Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo picked Real Madrid over Barcelona when presented with an offer ahead of the NBA All-Star Game.

Antetokounmpo will lead Team Giannis against Team LeBron in Chicago on Sunday.

But the reigning NBA MVP faced a different test on Saturday, when he was offered Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts.

"We've got Real Madrid, who's the player though?" Antetokounmpo said, assessing his options.

"I love both of these players, [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, who used to play with Real.

"But I'll probably go with Real. There you go, Real."

Madrid can restore their three-point lead atop LaLiga when they host Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Quique Setien was unimpressed with Getafe's physical approach and referee Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez after Barcelona's 2-1 LaLiga win over Getafe.

Barca moved level on points with leaders Real Madrid, who face Celta Vigo in their game in hand on Sunday, courtesy of first-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto at Camp Nou on Saturday.

The Barca-linked Angel Rodriguez gave Getafe hope when he pulled one back in the second half, but the reigning LaLiga champions were not to be denied all three points.

Head coach Setien felt referee Cuadra Fernandez should have come down harder on what he deemed to be spoiling tactics from Getafe.

Asked what he was saying to the fourth official, Setien said: "I was complaining because many times you risk going out from the back and when you are fouled you have to start over.

"That hurts the pace of the game. I think they have made 30 fouls against 12, and we had one more [yellow] card.

"I think the referee had to be more severe. Sometimes you have no luck."

Setien was not interested in discussing why he did not shake hands with his opposite number Jose Bordalas.

"I want to talk about what happened on the pitch, that is where football is played." he said.

"We were nervous at the start, and Getafe made it very difficult for us with their press."

Hackers targeted LaLiga giants Barcelona and the Olympic Games movement on Saturday as their Twitter accounts were attacked.

The OurMine group posted messages on multiple accounts belonging to Barcelona and the International Olympic Committee.

Barcelona have accounts in several languages and relating to various aspects of the club, including their La Masia youth academy, and all appeared to have been hacked.

The hacking incident came soon after Barca beat Getafe to join Real Madrid on 52 points at the top of LaLiga.

Each account sent out the message: "Hi, we are OurMine. Well, this is the second time, the security level is better but still not the best to improve your accounts security."

The OurMine group previously hacked Barcelona's Twitter in 2017, falsely claiming the club would be signing Angel Di Maria from Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona acknowledged the latest cybersecurity breach after taking back control of their accounts, posting: "FC Barcelona's Twitter accounts have been hacked, which is why messages from outside our club have appeared, and which have been reported and deleted. The tweets were made through a third-party tool for data analytics.

"FC Barcelona will conduct a cybersecurity audit and will review all protocols and links with third party tools, in order to avoid such incidents and to guarantee the best service to our members and fans. We apologise for any inconvenience this situation may have caused."

The Olympic Games accounts were similarly attacked.

Messages from OurMine were posted across its official accounts, including those for the Olympics, Athlete365 and IOC Media, before being deleted.

The hacker group has previously targeted such organisations as WikiLeaks, Real Madrid, the NFL and its teams, Facebook, Instagram and the New York Times.

Jordi Alba appears to be an injury doubt for Barcelona's clash with Real Madrid on March 1 after sustaining a groin problem in the win over Getafe.

Alba - who has endured an injury-hit campaign - went off 22 minutes into Saturday's match at Camp Nou.

He was replaced by Junior Firpo, who played a key part in teeing up Sergi Roberto's strike - a goal which ultimately proved to be the winner for Barca, who had to hold off a second-half fightback from the visitors.

Barca confirmed during the match that Alba had suffered a problem to his right adductor, with tests subsequently confirming the injury.

It is not yet clear how long the 30-year-old will be sidelined for, but it seems his participation in both the Champions League last-16 tie with Napoli and the Clasico are in doubt.

The victory took Quique Setien's side - temporarily at least - level on points with Madrid at the top of LaLiga, with Zinedine Zidane's side not in action until Sunday.

Antoine Griezmann says he is thoroughly enjoying life at Barcelona, even though he is still learning how to play alongside Lionel Messi.

Griezmann ended a five-match scoreless streak in LaLiga with a deft finish to open the scoring in a cagey 2-1 win over Getafe at Camp Nou on Saturday.

The goal was teed up brilliantly by Messi, with Sergi Roberto adding a second for Barca before Angel Rodriguez's goal for Getafe set up a tense finish.

France forward Griezmann missed a great chance to restore Barca's two-goal cushion late on, and acknowledged he is still adapting to playing with Messi.

"We knew how hard Getafe would be to play against," Griezmann said. "They put a lot of pressure on and pressed high. They are third for a reason but we kept cool, tried to play the ball well from the back. It was tough but we suffered and won.

"I've been here six months, we still have to learn. I have to learn [Messi's] movements and he has to learn mine. We're enjoying the work we put in together and it's getting better and better all the time. I'm very happy and really enjoying myself here.

"I missed a chance which I shouldn't have done, it came to my weaker foot but luckily it didn't matter."

Getafe started strong at Camp Nou and thought they had the lead when Allan Nyom prodded in from a corner, but VAR disallowed the goal for a foul on Samuel Umtiti.

The visitors did haul themselves back into the contest when Angel volleyed home in the 66th minute, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen pulling off a fine double save to deny Getafe an equaliser.

Angel has been linked with a move to Barca as the defending champions aim to replace Ousmane Dembele and Nyom is unsure if the striker will be staying with Getafe.

"He's got a lot of quality," Nyom said of the 32-year-old. 

"He's a killer in front of goal and I'm delighted he's with us. I don't know whether he's staying or not."

Antoine Griezmann ended a five-match scoreless streak in LaLiga as Barcelona survived a second-half fightback to claim a 2-1 victory over third-placed Getafe.

Needing a win to put themselves level on points with table-toppers Real Madrid, Quique Setien's side started sluggishly on Saturday and would have gone behind if not for VAR.

Barca made their good fortune count, though, Lionel Messi - on his 350th official appearance at Camp Nou - setting up Griezmann to open the scoring in the 33rd minute.

Sergi Roberto doubled Barca's tally before half-time, but Barca-linked Angel Rodriguez set up a grandstand finish, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen just managing to deny Getafe an equaliser as the champions held on.

Jordi Alba succumbed to a right adductor injury in the 22nd minute, with Junior Firpo introduced, and things looked to have got worse for the hosts when Allan Nyom tucked home from a corner, only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for a foul on Samuel Umtiti.

Marc Cucurella was inches away from putting his parent club behind moments later, yet it was Barca who broke the deadlock when Messi fed a wonderful, disguised pass through to Griezmann, who finished with a sublime flick over David Soria.

It was 2-0 six minutes later - Roberto sending a first-time finish into the bottom-right corner at the culmination of a slick move, and only a fine save from Soria prevented Messi adding a third before half-time.

Angel was brought on shortly after the restart and the change had the desired impact when he volleyed in from the edge of the box.

Ter Stegen denied Jaime Mata a tap-in with 18 minutes remaining and, though Griezmann squandered two great chances, Barca ultimately made their goalkeeper's save count as they claimed the points.

What does it mean? All level at the top

With Madrid not in action until Sunday, Barca are - temporarily at least - level on points with Los Blancos at the top. The rivals go head-to-head at the start of March, in what looks set to be a pivotal clash in the title race.

Angel makes his mark at Camp Nou

Barca seem set to be given dispensation to sign a forward due to the season-ending injury suffered by Ousmane Dembele and Angel is one of the players reportedly high on their list.

If he is indeed to wind up as a Barca player in the coming weeks, the 32-year-old did his chances no harm with an exquisite finish - his 10th league goal of the season.

More injury woe for Alba

It has been an injury hit campaign for Barca full-back Alba and his frustrations continued when he hobbled off midway through the first half and he could well now be a doubt for the Champions League encounter with Napoli on February 25, as well as a crucial Clasico on March 1.

What's next?

Barca are at home again in their next league fixture, against Eibar, while Getafe face Ajax in the Europa League on Thursday.

Barcelona had an approach for Loren Moron rejected as they continue to explore options to ease their injury woes, according to Real Betis coach Rubi.

Barca were dealt a severe blow this week when they confirmed Ousmane Dembele is expected to be out for six months after hamstring surgery.

With Luis Suarez also sidelined, Barca are reported to have been granted special dispensation to sign a replacement, providing the player in question is either a free agent or already based in Spain.

Willian Jose, Angel Rodriguez, Lucas Perez and Loren were said to be their chief targets, though a reported €12million budget limits them significantly.

And Rubi admitted Barca did make an approach for Loren but were unsuccessful, with Betis not willing to let the player go.

"Loren is going to end the season with Betis," Rubi said of the striker who has scored eight LaLiga goals in 22 appearances this term.

"They have asked, but the operation is 99 per cent not done. We don't want him to leave and they have looked at many [players].

"Loren trains just as well as always. This is something that happens in football.

"We couldn't sign another player unless his release clause is paid. Loren's €50million, so 99 per cent it is not done.

"The information I have is that he is [staying] here and that is what we all want."

Loren, 26, was given his league debut for Betis by current Barca coach Quique Setien in February 2018.

Barcelona will not take unnecessary risks with Lionel Messi's fitness, head coach Quique Setien has assured.

Barca are light on options in attack as they battle to defend their LaLiga title, with Luis Suarez set to be sidelined until May following knee surgery, while injury-plagued winger Ousmane Dembele will miss the rest of the campaign after an operation on a torn hamstring this week.

Reports earlier this month suggested Messi was playing through pain but Setien insisted he had no concerns over the six-time Ballon d'Or winner ahead of Saturday's home match against high-flying Getafe.

"Messi, like a lot of other players, knows what he can do and what he can’t do," he told a news conference.

"If he's on the pitch it’s because he's able to be. He's okay, there's no problem.

"Like any other players, there will be a time when we have to rest him. I haven’t spent so much time here to be able to evaluate this.

"These players are so used to playing Sunday to Wednesday for many years that in some cases it is not necessary for them to rest, but we will have a look as it goes on."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga granted Barcelona special dispensation to sign a replacement for Dembele, with Real Sociedad's Willian Jose among those touted as a possible target.

Setien refused to be drawn on links to Loren Moron, who he coached at Real Betis, with his successor at the Seville club, Rubi, saying such a deal is a non-starter.

"What I've done all of my life is adapt to what I have," Setien said. "If a player arrives then that's preferable.

"Dembele’s injury affects us a lot and puts us in a risky situation. In the end, you have to play with 11 men and that's what we're going to do

"We'll adapt. We'll find a solution and the way forward."

An unlikely solution might have already presented itself in Rey Manaj, the 22-year-old forward signed for Barca B from Albacete during the January transfer window.

Albania international Manaj has trained with the first team over recent days and certainly made an impression with Setien.

"We don’t know Rey completely. We haven’t seen everything he can do because he's spent little time here," he added.

"His willingness is extraordinary and if he's here it's because he is going to help us."

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien does not believe Real Madrid should be considered favourites for LaLiga glory this season.

Madrid hold a three-point advantage at the summit over Barca, who have struggled for their best form since Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde last month.

Valverde and Barca won the previous two titles, with the Blaugrana also collecting four of the past five either side of Zinedine Zidane's sole domestic success in 2016-17.

Setien feels the Clasico showdown at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 1 could yet prove to be pivotal.

"Many league titles have been decided on details, in final minutes, in situations that neither of the two teams are able to control," he told a news conference.

"We're just as much favourites as Real Madrid. They have got a three-point advantage but we've got a game there at the Bernabeu and when that moment comes we've got a lot of expectation.

"We know the importance of the game and of course we'll go all out for it."

First, Barca must negotiate a game that might turn a two-way battle into a three-horse race.

Getafe travel to Camp Nou on Saturday sitting third in the table, seven points shy of their hosts but enjoying another exceptional season on the back of a surprise fifth-place finish in 2018-19.

Setien has previously clashed with Jose Bordalas over Getafe's direct style of play and, while he declined to discuss a feuding relationship with his opposite number that dates back to their respective tenures in charge of Segunda Division sides Lugo and Alcorcon, he praised their impressive progress.

"It's clear that we have two different styles. Barca have been playing like this for years, Getafe are playing the way they have been for years," he said.

"The important thing is your plan and way of doing it overcomes the opposition

"We're clear in what we're playing for and how we play. What you have to do, you must to well and I think both of us do that."

On whether Getafe might become a direct rival in LaLiga this term, Setien suggested their forthcoming Europa League obligations – an intriguing last-32 showdown with Ajax – could be a complicating factor.

"The difficult thing for every club is to stay at the top. I don’t know if it's us and Madrid or Getafe [as well], who are on a great run.” said the Barca boss.

"The difficult thing is to keep up that run. There are some difficult games coming up for them in Europe that might take something out of their power in LaLiga.

"Getafe last year stayed up there and this year they're still up there. I don't know if this form is going to be enough to catch us and Real Madrid but we have to consider them rivals."

First Barcelona and now Real Madrid. Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man.

With 16 goals across all competitions for Inter this season, Martinez is attracting plenty of interest following previous links to Manchester United.

Madrid and Barca are set to go head-to-head on and off the pitch.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID JOIN BARCA IN MARTINEZ RACE

Real Madrid want to pay the release clause of Inter star and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Tyc Sports.

Martinez has long been linked with LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

However, Martinez is now firmly on Madrid's radar with a release clause of €115million and Luka Jovic struggling to score regularly behind veteran striker Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN says Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are chasing Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United. The 22-year-old – who is contracted to United until 2022 – has impressed at Bramall Lane and is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester unless he is number one ahead of David de Gea.

Manchester City have joined Madrid, Barca, Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, reports the Manchester Evening News. Pep Guardiola's City are desperate for defensive reinforcements following Vincent Kompany's exit and injury woes.

- According to the Daily Express, Serie A champions Juventus are eying a shock move for Chelsea's Willian, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Remaining in Turin and the Daily Mail claims Juve have entered the chase for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old is also wanted by United and Chelsea.

Tottenham are plotting a double swoop for Norwich City pair Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons, the Express says. It comes as the Daily Mail reports Spurs will sell Eric Dier if he does not sign a new contract.

- Marca says Barca have contacted Levante about Roger Marti but the club have pointed to the striker's release clause. Barca are looking to bring in an emergency forward following Ousmane Dembele's long-term injury. Real Betis' Loren Moron and Lucas Perez of Deportivo Alaves are also reported options.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni believes Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is comfortable at the LaLiga champions.

Messi and his future have been the topics of discussion since the Barca superstar's public row with director of football Eric Abidal.

After Abidal suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking in January, Messi snapped back via social media and it raised doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Scaloni, however, is not concerned about Argentina skipper and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi – who is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season.

"I see him [Messi] fine," Scaloni told reporters. "The other day, against Real Betis, he was the best player in the field without scoring. He gave the assist and participated of every chance.

"He's fine, he's comfortable, he will have to decide on his future but I think he's comfortable."

"I'm not worried at all," Scaloni continued. "He's comfortable, he's comfortable at the national team and at Barcelona. Then what will come will come, I stay out of it."

Argentina finished third at the 2019 Copa America but Scaloni's side have another chance to be crowned South American champions as co-hosts of this year's tournament alongside Colombia.

Messi is still seeking his first senior title with Argentina, who were runners-up at the 2014 World Cup before losing in back-to-back Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016.

"I think the important thing is to try [to win the Copa America], that he knows we'll try and be protagonists," Scaloni added. "He [Messi] is not the only one that wants to win something with the national team, we all want to win, the coach, his teammates, so well, we'll try and let's hope we can make it."

Argentina are in Group A (South Zone) for the 2020 Copa America, along with Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and first-time guests Australia.

La Albiceleste will open the tournament against Chile in Buenos Aires on June 12.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic said he would like to play with Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as doubts remain over his future at Camp Nou.

Rakitic was heavily linked to Serie A duo Juventus and Inter before the transfer window closed, while Premier League giants Manchester United were also reportedly interested.

It came as Rakitic was reportedly offered to Ligue 1's Paris Saint-Germain as part of a deal to prise Neymar back to Camp Nou at the start of the season.

Rakitic continues to be linked with Italian champions Juve and when asked if he would like to play alongside five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, the 31-year-old told Bleacher Report Football: "Of course I would.

"He is also one of the greatest players in history.

"You enjoy watching him play and he's doing well at Juventus."

Rakitic is currently team-mates with Barca captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi and he said: "It's amazing to play with him - he's special. There have been great players in every era, but I'm sure he's been the best in the last 15 years.

"In my opinion, I think he's the best of all time. Being with him for six years has been incredible."

Rakitic previously vented his frustration with how head coach Ernesto Valverde and his staff were treated upon their sacking in January, admitting he considered leaving Barcelona.

"It's a part of football," Rakitic said. "You have to understand that and be ready [to potentially leave] in January.

"You have to be happy, you have to think about your family, and if I play for Barcelona I am happy."

Former Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said he would prefer working in Australia rather than the Premier League.

Valverde was sacked by Barca in January, despite leading the Spanish giants to back-to-back LaLiga titles and Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana success.

Contemplating his next move as Valverde enjoys a break from football, a shock A-League gig is high on the 56-year-old's list.

"People ask me sometimes 'How about the Premier League?' and I say 'Well actually I'd like to go to Australia'," Valverde said.

"A career in football does not last forever and sometimes you think you have to take the opportunity to live in strange places."

Valverde referenced former Barca captain Andres Iniesta, who left Camp Nou for Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018.

"I applauded Andres when he told me he's going to Japan," added Valverde. I thought 'Wow, he gets to understand a different culture and different people', and I am also very interested in Japan.

"You can take great photos in Japan. There are many places I'd like to go to. We'll see what I end up doing, I haven't been out of work for very long so I don't have to decide anything yet, I haven't got a very clear idea at the moment.

"It's possible I'd go somewhere abroad. The truth is I like to do strange things so I wouldn't rule it out."

Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is currently in charge of A-League outfit Brisbane Roar, while former Reds and Bayern Munich star Markus Babbel was working in Australia until he was sacked by Western Sydney Wanderers last month.

Ernesto Valverde is reluctant to consider whether he was harshly treated at Barcelona following his Camp Nou sacking in January.

The former Athletic Bilbao coach had been in charge of Barca since May 2017, winning LaLiga in each of his two full seasons, also claiming the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana in 2018.

But the Blaugrana's Champions League humblings at the hands of Roma and Liverpool in consecutive campaigns, collapsing from healthy first-leg leads on both occasions, increased pressure on Valverde.

A Supercopa semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid ultimately spelled the end for Valverde, yet he is choosing not to spend too much time reflecting on his departure.

"I don't think about that," Valverde said at the Bilbao International Football Summit. "If I have been unfairly treated, I have to avoid it.

"It's about turning the page. In the end, we are thinking about what has happened and why. We're going to look forward, I don't have to look back."

Sporting director Eric Abidal sparked a row with Lionel Messi and chaos at Camp Nou last week as he suggested Barcelona players were not working hard enough for Valverde before the head coach's exit.

But Valverde would not speculate on the matter, adding: "Why did I leave? It is not a question for me.

"This is a part of our trade that you have to accept. Would I like it to be different? Yes, of course."

Valverde, who also represented Barcelona as a player, acknowledged he was well aware of the scrutiny he would face at the Catalan club upon his arrival.

"I was incredibly fortunate to coach Barca," he said. "I have been there as a player. I know what it means when you go to a club of this calibre. I am delighted to have been there.

"When you sign the contract, you know that you are important at the club and, from there, decide the results. We know that the coach is responsible for the players' performances."

Barcelona are three points behind rivals and LaLiga leaders Real Madrid under new coach Quique Setien, while they face Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League later this month.

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