Italy head coach Robert Mancini admitted he is surprised by his inexperienced side's start to the Nations League following their 0-0 draw with England on Saturday.

Without midfield lynchpin Marco Verratti and the likes of Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti, the Azzurri put in an encouraging performance in Saturday's Euro 2020 final rematch, earning a point at the Molineux Stadium.

With the majority of the squad earning less than ten caps before this international window, Italy lead Group 3 after three games on five points, ahead of Hungary, Germany and England, who are bottom of the group on two points.

While conceding Italy are in early stages of transition after their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Mancini revealed he expected this initial period to be more volatile.

"I’ll be honest, I did not expect this. I thought it would be worse," he confessed. "We still have a lot to work on, there’s a long road ahead full of dangers.

"We certainly need to score more goals and if Davide Frattesi had scored in the opening five minutes, it would’ve been a different game. He’ll get it next time.

"I didn’t expect us to do so well in these three weeks together. It’s important that we haven’t changed our style of football, even when the personnel did."

With relative experience compared to the new faces in the squad, Lorenzo Pellegrini has had to take on more responsibility for the Azzurri following their loss to Argentina in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima, scoring against Germany and Hungary.

More of a threat in the penalty area from midfield than a technical and creative fulcrum, the 25-year-old earned a third consecutive start on Saturday – something he had not done since 2018.

The Roma captain was praised for his versatility by his coach despite evident room for improvement.

“Pellegrini has his own style of football," Mancini said. "He’s not a 10 like Giuseppe Giannini, nor a 10 like Francesco Totti.

"I think he can become much better with time, because he is so good at both attacking and defending.

"At times he loses balls he shouldn’t, but if he improves that and a couple of other things, he can become simply extraordinary.”

Italy and Germany played out a 1-1 draw in their Nations League Group A3 opener in Bologna on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini's side suffered a 3-0 defeat to Argentina in Wednesday's Finalissima – a meeting between the European champions and Copa America winners – but they were much improved at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

The Azzurri, who hit the post in the first half through Gianluca Scamacca, went ahead in the 70th minute courtesy of Lorenzo Pellegrini's fourth international goal.

However, Germany levelled soon after as Joshua Kimmich stole in to snatch a point for Hansi Flick's men.

Germany had been comfortably the better side in the early stages, with Serge Gnabry forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma into a smart stop from a tight angle in the 15th minute.

Thomas Muller saw a powerful strike superbly blocked by Alessandro Florenzi shortly before the half-hour mark, while at the other end Scamacca struck the base of Manuel Neuer's right-hand post with an effort from distance.

Scamacca headed wide from a promising position soon after the restart, before Matteo Politano had an effort deflected narrowly wide.

Then 18-year-old debutant Wilfried Gnonto had an almost immediate impact after being introduced in the 65th minute, whipping in a wonderful cross from the right that Pellegrini steered in from close range. 

Italy's lead lasted just three minutes, though, as Kimmich clipped home from 10 yards to ensure the spoils were shared. 

Tammy Abraham has been joined in the Europa Conference League team of the season by Roma team-mate Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was named the player of the season.

Roma claimed their first UEFA trophy on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord in the inaugural Conference League final.

Nicolo Zaniolo grabbed the decisive goal for the Giallorossi, but his attacking colleagues were preferred in a best XI named on Friday.

Leading scorer Abraham and captain Pellegrini were among four Roma players recognised, with goalkeeper Rui Patricio and centre-back Chris Smalling also included after inspired performances against Feyenoord.

Italy midfielder Pellegrini scooped the top individual award, but Feyenoord were also well represented, including young player of the year honours for Luis Sinisterra.

Sinisterra registered 10 goal involvements (six goals and four assists) throughout the tournament, second only to team-mate and top marksman Cyriel Dessers (11 involvements), whose 10 goals made him the sole man to beat Abraham's tally of nine.

Both Feyenoord forwards made the cut for the team selection, alongside defenders Lutsharel Geertruida, Gernot Trauner and Tyrell Malacia.

Dimitri Payet was also included, as well as sealing the goal of the season award for his sweetly struck effort against PAOK in Marseille's quarter-final.

 

Europa Conference League team of the season: Rui Patricio (Roma); Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Chris Smalling (Roma), Gernot Trauner (Feyenoord), Tyrell Malacia (Feyenoord); Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Leicester City), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord); Cyriel Dessers (Feyenoord), Tammy Abraham (Roma).

Nicolo Zaniolo is hoping to savour a childhood dream after his goal secured Roma the Europa Conference League title on Wednesday, defeating Feyenoord 1-0.

Zaniolo's goal proved the difference in a tightly-contested final in Tirana, chesting down Gianluca Manini's pass over the Feyenoord defence to poke the ball home past Justin Bijlow in the 32nd minute.

The 22-year-old scored the hat-trick to ignite the Giallorossi's comeback against Bodo/Glimt in the quarter-final second leg, making his winner in Tirana that much more fitting.

Post-match, he was adamant Roma can build something lasting upon this maiden European triumph, after losses in the 1984 European Cup and 1991 UEFA Cup finals.

"It's all wonderful, we want to enjoy this moment," Zaniolo told Sky Sports Italia. "I made my dream as a child come true, winning a European competition.

"There are no words, the fans are fantastic, and the victory is all for them. After this victory something important is being born. We are strong and we have not yet understood how much.

"I dedicate the goal and the victory to my whole family – my father, my mother, my grandmother, everyone. They have always been close to me."

The Giallorossi absorbed and defended for the majority of the match after Zaniolo's goal but more than the nature of the performance, the victory has an added dimension for captain Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Before two seasons with Sassuolo, the 25-year-old progressed through Roma's academy, grew up supporting the club and eventually returned.

Pellegrini admitted it was hard to process the achievement with that in mind, but wanted to taste more success with the club.

"We are a real team, we proved that," Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia. "Now we have to celebrate and then start again, which is always difficult after a great victory, but a real team wins, celebrates and starts again.

"I said yesterday that I never would’ve imagined at the age of 25 to achieve this with the Roma jersey and the captain’s armband. It is a wonderful moment.

"Now we must celebrate, fix this moment in our minds and make it happen again in future."

Jose Mourinho has said Wednesday's inaugural Europa Conference League final will be about "finishing a journey" as his Roma side prepare to take on Feyenoord.

The Giallorossi beat Leicester City in the semi-finals and finished sixth in Serie A this season to qualify for next season's Europa League.

Mourinho recently insisted that winning the Europa Conference League will mean as much to him as his Champions League titles with Porto and Inter.

The game with their Dutch opponents will take place at Arena Kombetare in Tirana, Albania, and speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, Mourinho said winning the first edition of the competition was a key target for his team. 

"To me this final is not about writing history," he said. "It's about finishing a journey we've been on this season and achieving one of the targets we've always had.

"Me and my staff have been at Trigoria since the Torino game, preparing for this game. The squad look in good shape to me, ready for this."

Attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has not played since suffering a muscle injury against Leicester last month, but Mourinho said the Armenian could be available on Wednesday. 

"Mkhitaryan trained today with the squad for the first time. But it was only a light session," he said.

"Still, it was important for him to see how he feels out there on the pitch. I will rely a lot on his view on whether he is ready or not tomorrow."

The former Chelsea manager has often gone by the moniker "The Special One", following his confident self-tagging when he became boss at Stamford Bridge in 2004, but he insisted he is not the same person any more and just wants to help his team.

"The Special One story is a nonsense," he added. "It's something you say in the beginning of your career. As you progress, mature, you start to think more about others than yourself. So that's an old story to me. Tomorrow, I will simply try to help."

Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini also spoke to the media, and said he and his team-mates will be "focused and determined" to get the win.

"Who wouldn't want to bring something home that will remain forever in the history of this club?" the 25-year-old said.

"We will be focused and determined, as we always are. I hope that tomorrow will end up being one of the best days of my life."

Jose Mourinho's Roma threw away a two-goal lead and squandered a late penalty as they lost 4-3 to 10-man Juventus in a whirlwind Stadio Olimpico clash.

The game was set up nicely after an early goal for each team from Tammy Abraham and Paulo Dybala, before a chaotic second period saw two strikes from distance by Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini put the hosts apparently in charge.

However, a remarkable seven-minute turnaround saw goals from Manuel Locatelli, Dejan Kulusevski and Mattia De Sciglio put Juventus in front, before a Wojciech Szczesny penalty save from Pellegrini completed a miserable final 20 minutes for the Giallorossi.

Juve suffered a blow when Federico Chiesa was forced to come off with a knee injury in the first half following a tackle from Chris Smalling, and then saw Matthijs de Ligt sent off for a second yellow card in a handball incident that led to Roma's spot-kick, but they held on for a famous win in the Italian capital.

Italy's world-record 37-game unbeaten run came to an end on Wednesday as Spain booked their place in the 2021 Nations League final with a 2-1 win at San Siro. 

Roberto Mancini's side overcame Spain in the last four of Euro 2020 in July, but they were blown away by a Roja side who will play the winners of Thursday's other semi-final between France and Belgium in the decider on Sunday. 

Ferran Torres was their star man, the Manchester City forward delivering two superb finishes either side of Leonardo Bonucci's dismissal for the Azzurri before half-time. 

Lorenzo Pellegrini set up a dramatic finale with a breakaway goal in the 83rd minute, yet Luis Enrique's side held firm in the closing stages to progress to the final. 

Spain started brightly and went ahead after 17 minutes when Torres steered a 10-yard volley past Gianluigi Donnarumma after being picked out by Mikel Oyarzabal's sumptuous cross.

Donnarumma almost gifted Spain a second less than a minute later as he fumbled Marcos Alonso's strike onto the post, while Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne went close to restoring parity at the other end.

Italy's hopes were dealt a blow three minutes before the interval when Bonucci received a second yellow card for catching Sergio Busquets with an elbow in an aerial challenge.

Spain capitalised on their numerical advantage in first-half stoppage time, Torres again getting on the end of an Oyarzabal cross to head into Donnarumma's far corner.

Oyarzabal should have made it three shortly after the hour mark, but his header from Yeremy's cross flew agonisingly wide of Donnarumma's right-hand post. 

The excellent Federico Chiesa teed Pellegrini up for a tap-in after a lightning quick break in the final 10 minutes, but Italy were unable to find the leveller that would have preserved their remarkable undefeated streak at least into extra time. 

Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini has signed a new long-term contract with the Serie A club.

The Italy midfielder's future had been the subject of speculation, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of this season and reportedly including a €30million release clause.

Liverpool and Tottenham were among the clubs to be linked with the 25-year-old, who has scored six goals and provided two assists in nine appearances this season.

The Giallorossi on Saturday announced that Pellegrini has agreed a new deal to keep him in the Eternal City until June 30, 2026.

"It's impossible for me to explain this feeling, it's what I've always wanted – to cement this bond between myself and my team and my city," Pellegrini said. "You couldn't imagine a greater feeling than this.

"I feel truly honoured that the ownership, Tiago [Pinto, the general manager] and the coach [Jose Mourinho] have always considered me so important; I will try to repay that faith every day on the pitch by giving 110 per cent and doing everything I can to keep improving."

Pinto said: "From the moment I started work here, a key target was to agree a contract extension with Lorenzo. For that reason, this is a very significant day for me.

"Lorenzo is the perfect example of the core characteristics of our sporting project, not just because of his evident ability as a player but also because, being a Rome-born, Roma fan who was developed within our academy system, he shares a bond with the club that makes him a pillar of what we are building.

"No sporting project can be put in place without a clear and strong identity underpinning it."

Arsenal are set for a shake-up after missing out on European football for the first time in 26 years.

Mikel Arteta's side started the new Premier League campaign slowly.

But three wins in a row have offered hope and rumours are swirling about transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL PLOT SWAP FOR EN-NESYRI

Arsenal will offer Alexandre Lacazette as part of a deal to land Youssef En-Nesyri from Sevilla, according to La Razon.

Morocco international forward En-Nesyri has sparked Arsenal's interest after netting 24 goals in all competitions in the 2020-21 season.

Lacazette has only made one league appearance for the Gunners this term and was reportedly shipped around during the off-season.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to sign a new long-term contract with Roma, which will remove his €30million release clause. Pellegrini was previously pursued by Liverpool and Tottenham.

– Liverpool scouts kept a close eye on Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at Wednesday's Champions League game against Manchester United as they plan for Sadio Mane's successor, claims the Daily Mirror.

– Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio remains in Arsenal's sights, reports the Daily Star.

Inter are not considering signing Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Ajax's Andre Onana their preferred acquisition, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Jose Mourinho praised his Roma players for holding on with 10 men to claim a 1-0 win against Udinese that saw the Portuguese equal Massimiliano Allegri's record unbeaten home run in Serie A.

Tammy Abraham scored what proved to be the only goal of the game in Thursday's clash at Stadio Olimpico with a flicked finish nine minutes before half-time.

Roma struggled in the second half as they saw less of the ball than Udinese (47.4 per cent) and were out-shot seven to two, with Rui Patricio forced into a couple of saves.

The Giallorossi had to play the final stages a man light after Lorenzo Pellegrini was issued a second yellow card for catching Lazar Samardzic with his elbow, but they saw out their fourth victory in five league games this term.

That includes three successive wins at Stadio Olimpico under Mourinho, who is now 41 without defeat on home soil in the Italian top flight going back to his hugely successful tenure at Inter.

He is one short of taking the outright record in the three-points-per-win era (since 1994-95), with Allegri's previous benchmark set between September 2015 and September 2017 during his first spell in charge of Juventus.

Mourinho was pleased to pick up all three points against Udinese and move up to fourth in the standings, but he acknowledged his side dropped off in the second half of the contest.

"We played well for about 35 minutes," he said at his post-match news conference. "We had total control of the game, 1-0 is little for what we did. In the second half we struggled a bit more, and they reacted.

"We had to suffer a bit. But we did so as a team. We played about six or seven minutes with a man less and fought hard for the three points."

 

Pellegrini's contentious dismissal means that he is set to miss Sunday's Derby della Capitale showdown with bitter rivals Lazio, but Mourinho suggested he intends to appeal against the decision.

"It was ridiculous. We had an educational meeting with the referee chiefs and the rules were explained for two hours," Mourinho said. "Then we get to the game and see a red like this.

"I can't say anything except that it was ridiculous. Football is and always will be football. You cannot change it into a non-contact sport."

Mourinho added to DAZN: "I don't know the legal mechanisms in Italian football, but if we can appeal, then we must try. I have many doubts that anyone could say that was a deserved second yellow card. 

"If there's a way of appealing this card, then we must do that and allow him to play on Sunday."

Roma have now scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, a tally that is bettered by only Bayern Munich (38), Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund (both 23) among clubs in Europe's top five leagues.

Abraham has been responsible for three of those and, with his strike against Udinese, became the first English striker to score a home goal in Serie A since Jay Bothroyd against Ancona with Perugia back in May 2004.

The recent signing from Chelsea has made a massive impact since joining, having also chipped in with a couple of assists, and he is grateful to have been made to feel so welcome in his new surroundings.

"I knew there was a lot of pressure with me coming in, but I love the fans, the staff, they make me feel like family from the first day and I need to repay them," he told DAZN.

"I came here to win, I love to win, the boys look to me, I have to give them confidence, and hopefully we'll continue getting results."

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Lorenzo Pellegrini said Roma are dreaming of Serie A glory after maintaining their perfect start to the season by routing newly promoted Salernitana 4-0.

Roma captain Pellegrini scored twice as the Giallorossi made it two wins from two matches to open the 2021-22 league campaign on Sunday.

Jordan Veretout and new signing Tammy Abraham were also on target for Roma, who have scored at least seven goals in their first two Serie A matches for just the second time since the 1970s, having defeated Fiorentina 3-1 on matchday one.

Roma have not won the Scudetto since 2000-01, having failed to finish in the top four in 2019 (sixth), 2020 (fifth) and 2021 (seventh).

Former Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter boss Mourinho is in his first season with Roma and after fans were signing about the Scudetto, Italy international Pellegrini told DAZN: "We hope one day to make that dream come true.

"It does feel different this year, we are told to take it one game at a time, and this time it really is the approach we take.

"We will never speak about the next match, no matter how important it is, until this one has been played."

Mourinho became the third Roma head coach to win his first two Serie A games in charge since 2000, after Claudio Ranieri in 2009-10 and Rudi Garcia in 2013-14.

Roma, meanwhile, have won both their first two Serie A games for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

"I'm really pleased, we won a game that wasn't straightforward," said Pellegrini, who has scored five of his last six Serie A goals against newly promoted teams.

"It wasn't easy to find the goal but we managed to do it at the start of the second half and after that it was much easier."

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho joked that if he could multiply star Lorenzo Pellegrini, they would all be in his starting XI.

Pellegrini has established himself as an integral part of the Roma side since arriving via Sassuolo in 2017, with the Giallorossi captain's exploits reportedly attracting interest from the likes of Liverpool, Juventus and Manchester United.

Among midfielders last season, Pellegrini led Roma in chances created (65), interceptions (43), tackles won (24) and penalty area entries (241), having also scored seven goals and supplied six assists with a passing accuracy of 82 per cent.

In Roma's season-opening 3-1 win over Fiorentina in Serie A last week, the 25-year-old created two chances while boasting a 93.3 passing accuracy, to go with three recoveries, two through balls and five penalty area entries.

Mourinho hailed the Italy international ahead of Thursday's Europa Conference League clash against Turkish visitors Trabzonspor.

"He can do everything," Mourinho told reporters, with Roma leading 2-1 after the first leg.

"If we had three Pellegrini's, they would all be starting the game at the same time. They would never stay all three in the bench.

"He is multifunctional, he can adapt to different roles. The other day when we were 10 he played on the internal part of the right flank and created the chance for Tammy [Abraham] to hit the crossbar.

"He is smart, can understand the game and my ideas. If there were three of him, they would all play."

Real Madrid's desire to sign a new forward is not a secret.

The Spanish giants missed out on silverware in 2020-21, much to their dismay.

Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Zinedine Zidane as head coach with big expectations.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID TARGET SALAH IF MBAPPE FAILS

Ancelotti has told Real Madrid president Florentino Perez he wants to sign Liverpool's Mohamed Salah , reports Fichajes.

The Italian believes Los Blancos needs another forward, with Salah seen as his back-up plan if they fail to land Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

Madrid's financial situation is complicated, with the club not making any major signings in 2020-21 amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they appear determined to land a major forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- 90min reports that Manchester United's Jesse Lingard has emerged as a target for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, having caught Diego Simeone's eye during his loan spell at West Ham United.

- Chelsea have shopped around striker Tammy Abraham and Arsenal are interested, according to The Telegraph.

- The Athletic believes Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, although he has a £26m (€30m) release clause.

-  Poor relations between Spurs and Southampton, stemming from 2020's Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg deal, may scupper a proposed move for Danny Ings, according to Standard Sport.

- Newly promoted Brentford are set to splash a club record transfer fee of £13.5m to land Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims The Telegraph.

The Jadon Sancho saga continues.

A move to Manchester United has long been mooted for England international Sancho.

While United and Borussia Dortmund negotiate, could Sancho's future be set to become clearer?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED HAVE OFFER REBUFFED

Manchester United have had their first offer for Jadon Sancho rejected by Borussia Dortmund, according to the BBC.

United have long been interested in Sancho, with the Premier League giants unable to prise Sancho from Dortmund before the 2020-21 season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United are back again for England international Sancho, though their initial £67million (€77.9m) bid will not suffice as Dortmund hold out for at least £77.5m (€90.1m).

 

ROUND-UP

- If United miss out on Sancho, Sport1 claims the Red Devils will turn to Kingsley Coman after registering their interest in the Bayern Munich winger.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are interested in Roma and Italy midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini. The 24-year-old is out of contract in 2022 and Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are also eyeing the Italian.

United and Liverpool are set to go head-to-head for Argentina defender Cristian Romero, per Calciomercato. Romero has impressed during his loan spell with Atalanta from Juventus. Atalanta are expected to trigger a clause to sign the 23-year-old permanently as they then look to receive a big fee.

- Ronald Koeman is the key to Barca signing Memphis Depay, reports Mundo Deportivo. Depay is a free agent following the conclusion of his Lyon contract.

Barcelona have offered Antoine Griezmann to Juve, according to Calciomercato. With Cristiano Ronaldo's future in Turin uncertain, Juve could be tempted by Griezmann's availability. Juve have also been linked with Tottenham star Harry Kane, who is reportedly wanted by United, Manchester City, Chelsea, BarcaReal Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

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