Chelsea are not content to stick with what they have. 

The Blues are top of the Premier League but poised for major moves in January.

Three young stars and a veteran are high on their radar. 

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE REINFORCEMENTS

Chelsea have their sights set on moves for Jules Kounde, Matthijs de Ligt and Lorenzo Insigne, reports Marca, while another report has them as the favourites to land Aurelien Tchouameni

The Blues are poised to revisit their talks with Sevilla over Kounde in January with multiple centre-backs set to be out of contract at the end of the season. 

Thomas Tuchel's side could also dip into Serie A and try to lure De Ligt from Juventus and Insigne from Napoli.

Chelsea are prepared to offer €60million (£51m) to Monaco for Tchouameni, says TuttoJuve, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus also possibilities. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are eyeing Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech as possible loan options from Chelsea, says Sport. 

- Manchester United are pushing to line up Zinedine Zidane to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, reports The Sunday Times.

- United are prepared to sell Jesse Lingard for as little as £10m in January, says The Sun. 

- Roma are in negotiations with United over a loan deal with an option to buy Diogo Dalot, claims Corriere dello Sport. 

- Inter will bring aboard Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on a four-year deal, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Newcastle United will try to land Adrien Rabiot from Juventus for €10m to €15m (£8.5m-£13m), says Calciomercato. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

The list of candidates to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona is already forming.

Koeman was dismissed after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano which left them ninth in LaLiga.

Barcelona are battling financial challenges and have struggled since Lionel Messi's exit in August.

TOP STORY – XAVI OFFERED BARCELONA JOB

Barcelona have offered their vacant head coaching role to club legend Xavi, reports Goal.

The Catalans have acted fast with Koeman sacked late on Wednesday.

Xavi is currently coaching Qatari outfit Al Sadd but has an exit clause in his contract, although Barca are prepared to pay any fee required.

The 41-year-old long-time Barcelona midfielder retired from playing in 2019, with his final on-field stint at Al Sadd before moving into coaching.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are in the box seat to sign Leeds United's England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to the Daily Star. Phillips, who is contracted with Leeds until 2024, has been linked with Manchester United too, but the report claims Liverpool are his first choice and the deal would be worth around £60million.

- Manchester United have conceded that agreeing a new deal with Paul Pogba is impossible and are prepared to lose the France international on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, reports ESPN. Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain , Juventus and Real Madrid .

- Manchester United's Amad Diallo is interested in going out on loan to Dutch club Feyenoord, according to Feyenoord TM. The 19-year-old Ivorian winger has not played this season.

- TEAMtalk claims that PSG have joined the pursuit of Leeds United's Brazil international Raphinha. PSG is the current home of Raphinha's Brazilian team-mates Neymar and Marquinhos.

- Chelsea are preparing for Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen's exit by lining up moves for Sevilla's Jules Kounde and Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt, reports Eurosport.

Giorgio Chiellini hopes Matthijs de Ligt is not taken away from Juventus by agent Mino Raiola, as he feels his defensive colleague already "has everything".

Now 37, Juve captain Chiellini is in the final years of his career, but the future of the Turin giants appears to be in the hands of De Ligt.

The former Ajax captain is still just 22 and is settled in Serie A in his third season with the Bianconeri.

De Ligt underwhelmed a little following his €75million transfer to Italy but has since performed well, last committing an error leading to a chance in the league in his debut 2019-20 season.

Although De Ligt has been limited to six appearances this term, with veteran duo Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci preferred against Inter on Sunday, he is certainly becoming a more dominant defender.

No Juve defender is contesting (4.5) or winning (3.4) more aerial duels per 90 than De Ligt in 2021-22, while his overall duel success rate for the season is up significantly to 67.4 per cent.

Indeed, Chiellini believes De Ligt has the full package, telling DAZN: "He's very strong, I call him Thor.

 

"If he had been Italian, it would have been easier to keep him for many years, I hope that Mino will give us the pleasure of leaving him a few more years in Turin.

"He has everything, but the difference is made in the head; he is 22 years old but has the mentality of someone of 30, and he sets himself the goal of wanting to improve every day."

De Ligt arrived at Juve as Andrea Barzagli retired, but he still finds himself competing with the other two members of the great 'BBC' back line.

That might not have been the case, however, as Bonucci briefly left for Milan – a move that upset Chiellini.

"I was hurt. That Milan was a team in difficulty, it was not Real Madrid or even Milan of now," he said. "Today it would be different, but at the time going there meant taking a clear step back.

"The choices remain personal and must be respected, but if we had been on holiday together that summer I would have made him understand that he was making a mistake. He realised it very soon."

Chiellini also could have been out the door by now, revealing he considered retiring following the coronavirus outbreak but played on to star at Euro 2020, where Italy won the title.

"I lived a hard period after my injury," Chiellini said. "I returned after six months and shortly after COVID broke out, and for almost a year I struggled to find the right balance.

"The thought of retirement made its way into my head but it was the European Championship that kept me going with the desire to be there at all costs."

Newcastle are making plans for the January transfer window following their Saudi ownership takeover.

The Magpies are currently 19th in the Premier League, with three points from eight games and no wins.

Newcastle have been linked with a host of top players at the start of a new era for the club.

 

TOP STORY – OZIL ON NEWCASTLE'S SHORTLIST

Newcastle have shortlisted former Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil as one of their transfer targets, according to Ekrem Konur.

Ozil is currently playing in Turkey with Fenerbahce after moving from the Gunners in January.

The Magpies have made no official offer yet, but they see Ozil, along with Fenerbahce goalkeeper Altay Bayindir in their plans.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports that Argentina international Paulo Dybala is set to agree to an extension with Juventus , securing his future with the Turin club until 2026.

- Roma have reignited their interest in Aston Villa's Dutch winger Anwar El Ghazi,  according to Football Insider. Villa are ready to let him go in January for £18million (€21m) if Jose Mourinho's side meet their asking price.

- Netherlands international defender Matthijs de Ligt is unhappy with his role at Juventus and his agent has held talks with Barcelona about a potential move, claims Sport.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Spain international Yeremy Pino, who turned 19 on Wednesdayis set to agree a new five-year deal with Villarreal.

- Mundo Deportivo reports that Ansu Fati is close to renewing with Barcelona, with an in-principle agreement set to tie him down until 2026.

Massimiliano Allegri claimed Juventus have rediscovered the desire to defend after triumphing 1-0 against local rivals Torino on Saturday.

Juve had to rely on Manuel Locatelli's late strike to secure all three points in the Derby della Mole as the Bianconeri kept their first clean sheet in 21 Serie A games.

Only in 1955 did Juve go longer without a top-flight clean sheet but that run finally ended as Allegri's side secured bragging rights with their fourth consecutive win in all competitions.

The winning streak has put an end to Juve's early-season struggles, at least temporarily, and Allegri pinpointed his team's desire to defend as a primary reason for their resurgence in form.

"After the break for international duty, we discovered the desire to defend when we needed to defend and attack when we needed to attack," Allegri told DAZN post-match.

"It would’ve been disappointing not to win a game after that performance which, after the first half against Milan, I feel was our best of the season."

 

Juve combined experience with youth at the back as Giorgio Chiellini, who equalled Gaetano Scirea as the player with the fourth-most Serie A appearances for the Bianconeri (377), partnered Matthijs de Ligt.

Allegri stated before the season that players such as De Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski were too young to be key figures, however, the head coach believes his younger players can learn from the experience around them.

"It’s a matter of experience," he continued.

"De Ligt is a good player, despite being 22 years old, and let’s not forget he came from a different type of football, so in Italy he needs to improve his reading of the situations and his aggression in marking.

"He's coming off good performances and can only improve. The same goes for Kulusevski, we have talented young players and are working to improve them individually.

"They have the advantage of playing with team-mates like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci."

Manchester United are in the market for a midfielder. 

With a long-rumoured target looking unlikely, United are shifting their gaze from one England midfielder to another. 

Could they prise another up-and-coming star from Leeds United? 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SHIFT SIGHTS TO PHILLIPS

Kalvin Phillips is Manchester United's latest target in an effort to shore up the midfield, the Daily Star reports. 

The Leeds star has gained favour at Old Trafford as United have given up hopes of adding West Ham's Declan Rice thanks to his reported £90million price tag.

Phillips, 25, is under contract at Elland Road through 2024 and reportedly is valued at £60m. 

 

ROUND-UP

– Barcelona are still in pursuit of Matthijs de Ligt and are prepared to offer Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Memphis Depay to Juventus in a deal for the Netherlands defender, who is valued at €75m, according to Calciomercato.

– Franck Kessie has turned down Milan's latest contract offer and is eyeing a move to the Premier League, 90min reports, with United and Liverpool said to be interested. 

– Juan Mata is considering a move away from Old Trafford in January due to a lack of playing time this season, the Manchester Evening News reports. 

– Everton are considering loan deals with Real Madrid for Isco and Luka Jovic, claims Defensa Central.

– West Brom teen Reyes Cleary is drawing attention from Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim, says the Daily Mail. 

– Steven Nzonzi is nearing a move from Roma to Al Rayyan, Calciomercato reports. 

Cristiano Ronaldo is showing no signs of slowing down, despite his advancing years.

But the evergreen 36-year-old is still planning for life once he decides to call it quits.

A coaching career in Manchester is believed to be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO DOESN'T WANT TO LEAVE OLD TRAFFORD

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to stay at Manchester United beyond his retirement, according to The Sun.

Ronaldo is back at United for a second spell after re-joining from Juventus before the transfer window closed, having left Old Trafford in 2009.

The 36-year-old, however, is already planning for life after football as he eyes a coaching role with United's youth team in order to work with his son Cristiano Jr.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are interested in Juventus star Federico Chiesa, who has also been linked with Borussia Dortmund.

- Chelsea are preparing to make a big-money move for Juve centre-back Matthijs de Ligt after missing out on Sevilla star Jules Kounde, reports Diario AS.

- The Daily Mail says Arsenal and Tottenham are eyeing a January loan move for Barcelona misfit Philippe Coutinho.

- Staying in London and the Mirror claims Tottenham are considering an approach for Juve's Dejan Kulusevski.

Atletico Madrid are hoping to sign Fabian Ruiz from Napoli, according to Calciomercato. Determined to prise the Spain international, LaLiga champions Atletico could use Marcos Llorente as part of the deal. Fabian has also been linked with Real Madrid and Barca.

- Per Corriere della Serra, United, Chelsea and Juve are among the heavyweight clubs plotting a move for disgruntled Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has found himself on the bench since joining on a free transfer.

 

Matthijs de Ligt scored the decisive goal as Juventus came from behind to beat Spezia 3-2 and belatedly claim their first Serie A win of the season.

Failure to seal maximum points at Stadio Alberto Picco would have seen the Bianconeri go five games without a victory at the start of an Italian top-flight season for the first time since 1955-56.

Massimiliano Allegri's side went ahead through Moise Kean's first goal since he rejoined his boyhood club from Everton, yet Spezia stormed back through Emmanuel Gyasi and Janis Antiste either side of half-time.

Federico Chiesa restored parity with a fine goal, though, before De Ligt ensured a much-needed first win of the campaign with 18 minutes remaining.

The Bianconeri had deservedly taken the lead shortly before the half-hour mark, with Kean collecting Adrien Rabiot's knockdown and firing in off Jeroen Zoet's right-hand post from 18 yards.

It took the hosts just five minutes to respond, however, as Gyasi cut in from the left and fired across Wojciech Szczesny courtesy of a slight deflection.

Paulo Dybala forced a fingertip save from Zoet soon after – one of 11 first-half Juve attempts to Spezia's two – but the visitors fell behind four minutes after the interval when Antiste jinked inside Leonardo Bonucci after a swift counter-attack and clipped past Szczesny.

Zoet denied Kean and Dybala, as Juve desperately tried to claw their way back into the game, and the pressure told in the 66th minute when Chiesa fired in after superbly finding his way through the Spezia defence. 

De Ligt then lifted some of the clouds that had begun to gather over the Turin giants, powering past Zoet after a corner had fallen kindly to him, much to the relief of Allegri.

France forward Anthony Martial's future at Manchester United is unclear.

The 25-year-old is struggling to fit into United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans.

Martial signed a five-year deal with United in 2019, meaning he is contracted until 2024.

TOP STORY – MARTIAL FREE TO LEAVE IN JANUARY

Martial will be free to leave United in the January transfer window with Barcelona an option, according to Eurosport.

Red Devils officials have given Martial's representatives the green light to explore his options, although he is understood to be willing to remain in the Premier League.

Cash-strapped Barcelona are willing to take a chance on Martial who has fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival along with competition from Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.

ROUND-UP

- Dean Henderson is pushing for a loan move away from United in January, according to The Sun. Henderson has lost the battle with David de Gea for the number one shirt at Old Trafford.

- TeamTalk claims Manchester City are keeping an eye on Real Sociedad's Spain international forward Mikel Oyarzabal.

- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has set his sights on signing Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi in the January transfer window, reports the Daily Express.

- The Daily Star claims that there is a "special release clause" in Chelsea target Matthijs De Ligt 's contract with Juventus that becomes active in mid-2022.

United are monitoring Milan's Franck Kessie, who they see as a potential replacement for Paul Pogba, claims The Sun.

Massimiliano Allegri has reminded Matthijs de Ligt's critics that even Giorgio Chiellini had his struggles as a young player and is convinced the Dutchman has a long future ahead of him at Juventus despite Mino Raiola encouraging speculation.

De Ligt joined Juve on the back of Ajax's unlikely journey to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals, in which he played a vital role as he helped build moves from the back with his passing abilities but also proving a dominant physical presence despite his tender age.

His 0.45 headed shots on target every 90 minutes was the most of all defenders in the competition to play at least 270 minutes that season, while only four of them bettered his 4.2 aerial wins per game.

While De Ligt has not made quite the same use of his physicality at Juve, those strengths could lend themselves to a future in the Premier League, where he is thought to be admired by numerous clubs, with his agent Raiola suggesting on Saturday that the Dutchman may not see out the rest of his contract, which runs to 2024, at Juve.

Raiola's comments came after seeing De Ligt dropped for last week's 2-1 defeat at Napoli and playing in only one of the Netherlands' three recent World Cup qualifiers, with the centre-back yet to truly convince since signing two years ago.

 

The spotlight is very much on Juve's defence ahead of Sunday's clash with Milan, as they have conceded in each of their previous 17 league games, the third-longest run in club history and the worst currently across Europe's top five leagues.

But Allegri appears to retain belief in De Ligt, backing him for a long future at Juve.

"I've already said it before; De Ligt is 22 years old, he's very good, but when you arrive at Juve with an enthusiasm that overwhelms you, it's normal to lose some clarity," the Juventus head coach told reporters when asked about Raiola's comments.

"When he was signed, someone described him as a future Ballon d'Or winner, but it requires tranquillity. He was a 20-year-old boy who arrived at Juventus, a shirt that weighs heavy.

"Chiellini at 20 was like De Ligt, or maybe worse. Then at 28 he became a serious player.

"There is a path for everyone, players and coaches. De Ligt is still a young, good player, who can stay at Juve for many years, regardless of whether he plays one more or one less game."

Belgium and the Czech Republic booked their spots in the last eight of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

The Red Devils' starting XI against Portugal had an average age of 30 years and 148 days – the oldest named by any of the remaining teams in the competition – and that experience seemingly paid off as they produced a stubborn display to edge past Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. 1-0. 

In the other game, the Czech Republic took full advantage of Matthijs de Ligt's red card early in the second half to seal a shock 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 

Stats Perform looks at the best stats from another absorbing day of action in Euro 2020.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Hazard strike seals Red Devils' progress

The Red Devils booked their place in the last eight with their first victory over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier), ending a run of five meetings without a win against them.

The winning goal came from Thorgan Hazard in the first half, the Borussia Dortmund man scoring in consecutive games for his country for the first time.

He has also now scored four international goals since his brother, Eden, last scored for the national team, highlighting the older sibling's recent difficulties.

That goal ensured Roberto Martinez's side equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, sealing five victories in a row for the second time. Indeed, the Red Devils have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championship since Martinez took charge.

Portugal, meanwhile, will go away and lick their wounds after being eliminated with just one victory from their four games (D1 L2), their fewest in a single European Championship since their first appearance in 1984, when they also won one of four (D2 L1).

It should perhaps come as little surprise they were unable to bounce back from Hazard's goal. Since Euro 2004, they have only fought back to win in one of their 10 games in the competition when they have conceded the opening goal (D3 L6).

Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic: De Ligt's dismissal proves costly

Frank de Boer's men became the first side to win 100 per cent of their group stage games before losing in 90 minutes in the first knockout round at a European Championship.

They can scarcely have any complaints either, given they failed to have a single shot on target in a European Championship and World Cup game for the first time since Opta records begin (1980). 

Their hopes suffered a blow in the 55th minute when De Ligt became the first player to be sent off at the European Championship for the Netherlands since John Heitinga in 2004 (also versus the Czech Republic). De Ligt (21y 319d) is now the fourth-youngest player to receive a red card in the tournament.

 

The Czech Republic took full advantage of his dismissal, winning their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition since Euro 2004 thanks to goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick. 

Holes became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championship since Jan Koller and Milan Baros also did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

Schick's goal, meanwhile, was his fourth in four games at Euro 2020, with only Baros (five) now having scored more major tournament goals for the Czech Republic.

Matthijs de Ligt accepted responsibility for the Netherlands' Euro 2020 exit after he was sent off in the 2-0 last-16 defeat to the Czech Republic.

The Juventus defender was dismissed 10 minutes into the second half after a VAR review for a deliberate handball that denied Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Goals from Tomas Holes and Schick, his fourth of the tournament, secured a memorable win for Jaroslav Silhavy's side as they secured a quarter-final clash with Denmark in Baku.

The Netherlands were far from the free-flowing side that eased through the group phase, Frank de Boer's men becoming the first Dutch side since at least 1980 to go through a Euros or World Cup game without managing a shot on target.

Yet De Ligt felt his error when judging a bouncing ball, and the handball that followed, was the main reason for their defeat.

"Of course, it feels bad. We basically lost the match because of what I did. In hindsight, I shouldn't have let the ball bounce," he told NOS.

"Ultimately, that moment changed the game. I saw how the team fought in the final minutes and I'm very proud of that, but I do feel responsible.

"We had some chances in the first half. No shots on target, but chances. I didn't really feel like they were much better.

"Of course, this hits hard. Playing in a tournament is always a golden opportunity. If you're then knocked out like that, it's even more painful."

 

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was surprised at his side's insipid display, particularly after their exploits over the first three matchdays.

"It was almost as if we were tired, although I have no idea why," said the Barcelona man. "We really wanted to win it. For some of the boys, this was the biggest game of their careers so far.

"It's not that we weren't prepared tactically. We were focused, and we certainly didn't underestimate them. We just couldn't get our game going. Sometimes you have days like that."

The Netherlands have been one of the most obviously entertaining and thrilling sides to watch at Euro 2020 and the opening stages of their shock 2-0 last-16 defeat to the Czech Republic in Budapest was no exception.

Frank De Boer's side were rapid and relentless down the flanks and, by the time Denzel Dumfries peeled infield and charged into the centre-forward position to collect Daley Blind's raking pass, a bedraggled Czech backline might have found it easier to be marking all 50,000 inhabitants of the Scottish town with which the rampaging right wing-back shares a name.

Tomas Kalas managed to force Dumfries wide and made a vital, scampering challenge. There is entertainment in such last-ditch defending too, although it rarely looks much fun for the protagonist.

Seven minutes before half-time, it was impossible to ignore a towering man in orange who appeared to be deriving little enjoyment from what was unfolding.

Some worryingly passive Dutch defending let Lukas Masopust find Antonin Barak in the area. In flew Matthijs de Ligt with a goal-saving challenge. The Juventus centre-back howled at everyone within earshot. He was furious.

 

De Ligt the leader

At that moment, it felt like the 21-year-old was in the process of turning in a defining performance to quell the hum of criticism that has soundtracked the past two years of a career that still promises so much.

"De Ligt is the centre-back of our defence. He needs to become much more of a leader than he is now," Netherlands great Marco van Basten told the NOS channel in a curiously harsh criticism after De Ligt returned to help his side to a clean sheet against Austria following the chaotic 3-2 win over Ukraine.

"He went to Italy to learn how to defend more, but I think he didn't learn much there. He needs to lead the rest much more."

De Ligt left Ajax after their celebratory 2018-19 campaign already looking like a born leader. It was hard to imagine those credentials being questioned. But a transitional year at Juventus as Maurizio Sarri tried to implement a new style, followed by last season's ignominy of surrendering the Serie A title under Andrea Pirlo amounted to an unforgiving education in Italy's top flight.

Still, he managed to retain an admirably positive outlook.

"I'm really lucky as I'm playing with almost everybody I'd be watching if I was a young player," De Ligt told The Athletic midway through 2020-21.

"[Leonardo] Bonucci is really good in the build-up, so I talk to him about that and watch what he is doing. [Giorgio] Chiellini is really good at marking, so I'm trying to learn from him too.

"I play with [Virgil] Van Dijk [for the Netherlands]. In the end, though, it's so important that you develop your own game and don't start being a copycat of someone else."

Sunday's match, with Van Dijk a long-term absentee and the prospect of a charge for glory such as the one Bonucci is underpinning with Italy, looked like it might become the game where De Ligt stepped out of those considerable shadows.

De Ligt the scapegoat

As it was, his ill-timed stumble and handball to deny Patrik Schick a goalscoring opportunity – moments after Donyell Malen should have opened the scoring at the other end – engulfed the defender and his team-mates in a darkness they could not lift as the lights went out on their Euro 2020 bid.

"An experienced mature defender doesn't make the second mistake and lets the forward go on and score, because he doesn't leave his team with 10 men on the field," Gary Neville said on ITV after some horrid last-ditch defending that was no fun at all for the man involved.

 

De Ligt's red card makes him an obvious scapegoat. Everything changed when he went off. Save for the effervescent Dumfries charging forward to draw a yellow card from Vladimir Coufal, making a block to rival De Ligt's earlier effort to thwart Pavel Kaderabek and still causing havoc in the opposition half, there was little to recommend about how De Boer's men responded to adversity – their game management very much a minute-by-minute, reactive endeavour.

Tomas Holes' 68th-minute opener hastened the capitulation and the Golden Boot-chasing Schick put the result beyond doubt with his fourth of the tournament. The Netherlands were out, having not conceded a goal at any stage with De Ligt on the field.

He will not have wanted to perversely prove his worth in this fashion. De Ligt's tendency to find positives will be put to its biggest test after this shot at greatness slipped through his fingers because the ball did not.

The Czech Republic reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with a surprise 2-0 win over the Netherlands, who had Matthijs de Ligt sent off.

A close game in Budapest swung the way of Jaroslav Silhavy's men 55 minutes in when De Ligt was dismissed for a deliberate handball that prevented Patrik Schick from having a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Tomas Holes then headed in the opening goal before superbly setting up Schick for the second as the Czech Republic progressed to the last eight, where they face Denmark.

The majority of the Netherlands' first-half threat came through the forward runs of Denzel Dumfries, the right-back posing a real danger down the right but unable to provide for Memphis Depay and Donyell Malen.

The best of the first-half chances fell to Antonin Barak, who was teed up by Lukas Masopust but saw his effort from six yards out just blocked over the bar by De Ligt.

Malen carved out a brilliant opening to break the deadlock, driving his way through the Czech Republic defence only to see Tomas Vaclik take the ball from his feet as he tried to round the goalkeeper.

Moments later, De Ligt misjudged a bouncing ball and hooked it away from Patrik Schick with his hand as he fell, leading referee Sergey Karasev to send off the centre-back after a VAR review.

Pavel Kaderabek had a great chance when Schick missed a header, but Dumfries made a brilliant block in front of keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, the Netherlands suddenly on the ropes.

The breakthrough came with a little over 20 minutes left, Holes heading into the net after Tomas Kalas nodded the ball back across the box, with Stekelenburg caught out of position.

Frank de Boer introduced Wout Weghorst in a bid to find an equaliser, but Schick put the game beyond doubt with a slick low finish after Holes drove through a gap between Georginio Wijnaldum and Dumfries before cutting the ball back.

 

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