Lionel Messi "done enough" in his return as Barcelona drew 0-0 with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, insisted head coach Ernesto Valverde.

Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury in Barca's goalless draw away to Dortmund in their Group F opener on Tuesday.

The Barca captain had been sidelined up until his second-half introduction against Dortmund, though Messi was a peripheral figure for the visitors.

"He's like any player who hasn't had a pre-season," Valverde said.

"He's had to play in a game at an incredible pace, which had already started, all without preparation.

"It's his first 30 minutes. He's done enough. It was also the first full game for Luis Suarez."

Barca had goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for securing a point after the German star saved Marco Reus' second-half penalty.

Ter Stegen thwarted Dortmund on more than one occasion in the second 45 minutes and Valverde hailed the Germany international.

"In LaLiga [Santander] we were saying that opponents score against us," Valverde added. "But tonight, he was very good. We have a great goalkeeper and we benefit from that."

On denying Reus from the penalty spot, Ter Stegen said:  It's hard to study, Reus always changes. It was a feeling I had [going to his left] and I'm glad that I could save it."

Antoine Griezmann insisted it will take time for him to gel with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez after Barcelona escaped with a point against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener.

Barcelona held on for a 0-0 draw away to Bundesliga side Dortmund in Tuesday's Group F clash after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a second-half penalty from Marco Reus.

Star man Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury – coming on as a second-half substitute – but it was a frustrating night for the LaLiga champions, whose side included Suarez and close-season arrival Griezmann.

"It's my second month since I arrived, I have to get used to it and play more with them to understand the movements of Suarez and Leo," Griezmann – a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid – acknowledged in Movistar +.

"We have not knocked on the door enough and we must improve and work at it. It is a point but Marc stopped a penalty and made other saves."

Barca head coach Valverde admitted they had Ter Stegen to thank after he made a string of fine saves - including one to deny Germany colleague Reus in the 57th minute.

"It was a difficult game in a great atmosphere," Valverde said. "We had to suffer a lot, especially after the break when we lost control and they were very dangerous.

"In the first half we dominated a bit more. We were lacking in the final third. We have to thank Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his outstanding saves.

"We know we have to improve away from home. We tried giving Messi a few minutes and Luis Suarez played from the start."

Ter Stegen added: "People know what I'm capable of. I just want to concentrate wholly on my work and perform at 100 per cent of my capabilities. Today I think I demonstrated that."

Dortmund captain Reus acknowledged his frustration at missing such a golden opportunity to defeat the Spanish giants.

He said: "Marc is a world-class keeper. My penalty was not really well-taken. Back to the training ground for that.

"Of course it does not feel good. I failed to convert a penalty and we had several other chances. One goal probably would have been enough for a win. We hardly allowed Barcelona space and showed a strong performance."

Dortmund defender Mats Hummels said the result felt like a missed opportunity, however, the German insisted there were plenty of positives to take from the performance.

"In the end we lost two points and failed to be in a better position. Nevertheless, we can be especially proud of the second half," the 30-year-old said.

Lionel Messi's second-half return from injury was not enough to inspire Barcelona to Champions League victory at Borussia Dortmund as Marc-Andre ter Stegen played a vital role in securing a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.

Talismanic forward Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury, though he was a peripheral figure for Barca, who only secured a point thanks to Ter Stegen saving Marco Reus' penalty.

Dortmund edged a first half that was cagier than many might have expected from a contest between two typically free-flowing sides, though proceedings were more stretched after the break.

Reus spurned a glorious chance to give the hosts the lead in the 57th minute when seeing his spot-kick kept out by Ter Stegen and then Julian Brandt hit the crossbar from long distance as Barca held on to a point.

Dortmund began the brighter of the two sides, but Barca crafted the first opening as Gerard Pique's glancing header in the 13th minute flashed right across the face of goal.

They had to rely on Ter Stegen to remain level 12 minutes later, however, the German thwarting Reus from close range after he latched on to Thorgan Hazard's incisive disguised pass.

Dortmund went close again six minutes before half-time, but Jadon Sancho fired just over from 20 yards after being teed up by Paco Alcacer at the end of well-worked counter.

Ter Stegen was Barca's saviour once more just before the hour mark, producing a brilliant save down to his left to save Reus' penalty after Nelson Semedo had trodden on Sancho's foot.

Messi was introduced soon after for the quiet Ansu Fati, who became Barca's youngest player in the Champions League.

Dortmund still looked livelier, as Alcacer and Reus shot over from close range, before Brandt's 30-yard drive hit the bar, but Barca escaped unscathed.

 

What does it mean? Dortmund pay for lack of ruthlessness

Dortmund will not have many better opportunities to beat Barcelona, who were way short of their brilliant best.

With a penalty and several close-range chances, Dortmund will be left to reflect on having let their illustrious visitors off the hook. 

Ter Stegen saves Barca

While he was not excessively busy, there is no doubt Ter Stegen was vital to Barca avoiding defeat. He made a wonderful block to deny Reus in the first half and then saved his penalty after the break.

Griezmann's influence minimal

With Messi starting on the bench and Luis Suarez only just back from injury, Antoine Griezmann might have been expected to provide the spark for Barca in attack, but he was generally quiet, creating only one opportunity.

What's next?

Dortmund have Bundesliga clashes with Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen before returning to European action at Slavia Prague on October 2. Barca host Inter on the same day in the Champions League, though they must face Granada, Villarreal and Getafe beforehand.

Ansu Fati will become Barcelona's youngest player to feature in the Champions League after being named in their team to face Borussia Dortmund, while Lionel Messi is on the bench.

Messi has yet to feature this term due to a calf injury but has been deemed fit enough to be included on the bench for Tuesday's Group F game in Germany.

His absence has helped clear the path for Fati to come through and the 16-year-old, who has scored two LaLiga goals in three appearances, will get a chance to impress on Europe's grandest stage.

Fati starts in a front three alongside the returning Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, who makes his Champions League debut for Barca. 

Griezmann's fellow new signing Frenkie de Jong also starts.

Suarez, who came off the bench to score twice in a 5-2 defeat of Valencia last time out, replaces Carles Perez in Barca's only change from that game.

Dortmund's XI includes former Barca striker Paco Alcacer, with the Spain international having already hit five Bundesliga goals this season.

Lionel Messi has his sights on a record set by Real Madrid great Raul when Barcelona face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, as the Champions League proper gets started for the 2019-20 season.

Barca's talisman is back in their squad for the trip to Germany after missing the start of the campaign with a calf injury and, while he is unlikely to start, few would bet against him having a decisive impact if he does make an appearance.

Reigning champions Liverpool begin their title defence at Napoli in what will surely prove to be a tricky test, although Sadio Mane will be aiming to equal a record set by Didier Drogba.

There will also be Champions League bows in the dugout for Frank Lampard and Sylvinho.

Below, we examine the key data for Tuesday's encounters...

Salzburg v Genk

0 - Salzburg have not lost any of their last 18 home matches in European competition (W14 D4 – including qualifiers), with their most recent defeat at home coming in October 2016 against Nice in the Europa League.

1 - Genk forward Mbwana Samatta scored nine goals in 12 appearances in European competition last season and he also finished with 23 goals in the Belgian top flight in 2018-19. Should he play in this match, he will be the first Tanzanian player to make an appearance in the Champions League.

 

Napoli v Liverpool

5 - Napoli have won just one of their past six European meetings with English clubs, losing the other five in this run and failing to score in the most recent three. That one victory was against Liverpool last season, though.

15 - Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has scored 14 goals in 24 Champions League appearances. Should he score in his next outing, he will equal Didier Drogba's record of needing just 25 appearances to score his first 15 goals in the competition, a record for any African player.

 

Inter v Slavia Prague

20 - Inter will be making their 20th appearance in the Champions League/European Cup – only Juventus (34) and AC Milan (28) have had more among Italian sides (including 2019-20).

24 - Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 24 goals (12 goals, 12 assists) in his 52 Champions League appearances, but none of these involvements came in six games in the competition for Manchester United, the club he left on loan last month.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Barcelona

33 - Lionel Messi has scored against 32 of the 37 different opponents he has faced in the Champions League. Should he score against Dortmund, the Barcelona star will equal the competition's record for different teams scored against, set by Raul (33 clubs).

2 - Borussia Dortmund have won just two of their past eight Champions League home matches (D2 L4), losing their most recent match 1-0 against Tottenham in the last 16 in 2018-19.

 

Lyon v Zenit

1 - Lyon boss Sylvinho will manage in the Champions League for the first time, also becoming the first non-Frenchman to take charge of the club in Europe's elite competition. The Brazilian made 32 Champions League appearances as a player for Barcelona, Celta Vigo and Arsenal, scoring three goals.

58 - Zenit captain Branislav Ivanovic could make his first Champions League appearance since March 2016 (for Chelsea) in this match. He has made 58 appearances in the competition; only Dejan Stankovic (87) and Predrag Djordjevic (62) have made more among Serbian players.

 

Benfica v RB Leipzig

10 - Benfica are Portugal's sole representative in the 2019-20 Champions League, making it the first time in a decade that there is only one Portuguese club in the competition.

3 - Timo Werner scored three goals from just seven shots on target in the Champions League back in 2017-18, more than any other RB Leipzig player. He went on to net seven times in European competition that term, the highest total by an RB Leipzig player in a single season.

 

Ajax v Lille

6 - Ajax won six games in the 2018-19 Champions League, as many as they did in their previous four participations in the competition.

11 - Including qualifiers, Lille have not won any of their past 11 European matches in all competitions (D6 L5) and scored only five goals in these games.

 

Chelsea v Valencia

102 - Frank Lampard will take charge of a Champions League game for the first time in his managerial career. As a Chelsea player, he made 102 appearances in the competition and is one of only 22 players to have played 100 games or more in the tournament with the same club.

2 - Valencia have reached the Champions League in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13 (three in a row), which was also the last time they made it to the knockout stages of the competition, before being beaten by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

Lionel Messi has trained well in recent days but Ernesto Valverde remains wary of rushing him back into action when Barcelona face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

The Argentina star has not featured this season due to a calf injury sustained in pre-season but was named in the travelling squad for Barca's opening Champions League group game at Signal Iduna Park.

Valverde has been pleased with Messi's training performances but will not make a decision on whether his captain will start the match until closer to kick-off.

"We'll decide before the game," he said. "It wasn't very clear a week ago if he could come, but he was with the team in the last few training sessions, finishing well, taking the fear of pain out of his mind. We'll see what we do."

Whether or not Messi returns, Barca could well hand a Champions League debut to Ansu Fati, the 16-year-old who has taken LaLiga by storm this season.

Fati became Barca's youngest ever league goalscorer against Osasuna last month and marked his full Camp Nou debut on Saturday with a goal and an assist in the first seven minutes of the 5-2 thrashing of Valencia.

"I've not spoken with him, save for tactical matters," Valverde admitted. "I don't like the history of giving advice. Of course I will talk with him, but you have to give him some breathing space.

"What he is doing is exceptional. If he plays, it's not so he can break a record, but because of the needs of the team. We love him."

Barca have only lost one of their past 28 group-stage matches but are under huge pressure to perform this season after collapsing in the semi-finals to throw away a 3-0 first-leg lead over Liverpool.

Valverde believes Dortmund will offer a good litmus test for his side, as he looks to put the disappointment of the 4-0 loss at Anfield and the dramatic quarter-final exit to Roma the year before behind him.

"I expect a rival of the highest level, a challenger for everything in their country and in Europe, and a good yardstick for us," he said.

"It's a competition in which one bad day can knock you out, even if you have had a great competition until that moment. The two teams in the final last year [Liverpool and Tottenham] lost more games than we did. You can't neglect even 10 minutes."

Tuesday's game will see Barca come up against Paco Alcacer, who has flourished since leaving Barca initially on loan in 2018.

"Alcacer is a great player and he's showing that for Dortmund and the national team," Valverde said. "He's playing regularly with Dortmund. What we know about him is both an advantage and a disadvantage."

Lionel Messi was named in Barcelona's squad for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund and Marco Reus hopes the forward is fit to play.

Dortmund host LaLiga champions Barca in their Group F opener, with Messi in contention to make his first appearance of the season.

The Argentine superstar has missed Barca's opening four LaLiga fixtures with a calf problem but has been included in Ernesto Valverde's squad despite the coach suggesting on Friday the 32-year-old would not be ready in time. 

It remains to be seen whether Messi will be able to start, though Dortmund captain Reus is hopeful the diminutive talisman does make an appearance as the Bundesliga side aim to test themselves against the best Europe has to offer.

"We want Messi to play, but we cannot influence what tomorrow will look like," Germany international Reus told a media conference on Monday. 

"We do not want to talk that much about the opponent. Everyone knows that he is the best, but we play at home and want to win.

"A difficult game awaits us. We have to be careful and will we have to suffer a lot in the game. We have to be brave and play our game, put ourselves forward and then hope to score goals."

Paco Alcacer could be key for Dortmund as the Spain striker goes up against his former club for the first time.

Alcacer spent two seasons at Camp Nou, struggling to secure a regular spot following a move from fellow LaLiga club Valencia.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a fantastic maiden season at Dortmund, scoring 18 Bundesliga goals in 26 outings, and has netted five times in four league appearances this term.

Reus is backing the striker – who accused "many people" at Barca of treating him badly during his stint in Catalonia – to impress against his former employers.

"I've talked to him a few times. He is calm," said Reus. "Of course, he is looking forward to it because he has spent nice years there, even if he had not too much game time.

"I hope he can help us in the game. He is an important player. He plays smart on the pitch, he knows where the next man is.

"He is an ice-cold top scorer who does not need many chances, his statistics are outstanding. But even for him there is room for improvement, as with any player."

Lionel Messi is back in the Barcelona squad for the first time this season after recovering from a calf injury ahead of Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Borussia Dortmund.

Messi suffered the injury in pre-season and has been unable to feature even as a substitute in Barca's first four LaLiga games of the 2019-20 season.

The 32-year-old returned to training last week and took part in the full session on Sunday, despite coach Ernesto Valverde suggesting prior to Saturday's 5-2 demolition of Valencia that Messi would not be fit enough to face Dortmund.

But ahead of Tuesday's Champions League opener, Messi has been named on Barca's squad list, meaning an appearance at Signal Iduna Park is a possibility.

Barca's start to the domestic season has been indifferent without Messi.

While they thrashed Valencia and Real Betis 5-2, those victories came after a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao and either side of a 2-2 draw at promoted Osasuna.

Youngsters Carles Perez and Ansu Fati have been drafted in to help alleviate Barca's injuries woes in attack during Messi's absence, and both players have impressed.

Perez has scored one goal in four outings, while 16-year-old Fati has netted twice and got an assist in just three matches.

Luis Suarez made his return to from a brief absence against Valencia and scored twice off the bench, meaning he could potentially be brought into the starting XI in Dortmund.

Once dubbed the 'German Messi', Marko Marin has found his home at boyhood club Red Star Belgrade.

Marin's European odyssey has taken him to Borussia Monchengladbach, Werder Bremen, Premier League giants Chelsea, Sevilla, Fiorentina, Anderlecht, Trabzonspor and Olympiacos.

Now, in Belgrade – less than a three-hour drive from where Marin was born in the Bosnian city of Gradiska – the 30-year-old attacker is playing a key role in restoring the global reputation of 1991 European Cup champions Red Star, having disappeared off the radar.

"Even more for me, with my childhood club because I'm a fan from a kid," Marin, a league winner with Red Star and Olympiacos, told Omnisport as he reflected on Red Star's Champions League qualification. "To play Champions League with them is even more special. It's a very nice experience to bring the Champions League back to Serbia after so many years."

Born in Bosnia-Herzegovina to Bosnian Serb parents in 1989, Marin – a Europa League winner with Chelsea (2013) and Sevilla (2014) moved to Germany at the age of two and 16 international caps for his new country followed.

Marin waited for calls from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia but they were not forthcoming as he opted for Germany – he was rewarded with a spot in Joachim Low's 2010 World Cup squad after impressing for Bremen.

While he represented Die Mannschaft, Marin's love for Serbian powerhouse Red Star – who snapped a 26-year drought from Europe's premier club competition last term – runs deep and a second successive season of Champions League football means a lot to the club captain.

"It's different because you play with more passion for the club," Marin said when asked about the satisfaction of qualifying. "You always give everything for the club you represent because it's your job and love football. But it's different if you play for the club you really loved as a kid.

"We have many players in the team like this. The foreign players maybe give us more quality but the main group of the team and the strength – when you grow up as a Red Star fan, many of them trained in the youth team. It's a bit different to play Champions League for Chelsea or Werder Bremen for example."

"After every game, Belgrade and Serbia is so happy and even kids outside of the country," he said. "I grew up in Germany and I was a fan of Red Star and when I went with my friends to school, you would always talk and I said that I'm a Red Star fan but they didn't really know. But now, Red Star are playing in the biggest competition in Europe. You make Red Star big again. They're getting used to it. This is a motivation.

"For sure this season, we will make some good games. Even qualifying for the group stage is a big, big success. If you compare with Manchester City, Barcelona or Real Madrid, their aim is to win the Champions League... ours is to qualify first."

Marin arrived at Red Star from Greek giants Olympiacos prior to the side's 2018-19 Champions League group-stage campaign involving eventual champions Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli.

One of the game's most promising talents a decade ago, Marin's switch from Piraeus to Belgrade last year barely made the news outside of Serbia. What could have been is a question often asked about the Bosnian-born German. But what does he think about his career?

"It's a fantastic career," Marin replied. "I played in nearly every big league for the biggest teams. When I was at Bremen, we played for the title and in the Champions League. At Chelsea, I don't have to explain how big this team is and Sevilla.

"Maybe it could be better, for sure. There are some reasons. Maybe I wasn't patient enough in some situations. Injuries didn't help to make it even bigger. But I wouldn't have this experience with Red Star if this didn't happen. I'm very happy with my career. To feel this what I feel at the moment, it's the best part of my career."

Marin, who joined Chelsea on a five-year deal from Bremen in 2012, added: "Who knows what would've happened if I stayed longer in Germany? The experience to play for Chelsea was amazing. To play alongside the best players, the professionals. [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry – these leaders. How they train every day and the passion and quality. I saw this for the first time in Chelsea. I played before with very good players but that was another level."

Fast forward to this season and Marin's Red Star are preparing to welcome Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, 2019 Champions League runners-up Tottenham and Olympiacos to Rajko Mitic Stadium – also known as the Marakana – in Group B.

Red Star will be relying on their fanatical and daunting home support in the Serbian capital, where Liverpool lost 2-0 in November – one of four defeats for last season's champions in the 2018-19 competition – as Vladan Milojevic's men eye a third-place finish.

"It's difficult for teams coming here because they don't know, they can't expect this," Marin said. "Before last season's game against Liverpool in the news conference I said you will see it's completely different. I know Anfield is amazing with a big crowd, but it's totally different to what they experienced in Belgrade. You cannot explain it.

"They go to warm-up and the stadium is already full. We were waiting to come out of this big, long tunnel that you don't have anywhere in the world. Then you go out and the stadium is exploding. It's not easy for visiting teams. We play 11 against 11 but when they feel this atmosphere, it's different.

"I hope we can challenge for third place. I'm not sure if would be a surprise if we take some points because people know us and how difficult it is to play at Marakana. Our strength is team work and it's even more so at home. Of course we have quality but the biggest strength is teamwork."

And what about the 'German Messi' tag? "I couldn't change this. It didn't come from me. We all know there's only one Messi and no one is even near him. It wasn't big pressure because I don't think they took it seriously when they compared me to Messi. He is the number one. [Cristiano] Ronaldo is another type of player. Maybe they see it as my ability maybe in one-on-one situations. I take it as a compliment but it's not a real comparison."

If losing your manager was bad enough, imagine losing your star defender?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and centre-back Virgil van Dijk are attracting some serious interest from across Europe.

Now, LaLiga's powerhouse duo are reportedly eyeing the Reds pair.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID WANT KLOPP AND VAN DIJK

According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona and rivals Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head to try to prise Klopp and Van Dijk from Liverpool.

Klopp and Van Dijk helped lead Liverpool to Champions League glory last season, while the Reds are challenging for Premier League honours this term having narrowly missed out to Manchester City in 2018-19.

With Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde and Madrid counterpart Zinedine Zidane under some early pressure in Spain, Klopp and Van Dijk are reportedly "two priorities" for both clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have the budget to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season, reports AS. Madrid's financial accounts have been revealed, with €156million in liquid assets at their disposal, as well as €285m in credit. Los Blancos are reportedly planning to persuade the France forward, who is contracted until 2022, not to re-sign in the French capital in an effort to force the club's hand.

Lionel Messi to MLS? There has been talk about Messi and David Beckham's incoming franchise Inter Miami following a report claiming a delegation had been sent out to open negotiations for the Barcelona captain. However, Goal says Messi has had no contact with Beckham's Miami.

Manchester United are trying everything to re-sign star goalkeeper David de Gea. According to the Times, United have offered De Gea a new contract with no wage drop if the Red Devils do not qualify for the Champions League. The Spain international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, reportedly has a four-year deal on the table worth £13.5m a season.

- Staying at Old Trafford, and Record and O Jogo both report United are back in for Benfica star Ruben Dias. The 22-year-old defender was linked to the Manchester club before the transfer window closed. Now reports claim a United official was in attendance for Benfica's 2-0 win over Gil Vicente.

Inter are hoping to sign Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund, according to Calciomercato.com. Gotze's contract expires at the end of the season and Antonio Conte's Inter are eyeing the Germany attacker on a free transfer.

- Velez Sarsfield's Thiago Almada is still on the radar of Manchester City, says Record. City had a bid rejected during the transfer window but Pep Guardiola's side remain keen on the 18-year-old.

Inter Miami are continuing their stunning bid to sign Lionel Messi.

Messi, 32, can reportedly leave Barcelona at the end of any season for a club outside of Europe despite being contracted at the LaLiga champions until 2021.

Linked with a shock switch to David Beckham's MLS outfit Inter Miami, the club are continuing to make moves for the Argentina superstar.

 

TOP STORY – INTER MIAMI REPRESENTATIVE MEETS MESSI'S DAD

Beckham sent Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough to London for talks with Messi's dad Jorge, according to The Sun.

Inter Miami are set to enter MLS in 2020 and are looking for a big-name signing, with Messi undoubtedly the biggest of the names linked.

It comes just days after Messi said in an interview with Sport that he wanted to remain at Camp Nou for "as long as possible".

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid could chase Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba again in January. Sport Bild reports Real Madrid are planning to use Toni Kroos in an exchange deal to land the France international, who was heavily linked with a switch during the close season.

- Sadio Mane re-signed with Liverpool until 2023 less than 12 months ago, but the European champions are already looking for the attacker to recommit. Liverpool have opened talks with Mane for an extension, according to Soccer Link.

- Seemingly unwanted at Juventus, Mario Mandzukic's future remains a talking point. Qatari club Al-Gharafa have offered €6million net per year to the striker and can meet Juve's demands, according to CalcioMercato, which reports Los Angeles FC are also interested in the Croatian despite the MLS transfer window not reopening until February.

- Inter are already looking to lock down a couple of stars. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants want to extend the contracts of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic – until 2022 – and forward Lautaro Martinez until 2024. The report says Inter would also double Martinez's salary from €1.5m to €3m per season amid interest from Barcelona.

- Sam Allardyce is ready for a return to management. The Sun reports the former England boss, who left Everton in May last year, is eyeing a return to Sunderland if the reported takeover by an American consortium is completed.

Manchester City will do all they can to help Raheem Sterling get to the same level as "absolute legends" Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Pep Guardiola.

The England international has been in outstanding form in the early stages of the 2019-20 season, following on from two highly productive campaigns that saw him score 35 league goals as City won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Sterling also found the net in Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Bulgaria and Kosovo while away on international duty, though Guardiola played down comparisons to superstars Messi and Ronaldo ahead of his side's clash with Norwich City.

Still, the Spaniard sees no reason why the former Liverpool forward, 24, should not have ambitions to match the lofty standards set by the duo.

"Right now he is not in that level, I wish maybe in the future," Guardiola told the media.

"It would be a dream for him, for all of us and for him, but right now these two guys the last decade have scored 50, 60 goals every season and I don't know how many assists.

"They have won the Ballon d'Or and all the individual prizes every single season, except maybe last season.

"So the consistency of these two guys – they are legends, they are something unique in world football. And if Raheem can target that level, wow.

"We will be here to help him and of course he can do it, I will not be the guy to say don't think about that. No, absolutely not, I want it.

"But right now, nobody, not in this club but in all the clubs in the world, nobody can compare to what they have done every single week for 10 years. They [Messi and Ronaldo] are absolute legends and nobody can compare, nobody."

England manager Gareth Southgate said after the win over Bulgaria that the biggest change in Sterling's attitude had been his desire to score goals.

"I think with Brendan Rodgers in Liverpool, he played incredibly well, and with the national team he's played incredibly well," Guardiola said.

"So, I think his style, his desire, I think, the most I saw from the beginning is the fact he has an incredible mentality, he's a winning player.

"Before he made good actions but didn't finish too much. And now he's a player who can win games for himself."

Luis Suarez is in line to make his return from injury after he was named in Barcelona's squad for their LaLiga meeting with Valencia, but Samuel Umtiti is set for a spell on the sidelines.

Champions Barca face the side that beat them in last term's Copa del Rey final at Camp Nou on Saturday having claimed just four points from their opening three league fixtures.

Suarez started in Barca's opening outing against Athletic Bilbao only to be forced off with a calf injury after 37 minutes.

The striker has been absent since then, missing a victory over Real Betis and a 2-2 draw with Osasuna prior to the international break.

But Barca boss Ernesto Valverde confirmed in his news conference on Friday that Suarez would return to the squad and the 32-year-old has been included in Barca's official list.

While Suarez's return will come as a boost, Barca have been dealt a blow at the other end of the pitch.

France defender Umtiti sustained a metatarsal injury on international duty and though initial tests suggested the problem was not severe Barca have now confirmed the centre-back will be out for up to six weeks.

Barca will also still be without captain Lionel Messi, who is also likely to miss Tuesday's Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund due to an ongoing calf issue, as well as Ousmane Dembele, who has a hamstring problem.

Ernesto Valverde believes Lionel Messi's comments about his Barcelona future have been overplayed, insisting there is no doubt over the Argentinian's commitment.

In an interview with SPORT published this week, Messi – who is set to miss the game against Valencia on Saturday as he recovers from an injury which has kept him out of the opening three LaLiga fixtures – stated he does not intend to leave the club, though his commitment came on the condition of continued success.

Messi signed a four-year contract in 2017, but the agreement includes a clause which gives him the option of leaving on a free transfer at the end of each campaign.

However, Valverde is adamant Messi's words have been misinterpreted, although Barca's head coach acknowledged he is unable to control what players say in the press.

"I didn't want to read it. I know what Leo has to say," Valverde told a news conference when asked if Messi's comments suggested a rift between Barca's star player and the club's board.

"He expresses himself naturally and then people tend to misinterpret what he has said.

"Everything he says, people try to squeeze out every sub-meaning from his words. I think he was just trying to express things naturally, I don't think we need to worry.

"I don't think there are any doubts regarding his future. It's the club that decides which players it's going to keep or not, but I don't think there are any concerns, certainly I don't have any concerns about it."

Messi had been expected to recover from his calf injury in time to feature against Valencia. However, Valverde conceded the injury is worse than first expected, with Messi also unlikely to play against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"The scar opened a little bit, so it’s told us that we need to exercise a little bit of caution," Valverde said. "I don't think it’s long that he’ll be back again. But Tuesday, I don't know, probably later.

"Of course he's a very important player for us, I can't deny that, but there has been other times when he hasn't played and we've got through games very well.

"He's the best player in the world so we want him back as soon as possible, but we want him to come back at full fitness, not for him to come back and then take things a step even further back.

"Missing Messi is always going to be noted, but it also means possibilities for other players to up their game. We saw that against Real Betis, certainly.

"Knowing how difficult it is to replace Messi, we need the guarantee that the team is still able to compete in his absence."

Pep Guardiola is delighted with Raheem Sterling's form but has urged the Manchester City attacker to ignore comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The England international has starred for club and country this season with eight goals and three assists in seven matches.

Sterling earned plenty of plaudits following his man of the match display against Kosovo on Tuesday, with former City and England winger Trevor Sinclair claiming he is on the same level as Ronaldo and Messi.

Guardiola has played down the comparisons, however, believing that nobody can match the two players who have battled it out to be the world's best for more than a decade.

"I'm so happy for him, for the way he's playing here and national team, but hopefully he won't read or listen to these kind of things," Guardiola said at Friday's news conference. 

"Nobody can compare with Cristiano or Messi. 

"I don't know if he's the best in England. Since we're together, not just now, he's been incredible with his work ethic. He's a nice guy. I'm delighted for him."

Sterling has been responsible for five of City's 14 goals in their opening four Premier League matches, the reigning champions collecting 10 points from their opening run of fixtures.

Liverpool are two points better off with a perfect return but Guardiola insisted it is too early to call it a two-horse race at the summit, especially with the games now coming thick and fast.

Speaking ahead of City's trip to Norwich City on Saturday, Guardiola told reporters: "I'm not predicting. Every week there are incredible predictions - there's a tendency for that but we've played four league games and that's nothing.

"We start the real competition, we play Saturday, then travel, play Wednesday, land Thursday, Saturday we have Premier League and then we go to Preston to play in the EFL Cup. 

"Of the next five games we've got four away, so many things can happen. We've had two terrible injuries with Leroy [Sane] and Aymeric [Laporte]. 

"It's too early to say what is going to happen. Chelsea, United, Tottenham, Everton doing well, everything can happen, but it's four games. In February or March we can say better. Now it's just four games and it's nothing."

Page 1 of 43
© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.