Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach, but Pep Guardiola will not contest the award this year.

Bielsa guided Leeds United back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight.

The former Argentina coach has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal.

And Bielsa has been rewarded for his achievement with recognition from FIFA.

The 65-year-old made a five-man FIFA shortlist for the world's leading coach in 2020, joining Bayern Munich's Champions League winner Hansi Flick and Liverpool's Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp among the contenders.

Zinedine Zidane is also in the running after Real Madrid won LaLiga, while Sevilla's Europa League triumph sees Julen Lopetegui included.

But there is no room for City boss Guardiola, who came second to Klopp in 2019.

City failed to defend their Premier League title, finishing 18 points behind Liverpool, and they are already eight points off the pace - albeit with a game in hand - down in 13th place this season.

Guardiola's wait for a first Champions League triumph away from Barcelona also went on as they were stunned by Lyon in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Luis Suarez and Son Heung-min are among the frontrunners for the latest FIFA Puskas Award.

Atletico Madrid forward Suarez netted an exquisite backheel for former club Barcelona at the end of a team move against Real Mallorca, while Tottenham's Son tore through the Burnley defence for an individual effort.

The winners of all prizes - including The Best FIFA Men's Player, for which Robert Lewandowski is the favourite - will be revealed at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on December 17.

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As recently as January, Joao Felix's Atletico Madrid career appeared to be on a rocky road to nowhere – the previously much-vaunted 'Golden Boy', the club's most expensive signing ever, appeared to be at a loss.

Another big game had passed him by in the shape of the Supercopa final against Real Madrid, who emerged victors on penalties after a 0-0 draw – one Los Blancos dominated.

Even greater burden had been placed on him from late 2019, with Diego Costa ruled out long-term due to a neck injury, but Joao Felix simply couldn't meet expectations.

His struggles understandably led to much debate about the cause; was he finding it difficult to settle in? Was he actually the talent everyone thought he was? Or, as most people seemingly thought, was he just not cut out for Cholismo?

Media reports at the time suggested his team-mates believed Joao Felix was having problems settling in Madrid, but once football resumed after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, encouraging signs were beginning to show.

And now, as Atletico prepare to host Barca and Lionel Messi on Saturday, few would consider anyone other than Joao Felix to be LaLiga's outstanding player in 2020-21.

Space? You can get lost in space

Joao Felix's arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano was met by the clamouring of Diego Simeone critics suggesting this was the signing that would finally see the renowned pragmatist cut loose and suddenly become the entertainer many hoped he could be.

It didn't work out that way. In fact, their haul of 51 LaLiga goals was the lowest they'd managed since scoring just 46 in 2006-07 – they somehow became even duller to watch.

This didn't do much to convince those adamant Simeone was to blame for Joao Felix's form – many people called for the young talent to be given a "free role" that allowed him to play without the shackles normally associated with the coach's rigid and disciplined system.

Yet, as average touch location maps show, Joao Felix generally operated largely in a less disciplined role last season than he has in 2020-21 – in 2019-20, he occupied spaces through the middle and on the left flank more than most, yet his time in the four zones within that area between the halfway line and penalty area were split fairly evenly.

 

This season, however, 22 per cent of his ball touches have been in a withdrawn area on the left flank, and 19 per cent in the next zone up the same wing. His role is demonstrably more structured yet he is proving far more effective as he wanders less, and this is evident almost across the board.

His tally of five LaLiga goals is second only to Mikel Oyarzabal and, at rate of 0.9 goals per 90 minutes, his frequency in that regard has trebled. His rate of 0.4 assists per 90 minutes is four times higher than the 0.1 for last term.

Joao Felix is now averaging 2.2 key passes every game (up from 0.8), while his records for passes, touches, open-play sequence involvement and goal-ending sequence involvement have all increased massively this season.

 

Suarez makes great players even better

Whether this clear change in role has been engineered by Simeone or Joao Felix himself is difficult to know without one of them claiming as much. Certainly, the Atletico coach has not alluded to such an alteration.

No, Simeone has instead highlighted the impact of signing of Luis Suarez from Sunday's opponents, saying earlier this month: "I believe that all this is generated from the presence of Suarez. With the likes of [Diego] Costa and [Alvaro] Morata before him, they had a lot of other characteristics, but we have been looking for other qualities.

"Luis has needed more people close to him, close to where he can hurt the opposition, and that is the team's goal."

Let's not forget, Suarez has spent years alongside the very best in the business in Lionel Messi, and the pair developed an almost telepathic understanding – as good as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is, that doesn't happen just because of him.

Suarez is an assassin in attack, boasting off the ball intelligence like few other strikers have in the past 30 years – even if he's not as quick as he once was, the Uruguayan knows what runs to make, and when to make them.

For example, Joao Felix has created four chances for Suarez this season – that's already tied with the highest amount of key passes he played for a single team-mate in 2019-20 (Angel Correa), and one more than he laid on for Morata.

But herein lies a new test for Joao Felix.

Sunday is Atletico's first matchup with either of the 'big two' in LaLiga this term, but they will not be able to look to the finishing abilities of Suarez due to his coronavirus diagnosis.

 

Therefore, even greater onus will be on Joao Felix to provide the spark in attack for Atletico, potentially both as a creator and a finisher - thankfully for him, his positive xG differential of 2.4 suggests he has that capability.

Whether he inspires Atletico to a win or not, the fact such a possibility is even being considered less than a year on from him appearing utterly at odds with the club is a major triumph for Joao Felix.

Atletico Madrid have lost another player ahead of their LaLiga clash with Barcelona after Lucas Torreira tested positive for coronavirus.

Torreira, signed on loan from Arsenal in October, underwent PCR tests for COVID-19 after returning from international duty with Uruguay.

His Uruguay team-mate Luis Suarez is already self-isolating due to contracting the virus, and now it has been confirmed Torreira too has tested positive.

Atleti announced the news on their official website and added that Torreira – who has made seven appearances in all competitions for Diego Simeone's side – is asymptomatic and complying with quarantine protocols.

Torreira started in both of Uruguay's World Cup qualifiers, against Colombia and Brazil, during the international break.

Unbeaten Atleti sit third in LaLiga, five places and six points ahead of Ronald Koeman's Barca side heading into Saturday's meeting.

Luis Suarez has tested positive for coronavirus and is set to miss Atletico Madrid's LaLiga clash with his former club Barcelona.

The 33-year-old will also sit out Uruguay's World Cup qualifier with Brazil on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19 while away with his national side.

Uruguay confirmed in a statement on Monday that Suarez and team-mate Rodrigo Munoz, as well as backroom staff member Matias Faral, are all following coronavirus protocols.

The news comes five days before Suarez was set to take on Barcelona, the club he left for a nominal fee in September after six years at Camp Nou.

He has played nine times for Atletico since joining and has five goals in six LaLiga outings. Only Real Sociedad's Mikel Oyarzabal has scored more, having played a further three games.

Suarez's six league goals have come from 22 shots, eight of which were on target, both of which are the most of any Atletico player this season.

Speaking to Marca this week, Suarez reiterated his disappointment at being forced out of Barcelona during the most recent transfer window.

"I was sad and hurt by the way I left – I already said it," he admitted. "But when they close a door, five more open to you where they value my work, professionalism and trajectory. I feel proud. 

"Where they did not want me, there was another that wanted me. I found happiness and I'm enjoying this moment now."

Luis Suarez says he and Lionel Messi prefer not to talk about football with each other as the Atletico Madrid striker prepares to face Barcelona for the first time since leaving the club in September. 

Surez joined Atletico in a €6million deal after six years at Camp Nou, leaving Messi furious at the club for "kicking out" his close friend. 

Messi also came close to leaving the Catalan giants during the off-season after revealing he wanted to trigger a clause in his contract to depart on a free transfer, although the validity of such a stipulation was murky due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The saga was brought to a temporary end on September 4 when the forward announced he will stay at the club for another year, rather than challenge Barca in a legal battle.

Messi and Suarez will face off at Wanda Metropolitano in LaLiga on Saturday, but the Uruguayan says they are unlikely to discuss the game this week. 

"The truth is that we speak a lot, but honestly we talk about our life," Suarez told Marca. 

"It was recently the birthday of one of my children, also his. We talked about life, the virus, everything, but very little about football, about the goals we miss or about tactical systems. 

"We worry more about how the family is than about what happens in football."

Suarez has taken quickly to life at Atletico and is the club's joint top scorer this season alongside Joao Felix with five goals from six games – more than any Barca player has scored this campaign. 

Those goals have come from just eight shots on target, while he has also chipped in with one assist. 

Suarez reiterated his disappointment at the way he was forced out of Barca but says he is revelling in life under Diego Simeone at Atletico.

"I was sad and hurt by the way I left – I already said it," he added. "But when they close a door, five more open to you where they value my work, professionalism and trajectory. I feel proud. 

"Where they did not want me, there was another that wanted me. I found happiness and I'm enjoying this moment now."

Atletico have won five of their opening seven matches to sit three points behind surprise leaders Real Sociedad, who have played two games more – while they are 23 unbeaten in LaLiga, their longest undefeated streak in league history and the best current run of any team in the top five European divisions.

Barcelona, meanwhile, are languishing in eighth having picked up just 11 points from their opening seven games. 

Atletico Madrid star Luis Suarez said he and his team-mates are confident the team can achieve "big things" this season.

Suarez swapped Barca for Atletico at the start of the 2020-21 campaign and the Uruguayan has helped the capital club remain the only undefeated side in LaLiga this term.

Atletico have won five of their opening seven matches to be three points behind surprise leaders Real Sociedad, who have played two matches more – while they are 23 matches unbeaten in LaLiga, their best undefeated streak in league history and the best current run of any team in the top five European divisions.

Diego Simeone's Atletico – runners-up in 2014 and 2016 – are also second in Champions League Group A following three matchdays, five points adrift of titleholders Bayern Munich.

Suarez has scored five LaLiga goals – level with Joao Felix at Atletico – and reflecting on his start to life in Madrid, the 33-year-old told Marca Sport Weekend: "I'm enjoying it a lot. I'm following Atleti's path. The team is very united, solid, ambitious. We are all ready and confident we can do big things."

Atletico have won just one of their opening three Champions League group games this season – the only two previous seasons in which they have won as few at this stage are 2009-10 and 2017-18 (zero wins) when they were eliminated on both occasions.

They have also won just one of their past five Champions League away fixtures (drawing once and losing on three occasions), with that victory coming against Liverpool at Anfield in March.

"I think the Champions League is very different to LaLiga," Suarez said. "It's all about the moment of each team. It's very physical now. The game against Bayern was because they were more efficient than us. From five or six chances they scored four. We had more chances but we couldn't convert them. That's costly in the Champions League.

"If we improve on that efficiency, we can compete against Bayern, who are the best team in Europe, or Liverpool, who the team already knocked out last season.

"If we know what we want and believe in ourselves, we're capable because we have the players, character and quality. We just need to be clinical in those crucial moments. That's what you have to do in the Champions League."

Suarez and Barcelona will reunite following the international break when Atletico play host to the Catalan visitors on Saturday.

Luis Suarez fits like a glove and even Lionel Messi and former star Antoine Griezmann would face competition for places at high-flying Atletico Madrid, says Koke.

Uruguay striker Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements by new Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman and, despite being third on the Blaugrana's all-time goalscorers list, joined Atleti for a nominal fee.

From six LaLiga appearances, Suarez has five goals and one assist for his new club, while he has created four chances for his team-mates and hit the target with eight of his 22 shots at goal (including blocked shots).

It is form that has helped unbeaten Atleti to third in the table with two games in hand on the two sides above them in the table.

Atleti midfielder Koke says Suarez's arrival has allowed others in the team, such as Joao Felix, Angel Correa and Marcos Llorente, to flourish.

"A radical change has hit us in [our] game," he told Cadena Ser. "[Having Suarez] leaves Joao, Correa and Llorente free in some situations. He has fit us like a glove."

One player Suarez has had limited playing time with is Diego Costa, with his fellow Atleti forward out with a left thigh injury sustained last month.

Asked about that link-up, Koke added: "They are two great forwards and they have to adapt together. The team is playing well and has more solutions in attack."

While Atleti's current attacking crop are flourishing, Griezmann – who departed for Camp Nou ahead of the 2019-20 campaign – has struggled to find his best form for Barca.

In seven top-flight appearances this season, Griezmann has two goals and an assist and created four chances, while he missed a penalty in the 5-2 win over Real Betis last week.

The last time Barca faced Atleti in June, it took until the 90th minute for Griezmann to enter the fray despite the game being locked at 2-2 – something that took Koke by surprise.

"I was very surprised to see a player of the stature of Griezmann [not play until] the 90th minute in the last duel in which we faced Barca," Koke said.

But when asked about the potential for a Griezmann return, Koke added: "I think now he would have a lot of competition here."

Indeed, such is the strength of Atleti's forward line, Koke believes even superstar Messi – whose himself failed to engineer a move away from Barca in a long-running sage during the close season – would find it difficult to get into the team.

"He would also have a lot of competition at Atleti," Koke added.

Koke is particularly delighted to see Llorente beginning to flourish at Atleti, with the 25-year-old excelling in a more advanced role, scoring three goals and assisting two more this term.

"He does everything. He is at a spectacular level. The work pays off and he works [hard]," Koke said. 

"I'm happy for him because at first he didn't have a good time by not playing, but all work has its reward. Those that last year had fewer minutes have more this season."

Atletico Madrid moved level on points with leaders Real Sociedad as they extended their unbeaten run to 23 LaLiga games by thrashing Cadiz 4-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's team – the only unbeaten side remaining in Spain's top flight – made light work of an opponent who had won their last four away matches without conceding, and Joao Felix was the star.

With help from the woeful Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma, Atleti raced into a two-goal lead by the 22nd minute – Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente on target.

Having teed up Luis Suarez for a third after the break, Joao Felix then doubled his tally with a thumping 90th-minute strike to cap off a resounding success ahead of Atleti's clash with Barcelona in 14 days' time.

Luis Suarez is expecting a big season from strike partner Joao Felix, who he believes will be a "match-winner" for Atletico Madrid with the help of his team-mates.

Suarez joined Atleti from Barcelona at the start of the campaign, joining Diego Costa and Joao Felix in attack at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The 20-year-old Portugal international is now in his second season at the club, having signed from Benfica as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann in July 2019.

Joao Felix's first term at Atleti did not pan out quite as he might have hoped, scoring just six goals and providing a single assist in 27 LaLiga games.

But 2020-21 is already proving more fruitful as the forward has three goals - from just 15 shots - and an assist in six league matches.

Joao Felix already has two Champions League goals in the new season, too, closing on last year's tally of three, and he has Suarez's backing.

"He hasn't surprised me, because back when he was at Benfica he had already set about showing what a class player he is at a very young age," Suarez told AS.

"It's not easy when you move abroad, but in his first year, which was about settling in here, he produced moments of real quality.

"I think that this season he's really starting to get the fans excited. He feels full of confidence and, if the rest of us give him the help and support he needs, he can be a match-winner.

"But we can't place all the responsibility on his shoulders. If we work as a team and everyone does their bit, that'll have a beneficial effect on him and everyone around him."

Four-goal Suarez is already starting to benefit from Joao Felix's work, although the pair have had only 179 minutes on the pitch together in LaLiga so far.

In that time, they have shared 12 passes, with two of Joao Felix's four balls to Suarez resulting in a chance for the ex-Liverpool striker.

There have been further opportunities in the Champions League, sharing 21 passes in 247 minutes and each creating a chance for the other, albeit Suarez is still waiting to get off the mark in European competition.

Heading into Saturday's league game at home to Cadiz, Suarez and Joao Felix will now hope to combine for an assist for the first time.

Luis Suarez will not try to convince Lionel Messi to join Atletico Madrid but would happily endorse the move if the Barcelona captain wanted to make it happen.

Messi failed to engineer a switch away from Camp Nou in the close season and his future at Barca remains uncertain, with his contract due to expire at the end of June.

The club's interim board and numerous presidential candidates have suggested that a projected loss of revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic means the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would need to agree a pay adjustment to stay beyond this campaign.

It was believed one of the motivating factors behind Messi's desire to leave before the start of the season was the treatment of close friend Suarez, who assisted more Barca goals for him (47) than any other player, following Ronald Koeman's appointment.

Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped off to Atletico for a nominal fee, but he does not intend to go out of his way to make Messi follow him.

"I'll always say it: Leo is mature enough to make the decisions he needs to make by himself. I'll never try to influence what he does; wherever he's happy, I'll always support his right to make the decision that's best for him," Suarez told AS.

"If at any point the possibility arises, then he should say so as obviously I'm going to talk very highly of him to the club.

"But as far as suggesting things to him is concerned, I think he's the one who has to make such decisions and wherever he's happiest is the best place for him to be."

Messi is yet to score from open play in nine appearances in all competitions this season and Koeman this week defended the Argentina international after footage of him failing to close down a player in the final moments of Barca's 2-1 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev went viral on social media.

Asked if Messi looked low on morale, Suarez said: "He's 33 years old and he knows how to deal with any situation.

"To me he looks like he has the same desire that he did before, is enjoying his football and is still fighting as hard as ever, which is the main thing. He keeps on trying even if the ball doesn't want to go in. That says a lot about him."

Messi's haul of 31 goals in all competitions last season – 15 of which were scored after Quique Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde as head coach in January – was his worst tally since registering 16 in 2007-08.

Setien, who was sacked after the 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August, this week said Messi was "difficult to manage", but Suarez painted a different picture.

"I'd rather not get into that, because it only helps to turn it into a bigger issue than it should be," said Suarez. 

"Any team-mate who has worked alongside Leo will talk highly of him, of what a class player he is and what a top guy he is away from the pitch. He really helps the youngsters, giving them pieces of advice.

"Every player who has worked with him talks highly of him. That says a lot about the kind of player and person he is in that dressing room."

Luis Suarez is helping to get the most out of Atletico Madrid team-mates Angel Correa and Joao Felix, according to head coach Diego Simeone.

The Uruguay international has scored four goals in seven appearances since joining Atleti from LaLiga rivals Barcelona for a nominal fee in September.

He fired a blank in the 3-2 win over Salzburg and was rested for the 3-1 victory over Osasuna last weekend, with Joao Felix stepping up with a brace in both games.

Correa laid on an assist for Joao Felix in each of those fixtures as he staked a claim to be the Portuguese youngster's attack partner.

However, Simeone insisted it is down to Suarez that others in the side are hitting top form and called on his players to help repay the favour.

"I believe that all this is generated from the presence of Suarez," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Lokomotiv Moscow.

"With the likes of [Diego] Costa and [Alvaro] Morata before him, they had a lot of other characteristics, but we have been looking for other qualities.

"Luis has needed more people close to him, close to where he can hurt the opposition, and that is the team's goal.

"We had to adapt to play with [Radamel] Falcao, with Costa and now with Suarez."

Joao Felix scored in both games as Atletico won home and away against Lokomotiv in last season's Champions League.

The Russian side have collected one point from their first two Group A games and have lost nine of their past 11 European games against Spanish opponents, but Simeone is not taking them lightly.

"We are going to face a very competitive team," he said. "The records of the last 14 games speak for themselves. 

"Their losses were by the margin of one goal, they are always close and competitive games. 

"You have to go back 15 games game to see a 2-0 loss. A team that competes like this is always close to the goal. We will take the game where we think we can hurt them."

Josep Maria Bartomeu's ultimately unpopular tenure as Barcelona president has finally come to an end after the club's entire board resigned.

Barca won the treble in his first full season in charge in 2014-15, led by the thrilling front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

But it seems unlikely Bartomeu's time as the top man at Camp Nou will be remembered for that success.

Barca subsequently suffered humiliation after humiliation in the Champions League, reaching a remarkable crescendo with August's 8-2 quarter-final demolition at the hands of eventual champions Bayern Munich.

However, it was Bartomeu's failings in the transfer market that helped put the Catalan giants in such a position.

While Neymar left and then Lionel Messi pushed for a move of his own, Barca recruited in disappointing if often spectacular fashion.

Not all of Bartomeu's signings were poor, but we look at the 10 permanent deals that defined his reign.

 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen – €12m from Borussia Monchengladbach

That stunning first season of on-field triumphs came after an excellent summer transfer window, although Ter Stegen was restricted to Champions League action initially as fellow new man Claudio Bravo started in LaLiga. Germany international Ter Stegen quickly proved his worth in the 2014-15 European campaign, keeping a joint-high six clean sheets courtesy of 31 saves, while trailing only Manuel Neuer for successful passes (245) and passing accuracy (80 per cent) among goalkeepers.

Ivan Rakitic – €18m from Sevilla

Another to join in the €165m spending spree of 2014, Rakitic only departed this year to return to Sevilla. The midfielder was a consistent performer throughout his time at Camp Nou, yet perhaps his best season was reserved for his first 12 months at Barca. He scored five times in LaLiga and laid on seven assists – the most in his Barca career – from 35 chances created.

Luis Suarez – €81m from Liverpool

The most important and surely best signing of Bartomeu's tenure followed in that same transfer window as Barca prised Suarez from Liverpool after their failed Premier League title bid in which he netted 31 times. That same scoring form continued in LaLiga, where Suarez struck up a great partnership and friendship with Messi. The Uruguay international left for Atletico Madrid prior to the 2020-21 campaign – a key factor in the ongoing Barca crisis – having scored 198 goals for the club, trailing only Messi and Cesar Rodriguez. Suarez scored a sensational 40 LaLiga goals in 2015-16, along with 16 assists and 23 tackles, typifying his work rate. All three were high marks for his Barca career.

Thomas Vermaelen – €18m from Arsenal

Along with Ter Stegen, Rakitic and Suarez, though, came a signing that would prove more in keeping with much of the rest of the work done under Bartomeu. Vermaelen cost a decent fee, was scarcely fit and rarely looked like troubling the starting XI when he was. He made just 26 LaLiga starts in five years at Barca.

Andre Gomes – €35m from Valencia

After making just two signings in 2015-16, Barca were busy in the market again the following campaign. A combination of form and fitness meant few if any of the 2016-17 signings could be considered successes, but Gomes was perhaps the worst. Signed for a fee that could have risen to €55m, he scored three goals and provided one assist in the league across two seasons before leaving for Everton.

Ousmane Dembele – €105m from Borussia Dortmund

Barca's dealings had been questionable even before they sold Neymar, but the money brought in for the Brazilian then appeared to burn a hole in the pocket of Bartomeu, who proceeded to spend it in a series of unsuccessful ways. Dembele seemed a reasonable enough replacement for Neymar but injuries disrupted his progress. He has supplied just 12 goals and 11 assists in the league since signing, although he remains at Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho – €120m from Liverpool

Barca tried for Coutinho when Neymar first left and returned for the Liverpool star again in January. Yet the Blaugrana did not appear to have a role made for the playmaker, sticking to a 4-3-3 formation that forced him out wide or deep in the midfield. Another still at Barca, a reasonable enough initial return of eight goals and five assists from 29 chances created in the remainder of his first season did not provide a platform for success. He spent last season on loan at Bayern and scored twice in the humbling of his parent club.

Malcom – €41m from Bordeaux

As Barca went big again in 2018-19, there appeared to be a third attempt at replacing Neymar. Malcom was just 21 and should have been one for the future but did not last long. A single season brought one goal and two assists before he left for Zenit.

Antoine Griezmann – €120m from Atletico Madrid

Project replace Neymar: part four. With attempts to bring the PSG number 10 himself back to Barca failing, a long-awaited move for Griezmann was instead completed. A World Cup winner who led the line for one of Barca's biggest domestic rivals, Griezmann certainly had the pedigree but has so far struggled to work with Messi in attack. The pair are yet to create a single chance for one another in LaLiga this season and have combined on just 23 passes.

Martin Braithwaite – €18m from Leganes

Braithwaite is evidently delighted to be at Barca, but perhaps that is the problem. It is a stunning indictment of Bartomeu's tenure that Ronald Koeman had to turn to the Denmark international in a bid to rescue last week's Clasico defeat. He now wears the number nine shirt that belonged to Suarez.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said Luis Suarez could still start the club's Champions League fixture against Salzburg, despite training away from the squad.

Suarez trained individually ahead of Tuesday's Group A showdown with Austrian visitors Salzburg in Madrid.

Simeone – whose Atletico were routed 4-0 by defending champions Bayern Munich on matchday one – provided a fitness update on Suarez, telling reporters on Monday: "He'll be in the squad.

"We agreed with the doctor that it was best for him to work away from the group [on Monday] and then, according to what we see tomorrow, he'll [either] start or be on the bench."

Suarez has been in red-hot form since swapping embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona for Spanish rivals Atletico at the start of the season.

The 33-year-old has scored four goals in five league games, including the second goal in last week's 2-0 victory at home to Real Betis.

Suarez also scored his 150th LaLiga goal earlier this month, becoming the second fastest player to reach that milestone in the competition this century – quicker than Lionel Messi and only behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Asked if he was surprised by Suarez's impact, Simeone replied: "Surprised, no. 

"I've found a player who I listened to on the phone when we first made contact in that first chat to see if there was a chance he could join us.

"He wanted to be here and he's proving it. Let's hope we can help him."

Simeone also hailed Atletico attacker Joao Felix, who has impressed during the early stages of 2020-21.

Joao Felix arrived from Benfica for a club-record €126million fee last season but injuries hampered the Portuguese after a solid start.

He has a goal and one assist through five LaLiga appearances and Simeone added: "It's always the same. For me, he's had some very good games since the start of the season. Granada, Huesca, Villarreal despite being tired, the whole game in Munich...

"He's looked dangerous on a number of occasions. The other day [against Real Betis], when he came on in the 25th minute, the team had a good fluidity.

"I'm happy with his work, except for a few minutes against Celta [Vigo], which weren't the best. We're always looking for a situation to find him [on the pitch]. He's a boy who's in good form, like many of his team-mates."

Marcos Llorente and Luis Suarez earned Atletico Madrid a 2-0 win over 10-man Real Betis at Wanda Metropolitano as Diego Simeone's men made it a club-record 21 LaLiga games without defeat.

Atleti lost 4-0 to Bayern Munich on Wednesday - their joint-heaviest defeat under Simeone - but were back to their solid defensive selves in Saturday's clash, which was won with two second-half goals.

After a balanced opening 45 minutes in the Spanish capital it took just 19 seconds for Llorente to open the scoring in the second half with a smart finish from a tight angle.

Suarez added a late second to seal a victory that lifts Atletico up to third after Betis had been reduced to 10 men for Martin Montoya's red card offence.

 

 

Holders Bayern Munich begin their Champions League defence with the visit of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, in a game that will pit Robert Lewandowski against Luis Suarez.

Liverpool, winners in 2019, travel to Ajax, and Real Madrid host Shakhtar Donetsk, with two of the competition's most successful clubs hoping to avoid some worrying runs of defeats.

Antonio Conte's Inter tackle Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City host Porto, a team who boast a rather unfortunate record when it comes to games on English soil.

Here is some of the key Opta data from day two of matchday one.

Ajax v Liverpool: Can Firmino stop the rot?

This will be Liverpool's first meeting with Ajax since the 1966-67 European Cup, when the Dutch side prevailed 7-3 on aggregate in the last 16.

Liverpool's campaign last season ended at the same stage with back-to-back losses to Atletico Madrid. Should they lose in Amsterdam, it will be the first time since Brendan Rodgers was in charge in October to November 2014 that they have suffered three consecutive Champions League defeats.

Perhaps Roberto Firmino is the man to help them. He has been directly involved in 26 goals (15 scored, 11 assisted) in 33 Champions League matches; since his debut in 2017-18, the only other player with 10 or more goals and assists in that time is Kylian Mbappe (13 goals, 13 assists).

 

Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid: Lewandowski has history in his sights

Bayern were the first team in history to win every game en route to lifting the trophy last season, and their 11-game winning run is already the longest ever in the competition.

Should Robert Lewandowski score, he will become the first player to do so in 10 Champions League group games in a row. He currently shares the record of nine with Cristiano Ronaldo, who did so from 2012 to 2014.

Atletico have only won twice in their previous 10 group games away from home, but Luis Suarez could give them the boost they need – he has scored five goals in his last five starts in the competition, as many as he managed in his previous 31 starts combined.

 

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Zidane puts 100 per cent record on the line

Real Madrid have been in the Champions League group stage 28 times and have never failed to reach the next round. Leeds United, who did so twice, are the only other team to feature in more than one group stage and boast a 100 per cent record.

That said, Madrid lost their final two games last season – both legs of the last-16 tie with Manchester City – and losing to Shakhtar Donetsk would put them on a three-match losing streak in the Champions League or European Cup for the first time since September 1986.

With captain Sergio Ramos injured, Zinedine Zidane will have concerns about his defence. At least the forward line is in capable hands: Karim Benzema has managed four goals and two assists across six consecutive home games in the competition, and Shakhtar have failed to keep a clean sheet in 22 Champions League matches in a row.

Manchester City v Porto: More English misery?

Porto have played 20 away games against English sides in Europe and have failed to win any. In fact, they have lost 17 of those games and have not scored in the previous seven. They do at least go into this contest off a run of just two defeats in 16 Champions League group-stage matches.

City have a pretty strong recent record in the group stage, having gone unbeaten in 11 games since a surprise 2-1 loss to Lyon in September 2018. They also have Raheem Sterling in sharp form: the forward has scored 20 goals in the competition since his debut for City in September 2015, a tally only Harry Kane can match among English players in that time.

 

Other fixtures:

Inter v Borussia Monchengladbach:

9 – Romelu Lukaku has scored nine goals in 11 appearances in European competition for Inter. Since the start of last season, only Robert Lewandowski (15) and Erling Haaland (10) have netted more across the Champions League and Europa League.

8 – Strike partner Lautaro Martinez has scored five in six Champions League starts and eight in 14 in Europe overall for the Nerazzurri.

 

Salzburg v Lokomotiv Moscow:

10 – Since September 2018, Lokomotiv Moscow have lost 10 Champions League games, more than any other club in that time.

16 – Salzburg scored 16 group-stage goals last season but finished third in their group. The only other team to score that many and get knocked out were Chelsea in 2012-13.

 

Midtjylland v Atalanta:

16 – Atalanta have scored at least once in 16 of their previous 17 European games, including nine in three matches in last season's knockouts. Josip Ilicic has nine goals in 13 European appearances for the club.

18 – Midtjylland conceded 18 goals in eight matches in the 2015-16 Europa League, their previous involvement in Europe. No team conceded more that season.

 

Olympiacos v Marseille:

3 – This will be Andre Villas-Boas' first Champions League game since March 2016. He has lost his most recent three matches in the competition.

41 – Steve Mandanda has made 41 appearances in the competition, the most for any Marseille player in history. The goalkeeper accounts for 37 per cent of the total games played by current Marseille players in this tournament.

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