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Media Watch: City to battle United for Rakitic?

BATTLE: According to reports, City and United are set to do battle for Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic

BATTLE: According to reports, City and United are set to do battle for Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic

Transfer tales, a pre-match prediction and praise from a previous opponent… it’s your Wednesday media round-up.

Let’s kick off with the gossip, as it’s rumoured today City are eyeing three targets.

The Manchester Evening News claim the Blues are set to go head-to-head with rivals Manchester United for the signature of Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, whilst also planning a move for Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar.

Writes Richard Fay: “The Blues have reportedly been in contact with the Barcelona midfielder over a potential summer move to the Etihad.

“However, it is reported City would face fierce competition from United in their bid to land the Croatia international.

“According to Don Balon, Rakitic has already held talks with both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho over a potential move to the Premier League.

“The 29-year-old has been a pivotal member of the Barcelona side this season, but he is reportedly looking for a fresh challenge at the end of the current campaign.

“It is also suggested Rakitic fears his current position at Barcelona will come under threat as the Catalan giants look to accommodate Philippe Coutinho into the starting XI.

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“However, it is believed any move to England would only be a short-term deal. The report even suggests Rakitic would only be willing to leave Spain for no more than three years.

“In other transfer news, the Blues are said to be planning a summer move for Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar.

“Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport believe City are keen to recruit the 22-year-old at the end of the season, and even see him as a long-term replacement for Vincent Kompany.

“The Blues have been impressed by the centre-backs performances this season, and according to the report City are already weighing up a €25million bid for the Slovakia international.”

Meanwhile, Caught Offside believe City are also keen on Juventus’ Paulo Dybala.

Edward Bennett reports: “According to Don Balon, contact has been made over a potential deal, with Dybala apparently heading closer towards the end of his time with Juve.

“This follows various recent rumours linking him as a potential target for Manchester United, though it remains to be seen if they would still press to sign him after themselves landing Sanchez.

“The Sun claimed Juventus would want around £86million for Dybala after rejecting a swap deal offer from the Red Devils while Henrikh Mkhitaryan, now of Arsenal, was still at Old Trafford.

“TMW have since reported that a similar deal could be in the works involving Matteo Darmian moving in the opposite direction, though Don Balon seem to think City could work on winning the race for this exciting transfer.

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“ESPN have also reported on Dybala’s recent troubles at Juve, so it makes sense that top clubs could be circling ahead of the summer transfer window.

“The 24-year-old could fit in well in the Premier League, and particularly at a club like City, with Pep Guardiola building a side full of similarly small and technically skilful attacking players.”

Switching focus to the weekend’s Premier League action, the Daily Mail suggest Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez may miss Saturday’s clash, after failing to secure a switch to the Etihad Stadium in January.

According to Laurie Whitwell: “The Algerian did not report for training yesterday and sources believe he plans to remain away for the rest of this week at least.

“Puel is preparing his team for the match at the Etihad without Mahrez in mind and that is expected to remain the case even if the 26-year-old has a change of heart and turns up at Belvoir Drive. The Frenchman usually has his side finalised 48 hours in advance of a game.

“Mahrez has now missed two Premier League matches and four training sessions in trying to force a transfer to City and then becoming disillusioned with its collapse.

“City offered a deal worth £65million but Leicester wanted upwards of £80m and had little time to find and finance a replacement. It is possible Pep Guardiola will sanction a summer bid but it is far from assured, while the prospect of Mahrez playing in front of City’s manager this weekend now appears extremely remote.

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“Leicester officials are attempting to mediate for a return but the former PFA Player of the Year is said to be in a fragile state of mind and the situation is being handled delicately. It is believed the club’s hierarchy may have granted Mahrez time away following deadline day. The PFA have offered their assistance.”

Finally, there’s more praise for City, courtesy of Burnley’s Jack Cork.

As quoted in the Burnley Express, the midfielder declared: “This Manchester City team is the best that I’ve ever faced in the Premier League.

“It seems like in these last couple of seasons that teams are changing. There’s a lot more running and a lot more power, there are more tactical sides than there used to be.

“They were good. When we thought we had them sometimes, we tried to get them in the corners too, and at their keeper, but they managed to get through or were clipping balls in to little spaces that we thought we had covered.

“They’re top quality, they’re a club that’s spent a big amount on players, that’s why they’ve got quality all over the pitch.

“For me this is the best team in the Premier League and the best team that I’ve played against.”

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