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Transfer rumor roundup: Coutinho out, Mahrez in; Hart on the move

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A roundup of all the day’s biggest transfer rumors involving clubs in the Premier League, and elsewhere…

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday ]

With Liverpool set to demand $220 million for Coutinho — and Barcelona apparently only just short of willing to pay it — the rumor mill has moved a step further in the Brazilian’s six-month-long transfer sage, now focusing on which players Liverpool will spend all that money to replace Coutinho and further improve the squad.

One could surmise that the Reds’ $100-million deal for Virgil Van Dijk was a proactive piece of business with a massive windfall of cash expected to arrive either in the next three weeks or in six months’ time. If so, that leaves just one critically important need in the Liverpool squad: the attacker to replace Coutinho. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, it’ll be Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez, whose transfer fee could also approach nine figures. Mahrez spent most of the summer trying to engineer a move away from the King Power Stadium, but to no avail. Suffice to say, he’d be receptive to the idea.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man United advance thanks to late winners ]

Joe Hart moved away from Manchester City because Pep Guardiola was never going to play him, and now it appears the former/perhaps-still-current England no. 1 will have to leave West Ham United, where he’s currently on loan, because David Moyes doesn’t appear interested in playing him either. According to the Daily Mirror, the three aforementioned parties could all agree to terminate his current loan in order to facilitate a move — whether temporary or permanent is unknown — to Newcastle United, where Rafa Benitez attempted to sign Hart in the summer before losing out to West Ham.

[ MORE: Mourinho hits back in ongoing feud with Conte ]

According to Sky Sports, Mousa Dembele could leave Wembley Stadium/the new White Hart Lane for a spell at the San Siro — for either AC Milan or Inter Milan. Both of the Milan giants still-somewhat-big-sides are reportedly interested in the 30-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who has spent a worrying portion of the last two seasons dealing with nagging foot injuries which have turned into long-term absences. Tottenham would likely prefer to wait until the summer to move Dembele on, unless an obvious replacement were to unexpectedly become available and make him surplus to requirements.

[ MORE: FA investigating potential racial incident between Firmino, Holgate ]

Elsewhere, Liverpool have Emre Can‘s contract situation hanging over their heads, as they face losing the 23-year-old German midfielder on a free transfer this summer. According to the Guardian, Juventus have already offered Can a five-year contract which would pay him $115,000 per week, plus a “sizable signing-on fee.” Liverpool paid just $13 million to sign Can in 2014, thus it wouldn’t be the biggest loss on their original investment, though his value is easily twice — if not three times — that in the current transfer climate.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.