What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, while Ronaldo's future at Juventus is far from certain.

A possible switch to the Spanish capital could reportedly impact Ronaldo.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could join Paris Saint-Germain if Kylian Mbappe leaves for Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid, who have been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

If Mbappe makes the move to the Santiago Bernabeu, it could send Ronald to Paris as Juve look to reduce their wage bill in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic reports Harry Kane will ask to leave Tottenham if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League. The Spurs star has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Madrid.

Barcelona are eyeing Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, claims Mundo Deportivo. The LaLiga giants are not rumoured to be interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who is set to depart Bavaria at season's end.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are interested in signing Barca star Pedri, who reportedly has a release clause around £70million (€81m).

United have been warned West Ham will not accept an offer to include Jesse Lingard as part of a deal to prise Declan Rice to Old Trafford, claims The Sun. United are also keen to bring back Sam Johnstone from West Brom if David de Gea or Dean Henderson leave.

- Bild says Liverpool are entering the final stages of a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Premier League rivals United have also been linked.

Few would forget the previous meeting between Tottenham and Manchester United – least of all Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils manager described the 6-1 battering at Old Trafford as "my worst day ever", and "very embarrassing" as he tried to come to terms with United's heaviest defeat since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and some deeply worrying performance levels from his players.

It marked the first time since 1986-87 that United had lost their first two league games of a season, with Crystal Palace having humbled them 3-1 on matchday one. The intervening match was a borderline miraculous 3-2 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, when Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty in the 100th minute after the hosts had hit the woodwork five times.

While Jose Mourinho could celebrate vengeance on his old club, fans and pundits feared for his successor. Gary Neville blasted the "spineless" players as "absolutely pathetic"; Patrice Evra, sitting shellshocked in a Sky Sports studio, told the United stars: "Look in the mirror and be honest – you're an embarrassment."

In fact, it seemed Solskjaer was alone in promising United would bounce back. His vow to fight to turn things around sounded almost blindly optimistic, as Spurs suddenly looked the most obvious dark horse to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City in the title race.

And yet, ahead of Sunday's match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, only one manager is facing serious, persistent questions about his future – and it's not the man from Norway.

Now, it's Spurs who look to be going backwards, as the clamour for a change in the dugout grows and the incumbent looks increasingly unable to fix the problems.

ROLE-REVERSAL

Spurs' 6-1 win moved them to seven points from their first four matches and left United four points and 11 goals behind in the table.

Since that game, the two teams' trajectories have been very different. United have taken 57 points from their most recent 27 matches, 15 more than Spurs, who have played a game less. Solskjaer's men in that time are behind only Man City when it comes to most points, most wins (16), most goals scored (53) and fewest conceded (22), with each side suffering a league-low two defeats.

Spurs, by contrast, have won 12 and lost eight since that Old Trafford visit, scoring 39 goals (the second-lowest in the top seven) and conceding 27 (the joint-most in the top seven). They have lost more times in home games since then (three) than United have in total (two), while the Red Devils have won eight of their most recent 14 away league matches as part of a club-record run of 22 on the road without defeat.

Goals have been a particular concern for Spurs despite the spectacular form of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Spurs outperformed their expected goals by nearly a factor of two in the win over United and have surpassed their seasonal xG in the Premier League by eight, showing the benefit of their ruthless centre-forwards. Such figures are always likely to even out eventually: in their most recent game at Newcastle United, xG suggests a 2-2 draw was just about the best result they could have hoped for on the day given the quality of chances they created and conceded.

'A BRITTLE HORSE'

Arsenal loanee Joe Willock's 85th-minute equaliser for Newcastle saw Spurs drop yet more points due to late drama. This season, they have given up 11 points thanks to goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of matches, the most of any side in the division.

Kane's double meant they had been winning at half-time, making that game at St James' Park the sixth in 2020-21 in which they have failed to win after leading at the break – again, the worst such figure in the top flight.

It has become a worrying habit for Mourinho's teams. During his first 120 Premier League games in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho saw his side drop only 14 points from winning positions and just six in their title-winning seasons in 2004-05 and 2005-06. His United side gave up 18 points from winning positions in 93 matches; in 56 games at Spurs, he has watched his players surrender 26 points.

By contrast, United have become better at holding onto results. After giving up 14 points from winning positions last season, they have only surrendered seven in 2020-21, the same number as leaders City. Crucially, they have gained more points from losing positions (25) than any other Premier League side this term, underlining Solskjaer's demands for more "robustness" from his players.

That difference in holding onto points between Mourinho's old and present team has little to do with luck, or 'Spursyness', or even Bruno Fernandes penalties (he's scored four in 17 league games in 2021). Rather, it seems a natural result of stylistic differences, of percentages (mostly) playing out in United's favour.

THE 'UNITED WAY' IS WORKING

While United have scored 53 goals in 27 league games since losing to Spurs – fewer only than Man City (60 in 28) – Mourinho's men have scored 39 in 26, the sixth-best tally in that time frame.

Like Spurs, United are outperforming their xG for this season (by seven), but their superior goalscoring – and results – have emerged from what appears to be a broadly more attacking attitude since that October hammering.

United have attempted 390 shots since that defeat, fewer only than Man City (424). Of those shots, 163 have been on target, just one down on the league leaders. As for Spurs, they have attempted 268 shots in their most recent 26 games – that's the sixth-lowest figure in the league, and three behind Steve Bruce's much-maligned Newcastle United.

It follows that their chances created (186) is also the sixth-lowest number in the division in that time, and 124 behind United, who are again second only to Man City in this category.

The best Mourinho teams have been famously intransigent when it comes to giving up chances to their opponents, but again, Spurs do not fall into such a category. Since beating United, Spurs have faced 337 shots, more than 11 other clubs including north London rivals Arsenal (298), struggling Fulham (297) and Southampton (285). They have conceded 27 goals in that time; only West Ham (33) have let in more among sides currently in the top seven in the table.

In the same time period, United have faced 284 shots – that may only be the sixth-best in the league, but it's a major improvement on Spurs' tally – with only 22 finding a way in.

United are not the finished article, of course, and Spurs could yet end this troubled season with a top-four finish and an EFL Cup. Still, Solskjaer is making much stronger progress than Mourinho – something that seemed implausible six months ago.

Lionel Messi's future is a popular topic.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona at the start of the season but opted to remain at Camp Nou.

With his contract expiring at the end of 2020-21, the Barca superstar is continuing to make headlines.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WAITING ON BARCA

Barcelona have yet to make a move to re-sign superstar captain Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Marca.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future is far from certain, having been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Led by new president Joan Laporta, Barca are determined to retain the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Ousmane Dembele wants to continue with Barca, but speculation is mounting that Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar could return to Camp Nou. Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has been negotiating a new contract in the French capital. Dembele has previously been linked with Manchester United.

Manchester City are eyeing a new striker but they are unwilling to spend "crazy" money, claims Fabrizio Romano. With Sergio Aguero – linked with Chelsea, Inter, PSG and Barcelona – leaving on a free transfer, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland has emerged as City's prime target, while Tottenham star Harry Kane is another option.

- Goal says Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi could swap clubs. Both players have struggled this season and they could reportedly be involved in an exchange deal. Romagnoli has attracted interest from Barca and Chelsea.

- Eurosport reports United and Liverpool could go head-to-head in a battle to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool, but United are also interested. Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly are also reportedly being monitored at Old Trafford.

- Romano claims there are "huge chances" for Hector Bellerin to leave Arsenal. The Spaniard was previously linked with PSG and Barca.

With the Premier League back following the international break, in many ways it was essentially business as usual.

Manchester United were underwhelming but came from behind yet again, while Harry Kane provided his customary reminder that he's probably a bit too good for Tottenham – or this Tottenham, at the very least.

Liverpool showed signs of having their mojo back in a 3-0 win at Arsenal that was inspired by Diogo Jota, though Manchester City moved another step closer to taking the Reds' crown.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United – who have long looked doomed – are closing in on a Premier League record… Not that it's one they'll want to brag about.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the more quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action…

Diogo's Jota lot going for him

How much better off Liverpool would be now had Jota not missed a large chunk of the season is impossible to know, but it's a fair assumption they'd be in a stronger position than they are.

The Portugal international returned following a three-month absence in March, scoring the winner against former club Wolves before then netting thrice for his country during the international break.

He was held back at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday but yet again proved he doesn't need long to make an impact, his brace helping secure a 3-0 win over Arsenal – it was 0-0 when he entered the pitch around the hour mark.

Those goals took him to eight in the Premier League this season from 730 minutes, meaning he boasts comfortably the best minutes-per-goal record (91) among players to have scored at least once this term. The next best is Gareth Bale with five from 561 minutes (one every 112 mins).

His 4.7 xG overperformance suggests either his form is not sustainable or he's developing into an elite-level chance-taker – hopefully an injury-free 2021-22 will unveil the truth.

Kane eyes Cole feat

While 2020-21 has been rather hit-and-miss for Tottenham, the same cannot be said for Kane.

The England captain is enjoying another stellar season but, perhaps more pertinently, he seems to have added another string to his bow when it comes to setting up team-mates.

With that in mind, his brace at the weekend means he now tops both the Premier League goalscoring (19) and assist (13) charts. He probably won't match his personal best of 30 goals for a single season, but in terms of goal involvements he's only four adrift of the 36 he managed in 2016-17 (29 goals, seven assists).

Therefore he's in with a great shout of being only the second player in Premier League history to finish a season with the most goals and assists.

Andy Cole is the only player to lead both outright at the end of a season, accomplishing the feat in 1993-94 when he netted 34 times and set up another 13 – this was before the competition changed from a 42-game season to 38.

Mourinho and Spurs dreaming of Man United's comeback record

It was just another weekend of Manchester United coming from behind to snatch a win and Tottenham throwing away a lead.

United netted twice in the second half to cancel out Danny Welbeck's opener for Brighton and Hove Albion, clinching a 2-1 win at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

It means they have gained 25 points from losing positions in the Premier League this term, a figure only ever bettered three times – West Brom (27) in 2010-11, United themselves (29) in 2012-13 and Newcastle United (34) in 2001-02.

It's been a different story for Tottenham this season, however, as they've not been able to hold on to leads – Newcastle rescuing a 2-2 draw against them on Sunday being the latest example, with the Magpies' xG of four being their highest figure since 2016-17.

They've now dropped 11 points due to goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of games, the worst record in the Premier League this term, and failed to win the six league games in which they've led at half-time. That's also a league-wide high.

As for Jose Mourinho, the 15 points he's seen Spurs surrender from winning positions in 2020-21 is already a joint-worst for him in a Premier League season.

Sheffield United on course for worst ever Premier League season

Okay, admittedly this one does depend on how you quantify "worst".

After all, Derby County hold the record for the fewest points ever won in a single Premier League season when they amassed just 11 in 2007-08, and Sheffield United already have three more.

However, Derby's 29 defeats equated to 76.3 per cent of their 38 matches, which along with Sunderland two years earlier, is the biggest proportion of losses in a solitary campaign.

Following the Blades' 2-1 loss at Leeds United on Saturday, they have lost 80 per cent of their matches this term (25 in total).

Given their form until now, few would be surprised to see them set a new Premier League record of 30 defeats.

The Premier League made its comeback this weekend, and there was no shortage of drama on Sunday.

It was a tail of turnarounds throughout the four fixtures – three sides coming from behind to win while Newcastle United and Tottenham played out a topsy turvy 2-2 draw.

Manchester United needed a late goal to see off Brighton and Hove Albion, while Southampton and Aston Villa claimed victories.

United have now won 95 Premier League points after conceding first, seven more than any other team in the history of the competition and, using Opta data, we take a look at more of the best facts from across the day's matches.

Southampton 3-2 Burnley: Ings puts former club to the sword in thrilling fightback 

Southampton picked up their first Premier League home win since their opening game in 2021 as they came from two goals down to beat Burnley 3-2, ending a run of five league outings at St. Mary's without a victory (D1 L4).

The Saints had not won a league game that they had trailed in by two goals since March 2016, when they defeated Liverpool under Ronald Koeman, but Danny Ings inspired the turnaround against his former club.

Having teed up Stuart Armstrong's goal, Ings became just the fourth player in Premier League history to score in four successive appearances against sides he has previously played for in the competition, after Robbie Keane in 2004, Jermain Defoe in 2009 and Wilfried Bony in 2017.

It was Nathan Redmond who then dealt the decisive blow, volleying in from Theo Walcott's cross after Nick Pope had brilliantly denied Ings a second.

Redmond has been directly involved in five goals in his past two games for Southampton (three goals and two assists), as many direct goal involvements as he had registered in his previous 30 appearances in all competitions combined.

Chris Wood gave Burnley the lead from a VAR-awarded penalty – the 100th spot-kick taken in the top flight this season, and the 83rd to be converted. This is only the seventh Premier League campaign to see a century of penalties awarded.

Newcastle United 2-2 Tottenham: Kane double not enough as Spurs let another lead slip

Tottenham looked set to move into the top four as they led 2-1 at Newcastle – Harry Kane's double putting them ahead after Joelinton carried on his goalscoring form against Spurs; he has now netted a total of four Premier League goals in 62 appearances, with two of those coming in four matches versus the north London team.

Kane has been directly involved in 45 goals in all competitions this term, scoring 29 times and providing 16 assists, equalling his career-best tally from 2017-18 (41 goals and four assists).

He has also scored 84 goals in 120 away games in the Premier League for Spurs, the most goals any player has scored on the road for a single club in the competition, going past Wayne Rooney's 82 for Manchester United.

Yet his efforts were not enough – Joe Willock rescuing a point for relegation-battling Newcastle, who have drawn three consecutive Premier League games at St. James' Park for the first time since another three-game run spanning December 2017 and January 2018.

Tottenham have dropped four points from winning positions against Newcastle this season, their most in a campaign against a single side since also dropping four versus Arsenal and West Brom in 2015-16, while Spurs have now failed to win six Premier League games after leading at half-time, the most of any side in 2020-21.

Aston Villa 3-1 Fulham: History made at Villa Park before Cottagers collapse

Sunday's clash between Aston Villa and Fulham was the first game in Premier League history in which every player in the starting XI for both sides was born after the first ever Premier League game on August 15, 1992.

Despite Dean Smith saying he would be available, Jack Grealish was not in Villa's squad, and Fulham hit the front through Aleksandar Mitrovic, who – after 159 days and 23 games without a goal for club and country – has now scored six times in the past 12 days, five times for Serbia and once for the Cottagers.

Yet only Southampton (18) and Brighton (20) have dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League this season than Fulham (16) after Scott Parker's third-bottom side suffered a collapse.

Trezeguet scored a rapid double – his two goals coming just 160 seconds apart. The Egypt international had previously attempted more shots without scoring than any other player in this season's Premier League (29).

Ollie Watkins helped himself to his first league goal in eight games, ending a run of 18 shots without a goal in the competition since netting versus Arsenal in February.

Manchester United 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Matchwinner Greenwood in elite company

Only Wayne Rooney (15) and Marcus Rashford (13) have scored more Premier League goals as teenagers for United than Mason Greenwood (12), who struck late on to complete the turnaround at Old Trafford.

Former Red Devil Danny Welbeck opened the scoring in Sunday's final game – he became the first player to net as many as three Premier League goals against United after having appeared for the club in the competition.

The 2020-21 season is only the second to see two players who have previously appeared for Manchester United in the Premier League score against them (Wilfried Zaha and Welbeck), along with the 1997-98 campaign, when Dion Dublin and Mark Hughes did so.

But United have now won 25 points from losing positions this term, nine more than any other side, while Brighton remain winless at Old Trafford in 13 attempts in all competitions (D2 L11).

Rashford – who has only scored more league goals (five) against Leicester City than he has against the Seagulls – equalised after being teed up by Bruno Fernandes, who has been directly involved in five goals in three Premier League appearances against Brighton.

Jose Mourinho has put Tottenham's inability to hold onto leads down to individual mistakes made by his players, rather than his own managerial ability. 

Harry Kane's quickfire double put Spurs 2-1 ahead at half-time in Sunday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United after Joelinton had opened the scoring.

That is how the game remained until five minutes from time when Arsenal loanee Joe Willock fired in an equaliser, just 52 seconds after Kane hit the post at the other end.

Spurs have now failed to win six Premier League games this season in which they have led at the interval – the most of any side – as they missed out on a place in the top four, but Mourinho insists his players only have themselves to blame for their latest setback.

"I am frustrated. We needed to win the match and we came to win," he told BBC Sport. "We were not far from winning it but, at the same time, we created some instability.

"That was down to many individual defensive mistakes that we made. We always gave Newcastle a chance to be in the game.

"Of course, we had the biggest chance of the game to make it 3-1 and kill it, then we concede a goal the next minute."

When it was put to Mourinho that his teams are normally good at holding onto leads, he said: "Same coach, different players."

Spurs would have climbed above Chelsea had they held on, but they instead sit two points off a Champions League spot ahead of next week's clash with Mourinho's former team Manchester United.

Asked if more time is needed to get the best out of his players, Mourinho said: "I don't think so. We work well, we work hard. 

"But there are mistakes which I probably shouldn't even call mistakes because they are related to qualities that players have."

Newcastle managed 22 shots at St James' Park – double that of Tottenham – and had some promising opportunities to score prior to Willock's leveller.

Kane was responsible for seven of Tottenham's 11 shots, but Mourinho felt it was the defensive aspect of his side's game which cost them a fifth win in six league games.

"The Premier League is hard and is high-level football, and when in some actions you don't show that you belong to that high level of football, it's difficult," he said.

"We made defensive mistakes that lead to instability. In the first half we were always in control, even in the second half when we had the ball we didn't have any problems.

"We could've scored a couple more, but in defensive situations we create instability with our mistakes, instability brings hope to our opponent, and our opponent didn't give up. 

"I had the same feeling and I'm on the bench. It's difficult to have the feeling of absolute control because I know that what happened can happen.

"You cannot score three, four, five goals every match. You come away from home and score two goals... we cannot ask for lots of goals every match, many times it's not possible."

Kane took his tally for the season to 19 goals in 28 appearances with his first-half double and admitted to being frustrated that his side failed to see out the victory.

"Whenever you are ahead in a game, as we have been a lot this season, and you give the lead away in the last 5-10 minutes, it's always hard to take," he told BBC Sport.

"I feel like we could have played better in the second half. We were a bit sloppy. We didn't take our chances and got punished for it.

"I think we had some good chances. The final ball, final pass or final touch weren't quite there. That's the fine margins. We need to play better."

Joe Willock scored late on to salvage relegation-threatened Newcastle United a potentially massive point in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham, who missed the chance to go fourth.   At the end of a week in which Harry Kane's future was something of a hot topic, it was only fitting for the England captain to score twice, but they were pegged back in the closing stages as Jose Mourinho's Spurs flattered to deceive again.   Having already gone extremely close to opening the scoring, Newcastle went in front through Joelinton, but six minutes later the home side trailed – Kane's predatory instincts on show as he scored a quick-fire brace.   But less than a minute after Kane hit the post in the second half, Willock – who is on loan from Spurs' bitter rivals Arsenal – blasted in from close range to seal a deserved point for Steve Bruce's men.

Harry Kane has been linked with a move away from Tottenham this upcoming transfer window.

But the England forward has another three years on his contract and a deal will not come easy for suitors.

Manchester City are the latest club to be linked with Kane, as they assess their options if they cannot land Erling Haaland this close-season.

 

TOP STORY - TOTTENHAM WARD OFF KANE INTEREST

Tottenham have placed a £175million price tag on Harry Kane amid reports of interest in their star captain.

The Sun has reported Tottenham are unwilling to sell Kane, let alone to a Premier League rival such as City.

Kane is understood be content to stay at Tottenham and the price tag will likely deter any continental interest.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are willing to sell one Norwegian Martin Odegaard, who is on loan at Arsenal, to generate the funds required to land his compatriot Haaland, according to The Times. The Gunners are understood to be keen to sign Odegaard permanently.

- Barcelona are lining up Inter's Lautaro Martinez as a possible signing if they fail to win the race for Haaland, reports Spanish publication Sport.

- Tuttosport claims that Juventus are readying a move to bring Moise Kean back to Turin from Everton after starring on loan at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Spanish outlet ABC is reporting that both Manchester United and Chelsea are keen on Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez.

Tottenham coach Jose Mourinho says he is expecting the upcoming off-season transfer window to be "strange" in light of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic of football clubs.

Spurs have attracted speculation around potential off-season transfer activity revolving around goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and forward Harry Kane.

Mourinho played down any talk of Kane exiting, insisting they have not spoken about his future and that he expects this off-season to be unusual although he would not be drawn on Spurs' transfer priorities.

"We know what we want, but at the same time we can all expect a strange summer," Mourinho said ahead of Tottenham's Premier League match with Newcastle on Sunday.

"I believe that it is going to be a bit strange in the sense of a different transfer window than in previous seasons, but in this moment I don’t think it is about anyone fighting for his future.

"I think it is about everyone fighting for the points we need to finish the season the best that we can."

Kane is a regular topic of transfer speculation with Manchester City the latest club linked with the England forward.

"No. He works so well every day," Mourinho said when asked if the pair had spoken about his future.

"He is such a professional, committed with the team, performing well. I've nothing to speak with him.

"Three years of his contract [left]. I have nothing to speak with him about. Unless he wants to speak with me about it and until now he never approached me in relation to anything."

On Lloris, who has just over 12 months left on his Tottenham contract, Mourinho added: "You know I don’t want to offend anyone and I hope that people just accept my opinion.

"We have, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in England and the best English goalkeeper [Joe Hart].

"So I am so happy with that that I don’t think about what can happen or not happen. Hugo has a contract, Joe has a contract. I'm so happy with both."

Jose Mourinho refused to "play that game" as his media conference ahead of Tottenham's clash with Newcastle United was dominated by questions about Harry Kane's future.

Tottenham head into Sunday's meeting at St James' Park knowing they can ill-afford a slip-up against the relegation-threatened Magpies as they pursue a place in the Premier League's top four and Champions League qualification.

Despite their position in the table - sixth, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea - talisman Kane, rather than a return to Europe's elite club competition, was the primary topic of conversation as Mourinho spoke with reporters.

Kane is under contract until 2024 but has recently said he will not decide his future until after this year's rescheduled European Championship, for which England are among the favourites.

He was on target in England's wins over Albania and Poland as the Three Lions followed up an emphatic victory over San Marino to take maximum points from their opening 2022 World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Kane netted in his last game for Spurs, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa, and Mourinho is more interested in him replicating that display rather than any talk about a possible transfer.

"I cannot play that game," he replied when asked about speculation surrounding Kane. 

"I have to focus on what he is for us, of course I'm always pleased when my players go to national teams and they do well.

"I'm happy he does well for England, but I cannot play that game of what the people say, doesn't say. I focus on what he did for us in the last match against Villa, I focus on the effort that I saw him put on the pitch for England and I focus on the match against Newcastle, he will be there for the team and that's where I have to focus.

"I don't know if he always has a smile, I know that he is professional. I'm very pleased to have him and I repeat I'm happy to see him and all the other guys when they go to national teams, when they do well, come back after a positive result.

"He's living a good period, he's doing well for club and country. Ahead of him until the end of the season he has nice challenges, a [EFL Cup] final, a Premier League to fight for every point then he has a Euros with a possibility to play a final at Wembley. He has to be happy with the moment he's living.

"I want Harry to be with us. I want Harry to repeat against Newcastle the same performance that he had against Aston Villa. The same commitment, same desire, same team spirit, leadership, that's what I want. I know that I'm going to have that."

Kane will likely have Son Heung-min back for company on Spurs' forward line against Newcastle, Mourinho confirming the South Korea star is fit enough to be selected having not played since sustaining a thigh injury in the North London derby defeat to Arsenal on March 14.

"[Son] is good. He will be selected. He was injured, he trained with the team fully for the first time this morning," added Mourinho. 

"Yesterday he was coming to do partial exercises, not a complete session. This morning was the first day he did it. Last week he didn't train at all, it was impossible for him to play international. It would be impossible if the game was yesterday.

"This time was a good time for him to recover from injury. In this moment we have [Matt] Doherty and Ben Davies out, apart from that, everyone is fit to play."

Premier League stars have returned to their clubs after international duty and now we enter perhaps the most intense stretch of the season.

Will your fantasy league players last the distance or are some showing signs of flagging already? Perhaps the World Cup qualifiers gave you an idea of which stars could deliver for their clubs in the race for those top-four places.

Can Timo Werner rally after his awful miss in Germany's defeat to North Macedonia, or should you look elsewhere for Chelsea players after the Blues' stunning start under Thomas Tuchel.

Our Opta-powered fantasy picks should provide some food for thought ahead of the 30th round of games this weekend.

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea, who play West Brom, have shipped just two goals in 10 Premier League games since former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel arrived, with the German boss making the London side come good on the potential they showed fleetingly during Frank Lampard's reign.

Goalkeeper Mendy had already looked a shrewd addition and he owns the best save percentage (77.4 per cent) among Premier League goalkeepers in 2021. Only Manchester City's Ederson has conceded fewer goals per game this year among keepers with a minimum of 300 minutes of action. Mendy has conceded seven in 12 games at an average of 0.58, while Ederson has been beaten eight times in 15 matches for a 0.53 average since the turn of the year.

LUKE SHAW

Impressed by Luke Shaw's return to England favour? Wait until you hear what he's been achieving at club level. Shaw's Manchester United form has been a sensational second coming for the player who first caught the eye as a teenager with club and country, and he will look to impress against Brighton on Sunday.

The former Southampton left-back has been directly involved in more goals (one goal, four assists) in 2021 than any other Premier League defender, with his 36 chances created making Shaw a clear leader in that field too. Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (24 chances created) sits a distant second on the list.

CESAR AZPILICUETA

Already emerging as a favourite of Tuchel, Azpilicueta has played his part in nine clean sheets with Chelsea in 12 Premier League appearances since the start of the year. That is more than any other defender has managed in the competition across that period of time.

The 31-year-old club captain is leading by example and West Brom's attackers will have their work cut out against the former Marseille defender this weekend. Team-mate Antonio Rudiger, who has played 11 league games in 2021, is one of four players in the top flight to have played a part in eight clean sheets this year.

RIYAD MAHREZ

Leicester City know all about Mahrez and his wily ways on the wing, but whether they can stop the Manchester City star on Saturday is perhaps another matter.

The Algerian, who was a Premier League winner with the Foxes, has been involved in 11 goals in his last 13 Premier League starts (eight goals, three assists). Across his last three league games against Leicester, he has managed two goals and two assists.

SADIO MANE

Could the international break prove to be just the interruption that last year's flagging champions Liverpool needed? Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co will hope to resume on a positive note when Jurgen Klopp's men tackle Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Five of Mane's seven Premier League goals for Liverpool this season have come away from home, with four of those coming in London – this is his only Premier League campaign so far where he has scored more goals away than at home. The Senegalese has also scored seven Premier League goals against Arsenal, only netting more against Crystal Palace (10). Two of those have come away at Arsenal, including one in a 2-1 defeat last July.

HARRY KANE

In need of a fix of guaranteed points? Tough, they don't exist. But Kane would be close to the top of any all-time list of the Premier League's most reliable scorers, and he already has 17 goals and 13 assists for Tottenham in the competition this season.

Across all competitions, Kane has been involved in 43 goals in 40 games this term (27 goals, 16 assists), and in terms of involvements that haul is just two short of his best ever season in his senior career (41 goals and four assists in 2017-18). Tottenham go to Newcastle on Sunday, with Kane looking to add to the three league goals he has previously bagged at St James' Park.

Lionel Messi has been tipped to leave Barcelona for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

But Haaland could reportedly unlock Messi's future.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND TO CITY MEANS BARCA STAY FOR MESSI?

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could hold the key to Lionel Messi's future at Barcelona, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Barca, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

City have been tipped to sign Messi, but should they step up their pursuit of Haaland, the Premier League leaders could reportedly drop their interest in the Barca captain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says new Barca president Joan Laporta is preparing a contract renewal for Messi, who is set to become a free agent at season's end.

- Bayern Munich are eyeing a move for Tottenham star Son Heung-min, claims Football Insider. Son has reportedly been offered a bumper new contract by Spurs, but the former Bayer Leverkusen forward is wanted in Munich.

- Sporting CP's Joao Palhinha, Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria and Sander Berge of Sheffield United are on the list of midfielders to replace City veteran Fernandinho, reports A Bola.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Juventus and Barca are interested in Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli. The Italy defender is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly seeking a €6million-a-year contract.

Napoli are eyeing Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi and sporting director Igli Tare, claims Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. Gennaro Gattuso has been tipped to leave Napoli at the end of the season, with ex-Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, Luciano Spalletti and Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric among the possible replacements. But Lazio duo Inzaghi and Tare are being monitored to replace Gattuso and Cristiano Giuntoli in Naples.

United are interested in Lille defender Sven Botman, according to Fabrizio Romano. Sevilla star Jules Kounde has been on United's radar but the club's asking price of €80m (£68m) is too steep.

- Romano also says there is no agreement with United and Paul Pogba over a new contract. Pogba has been linked with former club Juve, Madrid and PSG.

Harry Maguire bailed out what looked set to be a costly John Stones error as the Manchester United defender scored England's late winner in a 2-1 victory over Poland on Wednesday.

Gareth Southgate's men, who had begun a new World Cup qualifying campaign with wins over San Marino and Albania, just about did enough against a Poland side without the injured Robert Lewandowski.

The Three Lions were good value for their lead amid a commanding first-half display, Harry Kane becoming England's all-time leading penalty scorer on 10 as he converted after fine play by Raheem Sterling.

Stones gifted Poland a chance that Jakub Moder capitalised on in the 58th minute, though he played an important role as Maguire's goal maintain England's unblemished start in Group I.

 

England played the ball around with swagger during the early exchanges and almost opened the scoring in the eighth minute, only for Phil Foden to head Ben Chilwell's cross over after Mason Mount carved the Poland defence open.

Nevertheless, England did not have to wait much longer to take the lead, Kane confidently dispatching a penalty having seen the lively Sterling clumsily tripped by Michal Helik.

Kane was then denied a second just past the half-hour mark, latching on to Foden's clever first-time offload and forcing Wojciech Szczesny into an applaudable save down to his right from 20 yards.

But England were pegged back before the hour, Stones – who had put England in trouble a few minutes earlier only to be bailed out by Nick Pope – was robbed just outside his own penalty and Moder applied an emphatic finish after being fed by substitute Arkadiusz Milik.

England's response was meek, the home side's urgency showing little sign of improvement as the seconds ticked away – Foden's weak right-footed shot in the 69th minute causing Szczesny no bother.

There was to be a final hurrah for the hosts, however, as Stones made up for his earlier blunder by heading a corner delivery back into the danger zone and Maguire smashed past the helpless Szczesny to seal the points.

Manchester City will turn to Harry Kane if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

It is widely expected City will go hard to sign the Norway striker, who is being pursued by numerous big clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in the Borussia Dortmund man.

 

TOP STORY - KANE IN CITY'S SIGHTS

The Times reports that if City fail to win the race for Haaland's signature they will consider making an offer for Tottenham talisman Kane.

Kane is seven years older than Haaland but has a proven Premier League goal scoring record.

City have already confirmed Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of the season and are in the market to bolster their forward ranks.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail is reporting that City's main priorities in the transfer market are to sign Haaland and Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, as they turn to a younger generation of talent. The duo are expected to cost £200 million.

- Football Insider has reported Lionel Messi has requested FC Barcelona sign countryman Aguero as part of his own negotiations to stay with the Catalans. Mundo Deportivo claims Aguero is not a priority signing for Barca, with Memphis Depay, Romelu Lukaku and Haaland top of the list.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma has been linked with a host of big clubs and Sky Sport Italia are reporting that contract talks with AC Milan are at a standstill. Milan are allegedly offering €7million per-year deal but the goalkeeper wants more.

- Voetbalkrant are reporting Southampton are interested in Anderlecht's teenage defender Marco Kana.

- Ex-Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre is interested in becoming Celtic's new coach, according to the Daily Mail.

- Fichajes reports Leeds United's Rodrigo is unhappy in England and wants to return to Spain, with Real Betis and Sevilla in the mix.

England boss Gareth Southgate expects Poland to be highly motivated for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley in the absence of captain and leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich striker sustained a knee injury in Sunday's 3-0 win over Andorra - a game in which he scored twice - and it was confirmed by his club on Tuesday that he will miss the next month.

Lewandowski has scored 66 goals in 118 appearances for Poland, including nine goals in his last nine starts in all competitions.

But Southgate rejected the notion that England will be boosted by the prolific striker's absence for the clash between Group I's top two seeds.

"From our perspective, you're going to have players who are hungry to fill that opportunity," Southgate said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"They're a good side with some good players. They will all fight for the cause and they're a good football team. They've got high motivation. 

"We've got to keep improving. We've shown a good level and we've got to keep stepping up.

"I understand the question, but I think Poland have excellent players. We would be naive to think they are less of a threat. 

"If we think of taking our foot off the gas, we'll get hurt. Of course, the public want to see the star names, but a team isn't about one player."

England will be looking to make it three wins from three in their March fixtures after following up a 5-0 win over San Marino with a 2-0 victory in Albania on Sunday.

Mason Mount was among the scorers in Tirana and has enjoyed an impressive campaign at club level with Chelsea.

He has played the most minutes of any Chelsea player (2,231) this term, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

The 168 passes Mount has played into the opposition box is also by far the most among Chelsea players, form that he has carried over onto the international stage.

There had been doubts over the midfielder's fitness after he sat out part of training on Tuesday, but Southgate expects to have one of his key men available for the visit of Poland.

"He didn't warm up with the team but he did the rest of the session with his team-mates," Southgate said. "He should be fine. They are all available as far as we are aware.

"We've managed the team through the matches and the training sessions. We've been very cautious. We've got to balance that freshness. 

"We were very happy with the performance the other day. Around Europe, most countries have taken a similar slant."

Poland may be without their leading marksman for the game, but England have a fit and firing Harry Kane to lead their line.

The Tottenham striker's club future has been the subject of much speculation during the international break, but Southgate reiterated his captain will not be distracted by the rumours.

"He's so focused. I had a chat with him and he's very positive about the club," Southgate said. 

"He was talking about being a few points off the Champions League, into the EFL Cup final. I've got no worries about Harry Kane. He's a fantastic professional.

"Harry is highly motivated. All players want to win. He's got an opportunity with his club to do that."

Kane has scored on six days of the week for England but has never managed to do so on a Wednesday, failing in three different games on that day so far. 

Only Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney have scored on all seven of the days of the week for the Three Lions.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.