Real Madrid have set their sights on Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling after missing out on Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

The Spanish giants were widely regarded as favourites to land Mbappe until a late change of heart led to him signing a three-year extension to stay in France.

Madrid and City went head to head in the Champions League semi-final, but they may find themselves talking business soon for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – LOS BLANCOS PREPARE BID FOR STERLING

Sterling has spent seven seasons with City, racking up 131 goals in 338 appearances in all club competitions, and has played no fewer than 46 games in any of those campaigns.

Despite this, his playing time waned in the closing stages of this season, culminating in the Champions League when he only played a combined 28 minutes across both fixtures against Madrid.

Sterling set a record at the time for the most expensive transfer of an English player when he was sold to City for £44million plus add-ons in 2015, but Madrid are not looking to overshoot that number by much, with the Daily Star reporting they will offer £50million.

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– According to Sky Sports, Sadio Mane fancies a move to Bayern Munich in the upcoming transfer window.

– The Telegraph is reporting Tottenham will sign six players, heavily investing in an attempt to convince Antonio Conte to stay.

– The Telegraph is also reporting one player high on Tottenham's wish-list is Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus, who also has strong interest from Arsenal.

Arsenal will try to sell as many as seven first-team players in the upcoming transfer window – with Hector Bellerin and Bernd Leno named by The Sun. The Telegraph added that Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans is a key target for the Gunners.

– The Times is reporting Leeds United are set to sign 21-year-old USA international Brenden Aaronson from RB Salzburg for £23m.

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

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- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

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- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

Liverpool responded to Manchester City's thrashing of Norwich by recording a hard-fought 1-0 win at Burnley.

Fabinho struck the only goal in the first half, as the Reds continued their fine set-piece record on a day when set-plays proved decisive across the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Raul Jimenez starred as Wolves leapfrogged Tottenham with a shock 2-0 win, and Newcastle continued their revival with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa, thanks to Kieran Tripper's free-kick.

The final game of the day saw West Ham rescue a dramatic 2-2 draw at Leicester City, with Craig Dawson netting a stoppage-time equaliser.

Burnley 0-1 Liverpool: Reds reap rewards of set-piece focus

Liverpool did not produce a vintage performance, but Jurgen Klopp's men kept leaders Manchester City on their toes by earning a vital away win.

The Reds had to work hard for the three points against Burnley at Turf Moor. After managing 27 shots, nine attempts on target and 50 touches in Burnley's penalty area in the reverse fixture at Anfield last August, Liverpool had just over half as many touches in Burnley's 18-yard box this time (26), managing 12 shots in total and just four on target.

However, Klopp's men dug deep to find a winning goal, and did so courtesy of their fantastic set-piece record. Excluding penalties, 14 of Liverpool’s 61 Premier League goals this season have come via set-pieces, more than any other team and more than the tally they recorded in the top-flight last term (13).

Fabinho's winning goal also means he has scored more goals in his last seven matches (five) than he managed in his first 142 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions (four).

Meanwhile, the Anfield outfit also maintained their record of having won each of their games in which the Brazilian has netted for the club, with that run now reaching eight matches.

Tottenham 0-2 Wolves: Jimenez proves decisive at Spurs once again

It was Wolves, rather than Tottenham, who asserted their top-four credentials by recording a huge win in north London, with Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker firing the visitors to a 2-0 win.

Mexican striker Jimenez has now scored in each of his last three Premier League appearances away at Spurs (three goals), with Wolves winning each of those contests.

Indeed, Jimenez has now scored four times in six appearances against Tottenham, and has only scored more Premier League goals against Southampton and Everton (five).

For Antonio Conte's Spurs, the defeat was their third Premier League reverse in succession, and they also lost three consecutive league games under Nuno Espirito Santo in September 2021. This marks the first time they have had multiple three-match losing games in a Premier League campaign since 2004-05 (also two).

Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa: Another free-kick continues Toon revival

Newcastle's clash with Aston Villa was not exactly one for the purists, featuring the third-lowest expected goals tally of the entire Premier League season so far, but Tripper ensured that it was a memorable day for the Magpies.

Trippier's 35th-minute free-kick was enough to see off Steven Gerrard's men in a contest where both teams created just 0.5 xG apiece.

Remarkably, Newcastle have now scored a direct free-kick goal in each of their last three Premier League games (Jonjo Shelvey at Leeds, followed by Trippier against Everton and Aston Villa), becoming the first side to do so since Liverpool in December 2013.

In a game of fine margins, the England right-back showed the quality that he brings to the Magpies' relegation fight, and he is now the first Newcastle player to score direct free-kick goals in consecutive Premier League games since Hugo Viana did so in May 2003.

Things have not quite gone to plan for Cristiano Ronaldo in his second coming at Manchester United.

The Red Devils are out of both domestic cup competitions and sit well off the pace of Premier League leaders Manchester City, making an unlikely Champions League triumph their remaining hope for silverware this season.

Ronaldo is enduring a five-game goal drought and, according to a report, he could choose to end his second United spell after only one season.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO WANTS MENDES TALKS OVER FUTURE

Cristiano Ronaldo will speak with his agent after growing disillusioned with life at Manchester United, according to the Daily Star.

The forward is hoping to speak with Jorge Mendes when he is back in Portugal for March's World Cup play-off against Turkey about his options after the end of the season.

Ronaldo, whose contract runs until the end of 2022-23, wants to see who will be appointed as United's next permanent manager – but he is not in favour of giving the job to interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

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- Paul Pogba is also looking to leave Manchester United this year when his contract expires, but he will have to accept a pay cut to get a move abroad that he wants, the Mirror says.

- A possible replacement for Pogba could be Youri Tielemans. Het Nieuwsblad reports Leicester City have dropped their asking price for the midfielder, who is wanted by United and Arsenal.

Real Madrid rejected the idea of signing Dusan Vlahovic, now at Juventus, because they are putting everything into getting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, says Cadena Ser.

- However, AS reports Madrid are still seriously interested in Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, which could scupper Robert Lewandowski's hopes of moving to the Spanish capital.

Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt is flattered by interest from Chelsea and Barcelona, Sport Mediaset claims.

Barca are also desperate to sign Haaland and will therefore prioritise cut-price deals for defenders, says ESPN. Chelsea trio Cesar AzpilicuetaAndreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso are on their shortlist.

Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


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– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Rejoice, Leicester City fans – it looks like you've turned a corner.

A run of two wins in nine games in all competitions had led to all sorts of head-scratching, not to mention a few worried mumblings about Brendan Rodgers and whether he might think fifth place, an FA Cup and a Community Shield was as much as he could realistically achieve at the King Power Stadium.

Things have looked a little less scary in the Hallowe'en season, though. That emphatic 4-2 win over Manchester United kick-started a run of four consecutive victories (well, three, plus a shoot-out defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion in the EFL Cup). OK, they conceded eight goals in those four games, but one thing at a time.

Ironically, perhaps the biggest concern for Leicester right now is the major positive of their season: the form of Youri Tielemans. The Belgium international is being linked with new clubs with every passing man-of-the-match display amid little obvious progress in talks to extend his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are just some of the sides said to be interested in the midfielder, described by Rodgers as both "a really gifted young player" and "a really respectful guy".

It's tricky to back up the latter with numbers, so we'll take Rodgers' word on that. As for being a talented footballer, there can be little argument. Not only is Tielemans Leicester's stand-out performer, but he has also been arguably the finest midfielder in England in 2021-22.

Youri-n good company

Signed initially on loan from Monaco in January 2019, Tielemans has come to define the Rodgers era at Leicester as much as the manager himself. After all, he's only missed seven out of 126 matches in all competitions since the former Liverpool boss took charge of his first game, shortly after Tielemans had made the move from Monte Carlo.

Since his debut against Tottenham on February 10 two years ago, Tielemans has played more Premier League games (97) than any other midfielder. He is one of just three midfielders, along with Declan Rice and Matt Ritchie, to play in every minute of 2021-22, and his 65 consecutive appearances represent the longest active such streak in England's top flight (James Ward-Prowse's 102-game run came to an end on October 16).

Among Premier League midfielders, only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (780) has had more touches of the ball this season than Tielemans (707), while only the Tottenham man (626) and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (565) have attempted more passes than Leicester's Mr Reliable (542).

Hand at the Tiel-ler

The most obvious – and visually striking – aspect of Tielemans' play is his long-range shooting. He has a real knack for kicking the ball into the opposition goal from a long way away, and at particularly important moments.

This year alone, there was the FA Cup final rocket against Chelsea, the thunderbolt in the 2-1 win at Brentford and that impudent curler against Manchester United (one that may or may not have been an attempted cross). Four of Tielemans' goals in 2021 have come from outside the box, which is a tally no Premier League player can surpass.

Still, Tielemans' midfield role at Leicester is hardly of the free-scoring Frank Lampard ilk. The best of his attacking output comes in creating openings for others. Since his Premier League debut, only Bruno Fernandes (127), Jack Grealish (166) and Kevin De Bruyne (190) have created more chances from open play than Tielemans (115). It's a figure that's helped Leicester to 171 league goals in his time at the club, a tally only bettered by Liverpool (210) and Manchester City (232).

Although Leicester's early-season form fell short, Tielemans seemed to embrace the burden of expectation. There are just four midfielders this term to create more chances from open play than him, and all of them tend to inhabit more advanced roles in their sides.

What's more, only Raphinha (24) and Fernandes (23) rank higher when it comes to the number of involvements in open-play sequences when their only action was to take a shot. Similarly, just Fernandes (22) has had more involvements than Tielemans (12) in sequences where their sole contribution was to create a chance.

Tielemans, then, has grown increasingly effective in the decisive moments of a period of possession, the kind where more advanced playmakers tend to thrive. But in Leicester's 3-4-1-2 system, where he sits at the heart of midfield, he is expected to contribute much more – and does.

As can be seen in his high touch and pass count, Tielemans is at the centre of Leicester's efforts in possession. Among Premier League midfielders this season, he has been involved in the most unique open-play sequences (458), defined as a passage of play that belongs to one team and is ended by defensive actions, stoppages in play or a shot. In such sequences to end in a shot, only West Ham's Said Benrahma (53) and that man Fernandes (68) have had more involvements than Tielemans (51).

This is balanced by his work without the ball. Of those five top-ranked players for open-play chances created in 2021-22, Tielemans has won by far the most tackles (11) and possession in the middle third of the pitch (33). He is a combative as well as creative force, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Leicester's defeat of United this month.

Bedevilled

Alongside the improving Boubakary Soumare, Tielemans was the best player on the pitch against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils. He had the most shots (four) and created the most chances (three) of any Leicester player and, level with Soumare, won possession the most for his side (seven times). Meanwhile, his 66 completed passes, 41 of which were in the United half, and 96 touches were the most of anyone in the game.

Simple offloads of the ball are to be expected from central midfielders, of course, but this was not an exercise in mere sideways passing. The variety of his distribution, the commitment to breaking lines and advancing play into the United half was clear. This was a performance worthy of capturing the interest of some of Europe's grandest clubs, as well as a bit of leeway when it comes to judging whether he meant that goal.

Tielemans has come to represent the best things about Rodgers' Leicester: talent, tenacity, and tactical acumen. He's a player who has won admiring glances from across the continent and one who faces a big decision in the months to come over his future.

For now, Leicester fans, he's yours to enjoy.

Leicester City came from behind to beat Manchester United 4-2 in a thriller on Saturday and end the Red Devils' long unbeaten away run in the Premier League.

It looked as though United's English league record of 29 games without defeat on the road would continue when Mason Greenwood opened the scoring with a stunning strike.

However, Leicester levelled through Youri Tielemans following an error from the returning Harry Maguire, and Caglar Soyuncu prodded home to put the hosts ahead with 12 minutes to go.

In a frantic finale, Marcus Rashford marked his first appearance of the season with an equaliser before Leicester restored their lead from kick-off, Jamie Vardy blasting home from Ayoze Perez's cut-back.

Patson Daka added a fourth in injury time as United lost for the fourth time in seven matches.

Youri Tielemans has not yet committed his long-term future to Leicester City.

Tielemans is only contracted with the Foxes until the end of the 2022-23 season.

And Leicester may consider selling their FA Cup final hero at the end of this season if they cannot strike a new deal.

 

TOP STORY – SPANISH GIANTS KEEN ON TIELEMANS

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are circling for Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, reports The Athletic.

The 24-year-old Belgium international publicly said he is "keeping his options open" as he negotiates a new Leicester deal.

Barcelona and Madrid would be interested in Tielemans, who has also been linked with Liverpool, should he become available next off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider reports Tottenham are still planning to sell Dele Alli, although they will wait until the end of this season. Spurs are hoping Alli's value will rise throughout the season to land a significant transfer fee.

– Everton are considering moves for Real Madrid pair Isco and Luka Jovic in January on six-month loan deals, according to Defensa Central.

– Liverpool are keeping an eye on Porto's Colombian star Luis Diaz, reports The Independent, with the two sides having met in the Champions League on Tuesday.

– Juventus have joined Chelsea in showing interest in Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims the Daily Mail.

– Newcastle attacker Allan Saint-Maximin has interest from Chelsea and Liverpool, according to the Express.

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.

 

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- 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.

Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham has been in Germany more than 12 months.

He has regularly been linked with moves back to England, having impressed in the Bundesliga.

Liverpool had a quiet transfer period, with only French defender Ibrahima Konate signed.

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL TO LAUNCH RECORD BELLINGHAM DEAL

Liverpool will launch a record £80million (€93m) deal to secure central midfielder Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund claims the Daily Star.

The report says the England international is Reds manager Jurgen Klopp's top transfer target.

Theproposed deal would make 18-year-old Bellingham the club's most expensive ever signing.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have joined Manchester United and Barcelona in the race to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans according to AS. The current contract of the 24-year-old Belgium international expires in 2023.

- Leicester City's Senegal midfielder Nampalys Mendy will join Istanbul giants Galatasaray on loan before the Turkish transfer window closes, reports Foot Mercato. Mendy, who has been on international duty, will rush to Turkey to complete the deal.

- Le10Sport reports that veteran Brazilian free agent David Luiz is set to ignore options with Marseille and Salernitana and instead return to his homeland.

- Roma will make another move for Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria in January after missing out on him during the most recent transfer window reports Corriere dello Sport.

Brendan Rodgers is confident James Maddison will remain a Leicester City player, despite speculation linking him with Arsenal.

Having already brought in Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga, Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in the Leicester midfielder, though Rodgers dismissed those reports on Thursday.

Leicester, who are preparing for the Community Shield on Saturday, won the FA Cup last season before falling at the final hurdle for Champions League qualification, with Maddison playing an integral role.

"Yes, I believe so," Rodgers said when asked whether Maddison would remain at the King Power Stadium. "I haven't been told anything to say he won't be.

"He's happy in training, he's working very hard and he's just recently become a father so he has responsibility off the pitch as well.

"There's obviously gossip and speculation that goes around, especially this time of year, but James is a very important member of our squad.

"He's a very talented player. His season was disrupted last year by injury but hopefully this season he can go and show what a top player he is.”

Maddison, whose 13 goal involvements in 31 games last term represented his best return in the Premier League, led Leicester's charts for chances created with 51, despite playing seven games fewer than second-placed Youri Tielemans.

The England midfielder's 788 passes inside the opposition half were the second most among Rodgers' players, yet Maddison still ranked fourth with 81.22 per cent of those balls finding a team-mate.

While Rodgers will have reason to celebrate if he can keep a hold of playmaker Maddison, Wednesday's friendly against Villarreal led to concerning issues at the back.

Wesley Fofana, who was just one of two defenders to attempt at least 50 tackles, make 50 interceptions and produce 50 headed clearances last season, suffered a broken leg against the LaLiga outfit, leaving Leicester short for centre-backs.

Rodgers admitted he was "not overly happy with the way the game was officiated" and concluded it was "disappointing for something like that to happen in a pre-season friendly".

Already without the injured Jonny Evans, Leicester have just Caglar Soyuncu left as a first-choice centre-half and could be forced to push Wilfred Ndidi back into defence for Saturday's clash with Manchester City.

Rodgers now faces a race against the clock to fill the defensive void as he noted the shock 2015-16 Premier League winners are "definitely light in that area."

Youri Tielemans has identified what makes absent Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne such a "special player" ahead of their Euro 2020 quarterfinal against Italy on Friday.

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez declared that Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne will miss the quarter after sustaining an ankle knock in their last-16 win over Portugal. De Bruyne was also absent from training on Wednesday.

De Bruyne, who missed Belgium's opening 3-0 win over Russia with a facial injury, has scored one goal and provided two assists during Euro 2020, helping the Red Devils win all four games, meaning Martinez has a difficult job replacing him.

"Kevin is a special player because in my opinion, he always makes the right decision, even if you think he misplaces a pass, it’s not," Tielemans said during a news conference ahead of the quarterfinals.

"Always does something in his mind, always makes the right decision, very efficient, has a lot of assists or goals, that helps our team a lot."

He added: "As a team we have to create more options on the ball, move more, and make the right choices.

"Maybe we were under pressure a little bit, second half against Portugal, they had a lot of offensive options on the pitch, made it difficult for us to get out of there, as a team we have to find those solutions."

De Bruyne was replaced early in the second half against Portugal due to injury, before Belgium survived a barrage of pressure, with the 2016 European champions ending with 23-6 shots.

Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 World Cup and lost in the quarters at the 2016 Euros, ground out the win in a sign of maturity according to Tielemans.

"We learnt lessons from 2018, we’re more realistic, we play nice football, certain matches we have a lot of possession, create chances," the Leicester City midfielder said.

"Like you saw against Portugal there’s moments you have to suffer as a team, you might not get many opportunities, you have to score them, that’s where we learned from Russia, to be efficient, decisive in the right moment, when we have an opportunity to score we remember that from 2018."

Forward Dries Mertens is one candidate to come into the Belgium XI to replace De Bruyne against Italy, having replaced him against Portugal.

Mertens plays his club football with Napoli in Serie A, and added that quarterfinal opponents Italy appeared full of confidence.

"I’ve seen they have a lot more confidence now, they’ve played many matches and won a lot without giving goals away," he said.

"It gives confidence, experienced players but also young players, the way they celebrate when they win, many people didn’t expect that, it gives them a lot of confidence."

The 34-year-old also added there was no thought about Euro 2020 being his or this generation of Belgian players' last chance to win a trophy.

"No, not really," he said. "We do need to be realistic, realise we’re here now, we have a chance, you don’t get chances with a national team to win, every two years you have one chance to win one trophy, its very little.

"We’ve been doing well for a few years now, this is a chance we need to take, we have great facilities, we have great staff, people who know where we want to go.

"Those are important moments, I believe in the future of the Belgium team. This is a chance we have to take."

Belgium and Leicester City star Youri Tielemans dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Premier League giants Liverpool.

Tielemans, who scored the winner for Leicester City in last month's FA Cup final, has been continually linked with Liverpool following the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris Saint-Germain.

The 24-year-old Tielemans has two years remaining on his current Leicester contract and would not be drawn on the speculation when speaking to the media ahead of Belgium's Euro 2020 clash with Denmark on Friday.   

"I don't look at that, I just focus on this tournament," Tielemans, who joined Leicester in 2019, told reporters. "I've said that several times.

"Whatever happens after, we'll see. I just want to focus on the tournament, that's it."

It has been reported Tielemans is valued at £ 68million, which the former Monaco and Anderlecht midfielder brushed off.

"That does nothing [for me]. It's nice for journalists and for the internet," said Tielemans, who has been linked with Manchester United previously.

"I'm just focused on the Euros and making the most of it. That is all."

 

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