Ousmane Dembele's latest injury lay-off has affected the player and represents a "big loss" for Barcelona, according to head coach Ernesto Valverde.

The 22-year-old injured his right hamstring in the first half of Barca's 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined until February.

It is the latest in a string of fitness issues Dembele has suffered since his €105million transfer from Dortmund in August 2017, including three thigh problems, two damaged hamstrings and an ankle sprain.

Valverde is unsure why the France international has been regularly struck down by injuries over the past few seasons and wants others to fill the void.

"I'm not a specialist in muscle fibres," he said at Saturday's news conference. "I say that everything comes from the first injury. I do not have a concrete idea [of why he picks up these injuries]. He is a very explosive player.

"I've talked to him. Now he is calmer after the injury, but he was very affected especially by the repetition [of a muscular injury]. We'll try to cover for the loss with players from the B team, who are responding by playing at a good level.

"It's clear that when he arrived here two years ago, he had to get used to our style and fit in here. It is true that he was improving, being calm, training well. He is a big loss and it's an unexpected setback."

Dembele will be unavailable during a tricky run of fixtures for LaLiga's champions, who face Atletico Madrid on Sunday before matches against Mallorca, Inter, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.

Barca have come from behind to draw 1-1 on their previous two trips to Wanda Metropolitano and Valverde expects another tough test this weekend.

"In both games we fell behind and we had to come back, but they followed a very similar pattern," he said on the eve of the match. 

"We took the initiative, but they hurt us by attacking us. It is possible that it will become like this or that there is some modification tomorrow. They are good in attack and strong in defence, very cohesive. It'll be an attractive match.

"Any match at Atletico's ground is important for everyone. It is one of the important matches for everyone and we have to play well."

Arturo Vidal is expected to be part of Barcelona's travelling squad, despite suggesting this week that he will force through a move next year if he is not given more playing time.

Valverde does not believe the Chile international is pressuring him into getting more minutes, however, adding: "I don't think so. It's more a personal reflection. The transfer market isn't open yet, so when it starts we'll see.

"He fitted in well from the beginning. When he arrived he already knew that he was coming to a team that had won the league and cup.

"He found his place. The great players want to play, there is a lot of competition, but I reiterate that the market has not opened yet."

Diego Simeone has challenged his side to be more aggressive at both ends of the pitch when Barcelona visit the Wanda Metropolitano.

While the Rojiblancos have been typically dogged at the back so far this campaign, conceding just nine goals in 14 games, they have struggled badly in front of goal.

They drew another blank in their 1-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus in midweek and are the least prolific of all bar one team among LaLiga's top 13 sides.

Simeone was happy with this team's display in Turin and wants to see a similar approach against Ernesto Valverde's side, albeit with added intensity in both penalty areas.

"We want to score more goals and be more aggressive in both penalty areas, which is where the games are resolved," he told a media conference.

"We work to compete in the best way and we want to win the match. We played well in Turin and hopefully we will do the same but with a different result."

Atleti have come in for criticism this season after winning just six of their opening 14 LaLiga games.

Simeone has pointed to a number of injuries to key players, though, and says he is broadly happy with how his side have done in the opening months of the campaign.

"I am clear about the goals for the club and what the club needs to achieve them," he added. 

"We have had to play without Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez and Diego Costa. These are situations that one cannot imagine at the start of the season, although it can happen.

"The team is competing well and I hope I can have a game like in Turin, but with another result."

Kieran Trippier expects Mauricio Pochettino to bounce back from his Tottenham sacking and prove a success wherever he goes.

The Premier League side dismissed their long-serving manager this month and immediately replaced him with Jose Mourinho.

Pochettino spent just over five seasons in charge and led the club to a maiden Champions League final in June.

Arsenal and Bayern Munich have since been linked with the Argentinian and former Spurs defender Trippier is certain his old boss will make the most of his next job.

He told The Athletic: "I've got a lot of mates at Tottenham – players and staff. It wasn't nice to see what they went through, not getting the results they wanted. It wasn't nice to see them getting criticised.

"Now a new manager has come in and hopefully they'll get the results they want and push further up the table, where they deserve to be, but everyone knows how good [Pochettino] is as a manager.

"For sure he will be successful wherever he goes in the future.

"Obviously it was the chairman's decision to let the manager go. That's football. It happens. Players go, managers go."

Trippier's endorsement of Pochettino follows an awkward separation between player and manager in July.

The England international left for LaLiga side Atletico Madrid after failing to gain reassurances over his future in north London.

Asked if he had reached out to Pochettino, Trippier replied: "Yes, I sent him a message to tell him how much I appreciate everything he has done for me.

"I couldn't not text him. I'm not that type of person. He gave me the opportunity to play at the highest level.

"I've come on a long journey in my career and he was a big, big part of that, so I thanked him for everything he has done for me."

The right-back added: "He was a big reason why I got called up to the England squad because he was the one who gave me the opportunity to show I could play at the highest level.

"I've got full respect for him and for what he did to help me get to where I am now."

Jadon Sancho looks set to leave Borussia Dortmund sooner rather than later.

Sancho has established himself as one of the best young players in Europe since leaving Manchester City for Dortmund in 2017.

However, the 19-year-old's stay in Germany appears to be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND READY TO PART WITH SANCHO

Dortmund are ready to do business and sell in-demand star Sancho, according to the Independent.

The teenager is wanted by Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona after starring since arriving in the Bundesliga.

But Dortmund are willing to let the England international leave as soon as January due to a breakdown in relationships.

The winger was benched for the midweek Champions League defeat at Barcelona, having felt humiliated by his first-half withdrawal in the Klassiker rout to Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Nazione says Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool are interested in Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa. The 22-year-old has sparkled in Florence, leading to links with Serie A champions Juventus and Inter.

- Could Everton be set for a South American triple swoop? According to the Liverpool Echo, the Merseyside club are keen on signing Inter forward Gabriel Barbosa – on loan at Flamengo – and River Plate's Rafael Santos Borre. It comes as the Toffees have reportedly identified Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus as a possible candidate to succeed Marco Silva following his Copa Libertadores and domestic success.

- Marca claims James Rodriguez has turned down a move to Arsenal. According to reports in England, the Gunners want James in January. However, the Madrid playmaker wants to stay in the Spanish capital.

- High-flying Inter are eager to sign Atalanta full-back Robin Gosens, reports Calciomercato.

Milan are targeting Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. The Turkey international has struggled for game time following his arrival in Turin this season.

- As Flamengo struggle to secure a permanent deal for loan star Barbosa, Goal says the Copa Libertadores champions are in talks to sign Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

Manchester City have set their sights on Brescia and Italy sensation Sandro Tonali, says Fichajes. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from all over Europe.

Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix has been voted the world's best under-21 player after winning the 2019 Golden Boy award, beating Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.

Portugal international Joao Felix broke into the Benfica first-team last season and swiftly became a fixture in the side, impressing with his athleticism, ability on the ball and strong finishing skills, earning comparisons with Brazil and Milan great Kaka.

He finished the 2018-19 season with 15 Primeira Liga goals from just 21 starts and featured for Portugal in their Nations League triumph.

Joao Felix's form understandably led to transfer speculation and, although several of Europe's biggest clubs were said to be interested, Atletico got a €126million deal over the line in July as they identified him as their ideal replacement for Antoine Griezmann.

Although the attacker is yet to light up LaLiga having scored two goals and set up one more in 10 appearances, a panel of 40 journalists voted Joao Felix as the winner of the Tuttosport award, making him the first Atletico player since Sergio Aguero in 2007 to take the gong home.

Joao Felix highlighted the impact of Benfica coach Bruno Lage in his acceptance speech.

He told the Italian publication: "Thanks to Tuttosport for the Golden Boy Award 2019, I am very proud.

"It is the second time that a player from Atletico Madrid has won this award and I am happy.

"Thanks also to Benfica, in particular to coach Bruno Lage, for all he has done for me and my family."

Joao Felix received 332 voting points to take the crown, with England talent Sancho finishing runner-up with 175 marks despite arguably having a more consistent year. Kai Havertz was third with 75.

The 20-year-old award winner - who returned to action on Saturday after a month out injured - follows Matthijs de Ligt, Kylian Mbappe and compatriot Renato Sanches in being named the Golden Boy.

Real Madrid still have work to do in their bid to reach the last 16 of the Champions League as they prepare for the visit of Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG are already through to the knockout stages and opponents Madrid can join them with victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

On-loan striker Mauro Icardi has been in inspired form for the French champions since joining from Inter, scoring 10 times in 11 appearances.

The 26-year-old failed to register in the reverse fixture at the Parc des Princes – a 3-0 win for PSG in September – but he can make some history should he score on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, victory for Atletico Madrid away to Juventus will make certain of a last-16 spot with a game to spare, while Jose Mourinho takes charge of Tottenham in the Champions League for the first time as they welcome Olympiacos to north London.

Here is the pick of the key Opta facts for Tuesday's eight matches.

Galatasaray v Club Brugge

0 - Galatasaray are the only team in this season's Champions League yet to score. There have been six previous occasions in which a team have failed to score in their opening five games, including the Turkish side in the 1993-94 season.

1 - Club Brugge have won just one of their last 18 Champions League games, with that victory coming away at Monaco in November 2018.

Lokomotiv Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen

8 - Since the start of last season, no side have lost more Champions League matches than Lokomotiv.

4 - Leverkusen are without a win in their last four away games in the Champions League, failing to score in their past three outings – the German club's longest-such run in the competition.

Atalanta v Dinamo Zagreb

11 - Only Genk (12) have conceded more goals in open play in this season's Champions League than Atalanta (11).

36 - Dinamo have had the joint-fewest shots of any team in the Champions League this season, level with Galatasaray. They have the best conversion rate of any team, however, scoring with nine of those 36 shots (25 per cent).

Red Star Belgrade v Bayern Munich

11 - Bayern are enjoying their longest ever unbeaten run away from home in the European Cup/Champions League, going 11 matches since last tasting defeat.

7 - Red Star have lost seven of their first 10 Champions League games. Only four teams have lost more in their opening 10 matches - Sturm Graz, Rapid Vienna, Malmo, Maccabi Tel Aviv (eight defeats each).

Juventus v Atletico Madrid

25 - Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 25 goals against Atletico in all competitions - only versus Sevilla (27) has he netted more.

2009 - Atletico, beaten 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen last time out, have not lost consecutive away games in the group stage of UEFA's showpiece competition since October 2009 when losing to Porto and Chelsea.

Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk

6 - City have won their last six home Champions League matches - the longest current run of any side. The last English team to have a longer run were Chelsea, with seven in a row at Stamford Bridge between March 2008 and February 2009.

0 - Shakhtar have lost on both of their visits to the Etihad Stadium, conceding eight goals without replay. The Ukrainian club have never lost each of their first three away games against a single team in the competition. 

Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain

8 - Madrid have won eight and lost none of their 11 Champions League home games against French opposition, winning the last five such matches in a row by an aggregate score of 15-1.

5 - PSG striker Icardi has scored against five of the six teams he has faced in the competition, the exception being Madrid (one game).  No player has ever faced as many as six teams and scored against every opponent, with the record currently held Milinko Pantic, who scored against all four opponents in 1996-97 for Atletico.

Tottenham v Olympiacos

0 - Tottenham have never drawn a Champions League group match on home soil, winning 10 and losing four.

8 - Olympiacos have lost their last six away matches in the competition. Not since between September 2001 and December 2003 have they endured a longer wait for victory on their travels.

Matthijs de Ligt is a doubt for Juventus' clash with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League after suffering a dislocated shoulder in Saturday's 3-1 win over Atalanta.

Team-mate Douglas Costa will be sidelined for the Atletico game because of a thigh strain, Juventus indicated.

Victory in Bergamo was the Bianconeri's fifth in a row in all competitions and they are top of Serie A, one point clear of Inter, but the loss of De Ligt on top of Costa's absence would be a blow to head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Centre-back De Ligt has started 10 of 13 domestic league games this season, with Giorgio Chiellini's knee injury thrusting the €75million signing from Ajax into the spotlight.

Sarri will also monitor the fitness of forward Federico Bernardeschi, who was replaced after 26 minutes against Atalanta having suffered a bruised chest.

A statement on the official Juventus website said: "Following diagnostic tests carried out this morning ... it emerged that Matthjis de Ligt suffered a dislocated right shoulder in yesterday's match and has now began the appropriate therapies and recovery.

"Therapy and recovery also for Federico Bernardeschi, who suffered a bruise to the right hemithorax.

"Douglas Costa suffered a low-grade lesion of the semitendinosus muscle of the right thigh and has started rehabilitation treatment."

Juventus said that in winger Costa's case, it would take around 15 days for him to fully recover.

Diego Simeone felt Atletico Madrid played perhaps their best game of the season in Saturday's 1-1 LaLiga draw with Granada.

Renan Lodi opened the scoring at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes after an hour only for German Sanchez to equalise seven minutes later.

The draw was Atleti's seventh in their past 10 LaLiga matches and leaves them three points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table, having played a game more.

Simeone was happy with the performance, though, blaming Atletico's failure to hold on for a win on a "careless moment" that allowed Sanchez to head in from a corner.

"This was our best performance of those away from home and also possibly of those at home too," the coach told reporters.

"We were very consistent, especially in the first 30 minutes. Granada didn't get close to our penalty area.

"We played a quite complete match, but we had a careless moment in the goal we conceded. But the team didn't give up."

Joao Felix was fit enough only to appear as a second-half substitute, having been struggling with an ankle injury since last month.

Simeone insists the 20-year-old must be given time to regain full fitness before he can be expected to make a significant impact.

"I act as a result of what I see in training," he said. "He has to keep picking up the pace.

"He has great quality and talent and when he is fully fit he will contribute."

Atletico Madrid lost ground on LaLiga leaders Barcelona as German Sanchez's header saw Granada, who had coach Diego Martinez sent off, fight back to claim a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Renan Lodi's first Atleti goal had put Diego Simeone's side ahead an hour in at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes, sparking into life what had previously been a drab encounter.

Jan Oblak was called into action to deny Granada an opener midway through the first half, but - after the home team's coach received his marching orders - Atleti's goalkeeper could do little to prevent German finding the net.

With Barca rallying to beat Leganes earlier on Saturday, Atletico needed a victory to remain within a point of the Blaugrana, yet two missed chances from Alvaro Morata was the closest they came to claiming the spoils.

Angel Correa was inches away from nudging Atleti ahead in the third minute but could not stretch far enough to connect with Vitolo's deflected shot across the face of goal.

It took Granada 27 minutes to test Oblak, though the visiting keeper had to react sharply to get down to Antonio Puertas' effort.

Vitolo and Correa combined after the restart, only for the latter to pull a first-time shot wide. Left-back Lodi - who has made a fine start to life at Atleti - made no mistake, however, keeping his cool to slot under goalkeeper Rui Silva.

Maxime Gonalons received a booking for his part in a tussle with Morata soon after, with Martinez then sent to the stands.

However, Granada used their frustrations to spur them on, German getting the better of Kieran Trippier to nod in from Angel Montoro's corner.

Morata failed to keep a header from six yards out on target and the former Chelsea striker then blazed over from Lodi's cutback, while substitute Dario Poveda failed to tuck home amid a goalmouth scramble as Atleti were held to a seventh league draw of the campaign.

Joao Felix has been passed fit for Atletico Madrid's LaLiga trip to Granada on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Portugal forward missed six matches after suffering right ankle ligament damage during last month's 1-1 draw against Valencia.

Club-record signing Joao Felix's return comes as a boost to head coach Diego Simeone, who learned this week he will be without Diego Costa until the new year.

The former Chelsea striker underwent neck surgery on a herniated disk and, although Joao Felix adds welcome creativity to the Atleti attack, Simeone pointed out he cannot directly solve his Costa problem.

"No, he is not a forward in that sector," Simeone told a news conference, before informing reporters youngsters Ivan Saponjic and Dario Poveda would be providing cover for first-choice striker Alvaro Morata.

"With Saponjic, we have been telling him what he needs to get close to being able to compete with us."

Atleti president Enrique Cerezo said before Costa's operation there were no plans to bring in another striker in January and Simeone is seemingly content to work with what he has, while acknowledging Atleti might look to capitalise upon any opportunities thrown up when the market opens.

"I think about reality and that is that we have Alvaro, Dario and that we have to improve Ivan," he said.

"We trust Dario who can use that space to grow, he is only 20 years old [22], good height, good in the air.

"Both in the winter and summer markets you always have to be open to everything because everything can happen. The representatives do their job well and maybe there can always be some player who wants to go, another one who wants to come.

"In the middle of the season, the loss of Costa is important for his personality and what he conveyed in the locker room.

"He was not at his best, but he was there. His place will be covered by Dario, [Rodrigo] Riquelme and Saponjic if he manages to approach what we need."

Third-placed Atletico are a point behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in LaLiga, having played a game more than the leaders, and Simeone also has selection concerns in midfield.

Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey will both sit out the trip to Los Carmenes due to already amassing five LaLiga yellow cards this season.

"Both Thomas and Saul are out and give way to Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera, to follow the line that the team has been taking," Simeone added, before noting the match as a particular opportunity for Llorente, a close-season acquisition from Real Madrid.

"For Marcos it is an important game. He is not having the chance to play because the Thomas, Saul and Koke are doing very well.

"He has worked very well and for sure he will play a game as a result of how he has worked."

Are we about to see a Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic reunion?

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic worked together at Inter, before the Portuguese manager brought the Swedish star to Manchester United in 2016.

Now, new Tottenham boss Mourinho is reportedly eyeing the 38-year-old striker.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO TARGETING IBRA

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho is poised to make a move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to the Telegraph.

Ibrahimovic is on the lookout for a new club after opting to leave MLS outfit LA Galaxy following two seasons in the United States.

The 38-year-old has been linked to AC Milan, Bologna, Napoli, Manchester United and Australian team Perth Glory; however, Mourinho reportedly wants to reunite with Ibrahimovic at Tottenham.

 

ROUND-UP

- Spanish newspaper Sport reports a close friend of Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus predicting he will get the Barcelona job if his side win Saturday's Copa Libertadores final against River Plate, who are led by another reputed Catalan target in Marcelo Gallardo. Ernesto Valverde is under pressure at the LaLiga champions.

Real Madrid are set to open talks with star striker Karim Benzema over a new contract, Marca reports. The 31-year-old's current deal expires in 2021.

- Out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is wanted by LaLiga's Atletico Madrid, according to ESPN FC. Matic has struggled for game time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with AC Milan and Inter also interested.

- With Tottenham reportedly looking to hijack AC Milan's pursuit of Ibrahimovic, Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are rivalling Inter and Borussia Dortmund for Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud.

- The Daily Mail reports that Leicester City have opened talks with James Maddison over a new contract. The 22-year-old England international has been heavily linked to Manchester United.

- Partizan Belgrade sensation Strahinja Pavlovic is on the verge of joining Ligue 1 outfit Monaco. Sportski Zurnal says the 18-year-old defender has undergone a medical ahead of a €10million transfer plus add-ons.

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is set for a spell on the sidelines after undergoing neck surgery.

In a statement issued on their official website, Atleti confirmed Costa had an operation on his herniated cervical disc on Thursday.

The procedure was successful but normally requires a recovery time of two to three months.

Speaking earlier this week, Atletico president Enrique Cerezo insisted there were no plans to sign a January replacement for Costa in the event of surgery.

"No, because we already tried to sign [a striker] at the beginning of the season and you know that you have to sell someone to be able to buy someone," he told AS, citing his club's salary limit.

"So, I don't know. In principle, no. We have a fantastic team and fantastic strikers who score many goals."

Record signing Joao Felix is in line to boost Diego Simeone's attack by returning from a sprained ankle when Atletico visit Granada in LaLiga on Saturday.

Like Costa, the Portugal forward has only two top-flight goals to his name this term. Alvaro Morata leads the way with five for a team that have 15 goals in 13 LaLiga outings so far

Atleti are third in the table, a point behind Barcelona and Real Madrid having played a game more.

The RFEF's Technical Committee of Referees is making changes for the Supercopa de Espana, introducing goal-line technology for the first time while improving communication for VAR decisions.

A revamped Supercopa will take place in Saudi Arabia in January, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia involved.

For the first time in Spanish football, goal-line technology will be implemented in order to aid officials, with previous such calls made with the help of the VAR.

Referees chief Carlos Velasco Carballo explained on Wednesday: "The system consists of 14 cameras on the pitch. A high resolution camera will be on the goal line.

"This system is connected to the referees and, in less than a second, you hear the word 'goal' three times and the watch will vibrates to indicate the goal.

"It's historic in Spanish football."

The use of VAR in the first part of the LaLiga season was also discussed, with Velasco Carballo revealing the system had corrected 19 of 23 officiating errors.

Criticism of VAR has often come from the way calls are communicated to supporters within the stadium, but Velasco Carballo has outlined plans to improve this problem for the Supercopa.

A "Vardict" system on screens aims to ensure fans are kept up to date.

He said: "It will serve to communicate the decisions to the spectators in the stadium, a fundamental aspect in the success of the VAR. They will have the same information as the spectators watching on television."

Stefan Savic has suffered a setback as he bids to return from a hamstring injury.

The Atletico Madrid centre-back has been out of action since Montenegro's 0-0 draw against Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying on October 11.

Atleti announced Savic, who was substituted after 39 minutes of that match, had suffered a hamstring issue but did not offer an estimated recovery time.

And the club announced on Wednesday the defender "suffered a relapse of the grade II injury".

Savic has undergone tests and, according to Atleti's short statement, "is pending response to treatment".

Manchester City are going to great lengths to keep Raheem Sterling.

Though contracted until 2023, the England international's exceptional form has led to links with Real Madrid.

But it could earn him a fresh extension to his bumper deal at the Etihad Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SEEK STERLING INSURANCE

Premier League champions City have opened contract talks with star forward Sterling, according to the Mirror.

The 24-year-old agreed a new three-year extension a mere 12 months ago but City are taking no chances with his future amid rumours of interest from LaLiga giants Madrid.

Sterling has scored 14 goals in 17 club appearances this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus are preparing a €100million offer for Valencia winger Ferran Torres, who has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Bayern Munich are interested in Tottenham teenager Troy Parrott and Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports the Daily Mail. Parrott, 17, has caught the eye, while Henderson is on loan at Sheffield United.

- Napoli have offered Fabian Ruiz a contract extension through to 2025, claims Mundo Deportivo. Barcelona and Madrid are rumoured to want the Spain international midfielder.

- According to reports in Spain, Athletic Bilbao want to re-sign Javi Martinez from Bayern Munich. Martinez left the Basque club for Bayern in 2012.

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