Leon Goretzka says Robert Lewandowski "was spoiled" at Bayern Munich as he taunted his former team-mate over Barcelona's Champions League struggles.

Barca face being eliminated from the competition in the group stage in successive campaigns for only the second time heading into Wednesday's tie with Bayern at Camp Nou.

The Catalan giants will be unable to advance to the last 16 should they lose or if Inter beat Viktoria Plzen, while they will also be eliminated should both games be drawn.

While Barca have struggled in Europe of late, Bayern have reached at least the quarter-finals in all but one of the past 11 seasons, which Goretzka says can be taken for granted.

"Lewy was very spoiled at Bayern, always being at least in the round of 16 and progressing," Goretzka told reporters. "But now we can no longer take that into account."

Bayern beat Barca 2-0 in last month's reverse fixture, in which Lewandowski missed two presentable opportunities, and are already assured of a place in the knockout stages.

The German side have defeated Barcelona in nine of their 12 Champions League encounters, including the past five in a row.

Only Bayern themselves against Real Madrid (10) have lost more games against a single side in the competition's history, and Goretzka is targeting another victory next week.

"If we play against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, it can be a preparatory game or a Champions League final, it doesn't matter," the Germany international added. 

"It's going to be a super cool game that we're looking forward to. And we will also do everything to win it."

 

Lewandowski has scored five Champions League goals for Barca, each of those coming at Camp Nou – the most ever by a Barca player after their first two matches.

The prolific striker lifted the famous trophy with Bayern in 2020, but he will have to settle for Europa League football – at best – if results go against his side.

"It's their last chance," Bayern striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the game and to seeing Lewy. 

"He's a world-class player and a great guy. Playing against Barcelona is always something special."

Federico Valverde will miss Real Madrid's Champions League game at RB Leipzig on Tuesday, joining Karim Benzema in being ruled out of the trip to Germany.

Uruguayan midfielder Valverde has been in revelatory form for Madrid this season and scored his seventh goal of the campaign in Saturday's 3-1 win against Sevilla.

However, he took a heavy knock late in that game after being clattered by Papu Gomez, who was booked, and that blow has counted Valverde out of head coach Carlo Ancelotti's midweek plans.

Ballon d'Or winner Benzema was already expected to miss the Leipzig fixture, having been absent against Sevilla due to muscular fatigue in his left leg, and that was confirmed as Madrid announced their travelling squad.

Neither Valverde nor Benzema is expected to be sidelined for long, with reports in Spain indicating both could come back into contention for next Sunday's LaLiga game against Girona.

Madrid have already made sure of a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and they will be confirmed as winners of Group F if they avoid defeat at second-placed Leipzig, who sit four points behind Ancelotti's defending champions.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects Darwin Nunez to face Ajax in midweek after missing Saturday's shock defeat to Nottingham Forest with a hamstring injury.

Uruguay striker Nunez scored the only goal of the game on Wednesday as the Reds beat West Ham, building on a lively – albeit chaotic – cameo against Manchester City last weekend.

But he was withdrawn in the second half with a hamstring strain and that prevented him from featuring at the City Ground, his absence a blow as the Reds lacked presence in attack.

Forest won 1-0 thanks to a goal from former Liverpool youngster Taiwo Awoniyi, and Klopp will be desperate for his side to get the defeat out of their system as quickly as possible.

Liverpool can secure their progression to the last 16 of the Champions League when they face Ajax in Amsterdam on Wednesday and Klopp expects his big-money signing to return.

"Darwin should be back, this game was just too early," Klopp said.

"I think another day recovery would have helped him, but we played today. At least that is my knowledge in the moment.

"Ibou [Ibrahima Konate] will train from [Sunday] on and Naby [Keita] as well, but Naby is far off so he starts training now after a long period."

Liverpool's preparations for Saturday's match were also hampered by Thiago Alcantara falling ill in the 24 hours before kick-off and Klopp is unsure if he will face Ajax.

"Thiago got a bad ear infection last night and there was no chance for him to do anything. We drove him home," Klopp added.

"The decision was [made] in the moment he woke up and had the pain. The doctor went there and they tried everything, went to the hospital and stuff like this. It didn't work out."

That proved to be a spanner in the works for the Reds, with Klopp acknowledging the Spain international's absence left his side lacking creativity in midfield.

But he praised Curtis Jones for filling in, as he played in a deeper, unfamiliar role.

"We were obviously lacking up front a bit runs in behind, we were lacking vision in the centre, that's all true," he continued.

"I thought Curtis did really well but is not used to the position. He can play that definitely, but he was not even in my thoughts to start, so that all happened last night. But he did really well.

"But that we then did not create that much, I am not concerned about that, I'm not surprised – that's things that can happen."

Reece James has described the knee injury that threatens to rule him out of the World Cup as "devastating", but says he will do everything in his power to feature in Qatar.

The right-back sustained the injury in Chelsea's Champions League win at Milan last week, and was ruled out for eight weeks after seeing a specialist.

If James were to miss the tournament, it would represent a severe blow for England manager Gareth Southgate, who is facing the prospect of a selection crisis on the right of his defence.

Manchester City's Kyle Walker is also battling to be fit after suffering an abdominal injury earlier this month, while Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold has come under fire for his recent performances.

However, Chelsea boss Graham Potter said last week that James would "fight" to return in time for the tournament, and the defender has now made a similar pledge.

"It's obviously devastating and you know the World Cup is only a month away," James said on his YouTube channel. "As a kid, growing up, I always wanted to go and this is my first opportunity.

"I'll do everything I can to try to be there, but I'm obviously devastated. Just [the] injury came at the wrong time. But every day, we need to be grateful and thankful.

"I'll keep you updated with what's happening on a day-to-day basis, and I'll touch base soon."

England begin their World Cup campaign in less than a month's time, facing Iran in their Group B opener on November 21.

Massimiliano Allegri backed his Juventus side to claim a vital Champions League win at Benfica after they thrashed Empoli 4-0 on Friday.

The Bianconeri followed up their derby victory over Torino last weekend with an impressive display at the Allianz Arena, where Moise Kean put them in front with his first goal since April.

Weston McKennie opened his Serie A account for the season to double their lead and there were two late goals for Adrien Rabiot as Juve moved above Inter into seventh place.

Allegri's future had been called into question following defeats to Milan and Maccabi Haifa, but the Turin giants look to have turned the corner.

They must win at Benfica on Tuesday to have any chance of qualifying for the Champions League round of 16 and head coach Allegri fancies their chances in Lisbon.

He said: "Tonight it was important to win because we are behind in the championship and we hadn't won two in a row.

"Unfortunately we have to chase in the championship for the points lost against Salernitana and Monza. Tuesday will be an important match for two reasons: we are not out of the Champions League and we are not even in the Europa League.

"We will face a strong team, we can go there and overturn the result [they were beaten at home by Benfica], we need to be confident."

Romelu Lukaku is expected to return from injury when Inter host Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League next Wednesday, Simone Inzaghi has revealed.

Lukaku scored 24 goals as Inter won the Serie A title in the 2020-2 season, and was expected to play a key role in another tilt at the Scudetto after returning on a season-long loan from Chelsea.

However, a thigh injury has kept Lukaku sidelined since August, with the Belgium striker's recovery taking longer than was initially expected.

With Inter bidding to secure qualification for the Champions League round of 16 next week, Inzaghi is keen to get Lukaku back, but he will not feature at Fiorentina in Serie A on Saturday.

"He has been training partially in a group for two days. He has to regain his condition, but he is very motivated," Inter head coach Inzaghi said. "Finally, after a very long time, he has overcome the injury. 

"He will not be with us tomorrow in Florence, [but] we try to bring him back on Wednesday. He has to find his condition, but after seeing him work, I am confident."

Inter finished just two points behind rivals Milan at the culmination of the Scudetto battle last season, but are already eight points adrift of leaders Napoli this campaign.

Asked whether Inter could still play a part in the title race, Inzaghi added: "Now we have to look at the calendar, to be realistic. 

"There is a gap and they are racing ahead, now the goal is to recover points in the league and go through in the Champions League.

"What matters most is to think game-by-game, now there are so many games missing until the [World Cup] break, and we have to get there in the best possible way."

Inter have won on their last two Serie A trips to Fiorentina; only once in their history have they won three successive away league games against the Viola (between 1977 and 1980).

Meanwhile, the Nerazzurri are unbeaten in their last 10 league meetings with Fiorentina (W5 D5), having lost five of their previous six games against them (W1).

Gavi has added the Golden Boy award to the Kopa Trophy he won earlier this week, following in the footsteps of Barcelona team-mate Pedri by winning both prizes in the same year.

The 18-year-old saw off competition from the likes of Eduardo Camavinga, Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham to land the Kopa Trophy – given to the best player in the world under the age of 21 – at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

At a press conference in Palermo on Friday, it was revealed that Gavi had beaten another 19 nominees – including that aforementioned trio – to land the Golden Boy prize, which follows similar rules to the Kopa Trophy,

Gavi has become the third player to win the Golden Boy award while representing Barcelona, after Lionel Messi in 2005 and Pedri in 2021.

The teenager has been a revelation since breaking into the Blaugrana's first team, scoring twice and providing six assists as he made 34 appearances in LaLiga last season.

That form has seen the diminutive midfielder win 12 caps for Spain after becoming the youngest player to represent La Roja's senior side in October last year.

Barcelona had four players shortlisted for the award, with Ansu Fati and Nico Gonzalez – who is currently on loan at Valencia – joining Gavi and Pedri among the final 20 nominees.

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.

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