AC Milan 1-0 SPAL: Sublime Suso gives Pioli first win

Suso came off the bench to emphatically answer his critics with a stunning free-kick and give AC Milan a much-needed 1-0 win over Serie A strugglers SPAL.

The Spanish forward has become a focus of ire for a section of the Rossoneri faithful amid a wretched start to the season and recently appointed head coach Stefano Pioli dropped him to the bench on Thursday.

It had the desired effect, too, as Suso curled in a majestic 63rd-minute free-kick after his replacement Samu Castillejo hit the crossbar during the first half.

The enterprising Theo Hernandez had a goal disallowed for offside before Suso broke the deadlock, setting up a result that edges Milan into the top half of the table while SPAL remain second bottom.

Lucas Paqueta tested visiting goalkeeper Etrit Berisha when he caught a third-minute drive sweetly, before Pioli’s big selection call almost paid a swift dividend.

Castillejo rattled the crossbar from close range in the 13th minute after Paqueta found left-back Hernandez to cross.

Another man called back into the starting XI, Krzysztof Piatek, sent a speculative first-time effort from range zipping narrowly over, although the hosts lost impetus during an increasingly turgid first period.

Hernandez briefly thought he had given Milan the lead, slotting in first time from Paqueta’s throughball, but the playmaker delayed his pass a fraction too long and the flag was raised.

Suso was introduced for Castillejo in the 57th minute and he quickly made his presence felt – leaving Berisha with no chance after Francesco Vicari was booked for fouling Piatek.

Paqueta failed to lift a finish over Berisha for the goal his endeavours deserved after being played in by Hakan Calhanoglu – wastefulness he almost regretted when Jasmin Kurtic headed over a glorious chance to equalise five minutes from time.

What does it mean? Pioli gets off and running

It will take much more than a fitful triumph over relegation candidates to win Milan’s fans round to former Inter boss Pioli but there was a risk of his reign unravelling at a rapid pace after one point from his first two matches in charge. A first clean sheet since mid-September was also welcome.

SPAL claimed a creditable 1-1 draw against Napoli last time out. Nevertheless, a return of seven points from 10 matches suggests a long, hard Italian winter ahead.

Paqueta pulls the strings

Although Suso will deservedly grab the headlines, most of Milan’s best creative moments were down to their Brazilian schemer. Paqueta must still sharpen his end product – the flicker of indecisiveness on Hernandez’s disallowed goal standing as a case in point – but there was plenty to admire from a player who looks set to shoulder his team’s creative burden on this evidence.

Vicari goes off-road

The centre-back played his part in a determined defensive effort but erred decisively by impeding Piatek to leave Suso licking his lips.

What’s next

Milan face a tough test against Lazio at San Siro next time out, while SPAL will look to get back on track at home to Sampdoria.

Alexander-Arnold motivated by dream of becoming Liverpool captain

Trent Alexander-Arnold has admitted he has “always dreamed” of captaining Liverpool and cannot see himself playing for another club.

The 21-year-old is in line to make his 100th appearance for the club in Saturday’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa, a little over three years on from making his senior debut.

He has gone on to become an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans and was named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d’Or following an impressive 12 months.

But ahead of a potential milestone outing for his boyhood club, Alexander-Arnold has another personal ambition to achieve.

“I am not shy in saying that [being captain] is a dream for me,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Whether it comes true or not is not up to me – I don’t pick who is captain.

“But that is something I would love to do one day. Captaining Liverpool is something I have always dreamed of and it is something that motivates me.

“I have always been a Liverpool player, Liverpool has always been my home. I have never thought about changing clubs.

“I always thought Liverpool was destined to be my club. When I grew up, the dream was always to play for Liverpool. Now I am living the dream and I can’t see that changing.”

Alexander-Arnold became the youngest player to start two consecutive Champions League finals when Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 in June.

And the England international has thanked boss Klopp for making him the player he is.

“He is someone who really made me who I am today,” he said. “He has pushed me to get better on a day-to-day basis. He has given me so many opportunities, I could never repay him.”

Apologetic Xhaka explains reaction to Arsenal fans: I reached boiling point

Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka has explained how he reached “boiling point” in the game against Crystal Palace after receiving online abuse that included death threats against his family.

Xhaka cupped his ears to the home fans, who mockingly cheered his substitution during Sunday’s 2-2 draw in the Premier League, then removed his shirt before walking straight down the tunnel.

Head coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday that the 27-year-old midfielder should say sorry for the way he reacted while leaving the pitch at Emirates Stadium, while a number of former Arsenal players have called for him to be stripped of the captaincy.

In a statement released on Arsenal’s official Twitter account, Xhaka apologised for any disrespect conveyed by his actions as he revealed the personal abuse that has been aimed his way.

“After taking some time to reflect on what happened on Sunday afternoon, I would like to give you an explanation rather than just a quick response,” he said.

“The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply.

“I love this club and always give 100 per cent on and off the pitch.

“My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply.

“People have said things like: ‘we will break your legs’, ‘kill your wife’ and ‘wish that your daughter gets cancer’.

“That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium on Sunday.

“In this situation, I let myself be carried away and reacted in a way that disrespected the group of fans that support our club, our team and myself with positive energy.

“That has not been my intention and I’m sorry if that’s what people thought.

“My wish is that we get back to a place of mutual respect, remembering why we fell in love with this game in the first place.

“Let’s move forward positively together.”

Xhaka was not part of Arsenal’s squad for Wednesday’s EFL Cup clash with Liverpool – a game the Gunners lost on penalties to exit the competition after a remarkable 5-5 draw – but was involved in training on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s home match with Wolves.

Messi returns to Argentina squad for November friendlies

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is back in Argentina’s squad for next month’s friendlies against Brazil and Uruguay after serving a three-month suspension.

Messi was banned by CONMEBOL in August and fined $50,000 for accusing the governing body of corruption following his side’s semi-final loss to Brazil at the Copa America.

The 32-year-old has missed Argentina’s past four matches – all friendlies – but is in line to make his return in November after being named in Lionel Scaloni’s latest 26-man squad.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is also included for the first time since Argentina’s 2-1 third-place play-off victory over Chile in the Copa America, while Tottenham midfielder Giovani Lo Celso returns after sitting out of this month’s draw with Germany and victory over Ecuador.

There is still no place in the squad for Paris Saint-Germain’s in-form striker Mauro Icardi, however, with his most recent cap coming against Mexico in November 2018.

Club team-mate Angel Di Maria, absent since the Copa America, is also missing again.

Argentina meet Brazil in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 15 and then travel to Tel Aviv, Israel, to face Uruguay three days later in the final international break of the calendar year.

Argentina squad in full:

Agustin Marchesin (Porto), Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Juan Musso (Udinese); German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nehuen Perez (Famalicao), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Porto), Walter Kannemann (Gremio); Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Guido Rodriguez (Club America), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Nicolas Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Rodrigo de Paul (Udinese); Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Nicolas Gonzalez (Stuttgart), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).

Reus and Hummels doubtful for Dortmund v Wolfsburg

Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are still yet to return to training for Borussia Dortmund.

Club captain Reus sat out of Wednesday’s 2-1 DFB-Pokal win over Borussia Monchengladbach with a muscular injury.

The Germany forward had only returned from a bout of illness ahead of last weekend’s 0-0 Revierderby draw at Schalke and centre-back Hummels is now laid low with a sickness bug of his own.

Goalkeeper Roman Burki, who has also been ill, is back working with his team-mates ahead of Saturday’s Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg at Signal Iduna Park.

“Roman Burki trained and is feeling good. Marco Reus and Mats Hummels did not. We still have to wait on their progress,” head coach Lucien Favre said.

Julian Brandt could be called upon to start if Reus remains sidelined and Favre praised the former Bayer Leverkusen star, who scored for the first time since the opening weekend of the Bundesliga season with a brace to down Gladbach.

“Julian Brandt stood tall and played a great game from [attacking] midfield,” he said. “Not only did he score two goals, he also effectively helped out in defence.”

Dortmund lie fifth in the Bundesliga, a point and a place behind Wolfsburg after nine matches.

Bayern Munich want Pochettino

According to a recent report from Sport1, Bayern Munich are interested in signing Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Niko Kovac.

The belief is that Kovac is on borrowed time at the club, despite Bayern only being one point off of Borussia Monchengladbach at the top of the table. The German giants are aiming for yet another Bundesliga title, but the focus for the future seems to be on bringing a new face in to steer the ship.

Pochettino has had a poor start to the new season with Tottenham Hotspur and there’s no point in trying to get around that, but across his tenure with the club, he’s been able to turn them into consistent contenders at the top of both the Premier League table and in the Champions League – reaching the final of the latter just a few months ago.

Now, though, his future is a bit more uncertain.

Liverpool interested in Torres?

No, they’re not back in for Fernando. As reported by Sport Bild, Liverpool are one of three major European clubs interested in completing the signing of Valencia youngster Ferran Torres. The 19 year old’s contract with the Spanish club is set to expire in 2021, with the belief being that he will be available for a lower fee during next summer’s transfer window. The two other clubs believed to be interested in signing him are Bayern Munich and Barcelona, with all three having a legitimate case for making it happen.

The Reds are the current European champions which is always going to go down a treat for any potential signing, whereas Bayern are a proven commodity when it comes to nurturing talent and helping them grow. Then you’ve got Barcelona who also play in Spain, ensuring an easier transition process for young Torres.

Either way, his future is looking incredibly bright, as you’d imagine.

Manchester City want Sancho

According to a recent report from Sport Bild, Manchester City are interested in signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at one of the upcoming transfer windows, either in January or next summer. The belief is that they are willing to pay over £100 million in order to get the deal done, which would see them re-sign him after Sancho initially left the club back in 2017.

Alas, they aren’t going to be the only ones involved in the race, with Real Madrid and Barcelona also sniffing around.

Sancho has had yet another breakout year in 2019, which has seen him really force his way into the England national team setup. After putting together a string of impressive performances for Dortmund since arriving, it finally seems as if he’s ready to return to his homeland.

If the Spanish giants offer enough money, though, they could wind up derailing that in quite a big way.

Inter Milan to made Vidal deal with Barca?

According to a recent report from Tuttosport, Inter Milan may give Barcelona the first option on Lautaro Martinez, Milan Skriniar or Stefano Sensi – with the ‘catch’, if you want to call it that, being they’ll only do so if Barca allows Arturo Vidal to join Inter on loan during the January transfer window.

Vidal has fallen down the ranks in the middle of the park at the Nou Camp over the course of the last few months, and it seems as if Inter is eager to offer him a route out of the club – if only temporarily. Vidal was initially signed with the intention of him being a featured member of the first team, but that no longer appears to be the case as Barca continues to evolve and adapt as a team.

Vidal is considered to be a veteran at this stage of his career, but even with that being the case, he’d still be an incredibly valuable member of the roster for Inter as they continue to go in search of that elusive Serie A title.

AC Milan to go after Lovren

According to a recent report from Tuttosport, AC Milan are ready and willing to make an offer for Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren during the January transfer window. Milan were still interested in the Croatian centre-back during the summer transfer window, but they were initially put off by the £20 million valuation. Lovren has certainly served as a polarising figure throughout the course of his time in professional football, and it doesn’t appear as if that trend is going to stop any time soon.

Lovren is one of the most intriguing members of Liverpool’s first team squad, but in terms of him being a regularly featured member of the starting XI, it almost certainly feels like that ship has sailed.

Milan, on the other hand, are in desperate need of a few new faces as they continue to linger towards the bottom of the Serie A table where they’ve been for most of the season.