Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel has revealed N'Golo Kante will miss Wednesday's Champions League clash with Juventus after testing positive for coronavirus.

The France international made his sixth appearance of the season on Saturday when playing an hour of Chelsea's 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League.

However, Kante has since contracted COVID-19 and will serve a period of isolation, ruling him out of the Blues' European tie with Juve and league clash with Southampton ahead of the international break.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday, Tuchel also confirmed Christian Pulisic, Reece James and Mason Mount will not make the trip to Turin because of injury problems.

Juventus will also be without some key players at the Allianz Stadium as Paulo Dybala and former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata have been ruled out.

The Turin giants were in the relegation zone after picking up just two points from their first four Serie A matches, but back-to-back wins have lifted them up to 10th.

Massimiliano Allegri's side also saw off Malmo 3-0 in their opening Champions League match two weeks ago to make it 11 wins in their past 12 group-stage matches.

Despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United last month, Tuchel is still expecting a big test when Chelsea travel to Turin.

"They are so experienced and such a big club with so much Champions League experience," he said.

"They will enjoy the different competition. They have had a bit of a rough start according to their results in Serie A, but they were convincing in the Champions League.

"You never know with players that are missing. The guys who come in want to show they are reliable. We play Juventus at Juventus.

"It's a no-brainer that demands respect to the quality and tradition of the club. 

"We need to refocus and regroup and face a tough challenge with positive energy and determination to bounce back from our defeat to Manchester City."

Ronaldo scored 101 goals in 134 appearances for Juve across his three seasons at the club before returning to United, 14 of those goals coming in the Champions League.

Only six other players scored more goals in the competition than Ronaldo over that period, but Tuchel does not believe the Portuguese's surprise exit hinders Juve's chances of European success, even if they are now a weaker side.

"Time will tell, but every team without Cristiano is weaker. He shows it every time he is on the pitch, in the Premier League and in the Champions League," Tuchel said. 

"They have lost a great champion, a great personality, but you can be a great team and win things, too, even without him. 

"And they are. They have experience, talent, depth and a quality coach. They have winning DNA, the winning mentality.

"This is the first time I've played against Juventus. I will face a team of our level and these challenges make us a better team. "

Chelsea have lost each of their past four away games against Italian teams in the Champions League, with each defeat coming against a different side – including Juve in 2012-13.

The Blues scraped past Zenit 1-0 in their opening Group H match but, as reigning European champions, Tuchel accepts his side no longer enter any game as underdogs.

"It is difficult for that to be the case when you've won the title," the German coach said. "We won this competition last season when we weren't favourites.

"Now it's easy to consider ourselves as favourites and to accept that. We've won it before. We have showed all of our abilities.

"We need to play with freedom but also be realistic. The standards are high for us and hopefully the performances and results arrive step by step."

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Crystal Palace on Saturday, to take their place at the top of the Premier League.

Title rivals Manchester City could only draw at home to Southampton, but Manchester United and Chelsea subsequently joined Liverpool on 13 points.

Here are some of the more curious facts from across the Premier League weekend.


Premier League first for Reds trio

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita scored Liverpool's goals in their win over Palace at Anfield.

It is the first time in the Premier League that a game has ended 3-0, with all three goals being scored by African players.

Mane opened the scoring with his 100th goal for Liverpool. The Senegal forward has now scored in each of his last nine league appearances against Palace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score in nine straight matches against a single side.

All three of Liverpool's goals came from corners. Not since City beat West Brom in March 2015 has a top-flight game ended 3-0 with all the goals coming from corners.

Dave saves... finally

There was late drama aplenty at London Stadium on Sunday as United joined Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 win over West Ham.

After Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fantastic start to his second United stint to drag the Red Devils level, Jesse Lingard came on to break West Ham hearts late in the game.

London Stadium is the 66th different stadium that Ronaldo has scored at in matches played in Europe's big five leagues, and he has scored at more unique venues than any other player since his United debut in 2003-04, ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (64).

Lingard, meanwhile, became the 47th player to score for and against West Ham in the Premier League. Excluding own goals, West Ham have had more players score for and against them than any other side in the league's history.

But it was David de Gea who proved to be United's hero, as he saved a last-gasp penalty from Mark Noble, who was brought on specifically by David Moyes to take the spot-kick.

De Gea's save ended a drought stretching back to April 23, 2016 of 40 spot-kicks faced without making a save for both club and country, in the process helping United claim a dramatic win at London Stadium. 

Of those penalties, 11 were scored by Villarreal players in May's Europa League final, with De Gea ultimately missing the decisive kick in the Red Devils' shoot-out defeat. 

The 30-year-old did keep out a Jordan Ayew penalty in last September's league meeting with Palace, but that was retaken and scored by Wilfried Zaha after De Gea was deemed to be off his line. 

Veteran Silva helps give Spurs the blues

Aged 36 years and 362 days, Thiago Silva became the second-oldest Chelsea player to score in the Premier League behind only Didier Drogba, who scored against Leicester City aged 37 years and 49 days in April 2015, when the Brazilian headed Thomas Tuchel's side ahead at Tottenham.

N'Golo Kante's deflected effort made it 2-0. The midfielder scored for the first time in 49 league appearances, having last found the net against Man City in November 2019. Three of his last four top-flight strikes have come from outside of the box.

Antonio Rudiger condemned Spurs to a second successive 3-0 defeat; they have lost consecutive Premier League matches by a 3+ goal margin for the first time since their opening two games of the 2011-12 campaign.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, cut a forlorn figure up top for Nuno Espirito Santo's side. He has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, attempting just four shots so far.

Super-sub Bailey bursts Benitez's bubble

Everton's unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez came crashing to a halt as Leon Bailey starred with a blistering cameo in Aston Villa's 3-0 win.

Bailey came on from the bench and had an instant impact. With Matty Cash's first Premier League goal having put Villa ahead, the Jamaica forward whipped in a corner that Lucas Digne turned into his own net.

Digne has now scored three own goals in the Premier League, level with Younes Kaboul for the French player to have done so on the most occasions.

Villa were not finished there, however, and Bailey burst clear to lash home his first Premier League goal. Moments later, he went off with an apparent thigh injury, becoming only the second Villa player to come as a substitute, score, and then be substituted in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim against Derby in September 2000.

Farke's losing streak rolls on, Toney at the top

Ivan Toney scored and assisted another as Brentford defeated Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

Since the start of last season, Toney is the outright leading goalscorer in the top four tiers of English football (excluding play-off matches), with 33 strikes to his name.

Another promoted club, Norwich City, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign. In total, the Canaries have now lost each of their last 15 Premier League games, meaning Daniel Farke is the manager with the longest losing run in top-flight history.

Mick McCarthy (14) was the last manager to go close to almost as long as Farke without a top-tier win, though that was back in 2005.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel hailed N'Golo Kante after the Blues star came off the bench and scored in the 3-0 Premier League victory over Tottenham.

Kante, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger were on target in the second half as Champions League holders Chelsea blew away London rivals Tottenham in Sunday's derby.

Silva opened the scoring four minutes into the second half before fit-again midfielder Kante doubled the lead approaching the hour mark, and Rudiger added a third in the second minute of stoppage time.

Three of Kante's last four Premier League goals have been scored from outside the box, after netting just one of his first seven in the competition from range.

Tuchel lauded the France international as Chelsea moved top of the Premier League on goal difference.

"If you have N'Golo [Kante] on the bench and you want to step up in exactly these patterns of the game, he's the best player to bring on because he's unique and he can change any momentum," Tuchel said.

"[With him] you have everything that you need in midfield: you have work rate, intensity, ball wins, skillful play. Off the ball, with the ball, dribbling, even a goal. I see this every day in training and it's hard to believe how good he is.

"He doesn't make faults and reduces the number of ball wins. He plays excellent in every possession game that we have in training. He's a unique guy and I have no words for him.

"We were strong in midfield together with Jorginho and [Mateo] Kovacic in the second half. N'Golo is N'Golo - fantastic."

Chelsea have won each of their last six away league London derbies – the club's longest such streak in their league history.

The Blues have only lost one of their 12 away games in the Premier League under Tuchel (W8 D3) – no Chelsea manager has lost fewer away games in their first 12 outings in the competition (level with Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho).

Thiago Silva, N'Golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger struck in the second half as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 derby victory over Tottenham on an emotional Sunday in north London. 

Tributes were paid to Jimmy Greaves, Spurs' record goalscorer following a prolific spell with Chelsea, before kick-off at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after the legendary striker died aged 81. 

It was fitting that two clubs Greaves served so magnificently met on the day of his passing – and it was Chelsea who came out on top courtesy of a storming start to the second half. 

After Silva headed Thomas Tuchel's side in front, Kante's deflected shot doubled their lead and Rudiger fired home in stoppage time, sending the Blues top of the Premier League, though they are level on 13 points with Liverpool and Manchester United. 

Spurs were on top in the opening stages following a rapturous minute's applause for 1966 World Cup winner Greaves, but it was Chelsea who had the first real opportunity. 
 
Tottenham were caught out by a blistering break but Mason Mount's shot was well blocked by Emerson Royal after the England midfielder had played a one-two with Romelu Lukaku. 
 
The alert Rudiger prevented Sergio Reguilon from picking out Giovani Lo Celso for a tap-in and Son Heung-min's touch let him down when he was played through during an entertaining first half, although the fit-again forward may have been offside. 

Kante replaced Mount before the resumption and Chelsea went ahead four minutes after the break, Marcos Alonso whipping in a corner that Silva met with a downward header. 

The European champions were dominant, Eric Dier clearing a close-range volley from the unmarked Alonso off the line after Cesar Azpilicueta had picked his fellow wing-back out. 

Chelsea doubled their lead in fortunate fashion after 57 minutes, though, with Kante's shot taking a huge deflection off Dier to give Lloris no chance. 

Timo Werner wasted a chance to add a third Chelsea goal when he got the ball stuck under his feet after Lukaku slipped him in, before the Germany forward was denied by Lloris amid panic in the Spurs area. 

Mateo Kovacic failed to beat Lloris from a tight angle with Spurs on the ropes, but Rudiger did add insult to injury in stoppage time, firing home Werner's pass with his right foot. 

Could Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski be set to work together again?

The pair enjoyed a successful partnership at Borussia Dortmund.

Now, Klopp is reportedly trying to lure the Bayern Munich forward to Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP WANTS LEWANDOWSKI REUNION

Liverpool are targeting Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to Fichajes.

Lewandowski worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund before joining Bundesliga rivals Bayern in 2014.

There has been talk Lewandowski could be ready for a new challenge amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester City, though Klopp is reportedly determined to reunite with the Poland international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild claims Dortmund have identified Chelsea forward Timo Werner as a possible option to replace Erling Haaland. Club are queueing up to sign Haaland, with City, Manchester United, Bayern, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all reportedly interested. Should Haaland leave Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit reportedly see former RB Leipzig star Werner as a potential successor.

- Fabrizio Romano says Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is nearing a contract extension at San Siro. He has reportedly turned down offers from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

Bayern, Inter, Real Madrid and Tottenham are interested in Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea are looking to sign Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to new contracts, according to Romano.

Thomas Tuchel revealed Saul Niguez has been a long-term target for Chelsea and the Atletico Madrid loanee could be in line for his debut against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old won LaLiga with Atletico last term before joining the Blues on a season-long loan, Tuchel's men reportedly holding a purchase option for £30million (€34m) after paying an initial loan fee of £5m (€5.8m).

As Chelsea look to become the second team, after Manchester United, to reach 600 Premier League wins, Tuchel explained his new recruit's debut has been years in the making.

"He was with us now for two weeks," Tuchel told reporters. "He played on the highest level. I think the picture is very clear. The club follows him for years.

"We know the player very well. He had a quick adaptation with Marcos Alonso and Kepa [Arrizabalaga], in welcoming him into the group.

"He is in the squad for tomorrow. Jorginho can never say no when Italy plays, even when they are 5-0 up, so he is quite tired. It's absolutely possible Saul plays for us."

Saul only managed 22 league starts last campaign, his fewest since 2014-15, but still ranked fourth for attempted tackles in LaLiga for Atletico (57).

Indeed, prior to his departure, only Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) had attempted more tackles by a midfielder than Saul (159) in the Spanish top flight since August 2019.

With N'Golo Kante out injured with an ankle problem sustained against Liverpool, the Spain midfielder could provide vital legs in Tuchel's midfield.

But Tuchel credited those above him in the Chelsea hierarchy for securing the deal from Diego Simeone's side.

"Marina [Granovskaia] was in charge, the best person," the Blues head coach continued. "We were in contact. We knew about the situation.

"We knew things could happen later, we were very aware. I assured everybody that I'm also happy if we cannot bring a player in. We would find a solution in the squad. It was clear, we would try for [Jules] Kounde and Saul.

"In the end, it was possible to get Saul which was a key position for us to have more alternatives. A lot of competition [is] now going on. It's my job to be a good moderator."

France will be without N'Golo Kante for their World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

The Chelsea midfielder aggravated an ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the weekend.

Sitting top of Group D with seven points from three games, Les Bleus resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a trio of fixtures in early September.

However, the reigning world champions will be unable to call upon Kante for the first of those, which takes place in Strasbourg.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, head coach Deschamps said: "Kante will be too soon for tomorrow. 

"There are too many risks; he will not be used tomorrow."

 

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe will not be bothered by the recent speculation linking him with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

The forward has made a bright start to the Ligue 1 season with three goals in Paris Saint-Germain's first four games, including a brace in Sunday's 2-0 win over Reims as Lionel Messi made his debut for the club.

"As you could see, he was very focused in the last game. He is very professional," Lloris said.

"He was decisive in the first four matches. It shows that he respects his club and is ready to perform. 

"There is a lot of agitation around him, it's normal, but he knows how to make the difference to help the French team."

France are looking to bounce back having exited Euro 2020 in the round of 16 following defeat to Switzerland on penalties.

Lloris revealed that following positive discussions within the camp, he and his team-mates are hungry to make amends with a fresh approach.

"We highlighted what was less successful, but there were also good things –especially in the group stage – which were quite successful," the goalkeeper added.

"We switch to something new, fresh. Everyone must participate in giving a new impetus.

"We are positive. We have very little time to prepare for the match, but there is desire."

Aurelien Tchouameni said he is inspired by Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante as the Monaco sensation continues to be linked with Chelsea and Manchester United.

Tchouameni is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Chelsea and United following his exploits in Ligue 1.

Before the weekend's fixtures, the 21-year-old midfielder ranked first in possessions won (209) and tackles won (52) in the top five European leagues in 2021, while he was tied for fifth in duels won (221).

Tchouameni's performances under Niko Kovac earned a France call-up for the first time as Les Bleus face Bosnia-Herzegovina in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday before continuing their road to Qatar 2022 against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on September 7.

Amid speculation over his future heading into the international break, Tchouameni was asked about his inspirations, and he told reporters: "I followed a lot what [United midfielder] Paul [Pogba] was doing. Since he started his career.

"Now I have the chance to be with him and [Chelsea midfielder] N'Golo [Kante]. They are players who are very successful at their clubs, so I try to see what they do and take inspiration from their strong characteristics.

"There are also some players I didn't get to see play at the time, like Patrick Vieira. Foreign players too, like [Manchester City and Belgium midfielder] Kevin De Bruyne. I try to look at everything that is good in the midfield and their characteristics to inspire me."

Meanwhile, France head coach Didier Deschamps will be without Dayot Upamecano for the three World Cup qualifiers after the Bayern Munich centre-back suffered a right thigh injury.

Upamecano has been replaced in the squad by Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet.

Jorginho has been crowned UEFA Men's Player of the Year for the 2020-21 campaign following a stellar year for club and country.

The 29-year-old helped Chelsea to Champions League success in May and followed that up by winning Euro 2020 with Italy six weeks later.

He started every game for Italy and missed just one match for the Blues in their run to continental glory as he became the 10th player to win both competitions in the same year.

Former Napoli midfielder Jorginho edged out Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne for the award at Thursday's ceremony in Istanbul.

It is the first time in the award's 11-year history that the top three was comprised exclusively of midfielders.

Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland were notable absentees from the three-man shortlist.

The award, which is based on performances at club and international level over the course of a season, was last year won by Lewandowski.

Jorginho's memorable campaign

The role Jorginho played in Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 campaign likely cemented the award, the deep-lying playmaker leading the way in a number of areas.

Jorginho topped the list for interceptions (25), recoveries (48) and fouls won (19), rightly earning himself a spot in the official Team of the Tournament.

He was just as important to Chelsea's second ever Champions League triumph, with no midfielder intercepting the ball more times (26), while only four players in his position completed more than his 662 passes.

Despite an underwhelming Premier League campaign on the whole for the Blues last time out, Jorginho topped the scoring charts with seven goals in total, each of those coming from the penalty spot.

Edouard Mendy, Ruben Dias, N'Golo Kante and Erling Haaland won the positional awards for the 2020-21 Champions League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy kept nine clean sheets in last season's competition as the Blues won the trophy for the second time, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final.

City defender Dias was named the best defender, while Chelsea's Kante – UEFA's man of the match in each leg of the semi-final and the final – won the prize for midfielders.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland was chosen as the best forward in 2020-21.

The players were chosen from a shortlist of 12, who had each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Five of the 12 nominees were from Chelsea: Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho.

City had three representatives – Ederson, Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provided one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, were the other nominees.

Jorginho and Roberto Mancini could cap a golden year for Italy by landing UEFA honours after both were shortlisted for top awards on Thursday, though Manchester City duo Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola could spoil the Azzurri's party.

Azzurri midfielder Jorginho won the Champions League with Chelsea and followed that by helping his country to Euro 2020 glory, under the leadership of coach Mancini.

Jorginho, 29, is joined on the three-man shortlist for UEFA Men's Player of the Year by Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante, a standout in the Champions League final, and by City playmaker De Bruyne.

Kante played for France at Euro 2020 and De Bruyne featured for Belgium, but neither side made the progress many anticipated, with Les Bleus eliminated in the last 16 and the Red Devils bowing out to Italy in the quarter-finals.

The three players received the most votes from a panel consisting of the 24 head coaches at Euro 2020, the 80 coaches from the Champions League and Europa League group stages, and journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations.

The Men's Coach of the Year shortlist consists of the two coaches from the Champions League final, Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel and City's Guardiola, plus Italy boss Mancini.

It means there is no place for Gareth Southgate, who guided England to their first major men's final since the 1966 World Cup. He finished seventh in voting, UEFA announced, behind Villarreal's Europa League winning boss Unai Emery, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and former Inter coach Antonio Conte.

Like Guardiola, both Simeone and Conte led their club sides to domestic league title success.

The winner of each award will be announced at UEFA's Champions League group stage draw on August 26 in Istanbul.

Barcelona had a clean sweep of the players shortlisted for the Women's Player of the Year prize, following their Spanish league and cup and Champions League treble.

The Spanish duo of Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas were joined on the list by Dutch club-mate Lieke Martens.

UEFA's women's awards stem from votes from each of the coaches in the Champions League last 16 and the leading 12 coaches according to UEFA's national team rankings, plus a pool of 20 journalists.

Former Barcelona boss Lluis Cortes is joined on that list by Chelsea's Emma Hayes and Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America had the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Italy and Argentina lifted the respective trophies at the weekend, with the Azzurri beating England in a penalty shoot-out and La Albiceleste seeing off bitter rivals Brazil at the Maracana to win the Copa for the first time since 1993.

Stats Perform has looked at 13 of the leading candidates to feature at either tournament to determine how their chances look heading into the new season.

Jorginho

Before Euro 2020, N'Golo Kante was the Chelsea midfielder seen to be within the best shot of scooping individual honours at the end of 2021, but a month on it's Jorginho who is the European champion at club and international level.

While he has perhaps been underappreciated or misunderstood at times with Chelsea, perhaps supporters will see him in a new light after playing a vital role in Italy's success as their deep-lying playmaker.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Lewandowski's Ballon d'Or hopes arguably aren't any worse now than before the Euros as no one will have expected Paulo Sousa's men to make much of an impact. He got three goals in as many games and was only out-scored by six players, which is a solid achievement.

 

Marco Verratti

Had he not been injured for the first two games of Euro 2020, there's every possibility it would have been Verratti being crowned as player of the tournament, with the Paris Saint-Germain star arguably the player who embodies the qualities of Roberto Mancini's transformed Italy side more than any other.

Not only did he create more chances than anyone else at Euro 2020 (14), but averaged more touches (114.5) than anyone, played the fourth-most passes (87.1) and ranked third for tackles (four) per 90 minutes among all players to have featured for at least 125 minutes. His all-action excellence set the tone for the Azzurri's vibrant and, ultimately, successful football.

 

N'Golo Kante

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory, named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final versus Real Madrid and the final against Manchester City.

But France's last-16 elimination by Switzerland will have done little to boost his chances, with Paul Pogba rather than Kante the standout figure for Les Bleus. While a nomination is almost a certainty, taking the gong home now looks beyond the all-action midfielder.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

His exceptional quality was further underlined by the fact only Verratti created more chances than him over the course of the tournament, an impressive feat given he started the tournament late due to injury and then had to play through another fitness issue in Belgium's final match, but that's unlikely to be enough to earn him the award.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Generally, the player considered to be the best at a major international competition has a pretty good chance of winning further accolades, so in that case Donnarumma may have a reasonable opportunity after UEFA crowned him Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament.

Statistically there were numerous goalkeepers who were more important than him to their respective teams given he technically didn't prevent any goals according to Opta's xGOT metric – Tomas Vaclik's prevented a tournament-high 2.5. Nevertheless, Donnarumma wasn't guilty of any drops or errors that led to shots, and made crucial saves across two penalty shoot-outs, including a couple in the final.

 

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

A slow start to Euro 2020 followed, although Kane scored four times in the knockout phase as he played a key role in England's journey to the final. But when it mattered most he failed to have a single touch in the Italy penalty area. A talismanic performance in the showpiece may have put him firmly in the running, but it's difficult to see him being a major contender now.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

He certainly cannot be accused of failing to deliver for Belgium given he scored four times, but they came up short against Italy in the quarter-finals, with a partially injured De Bruyne unable to truly weave his magic. Lukaku's influence upon Inter shouldn't be overlooked, but the achievements of others on the international stage may overshadow his own.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it did put him right in the mix and he followed that up with a starring role in Argentina's Copa triumph, the first senior international trophy of his career. Given his lack of success with La Albiceleste was arguably the final barrier to clear in his career, a Ballon d'Or will surely follow later this year as he led Lionel Scaloni's men with four goals (joint-most) and five assists (the most).

 

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day, but it probably won't be in 2021. He was one of the biggest disappointments at Euro 2020, failing to score once despite his chances having an accumulative xG value of 2.02 – that under-performance was second-worst to Gerard Moreno (3.32).

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he only had an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or ahead of the Copa America, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

While his performances with Brazil would see him included in most people's team of the tournament, he wasn't dependable in front of goal, his one non-penalty strike coming from 5.3 xG, an under-performance unmatched by anyone in the tournament. He'll have to wait a bit longer for the prize he supposedly craves above all others.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

He definitely didn't do his chances any harm as he won the Golden Boot for most goals (five) – beating Patrik Schick by virtue of having more assists – after becoming the Euros' all-time leading scorer (11) and levelling Ali Daei's world-record haul of 109 international goals, but Portugal's failure to get beyond the last 16 won't help.

 

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

But he could only muster one goal at the Copa America as he and Uruguay had a minimal impact, meaning it'll take something special for Suarez to be a major candidate at the end of the year.

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America have the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Following club seasons either laden with trophies or padded with statistical achievements – or, in some cases, a bit of both – a few elite-level performances could make the difference in the race to win France Football's famous award.

Stats Perform has chosen a shortlist of 14 players who could make themselves Ballon d'Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month...

 

Karim Benzema

Remarkably, Karim Benzema failed to win a trophy with Real Madrid despite registering 30 goals and nine assists in 46 games in all competitions.

That form did bring his international exile to an end, though, and if he keeps it up for France over the coming month, a Ballon d'Or challenge is not out of the question.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Had Pep Guardiola's men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy, the Ballon d'Or might be De Bruyne's already. Leading Belgium to Euros glory would probably do the job.

Ruben Dias

The other prime candidate for City's player of the season, Ruben Dias was a colossal performer at the heart of their defence after joining from Benfica, winning the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

Defenders' difficulties winning big individual prizes are well documented, and the last to lift the Ballon d'Or – Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – did so after leading Italy to the World Cup.

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes was heartbroken to lose the Europa League final on penalties as his wait for a trophy with Manchester United goes on.

However, a combined 46 direct goal involvements – the most of any Premier League player – means individual glory could be on the cards should Fernandes and Portugal shine.

Phil Foden

The PFA Young Player of the Year winner, Phil Foden blossomed in 2020-21 from prodigious talent to integral player for both City and England.

His Ballon d'Or chances are probably slimmer than those of a couple of his City team-mates, but long-awaited success for the Three Lions could put him right in the mix.

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

Winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Kane is England's undisputed star going into Euro 2020 and has every chance of topping the scoring charts again.

N'Golo Kante

Arguably the popular choice for the award, N'Golo Kante won the Champions League with Chelsea after being named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final and the final against City.

France are most observers' favourites to win the Euros and, if they do, Kante will surely be facing short odds to win the ultimate individual trophy – even if it's one in which he has little interest.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Winning the Euros with Poland might be a stretch, but finishing as top goalscorer is certainly achievable.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

With eight goals in his past nine games for Belgium, the 28-year-old could well be the man to fire Roberto Martinez's side to glory, which would make him very hard to overlook.

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day. The Euros could be his ticket to glory in 2021.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it does put him right in the mix. If he can finally win the Copa America with Argentina, Ballon d'Or number seven may well follow.

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he has only an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

He typically produces in a Brazil shirt, though, and winning the Copa America would propel him right back into the mix for the individual prize he supposedly craves above all others.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

Ronaldo won his fourth of five Ballons d'Or after Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016, and there's little doubt he would be vying for a sixth if they defend that trophy.

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

Should Uruguay upset the odds at the Copa America, you can bet Suarez will be in the running for the Ballon d'Or. Quite what Barca fans would make of that is hard to say.

N'Golo Kante believes Ballon d'Or speculation is way ahead of schedule as he attempts to add Euro 2020 glory to his Champions League success.

After an outstanding performance against Manchester City helped Chelsea become European club champions, Kante wants to make it a double by guiding France to success over the coming month.

The dynamic midfielder was tipped for the highest individual honour in football after Chelsea's 1-0 win over City in Porto, and Les Bleus team-mate Paul Pogba has thrown his support behind the growing clamour.

But Kante said he doesn't "pay attention" to praise of his displays, saying on Sunday: "What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch. If it can give people pleasure, so much the better."

Asked about the prospect of winning the Ballon d'Or, Kante said: "It's a bit too soon to speak about that now. We're just getting to halfway through the year, there are six months to go, lots of competitions to play and it doesn't help to say that I deserve it now.

"Some years ago, I was in the top 10, that was the first time and it made me happy. To win it, that would be another story."

It was December 2017 when Kante cracked the top 10, finishing eighth in the vote.

"It's a great personal reward," Kante said of the prize. "I see it like the reward for an accomplished season by a player, but it's not an objective I work towards. Those who have won it are the players who have achieved the great things during their career."

Kante's France and Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud has little doubt the 30-year-old would be a worthy winner, describing him as "clearly a contender".

Speaking in a France news conference on Sunday, Giroud said: "We'll start talking to him about the Ballon d'Or if we win the Euros.

"He is stressed and tense when we talk to him about it! But it flatters him of course, even if he doesn't like compliments too much and prefers to keep a low profile. He deserves what happens to him."

Should Kante go on to land the award, which is handed out annually by France Football magazine, he would be the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane took the honour in 1998, having inspired hosts France to win the World Cup for the first time.

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