Ajax will begin their 2019-20 Champions League campaign with a tie against PAOK in the third qualifying round.

Erik ten Hag's team went on a stunning run to the semi-finals last season, surprisingly eliminating Real Madrid and Juventus before succumbing to Tottenham in a dramatic finale to the second leg in Amsterdam.

In order to move towards a return to the Champions League group stage this term, Ajax will have to overcome Greek Super League winners PAOK.

However, the chances of the Eredivisie champions recreating their deep run in the competition have been severely hit by the departures of key duo Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

Should Celtic beat Nomme Kalju in the second qualifying round their reward will be a clash with either CFR Cluj or Maccabi Tel-Aviv, while a loss would send them into a Europa League tie against Shkendija or Dudelange.

Jurgen Klopp found Liverpool's Champions League celebrations "absolutely overwhelming" and now "will not think about stopping" in pursuit of further success.

The German boss won his first silverware since becoming Liverpool manager when he guided the Reds to a 2-0 European final win over Tottenham at the end of last season.

That triumph sparked predictably wild celebrations in the stadium in Madrid and back home on Merseyside.

And Klopp admits he was taken aback by the scenes, including on an open-top bus tour, which fed his "greed" for more trophies at Anfield.

"It was absolutely overwhelming," he said. "It was too much to comprehend, one of the best things I've witnessed in my life.

"Everyone tells you it will be something special if you win something with Liverpool and this was proper proof.

"I was thinking, 'Wow, that was brilliant!' then the bus came around the corner and you are like, 'What the heck is that?' I could not imagine the noise.

"We made so much eye contact with so many people - people in their late 60s or early 70s. There was one guy and he was like this: Boom! Boom! and he is shouting, 'I love you!'

"I was like, 'Stop, calm down!' My God. That is only one example of thousands.

"It meant so much to us and obviously meant so much to the people. It was absolutely brilliant. Even now, you wake up in the morning and realise it is still true."

He added: "Nobody should be worried about us being complacent. There are so many reasons for staying greedy. We tried so many things to win and finally it worked out.

"The Champions League is the biggest cup that I see in football apart from the World Cup. Absolutely massive. But you now want to have it all the time.

"Nobody should be worried. Nobody is satisfied and we are not ready to go home. We have won something and got it in our trophy cupboard, but our attitude does not change.

"I couldn't have imagined it when we sang the year before at the funeral party that 'We bring it back to Liverpool' and it would work out. We got there.

"So let's try to get there again next season. We will not even think about stopping."

Fenerbahce have avoided a ban from UEFA competitions despite breaching their Financial Fair Play (FFP) agreement in 2018-19.

UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) announced in May that Fenerbahce faced sanctions after failing to meet their break-even target.

However, with those punishments confirmed on Friday, the Turkish club will not be suspended from European action.

Instead, their revenues from UEFA competitions will be withheld up to €2million. The club will also have a restriction on registering new players in the absence of a positive transfer balance, and more than 23 players for such tournaments in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

The withholding of revenues will be limited to €1m if Fenerbahce prove they have restructured their debt and implemented new national financial monitoring by October 15.

Fenerbahce failed to qualify for Europe for the coming campaign, finishing sixth in the Turkish Super Lig in 2018-19 despite a strong finish to the season.

The Super Lig giants have signed Max Kruse since the end of last season but insisted a deal for Mesut Ozil would prove too expensive.

Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he would have strongly considered leaving Tottenham had they won last season's Champions League final.

Spurs lost 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid in June, ending the club's bid for a first European Cup.

Tottenham defied expectations by reaching the final but manager Pochettino hinted at the time that returning with the trophy could make for a fitting swansong.

The Argentine has formerly been linked with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

"When you touch glory, sometimes you behave and feel different and the players feel different," Pochettino said.

"The challenge becomes different.

"Of course, maybe with a different result after the final you can think 'okay, maybe it's a moment to step out of the club and give the club the possibility of a really new chapter with a new coaching staff.'

"But I think after the final it was not really great to finish like this. I am not a person to avoid problems or difficult situations.

"I am more on the side of loving a big challenge, a difficult challenge, to rebuild that mentality so it's possible to have a similar season. That excites and motivates me a lot."

Tottenham return to action for the first time since the Champions League final when they face Maurizio Sarri's Juve in a pre-season friendly in Singapore on Sunday.

They will do so with one new arrival, club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele, available, while Christian Eriksen is an outside chance to feature as he recovers from a "small procedure".

Doubts exist over the Denmark international's future but Pochettino will not be lobbying club owner Daniel Levy for reinforcements.

"I told Daniel during the flight from London that I will be happy with the squad that you are going to provide me to work with," he said.

"I'm always happy. That is my nature. I'm a happy man, working with 25 players, and we are going to have 25 players to work with."

Jurgen Klopp believes Joel Matip's influence on his Champions League-winning Liverpool side is underrated.

The defender played a key role at the back for Liverpool alongside Virgil van Dijk in the second half of last season, helping the Reds reign in Europe after finishing second to Manchester City in an incredible Premier League title race.

Van Dijk's performances in Liverpool's stellar campaign have seen him come to be regarded as the finest defender in world football.

However, asked about Van Dijk at a media conference ahead of their friendly meeting with Borussia Dortmund, Klopp said: "I think everything about him has been said, what a guy he is, what a player he is, but not a lot of people spoke about the impact Joel Matip had in the last third of the season.

"I don't see a lot of centre-backs in the world who are better in that period, 100 per cent, pretty much without any mistakes.

"Virgil was the constant in that last line [of defence] and it felt always good when you saw him there. He organises a lot of things on the pitch. He's a fantastic player and was a pretty good signing."

The impact of James Milner in the Liverpool dressing room has also become clear and while Klopp feels the 33-year-old still has plenty to offer as a player, he would be willing to offer the former England international an opportunity to cut his teeth as a coach at Anfield.

"There are still a few good years to come [from Milner] and I’m not sure if we already have to think about what he can do after his career," Klopp added.

"But I'm pretty sure for a guy like him there's always a door open at our club, 100 per cent.

"You could see in different moments last season how much it meant to him, four years back [when Milner joined on a free transfer] I don't know what people in Liverpool thought about him, but it was a brilliant idea in that moment because without players like Milly success in football is impossible."

Juventus have won the race for Matthijs de Ligt and handed Maurizio Sarri an €85.5million asset set to immediately challenge for a starting spot.

The Netherlands international commanded the attention of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and more before agreeing a five-year contract in Turin.

De Ligt, 19, captained Ajax with distinction in Europe and the Eredivisie last term and compiled a set of statistics consistent with a player who could change the look of Serie A's strongest defence. 

Our dive into the Opta data illustrates why one half of Juve's established centre-back pairing might be looking over his shoulder.

Bonucci battle brewing

De Ligt has walked through the doors at Allianz Stadium in rather more triumphant fashion than Leonardo Bonucci did almost 12 months ago.

The Italy international returned from an ill-fated stint at AC Milan and resumed his partnership with Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the four-man defence regularly employed by Massimiliano Allegri.

The results were not as intended.

Juve conceded more goals – 30 – in Serie A than in any of their previous seven title-winning campaigns, and were breached twice in the Champions League on four separate occasions.

De Ligt could apply serious pressure to the 32-year-old's position.

New boss Sarri favours a 4-3-3 system and his shiny new acquisition outperformed fellow right-footer Bonucci in most key defensive measures last term.

Across all competitions, De Ligt won more duels (5.48), aerial contests (3.77) and tackles (0.61) per 90 minutes, while also completing a greater average number of clearances (3.95) and recoveries (6.53).

Dwarfed in each category by the Dutchman, Bonucci ranked last behind Chiellini, Daniele Rugani and the now-retired Andrea Barzagli for duels (3.02), aerial contests (1.75) and clearances (2.86).

 

Aerial prowess an alternative weapon

Sarri's Chelsea were accused of being a one-dimensional team that sought only to break opposition sides down through often tedious passing sequences.

Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain floundered in their attempts to spearhead the front three and the Blues scored the fewest goals of all top-six sides in the Premier League.

Tormenting defences domestically should be no trouble for Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Moise Kean and Juve's high-class attacking cohort, but Sarri would be wise to seek out a variety of scoring sources for an assault on multiple fronts.

In De Ligt, he has an aerial ace capable of climbing above any pack.

The 19-year-old conjured seven goals for Ajax last season: three in the Eredivisie, one against rivals Feyenoord in the KNVB Beker, and a further three in the Champions League.

Six of those were headed, including the towering effort which knocked Juve out of Europe while he also nodded an equaliser for Netherlands in their Nations League victory over England.

Bonucci, scorer of three goals, was the only Bianconeri defender to manage more than two.

Crucial interventions in big matches could tip the selection scale in De Ligt's favour.

 

Durability threatens established order

In the wake of Barzagli's retirement and the end of Martin Caceres' short-term loan, Juve reinforced their defensive stocks by signing Turkey international Merih Demiral from Sassuolo.

The 21-year-old will almost certainly find his place in the pecking order behind Rugani, a favourite of Sarri's since their time together at Empoli.

Bringing in a fifth centre-back to compete for one of two positions could lead the Italian champions to consider replenishing a diminished bank balance.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have reportedly shown interested in Bonucci, whose future is at least less certain than that of captain Chiellini.

What is in no doubt is De Ligt's readiness to carry the load required of a regular starter.

Throughout a demanding 2018-19 season, the reigning Golden Boy award winner turned out more times (55) than Chiellini and Rugani combined. Bonucci, Juve's top appearance-maker, started 14 fewer games.

Sarri demonstrated appreciation for a high degree of availability as he consistently paired David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger together at Stamford Bridge until a knee injury removed the latter from calculations.

Now, armed with hard evidence of De Ligt's excellence, the Bianconeri boss might forge a fresh partnership in Turin to herald the beginning of a new era.

Celtic eased into the Champions League second qualifying round with a 2-1 home victory over Sarajevo, sending them through 5-2 on aggregate.

Leading 3-1 from the first leg, the Scottish champions added to their advantage when Ryan Christie fired in midway through the first half at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

The visitors pulled level on the night courtesy of a well-taken Benjamin Tatar goal against the run of play but Callum McGregor's low strike with 14 minutes remaining killed off any lingering Sarajevo hopes of a comeback.

It was, ultimately, a comfortable victory for Neil Lennon's side, who will meet Estonian champions Nomme Kalju in the next round.

The biggest cheer of the night came with 10 minutes remaining when striker Leigh Griffiths was introduced for his first competitive appearance since being given time off in December to resolve personal issues.

Lennon had warned his side before the match the tie was far from over and his side were given a scare in the opening minute when Mersudin Ahmetovic chipped over Scott Bain only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

Celtic soon took control, however, and made their dominance count in the 26th minute as Odsonne Edouard found Christie, who controlled the ball with his outstretched right boot before firing high into the roof of the net with his left.

Sarajevo struck when Boli Bolingoli's pass was intercepted and Ahmetovic nodded to the onrushing Tatar, who volleyed superbly inside the left post.

It was McGregor who had the final say, though, with a superb drilled strike from outside the box to ensure a comfortable outing for the Hoops.

Neymar has been defended by his father after the Paris Saint-Germain star claimed Barcelona's 6-1 Champions League win over his current employers was a career highlight.

PSG forward Neymar caused controversy when he failed to report in the French capital for pre-season training, with the club stating they would take "appropriate action", although the player's camp insisted it had been agreed he would not return until July 15.

The club's sporting director Leonardo later confirmed Neymar wished to leave PSG, though he stressed a move would only be sanctioned if a suitable offer was made, with Barca seemingly favourites to land their former forward despite the €120million arrival of Antoine Griezmann.

And Neymar - who is due to return to PSG on Monday - risked causing further anger when he declared Barca's magnificent comeback victory at Camp Nou in 2016-17 as one of his best memories from a professional dressing room.

However, Neymar's father has come to his son's defence, insisting the 27-year-old has not disrespected PSG with remarks that are similar to some he made two years ago.

"My son has not been lacking respect to PSG or the athletes who played that game in 2017," Neymar Sr. wrote on his official Instagram account.

"Some of them [involved in that game] are currently his club mates in France. From the end of that game to today, he always remembers this match as one of the most important in his career.

"There are a few journalists and fans around the world who consider this as the most important game of the athlete at the club. So why the controversy this time?

"My son is an athlete of PSG, but he cannot just ignore his history, history that made him reach the French club."

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar acknowledged he is not a "perfect role model" nor a "superhero".

The Brazil international has spent almost two years with Paris Saint-Germain, but rumours of unhappiness, rocky relationships with team-mates and a lack of commitment have rarely been far away.

More recently, Neymar failed to report back for pre-season training earlier this month amid speculation he wants to return to Barcelona, while PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed the forward was available for a transfer if the price is right.

Neymar further risked the wrath of PSG supporters on Saturday when highlighting Barca's remarkable 2016-17 Champions League turnaround against his current employers as one of his two favourite football memories, though he showed a more vulnerable side at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five football tournament in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

The former Barca man said: "I'm no superhero nor perfect a perfect role model. I also have my bad moments, when I want to go home and hide, to stay with my friends and family.

"I'm no superhero that handles all the pressure in the world, but I make an effort because I know what I've become, not only to my family and son, but for most of the children that are here.

"I know I have a huge responsibility and I want to act in the best way possible. Always being honest, that is the most important thing."

Neymar missed Brazil's successful Copa America campaign due to an ankle injury and he was especially gutted to be absent as that tournament had been his big goal for the year.

"Being out of Copa America was so bad, I didn't like it," he added. "I don't even like to stay out of training, so you can imagine [what it was like missing] Copa America.

"That was so important to me and was my focus this year, but I cheered a lot for my colleagues and friends.

"I was really happy to see them win, even more than if I was playing. Their happiness is mine also."

Neymar did little to ease tensions with Paris Saint-Germain as he declared Barcelona's classic 2016-17 Champions League comeback against the Parisians as one of his fondest memories in football.

The Brazilian star appears to be at loggerheads with his employers at PSG, as it is claimed he is trying to engineer a return to Barca.

Furthermore, PSG sporting director Leonardo confirmed Neymar can leave if potential suitors meet their asking price.

Neymar joined PSG from Barca for a world-record fee of €222million in August 2017, but just five months earlier he played a major role in dumping the French side out of the Champions League in the last 16.

PSG won the first leg 4-0, but Barca stunned them at the Camp Nou as they ran out 6-1 winners, scoring three times – including a Neymar brace – after the 88th minute to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.

And, speaking at the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five event, Neymar again risked the wrath of PSG fans by calling that one of his two best moments in football.

Speaking to Oh My Goal, Neymar said: "My best memory as a footballer? There are two moments. Firstly, when we won the Olympics with Brazil.

"Secondly, the 'remontada' against Paris. What we felt when we scored the sixth goal… I never felt something like this. It was incredible.

"When we won against PSG with Barca, it was completely… we all went crazy afterwards. I believe it was the best possible feeling for all of us."

Celtic beat Sarajevo 3-1 away in the opening leg of their Champions League first round qualifier.

Neil Lennon's side face a long road to the group stages but got their European campaign off to a good start with a hard-fought victory in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital on Tuesday.

They had to come from behind, Mirko Oremus putting Sarajevo in front from a poorly defended set piece, with Michael Johnston heavily involved in Celtic's comeback.

The 20-year-old attacker got the Scottish champions back on level terms with an excellent solo goal before setting up Odsonne Edouard, with Scott Sinclair adding a late third.

Celtic dominated the opening exchanges but the hosts took the lead in the 29th minute. Scott Brown was unable to clear a left-wing corner whipped into the box and Oremus pounced to slam his finish past goalkeeper Scott Bain.

Celtic hit back within six minutes, Johnston evading the attention of three defenders before smashing home a superb 25-yard finish.

And they went 2-1 ahead six minutes into the second half, netting another vital away goal in the tie.

A clever team move saw the ball worked to Johnston and he slipped a pass into the path of Edouard, the striker doing the rest with a simple finish.

Sarajevo battled bravely but could not find a way to beat Bain for a second time, with Lennon's men then taking full control of the tie thanks to a third goal in the 85th minute.

Sinclair had not long been sent on as a substitute but a clever backheeled finish past Vladan Kovacevic left Sarajevo with a mountain to climb ahead of next week's return in Glasgow.

Thiago Silva says it is natural for Lionel Messi to be frustrated with the referee after losing, suggesting Paris Saint-Germain had similar feelings in defeat to Barcelona in 2017.

Argentina great Messi described the officiating in his side's Copa America semi-final loss to Brazil as "bulls***" and suggested his side were victims of "corruption" as he received a controversial red card in the third-place play-off with Chile, which led to a strong rebuttal from CONMEBOL who described his comments as "unacceptable" and "unfounded".

"Maybe I'm paying for what I said last time," the Barcelona star said.

Brazil defender Silva, responding to the comments, suggested Messi had benefited from such decisions in Barca's incredible 6-1 Champions League win over PSG two years ago.

"This is difficult for us to comment on," he said after Brazil's 3-1 final win over Peru. "Sometimes in defeat, we try to focus on other people.

"I think he did not say it out of spite, but we are sad because, in the game we lost 6-1 to Barcelona, he played the referee, which, in my opinion, was ridiculous.

"But we did not give a statement that the referee was in favour of Barcelona. I think you have to show respect.

"Brazil do not have five stars [from World Cup wins] at random - none of them have been stolen. It was played on the pitch."

Silva's PSG and Brazil team-mate Marquinhos added: "[Messi] is a good person, but his statements were unfortunate and we Brazilian players did not like that.

"We lost in the World Cup against Belgium and there were also refereeing errors in his favour with Barcelona. I did not hear him talk about corruption at that time."

Peru coach Ricardo Gareca also weighed in on Messi's outburst following the defeat to Brazil.

"Messi is an authoritative voice, that does not mean I agree with him," Gareca said. "I respect him a lot - not just the player but the person. He seems to be very focused.

"But apart from the opinion we have of Messi, we can agree or disagree with him.

"I like that we would know what we have to improve in South America, but that does not necessarily mean that there is corruption or that we are corrupt.

"There is more and more information from Europe, where our children and grandchildren know more and more European players, and it seems that we want to imitate them in everything.

"There are good things in Europe, but we also have good things in South American football, too. I would like to defend South American football.

"If you speak of corruption, you must have convincing evidence. Football is a game and an individual can go wrong."

Edgar Davids has insisted Juventus' current squad, led by record signing Cristiano Ronaldo, cannot be labelled the club's best ever until they at least reach the Champions League final.

The Italian giants finished top of Serie A last season for the eighth year running, ending up a comfortable 11 points clear of nearest rivals Napoli.

However, despite last year's addition of superstar forward Ronaldo to an already star-studded group, Juventus exited both the Champions League and Coppa Italia in the last eight.

And Davids claimed his former side must improve on last season's showing in Europe in particular if they are to go down in club history.

Asked if Ronaldo's Juventus is the greatest crop of players seen at the Bianconeri through the years, Davids replied: "Did he reach the Champions league final? No. But I hope they can make it next year.

"It is becoming an obsession for Juventus. When you want to be the best it has to be an obsession."

Juventus have added free agents Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Gianluigi Buffon, as well as bringing in Merih Demiral and Luca Pellegrini during the close season.

Ajax's in-demand skipper Matthijs de Ligt has been tipped to make the switch to the Allianz Stadium too, but Davids has his reservations.

"He has only played one season at the highest level," Davids said at the Operazione Nostalgia 2019 event. 

"I don't think we have to exaggerate his evaluation."

Frenkie de Jong is in dreamland after officially joining Barcelona and becoming a team-mate of his idol Lionel Messi.

Barca announced the signing of De Jong from Ajax in January, with the move effective ahead of the 2019-20 season, agreeing to potentially pay the Dutch club a remarkable €86million.

A supremely gifted and technical midfielder, De Jong has impressed at Ajax over the past few years but really rose to prominence last term, when he helped Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals.

In De Jong, Barca feel they have a player capable of becoming the heir to both Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, such is his well-rounded style of play.

And it is not lost on De Jong what it means to represent the Blaugrana, as he prepares to play alongside Messi.

"I am very happy to be here finally," he told Barca's official website. "As a child it was a dream for me to play at Barca, and now I'm here so it's great.

"I'm really looking forward to setting foot on the Camp Nou pitch for the first time. I'm happy to be able to play with Messi, who I have always followed. Now my idol will be my team-mate."

While the step up from the Eredivisie to LaLiga could be significant, De Jong does not expect to struggle in his adaptation period, pointing to the similarity between the philosophies taught by Barca, Ajax and Netherlands.

"I like Barca's way of playing," he added. "The philosophy of Barca and Ajax are very similar, and I think I will enjoy it.

"Barca and Holland have always had a great, special connection, and I hope to follow in that tradition. I want to be one of the great Dutch players who have played at Barcelona."

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea have the quality to compensate for Eden Hazard's exit and should settle for nothing less than a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Though tasked with guiding academy prospects into the first team amid a ban on registering new players, head coach Lampard described an "intention to win" as non-negotiable for a squad blessed with talent that "can be huge" at Stamford Bridge.

That begins with keeping the club in the Champions League, a challenge made more difficult by Hazard's departure for Real Madrid.

Lampard – handed a three-year deal despite his managerial inexperience – claims the board have set no minimum expectations in terms of league position.

But the Blues legend, who left Derby County to take the post, outlined the importance of keeping pace with the pack as he faced the media in his new role for the first time on Thursday.

"We want to be playing Champions League football year in, year out,” Lampard said.

"For sure there is a lot of competition at the top of the table. We also have a very strong squad of players and there is huge talent there. We haven't been decimated.

"Of course there are variables, we know about the transfer ban, we know Manchester City and Liverpool pulled away slightly last year.

"We have to be realistic about that, but we should never stop trying as Chelsea to be up there."

Much of the ex-England international's success as a player with Chelsea came under Jose Mourinho, who won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup across two spells in charge but twice exited in acrimonious fashion.

Lampard distanced himself from the Portuguese's brash behaviour – wishing to avoid "self-proclaimed nicknames" – and shunned all concerns about sullying his reputation in the eyes of adoring supporters.

"I don't see it as a risk," he said.

"I'm the type of personality that loves challenges. I'm not fearful of the downside. I'm ready to stand up and accept that side of it."

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