Samuel Umtiti could make just his second appearance of the season on Tuesday after the defender was included in Barcelona's Champions League squad to face Sparta Prague.

The France international received medical clearance to feature in the Champions League clash at Camp Nou after coming through a training session on the eve of the Group F fixture.

Umtiti has been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of Barca's last three games.

The centre-back was also sidelined earlier in the 2019-20 season with a foot issue; his solitary outing so far came in a 3-0 away triumph over Eibar on September 19.

Ousmane Dembele is also named in the 18-man party. The forward was not involved in Saturday's shock 3-1 LaLiga loss to Levante, despite being available again after serving a two-game suspension.

Asked about Dembele's absence in a news conference on Monday, head coach Ernesto Valverde said that "everyone always has to earn their place" in the Barca team.

The Spanish champions sit top of a group that also includes Borussia Dortmund and Inter.

Erik ten Hag has confirmed he will stay at Ajax for the remainder of the season, seemingly ending speculation of a move back to Bayern Munich.

Dutchman Ten Hag was previously in charge of Bayern's second string and, following the departure of Niko Kovac on Sunday, has been linked with a return to the Bundesliga club.

However, speaking to the media ahead of Ajax's Champions League fixture against Chelsea on Tuesday, the 49-year-old ruled out heading back to Bavaria - for now at least.

When asked if he plans to stay with his current employers, he replied: "I can confirm that. I feel a strong connection with my team, with everyone with Ajax. I can confirm I will stay in Ajax this season."

Ten Hag did admit he retains a love for Bayern but is "not a dreamer", instead choosing to focus on Ajax getting a positive result at Stamford Bridge.

"Bayern is a fantastic club – I felt really comfortable and really enjoyed working there. They are still in my heart, but now I am with Ajax," he said.

"I'm not a dreamer – I focus on Ajax and that's important. I live for today, my only focus is on Ajax and tomorrow's game with Chelsea."

Surprise semi-finalists last season, Ajax are level with Chelsea on six points in Group H, though they lost at home to the Blues in the previous round of fixtures.

Ten Hag understands his players face a tall order to prevail against their Premier League hosts, believing Frank Lampard's squad can go all the way in the competition.

"They are one of the favourites," he said. "It's going to be difficult, but every game is going to be difficult. We trust in ourselves.

"We know we have to play perfectly, give our best performance. Then we will have a chance."

Antonio Conte has challenged his Inter side to play with "personality" in Tuesday's mouth-watering Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Inter ran out 2-0 winners over the Bundesliga outfit a fortnight ago to leave both sides on four points in Group F, three points behind leaders Barcelona.

Conte believes Barca are assured of a place in the knockout stages and knows his side will have to stand strong in the face of a red-hot atmosphere at Signal Iduna Park to ensure they join them in the last 16.

"It's an important match as we are on equal points," he told a media conference. "Barcelona have already guaranteed their place. 

"We were good when we beat [Dortmund] at home and we know the difficulties we will face tomorrow. We face a strong and proven club, who have been in the Champions League for many years. 

"The environment will be hot and electric; we know what motivation Dortmund fans can give to their players. It will be important for us to play with personality.

"We want to play offensively everywhere. If it is a defensive game, it will be only because Dortmund have forced us to do it. Our mentality is to always hurt the opponent. We always want to attack."

Meanwhile, Conte had strong words for the Hellas Verona supporters who racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A clash, describing them as "ignorant" and "morons".

Former Inter star Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before he scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

"I was not in the stadium, but I believe it is necessary to be very strict and inflexible," Conte said. "We must punish these ignorant people. The morons must be punished. It is absurd that, in 2019, we are still faced with things like this."

Ernesto Valverde has challenged Ousmane Dembele to earn his place in the Barcelona team after the forward was surprisingly left out against Levante.

Dembele was not part of Valverde's squad for Saturday's shock 3-1 loss in LaLiga, despite being available again after serving a two-game suspension.

Barca let slip a one-goal lead as they conceded three times in the space of seven minutes in the second half, their hopes of a recovery not aided by the loss of Luis Suarez to a calf injury before the interval.

The presence of Dembele on the bench may have helped Valverde at the weekend, though the Blaugrana boss is adamant the France international must show he deserves to be regularly involved.

"Everyone always has to earn their place - Dembele is no exception," Valverde told the media ahead of Tuesday's Champions League game against Slavia Prague.

"When he plays, he can stay in that position [if he plays well], as happens to Ansu [Fati], Luis [Suarez], [Antoine] Griezmann or [Gerard] Pique.

"When you have your chance, you will have to try to stay [in the team]."

Valverde was also questioned over the future of Riqui Puig amid reports the midfielder may push to leave in January to get first-team football – he is yet to feature for Barca so far this season.

"I don't know what can happen in the next transfer window - there is still time," Valverde said when asked about the rumours the 20-year-old is considering his future at Camp Nou.

"We have a lot of midfielders. With his talent, it is clear he will play at Barca. What we do not know is when."

Ernesto Valverde understands the pressure is increasing at Barcelona following their shocking collapse against Levante, yet he is trying to remain calm as they aim to get back to winning ways against Sparta Prague.

Not for the first time in Valverde's reign, Barca let slip a promising position on Saturday, conceding three times in seven second-half minutes to suffer a 3-1 defeat in LaLiga.

While other results went Barca's way to keep them on top of the table, the nature of the loss raised questions over the future of the head coach.

Valverde insisted in the aftermath he had no intention of resigning and, speaking on Monday, the former Athletic Bilbao coach declared he aimed to "maintain a balance" in his job, despite the hysteria following the surprise result.

"It is clear that, when you lose, you have more tension," Valverde told the media ahead of Barca's midweek Champions League outing.

"We know what it means to lose. There is always a swell of pressure. We know that it is the case, and that is fine because it forces us to react.

"I know that the general tendency is to get off the table if we do well or sink if we lose. I try to maintain a balance.

"When we lose a game, I try to find the football reasons. At the beginning of the season, we were not well, especially away from home. Then we had a three-game winning streak.

"The other day [against Levante], when we had everything on track, we lost it in a minute. We have to ask ourselves why we have lost and the game situations that led to this [happening]."

Valverde was also in charge when Barcelona failed to hang on to first-leg leads against Roma and Liverpool in their previous two campaigns in Europe, ending their hopes of Champions League glory.

Asked if the worrying slumps were a sign of a lack of leadership, he referenced their battling 2-1 home win over Inter when they rallied from a goal down to triumph at Camp Nou.

"Lack of leadership? You could have asked yourself that after coming back with Inter," Valverde replied.

"This team has come back in many games, also against Real Betis [when they trailed 1-0 but ending up winning 5-2 in LaLiga this season]. You can't always [come back], you just have to admit that and look at where we failed."

Luis Suarez was forced off in the first half of the Levante defeat with what the club later confirmed to be a right calf injury.

However, Valverde revealed that, while the Uruguayan striker is set to miss Tuesday's clash with Sparta, Suarez may recover in time to face Celta Vigo this weekend.

"It's not an important injury like last time," he said. "Tomorrow is very unlikely. Next week? I wouldn't like to say."

Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti has praised Mario Balotelli's reaction to the racist abuse he received during Brescia's Serie A clash with Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before the former Manchester City and Inter striker scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Ancelotti believes Balotelli was right to highlight the abuse and suggested the stoppage shows football is making advances in its efforts to combat racism.

Speaking ahead of Napoli's Champions League clash with RB Salzburg on Tuesday, Ancelotti said: "He did the right thing, he had the right reaction.

"There have already been a couple of episodes when the match has been stopped, so we are on the right path."

Ancelotti's Napoli are top of Champions League Group E and will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Salzburg while Genk fail to beat Liverpool in the pool's other game.

The former AC Milan coach says it would be "exceptional" if they qualified with two games to spare but the experienced boss is refusing to get carried away.

"The Champions League is a way shorter competition than Serie A," he added. "For this reason, we have to be focused and our first goal is to go through.

"If we can manage it with two matchdays to spare, it would be exceptional. Tomorrow we have this chance and all our energy will be spent on getting it done. Then we will see.

"Many things can change and usually the Champions League is decided on little details."

Frank Lampard insists he is "very happy" with the players at his disposal as Chelsea appeal against a transfer ban imposed by FIFA.

The Premier League side were blocked from signing new players for two transfer windows in February after breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

That ban was partially upheld following Chelsea's initial appeal to FIFA, although the club are still unable to bring in senior players, serving the first part of their suspension in the recent transfer window.

Chelsea were permitted to register players under the age of 16, but the club announced their intention to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with the hearing date now set for November 20.

Lampard says he is relaxed about the club's transfer situation, given how impressively academy graduates Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have taken to life in the first team this season.

Asked for his opinion on the appeal at a news conference ahead of his side's Champions League clash against Ajax on Tuesday, Lampard said: "I'm very interested, but I don't know enough about the legal situation to delve.

"It can effect what we can do, but it is a little down my list. We have games against Ajax and Crystal Palace to think about.

"We are on a good run. We will always look to improve if we can, but I am very happy with what I've got."

After losing to Valencia in their opening Group H game, Chelsea have bounced back with consecutive wins over Lille and Ajax.

They are level on six points with Dutch champions Ajax at the group's summit, but Lampard refuted suggestions the Blues would have one foot in the knockout stages if they overcome Erik ten Hag's side at Stamford Bridge.

"I don't like to say that," he added. "I felt at the start it would be tight. We have had two good results and another one would be great for us. But the danger of Ajax is massive.

"After losing the opening game, we have shown a great reaction. It is expected of Chelsea to go through. It is maybe why we had the reaction after Valencia. We need to have the same attitude as the last results."

Jurgen Klopp has defended Sadio Mane after Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola suggested the Liverpool forward is "sometimes" guilty of diving.

Mane scored a late winner for Liverpool in Saturday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but was earlier shown a yellow card for simulation, having been criticised previously when winning contentious penalties.

Guardiola stoked tensions ahead of next weekend's top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool by taking a swipe at the Senegal international for going to ground too easily.

"Sometimes he is diving," Guardiola told BBC Sport, speaking after both City and Liverpool pulled off late Premier League comebacks at the weekend.

"Sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He's a talent."

However, Klopp responded that contact was made on Mane inside the box and claimed City's players would have likewise gone down, before insisting he did not want to talk about Liverpool's domestic rivals.

"I don't know how [Guardiola] could have known about any incident in our game so quickly after their game," Klopp told a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Genk.

"Sadio is not a diver. There was a situation in the Villa game when he got a contact and went down but there was contact.

"I am 100 per cent sure if something like this happened to Man City, they would want to have a penalty. I am absolutely not in the mood to talk about Man City. I really want to talk about Genk."

Klopp was pressed on the looming clash with City, though, as Liverpool remain six points clear at the top of the league table.

Despite the magnitude of Sunday's match at Anfield, Klopp has no concerns his players will be distracted against Genk.

"You can say the words Man City, you just cannot think about it," he said. "I don't doubt my players at all. I would feel a bit embarrassed if I had to tell them, 'Don't think about Man City already'.

"The story we have written over the last three years is only possible because we always focus on the next game. We have big ambitions in the Champions League and it's an open group. 

"We have to be 100 per cent spot on, make a good atmosphere and get the points. For the people at Anfield, we need to focus on this match, just like the players will be."

Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of Genk, who were beaten 4-1 when the sides met in Belgium two weeks ago.

That results contributes to making Liverpool heavy favourites for the return fixture, and Klopp said of the expectation of victory: "It will be a challenge but a nice one to have.

"It means we have a good team. It's not the biggest problem to have. It's 100 per cent clear we have to put in a proper shift to get the win.

"We have to use the spaces. The group is still open and we need everyone. [Genk] can still make Europa League so they still have targets. 

"We need to respect them. The story of the last two years is that we have always been spot on when we needed to be."

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has confirmed N'Golo Kante is available for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Ajax.

The France international has not featured since injuring his groin during the warm-up ahead of his country's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on October 14.

After missing five games for the Blues, he returned to training on Monday and is in consideration for the visit of Dutch champions Ajax to Stamford Bridge.

Lampard told a media conference: "He is in the squad. It looks like the injuries are clearing up."

The Chelsea boss, however, was unable to confirm when Antonio Rudiger might return to first-team action.

Rudiger was forced off at half-time in Chelsea's 5-2 victory over Wolves on September 14, which remains his only appearance for the first team since sustaining a knee injury in April.

Chelsea are level with Ajax on six points at the top of Group H, with Valencia two points further back.

 

Pep Guardiola expects David Silva to sit out Manchester City's mouth-watering Premier League clash with leaders Liverpool on Sunday.

City captain Silva sustained a muscular injury during the first half of City's 2-1 win over Southampton on Saturday and was replaced at the interval by Gabriel Jesus.

The former Spain international – who is in his last season with the Premier League holders – will also miss Wednesday's Champions League visit to Atalanta.

Asked during a media conference if Silva would be fit for the showdown with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, manager Guardiola said: "I don't think so.

"I didn't speak with the doctor but when he has some muscular problems and can't play more minutes it's because he has something, and muscular problems normally mean 10 to 12 days out."

City travel to Anfield knowing a win over the Reds would cut their lead at the Premier League summit to three points.

Jurgen Klopp is open to fielding two entirely different teams in the EFL Cup and Club World Cup next month but says Liverpool's star men would be in Qatar.

The European champions are due to play a Club World Cup semi-final on December 18 - the day after a scheduled domestic quarter-final at Aston Villa.

Klopp suggested after Wednesday's remarkable last-16 victory over Arsenal that his side may have to pull out of the EFL Cup altogether, but an alternative solution may yet be found.

The Liverpool boss made 11 changes against Arsenal and, in a bid to fulfil nine fixtures in December, he might consider leaving a young squad of fringe players behind to face Villa.

"We have discussed it already," Klopp said at Friday's news conference before playing Villa in the Premier League. "We have to because there's not too much time to make that decision. 

"There's not a final decision yet but, if we would play while we are in Qatar, it would be two different teams. We cannot leave any [senior] players at home for the EFL Cup - we have two games [in Qatar] in a very busy period. 

"It's not that we can go there with 11 players and say these 11 guys play the two games in Qatar and the other [senior] guys play at home in England against Aston Villa. We have to make a decision and we will make a decision but not yet."

Klopp also criticised the scheduling of Liverpool's festive fixtures last year and has previously taken aim at UEFA for putting further demands on his international players with the introduction of the Nations League.

When asked if there is a concern his players are being pushed too far, Klopp offered an impassioned reply as he highlighted some issues with the English football calendar.

"Let's have a look how they deal with it," he said. "If you see the schedule that's coming up, it's all okay.

"The Premier League, what a competition, sensationally cool; then the EFL Cup, nice competition, what a game we had on Wednesday night. 

"But then at the end of January, after a very busy schedule in December, there are two semi-finals. It's an easy decision for me to say if you keep that competition then why don't you make just two semi-finals?

"We still have, in February, March and April, FA Cup games at the weekend.

"I'm four years in and, before I knew about it, people discussed it already. That's the difference to other countries - Italy has 20 teams as well.

"England is the only country where nobody wants to touch it, or maybe wants to touch it - the FA wants to touch the League Cup, the Football League wants to touch the FA Cup - but nobody really wants to discuss it. 

"Then, on top of that, UEFA decides to make the Nations League to give the boys who are already pretty busy - some very successful players, good players - another couple of intense games. 

"I said it before and it always sounds like it's my problem. I'm not involved in Nations League games, I don't play international games at all. I have a couple of days off, it's not my problem. I only discuss from the same perspective that you should discuss it but you don't."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola backed Klopp's stance on fixture congestion and called on the relevant governing bodies to do more to protect players.

"I completely agree," he said. "How do we pay bigger squads? We need less fixtures, less competitions, more recovery. We play [December] 27 or 29 in winter time.

"In UEFA meetings, always they talk about it. I'm with Jurgen when he makes these kind of statements about too many games."

Eden Hazard has confirmed he discussed Real Madrid with Thibaut Courtois and Florentino Perez before completing his "dream" transfer from Chelsea.

Belgium star Hazard brought months of speculation to an end when he swapped Stamford Bridge for the Santiago Bernabeu in June.

The former Lille winger had hoped to make the move immediately after claiming the Silver Ball at the 2018 World Cup but the Blues blocked his exit, having already allowed goalkeeper Courtois to leave for Los Blancos.

Hazard spent a further 12 months in London and used the time to confirm the club's interest and the mood of his future team-mates.

"My dream was always to play for Real Madrid, the greatest team in the world, and so far I'm happy," Hazard told Real Madrid TV.

"Courtois always told me that this was the best club.

"I'd already made my mind up after the World Cup and I said to myself 'I have to join Real Madrid now'. That wasn't possible and I spent another year at Chelsea and that made my departure easier. The club understood it and allowed me to leave.

"I spoke to Florentino and he told me that he was waiting for me in Madrid.

"I also spoke to [Luka] Modric and got the impression that they all wanted to see me at Real Madrid and it finally happened."

Hazard, like many of his team-mates, has not enjoyed an easy start to the new season, with a glaring miss in the narrow Champions League win over Galatasaray indicative of his struggles.

But as Zinedine Zidane's men strive for form, the 28-year-old continues to have high hopes for success in Europe.

"As I said on my first day, for me, the Champions League is important," he said.

"In London, I only once reached the semi-finals. Chelsea had won their only Champions League trophy the year before I joined.

"They've won it a lot of times here in previous years and it's difficult to win it every season because there are many teams involved, but I've come here to win it because it's important for everyone and that goes for me too."

Liverpool's Champions League success has given Jurgen Klopp's side further confidence in their abilities, but the Reds still see plenty of room for improvement.

Klopp's men sit top of the Premier League heading into Sunday's encounter with Tottenham – their first meeting with Spurs since beating them 2-0 in the Champions League final in June.

With Liverpool's winning start to the season halted by a draw at Manchester United last weekend, Manchester City's 3-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday moved Pep Guardiola's side three points behind the league leaders.

Liverpool responded to their disappointing display at Old Trafford with a stylish 4-1 rout of Genk in the Champions League on Wednesday, however, and Klopp suggested the Reds' triumph in Europe last season has given them a stronger mentality.

"The next challenge will be difficult again but of course we know more about it," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"We all know how important that confidence is and the confidence it gives you when the things you do work out, so the boys have started the season with a different mindset, more convinced, maybe.

"I still think we have a lot of space in that department where we could be more convinced of ourselves, more natural."

Tottenham have endured a difficult start to the campaign, though they bounced back from three games without a win in all competitions with a 5-0 hammering of Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday. 

"I don't understand 100 per cent what happened but I saw now in the [Champions League] that was Spurs how they can be as well," Klopp said when asked about Tottenham's troubles.

"That is the team we need to prepare for, we cannot prepare for the team that struggled two or three weeks ago, we need to be tense in the game for sure because to play just a little bit against Tottenham will not be enough.

"They will want to strike back, we won the Champions League final.

"Against United we were not really ourselves, that's how it is. Against us they set up in a specific way. With Tottenham it's a home game so that makes a difference as well."

Cristiano Ronaldo will sit out Juventus' Serie A trip to Lecce on Saturday.

Speaking ahead of the game, head coach Maurizio Sarri said he would need to rest his star forward, who has already played the full 90 minutes in 10 of Juve's 11 matches in all competitions this season.

That opportunity to recuperate comes immediately, with Juventus announcing later on Friday that Ronaldo is not part of their travelling party for the game at Stadio Via del Mare.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored four times in Italy's top flight this season and was also on target during Juventus' 3-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month.

Right-back Mattia De Sciglio is in line for his first action since the end of August after recovering from a hamstring injury.

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