Diego Simeone believes there are few strikers in football with the ability of Atletico Madrid frontman Alvaro Morata.

Spain international Morata found the breakthrough in Saturday's 2-0 win over Osasuna – Atleti's first victory in four LaLiga outings that moved them back up to fourth in the table.

The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Juventus forward scored in seven consecutive games for club and country as October became November but ended a six-game drought when he powered Kieran Trippier's free-kick past inspired Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

Simeone has been linked to making attacking reinforcements during the January transfer window, with Timo Werner, Edinson Cavani and Olivier Giroud all touted as possible Atletico targets, but he offered a ringing endorsement of his current number nine.

"Hopefully he'll return to the way he was before the [international] break," he told a post-match news conference.

"He was scoring in almost every game.

"There aren't many people like that in football and we want to make the most of him."

Manuel Sanchez made his Atletico debut at left-back and Simeone felt the 19-year-old's impressive showing was fitting as it came on the evening long-serving defender Juanfran bade farewell to the club's faithful before kick-off.

"I loved him," he said.

"It's not easy. He's young, growing and has been working a lot with us.

"He has to keep growing and this was an important moment for his career.

"Today, Juanfran said goodbye and another debuted. Someone new was born."

Alvaro Morata believes Atletico Madrid are moving in the right direction after they returned to winning ways in LaLiga with a 2-0 triumph over Osasuna.

Visiting goalkeeper Sergio Herrera turned in a stunning display that threatened to make it a fourth straight top-flight game without taking three points for Diego Simeone's men.

However, Morata powered home a 67th-minute Kieran Trippier free-kick – ending a six-game goal drought for club and country – before Saul Niguez made the points safe.

"It's our last game of the year here. It was important to win it," Morata said on the Wanda Metropolitano pitch afterwards, before talking up Atleti's recent performance.

"We had a lot of chances - not just me, the whole team. I think we're growing as a team.

"We came out well against Barcelona and Juventus and Villarreal and we've got to continue that way. We're playing well.

"Every team needs to win. We're in a good dynamic, we’ve got a lot of desire and, as I say, we're growing as a team. The results will come."

As Diego Costa remains on the sidelines with a neck injury, Atletico have been linked to a host of strikers ahead of the January transfer window.

Even if the likes of Edinson Cavani, Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud are under consideration, Morata insists that is none of his concern.

"No, I don't care," he replied. "We're a great team and great dressing room and that's the important thing."

Alvaro Morata ensured Atletico Madrid got back to winning ways in LaLiga as Diego Simeone's side battled to a 2-0 victory over Osasuna.

A month had passed since Atleti's previous top-flight triumph over Espanyol on November 10 and the brilliance of Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera looked like spelling another frustrating outing at the Wanda Metropolitano.

But Morata dispatched an emphatic header midway through the second half to break the deadlock and Saul Niguez doubled the advantage 15 minutes from time.

Los Rojiblancos move up to fourth in the table, six shy of Barcelona after the leaders were held to a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad earlier on Saturday.

Herrera began a busy first half by thwarting Morata at close quarters before the former Juventus striker turned provider and played in Joao Felix in the 23rd minute – the Osasuna keeper saving with his boot.

A double stop from Herrera spared Jagoba Arrasate's side 10 minutes from half-time, parrying a shot on the angle from Thomas Lemar and getting back into position to repel Koke's follow-up drive.

The pick of Herrera's work came in the 39th minute when, at full stretch, he turned Joao Felix's header from teenage debutant Manuel Sanchez's left-wing centre onto the crossbar.

He was not done there, keeping out Thomas Partey's rasping long-ranger and frustrating Joao Felix once more to ensure parity at the interval.

Morata got behind the visiting defence only to miss his kick woefully and Herrera's masterclass continued as he saved with his foot from Sanchez.

Avila's sweetly struck volley kept Jan Oblak honest in the Atleti goal before Sanchez was finally beaten in the 67th minute.

Trippier delivered a typically threatening set-piece from the right and Morata put his earlier profligacy behind him to power home.

Saul sealed the points in style, darting forward from the unfamiliar position of left-back to dink over Sanchez – Simeone letting out a guttural roar on the touchline.

 

What does it mean? Simeone's spluttering stars stay in the title picture

Clear vulnerabilities at Barcelona and Real Madrid this season have thrown up opportunities an Atletico side also in transition have failed to capitalise upon. They have still drawn more matches than they have won in LaLiga this season, but the obvious room for improvement and their proximity to the top of the table should be cause for mid-season encouragement.

Heroic Herrera ill-served by defeat

It was easy to sense the belief draining from Atletico before Morata broke through, with much of that down to a truly phenomenal goalkeeping display in the visiting goal. Herrera's efforts as Atletico laid siege to the Osasuna area during the closing stages of the first half were out of the very top drawer.

Frustration for Joao Felix

To his credit, the prodigiously talented 20-year-old does not hide when things are not falling his way, but this became an increasingly frustrating outing for Joao Felix – the open spaces Atletico's record signing found earlier on turning into blind alleys before his 82nd-minute withdrawal. Nevertheless, his developing partnership with Morata could be a huge asset in 2020.

What's next?

Atletico travel to Real Betis for their final game of 2019 next Sunday, while Osasuna host Real Sociedad after taking on minnows Lorca Deportiva in the Copa del Rey.

Diego Simeone has responded to calls for Joao Felix to be given a more important role with Atletico Madrid by insisting he too wants to see the player in top form in every match.

The 20-year-old forward, a €126million signing from Benfica in the previous transfer window, scored a penalty during a strong performance in the 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday that secured Atleti's place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It was Joao Felix's most promising display since he returned from an ankle injury that saw him miss six matches, in which Simeone's side were criticised for a lack of cutting edge in attack.

There are calls for the Portugal international to start Saturday's LaLiga match against Osasuna as the linchpin of the attack once more, as Atleti aim for what would be just a fourth win in 14 league games.

Simeone, too, is eager to unleash Joao Felix and see him maintain his level of form.

"I also want to see him every day and want to see him in the best form possible, no doubt about that," he told reporters on Friday.

"We know what we need to do to improve in LaLiga.

"We have a tough opponent, who have come up into the Primera Division in a very strong way, with great collective work.

"Beyond the criticism and the opinions, we're looking for routes to get us back to having balance. This balance is more clear now, and with more regularity across the 90 minutes, there are more chances to win."

Simeone also confirmed discussions are under way as to Atletico's plans for the January transfer window.

They are rumoured to be prepared to go back in for Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno, while Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Tottenham's Christian Eriksen have also been linked, as has Torino forward Andrea Belotti.

"As always, we're talking with [CEO] Miguel Angel [Gil Marin] and with [sporting director] Andrea [Berta] about what the team needs," Simeone said. "But I'm only thinking about Osasuna."

Atleti are seventh in the table after 16 matches, eight points behind both leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid, having played a game more.

Rodri has described "fearsome" Liverpool as the best team he has faced but warned the Premier League leaders that Manchester City will not give up their title without a fight.

Liverpool have opened a 14-point gap on the defending champions, who have already dropped as many points this term as they did in the whole of 2018-19 when the Reds finished second.

Third-placed City head to Arsenal on Sunday for their next league outing and Rodri, used 14 times in the top flight this season, has urged his team-mates to focus on the task at hand.

The Spain international, who played a full part in last month's 3-1 defeat at Anfield, told Goal: "On an individual basis I can say that Liverpool are the best team I have faced.

"They dominate at both ends of the field and are very aggressive. They dominate the lines well and that makes them a fearsome team.

"They are very good, but anyone can beat them so we are going to fight until the end.

"I don't know if the goal is to beat Liverpool, who are European champions, as I think you always have to focus on yourself.

"If we focus on Liverpool too much we are wrong. We would better looking at ourselves and play as we did at Atletico under [Diego] Simeone, game by game.

"You can't stop competing and that's what [Pep] Guardiola instils in us every day, that every game is a final."

Rodri spent one season with Simeone at Atletico Madrid prior to making a reported £62.8million switch to the Etihad Stadium, where he is working under Guardiola.

Asked how the two coaches compare, Rodri said both have the characteristics of "winners" and added: "Simeone is consistency and perseverance. Guardiola is innovative, growing day by day."

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has his sights set on a slice of Champions League history when Tottenham visit the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.

The Poland international needs two goals against Jose Mourinho's side to claim the record for goals in the group stage of a single campaign – an honour held by Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 11 in 2015-16 for Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid will book their place in the last 16 if they beat Lokomotiv Moscow, while Shakhtar Donetsk will join Manchester City in progressing from Group C if they overcome Atalanta.

In Group A, already-qualified Paris Saint-Germain host Galatasaray and Real Madrid – who have also booked their place in the knockout stages – travel to Club Brugge.

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

Club Brugge v Real Madrid

7 - This is the seventh Champions League group stage campaign which Club Brugge have failed to progress from. No side has ever competed in more group stages without progressing from any in the history of the competition.

2 - Karim Benzema has scored two goals in each of his last two Champions League games. Only four players have scored two or more in three consecutive games - Giovane Elber (2001), Filippo Inzaghi (2002), Cristiano Ronaldo (2013, twice in 2017) and Lewandowski (2018).

Paris Saint-Germain v Galatasaray

18 - PSG striker Kylian Mbappe has scored 18 goals in 29 appearances in the Champions League. If he scores twice in this game, Mbappe would become the youngest player in the competition's history to reach 20 goals, aged 20 years and 356 days.

1 - Galatasaray scored their first goal of the 2019-20 Champions League campaign in their last game against Club Brugge, ending a run of 38 shots without scoring from the start of the campaign. In total, they have only scored once from 43 shots in the competition this term.

Bayern Munich v Tottenham

16 - Bayern Munich had 16 shots on target in their 6-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on matchday five; the most by a team in this season's Champions League. Bayern last had more in a Champions League game in October 2013 against Viktoria Plzen (18).

2 - New Spurs manager Mourinho has lost both of his previous away games against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, losing in the quarter-finals with Chelsea in 2004-05 and the semi-finals with Real Madrid in 2011-12.

Olympiacos v Red Star Belgrade

1 - Olympiacos have picked up just one point from their five Champions League games this season. Only in 2017-18 (one) have they picked up one point or fewer from a completed group stage.

19 - Red Star have conceded 19 goals in their five Champions League games this season, more than any other side. There have been just five occasions of a team conceding 20+ goals in a single group stage in the competition, most recently by Legia Warsaw in 2016-17 (24).

Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City

5 - Dinamo Zagreb have picked up five points in this season's Champions League. Only in 1998-99 (eight points) have they won more in a single group stage in the competition. 

19 - City’s Raheem Sterling has scored 19 goals in 46 appearances in the Champions League. He could become the sixth Englishman to reach 20 goals in the competition after Wayne Rooney (30), Paul Scholes (24), Frank Lampard (23), Steven Gerrard (21) and Harry Kane (20). Should Sterling score in his 47th appearance, he would be the second quickest Englishman to 20 Champions League goals after Kane (24 appearances).

Shakhtar Donetsk v Atalanta

5 - Shakhtar Donetsk are without a win in each of their last five Champions League home games (drawn three, lost two). It is their longest ever winless run at home in the competition.

2 - Atalanta have lost their last two away games in the Champions League, conceding nine goals in the process. They last lost three consecutive away matches in all European competition back in October 1987.

Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow

2 - Atletico Madrid have lost consecutive matches in the Champions League; they've never lost three in a row in the competition. The Spanish side last lost three consecutive games in all European competitions back in October 1984 in the UEFA Cup.

0 - Lokomotiv Moscow have never won an away game against Spanish opposition in all European competition, losing six of their seven such games and failing to score in each defeat.

Bayer Leverkusen v Juventus

3 - Bayer Leverkusen have benefited from three own goals in this season's Champions League, with only two teams benefiting from more in a single campaign: Inter in 2002-03 (four) and Barcelona in 2017-18 (five).

27 - Juventus forward Ronaldo has scored 27 goals in 24 Champions League appearances against German clubs; the most a single player has accumulated against sides from a particular nation in the competition's history.

Everton are set to make the first move for Carlo Ancelotti.

The Toffees will reportedly begin talks with the Italian following his departure from Napoli on Tuesday.

Ancelotti was sacked three hours after a 4-0 win over Genk, which confirmed the Serie A club's place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

 

TOP STORY – EVERTON TO RIVAL ARSENAL FOR ANCELOTTI

Everton will waste no time in opening contract talks with free agent Ancelotti in the wake of his Napoli exit, according to Sky Sports.

Managerless Arsenal are also said to be considering the 60-year-old former Chelsea, Milan and Real Madrid boss as a possible replacement for Unai Emery.

But the Toffees could get the jump on their Premier League rivals after Shanghai SIPG's Vitor Pereira pulled out of the race to succeed Marco Silva, although David Moyes reportedly remains an option to take charge on an interim basis.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a coach and secured league titles in England, France, Germany and Italy.

ROUND-UP

- Napoli could announce the appointment of Gennaro Gattuso on a short-term contract as soon as Wednesday, according to CalcioMercato.

- Ex-Everton manager Moyes and former Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton are in line to replace Manuel Pellegrini at West Ham if the Hammers lose to Southampton on Saturday, says The Mirror.

- Manchester United are considering Ajax's Donny van de Beek and Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid as they prepare for Paul Pogba's end-of-season exit, reports the Daily Mail.

- The Daily Mail also claims Leicester City have opened contract talks with rumoured Manchester City target Caglar Soyuncu, who has been in good form this season.

- Barcelona have cooled their interest in Lautaro Martinez due to Inter's demand for €100million, according to ESPN.

With Neymar's future far from certain, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly planning for life without the star forward.

Neymar appears to covet a Barcelona reunion, after leaving the LaLiga champions two years ago.

Should Neymar's wish be granted, an African sensation lighting up Anfield is said to be on the agenda.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR OUT, MANE IN

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want Liverpool star Sadio Mane to replace Neymar, report France Football and Mundo Deportivo.

PSG star Neymar wanted to leave Paris during the previous transfer window, but a proposed return to Barcelona did not materialise.

Doubts remain over Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a €222million transfer in 2017 – and the French powerhouse are said to have identified Mane should the Brazilian depart the capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Calciomercato, Napoli have agreed a deal for former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso to replace head coach Carlo Ancelotti. It comes with Ancelotti on the brink amid a nine-match winless streak ahead of Tuesday's crucial Champions League clash against Genk.

Manchester City are set to rival Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake, says Sky Sports. Chelsea want to bring Ake back to Stamford Bridge following his exit in 2017. However, Premier League champions City are reportedly interested amid their defensive woes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered an 18-month contract by Napoli, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. The 38-year-old is a free agent after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy and he has been linked to Milan and Inter.

- Sport claims Inter want to sign either Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal from Barcelona in January. Antonio Conte is determined to bolster his squad as Inter challenge for Scudetto honours and juggle Champions League commitments. Rakitic has also been linked to Serie A holders Juventus.

Everton hope to have Vitor Pereira installed as manager for Sunday's Premier League fixture at Manchester United, according to Sky Sports. After sacking Marco Silva, the Toffees are ready to offer the Shanghai SIPG coach a three-year deal. It comes as Sky Sports also reports former Arsenal boss Unai Emery was approached about the Everton job.

- The Mirror says Manchester United are ready to show their faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by backing him in moves for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez and Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland. The spotlight was on Solskjaer following a poor run of form and Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham exit. However, the Norwegian has overseen consecutive victories over Tottenham and Manchester City.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City are monitoring the progress of Rangers teenager Kai Kennedy, says the Daily Record.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said anxiety prevented his team from scoring in their goalless draw at Villarreal.

Simeone's Atletico failed to win for the third consecutive LaLiga match following Friday's stalemate away to Villarreal.

It was another toothless showing by sixth-placed Atletico, who have only scored 16 goals through as many league games this season.

"It is normal that when you generate so many chances and do not convert, anxiety appears," Simeone told reporters. "And more anxiety, less precision. 

"When anxiety disappears, tranquillity and precision will come from the players we have. Today we had clear occasions, Joao Felix and [Renan] Lodi's, but we did not define them correctly."

Atletico could end the weekend seven points adrift of third-placed Sevilla and eight behind leaders Barcelona.

"At the moment, what worries me is to win a game and everything will be looked after in a different way," Simeone said.

Atletico captain Koke added: "In front of goal we have no fortune, precision or I do not know what is missing. To win you have to score goals.

"The team defends well, gives everything, but we need to be more precise to all, the strikers, the midfielders, the defenders..."

Christian Eriksen is back on Manchester United's transfer radar.

The Red Devils are said to be preparing a January bid for the Tottenham midfielder, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Eriksen reportedly turned down a move to Old Trafford earlier this year.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED REIGNITE ERIKSEN INTEREST

Could Jose Mourinho unintentionally do his old employers another favour?

Tottenham lost to United in midweek and are now about to receive an offer for playmaker Eriksen from their Premier League rivals, reports The Mirror.

The Denmark international has not featured in the starting XI since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino and, though he prefers a move abroad, might have a decision to make when the transfer window reopens.

Seemingly not convinced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a few months ago, Eriksen can sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs overseas from January.

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City are set to hand in-demand manager Brendan Rodgers a bumper new deal in a bid to end interest from Arsenal, according to The Telegraph.

- David Moyes wants a long-term commitment from Everton before agreeing to a second stint in charge at Goodison Park, says The Sun.

- Contrary to recent reports, ESPN suggests Patrick Vieira is not at the top of Arsenal's shortlist of potential managers.

- Error-riddled Roberto's ill-fated period as a Premier League goalkeeper could soon be over. The Guardian reports West Ham will look to sell or loan the Spaniard in January, with Turkey a likely destination, as they pursue stronger competition for the injured Lukasz Fabianski.

- Serie A side  Milan have offered Zlatan Ibrahimovic a contract that could run for 18 months and will demand an answer from his agent Mino Raiola next week, claims CalcioMercato.

- Diego Simeone wants Atletico Madrid to prioritise signing a striker over Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, according to AS. The Spanish newspaper links Krzysztof Piatek, Andrea Belotti of Torino, Chelsea centre-forward Olivier Giroud and Valencia's Rodrigo with moves to the Wanda Metropolitano.

- Staying with Atletico and the Rojiblancos have entered the race for rumoured Juventus, Inter and Borussia Dortmund target Sandro Tonali, says CalcioMercato. Tonali, 19, is in his third season in Brescia's first-team squad.

Head coach Diego Simeone has dismissed suggestions he has lost the dressing room at Atletico Madrid.

Atleti are sixth in LaLiga after 14 matches on 25 points - six behind leaders Barcelona, who are ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.

But Simeone played down talk he no longer has the confidence of the Atleti players following an underwhelming start to the campaign.

The 49-year-old claims such questions have been a regular feature of his tenure and was bullish at a news conference on Thursday.

"In the eight years that I have been here, it has been said that the group was not with me every year," Simeone said ahead of Friday's clash with Villarreal.

"There is always a moment of speculation. However, we move forward with patience and lots of energy.

"I don't think there has been more criticism than in other seasons.

"The responsibility I have is a lot. I assume it and share it with players, club, people who work in the dressing room.

"We all have responsibility - mine is important, I assume it and I look for solutions so that everything returns to the best situation, which is to win. When you win, everything looks much better."

Simeone acknowledged Atletico are, to some extent, in a season of transition, but it will not affect his daily approach.

He added: "The ones who think that the word 'transition' leads to sunbathing and waiting for the flowers to come out don't know me.

"I always imagine positive things, and within them, there are situations that can be improved.

"Our goal is to compete game after game. We will not change. Reality is what counts, day to day."

Having been dealt a blow by last week's defeat to Barca, Simeone has urged his players to focus on catching Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Sevilla - immediately above them in the table - rather than worrying about LaLiga's top two.

"We look at the one closest to us," he said. "We must always look at the one closest to us. It is the best way to approach those who are further away - first, go for those who are closest."

Chelsea are seemingly eager to sign Jadon Sancho, but they may have to wait until the end of the season.

The Borussia Dortmund star, 19, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Bundesliga club, with numerous Premier League sides reportedly interested.

And Chelsea could be ready to spend big to land the England international.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY TO BREAK TRANSFER RECORD FOR SANCHO

Chelsea are prepared to break their transfer record to land Sancho, according to Goal.com.

Sancho has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City after impressing at Dortmund.

Chelsea broke their own transfer record last year, when they paid Athletic Bilbao a reported £71.6million (€80m) for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The Premier League club are appealing their transfer ban, at this stage unable to buy players in January.

That may not be such a problem when it comes to Sancho, though, with Sport Bild reporting the attacker may not want a January move.

ROUND-UP

Edinson Cavani is struggling for game time at Paris Saint-Germain and the 32-year-old forward could be set for a move. AS reports the Uruguay international likes the idea of a switch to Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at the Wanda Metropolitano and Athletico Paranaense midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, 22, will join Atletico in a €30m transfer next year, according to Marca.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears safe for now at Manchester United, but The Sun reports the Premier League club could turn to England manager Gareth Southgate if they decide to make a change at the end of the season.

- Carlo Ancelotti remains under pressure at Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis will wait until the Champions League clash against Genk on December 10 before considering a change. Napoli are winless in eight matches and sit seventh in Serie A.

- Metz and France youth international defender Lenny Lacroix, 16, is attracting interest from Barcelona and Juventus, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- With Everton in the Premier League relegation zone after their Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool, Marco Silva could be sacked. The Sun reports Silva said goodbye to his Everton players after the loss at Anfield.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has been crowned the first ever winner of the Yachine Trophy at 2019 Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris.

The 27-year-old beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ederson to be crowned the best keeper in the world.

Alisson played a crucial role in Liverpool's Champions League success and started six times for Brazil in their triumphant Copa America campaign.

He also won the Golden Glove in the Premier League last season with 21 clean sheets as the Reds fell just short of Manchester City in the title race.

Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen finished second in the voting, while Alisson's compatriot Ederson was third.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Hugo Lloris, Jan Oblak, Samir Handanovic, Manuel Neuer, Andre Onana and Wojciech Szczesny were also in the running for the inaugural award.

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has been voted 18th in the final list for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, a fall of 15 places from last year.

Griezmann finished behind only Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo 12 months ago after winning the World Cup with France and impressing for Atletico Madrid at club level.

However, an underwhelming end to his Atletico career and a tough start to life at Barcelona - who he joined in a €120million deal in July - has seen him drop down the list.

It marks the second time the 28-year-old has slipped from third to 18th, having done likewise in 2017.

Griezmann's Barcelona team-mate Marc-Andre ter Stegen finished 24th and Frenkie de Jong, who spent the first half of the year with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, was voted 11th in the standings.

Three Liverpool players missed out on the top 10, with Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino in 26th, 19th and 17th, respectively.

Fellow Premier League side Manchester City were also heavily represented in the 30-11 rankings, as were Dutch champions Ajax following their run to the final four of last season's Champions League.

Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk are the frontrunners to win the most prestigious individual accolade in world football during Monday's ceremony.

Ballon d'Or 30-11 list in full:

=28. Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)

=28. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)

=28. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

=26. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

=26. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

=24. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

=24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

23. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

22. Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

=20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

=20. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)

19. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

18. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)

17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

16. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

15. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

14. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

13. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

12. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

11. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Ernesto Valverde praised Antoine Griezmann's performance in the forward's return to Atletico Madrid as Barcelona claimed a 1-0 win on Sunday.

Facing his former club for the first time, Griezmann struggled to have an impact at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Lionel Messi's 86th-minute goal proved decisive.

Griezmann has scored five goals and provided three assists in 18 games since joining Barca from Atletico for a reported €120million in July.

The forward was again backed by Valverde, whose team returned to the top of the table with their hard-fought win.

"He looked good. It was a tough game for him. It's difficult when you face players you have played alongside for many years," the Barcelona head coach told a news conference.

"He was whistled a little bit. He was fighting and working hard. He had a really good chance and could maybe have controlled the ball better. It's something that happens when you come back to a place where you spent so long for the first time.

"That was what happened to Griezmann. He fought to overcome it and I think he played well."

Barcelona have won five straight games in all competitions and host Real Mallorca in LaLiga on Saturday.

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