Mauricio Pochettino refused to be drawn on whether Paris Saint-Germain will go into the transfer market ahead of Monday's deadline amid reports he could be reunited with Dele Alli.

PSG have won four and drawn one of their five games since Pochettino was appointed as head coach this month.

Pochettino has been linked with a loan move for out-of-favour Tottenham midfielder Alli, although Jose Mourinho this week said he expects the 24-year-old to stay at the London club.

Inter's Christian Eriksen, another midfielder who played under Pochettino at Spurs, has also been mentioned as a potential target for the Ligue 1 champions.

Pochettino, who confirmed his assistant Miguel D'Agostino has tested positive for coronavirus, was giving nothing away ahead of Sunday's trip to Lorient and said "we will see" when asked if Bandiougou Fadiga could join Brest.

He said in a press conference on Saturday: "You have reminded me about there being three days left [before the window closes], but we are not paying attention to that right now.

"I am focused on the team improving and performing at its best."

Lyon beat Bordeaux 2-1 on Friday to go a point clear of champions PSG at the top of the Ligue 1 table.

PSG will be expected to return to the summit when they take on struggling Lorient, but Pochettino warned they must not be complacent.

"For PSG, every single game is important and we want to win every game. The priority is always the next game ahead of you, which is Lorient," he said.

"We always expect the same from our team, which is to win and compete in the best way possible, knowing that we are against a side that will make it very tough for us."

Pochettino plans to fully utilise his squad with such a demanding schedule to contend with.

The former Argentina international said: "Before every game every week we analyse every player individually and all the players train hard.

"All the players here, whether they are playing more or less regularly, they have to know that they will have an opportunity and must take it when they get one.

"That way, they are ready to fit straight into the team. We are always open to changes, as a coaching staff we are always open to giving players the chance to improve. They need to be ready to show they deserve a place in the starting line-up."

Barcelona are not ready to win the biggest trophies and fans must be "realistic" about their title chances, head coach Ronald Koeman said.

The Catalans face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday for the first time since suffering defeat to Marcelino's side in the final of the Supercopa de Espana.

Barca go into the match 10 points behind LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand. Their tally of 37 points from their first 19 matches is their lowest return at this stage of a season since 2003-04.

According to a Stats Perform AI model run last week, Barca had just a 12.4 per cent likelihood of winning LaLiga, with Atletico overwhelming favourites at 75.1 per cent.

Having won just twice in their past seven meetings with Athletic in all competitions, the pressure is on Barca and Koeman to deliver to keep their slim hopes of a title challenge intact.

However, the former Netherlands boss feels this has been a year of transition for the club that means they should not aim too high.

"It's tough, because the points gap is very big," he said on Saturday. "In the Champions League, there's no clear favourite. We have a knockout against Paris Saint-Germain that we'll try to get through.

"I have said several times that this is a season where we are changing things, we are opting for young players.

"Barcelona are not about to win a lot of things right now. We have to be realistic about where we've come from, the changes we've made... not everything depends on one player. We always have to be ready to fight, but we have to be realistic."

With Barca having reported debts of close to €1.2billion and with presidential elections not taking place until March, January signings have been practically impossible.

The club remain hopeful, however, of bringing in Eric Garcia from Manchester City this month. The defender has already agreed to a deal with the club but they are exploring options to sign him in the coming days rather than wait for a free transfer at the end of the season, when his City contract expires.

"It's always important to have someone at the club working to improve our squad, if not in January for next year," Koeman said.

"It doesn't bother me because it's a job the club has to do. The players don't have to be bothered by these issues, because we talk to them every day, they take part in the games.... These things happen at any club in the world and I don't see any problem.

"We'll certainly have him [Garcia] for next season. If it's not possible for him to come now, we have to accept it and we'll keep going with what there is.

"But I don't know. I don't want to spend energy on this and I'm just focused on preparing the team for the games.

"I spoke to [City manager] Pep [Guardiola] a little while ago to wish him a happy 50th birthday. We talked, but we don't do so on Eric Garcia. That's not my job. I'm dedicated to coaching.

"I think it's normal that it's talked about so much because it's a transfer and because of the circumstances around the club. I've said what I thought, but what ends up happening is something I can't control, so I'm focused on what's important, which is trying to win games."

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.

Barcelona made a mistake not selling superstar captain Lionel Messi at the start of the season, according to Rivaldo.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the current campaign and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner appears likely to leave on a free transfer amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

The 33-year-old attacker had tried to exit Camp Nou prior to the start of 2020-21 before opting to remain with the LaLiga giants.

As Barca struggle financially amid the coronavirus pandemic, former star Rivaldo wrote in his Betfair column: "Barcelona were not in good financial health pre-pandemic, but things got nasty in the last year and beyond Lionel Messi's almost inevitable departure, the club may need to sell some more important players to generate income.

"As I mentioned previously, the club's board made a mistake by not selling Lionel Messi while he was still under contract, something Real Madrid did with Cristiano Ronaldo receiving around €100million in exchange [from transfer to Juventus].

"It's sad to see such a talented and valuable player leaving Barca for free when the club is going through so many financial problems.

"But looking to potential transfers that might occur, I think Phillipe Coutinho time may have be coming to an end. He has admirers in England and perhaps Barcelona could generate some good income with his sale, allowing them to keep others like Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

"The Brazilian never managed to show his best football in Spain, and since his better moments happened in Premier League I'm sure there will be clubs interested in his services and available to pay considerable amounts, although not quite what Barcelona paid to Liverpool!"

Barca are third in the table and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid as they prepare to host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Athletic stunned Messi's Barca in the Supercopa de Espana final earlier this month.

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool's injury woes have had a knock-on effect with the stability and structure of the rest of his line-up.

Liverpool lost the influential Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury in the Merseyside derby back in October, while centre-back partner Joe Gomez is likely to miss the rest of the campaign having damaged his patella in November.

Joel Matip's own fitness issues reared their head again in Liverpool's 3-1 victory over Tottenham on Thursday when he damaged his ankle.

The Premier League champions have had to utilise defensive midfielder Fabinho almost exclusively in defence this term, with skipper Jordan Henderson also filling in at centre-back.

Liverpool's triumph over Tottenham Spurs ended a five-match winless run in the top flight that has threatened to damage their title defence beyond repair.

Klopp explained how the issues in defence have also affected Liverpool in other areas of the pitch.

"Football is all about individual skills of course, we have to bring it together to make it work," he said.

"So, it's about the structure of the team, about stability, about reliability, knowing what the other boy is doing in this moment, react on it, prepare your action. 

"It's about leadership as well, on the pitch, who leads the line, who used to do that. It's not a secret Virgil van Dijk was our last line. So, organisation wise, move up, these kind of things, with the ball a little as well, that's how it is it developed that way. 

"That was a job for a little while for Joe, who grew in the job. Then Joe was out, Joel played together with Fabinho so both players are not the most vocal players on the pitch. 

"Plus we miss our most natural six when we speak about structure and stability, it changed the whole set-up. 

"Usually in football when one player has the ball all the others know kind of what will happen, because they are used to it, he steps in or plays the long pass, all that was gone in a period when we played every three days. 

"The boys did really well with that to be honest but it cost a lot of energy and focus to adapt to these things, it cost most of all fluidity."

WHAT ARE LIVERPOOL MISSING IN VAN DIJK?

It should come as little surprise that Liverpool are far more successful with Van Dijk in the team than without him.

Going back to start of last season, Van Dijk has played in 57 games across all competitions for the Reds, while missing out on 30.

With Van Dijk involved they have a win percentage of 71.9 compared to 53.3 when he has not played. Additionally, the average points per game drops from 2.3 to 1.9 .

Perhaps a little surprisingly, Liverpool concede slightly fewer goals per game – but the 1 as opposed to 1.1 is negligible and the fact their average goals drops from 2.2 to 1.9 suggests Klopp's point about the positional changes in his team bears fruit.

From the start of last season to the date of Van Dijk's injury, only Manchester City (42) and Sheffield United (45) had conceded fewer than their 46 among teams that were playing in the top flight across both seasons.

Moreover, the Reds ranked second for clean sheets (16) and fewest shots on target faced (134), while they were third for fewest shots total faced (386). Somewhat surprisingly, they had 28 errors leading to shots (including goals) although this may be attributed to the style employed by Klopp.

Since Van Dijk's injury, Liverpool still compare favourably in terms of goals conceded (only City with six have shipped fewer than their 10), but nine teams have more clean sheets. They also slip slightly to third for fewest shots on target faced (45).

In that same time period, Van Dijk ranked sixth for duels won (256), 11th for recoveries (239), 11th for clearances (170) and second for aerial duels won (203) in the Premier League.

LACK OF REALISTIC REPLACEMENTS?

One solution of course is for Liverpool to enter the transfer market ahead of the deadline on Monday, but the mid-season window is traditionally tricky to find good deals.

Klopp has made no secret of the fact that Liverpool will reinforce if the right solution comes along, but with clubs reluctant to sell their best players during the season the German may have to make do.

"We know the clubs where the better centre-halves are playing, where they are obviously interesting, tell me if one of these clubs need money and has to sell a player," Klopp said.

"We see the situation, we lost two probably two of best of the centre-halves in the market at all in the space of six-seven weeks.

"That's massive, you have to look, find a solution in that moment. We tried, we see the situation, we don't close our eyes. to play your season you need to be lucky with injuries, we know that. we are not lucky in these moments. 

"I said all the time we're busy checking specific things in the market, we always did, we'll do it now as well and we'll see if something will happen or not."

Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season.

West Ham have reportedly agreed to cover Lingard's wages for the duration of his time at London Stadium and pay a £1.5million fee to United.

The 28-year-old was allowed to leave to find more regular first-team football, having only made three appearances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

Lingard played under Hammers boss David Moyes when he was in charge of the Red Devils and is looking forward to working with him again.

He told West Ham TV: "I'm excited. It's another new chapter in my life. Nothing is guaranteed but I've come here to work hard and help the team and bring my experience. 

"That's the main aim. I just want to enjoy my football and get back playing again and get my feet back on the pitch.

"There were lots of clubs involved but, for me personally, I felt this was the right move. I've obviously had a previous relationship with the manager as he was at Man U and I've played under him before, so he knows my qualities and what I can bring to the team.

"I know a couple of the players as well – I know Dec [Rice] very well from the England side – and I feel I can really settle in here quickly."

Moyes said of his new signing: "I've seen him play as a young boy, when he was still a wide player on the right, and I've seen him play off the left.

"He's played for England as a number 10, he's played for England as a number eight, and I actually think if we needed him as a false nine, he could do that as well.

"We're bringing in that versatility, I've wanted to try to get an energetic team at the moment and Jesse has been known for his work-rate and effort, so I think he'll fit in nicely with what we've got.

"I hope he brings us a little bit of quality too, and a winning mentality from Manchester United."

Lingard's best season came in 2017-18, when he had a hand in 19 goals (13 scored, six assisted) in all competitions for United – it was one more goal involvement than he had managed in his two prior campaigns for the club combined.

Anthony Martial (20), Marcus Rashford (21) and Romelu Lukaku (36) were the only two United players to play a role in more goals that season, while his first senior England strike arrived in March 2018.

Things quickly went downhill, though. After an assist in a 3-1 win at home to Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day in 2018, Lingard did not register another Premier League goal involvement for United until scoring against Leicester City on the final day of last season. It ended an incredible run of over 28 hours on the pitch with a goal or assist in the top flight.

Lingard also experienced the longest drought of his club career in 2019, with 307 days separating goals against Arsenal in the FA Cup in January and versus Astana in the Europa League in November.

The arrival of Lingard comes after the high-flying Hammers completed a permanent deal for attacking midfielder Said Benrahma.

Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season.

West Ham have reportedly agreed to cover Lingard's wages for the duration of his time at London Stadium and pay a £1.5million fee to United.

The 28-year-old was allowed to leave to find more regular first-team football, having only made three appearances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

Hansi Flick is happy to see Jamal Musiala receive his first senior call-up for the German national team, but insists Bayern Munich and the DFB will have no sway in the player's decision.

Musiala, who was born in Stuttgart but moved to England at a young age, came through the ranks at Chelsea before switching to Bundesliga giants Bayern in 2019.

The 17-year-old has represented both Germany and England at youth level, and in November made his debut for the Three Lions' Under-21 side, subsequently scoring in his second appearance.

After making his Bundesliga debut in June last year, Musiala has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Bayern this term, scoring three goals from 14 league appearances, making two starts, while he has also played three times in the Champions League, as well as featuring in the DFB-Pokal and the DFL Supercup.

He has averaged a goal every 126 minutes in the Bundesliga, though has only created one chance so far.

Reports emerged this week suggesting Germany will hand Musiala a first senior cap in the upcoming March internationals, with Joachim Low's side taking on Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia in World Cup 2022 qualifying.

The reports were confirmed by Flick ahead of Bayern's home game with Hoffenheim, and he will offer his advice to the teenager if needed.

"We haven't been talking about it yet. I only found out about today, that Jamal will be invited to the national team in March," Flick told a news conference.

"Overall, I always am happy to see young talents that also play in Germany. Until now, the DFB always handled these situations similarly and let the player choose whether he'd like to join or not.

"Where he feels more comfortable, that is a decision that he'll take on his own and with his family. He will have to deal with that by himself.

"Therefore, if he has any questions, he knows he can always talk to me about it. So you have to respect his decision either way."

One Bayern youngster who has not had such a strong season is Joshua Zirkzee, with the 19-year-old reportedly set to join Serie A club Parma on loan with an option to buy, while Premier League side Everton havie also been linked.

Flick, though, suggested a potential move was not as far along as has been suggested.

"I can only read about it. Joshua was training with us today and I believe that he will still train with us after the deadline day," Flick added. 

"In all openness, there is nothing to be declared.'

Zirkzee has managed just one start in the league this season, playing 92 minutes in total across three appearances, and has not added to his tally of four Bayern goals, which he scored last season.

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."

Sergio Ramos' future is not a cause for concern for Real Madrid assistant David Bettoni despite rumours the defender has decided to leave.

Media reports in Spain have claimed Ramos will exit Madrid at the end of the season when his contract expires after failing to respond to the club's latest contract offer, which is said to be worth 10 per cent less than his existing agreement. 

The experienced centre-back has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, though they are rumoured to have distanced themselves from such stories given it was claimed Ramos was asking for a wage greater than that of Kylian Mbappe. 

Either way, Ramos' future remains uncertain and there appears to be a significant chance of him opting to move elsewhere. 

But Bettoni – still standing in for head coach Zinedine Zidane as he isolates with coronavirus – insists it is not a situation that is worrying right now, as they are focusing on Ramos' recovery from the various ailments that have kept him out of LaLiga action since mid-December. 

"I'm not worried [about the renewal]," Bettoni told reporters. "I see him every day and he's recovering. He is our captain, a great professional. We are not going to risk with him, but I cannot say anything else." 

The 34-year-old is currently out with a knee injury, but he has also recently suffered with a hamstring issue and illness.

Regarding Ramos' fitness, Bettoni added: "Every week he feels better, but we don't want to risk it – luckily now we are only playing once a week. 

"We are evaluating him week by week, we will see how his knee is next week. 

"The Sergio I know has a great heart, he's the captain, he's always there, he's a great professional. He is somewhat annoyed because he cannot play, he always wants to compete. But I don't see him differently, I see him normal." 

Zidane has been away from the Madrid squad for a week following his positive test for coronavirus, though Los Blancos cruised to a 4-1 win in the only match he has been forced to miss. 

He will be absent again on Saturday when Levante visit Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, though Bettoni says Zidane's condition is improving and he has still been able to talk with his staff every day. 

"Zidane is much better," he said. "And every day he gets better. We talk every day, we watch the training sessions, we discuss the contents. 

"He is not physically there, but he is with us. The week was very good. It's true that his presence is missed - it is a pity because of his personality and charisma." 

The pressure is on Madrid in LaLiga – they host Levante on Saturday already trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by seven points, and Diego Simeone's men also have a game in hand.

Pep Guardiola has criticised candidates in the Barcelona presidential race for talking too much about Manchester City defender Eric Garcia.

Spain international Garcia has long been linked with a return to his boyhood club since failing to agree an extension to his contract at the Etihad Stadium last year.

The 20-year-old centre-back's terms expire at the end of this season, when signing him on a free transfer might be the most prudent course of action for a financially embattled Barca.

One of the candidates, Toni Freixa, said this is the likely conclusion to the saga, although Victor Font this week claimed Garcia would go unpaid for the rest of the season in order to force through a move.

Acting Barca president Carles Tusquets does not have the authority to sign players during this window after the presidential election was delayed until March 7, adding another layer of complication.

Guardiola has already stated he is "pretty sure" Garcia will leave City when the 2020-21 campaign concludes, although there was a weariness when he addressed the matter once more as the Premier League leaders prepare to host Sheffield United.

"I don't want to talk anything about this case because the people talk much," he said, in comments apparently directed towards Freixa and Font, who are standing against his old boss at Camp Nou, Joan Laporta.

"He's our player, the transfer window finishes in a few days.

"We are fully committed with him while he is here because is an exceptional player and guy and that's all."

Saturday's top-versus-bottom clash at the Etihad Stadium threatens to be more competitive than billed if events this midweek on the other side of Manchester are anything to go by.

Chris Wilder's Sheffield United claimed only their second top-flight win of the season, stunning Manchester United 2-1 in a result that means City are in first place at the end of a round of fixtures for the first time this term.

"Of what I saw before the United game, Sheffield United is a team that is alive. [You can tell] from their body language," said Guardiola.

"It is not easy with the results they have got this season and that speaks incredibly well about Chris, his staff and the players.

"The result against United speaks for itself. Everybody knows how difficult it is to win at Old Trafford."

The Blades remain bottom, three points behind a West Brom side City thumped 5-0 last time out and 10 points from safety.

Nevertheless, Guardiola believes they have a chance of survival and is wary of a team his men edged past 1-0 in their previous two meetings, both of which were at Bramall Lane.

"I think the reason why they are still a team and they are alive is because they are together for a long time with the same manager and they believe each other a lot," he said.

"That is why they were able to do what they did a few days ago. But it is an opportunity to try to play good again and win the game."

Guardiola added: "To play Sheffield, it is always uncomfortable to us, that system, the 5-3-2, it is difficult to attack, that is why I’m a little bit concerned about the game."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed Marcos Rojo is set to leave Manchester United, but Jesse Lingard could still have a future at the club despite nearing a loan move to West Ham. 

Argentina international Rojo has played for United since 2014, when he was brought in by Louis van Gaal, but has long been out of the first-team reckoning. 

The last time he managed to reach double figures for Premier League appearances in a single season was 2016-17, when he played 21 times in Jose Mourinho's first campaign in charge. 

But injuries and poor form saw that figure drop to nine in 2017-18 – he then featured just five times in 2018-19 and thrice last term before he was sent to former club Estudiantes on loan. 

His brief stint back in Argentina did not go to plan either as he made a solitary appearance due to injury, while he has not played for United in any competition since returning. 

A social media post from someone purporting to be his personal trainer earlier this week appeared to lift the lid on Rojo's next move, claiming he was set to start training with Boca Juniors. 

And Solskjaer confirmed the defender's exit is almost complete, with Lingard also on the way out. 

"It's likely that Jesse's loan deal with West Ham is going through," Solskjaer said on Friday.

"Likely that Marcos goes back to Argentina, a little bit of paperwork left to be done, I think. Sergio [Romero], I've not heard anything there apart from that he'll be with us for the rest of his contract." 

But while Rojo and Romero are due to leave permanently, there still appears to be a hint of hope for Lingard at Old Trafford. 

The attacking midfielder is a product of United's academy and featured prominently under Van Gaal, Mourinho and – initially – Solskjaer, but he is yet to make a single Premier League appearance for United in 2020-21. 

The England international has seemingly been the player impacted the most by Bruno Fernandes' arrival a year ago, but Solskjaer says there will be a place for him in the squad if he can get himself back on track with high-flying West Ham. 

"We want Jesse to come back here revitalised and having shown at West Ham how good a player he is," Solskjaer said. 

"Of course, he's just been unfortunate with a couple of issues, some periods he had to stay away from us with COVID and isolation and close contact. 

"The rest of the team has done well, we've had little to no injuries and he's not forced his way into the team, unfortunately. 

"I just want him to go there and enjoy himself, show how good a player he is, and come back and show he's a Man United player through and thorough."

Mikel Arteta is adamant Martin Odegaard's arrival does not have to negatively impact Emile Smith Rowe's form, with the Arsenal manager convinced they can play together.

Arsenal completed the loan signing of Odegaard from Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Norwegian adding creativity to a squad that had not included Mesut Ozil at all this season prior to his move to Fenerbahce.

The 22-year-old Odegaard had struggled at Real Madrid this term, making just three LaLiga starts for Zinedine Zidane after returning from an impressive temporary spell at Real Sociedad.

But there is great hope that he could make a real impact for the Gunners if he is able to rediscover the form he displayed with La Real, for whom he created a team-high 62 chances and provided six assists in 2019-20.

Despite some expressing doubts over his compatibility with Smith Rowe, Arteta believes the two can play together, while Odegaard's signing will alleviate some of the creative burden.

"Of course, they can play together, and it is not about pushing somebody else [out of the team]," Arteta told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Manchester United.

"Emile has earned his right to play the way he is performing - and Martin has to earn that.

"Emile cannot play every single game, as we knew the other day. For example, in the FA Cup he was injured, he could not play.

"The other day [against Southampton on Tuesday], he could only play certain minutes because he was struggling for the last minutes.

"It has been a massive step for him from what he was doing three, four months ago and what he is doing right now. We need options."

DOUBLE THREAT

Smith Rowe has enjoyed a sudden rise to prominence with the Gunners – before Christmas he was exclusively used in cup competitions, but he has started six Premier League matches in a row since.

The first of those was the 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, a result that ended a run of seven games without a league victory and began to ease the pressure on Arteta. The Gunners are unbeaten with Smith Rowe in the side in the league this season.

His three assists from open play across the same period is more than anyone else has managed in the Premier League, so concern for Smith Rowe's momentum was an understanding by-product of the initial links to Odegaard.

But, Opta data lends credence to Arteta's assessment they can play together.

 

None of Smith Rowe's key passes or assists have come from the central third of the attacking half, with all of them coming from wider positions.

While Odegaard operated predominantly from the right at Real Sociedad last term, the highest proportion (31.2 per cent) of his assists and key passes came from the central zone directly outside the penalty area.

 

Creativity in this zone has been a weak point of Arsenal's this season, with most of their threat coming down the left – Odegaard's arrival might just offer the Gunners a little more balance.

Jurgen Klopp retains "a glimpse of hope" Joel Matip's ankle injury is not serious and re-emphasised Liverpool are working on bringing in the right reinforcement at centre-back.

Reds boss Klopp stated after Thursday's 3-1 win at Tottenham that Matip had sustained ankle ligament damage.

However, when previewing Sunday's Premier League trip to West Ham, Klopp said he is awaiting the results of a scan to ascertain the level of the damage.

Fabinho, who did not feature against Spurs due to a muscular issue, will not be ready to face the Hammers, though.

"Joel, last night after the game I was - especially with that - pretty emotional," Klopp said. 

"Meanwhile there is still a glimpse of hope it's not that serious – we don't have the final results, the scan didn't happen yet. 

"We will know more in three or four hours hopefully. Fabinho, no chance for the weekend."

Any absence for Matip comes at a difficult time for Liverpool, who still have Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez on their long-term injury list.

Following the Spurs game, Klopp said Liverpool would not make a signing simply to boost the numbers at centre-back, where Jordan Henderson filled in against Spurs and partnered youngster Nat Phillips for the second half.

The German struck a similar tone, adding: "I don't know [if we will sign a defender], but we will try. 

"[It's] funny when you think Liverpool is just fine with the situation and don't care. We try, there's nothing to say until something happens so we will see. 

"The situation yesterday didn't make it easier or whatever but still we will try to do the right things. If that's possible we will do it. If not, not."

"My thoughts didn't change. My words might have! It's the same situation. We work on this, if we don't sleep, we work. We will see . 

"Everything is long-term. It's about a solution, and that's what we are working on.

"I am not sure there is an £80million centre-back available at the moment or that teams would sell. This player of this calibre, probably other teams would not want to sell them now. 

"Of course we need to find the right player, that's clear. It needs to suit our financial situation, that's clear too. It's both."

The likes of Phillips and Rhys Williams have both been given extended game time this season and Klopp says he trusts the youngsters to perform.

"We speak constantly but not maybe the talks you think we have. They have talent and will have a proper career, that's fine," he added. 

"We have trust as well, let them do things in a specific way. We are different and do things differently, some of the things we have to do exactly right because we do them together and some things are individual. 

"It's not like every day we give them a book about playing in the Premier League, we trust the boys."

West Ham have exercised a purchase option on Said Benrahma early in order to free up space for the mooted loan signing of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United.

Reported issues with his medical in October led to Benrahma's initially agreed transfer being renegotiated to a season-long loan move that included "an agreement to make the transfer permanent".

It is claimed West Ham paid an initial £4million to take him on loan from Championship side Brentford, with the permanent deal set to cost the Hammers £21m, plus £5m in variables.

West Ham are said to have triggered the purchase early to create space for Lingard, who is reportedly on the verge of completing a loan switch from United.

Premier League clubs are restricted to two domestic loan players in their squad, vacancies that were filled by Benrahma and Craig Dawson.

West Ham are rumoured to be spending £1.5m on bringing Lingard in until the end of the season, as they look to boost their push for European football.

David Moyes' men are flying high in the Premier League, their 35 points from 20 games enough to put them fifth in the table, just two points behind defending champions Liverpool a place above them.

Winger Benrahma is perhaps still acclimatising to top-flight football, as he has only played 12 times in the Premier League and has just a couple of assists to his name.

His eight chances created is also relatively underwhelming for such an explosive player – that figure translates to 1.2 per 90 minutes, which is only high enough for seventh in the West Ham squad.

He is attempting (5.2) and completing (2.9) more dribbles than any other West Ham player, though in the long run they will be expecting greater attacking productivity considering his form with Brentford over the previous two seasons.

He was directly involved in 54 goals in all competitions (29 goals and 25 assists) for the Championship club, which was more than any other Brentford player in that time.

Also across the same period, no player in England's second tier could match his 50 goal involvements (27 goals and 23 assists) in the league.

And across the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Benrahma created 188 goalscoring chances in the Championship – which was second only to Pablo Hernandez (204) – and his 233 successful dribbles was 32 more than any other player in the division.

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