Lionel Messi would clearly be the most deserving winner of the Ballon d'Or despite Virgil van Dijk's outstanding year, according to Barcelona team-mate Frenkie de Jong.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk was long considered the favourite for the prestigious individual honour having helped the Reds to Champions League glory last season.

Van Dijk has also impressed this term as Liverpool – agonisingly pipped to the 2018-19 Premier League title by Manchester City – have surged eight points clear at the summit.

However, Mundo Deportivo claimed on Tuesday that Messi has been told he has won the Ballon d'Or for the sixth time, meaning he will have edged out Van Dijk again having scooped FIFA's The Best Men's Player prize.

De Jong says there is no doubt Messi deserves the recognition.

"For me, I said it a lot but Messi is the best player in the world so he has to win it," he said. 

"Van Dijk had an amazing season, he is a great defender and one of the best players in the world.

"But Messi is above and he is by far the best."

De Jong completed his move to Camp Nou from Ajax in July and has been a standout performer in a Barca side who have failed to convince despite sitting top of LaLiga and Champions League Group F.

The Netherlands midfielder knows the team are capable of showing more consistency but is enjoying life in Catalonia ahead of Wednesday's visit of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. 

"I'm really happy to be here. It's everything I dreamed of. Of course we can play better, we're working as hard as we can and hopefully everyone can see [on Wednesday] that we're improving," said De Jong.

"We can play better, I think we have an amazing team, most of the best players in the world, so we know we can perform better but we're winning, first in the most difficult group in the tournament. We're not doing really, really bad but of course we can do better.

"We know we can improve, we talk about it a lot, we're training a lot. There's not a single game where a team made no mistakes so it's normal to make mistakes. I think we can improve a lot but we're not playing as badly as people think."

Ernesto Valverde's men have yet to make sure of a place in the knockout stages, although victory at home to Dortmund will get the job done. 

"We know it's really important, if we win we qualify, we're already first in the group," De Jong added.

"It's really important for us, qualifying for the next stage is the most important thing."

Jurgen Klopp is "not worried" about Mohamed Salah's ankle injury and hinted the Liverpool forward is in line to feature in Wednesday's Champions League clash against Napoli.

Salah was an unused substitute as the Reds won 2-1 at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, and Klopp indicated the rest has helped with the Egypt international's recovery.

Since picking up the injury during Liverpool's win over Leicester City in October, Salah has been on a reduced training schedule and opted out of international duty while Egypt played Kenya and Comoros in November.

Asked about Salah's situation ahead of the Napoli game, Klopp told a news conference: "Really good, [he] looked really good in training yesterday especially, after the game.

"Yesterday we didn't do too much so we'll see, but I'm not worried about it."

Klopp also provided an update on Joel Matip's knee injury, which has kept the 28-year-old defender out of action for over a month.

Matip's last appearance came in Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on October 20 and Klopp refused to put a date on his return.

"This week is an important one, we will build, we have to measure the improvement of the healing with a scan probably," said Klopp.

"And then we will see how it is. From that moment, we can make decisions.

"It's nothing you can rush, you just have to wait. Our body is like this from time to time. So nothing new really about him."

Liverpool can make sure of progress to the Champions League knock-out phase with a win against Napoli, who beat them in the opening round of group games in September.

Yet Klopp warned his players against the temptation of looking forward to what for them might be a dead rubber against Salzburg in December.

The Reds are top of Group E, one point clear of Napoli and five ahead of Salzburg with two group games left to play.

Klopp said he is focused on his reigning European champions getting a result against Carlo Ancelotti's men, whose form has dipped in the last month.

"The biggest mistake we could make is thinking about what would happen if we win it," said Klopp. "That's the target, but it's the same for Napoli - if they win the game, they're through as well.

"I expect them to be really strong. They are a sensationally good football team. Yes, they didn't have the results they'd expect in the last couple of weeks, but they might feel a kind of relief that they can feel free in a game like this."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been named in the Juventus squad for Tuesday's Champions League home game against Atletico Madrid.

Ronaldo was a doubt for the Group D clash in Turin after missing Juve's win away to Atalanta in Serie A at the weekend.

But the Portugal superstar has been included in an initial 20-man squad, with Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Bernardeschi also making the list after head coach Maurizio Sarri suggested they needed to be evaluated for the game.

Ronaldo and Sarri have both denied there is a problem in their relationship after the attacker was substituted two league games running prior to the international break when Juve were chasing a winning goal.

Former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo has scored 2 goals against Atletico in all competitions, including four hat-tricks.

Two of those were scored in the Champions League, with a treble in March 2019 against Atletico turning the tie around for Juventus and booking a quarter-final spot.

Juve are top of Group D, three points clear of Atletico, and have already secured their place in the next round.

Antoine Griezmann revealed he is lacking confidence with decision making, while the Barcelona star said the relationship between himself and Lionel Messi is improving.

Griezmann has struggled to convince since arriving from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in a €120million transfer at the start of the season.

The France international has scored four LaLiga goals and supplied three assists for Barca, however, his performances have been underwhelming.

Ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund, Griezmann told UEFA.com: "I'm in the process of learning and understanding how my team-mates play as everything is new to me.

"I'm still trying to read the runs and off the ball movement from the likes of Luis Suarez, Leo Messi and Ousmane Dembele along with the midfielders. It's my intention to get to grips with this as soon as possible so I can offer my all to the team but at times it's tricky.

"At present when I get the ball I have a certain lack of confidence in when to pass or when to shoot on goal, this I'm sure is something that will change with the passing of time."

Much has been made about the relationship between Griezmann and superstar Barca captain Messi.

Last month, Griezmann admitted to finding it "difficult" to connect with Messi as neither of them are naturally big talkers.

"I'm pretty shy and sometimes have problems talking to others," Griezmann said. "It's rare that I strike up a conversation. Luis [Suarez], Leo and myself have had meals together and the relationship can only improve over time."

On Messi, Griezmann added: "He's the type of player that we're not going to see again for at least 40 years and it's a joy to watch him in action. It really is a privilege to play alongside him."

Bayern Munich interim boss Hansi Flick is targeting top spot in Champions League Group B but is open to rotating his side for Tuesday's trip to Red Star Belgrade.

The German champions have already booked a place in the knockout stages of the competition after winning their opening four matches.

Victory in Belgrade will be enough to secure first place and what on paper should be a more favourable last-16 tie against a runner-up from one of the other groups.

Flick, who has won three matches from three since taking caretaker charge earlier this month, is keen to get the job done against Red Star.

"We want to top the group tomorrow," he said at Monday's pre-match news conference. "I will keep all of my options open. Some players need to find their rhythm, others need a rest."

Jerome Boateng is back in contention after serving a suspension, while Thiago Alcantara is also part of the squad despite carrying a wrist injury.

"Boateng trained very well during the international break," Flick said. "He's another option for us, but I haven't decided yet who will play yet.

"As for Thiago, he hurt his wrist but is okay to play. He's a player you can always call upon and has many qualities. Bayern can be very happy to have him here."

Red Star star followed up a 5-0 defeat at Tottenham with a 4-0 loss at home to the same opponents last time out, but Flick is expecting a tough test in the Serbian capital.

"The atmosphere in this stadium is something special. I'm curious to feel that. We are looking forward to it. We know that this mood will be a very difficult game."

Leon Goretzka is in line to make his second Champions League appearance of the season on Tuesday and has urged his team-mates to maintain their winning momentum.

"It's a great feeling to win games, but it's even better to see the way we have been winning," he said.

"Even though we have already qualified, we want to win the game. We want to continue our run and win the group."

Lorenzo Insigne will miss Napoli's Champions League trip to Liverpool due to an elbow injury.

The 28-year-old suffered the problem during Saturday's Serie A game with AC Milan; he was replaced after 65 minutes of the 1-1 draw at San Siro.

Insigne has four goals and five assists in all competitions this season but has not been included in Napoli's 20-man squad for the match at Anfield.

Fabian Ruiz and Faouzi Ghoulam have been selected, however, despite training separately from their team-mates on Monday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side beat Liverpool 2-0 in the opening round of fixtures and can make certain of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with victory over the Premier League leaders on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo has trained with Juventus and will be evaluated ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, Maurizio Sarri has confirmed.

The Portugal striker sat out the unconvincing 3-1 win at Atalanta over the weekend as he continues to contend with a knee injury.

However, Ronaldo is seemingly in line to feature in the Group D contest against Atleti, an opponent the former Real Madrid star has scored 25 times against in his prolific career.

"Yesterday he did the training sessions with his team-mates," Sarri said. "He seems to be growing [stronger].

"We will evaluate it between today and tomorrow to see if we have solved it, but the fact that yesterday he did all the training with his team-mates is very positive.

"I think and hope there will be no repercussions."

Ronaldo's relationship with Sarri has been under the microscope in recent weeks, mainly due to the coach's decision to haul off his star forward in two straight matches when Juve were chasing a win prior to the international break.

The second of those games, a 1-0 victory over AC Milan, saw Ronaldo head straight down the tunnel and reportedly leave the stadium before the match had finished.

However, Sarri insists all is well between the duo and he has no objection to players showing frustration when being substituted.

"My relationship with Cristiano is good," he added. 

"If a player who has won so much is angry about being substituted it means he still has a lot of motivation and this is something positive.

"It is 25 years I have seen players get angry over substitutions."

Sarri, who confirmed Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Bernardeschi will also be evaluated before the game with Atleti, also explained why he does not foresee Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala lining up in the same XI any time soon.

"Playing Paulo, Gonzalo and Cristiano all together is difficult because of their characteristics, but all three know how to play really well and are comfortable with each other," he said.

"We have three strong strikers for two places. None of the three can play 65 games as seen in the early part of the season. Everyone will find a place."

Juve have already qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League but know a win over Atleti will secure top spot in Group D.

"Right now I'm seeing the team play excellently in flashes and I would like to see some more continuity in certain aspects, but we must take into account the characteristics of the players," Sarri said. 

"We certainly have room for improvement. Against Atleti we can't worry about what they are going to do. 

"They are a difficult team to face but we must think about how important first place in the group is."

Matthijs de Ligt is a doubt for Juventus' clash with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League after suffering a dislocated shoulder in Saturday's 3-1 win over Atalanta.

Team-mate Douglas Costa will be sidelined for the Atletico game because of a thigh strain, Juventus indicated.

Victory in Bergamo was the Bianconeri's fifth in a row in all competitions and they are top of Serie A, one point clear of Inter, but the loss of De Ligt on top of Costa's absence would be a blow to head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Centre-back De Ligt has started 10 of 13 domestic league games this season, with Giorgio Chiellini's knee injury thrusting the €75million signing from Ajax into the spotlight.

Sarri will also monitor the fitness of forward Federico Bernardeschi, who was replaced after 26 minutes against Atalanta having suffered a bruised chest.

A statement on the official Juventus website said: "Following diagnostic tests carried out this morning ... it emerged that Matthjis de Ligt suffered a dislocated right shoulder in yesterday's match and has now began the appropriate therapies and recovery.

"Therapy and recovery also for Federico Bernardeschi, who suffered a bruise to the right hemithorax.

"Douglas Costa suffered a low-grade lesion of the semitendinosus muscle of the right thigh and has started rehabilitation treatment."

Juventus said that in winger Costa's case, it would take around 15 days for him to fully recover.

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has warned coach Lucien Favre the club's situation is "more than unsatisfactory" and demanded improvements against Barcelona on Wednesday.

Dortmund are struggling for results in the Bundesliga and a 3-3 draw at home against bottom club Paderborn on Friday left them with just two wins from their last eight league matches.

The Champions League has provided welcome respite for Favre's men this season and they sit second in Group F, just one point behind Barcelona.

Victory at Camp Nou would ease pressure building on the coach's position.

While there has been no explicit suggestion of a change in coach at Signal Iduna Park, Zorc made it clear the board are concerned.

"Obviously the topic will be discussed publicly because our situation is more than unsatisfactory," Zorc told Funke Sport.

"Of course we will analyse that very intensively. But we are going to the match in Barcelona with Lucien Favre and we expect to see a significant increase in performance there.

"We need a performance. We finally need a good performance on the pitch so you can look forward."

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke also chose to speak out after the Paderborn result, reassuring Favre he still has the club's backing.

However, he made it clear the team's current form would not be allowed to continue without consequences.

"Dear Lucien, you still have our trust," Watzke said at the club's AGM. "But in the end football is always defined by results.

"We all hope you and the team are able to turn this around. You have all the support we can give you."

Directing a stern message towards the club's players, he added: "Pull yourselves together and play like it is expected from Borussia Dortmund. You as a team must know that only words are not enough.

"It is your duty to let them be followed by actions."

Sadio Mane is enjoying the "easy" life with title hopefuls Liverpool because of the quality possessed by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

The Senegal star is Liverpool's leading Premier League scorer this season with seven goals and he has so far edged out his fellow Reds forwards in overall performance.

Statistics from Opta show Mane has played 21 key passes, compared to 14 from both Salah and Firmino, and his accuracy in finding team-mates across the whole pitch is also superior.

He has also won a greater number of tackles - Mane with 14, Firmino seven and Salah three - and made more interceptions (9-1-1).

But Mane says he is coping with the workload for the title front-runners thanks to considerable effort from Brazilian Firmino and Egyptian Salah.

"I always say it is very easy to work together," Mane told the official Liverpool FC magazine. "Personally, I just think myself very lucky to play alongside these great players.

"Every single player who plays alongside them would enjoy it because they are very good players and they make everything easy, so I just enjoy playing alongside them."

Mane believes the global language of football allows for fluency between Jurgen Klopp's prolific attackers.

"We are all from different countries and speak different first languages but I think football is one language and it is universal so everybody can speak it. It is the same with Mo, Bobby and myself," he added.

Liverpool face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park next Saturday in their next Premier League assignment, before taking on Napoli in the Champions League on the following Wednesday.

The club have announced the death of a player who captained Liverpool in the old Second Division in the 1958-59 season.

Johnny Wheeler died at the age of 91, Liverpool said. The midfielder made 177 appearances for the club and also played for Tranmere and Bolton, winning one England cap.

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Tottenham players "it is only a small step" after they ended their barren away run with a 4-0 Champions League win at Red Star Belgrade.

Tottenham eased to all three points in Wednesday's clash thanks to a couple of goals from Son Heung-min and one apiece for Giovani Lo Celso and Christian Eriksen.

Victory for Tottenham was their first away from home since May 8, a run spanning nine matches in all competitions, and Pochettino wants his side to build on the three points.

"I think it was a great result away from home," he said at his post-match news conference. "We needed to have a game like this to recover our best feelings and give us confidence.

"The performance was very good in a very difficult place. I am so happy but we need to keep going. It is only a small step."

Tottenham became the first English side to win a Champions League match at Rajko Mitic Stadium, a year to the day since Liverpool suffered defeat there, making the victory all the more impressive in the eyes of Pochettino.

"We were preparing, very conscious of how Liverpool suffered here last year," he said. "We expected a very tough game and it was important to be aggressive and try to dominate and I thought our game in the opposition half was excellent. 

"There was also luck involved as we managed to score in the first half and they didn't."

Lo Celso opened the scoring for Tottenham in Belgrade on his full debut, while Tanguy Ndombele put in a good midfield shift and fellow newcomer Ryan Sessegnon continued his comeback from injury as a late substitute.

Pochettino was particularly pleased with the performance of Lo Celso, who had previously been restricted to six substitute appearances due to a hip injury.

"I think it was a very good display," he said. "Always it's difficult for a new player when he arrives, and after the team was very successful last season.

"He arrived at the end of the pre-season. The circumstances were that he was behind everyone, got injured with the national team and then it was about building his fitness and his confidence, and then waiting for the opportunity to be in the starting XI and feel the opportunity.

"I am happy because he is a very good player and his personality and character is great. Now he only needs time like Tanguy and Ryan. They are so young. 

"They arrive now to the team in difficult circumstances, not the best circumstances. That is why like I tell you always I don't expect too much, I am happy with that they provide to the team. They need time. I am happy with the players."

Second-placed Tottenham are four points better off than Red Star in Group B and can guarantee a place in the last 16 with victory at home to bottom side Olympiacos later this month.

Hansi Flick has no interest in what the future holds for him at Bayern Munich beyond the international break.

Caretaker boss Flick saw Bayern coast to a convincing, if uninspiring, 2-0 win over Olympiacos in his first match since stepping in to replace Niko Kovac, who was dismissed following a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend.

Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Erik ten Hag and Ralf Rangnick have all been linked with the full-time vacancy.

Flick, though, says his own situation is not important and his focus is purely on preparing Bayern for a huge Klassiker clash with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

"That does not interest me at all, what happens after Saturday," he said about his role in quotes reported by TZ.

"I enjoy it because the team works brilliantly. That's why we are preparing well or Saturday."

Bayern's victory secured their progression to the last 16 with Robert Lewandowski and Ivan Perisic on target in the second half after a lacklustre opening.

Flick added: "In the first half we made the wrong decision more often but in the end we were rewarded.

"I'm very happy with the performance. The situation hasn't been easy for the team. We implemented what we worked on in training."

Thomas Muller was not entirely satisfied with Bayern's reply to their Frankfurt humiliation and was also reluctant to discuss Flick's future beyond the weekend.

"We have before the international break the most important game of the season. Such topics do not concern us," Muller said when asked about Flick.

"I am not relieved. We won dominantly at home but we were lacking a bit in brilliance."

Olympiacos had Jose Sa to thank for keeping the score to 2-0 and visiting coach Pedro Martins praised the performance of his goalkeeper.

"Bayern pressured us a lot, constricting us on the pitch. We should have been faster in order to escape their stranglehold," he said. 

"They didn't let us play as well as we did in Piraeus. Thankfully we had Jose Sa to stop them scoring more. 

"We lost many balls. I was expecting more from my team. We could have done better."

Robert Lewandowski and Ivan Perisic were on target as Bayern Munich started the post Niko Kovac era with a 2-0 win over Olympiacos that secured qualification for the Champions League last 16.

A humiliating 5-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday brought an end to Kovac's 16-month tenure and caretaker boss Hansi Flick saw his side frustrated for large parts by Jose Sa.

The visiting goalkeeper made several sharp stops and Benjamin Pavard hit the post, but Lewandowski's sixth goal of the group stage broke the away side's resolve.

Substitute Perisic made sure of the points late on meaning Bayern are guaranteed to progress from Group B, leaving Flick to now prepare Bayern for a crucial Bundesliga clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Thomas Muller saw a couple of half shouts for penalties turned down either side of Sa reacting sharply to a low Leon Goretzka drive as Bayern started brightly.

David Alaba's untimely stumble allowed Olympiacos a rare sight at goal but Lazar Randjelovic dragged wide of the right post.

Lewandowski headed Pavard's pin-point cross straight at Sa, who was also alert to deny Kingsley Coman's improvised toe poke after a mazy run.

Pavard's awkward effort off his chest struck the post at the end of the half and Sa made a fine save from Goretzka's point-blank header shortly after the restart.

Sa was called into action again by Coman's stinging effort, but he was finally beaten in the 69th minute when the France winger's teasing low delivery from the right was cutely steered home by Lewandowski at the front post.

A more deserved-looking scoreline arrived in the final minute when Perisic rifled high into the roof of the goal after Coman's deflected cross fell into his path.

What does it mean? Bayern show much-needed resolve

After the Frankfurt humiliation, Bayern needed a reply and – while it was not the most fluent performance – they were good value for a fourth win in as many Group B games. It was a decent show of resilience, but the club will be keen to have a new permanent boss at the helm soon.

You were Sa unlucky to be on the losing side, Jose

Olympiacos offered little going forward and were content to try and contain Bayern's heavyweight attack. But had it not been for Sa the scoreline would have been much more comfortable, with the away goalkeeper unlucky to finally be beaten by Lewandowski, who has scored 31 group-stage goals since joining Bayern in 2014 – no player has more in the same time (Lionel Messi also has 31).

Negative Martins pays the price

With Bayern still reeling from their Frankfurt horror show and Olympiacos on just one point with nothing to lose, it was a bit of a surprise to see visiting boss Pedro Martins go with three defensive-minded midfielders. It led to a drab showing from the away side, who perhaps missed a chance to have a real go at the wounded hosts.

What's next?

Bayern now switch focus to a crucial Klassiker as Dortmund travel to Munich on Saturday, while their next Champions League assignment is at Red Star Belgrade on November 26. Olympiacos welcome Atromitos on Sunday.

Tottenham captain Harry Kane is confident his side can still achieve success in the Champions League, even if they have started poorly in the 2019-20 campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs reached the 2019 Champions League final but sit 11th in the Premier League table with just three wins from their first 11 matches this season.

Spurs are second in Group B of the Champions League ahead of a trip to Red Star Belgrade and Kane knows that if Tottenham win on Wednesday, they could be as much as four points ahead of the third-placed Serbian champions, if, as expected, leaders Bayern Munich beat Olympiacos in Germany.

Kane is fit and raring to go for the match, after missing Sunday's 1-1 Premier League draw at Everton due to a virus.

“We are struggling to get wins over the line. Even on Sunday, we were 1-0 up, trying to hold on, it could have been a big away win and we obviously conceded," Kane was quoted as saying in The Daily Star.

"We can't quite get there, we can't quite get over the line at the moment. It's nothing to do with the fight in the squad. It's just one of those spells. All we can do is try and put it right.

"Obviously, the Champions League campaign last year was so good for us. We got further than a lot of people thought we would.

"We've got to try to find a way of consistently winning games. We're here to win trophies. If we can win one of the trophies we are still in, we will see that as a success.

"Can we still go all the way? I think so. You look at where we started in the group stage last year and where we got to, we proved a lot of people wrong. We're in a better position now."

Tottenham beat Red Star 5-0 in London last month, Kane scoring twice, but the striker knows facing the side in Serbia – where they beat European champions Liverpool last season – will be a much sterner test.

"I've been told by a few people who have played there and been there that it will be a real hostile game, a real hostile atmosphere against us but that's what European nights are about," he added.

Kane has netted four goals in three Champions League appearances this season.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is annoyed at the amount of "stupid" goals Liverpool have conceded this season.

Jurgen Klopp's side have amassed three clean sheets in 18 matches this term and are without a shutout in their past seven games in all competitions.

Aston Villa's Trezeguet became the latest player to breach Liverpool's defence after being left completely unmarked to steer home John McGinn's free-kick on Saturday.

The European champions recovered from that setback to win 2-1 at Villa Park, but Alisson is frustrated his side are having to do things the hard way.

"It annoys me always when we concede," he told reporters. "Stupid goals! When we concede that way, it annoys me and the team. 

"We always have a common goal to win the game and keep a clean sheet. You are closer to the victory with a clean sheet and you always have a draw.

"When you concede, the games become more difficult. We need to work better than that if we want to do great things."

Alisson has failed to keep a clean sheet in all four matches since returning from a 10-week lay-off due to a calf injury, including in last month's 4-1 Champions League win against Genk.

The Belgian club travel to Anfield on Tuesday and Alisson demanded an improvement from his team-mates.

"We can do better in our concentration. Against Genk we conceded late on, so this annoyed me and the team. We need to keep our focus," he said.

"We need to learn from these moments to make sure it does not happen again."

Liverpool boss Klopp can understand Alisson's frustrations, adding at Monday's pre-match news conference: "For me, it is more important the other team don't create. 

"If a team score with one shot, it is not nice but it is something we can't work on. Ali is annoyed without clean sheets, but he is happy as everyone when we win games. We have to score goals."

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