Slow starts are nothing new to Harry Kane. Not until 2018 did the England captain score a Premier League goal in the month of August, by which point he had twice won the Golden Boot.

But there is added focus on Kane this year in the aftermath of his failed move from Tottenham to Manchester City.

And through three appearances – including two starts – in the opening four games of the 2021-22 campaign, the striker has attempted just two shots without scoring.

The last time Kane had two or fewer attempts across a three-match span in the Premier League was back in October 2014, but he did not start any of those outings against Sunderland, Southampton and Newcastle United, which produced a sole effort combined.

Since establishing himself as one of Europe's elite forwards, Kane has not endured such a lean league spell.

Chelsea, against whom Kane has scored just once in his past eight Premier League encounters, are up next, with a more effective display clearly required from Tottenham's talisman.

Nuno not helping

Nuno Espirito Santo oversaw three straight wins to start the league season, but Kane is not alone in suffering from the new coach's safety-first approach.

Spurs are averaging 9.5 shots per game this term, their lowest rate in a season since at least 2003-04, while only Watford (2.3) and Leicester City (3.4) have a lower expected goals total (3.7).

Tottenham also now have the sixth-lowest average possession in the division at 43.1 per cent.

Although this more conservative set-up has been in place for a little while now – Spurs last season started their sequences 39.7 metres from their own goal and have this term jumped slightly forward to 41.4m – it has only become more entrenched under Nuno.

A far cry from Mauricio Pochettino's pressing team, in which Kane thrived, Tottenham have had just 41 pressed sequences (fourth fewest) and 24 high turnovers (joint-fifth fewest) in 2021-22 so far and prefer instead to play on the counter, moving the ball 1.72 metres upfield per second (joint-third fastest).

This suits speedy fellow forwards Steven Bergwijn, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura far better than it does Kane, who is neither notably quick nor regularly carrying the ball – 7.3 carries per 90 minutes this season rank him ninth among the 11 Spurs outfielders to feature in 100 or more minutes.

With Tottenham relying on these rapid attacks, rather than patiently playing through the thirds and allowing Kane to get into dangerous positions, the 28-year-old has made only eight touches in the opposition box.

Deeper and deeper

Of course, as shown previously for Spurs and England, Kane can be effective in dropping deeper and picking out the runs of those faster team-mates.

And it's not as if Kane has not still been involved in Tottenham's play, having a role in 31.4 open play sequences per 90 – just shy of last year's rate of 31.8, which had leapt up from 25.7.

But just 3.2 of these sequences per 90 are ending in a shot, while Kane has not been involved in any open play sequences leading to a goal this term – a metric he unsurprisingly led (36) in 2020-21 when he topped the charts for Premier League goals and assists.

Kane is still creating chances – his four so far this season arriving every 49.5 minutes or every 22.8 touches – but Spurs would surely sooner have their main man on the end of such opportunities.

Having peaked with a shot every 16.8 minutes or every 6.9 touches in 2017-18, Kane's early-season form has seen an attempt every 99 minutes or every 45.5 touches.

Given he attempted 61.3 per cent of his shots last season from inside the box, despite renowned ability from long range, this primitive decline should come as no surprise.

Just 8.8 per cent of Kane's touches have been taken in the opposition box. That career-low mark continues a downward trend into a fifth straight season, but it may now have reached a point where it is harmful to his chances of scoring.

Since Yaya Toure's sublime 2013-14 season from midfield, every Premier League player to notch 20 goals in a season has taken at least 10 per cent of their touches in the opposition box.

Few would write off Kane's chances of a sixth career 20-goal campaign at this stage, but he should expect competition for his Golden Boot from Sunday's opponent Romelu Lukaku.

A picture of efficiency, Lukaku has scored three times from 12 shots for Chelsea this term, registering an attempt every 8.5 touches and a goal every 34 touches.

If Tottenham are to be successful this season, they need Kane to be hitting similar marks.

Whether that means a tweak to his role or a change in the entire system, something has to shift, for Lukaku could very easily show Nuno just what he is missing.

Nuno Espirito Santo is unsure if Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn will be available for Tottenham's Premier League clash with Chelsea after limping off in the 2-2 draw with Rennes on Thursday.

Tottenham hit back through Pierre-Emilie Hojbjerg's deft finish to claim a point in their opening Europa Conference League group match after Flavien Tait and Gaetan Laborde had struck to cancel out an early Loic Bade own goal.

The draw at Roazhon Park came at a cost for Nuno, however, as Bergwijn hobbled off in the first half with an ankle problem and Lucas was replaced before the hour after being caught by a strong challenge from Tait.

Spurs are already without Son Heung-min due to an injury sustained on international duty last week, while Eric Dier is also sidelined and a trio of South American players – Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sanchez – are in quarantine.

With a huge home match against London rivals Chelsea up next in three days' time, Nuno has been left to rue his side's growing list of absentees. 

"It's been terrible, I must be honest," he said at his post-match news conference. "Let's not hide behind anything.  After the Watford game, everything that has happened has not been very good for us. 

"But this is football. And we know it’s a moment we have to overcome. Today, we tried to show the players solutions, thinking about the game on Sunday. But it's about overcoming obstacles. That will make us stronger for the future, for sure."

Asked if either of the pair will be ready to take on Chelsea, Nuno said: "It's too early to say. The physios are working with them." 

Star striker Harry Kane played just under an hour of the Rennes match and had only one shot in total – albeit an improvement on the zero attempts and zero touches in the opposition box managed against Crystal Palace last Saturday.

Kane was one of four players to retain his place in the side from that 3-0 loss at Selhurst Park as Spurs battled to a share of the spoils in their Group G opener at a raucous Roazhon Park.

Tottenham took the lead when Bade turned Lucas' cross into his own net, but Tait curled an impressive equaliser past Pierluigi Gollini and the Spurs keeper could only push Kamaldeen Sulemana's shot into the path of Laborde for Rennes' second.

Substitute Hojbjerg rescued a point, however, and Nuno was pleased with the overall display to take a point back to north London in what was his side's toughest fixture on paper, with Vitesse and Slovenian side Mura also in the pool.

"We scored then we lost control," Nuno said. "We played a good team who caused some problems. It is hard to judge the game, but I think we finished well against a hard team to play against. 

"But the attitude was good and with a lot of players playing out of position it is hard to properly judge."

Tottenham lost Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn to injury as they played out a 2-2 draw with Ligue 1 side Rennes in Thursday's opening Europa Conference League match.

Lucas played a big part in Tottenham's opener, which was credited as a Loic Bade own goal, before having to make way following a poor challenge from Flavien Tait.

It was Tait who had earlier equalised for Rennes with a curled finish at an atmospheric Roazhon Park, shortly before Bergwijn was withdrawn with an apparent ankle issue.

Gaetan Laborde completed the turnaround 19 minutes from time, only for substitute Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to quickly hit back and earn Spurs a point in the Group G clash.

Tanguy Ndombele was brought into the Tottenham side for his first appearance under Nuno Espirito Santo and played a huge part in the opening goal with 11 minutes played.

The Frenchman kept the ball in play with a fancy backheeled pass in a swift move that culminated in Lucas' attempted cross hitting Bade's boot and wrong-footing Romain Salin.

Serhou Guirassy then had a shot saved by Pierluigi Gollini but exchanged passes with Tait soon after for his team-mate to curl one into the bottom-right corner for the equaliser.

That ended Rennes' 212-minute wait for a goal and the hosts spurned a big chance to edge in front before half-time when Kamaldeen Sulemana headed wide from close range.

The second half had a disrupted feel to it following a number of fouls, one of which led to Lucas' injury, with the Spurs attacker unable to run off the damage.

That all changed when Laborde converted a rebound after Gollini pushed Sulemana's shot into his path, but it took Nuno's side just five minutes to respond through Hojbjerg's poked finish from close range to ensure the points were shared.

Could Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski be set to work together again?

The pair enjoyed a successful partnership at Borussia Dortmund.

Now, Klopp is reportedly trying to lure the Bayern Munich forward to Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP WANTS LEWANDOWSKI REUNION

Liverpool are targeting Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to Fichajes.

Lewandowski worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund before joining Bundesliga rivals Bayern in 2014.

There has been talk Lewandowski could be ready for a new challenge amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester City, though Klopp is reportedly determined to reunite with the Poland international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild claims Dortmund have identified Chelsea forward Timo Werner as a possible option to replace Erling Haaland. Club are queueing up to sign Haaland, with City, Manchester United, Bayern, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all reportedly interested. Should Haaland leave Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit reportedly see former RB Leipzig star Werner as a potential successor.

- Fabrizio Romano says Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is nearing a contract extension at San Siro. He has reportedly turned down offers from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

Bayern, Inter, Real Madrid and Tottenham are interested in Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea are looking to sign Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to new contracts, according to Romano.

Harry Kane's attempt to leave Tottenham did not go according to plan before the transfer window closed.

Despite interest from Manchester City, Kane remains in London with Spurs.

Kane could be prepared to sign another contract at Tottenham…

 

TOP STORY – NEW DEAL FOR KANE?

Tottenham star Harry Kane is open to a contract extension if the offer includes a release clause, according to Eurosport.

Kane wanted to leave Tottenham in the off-season, but a move did not materialise, despite interest from Premier League champions Manchester City.

The England striker, though, could be willing to re-sign on one condition.

Paris Saint-Germain, JuventusReal Madrid and Barcelona have previously been linked with Kane.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus could face competition from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for City forward Gabriel Jesus, reports Calciomercato. Juve are keen to bolster their attack following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit but face a battle should Robert Lewandowski leave Bayern. Lewandowski has been linked with the likes of City and Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano claims United are planning to offer Luke Shaw a new contract at Old Trafford. However, United are prioritising new deals for Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Liverpool are among the contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, says 90min. Haaland has been linked with United, City, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Juve and PSG but 90min claims Liverpool have held talks with his agent Mino Raiola.

Lionel Messi will be the highest-rated player on FIFA 22 after EA Sports revealed the upcoming game's top 22.

The latest edition of the long-running title will be released at the start of October and will see Messi representing a team other than Barcelona for the first time.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August and will give gamers the chance to line up with him, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all in the same front three.

With a rating of 93, Messi will be the game's best player, excluding icons and special Ultimate Team cards.

 

The ratings of Neymar and Mbappe were also among those revealed on Monday, with the pair among five players on 91 – the other three are Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak and Kevin De Bruyne.

Of course, the game will give Manchester United fans the chance to include Ronaldo in their Red Devils side after he completed his return to the club following a 12-year absence.

Messi aside, the only other player to be rated higher than Ronaldo is Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

He broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season in 2020-21 as he netted 41 times en route to the title.

 

But it was not enough to topple Messi.

Even in a season that was largely underwhelming for Barcelona, Messi still managed to score 30 LaLiga goals and he set up another nine – only four players had more assists.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the six-time Ballon d'Or winner just pips Lewandowski to top-billing despite the latter's historic campaign.

FIFA 22's top 22 players:

Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain – 93

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich – 92

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – 91

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – 91

Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 91

Harry Kane, Tottenham – 90

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea – 90

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich – 90

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona – 90

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 89

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain – 89

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 89

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool – 89

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich – 89

Son Heung-min, Tottenham – 89

Alisson, Liverpool – 89

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid – 89

Casemiro, Real Madrid – 89

Ederson, Manchester City – 89

Sadio Mane, Liverpool – 89

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Jose Mourinho said he will remember Roma's last-gasp victory over Sassuolo after celebrating his 1,000th career match in wild fashion.

Mourinho's milestone game ended in the Roma head coach sprinting down the touchline to celebrate Stephan El Shaarawy's 91st-minute winner with the Giallorossi fans in Sunday's 2-1 dramatic success at home to Sassuolo.

Former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham boss Mourinho has won 638 of his career matches across all competitions, boasting a 64 per cent winning percentage, to go with 25 titles as a manager.

After Mourinho oversaw Roma's third win from three Serie A fixtures to start the season atop the table, the 58-year-old revelled in the memorable fixture.

"Because during the week I was lying to people, telling everyone this wasn't a special game – perhaps I was trying to convince myself as well," Mourinho, who is in his first season with Roma, said.

"But actually it was – this game had a really special meaning for me. And I am sure I will remember it for the rest of my life, because my 1000th game as a coach was this one.

"I didn't want to lose it, and I was very scared of having that be my lasting memory of the moment. So I was lying to everyone beforehand. It was a very special feeling."

Mourinho – a Champions League, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Primeira Liga winner among other honours – added: "Today it could have finished 6-6 or 7-7, they could have won 2-1, whatever. In the final few minutes Rui Patricio made two or three incredible saves and we missed two or three chances when the goal was gaping. It was an incredible game for the neutral, an absolutely extraordinary match, with so many emotions to it.

"Today I wasn't 58 years old, but 10 or 12 or 14, when you start dreaming about a career in football. Running like I did [down the sideline], I was running like a child. And I apologised to [Sassuolo coach Alessio] Dionisi for that.

"I congratulated him and his players: they played brilliantly. Tonight we won, but if they had won I would not have been able to have any complaints."

It is the first time in Mourinho's illustrious career that he has won the first five games at a club.

"I didn't know that," Mourinho replied when it was put to him. "It's the same as the milestone of 1000 games – I only realised when I was eight or seven short. They are not numbers I'm particularly interested in.

"Obviously I'm happy with the three points, and the great spirit we showed. But we cannot ignore Dionisi and how he must feel: He's a great coach, Sassuolo have a real identity about them – one that comes from De Zerbi, but he has applied his own elements to that. They are a great squad; I realised that as soon as I started studying them.

"These are three massive points for us. Perhaps God decided that I didn't deserve to have a negative memory of this particular game."

Roma, meanwhile, have won six consecutive home games in all competitions for their first time since December 2017 (seven).

Patrick Vieira got one over on Tottenham as the former Arsenal captain savoured a London derby win with Crystal Palace over his old foes.

Gunners great Vieira, a key member of the 2003-04 'Invincibles' team, had seen his Palace side take just two points from their opening three Premier League games.

However, a thumping 3-0 victory over out-of-sorts Spurs showed what they might be capable under French manager Vieira.

The outstanding Wilfried Zaha rolled in a penalty to give Palace the lead in the 76th minute, and Odsonne Edouard's late double, after coming off the bench to make his debut, made it a comfortable win.

Tottenham had defender Japhet Tanganga sent off just before the hour mark, but their goal was already coming under siege and their attacking was barely a factor, Harry Kane making no impact.

"Today, everything was perfect," Vieira said. "The atmosphere of the stadium, the quality of the game we played. We took the three points and I'm really pleased about that.

"Wilfried is part of the leaders and when he is at this level that he was today, other players behind just follow him.

"There is a really good team spirit, players who are prepared to work hard because they want to do well for this football club."

Vieira told BT Sport he was "really pleased" for Edouard, a late transfer window acquisition from Scottish giants Celtic.

Edouard called it "a dream debut" and his boss concurred.

"The way he finished, it just showed he's a proper goalscorer," Vieira said. "I think he's a player inside the box who will take his chances. He's a goalscorer and I think there's more to come from him."

Vieira hopes star winger Zaha can kick on too and enjoy a memorable campaign.

Before this game, Zaha had faced Tottenham more often without registering a single goal or assist than he had any other side in the competition (12), but his penalty and his pass that set up Edouard's first goal put paid to that statistic.

Zaha hit a career-high 11 Premier League goals for Palace last season, and Vieira is looking for another healthy haul.

"I would like him to score more goals. I think he can do that," Vieira said. "Today, he was unstoppable, I think he worked fantastically well. Wilfried can score a lot of goals for us."

Zaha converted both penalties that he took in the league last season, and although Luka Milivojevic has a history of success from the spot, the time may have come for the Ivory Coast man to be Palace's regular taker.

"I've been practising," Zaha said. "I don't see why I can't take penalties so I'm happy I managed to take one and score for the team."

Harry Kane proved even the greats can experience off days as the Tottenham striker failed to have a shot or even a touch in the opposition penalty area in the painful defeat to Crystal Palace.

As Spurs slumped to a 3-0 loss at Selhurst Park, Kane was a passive presence, the England captain perhaps feeling the effects of international duty over the past fortnight.

The result meant Palace ended a 12-match winless run in league games against Spurs, and it also halted an 11-game sequence of failing to record a victory in all Premier League London derbies.

For Kane, it was an afternoon to forget. Opta said it was the first time in his Premier League career where he had completed the full 90 minutes and failed to have a goal attempt or at least touch the ball in the opponent's 18-yard box.

Kane scored in each of England's three World Cup qualifiers during the break, netting against Hungary, Andorra and Poland, but the latter of those fixtures took place on Wednesday evening in Warsaw.

To be back on club duty on Saturday lunchtime in London was a stretch, even for the player who ranks second on Spurs' list of all-time leading scorers, and his impact was minimal.

Kane played 20 passes, of which only 13 were accurate, and had just 37 touches, the fewest of all outfield Spurs players who played the full game.

He also lost possession 16 times and did not win it back once.

Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo admitted it had been a tough outing for his overwhelmed team, whose hopes were dealt a telling blow when Japhet Tanganga was sent off for two reckless challenges in quick succession, early in the second half.

Wilfried Zaha netted a 76th-minute penalty, before Odsonne Edouard's late double piled on the agony for Spurs, who had only two goal attempts across the 90 minutes – both by Lucas Moura.

"A lot of obstacles but a lot of mistakes also, so not a good game," Nuno told BT Sport.

"We have to look at ourselves and today we didn't play good. We never found the way to play the game in terms of possession.

"At the beginning of the second half the idea was to have more attacking situations, and we didn't achieve it, so after that all the issues that happened – the red card and all these things – made the job harder against a good team."

Spurs were also without South American trio Davinson Sanchez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, who are currently in Croatia having travelled back from countries on the United Kingdom's travel red list.

Wilfried Zaha scored against Tottenham in the Premier League for the first time and Odsonne Edouard hit a late debut brace as Crystal Palace comfortably saw off their lacklustre visitors 3-0 at Selhurst Park.

Flying winger Zaha had faced Tottenham on 12 occasions in the league without registering a single goal or an assist, but he capped a fine display with a 76th-minute penalty before then setting up Edouard.

By the time he rolled his spot-kick past Hugo Lloris, Tottenham were down to 10 men having lost Japhet Tanganga in the 58th minute after the defender lost his cool and picked up two yellow cards for chopping down Zaha and Jordan Ayew.

Tottenham had arrived in south London as Premier League leaders, but they were poor, Harry Kane practically anonymous as the visitors had just two attempts at goal all game.

Substitute Edouard, newly arrived from Celtic, made sure of the points when he fired in from Zaha's pass in the 84th minute just seconds after coming off the bench before getting a second deep into stoppage time.

Paul Pogba will be in demand when his contract expires after this season.

While several big clubs are in the mix, one has reportedly taken the lead.

The Santiago Bernabeu could be Pogba's next home.

 

TOP STORY - REAL MADRID WANT POGBA

Real Madrid are confident they can land Paul Pogba on a free transfer after this season, Mundo Deportivo reports. 

The interest apparently is mutual, as the report says Pogba would favour a move to Los Blancos over interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus

The deal might not be so easy to close if Manchester United decide to sell Pogba during the January window, but he remains a top target for Madrid either way.

 

ROUND-UP

- After failing to find a landing spot in Europe following his departure from Arsenal, veteran centre-back David Luiz will join Flamengo through the end of 2022, according to reports by Fabrizio Romano and Goal Brazil. 

- Alexandre Lacazette appears on the way out at Arsenal after the Gunners made a significant effort to sign Tammy Abraham during the transfer window, Romano reports. 

- Chelsea and Bayern Munich could pursue a swap deal that sends Timo Werner back to Germany and brings Leroy Sane back to the Premier League, according to Todo Fichajes.

- Everton will make another attempt to prise Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal during the January window, ESPN reports.

- Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is drawing interest from Chelsea and Tottenham, according to 90min. 

Nuno Espirito Santo revealed Son Heung-min is a doubt for Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace after returning injured from international duty.

The 29-year-old returned early from South Korea, missing their World Cup qualifier with Lebanon due to a calf problem suffered against Iraq.

And Nuno confirmed that Son, who has scored the most winning goals in the Premier League since the start of last term (8), may not feature at Selhurst Park.

"Like some of our players, he came back with some issues," said Nuno, who was named the Premier League's Manager of the Month for August on Friday.

"Sonny is not so well, but let's wait for the club to make the proper announcement and explain to you better what kind of injury he has."

Asked for further clarification, Nuno responded: "I don't know. Let's wait and see. The doctors will make the proper diagnostics."

The potential loss of Son will place further impetus on Harry Kane, who has been involved in 12 goals in 14 Premier League games against Palace (7 goals, 5 assists).

Indeed, only Thierry Henry (43) has scored more goals in London derbies than Kane (38) but Spurs will also be without Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sanchez as they look to maintain their perfect top-flight start.

When questioned on the whereabouts of his South American trio, Nuno explained: "I can tell you that they are in Croatia. That's what we decided to do to try to avoid more problems. 

"So the solution was to try to get them in a country where after that they can join the group. Now they are working with the sports science, a physio, in Croatia."

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Domestic football returns this week after the international break, and with it being the first set of matches since the transfer deadline passed, there are some new faces to consider.

Though one of them will be very familiar to everyone – Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United and an interesting option for fantasy teams.

Newcastle United are the visitors at Old Trafford in what many may be predicting to be a one-sided encounter, though Ronaldo's by no means the only threat to Steve Bruce's men.

Stats Perform has picked out seven players potentially in action over the weekend who could be worth signing up to give your fantasy team a boost.

HUGO LLORIS (Crystal Palace v Tottenham )

Spurs have enjoyed a solid start to their new era under Nuno Espirito Santo, winning all three league games to make themselves early leaders.

They've also not conceded a single goal, with Hugo Lloris the only goalkeeper in the division to already have three clean sheets.

Up next is a trip to Crystal Palace, and while you can never guarantee anything in football, Patrick Vieira's men have struggled during the early weeks of 2021-22. Lloris is surely a strong shout for a clean sheet.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Leeds United v Liverpool )

The international break saw Alexander-Arnold become a hot topic of conversation again as his England career continues to stall – this time his performance in midfield attracting criticism.

Nevertheless, at club level there's little question that he'll return to his usual right-back berth, where he has excelled so far this term.

Leeds should offer the Reds stern opposition, but their style of play means Liverpool could be afforded a lot of space – if anyone can exploit that, it's Alexander-Arnold, given he has created five more chances (15) than any other player in the league and his six successful open-play crosses is a joint-high.

REECE JAMES ( Chelsea v Aston Villa)

If you're the type of fantasy football manager who loads their team with full-backs in the hope of the goal involvement/clean sheet double-threat, then you've probably already got James in your team.

But if you haven't, you may want to consider it.

The Chelsea wing-back is already on three goal involvements (one goal, two assists), the most among defenders and anyone in Thomas Tuchel's squad, and is part of a team that wouldn't expect to concede regularly.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN (Leicester City v Manchester City )

Leicester City have often been seen as a bit of a bogey team for Manchester City, so perhaps this is a bit of a wildcard choice.

However, Gundogan's enjoyed a stellar 2021 to date. His 12 Premier League goals is second only to Harry Kane (14) and has become an influential player in City's attacks over the past year.

He's probably not in the conversation to be anyone's captain, but his goals haul makes him a strong contender to at least get in your XI.

BRUNO FERNANDES ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Man Utd have averaged 2.9 goals per game over their previous 14 Premier League home matches, and with Newcastle taking just 10 points from the past 15 away games, the omens look good for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

With that in mind, the man usually behind many of United's goals is Fernandes, who is just two goal involvements from reaching 50 – only three players will have hit that mark quicker than him if he gets a couple against Newcastle.

Similarly, since the start of 2020-21, Fernandes' 10.3 expected assists (xA) is the highest in the Premier League and his 12 actual assists haul is level with Kevin De Bruyne as the most among midfielders.

IVAN TONEY ( Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion)

He was the man who propelled Brentford into the Premier League with his goals, so when Toney got off the mark in the Premier League last out time out against Aston Villa, many will curiously wait to see if the floodgates now open.

That took him to 56 league goals (excluding play-offs) since the start of 2019-20, more than anyone else in the top four tiers of English football.

Granted, those came in lower divisions, but others before him have adapted to the Premier League – why can't Toney be the next Jamie Vardy?

CRISTIANO RONALDO ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Solskjaer's already said Ronaldo hasn't return to United to sit on the bench, so there's every chance the Portugal captain could make his second debut as a starter against Newcastle.

If he does, he will complete a formidable frontline for the Red Devils, regardless of who he's joined by, and given the mauling they handed out to Leeds United on matchday one, they certainly have big wins in their locker.

It's also worth noting that Ronaldo scored his very first club hat-trick against Newcastle back in 2008 – he couldn't do it again, could he? Either way, Ronaldo as captain this weekend looks a smart choice.

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