Premier League - Paper Round: United target Barcelona star

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has set his sights on a Barcelona star; Danny Welbeck's injury scare could open the door at number 10 to Raheem Sterling; and England have been practising penalties without a goalkeeper to contend with - the main stories making headlines in today's newspapers.

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Premier League - Paper Round: United target Barcelona star
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Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez with team-mate Neymar (AFP)

United eye up Barca ace: Alexis Sanchez has been identified by Louis van Gaal as a summer target for Manchester United, reports the Guardian. The Dutchman is considering a move for the £20m-rated Chilean forward, although his interest is yet to reach an advanced stage. The paper claims that United would offload one of their current attacking players to facilitate the move, with Nani, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Shinji Kagawa, plus possibly the strikers Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck, potentially under threat.

Paper Round's view: Ask any United fan if they would swap any of that first quartet for Sanchez and the answer would most likely be in the affirmative. The Barcelona man is hugely experienced for a 25-year-old and would fit neatly into Van Gaal's football philosophy. Whether he can be prised away from Barcelona remains to be seen. Expect more of this rumour following the meeting between Holland and Chile and after the tournament has finished.

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Sterling set for number 10 role: Raheem Sterling is set to play the number 10 role for England in their opening World Cup match against Italy in Manaus this Saturday. Several papers report that Roy Hodgson is set to hand the role to the Liverpool youngster after looking at him playing through the middle during training on Tuesday, with Wayne Rooney pushed out wide. Danny Welbeck was put on the other flank, and Sterling could start through the middle even if the Manchester United man fails to recover from a knock he picked up during the session.

Paper Round's view: Sterling certainly finished the Premier League season well enough in that role, playing an instrumental part in Liverpool's title challenge. Whether can he take that form onto the biggest stage of all is another matter, although there is a certain sense of having nothing to lose in the England camp. Why not throw him in at the deep end? His inclusion may well throw Italy, whose defenders would certainly be unsettled by his pace. And what are the alternatives? An off-form Rooney and an injured Welbeck? Hodgson may well have already made his mind up.

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Hodgson denies Pirlo jibe: Roy Hodgson has been forced to deny he called Andrea Pirlo a "dickhead" following the Italy midfielder's claims in his recent autobiography. Pirlo wrote that Hodgson used to call him "Pirla", which translates as the derogatory term, when he was his boss at Inter Milan in 1999, reports the Daily Mirror. But Hodgson insists he only ever calls his players by their first names. He said: “I don’t ever remember referring to him as Pirla – I’m a Christian-name person. Maybe they sound similar –but certainly he was anything other than a ‘pirla’!”

Paper Round's view: It does seem difficult to imagine Hodgson lowering himself to call someone such a thing - he just doesn't seem the type to go around calling his players "dickheads". Especially ones as talented as Pirlo. Storm in a teacup.

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England practise penalties the easy way: The Three Lions have been practising penalties without a goalkeeper, reports the Sun. Roy Hodgson is plotting to end England's shocking shoot-out record - which reads at played seven, lost six in major tournaments - with the novel idea. That said though, Hodgson did say the practice sessions were more for the fun of the moment and that his squad would not be practising spot kicks every day.

Paper Round's view: The idea of practising penalties without a keeper isn't a bad one, based on the assumption that a good penalty will go in, regardless of what the keeper does. So if a player can find the top corner from 12 yards, it doesn't matter if there is a keeper standing in the way or not - it's still going in. But, of course, no amount of training can prepare a player for the pressure he feels in a game situation. For that, England's psychologists must earn their bread and butter.

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