Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac believes competition between Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen is good for both goalkeepers as the feud surrounding the two Germany internationals continues.

Germany captain Neuer took exception to Barcelona's Ter Stegen expressing frustration over being unable to dislodge the Bayern star as the national team's number one.

Speaking ahead of Barca's Champions League draw at Borussia Dortmund, Ter Stegen criticised Neuer's comments but expressed a desire to move on from the matter.

This was something Neuer echoed, only for Bayern president Uli Hoeness to wade into the debate after his club's 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday.

Keen to avoid any further barbs from either side, Neuer then insisted: "I don't want to talk about it anymore."

However, Kovac predictably found himself fielding questions around the topic at a pre-match news conference for Saturday's Bundesliga match against Cologne.

"As a professional at Bayern, you always have pressure," Kovac said. "In the national team, [Neuer] saved sensationally well against Northern Ireland [in Germany's 2-0 Euro 2020 qualification win in Belfast earlier this month]. You forget that quickly.

"Both play well for their clubs, that's clear. But Manu is number one. There used to be one A and one B. And now? What can you do there?

"I do not know. I believe the pressure is beneficial for both."

RB Leipzig are the team applying the most convincing pressure to long-reigning Bundesliga kings Bayern.

Kovac's men had to settle for a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany last weekend, despite taking an early lead through Robert Lewandowski, and they are two points behind early pacesetters Leipzig.

"It's two points, we do not have to dramatise," Kovac said, pointing out Bayern hauled in a far greater deficit to Borussia Dortmund to win a seventh consecutive domestic title last time around.

"I remind you, it was nine [points to Dortmund]. We played out a draw in Leipzig. They are a team that plays for the championship.

"What haunts me is the game against Hertha Berlin [Bayern's season-opening 2-2 draw]. We should have won. These are the two points we currently lack. It's normal to take a point away from home against a championship rival."

Cologne are winless after three draws in their first four Bundesliga games and should prepare to face Joshua Kimmich, who Kovac expects to recover from a twisted ankle sustained against Red Star.

Winger Kingsley Coman (neck) and defender Lucas Hernandez (ankle) will be assessed.

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness hit out at disgruntled Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the German Football Association (DFB) and the media amid the ongoing debate involving Manuel Neuer, who he believes is the "much better" shot-stopper.

Tension between Bayern keeper Neuer and Barcelona's Ter Stegen has been high after the latter voiced his frustration about the lack of international opportunities for Germany.

Despite 22-time international Ter Stegen's fine form with the LaLiga champions, captain Neuer is Germany's number one and started ahead of the 27-year-old during the latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Neuer – a World Cup winner with Germany having amassed 90 caps – accused Ter Stegen of putting himself before the team when he expressed frustration with the selection order, and his positional rival described the 33-year-old's criticism as "inappropriate".

Hoeness fiercely weighed into the Neuer and Ter Stegen debate following Bayern's 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

"I think that this is a joke and especially the Munich press I think it's not okay what they do," Hoeness told reporters. "The West German press is heavily supporting Marc-Andre ter Stegen as if he won 17 times the World Cup. And from the South German press I don't see any support.

"I think it's impossible to make such a topic public because he has no claim to play there [in the national team]. With the goalkeepers it's different than with the other.

"He [Neuer] was the best goalkeeper in the world for many years. Now he was injured sometime but it was clear that if he becomes the old one again – and he is the old one again - there is no discussion if just him can be the number one. I hoped for more support from the German football federation. We frequently have troubles with DFB.

"First of all, I remember how our three players were kicked out in a very bad way of the national team [Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and former defender Mats Hummels] and now this with Manuel Neuer is the same. I don't know how you cannot do something against it when a player goes public with a topic that he should only discuss with [head coach] Joachim Low. This is not okay.

"We have our opinion and we won't let this happen in the future that our players will be damaged without reason because Ter Stegen is a good keeper but Manuel Neuer is much better. And has more experience. There is no discussion necessary. Nobody in the world can have doubts with Manuel Neuer being Germany's goalkeeper. Neuer can play as long as he stays healthy. He will always be the best. There is no discussion about it."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen says it was "inappropriate" for Manuel Neuer to criticise him for speaking out about a desire for more game time for Germany.

Barcelona goalkeeper Ter Stegen described it as a "massive blow" not to feature for his country against Netherlands and Northern Ireland in the international break.

The 27-year-old has had to serve as back-up to Neuer for most of his international career, despite increasing calls for him to be given the number one spot ahead of the Bayern Munich star.

Neuer accused Ter Stegen of being unhelpful by expressing his frustrations in public and suggested he had shown something of a lack of respect towards Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp, who likewise are battling for more Germany playing time.

Ter Stegen, who has returned to his homeland for Tuesday's Champions League clash between Barca and Borussia Dortmund, thinks Neuer has been unfair but wants to draw a line under the issue.

He told a news conference: "I would like to say something about this. You cannot say we have competition for the goalkeeper position and then expect the players to be happy with the situation if they don't play. Football is about happiness but also disappointment.

"Manuel Neuer does not need to comment on my personal feelings and measure them, I'd say. It's my own opinion. If you think about the last few years, you realise that I always behaved well and what Neuer and other people have said is not fair.

"His remarks were inappropriate but I don't want to say much more. I want to end this controversy."

Ter Stegen's immediate priority is to help sure up Barca's defence, with the Catalans having conceded seven goals in their opening four LaLiga games of 2019-20.

"We're trying to stop the goals going in but things haven't come off," he said. "It's not what we expected. We have to improve. There have been mistakes that we can easily correct. We've spoken about it."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen believes Lionel Messi is "really happy" at Camp Nou but says the Barcelona talisman has earned the right to decide his own future.

Messi, who has only played for Barca at club level since making his debut in October 2004, gave a wide-ranging interview to SPORT this week.

The Argentina international, considered one of the greatest players of all time, said he aimed to stay at Barca for "as long as possible" but acknowledged a "need to see there's a winning team".

The Catalan giants have not won the Champions League since the 2014-15 season when Neymar starred alongside Luis Suarez and Messi, who had hoped the Brazil forward would return to Barcelona.

However, Ter Stegen had no issue with Messi's apparent suggestion that he could move on from Barca if the team does not perform.

"[Messi] deserves to choose his own future," he told reporters. "The easiest thing is for us to tell him to stay because he's a key player for us and his level is so high.

"I'm convinced he's really happy in the team, at the club and in the city. It's hard for him to move.

"Personally, I want him to stay, but I don't decide. We're going to tell him to stay and we hope he does."

Messi said he did not know if Barca had done everything possible to bring Neymar back to the club from Paris Saint-Germain, but Ter Stegen is keen to move on from the failed transfer.

"It is a question that is currently difficult to answer," he said. "Neymar is a spectacular player, he spent many years with us and took another step.

"Now nothing can be changed. The club has tried what it could. We are delighted to have the best players in the squad. I'm happy with the team we have."

It was reported Ivan Rakitic could form part of a deal for Neymar as he was repeatedly linked with a move away from the LaLiga champions, yet Ter Stegen is glad to have the midfielder still on board.

"It's what happens every year," he said. "In the end, the good thing is that we have people like him who give everything for the club and, personally, I think it is fantastic that he stayed because he gives us a lot of quality.

"He is one of the pillars of our team as a person and as a footballer. He has a contract for some years and we hope he stays.

"I am not the coach to decide, but I hope he plays a few more minutes - although that is the coach's decision and he will choose those he thinks can help us more."

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk are the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Player award.

FIFA announced a 10-man shortlist for the gong in July and, following the initial voting period, the final three have been revealed.

Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah were the seven players cut from the initial list.

Liverpool defender Van Dijk is the favourite of many after playing a vital role in the Reds' Champions League triumph and their Premier League title challenge – finishing just a point behind Manchester City.

He was recognised for his exploits just last week, when he was named UEFA's Player of the Year, beating Messi and Ronaldo to the prize.

The Netherlands international also helped his country to the final of the Nations League, only for a Ronaldo-inspired Portugal to lift the inaugural title.

Ronaldo also enjoyed success at club level, helping Juventus cruise to an eighth successive Scudetto, finishing as their top scorer across all competitions with 28 goals.

Messi's numbers dwarfed Ronaldo's, though, as the Barcelona star scored 51 goals in total, including 36 from 29 starts in LaLiga, with Barca retaining their title.

Those goal-scoring exploits won Messi the European Golden Shoe and, on top of being LaLiga's most prolific player, he also set up 13 goals, a haul only matched by Pablo Sarabia.

Messi's Barca team-mate Marc-Andre ter Stegen is among the three finalists for the goalkeeper award, with City's Ederson and Alisson of Liverpool also in the hunt.

And there is a distinct Premier League feel to the final three of the coaches' award, with Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino all in the running.

The winners will be announced on September 23.

Barcelona lost Luis Suarez to injury as a stunning late goal from Aritz Aduriz secured a 1-0 win for Athletic Bilbao in Friday's LaLiga opener.

With Lionel Messi missing with a calf problem and Philippe Coutinho left out amid talks with Bayern Munich over a loan move, the Catalans were found wanting in attack against coach Ernesto Valverde's old club.

Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong made their league debuts for the champions, but there was little for them to celebrate as the 2019-20 season got off to a lacklustre start at San Mames.

The loss of Suarez to a first-half muscle problem only compounded what proved a frustrating outing for the visitors, who twice hit the woodwork before Aduriz's 89th-minute overhead kick secured all three points.

 

Jasper Cillessen had grown tired of sitting on the bench at Barcelona and does not view his move to Valencia as a backward step.

Valencia shelled out €35million in June to sign Cillessen, who spent three seasons at Barca acting as back-up to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

The 30-year-old Netherlands international made just 12 appearances in all competitions for the Catalan giants last season and believes the transfer is a positive move for him at this stage of his career.

"I have not had problems with Barcelona or with any team. For me, the most important thing is to play. It's the only reason I'm here," Cillessen told Marca.

"For me to come to Valencia is not a step back. Between being on the bench of Barcelona or playing at Valencia, playing at Valencia is much better. It is easy. It is not a step back.

"When I arrived at Barcelona, Ter Stegen was on a different level than now. And after three years he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

"I think we both improved, but it was time for me to leave."

Valencia are reportedly interested in Barca midfielder Rafinha and Cillessen hopes the Brazilian, who has been out of action since November due to a serious left knee injury, follows him in heading to Mestalla.

The Dutchman said of Rafinha: "He is a very good player, he has had very bad luck with injuries. But he is a great player, it would be very important here with this system and for the coach.

"He is my friend and I want him to come here."

Toni Kroos and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have been left out of the Germany squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia due to injuries.

Midfielder Kroos, who signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid on Monday, will be absent due to a muscular issue, while Ter Stegen is struggling with a knee problem that has made him a doubt for Barcelona's Copa del Rey final against Valencia on Saturday.

Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno consequently returns to the fold to provide competition for captain Manuel Neuer, whose spot will be determined by his recovery from the calf injury that curtailed his season in April.

Jonas Hector and Julian Draxler have also been recalled by Joachim Low.

Thilo Kehrer, Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner will not take part in the European Under-21 Championship despite being eligible.

However, Jonathan Tah and Lukas Klostermann are available to link up with Stefan Kuntz's team for the tournament after the games against Belarus and Estonia on June 8 and 11 respectively.

Germany director Oliver Bierhoff said: "The challenge for Joachim Low and Stefan Kuntz is to find the right balance. On the one hand, we want to present competitive teams who can win their games.

"On the other hand, the coaches must always keep an eye on the individual situation and the best possible development of individuals. This only succeeds with close work.

"The ultimate goal is to return German football to a world-class level."

 

Germany squad in full:

Bernd Leno (Arsenal), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig), Thilo Kehrer (Paris Saint-Germain), Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim), Niklas Stark (Hertha Berlin), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen); Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Leroy Sane (Manchester City), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).

Barcelona have confirmed Nelson Semedo did not suffer a concussion in their last LaLiga game of the season against Getafe.

Semedo was taken to hospital with a head injury that appeared to have put his chances of being fit for Saturday's Copa del Rey final in doubt.

But Barcelona confirmed on Monday that right-back Semedo has been cleared following tests and released from a hospital in Bilbao.

"Semedo has passed the tests for his head injury and has been discharged from hospital," a club statement said. 

"He returns to Barcelona to continue with the protocol established in these cases and his return to training will be monitored."

Head coach Ernesto Valverde is seeking to win the LaLiga and Copa del Rey double for the second season in a row when Barca face Valencia in Seville.

Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are unlikely to be available due to hamstring injuries, while Arthur is another doubt.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a doubt for the Copa del Rey final after suffering a knee injury.

Ter Stegen has played a key role in Barca's LaLiga title defence, making 35 appearances and displaying consistently excellent form.

Coach Ernesto Valverde has rested the German in recent weeks around the Champions League semi-finals and ahead of the Copa showdown with Valencia on May 25, allowing Jasper Cillessen to step in for the league games against Celta Vigo and Getafe.

However, Ter Stegen has still managed to sustain an injury, with Barca revealing on Thursday the 27-year-old is struggling with discomfort in his right knee.

The club have not given any further details regarding the severity of the injury, but Ter Stegen is likely at least to miss the trip to Eibar on Sunday and is a doubt for the showdown with Valencia in nine days' time.

Joachim Low has hinted Manuel Neuer will remain his first-choice goalkeeper at the start of Germany's Euro 2020 qualification campaign ahead of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Neuer started against Serbia in Wednesday's 1-1 friendly draw, suggesting the Bayern Munich goalkeeper is still in front of his rival for the role.

Barcelona's Ter Stegen replaced Neuer at half-time but had very little to do, Germany improving in the second half as they fought back to avoid defeat on home soil.

Germany's qualifying campaign begins on Sunday with a trip to face Netherlands, and Neuer looks set to keep his place in Low's XI.

"You can assume that," Low told reporters when asked if Neuer's selection on Wednesday was an indication of him also doing so on Sunday.

"At the end of last week or in the past, I've already said that Marc-Andre will definitely have some chances. That's my plan.

"Now we have just made one game, in this one he has played a half. That was our decision, that Manuel plays as captain in the first half.

"In the second half then Marc-Andre played, but we still have some games during the year and he will certainly get his opportunity."

RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann will make his international debut in a new-look Germany team against Serbia on Wednesday, while Manuel Neuer is preferred to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Head coach Joachim Low shocked German football earlier this month when he announced Bayern Munich stars Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were no long in consideration for international selection.

The experienced trio all played an important role in Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph, but following an embarrassing title defence in Russia last year which saw them dumped out in the group stage and a dismal Nations League campaign, Low has opted to make changes.

Many have come out in support of the ostracised trio, criticising Low for publicly ending their international careers instead of just dropping them.

Bayern goalkeeper Neuer is one of the few experienced campaigners remaining in the squad and Low's show of faith also extends to keeping him in the starting XI, despite pressure to play Barcelona's Ter Stegen.

But the decision to ditch the World Cup-winning trio has given others the opportunity to impress, with right-back Klostermann earning his first cap.

His Leipzig team-mate Marcel Halstenberg lines up on the other side of defence at left-back, while Jonathan Tah and Niklas Sule are the ones to benefit from the absences of Hummels and Boateng.

Julian Brandt, Leroy Sane and Kai Havertz will support Timo Werner in attack, but Toni Kroos and Marco Reus have been left out of the starting XI, with Germany due to face Netherlands in their first Euro 2020 qualifier on Sunday.

Eintracht Frankfurt star Luka Jovic leads the line for visitors Serbia in Wolfsburg.

Germany boss Joachim Low would not reveal whether he intends to start captain Manuel Neuer or Marc-Andre ter Stegen for Wednesday's friendly against Serbia.

Neuer, 32, started each of Germany's three games during their disastrous World Cup 2018 campaign and retained his spot for all four of their Nations League fixtures, when Die Mannschaft were relegated out of the top tier to complete a miserable year.

Low has already shown he is not afraid to move on from the stars that won the World Cup five years ago, with Bayern Munich trio Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller all no longer under consideration.

Bayern's Neuer is still part of Low's plans, though his spot as Germany's number one has come under fresh scrutiny after his disappointing performance in Bayern's Champions League exit to Liverpool last week, with ex-Germany captain Lothar Matthaus suggesting that Ter Stegen's "world-class achievements over the past two years" with Barcelona have earned him the opportunity to win the starting berth.

And while Low stressed earlier this week that Germany captain Neuer remains his first-choice keeper, he claimed Ter Stegen would still be given starts and would not reveal who will line up between the posts against Serbia on Wednesday.

"We haven't made a decision yet [over] who will start in goal," Low told reporters at a news conference.

"We will wait until the last training [session]. As I said recently, we have many important games this year and only two friendlies against Serbia and Argentina.

"So Marc will get his chances - that's what I already said.

"How exactly we are going to do it [on Wednesday], I don't know yet. We will talk tonight and with the goalkeepers first."

Germany begin their Euro 2020 qualification campaign against Netherlands on Sunday.

Low's stance on Hummels, Boateng and Muller is an indication he wants the national team to move in a new direction, and he added that he would support his young players in the hope they can develop in international football.

"We now face a new time, a new challenge," Low said.

"I have to give the team the feeling that we fully trust them.

"We have to give them the chance to develop, take over more responsibilities and also, during a rough patch, offer more solutions when they make mistakes so they have the trust to go into the next months."

Joachim Low has called up three new players in his first Germany squad since controversially axing senior trio Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

Low confirmed last week that the World Cup-winning trio will not be part of his plans for their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, which starts against Netherlands on March 24, four days after a friendly with Serbia.

Low has instead turned to RB Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann, Hertha Berlin midfielder Niklas Stark and Werder Bremen's exciting forward Maximilian Eggestein as he looks to reverse Die Mannschaft's fortunes after a calamitous World Cup campaign in Russia last year.

Muller, Hummels and Boateng have all expressed disappointment with the communication surrounding the decision to drop them from the squad and Low says he understands their frustrations.

"I understand that the players are incredibly disappointed," he told a media conference.

"I told them that I would be planning without them for the European Championships qualification and I wanted to be honest."

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan have been recalled after missing the squad for November's Nations League meeting with Netherlands and friendly against Russia.

There is no place, however, for Jonas Hector, Julian Draxler, Sebastian Rudy and Mark Uth, who were all included in the initial squad for their last fixtures.

Germany squad in full: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona) Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt - on loan from Paris Saint-Germain); Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Thilo Kehrer (Paris Saint-Germain), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim), Niklas Sule (Bayern Munich), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen), Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig), Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig), Niklas Stark (Hertha Berlin); Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Leroy Sane (Manchester City); Timo Werner (RB Leipzig), Maximilian Eggestein (Werder Bremen).

Germany coach Joachim Low has welcomed Marc-Andre ter Stegen's determination to challenge Manuel Neuer for a starting role as the national team's goalkeeper.

Bayern Munich star Neuer remains captain and Low's first-choice shot-stopper, leaving the Barcelona man frustrated at a lack of opportunities to represent his country.

In a recent interview with DAZN, Ter Stegen stressed he is determined to put Neuer under pressure and force his claim to a starting role.

And Low acknowledged the 26-year-old's right to make his feelings known, insisting he did not consider it an attack on his team-mate or coaches.

"I think it's absolutely okay what he said," Low told DAZN.

"It was not an attack towards Manuel Neuer or us coaches. He formulated his ambitions and he is absolutely right to do that because he became a really great goalkeeper in the last two or three years.

"We are happy to have two world-class goalkeepers in Germany. I said last year that Neuer is the number one, also because he is our captain. But this year we have a little restart and Marc will get his chances in the qualification for Euro 2020. The Euros are next summer, we have a little time left until then.

"Of course, there will be a fight [for the number one role]. At the end, the performances always count. Manuel made good performances at the World Cup, although he had a long injury before. Both goalkeepers are on a great level, so this year we'll see what happens. Surely Marc will also get a few games."

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