Mikel Arteta is unsure whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey will be fit for Arsenal's Premier League trip to Liverpool on Saturday.

The in-form Gunners travel to Merseyside without a win at Anfield since September 2012, but with the longest unbeaten run in the top flight of eight matches.

Captain Aubamayang has emerged as a doubt for the clash with the Reds after returning from international duty with Gabon early, while Ghana midfielder Partey's fitness is also a concern for the London club due to a muscle injury.

Asked about Aubamayang's early return, Arteta said on Friday: "No, it wasn't pre-planned, we have to assess him and see how he is and make a decision.

"We have a lot players who have been through some different games, issues, little injuries, so today we have to test everybody and see how we are to play tomorrow.

"Same again [for Partey], he could not play for the national team, he really tried to do that because they had a massive game and he really pushed for that one, but he wasn't close enough to do that. Again, it's something we have to assess today."

Liverpool's 3-2 defeat at West Ham before the international break ended their 20-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

The Reds are unbeaten in nine at home in the top flight and Arteta is relishing the challenge of trying to secure a long-awaited win at Anfield.

"It is always a test, it is a fascinating stadium to play football in," said the former Everton midfielder. "You have to be at your best, and raise the level to your maximum standards, emotionally, physically, tactically, because if you don't you will be exposed.

"Going to Anfield is always a test, but if you are able to do that, there are not many grounds as good as there to feel that you are a proper footballer.

"You really feel as a footballer you are in a place where you really have to give your best and when you do, it's an incredible feeling, because you have overcome a really difficult and challenging situation.

"When you don't, like it has happened other times, after you feel regrets for things that you haven't done or you should have done differently, or you haven't approached the game in the right way. I think it's one of those places where you have to go there and believe on the day and show why you want to play football.

"I don't know [why we haven't won there more], obviously the quality of the opponent has a big say. It's not a coincidence that last year as well before we went to Old Trafford, it was I don't know how many years before we won at Stamford Bridge the same, but first of all you have to believe that you go there and that you can beat them, that's the first thing.

"If somebody is not with that mindset, they should not put the shirt on and go to Anfield tomorrow and then as I said you have to raise individually your game to your best, emotionally, physically, technically and tactically you have to be able to suffer in the right moments, because there’s going to be moments where you're going to have to do that and then as a team you have to have very clear ideas of what you're going to do on that pitch to beat that side."

International football is officially over for another year. *Pauses for cheers or jeers*

With the November international break done with, we turn our attention back to domestic football, with a hectic period set to begin in the Premier League.

More fantasy points will be available over the next seven weeks or so than at any other period in the season, such is the jammed nature of the schedule, and there's no better time to get ahead of the curve.

Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data to pick out seven picks for this week, hopefully giving you the edge...

EDOUARD MENDY (Leicester City v Chelsea)

Leicester City may represent a tricky opponent for any team, particularly given their good options going forward, but if anyone can keep them at bay, it's Mendy.

Not only has the Senegal international conceded the joint-fewest goals (four, excluding own goals, minimum of three appearances) in the Premier League, he also leads the way with 3.4 goals prevented, according to expected goals on target data.

In terms of form goalkeepers this season, Aaron Ramsdale runs him close, but Mendy is the outstanding candidate.

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Everton)

City's versatile Portuguese full-back enjoyed an exceptional 2020-21, but he seems to have stepped things up even further this term.

In 17 games in 2021-22 across all competitions, Cancelo has already reached seven goal involvements (two goals, five assists), just one fewer than his haul of eight in 43 outings last term.

He has been hugely influential at City, while it would also hardly be a surprise if they keep a clean sheet against an out-of-sorts Everton.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool v Arsenal)

Liverpool's right-back became something of a scapegoat – fairly or not, that's a discussion for another day – in 2020-21. It is safe to say his critics are rather quieter at the moment.

Only Bruno Fernandes (37) can better Alexander-Arnold's 30 chances created in the Premier League this term, while no defender has more than his four assists.

A resurgent Arsenal could cause Liverpool issues, so a clean sheet is no guarantee, but there is no defender more likely to nab you an assist or two.

CONOR GALLAGHER (Burnley v Crystal Palace)

On-loan Chelsea youngster Gallagher has been a revelation for Palace this season, with his all-action style proving a great addition to Patrick Vieira's team.

He has also provided plenty of quality in the final third, having a hand in a team-high six goals (four goals, two assists).

Gallagher has already beaten his combined tally (two goals, two assists) from 2020-21 when he was on loan at West Brom, and he won his first England cap against San Marino earlier this week.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Watford v Manchester United)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have seemingly hobbled from 'crisis' to 'crisis' this season, and while Fernandes arguably has not been as impressive as last season, he is still essential to the Red Devils.

He leads the way with the most chances created (37) in the league this term, and that fits into his wider excellence ever since joining United, a period that has seen him supply the most assists (22) and craft the most goal-scoring opportunities (162) of anyone in the competition.

Additionally, only Mohamed Salah (55) has been involved in more goals than Fernandes (52) in the same period. Regardless of perceptions of his form, the Portugal star is a must-have, particularly given United will fancy their chances of bouncing back at Vicarage Road.

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Everton)

While he may not be playing in the striker role many might have expected before the season started, instead featuring largely as a right-sided winger, Jesus has made a strong start to 2021-22.

With the South American World Cup qualifiers not extended to a triple-header this month, Jesus is also less of a selection risk than he was after the international breaks in September and October.

But above all, he loves playing Everton. In eight Premier League games against them, Jesus has scored eight times, or roughly one every 69 minutes, and he will be aiming to give the Toffees plenty to chew on yet again this weekend.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Leeds United)

Among the players Antonio Conte will be hoping to get more out of after a slow start to the season, Son is surely near the top of the list.

Since the start of last season, no player has outperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by a greater margin than the South Korean (8.2), with 21 goals from 12.8 xG.

Obviously that can suggest a degree of unsustainable fortune on Son's part, but we all know he is an exceptional player capable of the extraordinary. Leeds are a side who let other teams play, and that might be just what the doctor ordered for Son and Spurs.

Luis Diaz's agent says it is "normal" the Porto winger is attracting interest from Europe's heavyweights, amid links to Liverpool and Chelsea.

Since making the switch from Colombian side Junior to Porto in July 2019, Diaz has scored 21 goals, provided nine assists and created 59 chances in Portugal's Primeira Liga.

This season alone, he has nine goals in 11 top-flight appearances to stand top of the scoring charts in Portugal's highest tier.

The 24-year-old has a reported €80million release clause in his contract, with Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea reported to be weighing up a move for the Colombia international.

He has also caught the eye in the Champions League this term, scoring against Atletico Madrid and Milan, and will come up against Liverpool in Europe's premier competition next week.

For his representative, Carlos Van Strahalen, such attention is to be expected given his impressive form.

Speaking to Bola Branca, Van Strahalen said: "It's normal. If a player plays well, if he starts to stand out, if the majority considers him the best player in the Portuguese league, if he's the top scorer and is making a high-level Champions League, that interest is normal.

"Can he leave Porto? I don't know."

Steven Gerrard insists he does not see the Aston Villa job as "a stepping stone" towards becoming Liverpool manager.

The Reds legend took the top job at Villa Park last week, agreeing terms on a deal that runs until 2025 after calling time on his Rangers stint.

Gerrard had guided the Gers to their first Scottish Premiership title success in 10 years last season and left with the Ibrox club four points clear of rivals Celtic.

The 41-year-old takes over a Villans team who lost their last five in a row under Dean Smith, with Gerrard seeking to lead a revival that would enhance his own reputation as a manager.

But he does not see his new club as a stopping-off point en route to a potential return to Liverpool.

"I'm all in, and I will give this job everything that it needs for it to be a success. I'll be 100 per cent committed and so will my staff," Gerrard said at his first Villa media conference on Thursday.

"[It's] very unfair, and you'll never hear me saying it's a stepping stone. For me, I'm really honoured and proud to be in this position.

"There is nothing wrong in football with having dreams and aspirations, but Liverpool have got a world-class coach [in Jurgen Klopp] that they are very happy with.

"If he was to sign a lifetime deal right now, then I would be very happy for them and him."

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8 per cent, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020.

His first game at the Villa helm is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, while his return to Anfield will come on December 11.

The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool, and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Klopp one day.

"He's a great man and a great coach," Gerrard added. "I think Liverpool are very lucky to have him at the helm, and I'm a Liverpool fan, so long may that continue.

"He sent me a message and said he's looking forward to a big hug on the side on 11 December, so it's something for me to look forward to."

Paul Pogba's future continues to make headlines.

With his contract expiring, it remains to be seen whether he will remain at Manchester United.

United are believed to be ready to move on as Real Madrid lurk.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID READY TO POUNCE FOR POGBA

Manchester United have given up on keeping Pogba and Real Madrid have a "great opportunity" to sign the Frenchman, according to the front page of Thursday's Marca.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and the United star is no closer to a renewal at Old Trafford.

Madrid are continuing to circle Pogba, who has also been linked with former club Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Sport claims Barca are eyeing moves for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman. Out-of-favour Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo have also been linked.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will extend his contract at Milan until 2023, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Chelsea are interested in signing Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana, says Foot Mercato. The 20-year-old is yet to play this season due to a serious leg injury.

- El Nacional reports Madrid and Chelsea will go head-to-head to land Monaco star Aurelien Tchouameni. The France international is also reportedly wanted by Juve, City, United, Liverpool, Bayern and Newcastle United.

Newcastle are eyeing Inter duo Stefan de Vrij and Marcelo Brozovic and Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, per The Times.

Real Madrid are well-known admirers of Kylian Mbappe.

The Spanish giants have been linked with a January move for the winger.

Mbappe has indicated he will leave Paris Saint-Germain in the near future.

 

TOP STORY – REAL TO REMAIN PATIENT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid will not chase a deal for Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe during the January transfer window, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Los Blancos have been pursuing the 22-year-old France international who is out of contract at the end of this season.

There had been speculation about when Madrid would move for Mbappe, given his contract status, but it is anticipated they will patiently wait until the off-season when he is a free agent.

ROUND-UP 

- Sky Sports Germany claims that Juventus could make a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel in January. The report claims that Witsel is keen on a quick move.

- Philippe Coutinho is set to snub cashed-up Newcastle United in January as he does not want to leave Barcelona, claims Sport.

- Barcelona are set to table a €40million offer for Red Bull Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi according to Sport1, although Dortmund remain favourites to sign the teenager.

- Wolverhampton are ready to cash in Spanish winger Adama Traore in January with Barcelona circling to rival Liverpool for his signature, reports 90min.

- Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is not in consideration for the vacant Rangers head coaching position following Steven Gerrard's exit, reports Sky Sports.

Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones will be out of action for several more weeks due to his "freak" eye injury.

Jones did not play in Liverpool's last two matches before the international break, missing a win over Atletico Madrid and a defeat to West Ham.

Manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed at the time the youngster had sustained an injury in training, describing it as "a finger to the eye".

However, ahead of Saturday's home match with Arsenal, Liverpool have announced the 20-year-old academy graduate is facing a longer spell out than initially anticipated.

"It's a freak injury and very unlucky, but the important thing to emphasise is there is no lasting damage and his vision won't be impacted beyond the recovery period," club doctor Jim Moxon told Liverpool's official website.

"However, the nature of the issue means caution is important; we need to allow it time to heal and we can't rush it, therefore it won't be a speedy return.

"It needs to mend before we are able to reintroduce Curtis to full training, but there are things he can do in the meantime to maintain fitness.

"We can't put a specific timescale on a return beyond it will be a number of weeks from now as it heals naturally, so it's not one we will risk and patience is a virtue with this specific recovery."

Jones has featured in nine games across all competitions this term, starting six times and helping Liverpool to six victories and three draws.

He has scored once and provided three assists from eight chances created in total. Only Mohamed Salah (seven) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (six) have teed up more goals in Liverpool's squad.

Often used on the left side of Klopp's midfield three, Jones has registered a passing accuracy of 91.53 per cent – higher than any other player to have played at least three games across all competitions.

His defensive work has also been impressive, with Jones winning five of eight attempted tackles and recording a duel success rate of 53.85 per cent.

Klopp will be hopeful Jones returns in time for the festive period, as the Premier League approaches its busiest part of the year.

After facing Arsenal, Liverpool host Porto and Southampton prior to making the short trip to Goodison Park for the first Merseyside derby of the season.

Liverpool face Tottenham, Leeds United, Leicester City and Chelsea in the league from December 19 to January 2, while they also take on the Foxes in the EFL Cup on December 22.

It appears Raheem Sterling's future is away from Manchester City.

Down the pecking order, Sterling has been linked with Barcelona.

City, however, are believed to want a player as part of any deal.

 

TOP STORY – STERLING OUT, TER STEGEN IN?

Manchester City are interested in a swap deal that could see Raheem Sterling move to Barcelona in exchange for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to El Nacional.

Barca are reportedly trying to bring Sterling to Camp Nou, with the England international struggling for regular game time at the Premier League champions.

Pep Guardiola had previously tried to bring Frenkie de Jong to Manchester but Barca were not keen, though the City manager is now interested in goalkeeper Ter Stegen – who has been linked with Bayern Munich in the past.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid plan to extend Luka Modric's contract for one more season, reports Marca. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season. He has previously been linked with Milan and Inter.

- Diario AS claims Barcelona are eyeing a move for Spain and Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta. The 32-year-old is out of contract at season's end.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Milan are accelerating their efforts to sign Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches. It comes amid uncertainty over soon-to-be free agent Franck Kessie, who is tipped to leave Milan following reported interest from the likes of Manchester UnitedBarcaParis Saint-GermainTottenham and Inter. Sanches has also been suggested as a target for Liverpool and Wolves.

- Calciomercato claims CityLiverpoolJuventus and Roma are targeting Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria.

- Serie A champions Inter are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic, per Gazzetta dello sport. Inter tried to prise the winger from Eintracht at the start of the season.

Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has acknowledged his England career so far "could have gone better".

The 23-year-old has starred at club level as part of a team who have won Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Premier League titles in the past few years.

Speaking to ITV Sport, Alexander-Arnold revealed he expected to have played more games for his country and feels there is a lot more to come from him in an England shirt.

When asked about how he feels about his international career so far, Alexander-Arnold said "It's a mix really. I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've had, I've been to a World Cup, played in games, so that's amazing.

"But at the same time, there's something inside me that tells me that in my mind it could have gone better for me personally.

"If I'm being selfish, I expect myself to play more games, to have been involved a bit more and there's a lot more to be unlocked.

"It's two very different roles at club and country. Different responsibilities, different personnel and different tactics. Adjustments have to be made between club and country, and I've probably just struggled with doing that, I would say."

After scoring a free-kick in Liverpool's recent 3-2 defeat at West Ham, Alexander-Arnold now has 45 Premier League goal involvements (nine goals, 36 assists), the joint-most by any defender for the Anfield club in the competition, level with John Arne Riise.

But Alexander-Arnold has failed to contribute a goal involvement for England in 2022 World Cup qualifying prior to Monday's game against San Marino, restricted to a mere 103 minutes across the campaign.

The Liverpool man was utilised in midfield by Southgate for England’s 4-0 win at home to Andorra in September, but was moved back to his usual right-back role in the second half.

"Okay. It's an exciting thought," he said about being played in the middle. "I always found myself in there anyway within a game, I drift into there [from right-back] and it was natural.

"I think that was what went wrong in that first half was being in there already, standing in there and trying to find space rather than going in there unexpectedly and confusing the opposition, and feeling the freedom to drift in there whenever I thought it was right.

"I don't like to put limitations on myself, but as of right now my main focus is trying to nail down the right-back spot.

"I have the talent and I should have the performances to make sure I'm in that squad [for Qatar 2022], and if I don't then it's only me who can be blamed for that."

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has declared the Reds desire more than just to regain their Premier League title, insisting they want to win every piece of silverware up for grabs. 

The Anfield club ended their 30-year wait for a league title when they claimed a first Premier League crown in 2019-20, but were unable to defend their status as champions last season as Manchester City usurped them.

Jurgen Klopp's men suffered a blow in their attempts to wrest the title back from City as they fell to a first league defeat of the season just before the international break, losing 3-2 to West Ham and dropping to fourth in the table. 

However, the Reds are only four points behind leaders Chelsea with 11 games played and Alisson says the team want to be the best in every competition, not just the league.

The Merseyside giants are top of their Champions League group after four wins from four and are also into the quarter-finals of the League Cup, with Leicester City their next opponents.

"It's about more than [regaining the Premier League title], to be honest," Alisson told Liverpool FC magazine. "We want more.

"Of course we want to win all the tournaments that we play in. We want to win the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup – all the tournaments that it is possible for us to play in.

"This should be the goal and the target for everybody for a team like us. But we have to take it game by game and we must be focused on our jobs to do 100 per cent what we have to do."

Liverpool's next game after the international break is a Premier League clash against an in-form Arsenal side at Anfield on November 20.

Former Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has hailed Steven Gerrard's "winning mentality" and believes the Liverpool legend is an "exciting appointment" for his old club.

Gerrard, who led Rangers to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade last season, left his post and replaced Dean Smith at Villa Park on Thursday, handed a reported three-and-a-half-year deal.

Petrov was a Villa player between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, having signed from Rangers' rivals Celtic.

The 42-year-old had a keen eye on developments in Scotland and expects Gerrard to set a high bar at his new club in his unrelenting pursuit of success.

"[Gerrard brings a] winning mentality," Petrov told Stats Perform. "I mean, you can see the way he manages, you can see the way he demands from the club.

"He made Glasgow Rangers a very solid, competitive, aggressive team, which was very hard to beat. Everybody they played against found it really difficult. So I'm sure he's going to do that with Aston Villa.

"The way he manages, the demands he has through the work process, on the training ground and in the games, will set the high targets for not just for the club but for the players, because sometimes you need that kind of manager to demand and set up different targets, a different voice in the club.

"And he showed that he won't stop until he succeeds, and his managerial journey has started very well so far."

Petrov feels Gerrard's character as a player is evident in his approach as a manager and that the 41-year-old's stature and demanding nature can turn Villa's fortunes around in the same way he transformed Rangers.

"It is an exciting appointment, I think," Petrov said. "I think everybody knows Steven Gerrard as a player [and] what he achieved as a player in the Premier League. He became an icon for the Premier League as a player, and he started his coaching journey in a completely different way.

"He wanted to become the best. He took on an incredible project at Glasgow Rangers. I think he kind of succeeded. 

"He managed to change the mentality and the way the club is thinking now is as a club, and he's been given an opportunity to manage another huge team, which is a great opportunity to go back to the Premier League and show what he can do."

Petrov added: "He was a leader. He was a captain. In every interview, he was talking about preparation. He wanted to be the best. He was going through a different mentality in training.

"He was there to compete, to push others to be the best. And I think all these values from being a player, he's kind of implementing it into his coaching abilities because you can see he coaches the same way he was as a player.

"The demands are very high. He demands from himself first, for people that work with him and the players as well, and he makes sure he gets involved in a good project.

"He got involved in a project, Glasgow Rangers, they had a target. They have to stop [Celtic's] 10 in a row. They have to change their mentality, and they have to become successful again.

"He managed to do that in the space of three years. So now we have a completely different task at Aston Villa and I believe that he analysed and he managed to understand what the club stands for and what the targets are."

Gerrard's first game as Villa boss comes after the international break against Brighton and Hove Albion on November 20.

Mohamed Salah has unsurprisingly won the Premier League's Player of the Month award for October after a scintillating few weeks.

The Liverpool talisman has been in irresistible form all season, but he took himself to another level last month as he scored five goals and set up another four.

His five goals came from an expected goals value of just 2.7, highlighting just how deadly Salah was over the period in question.

No one else scored or assisted more than three goals in October, while Salah's total of nine involvements was more than double his nearest challengers Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Roberto Firmino on four each.

In fact, the last player to register as many as nine goal involvements in a single calendar month was Salah himself in December 2018 (10).

Salah's first goal of October was a wonderful solo effort in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City, and he then went on to score a hat-trick in Liverpool's 5-0 humiliation of Manchester United.

That was the first treble scored by a visiting player at Old Trafford since Ronaldo for Real Madrid back in April 2003.

Scoring against United also ensured Salah became only the fourth player for a club within the big five European leagues to score in 10 straight appearances in all competitions since 2017-18, while his exploits at Old Trafford ensured he usurped Didier Drogba as the Premier League's top-scoring African player as well.

Ben Chilwell, Maxwel Cornet, Foden, Tino Livramento, Aaron Ramsdale, Declan Rice and Youri Tielemans were also nominated, though there was only ever likely to be one winner this time.

Salah is the third Player of the Month this season, following on from Michail Antonio and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse eased concerns over Liverpool star Sadio Mane following his early withdrawal against Togo, describing his injury as "nothing serious".

The Reds forward was substituted after just 28 minutes on Thursday, with Villarreal striker Boulaye Dia replacing him, and Senegal needed a 93rd-minute equaliser from Habib Diallo to cancel out Pape Abou Cisse's first-half own goal and salvage a draw.

The result ended Senegal's four-game winning streak in World Cup qualifying, although they have already advanced to the next stage as Group H winners.

Mane's enforced substitution sparked worries the 29-year-old could be set for a spell on the sidelines, but his national team boss insisted the move was precautionary.

"The [injury] is nothing serious," Cisse said after the game. "We replaced him only as a precaution, not for anything important."

Mane has been crucial to Liverpool this term, netting eight goals across all competitions for the Reds in 15 appearances, behind only Mohamed Salah, who has 15 strikes to his name.

The Senegal winger has also taken the second-most shots in all competitions for Liverpool (42), with 35 of them coming inside the box – again, only Salah betters both tallies at the club.

Liverpool suffered their first league defeat of the season against West Ham before the international break and slipped to fourth in the Premier League table as a result, but Jurgen Klopp's men are only four points behind leaders Chelsea and still very much in the title race.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has long been tipped to join Real Madrid.

Madrid are reportedly preparing another approach for the France forward.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PUSHING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid will make another move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo.

Madrid have made no secret of their interest, while Mbappe – who will become a free agent at the end of the campaign – revealed he wanted to leave PSG for Los Blancos at the start of the season.

With Mbappe's contract winding down, LaLiga giants Madrid are stepping up their pursuit.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Mundo Deportivo and Sport claim Barcelona are closing in on the signing for Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling. The England international has found himself down the pecking order in Manchester.

Arsenal are interested in Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, but there have been no talks with the Serbia international's agents, reports Fabrizio Romano. Vlahovic is also wanted by City, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Tottenham.

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Gianluca Di Marzio says Arsenal are ready to make a move for Juventus sensation Dejan Kulusevski.

Roma, Milan, Atalanta and Napoli are eyeing Sassuolo winger Jeremie Boga, per Foot Mercato.

- Milan are readying contract renewals for Theo Hernandez, Ismael Bennacer and Rafael Leao, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are hoping to beat Barca to Milan midfielder Franck Kessie on a free transfer. Kessie has also been linked with PSG, Arsenal, Tottenham, Inter and Atletico.

Jamie Carragher does not believe former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard will use Aston Villa merely as a "stepping stone" to the top job at Anfield.

But Carragher also knows Gerrard would love to become Liverpool manager one day if he first made a success of his new role with Villa.

Gerrard was confirmed as Villa's latest head coach on Thursday, replacing Dean Smith at the helm at Villa Park after a five-game losing streak.

Smith led his boyhood club back into the Premier League and reached an EFL Cup final, winning 39.6 per cent of his 139 games in charge in all competitions.

Gerrard has had a rather different task at Rangers in the meantime, finally cutting short Celtic's run of consecutive Scottish Premiership titles at nine by triumphing in 2020-21.

Rangers were unbeaten in the league in that campaign, which included a career-best nine-game winning streak in all competitions for Gerrard between September and November 2020.

At one of Scotland's two premier clubs, the former Liverpool captain had an outstanding 64.8 per cent win rate across 193 games going back to 2018.

This success has prompted talk of a return to Merseyside, where Jurgen Klopp is under contract until 2024 but Gerrard is seen as a viable long-term successor.

Yet Carragher, a prominent Liverpool star alongside Gerrard, does not believe his old friend is simply waiting for that job to open up.

"I think it's disrespectful to Stevie and I think it's disrespectful to Aston Villa that this comes up," Carragher told Sky Sports.

"I know this is the question for everyone, but I can assure you that Aston Villa as a football club are no stepping stone for anyone. They've won a European Cup, the biggest club in the midlands, one of the biggest clubs in the UK.

"I'm sure everyone is well aware that one day, if it worked perfectly, Stevie would like to manage Liverpool, but I can guarantee you Stevie would only want to manage Liverpool if he merited it, and also the club's supporters would think that and the football club themselves. 

"Liverpool are not in a position to give a job in the future to someone just because they had a great playing career.

"If Stevie does amazingly well at Aston Villa and is qualifying for Europe, maybe could add a Carabao Cup, maybe that would put him in the equation then for Liverpool.

"But Liverpool, along with Manchester United, along with Man City, Chelsea, they will be attracting the best managers in the world. That's obviously a challenge for Stevie to make himself one of the best managers in European or world football and then, I'm sure, he'll have a great shout.

"But if he doesn't get there, I don't think Stevie would be wanting to take a job if he felt that maybe someone else could be better at Liverpool, and I don't think the club would either.

"For Stevie, I think it's just focusing on Aston Villa and don't worry about anything else."

Whether Gerrard should use his Villa opportunity to put himself in position for a Liverpool move or not, Carragher does not believe the 41-year-old would have been considered had the Reds been looking for a new boss now.

Gerrard won 26 of 53 European games at Rangers, including 12 of 30 in the Europa League proper, but the lack of domestic competition makes Villa a step up, let alone title-chasing Liverpool.

"It's his first job in the Premier League, and when you go into the Premier League for the first time, to get a job as big as Villa is fantastic for Stevie, it really is," Carragher said.

"It gives him a fantastic opportunity to push for European places.

"No manager is ever going to get one of the real plum jobs just on the back of what Stevie's done at Rangers. In the Premier League now, it's a league where every manager in the world wants to manage."

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