Georginio Wijnaldum only joined Paris Saint-Germain in June but is reportedly unsettled.

The 31-year-old Dutch midfielder had signed a three-year deal with the Parisians.

Wijnaldum has been linked with several clubs given his situation.

TOP STORY – VILLA PLOT WIJNALDUM MOVE

Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa are considering a move for PSG's Wijnaldum , claims Sport.

Gerrard is keeping tabs on ex-Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum, who is reportedly ready to leave PSG whom he joined less than 12 months ago.

The Villans were quoted with a £21million price tag for Wijnaldum who is contracted until 2024.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca claims that 35-year-old Luis Suarez will leave Atletico Madrid at the end of this season, with Inter, Ajax and Sevilla pursuing him along with unnamed Brazilian clubs.

- Newcastle United will table a £50m offer for Bayer Leverkusen's French winger Moussa Diaby,  according to the Mail. Leverkusen have set a £75m valuation for Diaby.

- PSG want to re-sign Italy international forward Moise Kean, who is currently on loan at Juventus from Everton, claims Calciomercato. Kean was on loan at PSG last season, netting 17 goals in 41 appearances.

- Football Insider reports that Arsenal are monitoring Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins as a cut-price forward option if moves for Alexander Isak, Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Darwin Nunez fail to materialise.

Manchester United's search for a new manager continues after axing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

The Red Devils are taking their time with the appointment, with Ralf Rangnick in an interim role until the end of the season.

United hope the next man in can turn their fortunes around, having struggled to be Premier League contenders since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

TOP STORY – UNITED SHORTLIST HASENHUTTL

Manchester United have added Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to their shortlist, according to The Mirror.

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax’s Erik ten Hag remain the front-runners, but United face a battle to persuade either to head to Old Trafford.

Current United interim manager Ralf Rangnick worked with Hasenhuttl at RB Leipzig and the club are admirers of the Austrian.

ROUND-UP

- Atletico Madrid are considering making a move for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, reports Mundo Deportivo. Wijnaldum is weighing up his future at PSG despite moving to France only last year.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea's Andreas Christensen has turned down offers from other Premier League clubs and is on the verge of agreeing to a deal with Barcelona.

Lazio could make a loan move for Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, with manager Maurizio Sarri keen to be reunited with the Spain international, reports Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are plotting a move for Lille's 20-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana, who is valued at £20m by the French club.

Crystal Palace have joined the pursuit for Marseille's out-of-contract midfielder Boubacar Kamara, alongside Newcastle United and West Ham, according to the Sun.

Mauricio Pochettino has suggested Paris Saint-Germain's defeat against Nice came down to misfortune more than anything else, after Andy Delort struck late to sink the Ligue 1 leaders.

The title frontrunners came up short against Christophe Galtier's hosts at Allianz Riviera thanks to the Algerian striker's late finish.

With the suspended Kylian Mbappe's absence leaving Les Parisiens short in attack, they have now lost consecutive league games on the road for the first time since April 2019.

Pochettino admitted that his side had not done enough to claim victory, but maintained Nice had not earned their three points either, chalking it up as something of a sporting incident.

"We thought it was going to end in a draw because neither of them had done enough to win," the Argentine stated in his post-game news conference.

"We had control of the game, especially in the second half, but we took a goal in transition and we lost. There's not much to analyse. There are times when if you cannot win, you mustn't lose."

With a Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid to come, Pochettino was keen to re-focus thoughts towards the future, rather than dwell on Saturday's result.

"We are preparing for a competition that everyone in Paris is waiting for and that everyone dreams of," he added. "Wednesday will be a different game, a different opponent, a different competition. I have no doubts that we will play the game that we have to do".

Having guided Lille to the top-tier crown last term before a shock exit, Galtier has set about returning Nice to the upper echelons of the domestic pyramid in the south of France.

His win over PSG notched his fourth consecutive clean sheet as a manager against Saturday's opponents, while match winner Delort was one of his major signings last summer.

Speaking to Canal+ after the match, the Algeria striker was quick to heap praise on his coach too, stating: "He's the best coach in Ligue 1 and I hope he'll stay with us for a long time."

Paris Saint-Germain will be without the suspended Kylian Mbappe against Nice, but Mauricio Pochettino knows his side should not rely on individual performances from one of the world's best players.

PSG are 15 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit ahead of a clash with third-placed Nice on Saturday, but they will not have Mbappe among their ranks.

The France international will return for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Real Madrid, who he has been heavily linked to when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Mbappe has dominated for PSG this season, scoring 14 times and assisting 10 goals in Ligue 1, while creating a team-leading 47 chances.

No other PSG player has more than five goals (Danilo Pereira) and only Lionel Messi has as many assists, but Pochettino insisted his side cannot continue to rely on individuals to come up with match-winning moments.

"We're talking about one of the best players in the world," Pochettino said of Mbappe's absence at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"The psychological aspect is important for his team-mates and the opponent. But we know it can happen during a season. The important thing is that the squad believes in its collective strength. 

"We have to develop the idea that the squad isn't strong thanks to individual performances, but rather thanks to its collective strength, which is something we have to cultivate despite having players missing."

PSG's away form in the top flight has come under scrutiny this campaign, picking up 25 points on the road in comparison to 37 at home.

But Pochettino assured that his team's away challenges are normal as they prepare for a trip to Coupe de France finalists Nice, who have won just one of their last 17 top-flight meetings against PSG.

"It can happen during a season. It happens to every big club – and not only to Paris – to play less well away from home," he added. 

"There's no single factor that determines that. We try to play each game in the same way, whether it's home or away. 

"We analyse the way in which we play, looking to dominate, if there is pressure, or a difficult atmosphere in terms of the opponent.

"We also have to acknowledge the contribution of our fans, who generate an atmosphere and give energy, that has an impact, not only on our players but also it negatively affects the opposition."

Pochettino, whose side have lost just one of their last 17 league matches, will see his side take a slender 1-0 lead to Madrid on Tuesday, but his focus remains on one game at a time.

"We have to be focused on the match against Nice and find the right tactics to win," he continued. 

"For the second leg, there will be players missing in Madrid. As for us, we'll see after Saturday's game which players are available. We'll see which is the best team to play Real after the Nice match. 

"We have to be competitive and focused on Saturday's game, out of respect for the competition and for Nice. The best means of preparing for big Champions League matches is to be focused all the time."

Leonardo says Mauricio Pochettino has "never asked to leave" Paris Saint-Germain despite links to Manchester United.

Meanwhile, the PSG sporting director also suggested that signing injury-hit defender Sergio Ramos may have been a "mistake".

Pochettino joined PSG in January 2021 and is likely to add this season's Ligue 1 title to the Coupe de France he won last campaign, with his star-studded side opening up a 15-point lead at the top of the table.

However, rumours have continually linked Pochettino to the Old Trafford hot-seat, which caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick is set to vacate at the end of this season, and the PSG coach is said to have long-term admirers within the United hierarchy.

United's football director John Murtough this week said that a "thorough process" to appoint a new manager was underway, but Leonardo insists Pochettino has never voiced a desire to leave the French capital, and that there has not been any contact with rumoured replacement Zinedine Zidane.

"Honestly, we haven't thought about a coaching change," Leonardo told L'Equipe. "[Pochettino] has a year left on his contract.

"We've never contacted Zidane or anyone else. Before he came here, Pochettino was among the best five coaches, and he still is. 

"He may have had moments of doubt, but he's never asked to leave."

Leonardo was also asked about the condition of Ramos, who has been limited to just four Ligue 1 appearances since joining from Real Madrid due to injury.

 

While Leonardo refused to say Ramos' playing career could be over, he expressed regret about the persistent injury woes suffered by the 35-year-old and appeared to hint that his signing may have been a "mistake".

"He was well physically when we signed him," he said of the former Madrid captain.

"Up to now he has played five games [in all competitions]. Unfortunately, it has not happened as we imagined. It's hard for him, for everyone, but our reports are clear. 

"The day it is said he can't play any more, it will be clear for everyone. But it's not the case.

"Not playing makes it difficult for him to be a leader, but we will wait before drawing conclusions; the season is not over. 

"But I'm not afraid to own up to mistakes when I make them."

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has promised every effort is being made to persuade Kylian Mbappe to sign a new contract.

Mbappe, whose 14 Ligue 1 goals this term make him the Parisians' top scorer, has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid when his current deal ends in June.

Madrid have made no secret of their interest, with LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently stating his confidence that the French World Cup winner would move to Spain.

However, recent speculation has focused on whether Mbappe could yet be convinced to remain in the French capital, and he scored a superb solo goal against Madrid last month to put PSG ahead in the two-leg Champions League tie against his would-be suitors.

Speaking to L'Equipe, Leonardo said PSG would "try everything" to keep the 23-year-old, claiming money was not the key factor in negotiations.

"We have a possibility [to keep Mbappe]," former Brazil star Leonardo said. "As long as there is no signature [with another club], we will try everything, we will do everything possible to retain him.

"We did not send a specific offer. There is an important element: I think the last thing we will put into this contract will be the amount of money. It's not about that. We want to put him in the best condition so that he becomes the best player possible."

Mbappe netted twice in PSG's 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne last time out to move level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's tally of 156 goals for the club, placing him joint-second in the Parisian giants' all-time goalscoring charts behind Edinson Cavani, who scored 200 times for the club.

 

Mbappe is also the only player in the French top flight to have hit double figures for both goals and assists this season, and Leonardo says that means he has now joined team-mate Lionel Messi among the finest players on the planet.

"Kylian is the best player in the world today," Leonardo said. "Messi has always been at this level, and for me he still is, but it's normal that others arrive.

"It's not a case of judging who is best. One is 23 years old, and the other is 34."

Mbappe's tally of 10 league assists this campaign places him level with Messi as French football's most creative forces, and the duo have helped the champions-elect on a run that has included just one loss in their last 17 Ligue 1 outings.

Manchester United's search for a permanent manager continues to take up plenty of column inches, with a new name now entering the mix.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax chief Erik ten Hag have long been considered the two frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford.

But a somewhat surprise candidate is now reportedly being considered to succeed interim manager Ralf Rangnick on a short-term basis at the end of the campaign.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI A CONTENDER FOR UNITED

According to ESPN, United may look to appoint Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti as they explore contingency plans in their pursuit of a new manager.

While Pochettino and Ten Hag remain on the Red Devils' managerial shortlist, Ancelotti is said to be seen as an ideal short-term fix thanks to his vast experience.

The Italian has previously spent time in English football with Everton and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup with the latter in 2009-10.

Ancelotti is currently in his second spell with Madrid and has another two seasons to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.


ROUND-UP

- PSG have offered Kylian Mbappe a contract worth €50million a year to fend off interest from rival clubs, according to Le Parisian. Madrid are the strong favourites to sign the France international should he depart the Parc des Princes as a free agent in July.

- Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are also set to be out of contract at Chelsea in the next few months and are not short of potential suitors. Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona are confident of signing the pair, while Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui and Jose Gaya of Valencia are also targets.

- Madrid are hoping to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back ahead of next season and have a few potential options already lined up. That is according to El Nacional, with Man Utd's Diogo Dalot, Norwich City's Max Aarons and Pedro Porro of Sporting CP all mentioned.

- Sport claims that Barcelona are on course to wrap up contract extensions for Ronald Araujo and Gavi before the end of the month. Rising star Gavi will supposedly be offered a five-year deal that will include a mammoth release clause to ensure he stays at Camp Nou for the long term.

- Former Germany international Julian Weigl is nearing the end of his time at Benfica and has been offered to teams across the continent, according to Calciomercato. The Italian outlet suggests than Milan would prefer to sign Renato Sanches, potentially giving Roma a clear run for the €35m-rated midfielder.

Chelsea have enjoyed an unrivalled period of success across Roman Abramovich's near two decades as owner at Stamford Bridge.

From their five Premier Leagues and two Champions Leagues, plus last month's Club World Cup triumph, the Blues have won it all under the Russian billionaire.

But amid mounting political pressure following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich is reportedly open to selling Chelsea for the first time.


TOP STORY – THREE PARTIES INTERESTED IN BLUES 

According to The Telegraph, at least three parties are circling Chelsea in the belief that Abramovich is ready to walk away.

Abramovich announced on Saturday, a day before the Blues' EFL Cup final loss to Liverpool, that he is taking a step back from his duties as owner.

The report indicates that Chelsea are bracing themselves for bids as early as this week as a changing of the guard at Stamford Bridge becomes a realistic possibility.


ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have ramped up their interest in Borussia Dortmund's in-demand striker Erling Haaland, according to The Express. City chief Txiki Begiristain is said to have recently met with agent Mino Raiola to discuss the signing of Haaland.

- Ralf Rangnick has been ruled out of the running to become Manchester United's next permanent boss. The Sun claims that Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag, in charge of Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax respectively, are the two men being considered.

- Sky Sports News reports that Antonio Rudiger's representatives remain in constant dialogue with Real Madrid and PSG over an end-of-season transfer. Chelsea want to keep hold of the defender, but they have been unable to agree fresh terms. 

- According to football.london, Arsenal are eager to reward Bukayo Saka with a new deal at the end of the campaign. The England international is already under contract at Emirates Stadium until July 2024.

- Atletico Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera will see out the remainder of the 2021-22 LaLiga campaign before making the switch to Houston Dynamo in MLS, Fabrizio Romano suggests. Herrera has made 14 appearances this term and is a regular for Mexico.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract and has not renewed with the French giants.

Madrid have long admired Mbappe and attempted an audacious bid to sign him in August.

TOP STORY – PSG STEP UP MBAPPE RENEWAL BID

Paris Saint-Germain are ramping up their efforts to convince Mbappe to renew with the club, reports Marca.

Mbappe has previously hinted he will join Madrid at the end of this season when his PSG contract expires.

PSG are pulling out all the stops to persuade Mbappe, who has been with the club since 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- MLS club LA Galaxy have enquired about PSG defender Sergio Ramos according to Footmercato. Ramos has made five appearances for PSG since his off-season move and may be available on a free transfer.

- Manchester United are not willing to match Napoli's eye-watering £100m price tag for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen reports the Daily Star.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Juventus are hopeful that they can retain Spanish forward Alvaro Morata, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

- Juventus are also in front in the race to sign Roma winger Nicolo Zaniolo, who is yet to recommit to the Giallorossi, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Fulham want to sign ex-Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli if they win promotion back to the Premier League, claims Turkish outfit Star. Balotelli currently plays his football in Turkey with Adana Demirspor, with good form prompting an Italy recall.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is perplexed there is any debate about Lionel Messi's effectiveness for the club this season after his starring role in the 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne on Saturday.

The former Barcelona forward did not get on the scoresheet, but he was instrumental in his side fighting back from Denis Bouanga's early opener for Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes.

Messi teed up both of Kylian Mbappe's strikes either side of half-time, the second of which came after some superb skill to round two Saint-Etienne players.

He has now racked up six assists since the turn of the year – more than any other player in the top five European leagues.

His two assists on Saturday means he has laid on four goals for Mbappe in Ligue 1 this season, which is the highest total in the competition from one player to another.

Messi has been criticised for his poor goalscoring return this campaign, with just seven across all competitions, but Pochettino is in doubt about the 34-year-old's quality.

"I can't understand how there can be a debate about Messi because he is exceptional," he told Canal+. "No, there is no debate. It's impossible. 

"Messi is incredible, magnificent. He played very well and the only thing he was missing was a goal."

 

Mbappe's second goal moved him level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as PSG's second all-time top goalscorer on 156 goals, while he became the first player in Ligue 1 this season to reach double figures for goals and assists (14 goals, 10 assists).

Pochettino was full of praise for the forward's display and insisted he has not sustained an injury despite appearing to hold his right thigh late in the first half.  

"Kylian is fine," Pochettino added. "He had no problem. He is suspended against Nice [next Saturday] and will be able to work for a week. He will be ready to start in Madrid [for the Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid on March 9].

"We are very happy with him, that he is with us. I'm proud of him. It's amazing, wonderful.

"I'm very happy because we finish the matches very well. We played the second half the way we wanted to play. Kylian is a fantastic player. Lionel and Neymar were also important for us."

PSG have now won five of their last six Ligue 1 matches after a run of just one victory in their previous five, and Pochettino believes his side are slowly moving in the right direction.

"There is progress, small steps," he added. "I'm happy with that. This is how you have to improve. The team is gaining confidence when we were still trailing. The team gains tactical richness."

Kylian Mbappe moved level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Paris Saint-Germain's second all-time top goalscorer after he struck a brace in Saturday's 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne.

Mauricio Pochettino's side suffered a 3-1 defeat to Nantes in their previous top-flight game last weekend and they looked like they might be on the end of another surprise loss when Denis Bouanga put the visitors ahead early on.

However, goals either side of half-time from Mbappe – the second of which moved him level with Ibrahimovic on 156 goals – and a third from Danilo Pereira sealed all three points at the Parc des Princes.

The result meant PSG moved 16 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit, while Saint-Etienne remained in 16th, just one point outside the relegation zone. 

Saint-Etienne were rewarded for a bright start in the 16th minute when Bouanga picked Pereira's pocket just outside the penalty area and superbly fired past Gianluigi Donnarumma from 15 yards.

Messi was the provider for PSG's leveller three minutes before half-time, the Argentina international threading a wonderful pass into Mbappe, whose powerful strike from 10 yards proved too hot for Paul Bernardoni to handle.

Those two players combined to devastating effect two minutes after the restart, Messi jinking inside two players before laying the ball into the path of Mbappe, who drilled across Bernardoni to put PSG ahead. 

Pereira made amends for his earlier error with PSG's third in the 52nd minute, the Portuguese rising high at the back post to head home Mbappe's sumptuous cross with the outside of his foot. 

Neymar and Georginio Wijnaldum both struck the post late on, yet it mattered little as PSG comfortably saw proceedings out to return to winning ways with the minimum of fuss. 
 

What does it mean? PSG maintain fine home form

This comeback win means PSG have not lost any of their past 16 home games in Ligue 1, which is the best current run in the league.

The result also stretched their unbeaten run over Saint-Etienne to 26 matches, equalling the longest unbeaten streak in their history against an opponent (also 26 against Angers, which is an ongoing run since December 1976).

Mbappe up to joint second

Mbappe is now level with Monaco's Wissam Ben Yedder at the top of the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 14 goals after his brace here. Barring injury, he will unquestionably move clear of Ibrahimovic in PSG's all-time rankings, yet whether he breaks Edinson Cavani's record of 200 goals for the club depends on whether he moves to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Messi in generous mood

Goals have been hard to come by for Messi since his move from Barcelona, but he is having no such problems creating them for his team-mates. He has now recorded six assists in Ligue 1 since the turn of the year, which is more than anyone else in the top five European leagues.

What's next?

PSG visit Nice next Saturday, while Saint-Etienne host Metz a day later.

One topic sure to take up plenty of column inches at the end of the season will be the appointment of Manchester United's next permanent manager, but one front-runner may be out of the race already.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has been heavily tipped to make a sensational return to the Premier League to take over at Old Trafford.

However, the former Tottenham manager may have already turned down the opportunity while he waits for what he considers to be a better offer from elsewhere.

TOP STORY - POCHETTINO HOLDING OUT FOR REAL MADRID

Pochettino has been linked with the manager's role at Man Utd since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November, but has turned the opportunity down as he waits for Real Madrid, according to Sport.

Ralf Rangnick was appointed as interim manager at the Premier League club after Solskjaer's departure and will play a role in deciding on the next permanent Red Devils boss at the end of the campaign.

However, it seems the Argentine may have ruled himself out of contention as he believes he could have an opportunity waiting for him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The report claims that Los Blancos president Florentino Perez has Pochettino "in mind as one of Madrid's future coaches", and that should the Spanish giants decide to dismiss Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the season, he would be one of the leading candidates to replace the Italian at the helm.

ROUND-UP

- PSG are considering an off-season move for Chelsea star N'Golo Kante, whose contract at the Blues expires in 2023, according to the Telegraph.

- The Daily Express reports that Harry Kane may once again try to force a move away from Tottenham if manager Antonio Conte does leave the club.

- Georginio Wijnaldum could leave PSG after only one season, with West Ham, Atletico Madrid and Aston Villa among those interested in the former Liverpool midfielder, says Calciomercato.

- The same publication also believes that RB Leipzig left-back Angelino could leave Germany at the end of the season, with Barcelona, Arsenal and Tottenham all interested in the former Manchester City man.

- Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen will not join another Premier League club when his contract expires at the end of the season, but could move to either Barcelona or Bayern Munich, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also reports that PSG are "really convinced" to make the loan move of left-back Nuno Mendes from Sporting CP permanent for a fee of around €40million.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is unconcerned by recent wastefulness in front of goal and believes his star-studded attack will soon click.

PSG suffered just their second league loss of the season at Nantes last week, going down 3-1 despite creating plenty of chances and finishing the match with an expected goals (xG) of 3.8, with Neymar missing a second-half penalty after the Parisians had found themselves three goals down.

The Ligue 1 leaders also missed a penalty in their recent 1-0 Champions League win over Real Madrid, with Lionel Messi failing to beat Thibaut Courtois on a night where they had 1.88 xG to their opponents' 0.14.

However, Pochettino has faith that his attacking endeavours will be rewarded.

"I'm not worried when we don't score. I would worry if we didn't get chances," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of this weekend's game with Saint-Etienne.

"We have talented players, who can score at any time. 

"This week, we emphasised work. We must improve the balance in our play, the defensive transitions, controlling space. 

"With the team we have, there is no doubt in my mind that we'll find that clinical streak."

 

Although PSG boast a 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, they have won just five of their last 10 league games, drawing four and losing one. 

Meanwhile, with defender Sergio Ramos close to resuming training after a calf injury, Pochettino expressed his frustration at the injury woes which have blighted the Real Madrid legend this season, with Ramos making just two Ligue 1 starts since joining the club last summer.

"The person who suffers most from him not being available to play is him," the PSG boss added.

"We are trying to help him. We have great medical staff who are trying to give him the best possible treatment to deal with this type of situation. We're here to give him moral and psychological support. 

"It's always difficult for an injured player. A footballer needs to be part of the competition, of the squad too, on big days. All of that creates cohesion with the squad."

PSG are looking to defend a proud record against Saint-Etienne in their next outing, having won 42 of their 80 Ligue 1 games against them (25 draws and 13 losses). Only against Metz have they won more top-flight matches (43).

Carlo Ancelotti has refuted suggestions that he could use Real Madrid's upcoming league games to prepare for their crucial Champions League second leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain, for which Casemiro and Ferland Mendy will be suspended.

Casemiro and Mendy picked up decisive yellow cards in the LaLiga leaders' 1-0 first-leg defeat to PSG, ruling them out of the crucial second leg in Spain next month. 

Brazil midfielder Casemiro has appeared in all seven of Real's Champions League games this season, while left-back Mendy has made five appearances, both establishing themselves as key parts of Ancelotti's attempts to bring the Spanish and European crowns back to the Bernabeu.

Speaking ahead of a trip to Rayo Vallecano, Ancelotti insisted that he will not use upcoming games to find the right balance for Real's reunion with PSG, highlighting the importance of their league fixtures.

"What can I tell you? It would be a good idea [to experiment] if we had friendly games," he said.

"But we have two really important games, finals, against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad.

"Two victories would mean a lot in order to win LaLiga, [so] I will play my best starting 11 in the games before Paris Saint-Germain.

"Toni Kroos can replace Casemiro, but he doesn't need to get used to playing that [deeper] position, he has played it many times.

"I have experienced players, I don’t need to try new things. I Haven't thought yet about who will replace Casemiro and Mendy, as we have two really important matches before that."

Gonzalo Higuain is hopeful his former Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi will one day join him in Major League Soccer.

Higuain is preparing for his second full season in MLS with Inter Miami, having joined from Juventus in September 2020.

Although the striker's goalscoring exploits had regressed slightly towards the end of his time in Europe, Higuain was still regarded as a major coup for both Inter and MLS, where his older brother Federico has plied his trade since 2012.

MLS has previously been considered a competition where fading stars from Europe went to see out the remainder of their careers, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Steven Gerrard all doing just that.

But the perception is changing slightly – it is becoming a proving ground for young talent, a viable stepping stone to Europe for South American players and even a place for established European stars who are still at the height of their powers.

Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne highlighted the shift last month by agreeing an end-of-season move to Toronto despite being virtually in his prime. While any MLS switch for Messi, already 34, would look a little more like a final pre-retirement move, Higuain reckons he would enjoy himself.

"It is a very important league and it is growing a lot," Higuain told Stats Perform.

"Important players are coming and I think that in the future it will continue to grow much more.

"I hope [Messi goes to MLS] because it would be a benefit for MLS and for the country, and if he so wishes he would have fun and be happy here."

Inter begin their 2022 MLS campaign at home to Chicago Fire on Saturday, with the David Beckham-backed franchise hoping to enjoy a major improvement from last season.

Phil Neville's side finished 11th in the 14-team Eastern Conference in 2021, a place above Saturday's opponents, while their points total of 41 was better than only six teams across the two MLS divisions.

It would seem Inter may have struggled even more were it not for Higuain, who scored 12 times. His haul of nine non-penalty (np) goals matched up well with his np-xG (expected goals) of 8.7, suggesting the team could really profit from dependable finishing if the service to him improves.

And bettering that return in front of goal is high on Higuain's list of priorities.

"We are fine, looking forward to [the start of the season] and very excited," he said. "It's so close now, let's hope it goes better than last year and we learn from the mistakes made so that this year it doesn't happen again. We are excited to have a good year.

"I want to improve my numbers, which I did my whole career, improve year after year. I hope that this year I can do better to help the team qualify [for the playoffs] and be able to compete for MLS.

"I hope I can improve my numbers, that's my goal and that's what I've prepared this pre-season."

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