlines that await the Rouge et Noir this December. 

"Stade Rennais FC is deeply sorry for the Rennes fans who decided to come to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to cheer on the Rouge et Noir."

Rennes have two Ligue 1 matches and one Coupe de France game before they take a break over Christmas, resuming their season on January 8.

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