FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES

City begin Grealish approach

The interest is nothing new but it feels as though the will he won't he is about to go up another gear.
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Jack Grealish is enjoying his break after the Euros, living it up in Dubrovnik, apparently, but his movements upon returning to England will likely dominate the gossip columns in the coming days – as they are already – as Aston Villa desperately try to keep their captain and Manchester City try to prise him away.
Some quarters believe Villa have long been spending the money they're about to get for Grealish, while others are arguing it's merely to build a team around him.
Reports from the Athletic’s Sam Lee have led to the journalist’s name even trending with one Villa fan on Twitter even daring him to bet £1,000 on the move happening (he said no, obviously) and the storm this potential transfer has caused saw Dominos get in with a slice of the action when posting an opportunistic tweet.
What will matter most, most likely anyway, is what the player will want – and he’s likely had a few City players in his ear on England duty – although a lengthy contract means Villa can play hardball too with a club not short of cash.
This one could drag on.

285 days later

Never mind the 4-3 defeat, it was only a friendly after all, as for Liverpool the big boost against Hertha Berlin was seeing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez back in action.
Their return ahead of the new Premier League season only enhances their chances of reclaiming the title after their defence faltered so spectacularly, and though the jury's out on whether this team can keep the pace with City once more, it don't half hurt to have the world's best centre back fighting in your corner.
"285 days ago, I started on a journey back towards playing,” Van Dijk said after coming on in the second half for his first appearance since the Merseyside Derby last year.
“It’s hard to express how I am feeling, but it’s important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people. The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one.
“My teammates for giving me energy and keeping my head up. The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I’d be nothing. Thank you. The work doesn’t stop now. It’s only just starting. We keep going!"

Covid chaos now – more coming?

Covid is wreaking chaos on club friendlies at the moment and there's no avoiding the fact it could well affect the domestic season once it gets under way.
When reporting on a small outbreak at Nottingham Forest you realise their Championship campaign is only just a week away, while Premier League newcomers Norwich City and old-timers Manchester United have both recorded cases and called off pre-season matches too.
All precautionary, all sensible, but it's not long before the Premier League gets going too and the last thing needed after a disrupted 18 months is a campaign that kicks off on the back foot.
No one needs four games a week again. No one.

IN OTHER NEWS

Big move for Skinner

Manchester United Women have a new head coach, with Marc Skinner joining after leaving Orlando Pride last week. There’s a mighty task awaiting Skinner and so allow our very own Carrie Dunn to explain why it’s going to be very, very, very difficult as they aim to break into the WSL’s top three.

Marc Skinner

Image credit: Getty Images

RETRO CORNER

To celebrate Hope Solo’s 40th birthday today – and given it’s also a day of women’s quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – we’ll go back nine years to see how Solo and co won a second straight Olympic gold when defending their crown at London 2012 after winning in Beijing too.
At Rio they lost in the quarter-finals – they’ll be out to avoid that same fate today…

HAT TIP

For Rafael and Fabio, the feeling was mutual, according to one half of the Da Silva twins who have a shared autobiography coming out and spoke to the Athletic’s Daniel Taylor about Steven Gerrard’s disdain for them. Rafael said:
Wayne Rooney told us that Steven Gerrard hated us. He said that Gerrard told him on international duty, ‘Those twins, they are pricks!’. We never did anything to him but wear a different shade of red. I guess that’s all it takes. And to be honest, I understood what he meant. The feeling was mutual.

COMING UP

It’s quarter-final day in the women’s football at Tokyo 2020, with Canada taking on Brazil at 9am BST before Team GB take on Australia for a place in the semis at 10am. You’ve then got Sweden vs Japan at 11am and what promises to be a fascinating Netherlands vs USA tie at midday. All nice and staggered, and you can catch it ALL on Eurosport. Have a watch right here. https://www.eurosport.co.uk/watch/
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