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Transfer rumor roundup: Pellegrini to Man Utd? Dabbur wants Liverpool

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As Arsenal might be losing its head of recruitment, other Premier League movers and shakers are looking to bring big names to the Top Four fight.

If Northern Ireland is the hub for transfer movement, January is going to be a wild ride for one of the Premier League’s flagship clubs.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Manchester United is pursuing young Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to the whispers linking the club to former Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho.

Pellegrini, 22, has two goals and six assists for Roma this season, having become a regular call-up for Italy. He reportedly has a $35 million release clause in his contract, though he is cup-tied in the Champions League (Roma next faces Porto).

His 2.6 key passes per game lead Roma and only AC Milan’s Suso and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez average more across Serie A. Pellegrini is second on Roma in crosses with 1.5.

How does $115 million sound for an elite 27-year-old defender? That’s what Napoli would reportedly accept from Real Madrid to bring Kalidou Koulibaly west to Spain.

The report, which also links Real with interest in Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Porto’s Eder Miliato, says United remains interested in the player despite the exit of admirer Jose Mourinho.

Anything more than $97 million, the fee Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk, would break the world transfer record for a defender.

Meanwhile, Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is angling to bring his 20-goal season to Anfield.

Reports that Dabbur has turned down a move to Valencia in the hopes of joining Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

The Red Bull Salzburg striker has scored half of his 20 goals in the Champions League and Europa League, and has 11 Israel caps.

The cost for Dabbur is said to be $28 million, but is there any guarantee Dabbur can produce at a level that would demand playing time. Divock Origi has three goals in six matches and can hardly get time for the Reds, and Daniel Sturridge has only found 576 minutes in the first half of the season.

Roma confines players to training ground after poor results

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Reports have surfaced that Italian club AS Roma has taken the rare step of confining its players to the training ground for the next few days after a run of poor results has left the side seventh in the Serie A table.

On Saturday, Roma held a 2-0 lead over 13th-placed Cagliari and coughed up that lead, conceding a 95th minute equalizer despite seeing the opponents reduced to just nine men two minutes prior.

According to both Sky Italia and Gianluca di Marzio, and later confirmed by Roma Radio, the club has decided to keep all players locked in the training ground for a “training retreat” through Wednesday’s Champions League fixture against Victoria Plzen. The reports state the measure is less of a concentration on the midweek fixture and more of a strictly punitive measure, as the Champions League match is meaningless, having already confirmed a spot in the knockout stage.

The reports also discuss the job security of manager Eusebio Di Francesco, with the 49-year-old reportedly safe for now, although he apparently does appear to be drawing the ire of president Jim Palotta, while currently maintaining the backing of highly regarded sporting director Monchi.

Di Francesco was furious with his team after the match on Saturday, throwing the players under the bus for mistakes on the field, and suggesting they ignored his instructions. “My team tried to kill the game off for 70 minutes and I get angry when I see some of the mistakes we make,” he told the official Roma website after the match, “when players make the wrong choice and go for goal instead of passing to a team-mate. That leads to situations like this. It’s absurd. I don’t even want to talk about tactics. We had some highly experienced players out there today who should never concede a goal like that.”

The boss then suggested he may have to get harsh on the players, possibly foreshadowing the decision to hold the retreat. “We’ve used the carrot and the stick already this season,” Di Francesco said. “I didn’t have many options today. I had lots of kids on the bench plus [Javier] Pastore and [Diego] Perotti, who aren’t at their best. When Cagliari equalized we had five experienced defenders on the pitch. Sometimes there’s little for the coach to explain. I do have to take responsibility, though. I’m absolutely gutted about this result. It was in our hands. It was an absurd game: you can’t concede an equalizer in the last 30 seconds playing 11 v nine.”

Roma has won just once in its last seven Serie A matches, with losses to bottom-half sides SPAL and Udinese in that span as well. That, coupled with a similar four-match winless run earlier in the season, has left the club in a precarious position for Champions League qualification next season, sitting four points back of fourth-placed AC Milan and eight behind third-placed Inter.

Champions League wrap: Onward for 7 dreamers

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Seven of eight potential knockout round berths were sewn up Tuesday on Matchday 5 of the UEFA Champions League group stage.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]


Bayern Munich 5-1 Benfica

The old guard was roaring for Bayern, as the first of Robert Lewandowski’s two goals was his 50th Champions League goal for Bayern. He joined Arjen Robben in recording a double, and Franck Ribery also scored in the win.

Benfica will head to the Europa League.

AEK Athens 0-2 Ajax

Ajax is back in the knockout rounds after a Dusan Tadic double gave them an away win and second place in the group after of a Dec. 12 visit from leaders Bayern.

Group E
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 5 4 1 0 12 2 10 2-1-0 2-0-0 13
Ajax 5 3 2 0 8 2 6 2-0-0 1-2-0 11
Benfica 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 0-1-1 1-0-2 4
AEK Athens 5 0 0 5 2 12 -10 0-0-3 0-0-2 0

Lyon 2-2 Manchester CityRECAP

End-to-end action in France, where Pep Guardiola‘s men twice trailed to Maxwel Cornet goals (the first one a stunner). But Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Aguero headed home equalizers off set pieces as Man City avoided a series sweep and advanced to the knockout rounds along with their hosts.

Hoffenheim 2-3 Shakhtar Donetsk

Taison’s second goal of the match marched Shakhtar Donetsk into third place in the group as Hoffenheim’s rally from a 2-0 deficit wasn’t enough in the end. Ismaily and Taison scored a minute apart in the first half, but Andrej Kramaric had it 2-1 two minutes later and Steven Zuber leveled the score before halftime.

Group F
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Manchester City 5 3 1 1 14 5 9 1-0-1 2-1-0 10
Lyon 5 1 4 0 11 10 1 0-3-0 1-1-0 7
Shakhtar Donetsk 5 1 2 2 7 15 -8 0-1-1 1-1-1 5
1899 Hoffenheim 5 0 3 2 10 12 -2 0-1-2 0-2-0 3

CSKA Moscow 1-2 Viktoria Plzen

Nikola Vlasic‘s 10th minute penalty was all the hosts could muster, as Roman Prochazka and Lukas Hejda scored second half goals to keep Viktoria’s Europa League hopes alive.

Roma 0-2 Real Madrid

CSKA’s loss was Roma’s and Real’s gain, as both clubs knew they had qualified for the knockout rounds before they kicked off in Italy. Gareth Bale scored just after halftime then helped Lucas Vazquez put the match to bed in the 59th minute.

Group G
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 5 4 0 1 12 2 10 2-0-0 2-0-1 12
Roma 5 3 0 2 10 6 4 2-0-1 1-0-1 9
Viktoria Plzen 5 1 1 3 5 15 -10 0-1-1 1-0-2 4
CSKA Moscow 5 1 1 3 5 9 -4 1-0-2 0-1-1 4

Juventus 1-0 Valencia

Mario Mandzukic’s 59th minute goal made sure Valencia dropped the points necessary to open the door for Manchester United.

Manchester United 1-0 Young BoysRECAP

David De Gea made a spectacular reaction save minutes before Marouane Fellaini saved United blushes and clinched a spot in the next round for the Red Devils.

Group H
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away  

PTS

Juventus 5 4 0 1 8 2 6 2-0-1 2-0-0 12
Manchester United 5 3 1 1 6 2 4 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
València 5 1 2 2 4 5 -1 1-0-1 0-2-1 5
Young Boys 5 0 1 4 2 11 -9 0-1-1 0-0-3 1

UEFA Champions League preview: Manchester rivals can advance

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Matchday 5 of the group stage begins Tuesday, with Groups E through H holding a possibility of nearly every knockout round berth getting sewn up.

[ MORE: Newcastle wins again ]

Two Premier League clubs are included in that group, with Manchester City and Manchester United in different boats.

United needs a win over visiting Young Boys and Valencia to drop points at Juventus. Both of those possibilities are very real, though Young Boys managed a home draw with Valencia in addition to its blowouts losses.

Jose Mourinho is cranking up the pressure. Will his players thrive under it?

City is through with a win at Lyon, though a draw and Hoffenheim dropping points at home to Shakhtar Donetsk would also do the trick. Pep Guardiola insists that it isn’t about avenging City’s only loss of the season, but isn’t it?

[ MORE: JPW’s UCL predictions ]

Bayern Munich and Ajax can clinch spots coming out of Group E with a point each against Benfica and AEK Athens.

And in Group G, Real Madrid and Roma will either kickoff already safe or tangle knowing the winner is through while a loser could find trouble on the final day (though both are at home on Matchday 6).

Full schedule

AEK Athens vs. Ajax — 12:55 p.m. ET
CSKA Moscow vs. Viktoria Plzen — 12:55 p.m. ET
Roma vs. Real Madrid — 3 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Man City — 3 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Valencia — 3 p.m. ET
Manchester United vs. Young Boys — 3 p.m. ET
Bayern Munich vs. Benfica — 3 p.m. ET
Hoffenheim vs. Shakhtar Donetsk — 3 p.m. ET

Champions League wrap: Real breaks out for five, Roma keeps pace

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What a day!

We’ve written it before, but this season’s UEFA Champions League has brought loads of entertainment on nearly every match day.

[ MORE: Kane backs Rooney for captain ]

Wednesday was no different, with last-minute drama in Italy and France.


Bayern Munich 2-0 AEK Athens

Robert Lewandowski scored twice, first with a penalty, then with a header, as the reigning German champions are within a result of the knockout rounds.

Benfica 1-1 Ajax

The Dusan Tadic signing continues to pay dividends, as the Serbian star’s 61st minute goal leveled things in Portugal after Jonas gave Benfica a halftime lead.

Group E
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 4 3 1 0 7 1 6 1-1-0 2-0-0 10
Ajax 4 2 2 0 6 2 4 2-0-0 0-2-0 8
Benfica 4 1 1 2 4 6 -2 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
AEK Athens 4 0 0 4 2 10 -8 0-0-2 0-0-2 0

Manchester City 6-0 Shakhtar Donetsk RECAP

Gabriel Jesus struck for three, including two penalties, as Man City ran all over the visiting Ukrainian powers at the Etihad Stadium. David Silva scored and starred again, as did two-goal man Raheem Sterling.

Lyon 2-2 Hoffenheim

If these two draw each other in any competition, buckle up. After a 3-3 draw in Germany two weeks ago, Lyon opened up a 2-0 lead at halftime through Nabil Fekir and Tanguy Ndombele. But Andrej Kramaric scored in the 65th minute to set up Pavel Kaderabek’s stunning equalizer in stoppage time.

Group F
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Manchester City 4 3 0 1 12 3 9 1-0-1 2-0-0 9
Lyon 4 1 3 0 9 8 1 0-2-0 1-1-0 6
1899 Hoffenheim 4 0 3 1 8 9 -1 0-1-1 0-2-0 3
Shakhtar Donetsk 4 0 2 2 4 13 -9 0-1-1 0-1-1 2

CSKA Moscow 1-2 AS Roma

Arnor Sigurdsson’s 50th minute goal briefly gave the hosts level footing following Kostas Manolas’ fourth minute opener, but Lorenzo Pellegrini nabbed a winner for i Lupi in the 59th minute to stay level with Real on nine points.

Viktoria Plzen 0-5 Real Madrid

Santiago Solari’s Champions League debut as manager went pretty well, with Karim Benzema scoring twice en route to a 4-0 halftime lead for Real. Gareth Bale, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos also scored for the group leaders, who visit Rome on Nov. 27.

Group G
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 4 3 0 1 10 2 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
Roma 4 3 0 1 10 4 6 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
CSKA Moscow 4 1 1 2 4 7 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
Viktoria Plzen 4 0 1 3 3 14 -11 0-1-1 0-0-2 1

Valencia 3-1 Young Boys

Santi Mina scored twice as the Spanish hosts stayed within striking distance of Manchester United.

Juventus 1-2 Manchester UnitedRECAP

Cristiano Ronaldo scored an absolute beauty, which has largely been lost in the sauce of United’s furious five-minute comeback and Jose Mourinho’s mostly hilarious post-match antics (Not sporting? Of course not, but don’t deny us the humor of it). So, wow, here it is:

Group H
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 4 3 0 1 7 2 5 1-0-1 2-0-0 9
Manchester United 4 2 1 1 5 2 3 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
València 4 1 2 1 4 4 0 1-0-1 0-2-0 5
Young Boys 4 0 1 3 2 10 -8 0-1-1 0-0-2 1