Kieran Trippier is excited to resume the 2019-20 LaLiga season following the coronavirus pandemic, with the full-back also fully fit again following surgery on an injury that plagued him even before leaving Tottenham last year.

Spanish football is due to resume next week after a three-month hiatus, which came at a frustrating time for Trippier, given he had just returned to action following a lay-off.

Trippier had surgery on a groin issue in January and it was a problem he recently revealed caused him significant stress during his final season at Tottenham, criticising the club for putting off the operation.

Although he returned to action a few weeks before LaLiga was suspended, Trippier was still receiving treatment to aid his recovery, but that had to stop once Spain went into lockdown.

The England international acknowledged it was a struggle to retain fitness during the lockdown, but he and Atletico are excited to get going again, with Los Colchoneros set to resume their campaign away to Athletic Bilbao on June 14.

"For me personally, after my surgery, I was used to getting treatment every single day but obviously I couldn't get that at home," he said.

"It was difficult but always you find a way to train, keep yourself in the best possible shape so when you return, you're ready to start the competition again.

"I feel very good to be back. It was very difficult not seeing team-mates, staff, and training every single day. But everybody understands the circumstances of the time.

"Obviously everyone's excited. The team is just looking forward to getting ready for the game against Athletic and it's important that we start the season off again strongly and try to win as many games as we can from now until the end of the season."

The rest of the season will be played behind closed doors and Trippier is aware of how it feels to play in an empty stadium, though he believes Atletico will still feel the love from supporters watching in their own homes.

"I've played in some games where there have been no supporters before and it's different," he added.

"Obviously you want the fans there supporting you every single game, but everybody understands the circumstances at the moment and it's important that everybody is safe.

"We'll always try to find a way to win and the fans are always there watching on TV, so we have the full support from them back home."

Atletico are sixth in LaLiga heading into the final 11 matches of the season, however third-placed Sevilla are just two points better off than Diego Simeone's men.

Thiago Alcantara has returned to team training after missing three Bayern Munich matches through injury.

The midfielder sat out the Bundesliga victories over Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund and Fortuna Dusseldorf due to muscular problems.

The Spain international took part in the team session on Tuesday as the leaders prepared for Saturday's meeting with Bayer Leverkusen.

Lucas Hernandez, who suffered adductor problems in the 5-0 win over Dusseldorf, could only train individually, while long-term absentees Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho continued their fitness programmes.

A win for Bayern at the BayArena could be a crucial moment in this season's title race.

Hansi Flick's side are seven points clear of Dortmund at the top of the table with only five matches left, with the trip to Champions League-chasing Leverkusen likely to be the most challenging of their remaining games.

Milan and Napoli are in mourning after Gennaro Gattuso's sister Francesca died aged 37.

Francesca, who had worked as a secretary at Milan, was taken ill in early February, with Gattuso absent from his usual post-match duties following the 4-2 win over Sampdoria having been notified of her condition.

Reports circulated early on Tuesday that Gattuso had been informed of her death during training, with the former Italy and Milan midfielder now managing Napoli.

Milan confirmed news of her death with a brief statement on Twitter.

It read: "Francesca Gattuso faced her illness with the same strength and energy she brought to Milanello [Milan's base] and Milan every day.

"Rino [Gennaro], the immense pain you and your family are feeling is also ours. Rest in peace, dear Francesca."

Napoli followed suit shortly after with a statement on behalf of president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

It said: "Aurelio De Laurentiis, with his wife Jacqueline and children Luigi, Edoardo and Valentina, the managers, the technical staff, the team, all of Napoli and Filmauro [Napoli's parent company], strongly embrace Rino Gattuso and join him in his immense pain for the loss of his sister, Francesca.

"We are all close to you with a dear heart, Rino."

Barcelona will activate a purchase option on Sao Paulo teenager Gustavo Maia this June, according to the player's agent.

Maia's performances in the Copa Sao Paulo – Brazil's most prestigious youth tournament – at the start of the year drew the eye of LaLiga's champions and led to them agreeing to part with €1million for the option to sign him before the end of this month.

The 19-year-old winger, who was nearly sent on loan to Flamengo last year, became a father in December and overcame personal issues to force his way into the starting line-up at the Copinha, where he scored three goals in seven games.

Barca are required to pay an additional €3.5m to sign Maia permanently and his representative Danilo Silva is confident it will happen.

"We are sure Barcelona will complete the purchase," he told Radio Transamerica in quotes reported by Globo Esporte.

"There was already a signal from the club and [on Monday] Maia started private Spanish lessons to get more prepared.

"Other clubs came to us in the last few months but he never had any doubt, he always wanted Barcelona."

Sao Paulo director Alexandre Passaro said they have not yet been notified that Barca wish to purchase Maia, however.

"Whether he will go to Barcelona or not, we can't be sure, because they have until June 30 to notify us and they still haven't," said Passaro.

"The last time I spoke to them they said everything is very uncertain.

"LaLiga set the restart of games for June 11. Who knows, they may give us a signal in the next 30 days to find out whether Maia is going or not."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen revealed talks over a new contract at Barcelona stopped when the coronavirus pandemic hit, but he reassured supporters there is no chance of him leaving.

German goalkeeper Ter Stegen joined Barca in 2014 from Borussia Monchengladbach, and despite being understudy to Claudio Bravo for two years in LaLiga, his potential was never in doubt.

Since becoming first choice for the 2016-17 campaign, Ter Stegen has barely been out of the team, proving a dependable and consistent performer.

His last contract extension in May 2017 saw him renew until 2022, and with little over two years remaining on that deal, some fans may have worried about the 28-year-old potentially moving on.

Although Ter Stegen acknowledged talks were shelved earlier this year, he is adamant that was the appropriate action given the sensitive situation regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking on the Kicker Meets DAZN podcast, Ter Stegen said: "It's not possible for me to leave this summer.

"There were already the first meetings between my agent and the club [regarding a contract extension], then the coronavirus issue came up and it was not time to discuss a contract.

"At a time when many people are concerned about their lives, we decided to postpone it. I feel good in Barcelona, ​​also because my family feels good."

LaLiga is set to resume behind closed doors next week and Barca will return to action with a two-point lead over Real Madrid at the summit. Both sides have 11 matches remaining.

Although LaLiga's hiatus is approaching the three-month mark, Ter Stegen believes Barca are in peak physical condition and he is fully aware Madrid will not let them coast to the title.

"Physically, we have rarely been at such a high level," he said. "And mentally we will be much more focused on the matches left. Despite being in a good position, Real Madrid will not give us anything.

"New football will, of course, be different, we do not have to fool ourselves, a game without an audience is not the most attractive thing, but the ball will roll and that is what pleases us."

FIFA has asked leagues to "use common sense" when deciding whether to punish players who protest against the death of George Floyd during games.

Borussia Dortmund duo Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi displayed 'Justice for George Floyd' messages when celebrating goals during a Bundesliga victory over Paderborn on Sunday. Schalke's Weston McKennie sported an armband with the same message and Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring against Union Berlin.

Their actions were a show of support for the protests that have come in the wake of Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis last week, sparking demonstrations and riots in the United States and beyond.

Sancho was booked for removing his shirt, while Hakimi, McKennie and Thuram received no on-field punishment in relation to their tributes. However, the German Football Association (DFB) said it would examine the incidents to see whether sanctions were necessary.

With LaLiga, Serie A and the Premier League all due to restart this month, FIFA has urged competition organisers to take context into account when applying the rules.

"FIFA fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case," an official statement read.

"FIFA had repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind and recently strengthened its own disciplinary rules with a view to helping to eradicate such behaviours.

"FIFA itself has promoted many anti-racism campaigns which frequently carry the anti-racism message at matches organised under its own auspices.

"The application of the Laws of the Game approved by the IFAB [International Football Association Board] is left for the competition organisers which should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events."

The DFB's sporting director of elite referees Michael Frohlich suggested on Monday it is not easy for officials to apply such guidelines during a game.

"It is hardly possible for referees to register political, religious or personal slogans, messages or images during a game," said Frohlich. "It isn't the same as referees examining that the equipment's colours match, for example.

"Should the referee notice a political or religious message on the player's equipment, they make a note of it in their match report.

"An exception is when the player's actions have an immediate impact on the game, such as delaying the restart of play, which the referee can punish with a yellow card."

DFB vice-president Rainer Koch said: "As is the case internationally, the game itself should remain free of political statements or messages of any kind; the fair and competitive action on the pitch should be the focus.

"There are of course opportunities before and after the match for these kinds of things. We'll have to wait and see whether sanctions are required in these instances."

Ralph Hasenhuttl said signing a new four-year contract at Southampton was "a simple decision" that could lead to a bright future for the Premier League club.

Confirmation of the manager's new deal came on Tuesday, with Hasenhuttl and Southampton extending the working relationship that began in December 2018.

Hasenhuttl staved off the threat of relegation last season and Southampton were sitting 14th – seven points clear of the bottom three – when the 2019-20 campaign was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 52-year-old Austrian is confident his team are making steady progress, and the Saints' long-term commitment indicates overwhelming support for his achievement so far.

"This, for me, was a simple decision," former RB Leipzig boss Hasenhuttl told Southampton's officla website. "Simple because of the relationship that I have built with the club, the players and the fans, and also because of the relationship they have built with me too.

"I said when I arrived at the club that we were at the beginning of a long journey, and also a journey that would bring emotion and hopefully enjoyment. We have already had some moments where we could celebrate together, and some that have been emotional and also challenging.

"The way we have handled this together as a group of people has been incredible for me, and I believe we now have strong foundations here that can allow us to take the next steps in our progress as a team."

Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens told the club's website: "It is clear to me that Ralph believes in this club and is passionate about the project we have ahead of us. He understood who we are very quickly, and over the last six months has developed a vision for the club that we believe will lead us back to success on the pitch.

"To be competitive within the Premier League you simply cannot stand still. We need a clear plan that is rooted in hard work and the development of young players on and off the pitch. Ralph brings to us experience of winning, but more than that, an absolute commitment to his philosophy and the development of all age groups at the club."

Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho was right to use his platform to stand up to racism, according to former England and Liverpool forward Emile Heskey.

Protests and riots have spread across the United States, with demonstrations also taking place around the world, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd died in police custody last week after an officer kneeled on his neck as he lay on the ground handcuffed, sparking outrage across the globe.

Dortmund star Sancho showed support for those protesting against racially driven police brutality by revealing a 'Justice for George Floyd' message on a T-shirt after scoring against Paderborn on Sunday.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Borussia Monchengladbach star Marcus Thuram took a knee after his goal against Union Berlin on the same day, and Schalke's United States international Weston McKennie wore a 'Justice for George Floyd' armband on Saturday.

Sancho was booked for removing his Dortmund shirt to display the message and the German Football Association (DFB) said it would examine the actions of the trio.

Heskey believes England international Sancho was right to use his platform to show support for the cause.

"Sports have a platform that is viewed by billions of people so it definitely has a say on what people think and how you put things out there," Heskey told Stats Perform News.

"It's very important that if they have a view on it, then why not? You look at Jadon Sancho who got booked for it as well. He felt it was right for him to put it out there because this is something that sits very close to his heart. He's a young black footballer who grew up in London. These are the certain things that he could have come up against growing up.

"I think football, sports in general, it has a platform so why not? I don't think they're doing anything wrong with supporting what's going on.

"He's not condoning violence or anything like that, so I think it's great."

This season has seen a significant number of racist incidents in football, but Heskey believes the problem first needs to be tackled in society as a whole.

He said: "I think until we in society get things right, football isn't going to change because it's just a mirror image of society.

"It's a lot better in a sense [that] what I had, you could be walking down the street, not bothering anyone and you could be racially abused. I don't think it's as bad as it was back then, but we're seeing it again online, people doing certain things, not just racism, sexism as well.

"These are things [that] have been going on for years. Will they get better? We hope. We can only pray that it will get better. It's not just a football problem or sport problem. This is a societal problem. We've got to attack it there and hope that it gets better and spreads everywhere else.

"At the end of the day the peaceful protests in and around London, Manchester as well, were great. It's highlighting the issues. I don't think they’re just protesting to protest, they're highlighting issues.

"So let's address those issues, let's talk about them. Let's deal with them because it's happening time and time again. That's all they want, they're not asking for anything else. Let's just deal with this first, let's stop it happening."

 

Emile Heskey’s book Even Heskey Scored has been shortlisted for Autobiography of the Year at the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards.

Oliver Bierhoff has thrown his support behind the idea of a wage cap as football faces up to a financial crisis.

The former Germany striker warned time is up for the era that has seen top-flight footballers in Europe's top leagues securing huge contracts as a matter of course.

Since the coronavirus pandemic forced football to be widely suspended in March, clubs and leagues have warned of the impact of inactivity.

And even though many leagues are slowly restarting, behind-closed-doors games mean matchday revenue has been lost.

Bierhoff spoke of a "mass of mediocrity" within the leagues, and said such average footballers would have to accept they are not entitled to spectacular salaries.

"It has come to the time when many are ready to at least discuss it – even those who were not before the crisis," he told t-online.de. "Especially from the biggest clubs in Spain, England and France."

Bierhoff, now a director of the German Football Federation (DFB) said he would support salary limits that were "legally feasible and if we think about it together across Europe".

Football authorities are battling to protect the vital revenue stream of broadcasting deals, which have been the lifeblood of the game, allowing teams to finance an abundance of seven-figure salaries.

Bierhoff said: "I don't think that the top earners for fans are the problem – as paradoxical as it sounds. [Lionel] Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Jo[shua] Kimmich aren't the problem. The problem is the mass of mediocrity that swims in their wake and and are, in quote marks, 'overpaid'."

He added: "An average Bundesliga professional will have to expect that he will soon be offered less by his club."

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is attracting plenty of interest in Europe.

Milinkovic-Savic has been linked to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Real Madrid, though, are reportedly fighting to bring the Serbia international to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE REACHES OUT TO LAZIO STAR

Zinedine Zidane has approached Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic regarding a move to Real Madrid, according to Le10Sport.

Milinkovic-Savic is a player in demand, linked to Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Zidane is interested in bringing Milinkovic-Savic to the Spanish capital, however, the Serbian midfielder reportedly wants to team up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are eyeing Ajax and United States sensation Sergino Dest. PSG are also reportedly interested in the 19-year-old full-back as a replacement for Thomas Meunier.

- Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic is being chased by Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1 outfit Monaco, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Luka Modric to Milan? The Madrid veteran was reportedly poised to swap the Santiago Bernabeu for San Siro at season's end. However, Calciomercato says the move is off after Zvonimir Boban's Milan exit.

- After Mauro Icardi completed a permanent transfer to PSG, Calciomercato reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of Juve's list of targets.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Chelsea and Juve are set to hold talks over a deal that would see Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi swap clubs.

Madrid have been favourites to sign Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, but Le10Sport says PSG are preparing a sensational move for the 17-year-old.

- Could Raheem Sterling swap City for Manchester neighbours United? The Independent reports the Red Devils have placed Sterling high up in priority amid uncertainty over City's Champions League ban. Sterling, though, appears more likely to go to Madrid. RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly remain on United's list as they continue to target Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

Former Inter president Massimo Moratti said "you cannot hold someone who has the idea of being somewhere else" as Lautaro Martinez continues to be linked with Barcelona.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A's Inter for LaLiga champions Barca, who are determined to sign a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez.

Despite Barca's reported interest amid the coronavirus pandemic, Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio insisted Martinez will not be sold for anything less than his €111million buyout clause.

Asked about Argentina international Martinez, Moratti told Sportmediaset: "You can't hold someone who has the idea of ​​being somewhere else. 

"That would put him in a position to remain involuntarily or, in any case with a different impulse, in the same place."

While Martinez's future has dominated headlines, Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali has emerged as a target for Antonio Conte's Inter.

The 20-year-old midfielder – likened to Italian great Andrea Pirlo – has also been linked to the likes of Juventus, Barca and Manchester United.

"Right now here maybe we have to see how [Christian] Eriksen is doing, but otherwise he is a great midfielder," Moratti said. "Then you will need someone on the wings, certainly."

Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco said it will be "strange" playing behind closed doors when LaLiga restarts following the COVID-19 crisis.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

Diego Simeone's Atletico – sixth in the standings and a point adrift of the Champions League places – will travel to Athletic Bilbao on June 14.

"It is a bit strange behind closed doors, but we are professions and we will do things in the best way so that the fans can watch a beautiful game on TV," Carrasco, who is back on loan at Atletico from Chinese side Dalian Professional, said.

Atletico have not played since sensationally eliminating Champions League holders Liverpool in the last 16 of the competition in March.

Simeone's men had also drawn back-to-back LaLiga matches prior to the 2019-20 season being postponed.

Belgium international Carrasco added: "I'm very happy to see everyone and be able to train with everyone.

"The team is fine. We have worked hard to prepare for the first match.

"This stage is set to enter that match in a good state."

Lionel Messi's enthusiasm is contagious as LaLiga leaders Barcelona prepare to return following the coronavirus pandemic, according to team-mate Jordi Alba.

Suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

Barca, who were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 rounds at the time of postponement, will return with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13.

Captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has provided plenty of motivation ahead of the league's resumption, with left-back Alba telling TVE: "He's a vital player of us and we should enjoy having him all the time.

"Seeing Leo with the enthusiasm he's come back with is contagious for the rest of the group."

Messi had topped LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 19, ahead of Madrid forward Karim Benzema (14).

"I see the team as having a lot of enthusiasm," Spain international Alba added.

"Mentally and physically we players have come back really well I would say, even better than we were before."

Meanwhile, defending champions Barca continue to be linked with former star Neymar – who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

On a possible return, Alba said: "He's clearly a unique player and he gave us a lot. He chose and looked for other goals."

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann said his team were deserved winners after coming from behind to beat Cologne 4-2.

Leipzig returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga after being held by Hertha Berlin last week – Patrik Schick, Christopher Nkunku, Timo Werner and Dani Olmo on target on Monday.

Jhon Cordoba had put hosts Cologne ahead but four goals from four different goalscorers helped Leipzig climb to third in the standings, despite Anthony Modeste reducing the deficit.

"It was a strange game with lots of ups and downs. We were a bit sleepy before they scored," Nagelsmann said post-match, with Leipzig two points adrift of second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

"We didn't defend as well as we can. Overall, I think we could play better. It's hard to summarise things at the moment.

"A win was important for the table. Coming from behind was important too. It wasn't easy, but we deserved to win."

Schick equalised for Leipzig in the 20th minute after Cordoba had opened the scoring 13 minutes earlier at RheinEnergieStadion.

It means the Czech Republic international, who is on loan from Serie A side Roma, has scored in back-to-back matches for Leipzig.

Schick added: "It was another tough game tonight. It wasn't the start that we wanted. After that, we grew into the game and fought hard. At the end of the day, we're really happy with the three points."

Lucas Vazquez relished a return to full training at Real Madrid and hopes they can win all their remaining LaLiga games to overthrow Barcelona.

LaLiga clubs were on Monday able to train without restrictions on group size for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic led to the season being suspended in March.

The season will get back under way on June 11, with Madrid sitting two points adrift of leaders Barca with 11 games remaining.

Madrid's first game after the restart is against Eibar and Vazquez hopes it can be the start of a winning streak that enables Zinedine Zidane's men to claim a first league title since 2017.

"Eibar is the starting point for the 11 finals we have left and hopefully we can record wins in every game until the end and win the title," Vazquez told Real Madrid TV.

He added: "We like to train with all our team-mates together, enjoying the football.

"It's what we all like, training sessions in which we can all enjoy the football together. We're training to try and get into our stride for the start of the season.

"Football is made up of several factors, such as the physical side, which is very important, and the mental side. That combination of the two means that we can go into the league in good shape."

According to Marca, Madrid president Florentino Perez has informed club members they will play their remaining LaLiga games at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano at their Valdebebas training ground to enable renovation work to begin on the Santiago Bernabeu.

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