Ibrahima Konate was left lost for words after making his first Anfield appearance for Liverpool in Monday's pre-season win over Osasuna.

The centre-back, signed for a fee in the region of £36million (€42.5m) from RB Leipzig, started the 3-1 friendly victory and played 80 minutes in front of a crowd of around 40,000.

The 22-year-old now cannot wait to experience a competitive game on Merseyside, with the Reds' first home game of the 2021-22 season coming against Burnley on August 21.

"To be honest, I don't have the words to explain my feelings when I put my first foot on the pitch," he told Liverpool's website. "It's amazing and I'm very happy to have my first game at Anfield with fans.

"Today was amazing. I cannot imagine the stadium in the Premier League or Champions League."

Liverpool were comfortable winners against the LaLiga side, Roberto Firmino scoring twice after Takumi Minamino broke the deadlock with a deflected strike.

Jurgen Klopp's men are looking in good form ahead of their season opener away to Norwich City on Saturday.

"I think we did a very good game together and this is the most important [thing]. I am happy about my performance," said Konate.

"It was the last friendly game, the last game of the pre-season – now the Premier League will start [on] Saturday and I am very excited for this moment.

"We were together for four weeks [in pre-season]; it was a little bit hard because we were in the hotel, but it was very good because we had a very good atmosphere with the team.

"Now I hope we are ready for the Premier League and the season."

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage in the 1-1 pre-season friendly draw with Athletic Bilbao.

The Scotland international limped off after attempting to block a cross and was replaced at half-time by Owen Beck.

Manager Jurgen Klopp said further tests were required to determine the level of damage, casting doubt on Robertson's availability for Liverpool's opening game of the Premier League season away to Norwich City on August 14.

Ahead of Monday's friendly with Osasuna, the Reds' final warm-up game before the 2021-22 season, Robertson said via Twitter that he expected to be sidelined for a time.

"Thanks to everyone for the kind messages and support," he wrote. "Scan suggests nothing too major but there's some ligament damage which will need to mend.

"I will be grafting every day so I can help the team again sooner rather than later. Good luck to the boys playing tonight."

Sergio Busquets insists Barcelona are "looking to compete on all fronts" despite club legend Lionel Messi departing.

Messi was expected to sign a new contract but financial complications at Barca left the forward no option but to leave, with Busquets now assuming the captaincy role.

Prior to Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy clash, the 33-year-old took the opportunity to reassure the Blaugrana faithful who were rocked by the news of Messi's departure on Thursday, with the Argentina international set to join Paris Saint-Germain.

"We'll do it with you [the fans]," Busquets said at the Estadi Johan Cruyff. "We need you more than ever. We need your help, your support, and we're sure you'll give it to us."

Busquets, who led the tackles and interceptions charts at Barca last term while also completing the second most passes, joins an illustrious group of players to have captained the Catalan club.

Carles Puyol, Xavi and Messi all came before the midfielder and Busquets acknowledged he must now "meet the standards" set by those club legends in a role which he is "very proud" to take.

Having made his debut four years after the Argentina captain, the Spain midfielder was also quick to pay tribute to his former team-mate, with whom he enjoyed a 14-year spell with.

"I want to give a special mention to Leo," Busquets continued. "Thank you, Leo, for taking Barca to the very pinnacle; for making history while being the best player in the world, and for beating all the individual and collective records [imaginable].

"We will always be very grateful for everything you have done. We will miss you and we wish you all the best."

While Messi, who netted 672 times in 778 appearances for the Spanish giants, edges closer to joining PSG, Barca begin their LaLiga campaign against Real Sociedad on August 15 as they begin the post-Messi era.

Jurgen Klopp could still add to his squad before the transfer window closes but insists Liverpool benefit from some advantages that money simply cannot buy.

The Reds have added Ibrahima Konate during the offseason, the centre-back joining from RB Leipzig to provide further competition at a position decimated by injuries last term.

There has been speculation Liverpool could look to add a midfielder, too – Florian Neuhaus and Saul Niguez are two names to be linked – while there are rumours of potential departures to reduce numbers.

However, other top-flight clubs have been busy, too. Both Manchester City and Manchester United have completed big-name signings, while Chelsea are reportedly close to completing a deal to get Romelu Lukaku from Inter.

Klopp made clear after the 1-1 pre-season friendly draw with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday that further arrivals could be possible at Anfield, albeit the club has intangibles that can help them compete with their rivals.

"I'm very happy with the squad," Klopp said.

"That doesn't mean we don't look at the market. But as long as nothing happens, I'm more than happy with the squad I have, more than happy with the players I have.

"We have so many things which you can't sign: you cannot sign pressing, you cannot sign counter-pressing, you cannot sign atmosphere, you cannot sign togetherness, you can't sign the atmosphere we can create in the stadium, you can't sign Anfield, you can't sign our anthem, you can't sign a lot of things. And that's what we have to use, obviously.

"There are different approaches obviously out there and we have no influence on that. Our situation is like it is.

"We have a big squad and there might still be something happen until the end of the transfer window, but I can't say anything about that in the moment."

Klopp may have found an added dimension to his midfield from within: Harvey Elliott has done well in a central role during pre-season, the teenager taking his chance to impress after a hugely successful spell out on loan at Championship club Blackburn Rovers.

For the Liverpool boss, flexibility is key as he aims to get them challenging for the championship again.

On the possible role for Elliott, Klopp told the club's official website: "He can play different positions, there's absolutely no doubt about it.

"But in the pre-season, we wanted to see him just in a deeper role because for a young player you have to learn a lot of things when you are a bit more outside and you get the ball from time to time.

"We wanted to have him more involved. And I think he made a big step in this pre-season. If Harvey stays fit, then the football world can be really excited about that."

Liverpool's final friendly fixture sees them take on Osasuna at Anfield on Monday.

Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson will have scans on an ankle injury described by manager Jurgen Klopp as "pretty painful".

Robertson was hurt during Sunday's 1-1 friendly draw between the Reds and Athletic Bilbao at Anfield.

The Scotland international limped off after attempting to block a cross and was replaced at half-time by Owen Beck.

Klopp said further tests are required to determine the level of damage, casting doubt on Robertson's availability for Liverpool's opening game of the Premier League season away to Norwich City on August 14.

"We obviously don't know in the moment how serious it is," Klopp said. 

"It was pretty painful and that's why Andy went off. You probably saw it on the TV pictures better than we did, but he got the ball, the ball on the front of his foot, [and] twisted the ankle.

"The pain settled already, but we cannot say anything further without further assessment tomorrow [Monday]. He has to get a scan and then we will know more."

Diogo Jota scored Liverpool's opener on Sunday before Alex Berenguer levelled early in the second half in front of a crowd of close to 40,000.

There was a warm reception from the home fans for Virgil van Dijk, who played 72 minutes on home turf for the first time in over 10 months, having missed the majority of last season with a knee injury.

Liverpool face Osasuna on Monday in their final pre-season friendly before the 2021-22 season gets underway.

Gareth Bale was denied from the penalty spot as Real Madrid rounded off their pre-season preparations with a goalless draw against Milan in Austria.

Handed a start by the returning ex-Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti, Bale was making his first appearance for Madrid in over a year after spending last season on loan at Tottenham.

But the Wales international could not mark the occasion with a goal, Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan guessing correctly to save his 41st-minute penalty at the Worthersee Stadion.

Maignan, who arrived from Ligue 1 champions Lille last month, is expected to start the season as Milan number one following Gianluigi Donnarumma's departure for Paris Saint-Germain.

The France international would have certainly impressed Stefano Pioli with his smart saves to deny Bale and David Alaba from distance.

He then went the right way to keep out Bale from 12 yards when the forward was brought down by Davide Calabria after a surging run into the box.

The breakthrough continued to elude both sides after the break, Luka Modric going close as he rattled the crossbar from 25 yards, while Brahim Diaz stung Andriy Lunin's palms at the other end.

Madrid launch their LaLiga season away at Deportivo Alaves on August 14, the same day that Milan complete their preparations for the forthcoming Serie A campaign against Panathinaikos.

Brendan Rodgers is confident James Maddison will remain a Leicester City player, despite speculation linking him with Arsenal.

Having already brought in Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga, Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in the Leicester midfielder, though Rodgers dismissed those reports on Thursday.

Leicester, who are preparing for the Community Shield on Saturday, won the FA Cup last season before falling at the final hurdle for Champions League qualification, with Maddison playing an integral role.

"Yes, I believe so," Rodgers said when asked whether Maddison would remain at the King Power Stadium. "I haven't been told anything to say he won't be.

"He's happy in training, he's working very hard and he's just recently become a father so he has responsibility off the pitch as well.

"There's obviously gossip and speculation that goes around, especially this time of year, but James is a very important member of our squad.

"He's a very talented player. His season was disrupted last year by injury but hopefully this season he can go and show what a top player he is.”

Maddison, whose 13 goal involvements in 31 games last term represented his best return in the Premier League, led Leicester's charts for chances created with 51, despite playing seven games fewer than second-placed Youri Tielemans.

The England midfielder's 788 passes inside the opposition half were the second most among Rodgers' players, yet Maddison still ranked fourth with 81.22 per cent of those balls finding a team-mate.

While Rodgers will have reason to celebrate if he can keep a hold of playmaker Maddison, Wednesday's friendly against Villarreal led to concerning issues at the back.

Wesley Fofana, who was just one of two defenders to attempt at least 50 tackles, make 50 interceptions and produce 50 headed clearances last season, suffered a broken leg against the LaLiga outfit, leaving Leicester short for centre-backs.

Rodgers admitted he was "not overly happy with the way the game was officiated" and concluded it was "disappointing for something like that to happen in a pre-season friendly".

Already without the injured Jonny Evans, Leicester have just Caglar Soyuncu left as a first-choice centre-half and could be forced to push Wilfred Ndidi back into defence for Saturday's clash with Manchester City.

Rodgers now faces a race against the clock to fill the defensive void as he noted the shock 2015-16 Premier League winners are "definitely light in that area."

Wesley Fofana suffered a potentially serious injury on Wednesday as he left the pitch on a stretcher during Leicester City's pre-season friendly against Villarreal.

The defender was carrying the ball forward when he was caught by a lunging slide tackle from behind by Fernando Nino, forcing the Frenchman off injured on the hour-mark at the King Power Stadium.

Paramedics and Leicester's physios immediately rushed on to tend to Fofana before carrying him off on a stretcher and Brendan Rodgers was visibly frustrated with both the Villarreal dugout and players on the pitch.

The details of his injury remain unclear but it potentially leaves Leicester, who are already without the injured Jonny Evans, another defender short just 10 days before the Premier League campaign begins.

Having joined from Saint-Etienne in September 2020, Fofana impressed in his debut season as he made 28 appearances for Rodgers' men, who missed out on Champions League football at the final hurdle.

Despite missing 10 top-flight fixtures, Fofana ranked third for the Foxes in terms of duels won (183), second for aerial success (91) and joint-first for interceptions with Wilfried Ndidi (61 each).

Leicester were leading 3-0 at the time, though only finished as 3-2 winners over Villarreal, with the La Liga outfit pulling back two late goals.

The Foxes, who won the FA Cup against Chelsea last term, have now completed their final pre-season game and next face Manchester City in the Community Shield on Saturday.

A Tottenham side deprived of the services of star man Harry Kane fought back after two Hakim Ziyech goals to earn a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Goals either side of half-time from Ziyech gave Chelsea a well-deserved two-goal lead but Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn cancelled out the Blues' advantage with second-half finishes of their own.

Having paraded their Champions League trophy in front of the near-capacity crowd prior to kick-off, Chelsea got off to an emphatic start with Ziyech blasting in low from the edge of the area to capitalise on Lucas' laziness in possession.

Timo Werner thought he had added a second after rounding Pierluigi Gollini, though the offside flag denied him – with no VAR in operation, the Germany forward could not argue with the decision, despite seemingly looking onside.

Tottenham, who were still without the absent Kane amid his apparent desire to leave, named a strong starting-11, including Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli, but fell two behind when Ziyech drilled in a second just two minutes after the break.

Lucas responded for Nuno Espirito Santo's side, netting a third in pre-season courtesy of a fortuitous looping deflection off Antonio Rudiger wrong-footing Edouard Mendy.

Bergwijn levelled things up 14 minutes later with a thumping finish past Mendy after smart link-up play down the left flank by Moura and Son.

Having dominated for large periods the draw may frustrate Chelsea, who next face Villarreal in the European Super Cup on August 11, while Tottenham round-off their pre-season preparations against Arsenal three days before.

A brace from Hakim Ziyech had Chelsea seemingly coasting to victory at Stamford Bridge before Tottenham fought back to earn a 2-2 pre-season draw on Wednesday.

Goals either side of half-time from Ziyech gave Chelsea a well-deserved two-goal lead but Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn cancelled out the Blues' advantage with second-half finishes of their own.

Having paraded their Champions League trophy in front of the near-capacity crowd prior to kick-off, Chelsea got off to an emphatic start with Ziyech blasting in low from the edge of the area to capitalise on Lucas' laziness in possession.

Timo Werner thought he had added a second after rounding Pierluigi Gollini, though the offside flag denied him – with no VAR in operation, the Germany forward could not argue with the decision, despite seemingly looking onside.

Tottenham, who were still without the absent Harry Kane, named a strong starting-11, including Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli, but fell two behind when Ziyech drilled in a second just two minutes after the break.

Lucas responded for Nuno Espirito Santo's side, netting a third in pre-season courtesy of a fortuitous looping deflection off Antonio Rudiger wrong-footing Edouard Mendy.

Bergwijn levelled things up 14 minutes later with a thumping finish past Mendy after smart link-up play down the left flank by Moura and Son.

Having dominated for large periods the draw may frustrate Chelsea, who next face Villarreal in the European Super Cup on August 11, while Tottenham round-off their pre-season preparations against Arsenal three days before.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says Granit Xhaka will not be leaving the club in the transfer window.

The Switzerland international has been heavily linked with a move to Jose Mourinho's Roma, although the Gunners have reportedly offered him a new contract to convince him to stay.

Xhaka scored in Arsenal's 2-1 friendly loss to Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday after coming on to replace Thomas Partey, who appeared to injure his ankle in the first half.

With the former Atletico Madrid man set for scans, Arteta appears doubly determined to keep Xhaka in his squad.

"We just had a talk with the doctor and he'll have a scan tomorrow. At the moment, it's not looking good because he was in pain," Arteta said of Partey.

He then added on Xhaka: "Granit is going to stay with us. He's a key member of our squad and he wanted to play today - I think it's a very clear commitment from his side that he wants to be here."

Xhaka's goal cancelled out a good opener from Kai Havertz, but Tammy Abraham secured the win for European champions Chelsea after an error in possession by Hector Bellerin.

Despite the result, Arteta was pleased with elements of his side's display in front of an excitable crowd in north London.

"It was a great atmosphere, the fans were right behind the team. It was a great test for us," he said.

"I think we showed some really positive stuff and some worrying stuff when we gave the ball away in difficult positions."

Jurgen Klopp says Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will be involved for Liverpool when they play Bologna on Thursday.

The Reds step up their preparations for the forthcoming Premier League season with two 60-minutes matches against the Serie A side.

The central defensive duo made their long-awaited returns from injury against Hertha Berlin last time out, playing the final 21 minutes of the 4-3 defeat.

Van Dijk had not played since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October 2020, while Gomez played his first minutes since damaging a tendon in his left knee while on international duty with England the following month.

Klopp is pleased with the progress the pair are making and is confident they can get more minutes under their belts against Bologna.

"Hopefully, yes. That's how it looks in the moment," he told the official club website. "I want to make it really clear, we push nothing. 

"We know exactly how they feel – how they really feel and not what they tell us because they obviously are desperate to play again. 

"It looks good, this morning [it was a] normal training session. Sometimes in moments, we swap Virgil and Joe a little bit so maybe the intensity doesn't get too high, but in general it looks really good. 

"How many minutes on Thursday, I don't know but there will be some minutes for sure."

Klopp may also have Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino available for selection.

All three have returned from their extended break after helping Brazil reach the Copa America final, which they lost 1-0 to Argentina.

With Liverpool launching their Premier League campaign away at Norwich City on August 14, Klopp admits the returning trio's preparation time is far from ideal.

Nevertheless, the German said they could feature against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side, who finished 12th in Serie A last term.

"The players who play international football never have enough time; that was always like this," he added.

"You never have enough time to train and stuff like this – a week, two weeks before the season.

"[The Brazilian players] will start tomorrow with training properly with us.

"Maybe on Thursday in our two 60-minute games against Bologna, we can involve them already. I don't know yet – maybe 15, 20, 30 minutes. We have to see how they look exactly."

Chelsea enjoyed a positive pre-season outing as they beat London rivals Arsenal 2-1 at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Thomas Tuchel's side took a deserved lead into half-time thanks to a fine finish from Kai Havertz, who had scored the winner in the Champions League final in May.

Havertz clipped a clever shot high beyond Bernd Leno after being played into space by Timo Werner, who missed a good chance for a second three minutes later.

The Gunners, who brought on new signing Ben White at half-time, drew level 69 minutes in when Granit Xhaka headed in Nicolas Pepe's cross.

However, Chelsea's lead was restored within four minutes as Tammy Abraham slotted a precise finish beneath Leno following a mistake by Hector Bellerin.

Arsenal should have been given an equaliser when Joe Willock crashed a shot off the crossbar and the ball appeared to bounce over the line, but with goal-line technology not in use, it was not awarded.

Mikel Arteta will also be concerned to see midfielder Thomas Partey forced to go off with what appeared to be an ankle injury in the first half.

Chelsea will now face Tottenham on Wednesday before Arsenal take on their north London neighbours on August 8.

Chelsea's pre-season preparations in Ireland took a hit on Thursday as they had to cancel their friendly with Drogheda United due to one of the Blues' players becoming a coronavirus concern.

The Champions League winners were settling into their third day near Dublin when they had to tell the League of Ireland Premier Division team that one of their players had returned a possible positive COVID-19 test.

A Chelsea spokesman said: "Earlier today, we had a possible positive coronavirus case which we are investigating. The individual has been isolated from the rest of the group.

"We also decided, as a precaution, to cancel tonight's behind closed doors game against Drogheda."

Instead of the 90-minute workout, Thomas Tuchel held another training session as he attempts to combat an already poor pre-season due to many of his players being delayed in returning after Euro 2020 and Copa America duty.

Peterborough United provided the Blues' only pre-season preparation so far behind closed doors at Cobham, which Tuchel's men won 6-1, but Chelsea still have significant work to do before their European Super Cup clash with Villarreal on August 11.

Chelsea do, however, have additional friendlies scheduled against Bournemouth, Arsenal and Tottenham as they race the clock to get into shape for their first competitive game of 2021-22.

Chelsea head coach Tuchel is yet to strengthen this transfer window, instead watching the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud and Victor Moses seek new challenges across various leagues in Europe.

Ronald Koeman was left feeling positive for the future after Barcelona kicked off their pre-season campaign with a hard-fought 4-0 win over 10-man Gimnastic at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.

Albania striker Rey Manaj, who has never played a competitive game for Barca and is expected to move on this window, scored a second-half hat-trick in Wednesday's friendly in front of around 2,000 supporters.

Alex Collado netted the other goal for Barcelona, but the game was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests as three of the four goals were scored in the final five minutes.

Koeman named a different line-up in each half, with the likes of Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique, Miralem Pjanic, Sergi Roberto, Riqui Puig and Samuel Umtiti starting the game.

New signing Yusuf Demir, brought in on an initial loan from Rapid Vienna and described as the 'Austrian Messi' for his playing style, also played his first 45 minutes for the Catalan giants.

The second half saw a far more inexperienced side fielded and contained just one player, goalscorer Collado, with a competitive appearance for Barca under his belt.

Manaj stole the show with his three goals, the pick of those an angled finish into the roof of the net as Gimnastic, who had Alex Quintanilla sent off in the first half, started to tire.

Without Lionel Messi as the superstar forward delays signing a new contract, as well as new signings Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, Koeman was pleased with what he saw.

"The important thing is that everyone has played 45 minutes; it is something important for the physical side of things," he told Barca TV. 

"We dominated and we got a good result. The game leaves positive feelings.

"My players have returned well. They also trained hard this morning – it's all about getting fit. With two different teams, everyone has had a chance to show their quality.

"It goes without saying that there are certain names that stood out."

Following a season played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday's game marked the first time Koeman has managed Barca in front of a home crowd.

"It was strange having people here, but thank goodness they were here," the Dutchman said. 

"I love that there is an audience and also the players do too. They helped us. We really needed it."

Barca have tougher tests to come than third-tier Gimnastic, with Girona up next on Saturday before facing Stuttgart and Salzburg in Germany and Austria respectively.

"On Saturday we will have more players available," Koeman added. "We have a little time now to train all together. 

"In Germany we will have good games, against high-level rivals, where we can draw good conclusions."

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