Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said an intense month of pre-season training and friendlies had left his players "tired" in their 4-0 defeat to Barcelona, but he insisted his squad is ready for the new Serie A season.

Second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, along with a brace from Luis Suarez after the break, earned Barcelona a convincing win in Michigan, though Ancelotti claimed the opening two strikes should not have stood.

Suarez buried the rebound after a Griezmann shot was saved in the 48th minute, and the Frenchman scored himself eight minutes later after a pass from Jordi Alba, who appeared to be in an offside position.

Ancelotti defended his side's performance, telling reporters: "We played well in the first half but then we were affected by those two offside goals at the start of the second half.

"We were up against a magnificent team and afterwards they took control, but those two goals shouldn't have been given and they changed the match.

"I think we were also a little tired due to the heavy training loads after a month of intense work. I don't see any problems other than that."

Napoli travel to Fiorentina for their Serie A season opener on August 24 having won three, lost three, and drawn one of their pre-season friendlies.

Despite their mixed form and relatively modest activity in the transfer market, with three of their six major signings being goalkeepers, Ancelotti remains optimistic about Napoli's chances of improving on their second-placed finish in 2018-19.

"My general impression is good after these two matches with Barcelona," he said, reflecting on Saturday's defeat and the 2-1 reverse in their previous outing against the Blaugrana.

"We'll build on this as we continue to work towards the start of the season.

"I'm happy with the work we've done both on our training camp and in these international friendlies we've played. We have a top-quality squad and I'm sure we can have an excellent season.

"I've seen a lot of things I like from the lads and the overall feeling is positive. We'll be ready when the season begins on 24 August."

Antonio Conte is sure Romelu Lukaku will be an "excellent signing" for Inter and the coach expects the striker to work hard to settle in Milan.

Lukaku finally joined the Serie A side from Manchester United on Thursday, completing a reported €80million move after two years at Old Trafford.

Without Lukaku, Inter claimed a penalty shoot-out win over Valencia after a 1-1 draw in the Trofeo Naranja on Saturday.

Conte, in his first season at the helm, believes the Belgium international will prove to be a great addition for Inter.

"He also needs to work hard, both from a physical point of view and to get used to the way we're trying to go about things," he told Inter TV.

"He'll certainly be an excellent signing, we're really happy. He'll show great desire and commitment to get himself ready."

Inter needed an 82nd-minute penalty from Matteo Politano to draw level against Valencia, who took a first-half lead through Carlos Soler.

Conte praised Inter's character after the friendly, which he felt was another step in the right direction.

"It was a difficult and important match against an excellent side who have had the same coach for a long time. Last season, they won the Copa del Rey against Barcelona, for example," he said.

"The lads' performance was positive, because they once again displayed a desire to not give up, they didn't want to come out of the match defeated. This is a very positive thing in terms of our mentality. I said to them that they could do better, but we are working hard to improve.

"They're a bit tired because they are working from both a tactical and physical point of view in order to get up to speed. Tonight was another step forward in our development."

Inter open their Serie A campaign at home to Lecce on August 26.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes it is "difficult" to see Lionel Messi returning from injury for his side's LaLiga opener against Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Messi, 32, missed Barcelona's trip to the United States, where they claimed two wins over Napoli, due to a calf strain.

The forward appears set to miss his team's league opener at Bilbao, with Valverde saying it was hard to see the star returning for the clash.

"He's in the recovery process and I don't know if he will be ready for the start of LaLiga," he told a news conference after a 4-0 win over Napoli in Michigan on Saturday.

"It's looking difficult."

Despite Messi's absence, Barca produced a strong performance in their final pre-season friendly against Napoli.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for the club, Luis Suarez netted a brace and Ousmane Dembele was also on the scoresheet in a comfortable win.

Valverde was pleased to see Griezmann, who arrived from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July, get off the mark for Barca.

"The scorers always feed on the opportunities, the goals. We are happy with him," he said.

"He gives us a lot for unchecking and defensively works well."

A stylish second half from Barcelona saw them sweep aside Napoli in Michigan to claim a 4-0 friendly win on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann got his first goal for the club since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid, in between strikes from Luis Suarez.

Ousmane Dembele added a fourth against Carlo Ancelotti's side, who lost the first friendly meeting in Miami 2-1 on Wednesday and were simply no match for the Catalans here once they fell behind.

It was an encouraging display from Ernesto Valverde's Barca, without the injured Lionel Messi, ahead of their LaLiga opener at Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Griezmann dragged a clear chance wide and Dembele also fluffed his lines as Barca failed to capitalise on their first-half openings.

Suarez was denied by Alex Meret, but Fabian Ruiz went within inches of giving Napoli a lead at the break.

Griezmann spurned another chance three minutes after the break, firing straight at Meret, but Suarez was on hand this time to side-foot home the rebound.

Barca turned on the style for their second eight minutes later. A passing move starting from the back four ended with Carles Alena sliding a superb throughball to Jordi Alba – perhaps fortunate not to be flagged for offside – who squared for Griezmann to bury an easy finish.

It got worse for Napoli just two minutes later, as Dembele picked up Suarez's pass from a loose ball and teed up the Uruguay star for a stunning curling strike that flew past Meret from the edge of the box.

Dembele marked a strong second-half showing by driving into the penalty area and drilling a right-foot strike into the bottom-left corner, ensuring Barca will head into the new season in positive fashion.

Eden Hazard learned a lot from former coaches Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri but revealed he is in "seventh heaven" at playing under his footballing idol Zinedine Zidane.

The close-season signing from Chelsea scored his first goal for Los Blancos in their 1-0 friendly win against Salzburg on Wednesday and will hope to be involved again against Roma on Sunday.

Madrid get their LaLiga season underway against Celta Vigo a week later and Hazard underlined his positive mental state ahead of the campaign with words of high praise for his coach.

"As a child I dreamed of one day wearing Real Madrid's shirt," Hazard told Corriere della Sera.

"When Real knock on your door you can do only one thing: open it.

"At Chelsea I spent unforgettable years, but here I am in seventh heaven. One of my idols, as a child, was Zinedine Zidane. I had his poster in the room and now I have the opportunity to be trained by him."

 

While Hazard embarks upon a new chapter of his career at Santiago Bernabeu, former coach Conte will take charge of an Inter team featuring his Belgium team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

Hazard backed Lukaku for success in Serie A, and urged Italian supporters not to underestimate the former Manchester United striker.

"He is a fantastic striker, a bomber who knows how to adapt to all the conditions of the game," said Hazard.

"He will score a lot - and this is important for a striker - but it would be a mistake to consider him just for that. He can do many things.

"For example, he is a specialist for creating what we call 'second plays'. Everyone plays better with him in the team."

Asked whether Conte or newly installed Juventus coach Sarri had the bigger impact on him, Hazard added: "I learned a lot from them both.

"They are different from each other in terms of character and football ideas, but they have one thing in common: they are two winners.

"They have a marked style, and they know which messages to give to players."

Neymar returning to Camp Nou would give Ernesto Valverde a selection problem but the Barcelona boss can handle the headache, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Barca have been linked with a move for their former forward - now of Paris Saint-Germain - throughout the close season.

The champions of LaLiga are already blessed with plenty of attacking firepower, having added Antoine Griezmann to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho ahead of their title defence.

The vastly experienced Ancelotti, a former Real Madrid head coach, thinks the addition of another superstar forward would create a tricky balancing act, albeit one Barca boss Valverde is capable of controlling.

"If Neymar arrives, it will not be easy to pick the team," Napoli boss Ancelotti told reporters.

"I think Valverde has the ability to manage it because he has done so in the past.

"But I am of the idea that the team wins, not a single player. It will be important for all of these players to know how to work together."

Ancelotti was speaking before Napoli's second successive pre-season friendly against Barca in the United States.

The Serie A side lost 2-1 in Wednesday's first encounter and have a chance to bounce back on Saturday in Michigan before their league campaign begins against Fiorentina on August 24.

"I hope to see a repeat of the good things we did in Miami," Ancelotti said.

"The lads showed real character and good ideas. We just need the same again as it's good for our confidence."

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde believes Philippe Coutinho will remain with the LaLiga champions, but admitted he was unsure.

Coutinho, 27, has been linked with a return to the Premier League, a year and a half after joining Barca from Liverpool for a reported €114million (£105m).

The Brazil international is reportedly a target for Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, with the transfer window in England shutting on Thursday.

Valverde is far from certain about Coutinho's future, but he thinks the attacker will stay at Camp Nou.

"We do not know what will happen, but Philippe is a player who is with us," he told a news conference after Wednesday's 2-1 friendly win over Napoli.

"He has not played but the plan we have with him is the same. We'll see if he plays a few minutes on Saturday.

"But he is a player who is with us and we have him, of course. He is with us and we think he will continue with us.

"In all these transfer windows there is talk of many things."

Goals from Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic helped Barcelona to their win over Napoli in Florida.

Antoine Griezmann featured for a half for Barca, but the former Atletico Madrid star is yet to score in four pre-season outings for his new club.

"He has made a great first half, but maybe we have missed playing with some more rhythm," Valverde said about the France forward.

"I had thought he would play at home like Luis [Suarez] and on Saturday he will play again."

Ivan Rakitic scored the winner as LaLiga champions Barcelona overcame Napoli 2-1 in the first of two friendlies in the United States.

After Arkadiusz Milik's embarrassing miss for Napoli, Barca midfielder Rakitic found the back of the net with an unstoppable 79th-minute half-volley in Miami Gardens on Wednesday.

Barca – who will face Napoli again in Michigan on Saturday – saw Sergio Busquets' opener cancelled out by Samuel Umtiti's own goal three minutes prior to half-time.

Barcelona played without Lionel Messi due to a calf strain, but Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Rakitic, Umtiti and Busquets were in the XI, while Junior Firpo – who arrived from Real Betis this week – made his debut.

Napoli's starting side was headlined by skipper Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon, with recruits Kostas Manolas and Eljif Elmas also in the line-up.

Insigne, Mertens and Callejon wreaked havoc in the first half – Ernesto Valverde's Barca fortunate not to concede first against Napoli.

Playing their trademark passing football, Napoli unlocked Barca's struggling defence but Insigne and Mertens were denied by goalkeeper Neto in quick succession.

Napoli had a golden opportunity to take the lead but an unmarked Mertens side-footed wide of the post in the six-yard box after Callejon slid in a low cross just past the half-hour mark.

For all their good football, Napoli fell behind in the 38th minute when Busquets was afforded too much space on the edge of the area as he found the inside of the far post.

Barca's lead was short-lived, however, after Callejon cut through on goal and saw his shot helped over the line by defender Umtiti four minutes later.

After Barca struggled defensively in the opening half, it was Napoli's turn in the second 45 minutes, with Alex Meret keeping his side on level terms, having twice thwarted substitute Abel Ruiz within seven minutes of the restart.

Mistakes crept into Napoli's game and substitute Ousmane Dembele almost restored Barca's lead, but his stunning effort from outside of the area rattled the post with 22 minutes remaining.

At the other end, Neto got down low to turn Milik's goal-bound effort away for a corner moments later while the Napoli forward embarrassingly chested a ball over the crossbar with an open goal at his mercy.

Milik paid the price for his inexcusable miss as Rakitic fired a thunderous low shot past Meret 11 minutes from the end.

Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio underwent successful surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in his left knee.

Asensio ruptured his ACL and external meniscus in a blow to Madrid's season in the International Champions Cup clash with Arsenal last month.

The 23-year-old suffered the injury after coming on as a second-half substitute in Madrid's penalty shoot-out victory at FedExField in Maryland.

"The operation was carried out by doctor Manuel Leyes, under the supervision of the Real Madrid medical services," a Madrid statement read. "Asensio will remain in hospital until he is well enough to be discharged. From that point on, his recovery program will begin."

While Asensio had surgery on Wednesday, Madrid continued their LaLiga preparations with a 1-0 win over Salzburg.

Eden Hazard scored the only goal of the match as he opened his account for Madrid after arriving from Premier League side Chelsea.

Madrid – who finished third in LaLiga last season – will face Roma on Sunday before opening their 2019-20 campaign away to Celta Vigo on August 17.

Reflecting on the match, Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said: "I'm really pleased. We put in a good performance, that's why we came here. We're going to do great things this season and now it's important to carry on with our pre-season preparation because there's still another game before LaLiga kicks off. We're gradually getting ready and we're better every day. That was confirmed by today's match.

"I value the team's efforts because it's not easy and it was important to put on a display like this against a tough side. There are no small teams. If you're not focused, any team can make life difficult. 

"We were disciplined and showed intensity. We struggled a bit more in the second half but we're happy to have won the game."

"I'm pleased because ultimately all a coach wants is to have all his players available," Zidane added. "There's still one more game before LaLiga and we want to be in great shape in order to compete. If we compete well, we'll achieve great things."

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard was "very pleased" to open his account for the LaLiga giants in their 1-0 friendly win against Salzburg.

Hazard was the difference in the pre-season fixture at Salzburg, where he scored his first Madrid goal in sublime fashion on Wednesday.

After arriving from Chelsea for a fee which could reportedly rise to €140million, Hazard curled a stunning effort past goalkeeper Cican Stankovic.

"When you're out on the pitch, you want to win the game and being a forward, you want to score goals," said Hazard, who has shown flashes of his brilliance against Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Fenerbahce.

"I'd been waiting for this moment for the last five games and it's happened today. I'm very pleased.
 
"It's still pre-season, but I think we've got more energy now. We've still got another 10 days before our first competitive game so we have to focus and keep working hard. 

"Our aim is to be ready for next week, we can't wait to start LaLiga so we're training and practising hard."

Hazard's arrival has headlined a busy off-season for Madrid, who have attempted to overhaul their side with the signings of Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Rodrygo Goes, Ferland Mendy.

Brazilian defender Eder, who arrived from Porto, made his debut for Madrid against Salzburg. The 21-year-old featured in a back three alongside captain Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane before making way at half-time.

"It's a special feeling to play my first match for the best club in the world," he said. "I'm very happy, but I still have lots to learn. Playing for Real Madrid has been a dream for me ever since I was very young. Thanks to God, I have the chance to be here and I was to enjoy this opportunity.

"I hope I can have a wonderful career in this shirt. It's an incredible feeling to be alongside the best defenders and fullbacks in world football. 

"I hope I can help the team because these are fantastic players. I did what the coach asked of me and I hope things carry on in this vein."

Madrid will face Roma in a friendly fixture on Sunday before opening their LaLiga campaign away to Celta Vigo on August 17.

Eden Hazard scored his first goal for Real Madrid in sublime fashion as Zinedine Zidane's team earned a welcome 1-0 pre-season victory at Salzburg.

Hazard, who arrived in the close season from Chelsea for a fee which could reportedly reach £130million, lit up proceedings in the 19th minute with a brilliant curling effort as Los Blancos continued their preparations ahead of their LaLiga opener away to Celta Vigo on August 17.

The Belgium international's strike made it back-to-back successes for Madrid after victory over Fenerbahce in their previous outing, but they were far from their fluent best at the Red Bull Arena.

There was again no place in Zinedine Zidane's squad for Gareth Bale, who recently saw a move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning collapse, while midfielder James Rodriguez was another notable omission.

Madrid's marquee addition Hazard gave a glimpse of his star quality when he latched onto Karim Benzema's throughball before cutting onto his right foot and whipping a superb curling shot inside the post.

It was a rare moment of class in an otherwise largely uneventful game, which still left question marks over the form of the Spanish giants, who have lost to Bayern Munich, rivals Atletico Madrid and Tottenham ahead of the new campaign.

Takumi Minamino missed a golden chance for Salzburg at when Andreas Ulmer's deep cross found him unmarked at the back post, while Patson Daka spurned a glorious opportunity to pull the hosts level after the break when he was sent clean through and fired over.

Luka Jovic replaced Hazard in the 62nd minute and nearly doubled Madrid's advantage, but he was unable to beat goalkeeper Carlos in the best opening before the final whistle.

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti expects Barcelona to contend for a first Champions League title since 2015 after their signings this close season.

The five-time European champions have fallen short in the continent's premier club competition in recent seasons, including an extraordinary semi-final loss to Liverpool in 2018-19.

Ancelotti, whose side face Barca in a friendly in Florida on Wednesday, feels Ernesto Valverde's men should be contenders once more this season after seeing the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong arrive.

"I believe that Barcelona is always a candidate to win the Champions League," he told a news conference.

"It has a player like [Lionel] Messi and many others, so I think they always compete to win the maximum and the maximum is the Champions League.

"I think that with the signings they have done, this year will be very competitive."

Napoli are also looking to move forward after finishing second in Serie A and getting knocked out in the Champions League group stage.

Ancelotti believes LaLiga and the Premier League remain the world's best competitions, but added Serie A is improving.

"At the moment, Italian football is a little below LaLiga and the Premier League, but something is moving," he said.

"Last year Cristiano [Ronaldo] arrived [at Juventus], which is very important for our league. I think in the future Italian football is going to reach the level.

"The stadiums are being renovated and I think that little by little Italy will be better."

Lionel Messi expects to be out of action for "a little while" after suffering a calf injury during Barcelona training on Monday.

The Argentina star sustained a grade one strain to his right calf muscle in his first session back with LaLiga's champions after his post-Copa America holiday.

The 32-year-old will miss Barca's pre-season trip to the United States while he recovers from the problem.

Although Barca have not put a timeframe on his recovery, Messi does not seem to think the injury will keep him sidelined for long.

"I was looking forward to starting and unfortunately I had an accident in the first training session that will leave me out for a little while," he wrote on Instagram.

"I'm grateful for all your messages and displays of affection, I wanted to be with the team and with the people who follow us in the USA.

"It wasn't to be this time, but we'll see each other again soon. A hug to everyone."

Barca face Napoli in Miami and Ann Arbor this week in the final stretch of their pre-season duties.

They begin their league title defence away to Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Lionel Messi will not travel to the United States with the Barcelona squad this week after sustaining a calf injury.

The Argentina star suffered a grade one strain during training on Monday and will stay in Catalonia to recover.

It was Messi's first training session since his return from holiday following the Copa America in Brazil.

Barca confirmed in a statement that Messi "withdrew from the session due to discomfort in his right leg. Tests carried out have diagnosed a Grade 1 calf strain for the Argentine."

There is no time frame for his recovery but it is unlikely he will be definitively ruled out of Barca's LaLiga opener against Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Ernesto Valverde's side, who beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Joan Gamper Trophy match on Sunday, travel to the USA this week for two matches against Napoli.

The first is in Miami on Wednesday and the second in Michigan on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool have been "affected" by a tough pre-season after their penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City in the Community Shield, but said he was encouraged by the Reds' performance at Wembley.

Liverpool lost three and drew one of their five pre-season friendlies heading into their 1-1 Community Shield draw and subsequent 5-4 shoot-out defeat to City.

The European champions suffered defeats to Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli, drew with Sporting CP and beat Lyon during a run that left Klopp with mixed feelings ahead of his side's Premier League season opener against Norwich City on Friday.

Reflecting on Liverpool's performance against City, he said: "I thought they looked pretty hungry. That doesn't mean it will work out but we fought today.

"After all the things that were said about the competition, both teams wanted to win it desperately, I saw that.

"My team is not in doubt about being satisfied or whatever, to stop working or stop running. The character of the team is still incredibly good.

"We had a difficult pre-season but the boys did what they had to do and were affected by it. We played football games against really good teams and that didn't feel too good.

"It was very important we all gave ourselves and our supporters a sign of the performance today. Now let's carry on."

Klopp said his squad to face Norwich would be boosted by the return of vice-captain James Milner, who missed the trip to Wembley due to a muscle strain.

Milner, 33, played a vital role in Liverpool's successes last season, making 31 Premier League appearances and 12 in the Champions League.

The versatile midfielder will rejoin the squad in plenty of time to face Norwich, according to Klopp, who said: "It was a minor muscle injury. I would say he can probably train tomorrow, although I am not 100 per cent sure.

"For today it did not work out, but I think by at least Tuesday he can train."

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