Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva believes the comfort zone of their Premier League position may have contributed to a derby defeat against Manchester United that was "not acceptable".

Goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay saw City suffer a 2-0 loss to rivals United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

It ensured United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed home and away league victories over City counterpart Pep Guardiola – the first time the Red Devils have done the double over their Manchester rivals for 10 years.

Second-placed City are 25 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool but have a seven-point cushion over Leicester City in third.

"The reality is the pressure is not on in the Premier League," Silva told Sky Sports.

"We don't have much pressure because we know that our position is not changing a lot because we will not get to the title.

"I think we will be second to qualify for the Champions League. So maybe that is a thing."

After picking up 100 and 98 points in each of the last two seasons, City have suffered seven defeats this term and have just 57 points with 10 matches still to play.

"A team like ours cannot lose as many games in the Premier League as we have this season," Silva added. "So, we need to check what is not going right and try to not make the mistakes.

"We have to watch the game back and listen to what Pep has to say.

"It was a bad game for us and, in my opinion, not acceptable.

"It's a derby, it's an important game for our fans, and it is not acceptable to play the way we did and lose 2-0."

However, Silva felt the awarding of a free-kick that led to United's opening goal, after Ilkay Gundogan was deemed to have fouled Bruno Fernandes, was an incorrect decision made by referee Mike Dean.

He added: "From my point of view, and from where I was, it was clear it was not a foul. I don't know if on the television it is a foul or not.

"The referees like us, like all the players, can make mistakes. It's football."

Manchester City's Champions League ban could have some serious consequences.

While City are planning to appeal UEFA's two-season suspension from European competition after an investigation found the club broke financial fair play regulations, rivals are circling.

City's stars are reportedly attracting interest from far and wide.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE BERNARDO SILVA

LaLiga champions Barcelona are targeting Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

The report comes following City's Champions League suspension handed down to the Premier League giants by UEFA.

City team-mate Raheem Sterling has already been linked to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are ready to make a move for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga. The 17-year-old has starred for the Ligue 1 outfit and is reportedly valued at €70million.

Paul Pogba has also been linked to Madrid but Goal claims he could be offered a new contract by Manchester United, who expect the Frenchman to leave at the end of the season. Former club Juventus are also reportedly tracking the midfielder.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to either Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri amid uncertainty over the future of Thomas Tuchel, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Lille defender Gabriel is being monitored by Arsenal, Everton, PSG and now Leicester City, according to Le10 Sport.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are set to raise transfer funds through the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and potentially Matteo Guendouzi as the Gunners eye Valencia's Carlos Soler and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Bernardo Silva believes his Portugal team-mate Bruno Fernandes has the mentality and character to be a success at Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed a major January transfer window coup by securing goalscoring midfielder Fernandes from Sporting CP.

On his debut, a goalless draw against Wolves at Old Trafford last weekend, Fernandes showed flashes of the form that yielded 28 goals in 50 Primeira Liga appearances from the start of last season.

Manchester City star Silva came through the national team ranks with the former Sampdoria player and is a huge admirer of his qualities.

"I think he is going to adapt [to the Premier League], he has already played in Italy when he was younger, so it's not his first experience abroad," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm happy for him, I'm happy that he's playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, and I think he's going to do great at Man Utd.

"The best thing about Bruno is his mentality and the way he gives himself to the team 100 per cent and he just goes in every game. It doesn't matter who he's playing against and his mentality and character is the best thing about him.

"The first time I played with Bruno, we were 18 years old, so my first game for Portugal Under-19s was also Bruno's first game for Portugal. Then we played together for the Under-21s, the national team and now we're both in Manchester, so it's great. We're rivals but it's good to have him here.

"Changing is always complicated; you have to adapt to the way your new team plays, your team-mates, the way the manager wants to play, sometimes new systems, so maybe it will take him a few months.

"But I think it's good that he's here and he'll be a great asset for Man Utd - but hopefully not against Man City."

Silva and Fernandes are set to come face to face in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on March 8.

On each City's past two trips across town, a 2-0 Premier League win last season and last month's 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final triumph, Silva opened the scoring.

Manchester City can still shrug off their lacklustre Premier League title defence and enjoy the best season in the club's history, according to Bernardo Silva.

Pep Guardiola's side are a yawning 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, a virtually unassailable deficit that could be even bigger the next time they take to the field after Sunday's home match against West Ham was postponed due to the effects of Storm Ciara.

Focus will soon turn towards a mouth-watering Champions League last-16 meeting with Real Madrid, as City travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26 for the first leg.

A Wembley showdown versus Aston Villa on March 1 gives Silva and his team-mates the chance to win a third consecutive EFL Cup, and they remain in the running for back-to-back FA Cups, with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday up next in round five.

The Champions League remains the final frontier, however, and the Portugal playmaker believes glory in Europe's top competition might even top last season's unprecedented domestic treble.

"People are used to Man City winning everything. If we look at the last two and a half seasons, there's not a team in Europe that has won as many trophies as us," Silva told Sky Sports.

"It's not that, because we're not winning one title, the team goes from being one of the best to an average team. If we win the cups and the Champions League, it's the best season this club have ever seen.

"So there is still a lot to fight for, knowing that we still have a difficult task ahead of us."

Nevertheless, Silva was unable to hide his disappointment at the manner in which City have failed to meet Liverpool's relentless challenge in England's top flight.

"I think we got to a point one month ago where we gave up a bit too soon and I think we shouldn't have done that," he said.

"It was not on purpose, it was in our heads. I think everyone was already a bit disappointed to be 10 or 15 points behind them and we felt a bit down. We shouldn't have done it.

"It's difficult because we're a team used to winning and last season we won everything in England. When we don't win a competition, we're upset with ourselves and always want to do better."

Silva recalled City's former knack of snatching vital late goals during his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium in 2017-18, before adding: "In the important moments, we've not been as lucky as in the past seasons – we always concede in the last minutes, Liverpool always score in the last minutes, and these little details make the difference.

"The team has to try to find the balance. When things go well, not thinking that we're the best ever, and when things go a little bit not as well as we expect, not to think we're the worst team ever."

Bernardo Silva suggested Manchester United were lucky to only be losing 3-0 at half-time in Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City.

City claimed a 3-1 win at Old Trafford, with their rampant first-half display seeing them comfortably claim victory and put one foot in the final.

Silva opened the scoring with a wonderful long-range effort, before then setting up Riyad Mahrez to make it two. An Andreas Pereira own goal, engineered by Kevin De Bruyne, effectively put the game beyond United before the break.

Marcus Rashford pulled one back for the hosts in the second half, but that goal came from a rare moment of incisiveness as United were well beaten.

Silva told Sky Sports: "I think we could have gone to half-time winning by four or five because we missed a few chances, then the second half was very hard for us.

"They started pressing higher, trying to control the game and getting on the ball. We got a bit tired, but I think overall it was a good performance and we're happy with this win.

"It's never easy to come here to Old Trafford against one of the best sides in England, in Europe, and to win 3-1.

"When you play a derby and you play Man United, you cannot always win. We were disappointed because losing at home [to United in December] is not normal for us. Coming here, in a way it makes it up to our fans, who once again were unbelievable in helping us get this win."

Pep Guardiola sprung something of a surprise with his team selection, opting against using a striker and instead loading the midfield and frontline with creative players, and Silva gave the move his seal of approval.

"I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we won and because it worked," he added. "I think Pep wanted one more man in the middle and that's why he put me there. Happily, it worked."

Manchester City have one foot in a third consecutive EFL Cup final after dispatching Manchester United 3-1 in the first leg of the semi-final at Old Trafford.

Beaten 2-1 by their local rivals in the Premier League a month ago, Pep Guardiola sprung a tactical surprise by starting with no recognised striker in a strong-looking line-up.

The move proved inspired as City tore through a United defence that was missing the injured Harry Maguire, with Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal putting them 3-0 up at the break.

Marcus Rashford got a goal back to give United a glimpse of hope ahead of the second leg in three weeks, but a first final since they won the competition in 2017 already looks beyond them.

After a cagey opening, Silva put City ahead in emphatic fashion, driving away from Fred and unleashing a ferocious strike from 25 yards that left David de Gea with no chance.

United had City on the ropes in the first half-hour of the league meeting at the Etihad Stadium, but Guardiola's side were firmly in control and largely untroubled by the threat of the counter-attack.

Their grip on the tie was strengthened 33 minutes in, when Victor Lindelof could not cut out Silva's throughball and Mahrez had time to round De Gea and finish.

A miserable first half for United got worse five minutes later, when the ball deflected off Pereira and into the net after Kevin De Bruyne left Phil Jones on the turf.

De Gea had to make a smart save with his right foot to stop Mahrez from adding a fourth, although City mostly eased off after the restart, and that relative complacency did allow United a lifeline.

De Bruyne's loose pass to Rodri was closed down by Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood raced forward and played in Rashford to slot the ball beneath Claudio Bravo, giving the Red Devils something to hold onto ahead of the second leg.

What does it mean? Final beckons for City, but there is only more scrutiny on Solskjaer

United were outthought and outplayed in the first half and only a minor miracle in the second leg will see them turn the tie around and reach the final.

The home fans stuck by their team admirably in the second half but, with arguably their best chance of a trophy this season all but gone and with performances in 2020 far from adequate, how much longer will Solskjaer be given to implement his long-term vision?

Bernardo sets tone with blockbuster

Silva's goal was spectacular, but his assist for Mahrez was of an equally high quality. United simply did not know how to keep him in check.

Pereira out of his depth

Injuries mean United's midfield options are down to the bare minimum, but Pereira may have played anyway given the trust he has been given by Solskjaer. Such was his display here, his manager's faith may not last much longer.

What's next?

These two meet in the second leg on January 29. More immediately, United host Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday, while City head to Aston Villa a day later.

Pep Guardiola is adamant Manchester City will not prioritise cup competitions over the Premier League for the rest of the season because he worries about them missing out on European places.

City are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool thanks to Friday's 3-2 defeat at Wolves, meaning their title defence looks beyond Guardiola's men.

Although Ederson's early red card left City in a precious position at Molineux, they found themselves two to the good just after the interval thanks to a pair of Raheem Sterling goals.

But Adama Traore pulled one back soon after and he then played a vital role in an 82nd-minute equaliser, making the most of Benjamin Mendy's woeful error to set up Raul Jimenez.

The Mexican teed up Matt Doherty late on and he secured the win that leaves City well adrift of Liverpool, who also have a game in hand.

But giving up on the Premier League is a dangerous game Guardiola is unwilling to play.

"We can't give up otherwise we won't be in Europe," Guardiola told reporters.

"I never prioritise competitions. Now we're back at home, playing another game in less than 40 hours [at home to Sheffield United]. We have to prepare, see how they are and how they feel.

"Our response is always good; we are used to being top and now we are fighting."

Friday's result meant Manchester City were unable to move back up to second above Leicester City, who lost 4-0 to Liverpool on Boxing Day.

And Guardiola reiterated that they are now City's target, acknowledging it is not realistic to continue aiming for Liverpool's lofty perch.

"We have to move on," he said. "We played the first season and we were there [near the top] all the time, in some situations we are far away. We have to catch the second one and see where we are.

"It's unrealistic to think about Liverpool, we think about Leicester. We have the chance to recover second, I know the quality of the team, but that's the situation."

Bernardo Silva acknowledged Manchester City's 14-point gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool is a "really bad situation" after Friday's dramatic 3-2 defeat to Wolves.

Liverpool – who have a game in hand on City – thrashed Leicester City 4-0 on Thursday to increase their lead at the top and Pep Guardiola's men were unable to make a dent in that at Molineux.

Despite having Ederson sent off in the 12th minute, City found themselves two up early in the second half thanks to a Raheem Sterling brace.

But Adama Traore inspired Wolves, scoring from 25 yards before setting up Raul Jimenez's equaliser in the 82nd minute – picking the Mexican out after capitalising on a woeful Benjamin Mendy error.

Matt Doherty clinched the win following a clever interchange with Jimenez, and Silva accepts City's position is frustrating.

Speaking on Amazon Prime, he said: "It is a really bad situation for us. A frustrating first half of the season.

"Nobody expected us to be this far away from Liverpool at this halfway point. We have to continue now.

"We know that winning the title is very complicated. I wouldn't say impossible but very difficult."

Guardiola's post-match comments struck a similarly exasperated tone as he practically ruled out a title challenge.

"It's big [the gap behind Liverpool] for a long time now," he said. "It's not realistic to think about it. The same question for a long time, but the same answer."

Ederson is back in the Manchester City side to face Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

The goalkeeper missed City's last game, a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool that left the champions nine points behind Jurgen Klopp's Reds in the Premier League table.

Ederson was withdrawn during a Champions League draw with Atalanta this month due to a thigh injury, with Kyle Walker ending the game in goal after Claudio Bravo was sent off.

The Brazil international has, as expected, been passed fit for a crunch clash with Chelsea, with Frank Lampard's side having won six straight Premier League games to move up to third in the league, above City.

Bernardo Silva is out after being banned for one game for his controversial tweet about team-mate Benjamin Mendy, while Raheem Sterling starts after being dropped for England's 7-0 win over Montenegro during the international break following an incident with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.

David Silva also returns to midfield, having been an unused substitute against Liverpool, while Riyad Mahrez starts alongside Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

Joao Cancelo, John Stones, Fernandinho and Mendy line up in defence.

Chelsea make two changes from a victory over Crystal Palace as they aim to win eight consecutive away games in all competitions for the first time in their history.

Jorginho replaces Mason Mount in midfield and Cesar Azpilicueta comes in for Reece James at full-back.

Manchester City will welcome back goalkeeper Ederson for the Premier League visit of Chelsea on Saturday.

The Brazil international suffered a thigh injury during City's 1-1 Champions League draw at Atalanta earlier this month, ruling him out of the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool where understudy Claudio Bravo deputised.

The reverse gave Jurgen Klopp's men a nine-point advantage over City at the Premier League summit and the reigning champions lie fourth, a point and a place behind their weekend opponents.

Manager Pep Guardiola can therefore be grateful Ederson's brief but keenly felt absence is at an end.

Asked whether his number one would be fit at a pre-match news conference, Guardiola replied: "Yep. He trained the last two or three days without pain."

The fallout from City's loss at Anfield extended to a confrontation between Raheem Sterling and Liverpool defender Joe Gomez while on international duty.

Manager Gareth Southgate elected to stand down Sterling for England's 7-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Montenegro before restoring him to face Kosovo, but Guardiola believes the episode is done and dusted for his star attacker.

"I spoke with him. He's fine," he said.

"He said Joe is an excellent guy and they have a good relationship.

"It sometimes happens."

Asked whether such a flashpoint mirrored the widely reported hostility between Barcelona and Real Madrid players on international duty during his time in Spain, Guardiola was somewhat sceptical.

"I don't think so. [There is] no comparison," he replied.

Guardiola must do without Bernardo Silva against Chelsea, after the Football Association imposed a one-match ban and an education course upon the Portugal playmaker for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy.

Throughout the affair, Guardiola has staunchly defended Silva's character as opposed to engaging with what offence might have been caused elsewhere, earning criticism in some quarters.

Nevertheless, he sounded a similar tone on Friday.

"In that situation the less important thing is the fact we are going to miss him," he said.

"He has been accused of something he is not, so if they want to pick up someone to show something he was the right person.

"He will be careful using the social media. If this can help to do a better society, okay. I'm pretty sure Bernardo accepts this punishment.

"He is not like he has been accused. They don't know him."

Despite such controversies and long-term injuries to the likes of Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte, Guardiola remained bullish over his team's prospects of mounting a credible title defence.

"A few weeks ago there was just two contenders and for the rest it was impossible, now it's four and maybe six in a few days," he added.

"We're in November, a long time to play and we try to focus on the next one."

Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally of international goals to 99 with a late tap-in as Portugal secured a place at Euro 2020 with a laboured 2-0 win over Luxembourg.

Ronaldo fell just short of becoming the second player in history to reach a century for his country after Iran's Ali Daei on an afternoon when he struggled on a slow pitch at Stade Jose Barthel, where the reigning European champions were made to work hard for the victory.

The creative endeavour of Bernardo Silva proved more of a threat than Ronaldo's presence and it was the Manchester City playmaker who teed up Bruno Fernandes to break the deadlock late in the first half of Sunday's Group B clash.

Thereafter Portugal offered little and those gathered at Stade Josy Barthel to see Ronaldo make history were instead treated to an impressive display from a side ranked 96th in the world by FIFA, but the Juventus talisman did manage to score from practically on the line with four minutes remaining.

Ronaldo gave Anthony Moris an easy save with a tame shot from 12 yards early on but it was not all one-way traffic, with Danilo Pereira and Fernandes leaving gaps in midfield that allowed Luxembourg to attack.

Maurice Deville and Gerson Rodrigues both headed narrowly over the crossbar and the hosts deserved credit for restricting Portugal's first-half chances, although they were powerless to stop Fernandes' opener.

The Sporting CP star deftly controlled Silva's weighted pass six minutes from half-time before putting his laces through the ball, hammering a shot into the bottom corner of Moris' net.

Jose Fonte headed just wide early in the second half but it was the hosts who played the better football without creating a clear scoring opportunity.

Fernandes was brought down by Olivier Thill with 13 minutes left, presenting Ronaldo with a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Portugal's all-time leading goalscorer blazed wide with an effort that looked set to sum up his afternoon.

That was until Moris parried Diogo Jota's effort from a Bernardo cross and Ronaldo helped the ball over the line to ensure his name was on the scoresheet.

What does it mean? Santos' men struggle for consistency

Portugal coach Fernando Santos can be pleased with his side's record of five wins, two draws and one defeat in qualifying, but after seeing them hammer Lithuania 6-0 on Thursday this performance offered a reminder of their occasional lack of fluency.

Bernardo copes with the quagmire

While Ronaldo under-hit passes and snatched at chances, Bernardo kept his composure to steer Portugal to victory, never more so than when he floated an exquisite pass to allow Fernandes to score.

Danilo off the pace

Luxembourg were not expected to make a close game of this but they found space in an around Portugal's box that a player of Danilo's quality should have been dominating.

What's next?

European Championship holders Portugal will be among the favourites at Euro 2020 with a coach who knows how to win it at the helm in Santos, while Luxembourg's impressive performance in this game will have done Luc Holtz's chances of remaining in charge no harm.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Portugal saw off Lithuania 6-0 to get back on track in their bid to qualify for Euro 2020.

Juventus forward Ronaldo was a surprise starter after being substituted before the hour in his club's last Serie A outing against AC Milan, but he showed no signs of fatigue as he reached 98 goals for his country.

Portugal lost 2-1 to Ukraine last month but were comfortable winners at Estadio Algarve on Thursday, with Goncalo Paciencia, Pizzi and Bernardo Silva also on target for the hosts.

The reigning European champions remain second in Group B, a point better off than Serbia - 3-2 winners over Luxembourg - ahead of the final round of qualifying fixtures.

Lithuania lost 5-1 in the reverse fixture and, as was the case in Vilnius two months ago, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a seventh-minute penalty after being caught by Saulius Mikoliunas.

Visiting goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus did well to keep out Paciencia but Ronaldo had doubled his tally with 22 minutes gone, bending in a first-time shot from the edge of the box.

Ronaldo was denied the chance to score a first-half hat-trick by referee Ruddy Buquet, who initially pointed to the spot following a challenge on Ricardo Pereira, only to overturn his decision following a brief discussion with one of his assistants.

However, Fernando Santos' team made certain of the three points seven minutes into the second half through Pizzi's angled shot that went in via both the crossbar and the post.

Paciencia slotted home a fourth goal after Setkus fumbled Silva's cross and the Manchester City playmaker added another to the tally seven minutes later with a low finish.

Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with another curled finish, this time low into the net, though he missed a glorious chance to add another to his tally when firing over from in front of goal.

 

What does it mean? Holders remain on course

Portugal's defeat to Group B winners Ukraine last month - ending an unbeaten run that stretched back to the 2018 World Cup - left them in direct competition with Serbia for second spot.

Santos' men turned on the style in Faro, however, and will now be guaranteed a place in next year's finals with victory in Luxembourg this weekend. 

Ronaldo closing in on another milestone

Ronaldo's consolation goal in Kiev four weeks ago saw him reach 700 for club and country. After his latest international hat-trick, he is now within two of hitting a century for Portugal. So much for a fading force, right?

Setkus slip-up opens floodgates

Lithuania were 3-0 down when Setkus parried a simple cross from Silva, gifting Paciencia a simple finish. The visiting keeper did not look comfortable all game and perhaps could have done better to keep out one of the five other goals, too.

What's next?

Portugal travel to Luxembourg for their final Euro 2020 qualifier on Sunday, while Lithuania - who finish bottom of Group B with just a point - host New Zealand in a friendly on the same day.

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva has been given a one-match suspension as punishment for a racially insensitive tweet posted in September, the Football Association (FA) has confirmed.

The FA charged Silva at the start of October and the Portugal international has admitted a breach of the organisation's Rule E3.

Silva, 25, is set to miss City's home Premier League game against Chelsea after the international break, while he has also been fined £50,000 and must complete face-to-face education.

The former Monaco player tweeted – and subsequently deleted – a photo of team-mate Benjamin Mendy as a youngster and a dated image from Spanish confectionary brand Conguitos that has been criticised for its racist connotations.

A statement issued by the FA read: The Manchester City midfielder's social media activity on September 22, 2019 breached FA Rule E3(1), as it was insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute, and constituted an "Aggravated Breach", which is defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included reference, whether expressed or implied, to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin."

As part of Silva's submission to the FA following his charge, Mendy wrote a letter backing his close friend and insisting no offence had been taken.

Raheem Sterling also backed his team-mate publicly, although two lengthy and impassioned defences from manager Pep Guardiola in the aftermath appeared to inflame the matter.

In the Independent Regulatory Commission's written reasons provided to the FA, Silva's "exemplary previous good character" was acknowledged, along with an acceptance that "the player did not himself intend the post to be insulting or in any way racist", given he had "grown up in a country where both the brand and the character were familiar and considered inoffensive".

They added: "However, this was not a private jocular communication between two friends, The post was on a social media platform exposed to the 600,000 followers of a high-profile and well-respected professional footballer.

"It was quickly observed and reported upon by elements of the media. To his credit, the player removed the tweet from his account within a period of some 45 minutes or so."

Silva was voted City's player of the season in 2018-19 as they completed an unprecedented domestic treble, before starring in Portugal's triumph at the inaugural Nations League Finals.

He scored his fifth Premier League goal of the current campaign during last Sunday's 3-1 defeat to leaders Liverpool at Anfield.

Lionel Messi will be hoping to dethrone Cristiano Ronaldo at the Globe Soccer Awards after both were named among the nominees for the Best Men's Player for 2019.

Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool team-mates Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are also up for the annual honour, which is to be presented in Dubai on December 29.

Bernardo Silva, part of the Manchester City side largely snubbed at the FIFA Best awards, rounds out the seven-man field.

Juventus forward and five-time winner Ronaldo claimed the main prize for the third consecutive year in 2018.

Barcelona superstar Messi has won it once, in 2015.

United States stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan headline the contenders for the Best Women's Player title.

Lyon trio Amandine Henry, Lucy Bronze and Ada Hegerberg are all shortlisted and the French outfit have been nominated for Best Club, alongside Liverpool and Ajax.

Jurgen Klopp, Erik ten Hag, Fernando Santos and Djamel Belmadi, who guided Algeria to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, are in contention to succeed Didier Deschamps as Best Coach, as is former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.

Other award categories include Best Agent, Best Sporting Director and Best Revelation, designed to recognise emerging players.

Inter's Antonio Conte, ex-England manager Fabio Capello and Portugal legend Luis Figo form part of the judging panel.

Raheem Sterling defended Bernardo Silva after the Portugal star came under fire for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to Manchester City team-mate Benjamin Mendy.

Silva tweeted – and subsequently deleted – a picture of a young Mendy and a dated image used by Spanish confectionary brand Conguitos alongside the caption "Guess who".

The caricature has been condemned for having racist connotations, though Mendy – a close friend of Silva's – expressed amusement at the post.

Anti-discrimination group Kick It Out and others condemned the tweet, which the Football Association (FA) is investigating Silva for, but Pep Guardiola staunchly backed his player in a news conference on Friday.

Guardiola said Silva was "absolutely not guilty" and Sterling has also leapt to the midfielder's defence following Saturday's 3-1 win at Everton.

"It's a situation no one needs at this moment in time," Sterling said to Sky Sports after scoring his 100th club goal in the victory.

"It's between two friends as everyone knows. I can see exactly why some people can get touchy on it, but in that situation Bernardo made a joke to his friend.

"He's not referred to his skin colour, he's not referred to his lips. Both pictures, they've both got small heads. He didn't refer to a colour. Benjamin knows, he's proud to be black. We know he hasn't referred to his colour.

"It's sad to see Bernardo be really down about it, because he's not that way inclined. They're two really good friends. It's really sad to see.

"I can understand where the criticism has come from, but I don't feel there was any intention of trying to be racist and it's not because it's my team-mates, it's just the way I view it. I don't feel there is any racism in it, but I can see where people have come from.

"Bernardo is deeply sorry about it. He's not in the wrong, for me, but I can see where people think it's wrong. We have to be smart on social media, we understand anything you say or do can be judged and it's just a really sad situation."

Asked his view on how City have handled the issue, Sterling added: "The club, I always believed, would handle the situation right.

"The sooner the FA realise that there was no discrimination the better. At not one moment did he use a negative term about his skin colour. He tried to make a joke and it wasn't the best, but we've got to move on."

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