Report: Arsenal lead race to sign James Rodriguez from Real

Arsenal are reportedly at the front of the queue to sign Real Madrid star James Rodriguez, though Liverpool are also said to be in the running.

Rodriguez has been on loan at Bayern Munich since July 2017 though he has struggled for consistency and it appears the Bavarians are unlikely to sign him on a permanent basis.

Bayern have an option to sign him at the end of his two-season loan spell yet this is unlikely to transpire.

As such, the Gunners are stepping up their interest in landing the Colombia ace on a big-money switch to the Emirates Stadium.

According to Spain's Don Balon, the player is a major target on the radar of manager Unai Emery.

The Spanish publication has added that Liverpool are also eyeing the 27-year-old goal-scoring attacking midfielder with interest.

Nonetheless, if he were to sign for Arsenal, it seems that the future of Mesut Ozil may be in doubt despite signing a 350,000 a week pound a week contract just under 12 months ago.

With Aaron Ramsey set to potentially depart either in January or at the end of 2018/19, the Cucuta-born star could be brought in to fill the void.

However, injury and inconsistent form could see the London-based outfit offload the former Germany star in order to save money on the wage bill.

Don Balon also suggested that Manchester United have an interest in the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner, though it seems a move to Old Trafford will not materialise.

Neuer looking forward to Reds tie

Manuel Neuer says Bayern Munich are not concerned about being drawn to face Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16.

Liverpool were in last season's final where they lost to Real Madrid, but the Merseyside club have been in exceptional form this season and currently top the Premier League.

Bayern, meanwhile, are nine points behind Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Last season they lost to Real Madrid in the semis of the Champions League.

Neuer told his club's official website: "They're having a very good season and we know they were in the Champions League final last year.

"They certainly won't be delighted with the draw, either.

"They can counter quickly and they're dangerous in front of goal, but they're also vulnerable, as we've seen, and they'll be up against a good Bayern attack.

"It'll be a great game both at Liverpool and also at home at the Allianz Arena."

Man United and Liverpool get tough draw in UCL last-16

Manchester United have drawn Paris Saint-Germain while Liverpool will meet Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League last-16 set to take place in February.

The draw for Europe's most prestigious club competition took place on Monday with a number of interesting match-ups.

However, it appears two of the more mouth-watering games will be when the Red Devils take on Neymar inspired PSG.

United have been in largely dire form in 2018/19 and could be considered underdogs in this contest.

Meanwhile, the high-flying Reds are tasked with beating reigning German Bundesliga champions Bayern.

The Bavarians are not at their imperious best this campaign and it could mean Jurgen Klopp's men are favourites.

The format of the competition is such that the runners-up in the groups play at home in the first leg, while the winners get home advantage in the second.

The first legs are scheduled for 12-13 February 2019 and 19-20 February, while the second legs are on 5-6 March and 12-13 March respectively.

Full draw:

Schalke v Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain
Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund
Olympique Lyon v FC Barcelona
AS Roma v FC Porto
Ajax Amsterdam v Real Madrid
Liverpool v Bayern Munich

Delph raves over special Sancho

Fabian Delph says Jadon Sancho is a 'special player', having watched the Borussia Dortmund star in England training this week.

The 18-year-old attacker linked up with the Three Lions for their friendly with the United States on Thursday and a UEFA Nations League clash with Croatia on Sunday.

It is the second call-up for the former Manchester City youngster, who made his England debut off the bench against Croatia in October.

Delph, who will captain England, ahead of any potential introduction of Wayne Rooney during the match, said he was massively impressed by Sancho's development.

He told the press: "I really believe the sky is the limit for him. I only managed to spend one week with him at [Manchester] City before he left, and I was very impressed with him then.

"But seeing him this week, he's been very confident, very calm, very composed.

"You see certain things in certain players that stand out, he's done that for me this week. I've sat back and thought, 'Wow, we've got a special player here'."

On Rooney's inclusion, Delph added: "He [Sancho] must be astonished to be standing on the same pitch as Wayne Rooney.

"A lot of those young lads would've been watching him as a young kid, watching him score all those amazing goals, break all the records he has broken. For them to be sharing a pitch with him, it gives you that extra boost.

"You get to see someone that has been there and done it. It gives you the motivation to try follow in his footsteps."

Emery following Nelson progress

Unai Emery is delighted to track the progress of Reiss Nelson during his loan spell with Hoffenheim.

The 18-year-old England under 21 international signed a long-term contract with Arsenal in August 2018 ahead of moving to Germany for the 2018/19 season.

During his short time in the Bundesliga, Nelson has scored five goals and created one in six league games.

It is uncertain as to whether of not Arsenal will recall the former Lewisham Borough attacker at the end of the season, but Emery is pleased with his progress thus far.

He told reporters: "At the moment we don’t speak about that. With Reiss, we are very happy with him at the moment. We follow him every match.

“We are thinking how he can help us in the future.

“He can take responsibility, minutes and confidence in a team where he can play more. Then the objective is to come back with us and grow with this experience.

“My experience in Spain and France is that with this loan the player can take this.”

Goretzka targets victories for struggling Bayern

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka believes that the club's recent dip in form can be rectified should the Bundesliga giants start picking up wins.

Bayern started the 2018/19 campaign in superb form but then suffered a four game run without a win, which included two defeats in the league.

The Bavarians bounced back with a four wins in a row in all competitions after the FIFA international break, however, were unconvincing recently in a 2-1 victory over minnows Rodinghausen in a DFB Cup second round tie.

In addition, the Niko Kovac-coached outfit also drew 1-1 at home to Freiburg last Saturday.

Nonetheless, ahead of the side's UEFA Champions League Group E tie against AEK Athens on Wednesday, Goretzka takes the view that winning more games can rectify the situation.

He told Bayern's official website: "It's an empty phrase but it fits best: Football is a day-to-day business. What happened in the last few weeks is completely irrelevant, it's the here and now that counts.

"We're not playing the best or most spectacular football at the moment, so the coverage is negative. But we can turn it around just as quickly. That'll be our task now. We'll have the opportunities to do it in the upcoming week.

"(We need) Victories! And better football. At the end of the day it's about our displays on the pitch. How we get to that level is completely irrelevant.

"We must focus on taking the right step. We're playing in front of our own fans at the Arena (against AEK), so we're really up for it. We want to play good football there."

Kovac and Bayern disappointed with Freiburg draw

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac has admitted his disappointment after his team dropped more points at home during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Freiburg.

The Bavarians have displayed some uncharacteristically poor form in the Bundesliga this season, and appear to no longer command the dominance they have displayed domestically in recent seasons.

Despite the set-back in dropping two points to the outfit from Baden-Wurttemberg at the Allianz Arena, the reigning German champions remain in second position on the table with a four point deficit behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.

In the 1-1 draw, Serge Gnabry got the opening goal in the 80th minute before Lucas Holer leveled matters in the final minute for the away team.

As such, Kovac expressed his disappointment telling the club's official website: "We got off to a good start, we were very flexible, moved well and let the ball do the work. We tried to attack down the wings, but it was difficult because they doubled up on us.

"So we had to try it down the centre, which wasn't exactly empty either. We should have scored the opener through Lewandowski, it would have been much easier then. We ran up in the second half.

"We took the lead, and we as FC Bayern mustn't squander it. We have to clear the ball earlier instead of playing the ball at the back. But it is as it is. It was in the 89th minute against Augsburg too, so we're talking about four points. We're disappointed."

Bayern are next in action on Wednesday when they face AEK Athens in a UEFA Champions League Group E tie at home.

Favre: Sancho is something special

Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre is struggling to contain his excitement over the development of Jadon Sancho.

The 18-year-old English winger joined Dortmund at the beginning of last season and has thrived at the Bundesliga club.

Amazingly, the youngster forced a move away from Manchester City to play for BVB, and it is a move that has already paid dividends.

Sancho is on five goals and eight assists in 14 Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal matches this season, while he earned his first senior international cap in October.

Ahead of facing Wolfsburg in the league on Saturday, Favre beamed: "Of course he has a lot of potential. He's only 18, and he's already playing with the England national team.

"At the age of 18, that's something special, you don't see it very often.

"Of course he can still improve a lot, that's quite normal and he knows that. But he's already very good.

"He knows that he still has to improve. He just has to keep working hard, keep working calmly, and needs to have a lot of fun."

After nine games of the 2018/19 season, Dortmund are top of the Bundesliga, with 21 points, two clear of second-placed Bayern Munich.

Bayern want Champions League final

Bayern Munich have applied to host the 2021 Champions League final at the Allianz Arena.

The German giants last hosted the event in 2012 where they lost in the final to Chelsea.

This year the epic encounter will be in Madrid at Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano, while next year it will be in Istanbul at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

Bayern though will have to fend off competition from FC Zenit Saint Petersburg's Krestovsky Stadium for the rights to host in 2021.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "I can confirm that Bayern, together with the city of Munich, will officially apply to host the 2021 Champions League final at the Allianz Arena.

"Despite the disappointment of the defeat to Chelsea in 2012, we still look back fondly on the 'Finale dahoam' [final at home]. We would be very grateful if UEFA gave us the opportunity to again welcome the football world to Munich."

There are three cities, meanwhile, bidding to host the 2021 Europa League final: Seville, Vienna and Tbilisi.

Bayern boosted as five stars return to action

Bayern Munich are virtually back to full strength after Sven Ulreich, Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels returned to training.

Bayern took an injury depleted squad to face minnows Rodinghausen in a DFB Cup tie on Tuesday and managed a unspectacular 2-1 victory over the outfit from North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Bavarians next face Freiburg at the Allianz Arena on Saturday in the Bundesliga but have the benefit of a much stronger squad following the return of the talented quintet.

It is a particularly busy period for the German champions who thereafter then face AEK Athens in a UEFA Champions League Group E tie on Wednesday.

Bayern's official website said: "Sven Ulreich, who had stayed at home with his heavily pregnant wife, was joined at the open training session on Wednesday afternoon in front of 650 fans at Sabener Strasse by Arjen Robben (back problem), James Rodriguez, Jerome Boateng (both ill) and Mats Hummels (neuromuscular problems).

"Without the players who were in the starting line-up against Rodinghausen, Kovac and his group focused on the next Bundesliga match against SC Freiburg."

Favre: We're through, that's what counts

Lucien Favre was relieved to have come through a tricky test with Union Berlin in the DFB-Pokal on Wednesday night.

It took a Marco Reus goal in extra-time to secure their passage to the round of 16.

Christian Pulisic (40') had opened the scoring at Signal-Iduna-Park ahead of a Sebastian Polter (63') equaliser.

Maximilian Philipp (73') restored BVB's lead but Polter's (88') second of the night took the game into overtime.

Speaking after the tie, Favre told the club's official website: "We absolutely wanted to progress. And ultimately, we're through, that's what counts. It wasn't undeserved."

Reflecting on their 2. Bundesliga opponents, the manager added: "It was very difficult to play against this team. They're very well organised, very stable. It was difficult to destabilise this team.

"Unfortunately, we conceded the second equaliser three minutes before the final whistle. Then we had to play the 30 minutes of extra-time. But fortunately, we didn't need to go to penalties."

He continued: "The opposition were very solid and compact in defence. They were aggressive and physical in the challenges, in the aerial battles too. It was difficult for us. We need to adapt to playing against teams like that and we need to find better solutions. Sometimes we tried to overcomplicate things. But all in all, it was okay."

One blow sustained by Dortmund was an injury to Abdou Diallo. "He got injured early," Favre explained. "We don't know exactly what's wrong. He'll probably be unavailable for the upcoming games."

The draw for the round of 16 is set to be held on 4 November 2018.

Bayern without Thiago for 'several weeks'

Bayern Munich have announced that Thiago Alcantara will be sidelined for "several weeks" with an ankle injury he sustained in the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday.

The Bundesliga champions beat fourth-tier side Rodinghausen 2-1 in Osnabruck to progress to the third round of the competition.

However, the injury to Thiago soured their win after he was hurt in a poor challenge from Bjorn Schlottke in the 75th minute of the cup-tie.

Bayern head coach Niko Kovac admitted afterwards it didn't "look good" for the Spain international and subsequent scans confirmed their worse fears on Wednesday.

Thiago has made 14 appearances in all competitions for the Bavarian giants this season, but joins Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman on the treatment table.

"Thiago faces several weeks on the sidelines. The Spain international tore the lateral collateral ligament and the articular capsule in his right ankle in the DFB-Pokal tie against Rodinghausen," a statement from the club read.

Wagner frustrated to be bit-part player

Bayern Munich striker Sandro Wagner scored in the 2-1 win over Rodinghausen on Tuesday but remains frustrated with his lack of game time.

Wagner opened the scoring for the Bavarians in the DFB-Pokal clash and Thomas Muller slotted a penalty to double the lead, before a consolation goal for the hosts.

The 30-year-old has only made three Bundesliga appearances for Bayern this season, and when asked if he feels teams know how to play against them, Wagner told the press: "These are questions you have to talk about to players that play every game or the coach or the manager.

"I don't know. It is not my task to analyse this.

"Of course, it feels good for me [to score]. I played my first Bundesliga game more than 10 years ago. I have been quite successful over the last few years. It was fun to score.

"Now we've already got to November and it was only my second game where I started. It's not what I am aiming for."

Kovac: Thiago's injury is a concern

Bayern Munich were dealt a hefty blow on Tuesday night as midfielder Thiago Alcantara picked up an injury in the 2-1 win over Rodinghausen in the DFB-Pokal.

The Bavarians progressed to the third round of the competition thanks to goals from Sandro Wagner and Thomas Muller, which secured a 2-1 victory over the fourth-tier Rodinghausen.

However, it wasn't all positive for the Bundesliga champions. Alcantara limped off the pitch after 75 minutes and Kovac has revealed that the injury looks serious.

"I hope it is not that bad," Kovac told the media after the match. "But it doesn't look good."

"He's in a lot of pain right now, but we'll be back in the morning to investigate."

Bayern already have Corentin Tolisso on the sidelines with a knee injury and are now struggling for answers in midfield.

Kovac: We missed too many chances

Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac is pleased to have reached the third round of the DFB-Pokal but admits his players made it difficult for themselves.

The Bundesliga giants beat fourth-tier outfit SV Rodinghausen 2-1 on Tuesday night. Sandro Wagner opened the scoring and a Thomas Muller penalty made it 2-0 before Renato Sanches missed a penalty 10 minutes later. Linus Meyer scored the consolation goal for the hosts just after the break.

Despite advancing in the competition, Kovac was disappointed with his side's finishing and felt Bayern should have scored a few more goals.

He told the press: "We've advanced, which is what we wanted. We did a good job until the second penalty. We let the ball do the work before that.

"We extended our lead and should have made it three, perhaps even four. But then the tide turned. We encouraged our opponents, we didn't play as we had planned.

"They pulled one back after the break and we were on tenterhooks towards the end. We made life difficult for ourselves. We had the chances but didn't take them. We have to talk about our conversion."

Zorc: Sancho will be at Dortmund a long time

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc believes teenage sensation Jadon Sancho will be at the Bundesliga outfit for the long term.

The 18-year-old left Manchester City's Under-18s in August last year and has since signed a new four-year contract with the BVB.

The Englishman has made 13 appearances for Dortmund across all competitions this season and has scored five goals and made eight assists.

Sancho's performances have earned him widespread praise, and Zorc is optimistic that Dortmund will be able to hold on to the young talent.

"I'm pretty sure Jadon will be playing with us for some time," he said, as quoted by Bild.

Sancho added: "You can see that right now, I play a lot here. This is important for young players to develop.

"You never know what will happen in the future, but I'm really happy right now."

Kovac wants focus for DFB clash

Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac is expected to rotate his squad for the DFB-Pokal clash with fourth-tier Rodinghausen on Tuesday night.

The German champions started the season on fire with six wins in all competitions.

But a run of four games without a victory where a number of players were rested by Kovac, saw Bayern lose to Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga, alongside a league draw with Augsburg and Champions League stalemate with Ajax.

But a run of three wins has helped Bayern get back to their best, ahead of facing the Regionalliga side.

Speaking to the club's website, the manager said: "The first priority is to progress to the next round.

"We want to and have to win. We want to stay in the cup beyond the winter."

He continued: "We don’t want to leave anything to chance. We need to approach the task with the right attitude."

James Rodriguez and Jerome Boateng (illness) are both out along with Arjen Robben (back), Mats Hummels (neuromuscular problems) and long-term absentees Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso.

Kovac added: "Some players from the reserves will move up."

Meritan Shabani, Paul Will, Wooyeong Jeong and Christian Fruchtl have all been added to the Bayern squad for this game.

Nelson relishing Bundesliga challenge

Arsenal youngster Reiss Nelson says he is enjoying his time at Hoffenheim and making the most of his experiences in the Bundesliga.

The 18-year-old winger joined Hoffenheim on loan from the Gunners in August and has already made an impact at the German outfit by scoring four goals and providing one assist in five league games.

The Englishman admits he likes playing in the Bundesliga, but also added that he remains an Arsenal player and is not really thinking about making his loan move permanent.

"I'm liking the Bundesliga," he said, according to the Mirror. "There's a lot of top, top defenders that you come across.

"It was always going to be a challenge so when I got the offer to come out here I was excited, knowing it was going to be such a big challenge for me.

"As a person and as a player, I wanted to take the next step.

"At the moment I'm very happy here. I'm playing, I'm scoring, but I'm an Arsenal player at the end of the day, so I have to stay and do my job here, then wherever football takes me I'll go."

Future Bayern signing signs off in style for Whitecaps

Future Bayern Munich signing Alphonso Davies scored a brace on his last appearance for Vancouver Whitecaps before his move to the Bavarians in January.

Bayern snapped up the highly-rated 17-year-old on a deal which runs from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2023. The Ghana-born Canada international turns 18 on 2 November and is therefore eligible to join thereafter.

Davies’ talent came to prominence in the last three seasons with Vancouver where he was said to have caught a number of teams’ attention including the Bavarians, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool.

However, the German Bundesliga giants won the race for his signature and a bright future is predicted for the talented teenager.

Nonetheless, the young forward displayed his abilities as he bagged a double against the Portland Timbers on Sunday in Major League Soccer in America.

Bavarianfootballworks reported: "His first goal (28th minute) was a thing of pure beauty as he laced home a left-footed shot after trotting half way across the pitch on his own. This was all Davies.

"His second goal (31st minute) was a bit easier as he pounced on a defensive error by the Timbers. His instinctive ability to stick with the play and use his pace to close down the defender saw him amply rewarded.

"Only a brief international break with the Canadian Men’s National Team nows stands between Davies and the moment he reports to Sabener Strasse for his first training sessions as a Bayern Munich player."

Gotze delighted with return to form and fitness for BVB

Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Mario Gotze says he is happy to be approaching top form and fitness following a difficult start to 2018/19.

The Germany international has appeared just six times in all competitions and made just his first start in the Bundesliga last Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin.

During that contest he assisted Jadon Sancho's opening goal and otherwise produced an industrious performance for the Lucien Favre-coached outfit.

Speaking to the league's official website, the 2014 World Cup winner said: "Of course I'm happy, and I'm also pretty chuffed with the way we're playing too.

"Let's not forget that Berlin are very strong opponents and played with five at the back. We nevertheless managed to create many good chances, it's just we didn't score the goals this time.

"So I've made it – I'm back at 100 per cent! No, to be honest there's still a bit more in the tank, but I'm feeling very, very good.

Speaking of his role as more of a number 10 under Favre, he concluded: "It all comes down to how you play this role. If it's expected of me to stand up top and score goals with my head, then it's going to be tough, but the way we're playing, I can certainly take a liking to it.

"If we keep switching the game so smoothly and if the play comes in from out wide, or Marco [Reus] is supporting from the number ten position, and if we can make deep runs and swap positions the way we have been doing, then it's a great thing."

BVB are next in action on Wednesday when they meet minnows Union Berlin in a DFB Cup second round tie at the Westfalenstadion.