Manuel Neuer should be fit to represent Germany at the World Cup but is likely to miss Bayern Munich's trip to Barcelona next week, according to Julian Nagelsmann.

Neuer last featured for Bayern in their dramatic 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund on October 8, with a shoulder injury leading Sven Ulreich to take his place between the sticks for their past three games.

The goalkeeper will be absent once again when Bayern visit Hoffenheim on Saturday, and Nagelsmann doubts he will be involved when they bid to eliminate Barca from the Champions League on Wednesday. 

However, Nagelsmann has eased fears he could miss out on a trip to Qatar, saying: "Manuel is still in pain. He probably can't play in Barcelona either, we're planning for Mainz [on October 29].

"Issues can certainly happen if he starts too early, and we want to avoid that. We have to wait until the healing process is such that he can play again. 

"I don't think the World Cup is in danger. Manuel knows his body best and knows with which pains he can play. 

"He trained in the weight room yesterday. It's up and down, day-to-day, but I don't think it will last that long. I'm hoping he'll be back against Mainz."

Bayern have been forced to cope with several selection problems recently, enduring a spate of COVID-19 cases and seeing Leroy Sane sidelined with a muscle injury. 

Thomas Muller is the latest player to be ruled out of the trip to Hoffenheim, leading Nagelsmann to highlight the importance of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

"Leroy Sane is known, Thomas Muller is also out, he has gastrointestinal problems," he added. "He's not happy with that, but I think he will be fine before the Champions League game. Other than that, there is nothing new, everyone is fine.

"Kingsley Coman can play again. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting coped well with the games and it's important that he's there after Muller's absence."

Choupo-Moting registered two goal involvements after starting a Bundesliga game for the first time since November 2016 last week, scoring and assisting in a 5-0 win over Freiburg.

Meanwhile, the former Paris Saint-Germain forward has recorded more goal contributions against Hoffenheim (nine – six goals, three assists) than against any other Bundesliga side.

Nagelsmann made his name as a coach during a successful three-year spell with Hoffenheim, leading the club to Champions League qualification at the end of the 2016-17 season, and admits Saturday's match represents a unique occasion.

"It's a special game for me. It's a club close to my heart," he added. "I had many successful years there and met a lot of friends and great colleagues there."

Hoffenheim have taken 17 points from their first 10 Bundesliga matches this season – their best return at this stage of a campaign since Nagelsmann led them in 2016-17 (20).

Chelsea co-owner Behdad Eghbali does not believe many clubs are interested in a revival of the Super League, despite a new proposal for the competition being in development.

The Super League's launch failed in spectacular fashion last year, with nine of the 12 founding clubs withdrawing in the face of fan, media and player pressure.

While all six English members quickly reversed their support for the competition, Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as Juventus, remain committed to the project.

Media executive Bernd Reichart has been recruited to head up plans for a relaunch, and said on Wednesday: "Even fans will have a lot of sympathy for the idea".

However, Eghbali – part of the Todd Boehly-led consortium which acquired Chelsea earlier this year, says "vocal" duo Barca and Madrid are those most interested. 

"I think the sport needs more premium high-quality matches and content, but it doesn't have to be a Super League," Eghbali said at an event in New York on Wednesday. 

"Todd went there on an All-Star Game, the baseball talent competition or draft generates £200million to £300million of revenue on a Monday or Tuesday each year, none of that exists in the English Premier League. 

"Could there be a Premier League versus Serie A game? Could you see pre-season matches producing more premium content on the pitch? You could.

"But structurally, given how botched that episode was, does anybody have any appetite for something like that? A couple of teams in Spain do and they are vocal about it, but everyone else doesn't want to go there anymore."

Reichart, however, claims the Super League project is "very alive", though he was keen to stress the ability to qualify through sporting merit must exist in any reworked format.

"[The Super League is] very alive, there are some who want to declare that it is dead, but if they say it a lot, there is much to suspect," he told Cadena SER on Wednesday.

"There are clubs in Europe that surely share the vision of Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now they have the opportunity to contribute what they think.

"It is a long road, but we have the humility to do it step by step, but without pause. The hand is extended to all the members of European football, we want to be inclusive.

"The concept of a fixed position is not something that we are currently contemplating. The design of the format ultimately has to be the result of dialogue, but we don't have a predefined format, the dialogue we propose is real and that's why I don't want to speculate on how it will definitely be. Sporting merit will be applied to all members of that Super League."

Christophe Galtier wants his Paris Saint-Germain team to be more ruthless to enable him to rotate his squad and keep players fresh.

PSG are unbeaten in Galtier's first season in charge, sitting top of Ligue 1 and their Champions League group.

However, PSG have not won a game by at least a two-goal margin since the 3-1 away victory over Maccabi Haifa on September 14, meaning Galtier has not had the luxury of being able to substitute key players.

The head coach would like his side to give him more freedom to rotate by killing matches off earlier, stating ahead of Friday's clash against Ajaccio: "There are lots of games at the moment.

"Of course, I would like us to be more comfortable and have bigger leads to be able to make more changes during games, but the reality is down to the goalkeepers we are facing and the run of fixtures, which can mean we are not quite on target.

"There could be some fresh legs brought in [against Ajaccio]. I am still thinking about that and the number of games we are playing.

"We need to get the result. Of course, people might think this will be an easy game for Paris Saint-Germain, but we went to Reims [0-0 draw] and found it very difficult. We have to get the win."

Galtier says players who have not had as many minutes on the field as they would like must be ready when called upon.

"Our working method is to be focused on recovery, but not let them be inactive," Galtier added.

"We want the players always to be active to reduce fatigue from matches and also work on tactics, because it's important for every player to be ready and fully aware of what to do against each opposition if there are changes in the set-up.

"We are doing a lot of work on that. Those who are not playing much have exactly what they need if they are called on to start or come off the bench."

Karim Benzema will need to perform well for France at the upcoming World Cup to "justify his status" as Ballon d'Or winner, claims Michel Platini.

Benzema finished a career-best 2021-22 season with 44 goals, while adding 15 assists as he helped fire Real Madrid to a LaLiga and Champions League double.

The 34-year-old's stunning campaign was enough to see off the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Sadio Mane to win his first Ballon d'Or, having previously been nominated 10 times without taking home the trophy.

But Platini, who won Ballon d'Or awards in three consecutive years between 1983 and 1985, believes there is now more pressure on Benzema to perform at the World Cup in Qatar, starting next month.

"He reached the grail with the Ballon d'Or," Platini told RMC Sport. "He has a big responsibility being the best player in the world and the World Cup is coming up.

"He will have to be on top to justify his status."

Benzema returned from a six-year exodus with the national team for Euro 2020, scoring four goals in four appearances as France crashed out at the round of 16 stage.

He will hope to help Les Blues defend their World Cup crown, beginning with their opening group match against Australia on November 22, though Platini believes Benzema is already well on his way to becoming a France footballing icon.

"Benzema is becoming a legend of French football," Platini added. "Winning a Ballon d'Or brings you into the ranks of great footballers."

Thibaut Courtois suggested the Yashin Trophy had been "invented" to appease goalkeepers as he struggled to understand his seventh-placed Ballon d'Or finish – scepticism that was shared by Iker Casillas.

Keeper Courtois' Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema took the top award in Monday's Paris ceremony, named the best player in the world by France Football.

Benzema was a deserving winner, as Courtois himself acknowledged, having scored 44 goals in 46 games as Madrid won LaLiga and the Champions League in 2021-22. He netted two hat-tricks among a record-equalling 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stage.

But Courtois was also a part of those two triumphs and had an equally vital role in the European success, making nine saves in the final against Liverpool – a record since Opta data was first gathered in 2003-04 and worth 2.5 prevented goals, according to expected goals on target data.

The Belgium international beat Liverpool's Alisson to the Yashin Trophy, awarded to the world's best goalkeeper, yet he felt he should have fared better in the overall ranking.

"First of all, I want to say that I am very happy for Karim Benzema," Courtois told Cadena SER.

"It seems that it is better to score a goal than to stop one. It is a battle that remains to be won. Seeing the logic of the vote, I had no chance of finishing very high, nor of winning it of course.

"I'm not saying I had to win it! But you win La Liga, the Champions League, your team wins thanks to your saves... and you only finish seventh. You're not even on the podium.

"In the top 10, there wasn't even a defender. At least this year they invented the trophy for the best goalkeeper."

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Courtois shared a post from former Madrid keeper Casillas, which read: "I'm happy for Thibaut Courtois! By far he is the best goalkeeper in the world.

"What I'm not happy about is not having put him on the final podium for the Ballon d'Or. I still don't understand what those who choose this award are based on."

Carlo Ancelotti was not put out by Manchester City being named the team of the year in Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony, saying last season's Champions League glory is proof of Real Madrid's standing.

Madrid finished third in the votes for the team award, despite winning LaLiga and the Champions League last season.

Liverpool finished as runners-up behind City, as they did in the Premier League. The Reds also lost to Madrid in the Champions League final, but won the EFL Cup and FA Cup last term. Indeed, Los Blancos also beat Pep Guardiola's side en route to winning their 14th European crown.

Ancelotti, though, insists Madrid – who won the Super Cup in August and are top of LaLiga after defeating Barcelona in Sunday's Clasico – are still the best.

He said in a press conference: "I don't know the criteria well, because they don't talk about the team. Madrid is the best team and that is why they have won the Champions League.

"I have all the respect for that award. We received the most important award in May."

Madrid did enjoy success on Monday, though, with Karim Benzema taking home the main individual prize after his stunning season in 2021-22, becoming the first French player to do so since Zinedine Zidane in 1998.

Benzema, 34, led Madrid to their success, which came somewhat against the odds – at least in the Champions League.

However, when asked if had been surprised by his achievements since re-joining Madrid from Everton last year, Ancelotti replied: "No, I don't think so. What we have achieved so far has been very good.

"For me it is not so surprising, here you have everything to be successful: history, tradition, competition, quality of the players, atmosphere... At the beginning of last season I had many more doubts than now."

Benzema scored 44 times last season, a tally bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (50) of players in Europe's top-five leagues.

Next on the list after Benzema was Kylian Mbappe, who scored 39 goals for Paris Saint-Germain and appeared all set to join his France team-mate at Madrid until a late change of heart.

Reports last week claimed Mbappe now wanted to leave PSG, though he denied those rumours on Monday. 

Asked if Mbappe would deserve another chance to sign for the club, Ancelotti instead chose to hail the next generation already coming through at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"What is the future? I do not know. On a personal level, I don't know what can happen," he said.

"The future of this club and this team is already written with young players like Vinicius [Junior], Rodrygo, [Aurelien] Tchouameni, [Eduardo] Camavinga, [Federico[ Valverde, [Eder] Militao... who have already written the future of this team.

"The players change, but these players have shown what the future of Real Madrid will be."

Karim Benzema has been rewarded for his career-best 2021-22 season with his first Ballon d'Or in a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Real Madrid captain Benzema was a strong favourite for the top award on Monday after inspiring the Spanish giants to a LaLiga and Champions League double last term.

Ahead of a November-December World Cup, a change in the format saw the Ballon d'Or awarded based on performances over a regular season rather than the calendar year for the first time.

France international Benzema would have been a leading candidate in either case, but he was the clear winner after scoring 44 goals in 46 matches and earning a fifth European crown in the 2021-22 campaign.

Bayern Munich's former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane was the runner-up, with Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne third and Robert Lewandowski fourth after an outstanding final season for Bayern Munich before joining Barcelona.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah was ranked fifth and Paris Saint-Germain's prolific France international Kylian Mbappe only sixth.

Lewandowski won the Gerd Muller Award, presented to the best striker, before Benzema was handed the Ballon d'Or by his former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

Although his haul was topped by Lewandowski (50), 10 of Benzema's goals came in the Champions League knockout stages, tying a Cristiano Ronaldo single-season record.

Vinicius Junior netted the decisive strike in the final versus Liverpool, but Benzema had already established himself as the world's best with hat-tricks against both Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Adding 15 assists, Benzema's total of 59 goal involvements last season fell just shy of Mbappe's Europe-wide high of 60 (39 goals, 21 assists).

Benzema had been nominated for the Ballon d'Or on 10 previous occasions but only cracked the top 10 for the first time in 2021, finishing fourth as Lionel Messi – not nominated this year – claimed a seventh award.

Karim Benzema has been rewarded for his career-best 2021-22 season with his first Ballon d'Or in a ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Real Madrid captain Benzema was a strong favourite for the top award on Monday after inspiring the Spanish giants to a LaLiga and Champions League double last term.

Ahead of a November-December World Cup, a change in the format saw the Ballon d'Or awarded based on performances over a regular season rather than the calendar year for the first time.

France international Benzema would have been a leading candidate in either case, but he was the clear winner after scoring 44 goals in 46 matches and earning a fifth European crown in the 2021-22 campaign.

Although his haul was topped by Robert Lewandowski (50) – then of Bayern Munich and now of Barcelona – 10 of Benzema's goals came in the Champions League knockout stages, tying a Cristiano Ronaldo single-season record.

Vinicius Junior netted the decisive strike in the final versus Liverpool, but Benzema had already established himself as the world's best with hat-tricks against both Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Adding 15 assists, Benzema's total of 59 goal involvements last season fell just shy of Kylian Mbappe's Europe-wide high of 60 (39 goals, 21 assists).

Benzema had been nominated for the Ballon d'Or on 10 previous occasions but only cracked the top 10 for the first time in 2021, finishing fourth as Lionel Messi – not nominated this year – claimed a seventh award.

Thibaut Courtois was named the world's best goalkeeper by France Football on Monday as he took home the 2022 Yashin Trophy.

The award, handed to the outstanding keeper of the 2021-22 season, went to Courtois ahead of Alisson, Ederson, Edouard Mendy and Mike Maignan.

Liverpool's Alisson finished second to Courtois, who inspired Real Madrid's Champions League final win over the Reds in Paris last term.

It was the Belgium international's performance in that match that surely earned him the top honour and helped him finish seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting.

Courtois made nine saves – a final record since Opta data was first gathered in 2003-04 – and prevented 2.5 goals, according to expected goals on target data, in a 1-0 victory.

Madrid also won LaLiga, capping the finest season of Courtois' career.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had won the Yashin Trophy in 2021, having similarly delivered glory for Italy at Euro 2020, but he did not make the top 10 this time.

Barcelona teenager Gavi won the prestigious Kopa Trophy at the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris on Monday.

The 18-year-old midfielder became the second successive Barca player to land the award, given to the best player in the world under the age of 21, after fellow midfielder Pedri had the honour last year.

Gavi has been a revelation since breaking into the Catalan giants' first team and has been rewarded for a brilliant breakthrough 2021-22 season.

The youngster's performances also earned him a Spain call-up and he is set to play in his first World Cup in Qatar.

Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga was the runner-up, with Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala third ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Nuno Mendes of Paris Saint-Germain.

Gavi said: "I try and give the best of myself the whole time and try to apply myself in the best way."

He made 34 LaLiga appearances last season, scoring twice and providing six assists as he pulled the strings in the middle of the park.

Jurgen Klopp joked Pep Guardiola should take a four-year sabbatical when his Manchester City contract expires at the end of the season.

Guardiola has led City to four Premier League titles in the last five seasons, but his future at the Etihad Stadium is unclear with less than 12 months remaining on his deal.

On Friday, Guardiola said he was not considering his contract situation for the time being, declaring there would be "plenty of time" for talks after the Premier League breaks for the World Cup next month.

Liverpool have often suffered due to Guardiola's brilliance, finishing as Premier League runners-up to City on two occasions, and Klopp says there can be no questions over his rival manager's quality.

Asked whether he thought Guardiola would remain at City beyond this campaign, Klopp said: "I would prefer for Pep to be doing a sabbatical for four years or something, 100 per cent.

"Actually, my preferred solution would have been if he had a sabbatical these past four years. Honestly, it's a joke, but I have no idea.

"I've said it, I don't know how often; he is the best manager in the world. He has proven that all the time, every day. It's special, what they are doing, and I respect that."

Asked whether Guardiola's incredible standards made his own job the toughest in football, Klopp said: "Yeah, but it's fine, I am a very happy person. I have no problem with the situation.

"I'm not [Roger] Federer and Pep is not [Rafael] Nadal, they compete on the highest level and are best friends. Pep and I are not best friends because we don't know each other.

"But I respect him a lot, I know he respects what we are doing as well, so that's fine. For a rivalry you don't need to be disrespectful.

"Around the games, we have a good relationship; during the games we are both competitors. I could always admit brilliance when I saw it, and with him, that's the case."

While Guardiola has brought 11 pieces of silverware to City since his 2016 arrival, he has yet to deliver the Champions League trophy, but Klopp says that has no bearing on his standing in the game.

"I am not here to name City's targets. They are the best team in the world, I think it's obvious," Klopp said. "I think they won an awful lot, to be honest, and were unlucky in moments to not go through in the Champions League, nothing else.

"Last year they should have gone through, but that's how life is. From a sports point of view, I couldn't respect what they do more, that's the 100 per cent truth.

"What Pep is doing, it's absolutely outstanding. He will never stop, he wants to win each game desperately… he has so many things which are special for a manager."

Xavi understands the frustration of Barcelona fans on the back of their Champions League difficulties, but remains a "natural optimist".

Barca are in danger of failing to make the knockout stages of the Champions League for a second straight season after their 3-3 draw with Inter on Wednesday.

It left the Blaugrana on four points, eight adrift of Group C leaders Bayern Munich and three behind Inter with two games remaining.

Due to Inter's head-to-head record against the Catalan giants, the Serie A side will guarantee progression to the round of 16 with another three points from their two remaining matches.

Barca have enjoyed a strong start in LaLiga, winning seven of eight matches, and head into Sunday's Clasico against rivals Real Madrid ahead of the champions on goal difference at the top of the table.

Xavi, therefore, remains buoyed by the turnaround he has seen since taking over at Camp Nou 11 months ago, suggesting he would quit his post if he was not happy with the progress made.

"I understand the doubts, I know where I am. We couldn't afford to slip up in midweek, and we did," Xavi said in a press conference on Saturday.

"I understand how the Barca fans feel. I'm also disappointed and sad. I came here to turn the team around and we can manage that. 

"If I ever feel I'm not capable of doing that, I'll sit down here and I'll say so.

"That's the way I am, I'm a natural optimist. We've improved since last season. In LaLiga we're going well, we haven't lost a game yet.

"The season we're having makes me believe I have reason to remain optimistic.

"I will not stop working and insisting on what I do. The day I don't see it clearly, I'm going home. The day I don't think I'm a solution, I'll leave. It won't be a problem. But now I'm fine."

Xavi also stressed he has the backing of Barca president Joan Laporta, adding: "He conveyed total confidence to me. We've stood up to be counted in every game in Europe.

"The president is also very optimistic. The result the other day is a shame, as are the results in Milan and Munich. This year's Champions League has been cruel to us. But we're progressing well."

Recent Clasico history is not on Barca's side - they have lost five of their past six matches against Madrid in all competitions, as many defeats as they had suffered in their previous 18 meetings with Los Blancos.

Their only win in the last six games came in the second Clasico last season, though, and it was an emphatic 4-0 triumph at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Joan Laporta has told Barcelona fans to "keep believing" as they head into El Clasico on Sunday looking to hit back from a midweek Champions League disappointment.

A 3-3 draw with Inter on Wednesday was a blow to Barca's hopes of reaching the round of 16, but a win against Real Madrid in one of the most anticipated fixtures in world football would be a perfect response.

The fierce rivals head into the match level on points, with the Catalan giants top of LaLiga by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Barca president Laporta urged supporters to maintain their faith in Xavi and his players, telling BarcaTV: "Keep believing. We have a very competitive team, with very good players who are going to bring you a lot of joy.

"Stick behind Xavi, he needs your warmth and confidence. That's what we will give him and we hope the fans do too.

"I have my full faith in Xavi and his staff, and also with the players. We have a great squad and I'm sure they'll bring us a lot of joy. We have a team to compete against anyone in Europe.

"We'll get through this. We won't ever stop working for what we want. This club has had all kinds of ups and downs over the years, but we have always bounced back. And we can still do that, from every part of the club."

Laporta acknowledged just how important Sunday's fixture could be in the title race, adding: "We're top of the league and there's a big game on the way at the Bernabeu.

"El Clasico is very important, whoever wins get a huge injection of morale and the loser takes a mighty blow. It's the kind of game you want to see. We'll go there with our heads held high. We have a team to do things there.

"I hope the players will defend the Barca shirt with the right spirit, because whenever you get knocked down, you have to pick yourself up again. We want to show how good we are and that we can win the league."

Laporta spoke of his frustration at not securing a win over Inter that would have put their chances of progressing in their own hands.

"It was a big game for us and I am sad and angry that we didn't win despite scoring three goals," Laporta said.

"It was always going to be a difficult group. We should have got a better result in Munich because we were the better team.

"And the refereeing in Milan was scandalous. We shouldn't play the victims card, but we were very unhappy with the match officials, and I spoke to UEFA about it afterwards.

"Financially, missing out on the latter stages of the Champions League is a big blow."

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho mocked clubs qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages via the backdoor as 'the failed sharks of the Champions League'.

Mourinho's side are in a battle to reach the knockout stages via Group C after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis left them third on four points, behind the Spaniards (10) and Ludogorets (seven). Roma will still hope to overhaul Ludogorets and advance with two games to play in the group.

The draw, however, meant Betis were assured of reaching the next stage and Mourinho was asked if they were the Europa League favourites, leading him to implicitly goad teams like Barcelona and Juventus.

"I see them [Betis] as candidates, but the failed sharks of the Champions League will arrive, and they will come in hard," Mourinho said, referring to sides who drop into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League groups.

"They shouldn't come but it's the reality. It's going to be fun. The failures of the Champions League."

Among the clubs currently third in Champions League groups are Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Milan.

Should Roma fail to finish in the top two in Group C, they will qualify for the Conference League where they will defend the title they won under Mourinho last season.

The Portuguese added: "We want to go through and finish second, but if we finish third, we'll become candidates to retain the Conference League."

Oliver Kahn says Bayern Munich "absolutely have to stop" allowing opposing teams back into games after they nearly squandered another lead in the 4-2 Champions League win at Viktoria Plzen.

Goals from Sadio Mane and Thomas Muller, as well as a Leon Goretzka double had Bayern four goals up and cruising at half-time against the Czech champions.

But two second-half strikes from Plzen led to worries Bayern would let another advantage slip, after conceding a 95th-minute Anthony Modeste equaliser in the 2-2 Bundesliga draw with Borussia Dortmund at the weekend having led 2-0.

Julian Nagelsmann's side held on this time for three points to secure their place in the knockout stages, but Bayern CEO Kahn remains worried over their ability to see out games.

"Four games, four wins and into the round of 16," Kahn posted on Twitter. "A compliment to the team, in this group that was not a matter of course.

"After a furious first half, we let the opponent come back into the game.

"We absolutely have to stop this!"

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