Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

For so long, Real Madrid have been favourites to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Premier League champions Liverpool are believed to be stepping up their pursuit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL FRONTRUNNERS FOR MBAPPE

Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid in the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe , according to Canal+ show Late Football Club.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid at the end of the season.

But Liverpool are reportedly the frontrunners to prise the France World Cup winner to Anfield amid doubts over Mohamed Salah 's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are preparing for the departure of Sergio Ramos as their star captain nears an exit. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with the likes of PSG , Juventus , Manchester United and Manchester City .

- Will Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Inter's Alexis Sanchez swap clubs? Sky Sport Italia reports an exchange deal could be set to collapse. City reportedly turned down a chance to re-sign Dzeko, who has a fractured relationship with Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Milan are continuing to target Palmeiras and Uruguayan defender Matias Vina , says Calciomercato.

- Cadena Cope reports PSG want to sign Barcelona defender Emerson , who is on loan at Real Betis.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk says United are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano , but Bayern Munich lead the race to secure his services at season's end. Upamecano has also been linked to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool .

- Falk also confirmed that Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate has a release clause in excess of €40million (£35m) amid interest from United , Liverpool and Tottenham .

United are eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele if Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho does not arrive ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, according to Falk.

Antonio Conte has told Christian Eriksen he must show more than free-kick prowess to establish himself at Inter.

Former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen netted a trademark set-piece effort to settle Tuesday's fiery Coppa Italia derby against Milan deep into stoppage time.

The Denmark international was understandably mobbed by his team-mates and Conte said afterwards that the Inter squad "love" a player whose career at San Siro has failed to catch fire since joining from Spurs 12 months ago.

Nevertheless, he struck a more measured tone ahead of Saturday's home game against Benevento.

"In rugby they have players who are kickers and are set-piece specialists. Football is very different," he said, when asked at a pre-match news conference whether Eriksen might start.

"We hope to have him play a part in all areas, not just from free-kicks and set-plays.

"We know that Inter have struggled from free-kicks until recently. It is an extra weapon to have a free-kick specialist."

Conte is also reportedly keen on an extra weapon in attack, although he refused to be drawn too far into discussing speculation that Inter might sign out-of-favour Roma striker Edin Dzeko, with Alexis Sanchez moving in the opposite direction.

"I have not asked for anything from the club, let us start by saying that," he said.

"If someone has said that, then it is not the case. We have this squad and that is the way it is.

"It is not the coach who goes asking for players all the time. I have had little to say so far this season

"Dzeko is a Roma player I have respect for him. I have respect for my players too

"The situation is clear – this is our squad and that is the situation. If someone is unhappy and ask to go then that is different.

"We will make that player happy. Otherwise I cannot foresee changes.

"We know the situation we find ourselves in. We cannot create situations that are not there. We need to focus on working hard.

"We need to look ahead and accept this situation we are in.

"It is not right to talk about things that can distract the side. I do not want distractions from my players."

On Sanchez, he added: "Sanchez is an Inter player and needs to stay focused."

Conte will be absent from the bench against Benevento as he serves a touchline ban, while top scorer Romelu Lukaku is also suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Milan.

That followed a heated confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic that continued after the half-time whistle.

The veteran Milan striker was sent off for a second booking when he fouled Aleksandar Kolarov during the second half and has been forced to deny allegations that he racially abused Lukaku.

"It has been spoken about a lot," Conte said.

"I do not know and I'm not interested. My task is to be a coach and I focus on that area."

Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour on his days off is not Juventus's responsibility, according to Andrea Pirlo, after the five-time Ballon d'Or winner allegedly broke coronavirus travel restrictions.

Valle d'Aosta police are investigating whether Ronaldo failed to adhere to Italy's strict COVID-19 protocols by travelling to the area from Piedmont to go skiing with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, as part of her birthday celebrations this week.

Both Valle d'Aosta and Piedmont are listed as "orange zone" regions, with travel between such locations prohibited.

Ronaldo, who tested positive for coronavirus last October, may face a fine if found guilty.

"Cristiano Ronaldo had a day off and on your days off you are free to do what you want," head coach Pirlo told a news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Sampdoria.

"When they are here they are under my control, but outside of here they are free citizens and can take their own actions."

Weston McKennie has become one of Juve's key performers this season since joining from Schalke, scoring four times across all competitions from midfield since the start of December.

Pirlo believes the 22-year-old United States international has plenty of room for further improvement.

"He is so young he can improve everywhere," he said.

"We were the fastest to sign him in Germany and we are so happy to have him with us.

"He is humble and very keen to improve, especially from a technical point of view. I mean, he is a bit rough in ball control, in his body movements, but he can improve quickly.

"He is a healthy kid, he knows he is not done, he is just at the beginning and being aware of this is already a good starting point."

Pirlo has a clean bill of health, with the exception of forward Paulo Dybala, who is still nursing a knee injury.

Federico Chiesa completed the scoring in the 4-0 Coppa Italia win over SPAL and will start after shaking off an ankle problem.

Alvaro Morata put Juve in front from the penalty spot in midweek - his 13th goal of the campaign - and is ready to go again having been compromised by groin pain of late.

"He played last time and we managed to save him some minutes, so tomorrow he will be at the top of his game," Pirlo added.

"We know him well, he dwells so much on enthusiasm and that is what we need to give him back.

"But he has done well, he knows he is very important for Juventus, so I am more than convinced he will go on at his best."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli insists Zlatan Ibrahimovic is "certainly not a racist" but thinks his clash with Romelu Lukaku could rekindle his best form. 

Ibrahimovic was sent off having scored the opening goal in the Rossoneri's 2-1 Coppa Italia defeat to Inter this week. 

The veteran striker earned his first of two yellow cards after a heated confrontation with former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku, in which he appeared to tell the Belgian forward: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey". 

It was suggested Ibrahimovic was referring to comments made in 2018 by Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, who said Lukaku had declined a contract extension because a "voodoo message" told him to move to Chelsea - a transfer that never transpired. 

Some accused Ibrahimovic of racially abusing Lukaku, with the Swede responding by stating on Twitter: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM." United midfielder Paul Pogba also tweeted to say his old team-mate was "the last person I'd think of as racist". 

Ibrahimovic will serve a one-game ban for his red card but Pioli hopes a line can now be drawn under the incident as Milan focus back on Serie A.

"Ibrahimovic is determined and up for it, as he always is," Pioli said ahead of Saturday's game at Bologna. "Certain things can happen on the pitch; I'm not going to justify that, but you need to draw a line under it and move on. 

"Ibra is certainly not a racist; the club has always been on the front line in the fight against discrimination. Zlatan also needs these situations to get a bit of energy and motivation back." 

Milan's cup exit followed a 3-0 home league defeat to Atalanta that allowed Inter to close the gap on the leaders to two points. 

Pioli says back-to-back losses have not changed his view of his team's potential as he aims to return them to the Champions League. 

"We're not interested in what people are saying outside of the club," he said. "We just need to focus on ourselves, maintain a good balance, continue to work and improve. We know that opinions can change quickly in football. 

"It's useless to look back; we only need to look forwards. I haven't changed my mind on our quality. We have a good team and the ideas are there. We are able to put in consistently good and competitive performances, which we have shown up to now. 

"We're having a great season; we have 18 more points than we did at this stage last season and have closed the gap to our direct rivals.

"The second half of the season will be more complicated and hard-fought. Qualifying for Champions League football won't be easy, but we have the quality to do it."

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Paul Pogba has leapt to the defence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saying his former team-mate is "the last person I'd think of as racist" after his clash with Romelu Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic and Lukaku traded insults in heated exchanges during Inter's 2-1 Coppa Italia quarter-final derby win over Milan on Tuesday.

Both players were booked following a confrontation late in the first half and they had to be separated as the furious row continued after the whistle for half-time was blown.

Ibrahimovic, who was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence, appeared to tell Lukaku to "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

The Milan striker on Wednesday denied he was guilty of racially abusing Inter's leading scorer Lukaku, who equalised in the second half before Christian Eriksen scored a late winner.

He tweeted: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM. We are all the same race – we are all equal!! We are all PLAYERS some better then [sic] others."

Pogba, who played alongside the prolific Swede and Lukaku at Manchester United, later stated there is no way Ibrahimovic would subject anybody to racial abuse.

"Zlatan... racist? He loves me too much so he's the last person I'd think of as racist! Come on, don't joke with that one!" the United and France midfielder posted on Twitter.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli does not expect fans to be allowed back into stadiums this season and fears the losses incurred by European clubs due to the COVID-19 crisis could rise to €8.5billion.

The Deloitte Football Money League this week reported that the 20 richest clubs in Europe are predicted to lose in excess of €2billion by the end of the 2020-21 campaign as a result of the pandemic.

A lack of matchday revenue with games played behind closed doors and less broadcast income have hit clubs across the continent hard.

Agnelli, also chairman of the European Club Association, does not envisage supporters returning to watch their teams live this season and believes the financial picture is bleaker than Deloitte painted.

"My firm opinion that we will have a real understanding of what this crisis has meant for clubs only at the end of the season," Agnelli said at the News Tank Football seminar on Wednesday.

"I have seen the Deloitte study that came out yesterday. I was looking at data for the top 20 clubs whereby we had a €1.1billion hit in the 2019-20 season and the estimate for those 20 clubs alone is a €2billion hit for the combined two years.

"I think it's going to be much worse than that. The 2019-20 season only has three or four months of crisis, of empty stadiums, no fans, commercial rebates, broadcasting rebates, while as it seems right now from my point of observation 2020-21 will be a full season without fans in stadiums.

"We are in the middle of [broadcast] tenders. Some have been out, the Germans have been out, they've had a loss of value 10 per cent. We are seeing international broadcasters not paying their dues.

"And so I think this season will be much worse. It's going to be much worse than what we've seen there.

"When I look at the best information I've had so far, we're looking at a bottom-line loss for the industry in the region of €6.5 billion to €8.5 billion for the combined two years, and about 360 clubs in need of cash injections, whether it's debt or equity within those two years, for an amount of €6billion."

Alejandro Gomez's seven-year association with Atalanta is over after their former captain completed a move to Sevilla.

Gomez, 32, joined Atalanta from Metalist Kharkiv in 2014 and was a key factor in the club's rise from mid-table also-rans to regular top-four challengers.

He became captain in 2017 after a personal-best haul of 16 Serie A goals in 2016-17 and then skippered the club to their highest-ever top-flight finish of third in 2018-19.

They repeated the feat in 2019-20 and Gomez, whose 16 assists was the most by any player in a single Serie A season this century, was named the league's best midfielder in the end-of-season awards.

But Gomez and coach Gian Piero Gasperini reportedly fell out earlier this season, with Italian media claiming the player had refused to carry out the manager's orders in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Midtjylland.

Speculation was rife throughout December about whether the pair would be able to repair their relationship or if Gomez was on his way out, with Inter initially thought to be his likeliest of options.

But more recently Italian publications suggested Atalanta were keen to offload him to a foreign team, and Sevilla – whom Gomez had previously suggested were his favourite Spanish team – made their move.

The talented attacker, who can play on the left flank or behind the striker, signed a contract until June 2024 on Tuesday.

He is an Argentina team-mate of current Sevilla players Lucas Ocampos and Marcos Acuna, and was given his Albiceleste bow by the club's former coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Sevilla will hope Gomez can serve them as effectively he did Atalanta in the main – from the start of 2018-19 until December 16, when he last featured in Serie A for the Bergamo side, no player across Europe's big five leagues played more key passes than his 233.

Similarly, his 29 assists across the same period was bettered by only Thomas Muller (36), Lionel Messi (34) and Jadon Sancho (33). There were also only five players to create more Opta-defined "big chances" than his 40 in that time.

Antonio Conte has been given a two-match ban after he was shown a red card in the closing stages of Inter's goalless Serie A draw at Udinese on Saturday.

Conte was also fined €20,000 by Lega Serie A on Tuesday following a rant at referee Fabio Maresca as the Nerazzurri dropped points in the title race.

The Inter head coach was sanctioned after venting his fury over the number of minutes that were added on at the end of the game and continued his protests after the final whistle.

Inter team manager Lele Oriali was suspended for one game and hit in the pocket to the tune of €5,000 for his post-game protests.

Second-placed Inter face arch-rivals Milan in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia on Tuesday before returning to Serie A action against Benevento on Saturday, then take on Fiorentina six days later.

Conte's men trail leaders Milan by two points in the battle for the Scudetto.

Gianluigi Buffon is set to be sanctioned by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) after he was found to have used a "blasphemous expression" during Juventus' 4-0 win at Parma in December.

The FIGC's disciplinary committee will now consider Buffon's case, with the veteran goalkeeper expected to receive a one-match ban.

A statement from the federation said Buffon was caught on camera committing the offence when shouting instructions to team-mate Manolo Portanova during the 80th minute of the match.

Buffon, 42, has made six appearances in all competitions for Juve this season and has served as backup to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Turin from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.

For so long, Real Madrid have been linked with Kylian Mbappe but will the LaLiga champions bring the French forward to the Santiago Bernabeu?

Mbappe is reportedly open to the idea of making the move to the Spanish capital.

However, Liverpool could be ready to hijack any transfer.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Kylian Mbappe dominates the front pages of Tuesday's Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo as Real Madrid try to sign the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid at the end of the season.

While the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic impacts Madrid, the Spanish giants are still working on a deal to prise the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu, with Vinicius Junior a possible makeweight.

Mundo Deportivo says Premier League champions Liverpool are ready to pounce should Madrid fail to sign Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

- Onda Cero reports PSG have offered Madrid captain Sergio Ramos a three-year deal worth €15million a season. Ramos is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the superstar has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Juventus.

- Both Madrid and Barcelona are considering a shock move for Roma striker Edin Dzeko, according to Mundo Deportivo. Dzeko has had a falling out with under-fire head coach Paulo Fonseca, prompting links to Juve and Inter.

Thomas Tuchel is set to be named Frank Lampard's Chelsea replacement, with Fabrizio Romano claiming an announcement is "just a matter of time". Tuchel was sacked by PSG in December.

- The Athletic says Juve have identified Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres as a long-term replacement for veteran Giorgio Chiellini. Torres has also been linked with United, Manchester City, Barca, Madrid and Chelsea.

Tottenham have approached PSG's Angel Di Maria, who is out of contract at the end of the season, according to L'Equipe. Di Maria has history in England, having spent a difficult season playing for United in 2014-15.

- Sport 1 says Borussia Dortmund are interested in Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli. The likes of Juve and City have also emerged as suitors.

Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.

Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.

However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.

There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

 

INTER END JUVE'S REIGN

Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve's dominance of Serie A.

Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.

Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.

Juve's chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan's 21.6 per cent.

ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.

They are predicted to return to Europe's premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.

Gennaro Gattuso's side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta's prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.

Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.

The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.

 

GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP

At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.

However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.

The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.

It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino's differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.

If Paris Saint-Germain have their way, Lionel Messi will be playing for the French giants in 2021-22.

But will he be playing alongside Kylian Mbappe in Paris?

Real Madrid target Mbappe could stay.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI IN, MBAPPE OUT?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign Lionel Messi but Kylian Mbappe could remain with the Ligue 1 champions, according to reports.

Barcelona captain Messi is out of contract at season's end and has been heavily linked with PSG and Manchester City.

Le Parisien says there is no doubt who will replace Mbappe at PSG if he departs for LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though Canal + journalist Pierre Menes claims the French forward is interested in staying at Parc des Princes.

 

ROUND-UP

Madrid are considering a €45million (£39.9m) bid to re-sign Sergio Reguilon from Tottenham, according to Sport. Reguilon left the LaLiga champions at the start of the season, but Madrid have an option to buy him back within two years.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are eyeing Bayern Munich duo Corentin Tolisso and Joshua Zirkzee. Bayern are reportedly unwilling to let Zirkzee leave permanently.

- Sport 1 claims Borussia Dortmund are set to battle German rivals Bayern for Borussia Monchengladbach star Florian Neuhaus. The 23-year-old reportedly has a €40m release clause.

- RB Leipzig attacker Hwang Hee-chan could be loaned out amid links to West Ham, reports Kicker.

Inter and Lautaro Martinez remain in negotiations over a new contract, reports Calciomercato. Once tipped to join Barca, Martinez's Camp Nou dream appears to be fading due to the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Inter are not prepared to meet Martinez's wage demands at the moment.

Former Milan midfielder and head coach Cristian Brocchi is hopeful the Rossoneri can maintain their charge for a drought-ending Serie A title as they vie for domestic silverware with neighbours Inter.

Milan have not won the Scudetto since 2011, but the Italian giants top the table at the halfway stage of the season – two points clear of Inter despite a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Atalanta.

Following years of pain, Stefano Pioli's Milan and their fans are daring to dream as they rise to the summit of Italian football once again.

Monza head coach Brocchi was part of the successful Milan era between 2001 and 2008, after a brief spell with city rivals Inter, winning two Champions League titles, the Scudetto, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

While Brocchi attempts to lead Monza from Serie B to the top flight this season, the 44-year-old's heart still beats for boyhood club Milan as they prepare for Tuesday's blockbuster Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter.

Brocchi, who oversaw seven matches in charge of Milan before being replaced by Vincenzo Montella in 2016, told Stats Perform News: "Milan are a family for me.

"I arrived there at nine, was in the all the youth ranks. I won everything with Milan and when I quit I managed to be Milan's coach for a short period. I will never feel colder toward Milan.

"I root for them, watch every game and hopefully, as they are doing great, they can go on down this path."

Milan have already beaten Inter in 2020-21 – a three-minute brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the Rossoneri past the Nerazzurri 2-1 in October's Serie A showdown.

The two teams will meet again at San Siro, where a Coppa Italia semi-final berth is on the line amid an intriguing title race, with nine-time reigning champions Juventus, Roma, Atalanta and Napoli also vying for honours.

Brocchi is no stranger to the Derby della Madonnina, having also experienced the build-up from the opposing side during his stint with Inter in 2000-01.

"First of all, I think the most beautiful derby ever played was the one in the Champions League semi-final in 2003 [Milan prevailed on away goals after a 1-1 draw]. It was the ultimate derby for adrenaline and all the feelings you can feel," Brocchi said ahead of Monday's Serie B showdown with Brescia.

"The Milan derby is emotional, everybody wants to win and even if now it will be played without public, it still gives us great feelings."

All eyes will be on Ibrahimovic in Milan, where the 39-year-old continues to defy his age to inspire a title charge this term.

Ibrahimovic, who re-joined Milan from LA Galaxy in January 2020 having featured in the last Rossoneri team to celebrate league success almost a decade ago, has scored 12 goals in just nine Serie A matches this season.

After scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Cagliari on January 18, it meant Ibrahimovic managed to find the back of the net in nine successive starts for the first time in his career in Europe's top five leagues.

Ibrahimovic – who made his 600th career appearance (excluding playoffs) in the loss to Atalanta – is just two goals shy of reaching the 500 mark in club football.

"Strong players have no age as long as they feel fine. Ibra is an example, he is still strong physically," Brocchi continued.

"He is serving with character and class all the young player at Milan, who as I said before for us [Monza] with [Mario] Balotelli and [Kevin-Prince] Boateng. We have young players that can run for them too.

"Milan did the same. They assembled a squad of youngsters full of enthusiasm, legs and speed with a strong leader, Ibra, who is still at the top of his game and can be the icing on the cake of this winning choice." 

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso said "you can't just go to the supermarket and ask for €10 of determination" as the club continue to stutter following a shock loss at Hellas Verona.

Gattuso's Napoli lost for the second time in five days after being overhauled 3-1 by Verona in Serie A action on Sunday.

Napoli were beaten 2-0 by rivals Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday, and they tasted defeat again, despite Hirving Lozano's memorable opener.

Lozano broke the deadlock after just 8.95 seconds – the third fastest goal in Serie A history, behind Rafael Leao (2020) and Paolo Poggi (2001).

Excluding penalty goals, only Cristiano Ronaldo (11) and Luis Muriel (10) have scored more than Lozano (nine) this season in Serie A.

But that was as good as it got for Napoli, who conceded an equaliser prior to half-time before Antonin Barak and Mattia Zaccagni secured maximum points for hosts Verona.

Napoli – sixth in the standings, two points outside the top four and nine adrift of leaders Milan – have only won three of their past eight league matches as Gattuso voiced his frustration post-game.

"I make the decisions, so when we don't win, it's my responsibility. It's disappointing, because we had the right game-plan, we made it difficult for them, created four or five scoring opportunities in the first half and could've killed the game," Gattuso – who is yet to sign a new contract despite speculation – told Sky Sport Italia.

"The regret is that we could've done so much and kept wasting it. We were always four against four and didn’t make the right passes. We know this Verona side loves to play physical football, so we started to do what they wanted.

"All teams have ups and downs this season, we need to clear our minds. I expect what we prepare during the week. We played the first half exactly the way we wanted to, but we did everything wrong in the second half.

"We made the wrong choices. It's not easy, you can't just go to the supermarket and ask for €10 of determination. It can't be brought out of the players just by saying it. It's about the interpretation of the game, we had one in the first half and a totally different attitude after the break."

It was the first time Napoli lost to Verona since suffering a 2-0 Serie A defeat in 2015.

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