Jamaica international Leon Bailey is primed to return to action for Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen having fully recovered from a hamstring injury suffered last month.

The 22-year-old, who is looking to rediscover his best form at the Bundesliga club, could be on the bench for the team’s match away to Eintracht Frankfurt.  Prior to the injury, the winger made four appearances for the team, scoring once.

Bailey has had a torrid time of late with injuries.  In April the player experienced another setback, on that occasion straining a thigh muscle.  Having worked hard at rehabilitation, the player insists he is ready to go again and could be in line for a start.

"I am back now, and I feel very good.  But of course, after an injury, it's important not to rush anything. Maybe I come off the bench,” Bailey said.

"I think I'll be in the squad, but I do not know if I'll start."

In addition to Bailey, other players making a comeback are Lars Bender and Jonathan Tah.

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz insists he will have the final say on his next career move after being linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The 20-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2018-19, scoring 17 Bundesliga goals as he helped Leverkusen qualify for the Champions League.

Havertz scored his first international goal for Germany in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Argentina and reports in Spain suggest LaLiga heavyweights Madrid and Barcelona are interested in the player.

While open to advice on his future, including from national boss Joachim Low, Havertz - who is under contract at BayArena until 2022 - will make a choice that is right for him.

Speaking at a Germany news conference on Friday, he said: "I listen to many people but in the end it will be my decision. 

"I will embrace any advice Low will give me because he has a lot experience - it wouldn't be smart to not listen to him."

Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller confirmed in August that Bayern Munich have previously showed an interest in Havertz, who is in line to feature for his country in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia on Sunday.

Reggae Boy Leon Bailey will not play for the country when it takes on a pair of games against Aruba in October.

The Reggae Boyz begin their CONCACAF Nations League tie against Aruba at the National Stadium in Kingston on October 12 but then move on to Curacao for the away leg two days later.

Bailey’s unavailability was confirmed when scans showed a muscular tear following Bayer Leverkusen's UEFA Champions League game against Locomotiv Moscow.

Bailey has proved a little underwhelming, since coming into the Reggae Boyz line up for, first the Gold Cup, and now the CNL, but managed to score his first goal for the outfit earlier this month as the side crushed Antigua & Barbuda 6-0.

Bailey will be absent for about a month and won’t be available until November 15 and 18 when the Reggae Boyz take on Antigua & Barbuda and Guyana.

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has dismissed the notion there is unrest behind the scenes due to the board's aim to win the Bundesliga.

Dortmund led the table for much of last season but fell short in the final weeks of the campaign, while their 2019-20 hopes were dealt an early blow by a shock 3-1 defeat at Union Berlin before the international break.

It was subsequently reported there were issues between the board and coach Lucien Favre after he suggested defending champions Bayern Munich were favourites for the title again.

CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has been open about Dortmund's aim to win the league, while Favre has been less forthcoming in discussion of the club's targets.

But ahead of a key clash against fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, Zorc told a news conference on Thursday: "We wondered about this reporting. There is no dissent.

"We do not set a goal without first talking to the coach. That would be crazy. There is no point to talking about it every time. We should pay attention to what happens on the pitch."

Favre said: "I have already said that I agree [with the target]. As a coach, I always want the maximum. These are facts.

"Last season, we played for the championship until the end. That's what we want this season, too. I do not always have to talk about it; I have to take care of my job."

Favre was hopeful both Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard will be available to face Leverkusen, while Dortmund are waiting on the fitness of Nico Schulz and Manuel Akanji.

And the club are set to be boosted by a new contract for Raphael Guerreiro, according to Zorc.

"We have continued talks with him in recent weeks," Zorc said. "I am now ready to say that we have a general contract extension agreement until 2023. I'm very optimistic that we can do it."

Marco Reus will "try everything" to get Kai Havertz to join Borussia Dortmund.

Following Julian Brandt's switch from Bayer Leverkusen to Signal Iduna Park in the close season, BVB captain Reus has his eye on another of their Bundesliga counterparts' prized assets.

Havertz, training this week alongside Reus in preparation for Germany's European Championship qualifier against Netherlands on Friday, enjoyed a breakout campaign last season with 17 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances.

Asked if he saw Havertz playing for rivals Bayern Munich in the future, Reus told Sport1: "I will try everything to guide him to Dortmund.

"I don't know how much further the fees will increase and if it could maybe be too much for Dortmund.

"But I will try my best just as I did with Julian Brandt. And now, with Julian, I have an ally who knows him [Havertz] very well. So, let's see what happens."

Havertz said to Sky Deutschland he was not concerned by being linked to Bayern and a host of Premier League heavyweights during the recent transfer window, only for no move to materialise.

"They haven't scared me off," he said.

"I don't know exactly what it was like with Timo [Werner, the RB Leipzig and Germany forward], but it just didn't happen for me this year. I think there were a number of reasons why.

"But I'm happy to be here and stay in Leverkusen for another year. We'll see what will happen next summer." 

The matter immediately at hand for Reus, Havertz and their Germany team-mates is the latest instalment of one of international football's most intense rivalries.

Netherlands beat Germany on their way to the Nations League Finals last season, although Joachim Low's side gained a measure of revenge with a thrilling 3-2 Euro 2020 qualification win in Amsterdam in March.

"I can still remember when we won at home in Hamburg in 2011 [a 3-0 friendly victory]," Reus told a news conference.

"They're just great games and classics where you're on the pitch thinking, 'Great to be here!'.

"You try to give your best for your country. That's why there's nothing nicer when you leave the field after 90 minutes as the winner… hopefully."

Germany international Kai Havertz was a transfer target for Bayern Munich this year, confirmed Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller.

Havertz enjoyed a breakthrough campaign for Bayer Leverkusen in 2018-19, scoring 17 Bundesliga goals and helping them qualify for the Champions League.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge previously hinted the champions were keen on Havertz, who has one goal in two Bundesliga games this term.

Voller indicated Leverkusen were unwilling to entertain offers for the 20-year-old but confirmed there was contact with Rummenigge over the in-demand player.

"It is no secret that there were a few phone calls and great interest," Voller told Sky Germany.

"I then spoke directly and completely friendly with Rummenigge. [He] totally understood that we do not [want to sell].

"Bayern were not the only club that asked us about Kai Havertz.

"Let me put it this way: I'm always happy when I see an artist like Kai Havertz playing, preferably with us.

"If that's not the case one day, there's always [TV channels] Sky and DAZN. There you can follow all the top European leagues."

Bayern have also been rebuffed in planned moves for Premier League wingers Leroy Sane and Callum Hudson-Odoi this year.

They brought in Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic on loan deals from Barcelona and Inter respectively to address the loss of veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Borussia Dortmund have been drawn against Borussia Monchengladbach in the second round of the DFB-Pokal, while holders Bayern Munich will travel to second-tier side Bochum.

Dortmund saw off lower-league opposition Uerdingen in the first round but have a far tougher test to come against Gladbach in one of two all-Bundesliga ties.

Bayern continue the defence of their crown with a trip to Bochum, who they beat en route to winning the competition in 2015-16.

Elsewhere, last season's beaten finalists RB Leipzig will take on top-flight rivals Wolfsburg for a place in round three.

The two remaining semi-professional sides in the competition, FC Saarbrucken and Verl, were paired with Koln and Holstein Kiel respectively in Sunday's draw.

The games will be played on October 29 and 30.

 

Draw in full:

Kaiserslautern v Nurnberg
Verl v Holstein Kiel
MSV Duisburg v TSG Hoffenheim
Saarbrucken v Koln
Darmstadt 98 v Karlsruher SC
Bayer Leverkusen v Paderborn
Freiburg v Union Berlin
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Erzgebirge Aue
Bochum v Bayern Munich
Arminia Bielefeld v Schalke 04
Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hertha Berlin v Dynamo Dresden
Wolfsburg v RB Leipzig
Werder Bremen v Heidenheim
Hamburger SV v Stuttgart
St. Pauli v Eintracht Frankfurt

Halfway through last season, Borussia Dortmund were in pole position to dethrone Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

The new year saw Lucien Favre's bright young side falter just enough for Bayern's know how to tell, with Niko Kovac's men claiming a seventh successive top-flight crown.

But it means the anticipation is for a memorable tussle once again this time around, with the processions of recent campaigns hopefully a thing of the past. Throw in an ambitious chasing pack and you have quite a spectacle.

Before the first ball is kicked, five Omnisport journalists have put their necks on the line with some top-four predictions.

We totted up the overall scores and here's what we came up with. Apologies in advance to all at Signal Iduna Park…

 

1st – Borussia Dortmund

Unlike our near-unanimous choice for Manchester City to be Premier League champions, the panel was understandably split down the middle over who will prevail out of Dortmund and Bayern. BVB just got the edge.

STRENGTHS: Wonderful attacking quality, expertly coached by Favre, which is now bolstered by the arrivals of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard. The returning Mats Hummels – alongside the likes of the talismanic Marco Reus and Axel Witsel – ensures a pleasing blend between experience and future stars.

WEAKNESSES: Can they handle the pressure better than last time around? Hummels is a fine addition but has a significant job on his hands to shore up a vulnerable defence in front of the gifted but error-prone Roman Burki.

2nd – Bayern Munich

Despite an unconvincing close season in the transfer market, defined by the unseemly Leroy Sane saga, it remains hard to back against the Bundesliga's dominant force. But we have!

STRENGTHS: Supreme title-winning pedigree and, although lacking some of the depth they would like, the best collection of individual players in the league. Robert Lewandowski is going for a fifth Torjagerkanone, while there are signs Manuel Neuer might be back to his best.

WEAKNESSES: Light in attack after the departures of club greats Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Significant doubts remain over whether Kovac is the right man from the job, seemingly from the terraces to boardroom level. As such, Uli Hoeness' mooted departure as chairman could lead to turmoil.

3rd – RB Leipzig

German football's new kids on the block were the only other a unanimous choice to finish inside the top four.

STRENGTHS: Julian Nagelsmann has cast himself as a generational coaching talent and should be the man to take last season's beaten DFB-Pokal finalists on to the next level. They have bought shrewdly by bringing in the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Ademola Lookman.

WEAKNESSES: The distraction of star forward Timo Werner entering the final year of his contract. Adapting to Nagelsmann's detailed pressing system is likely to be a challenge.

4th – Bayer Leverkusen

Peter Bosz's time in charge of Dortmund might have ended abruptly but he is doing plenty to convince with a vibrant Leverkusen side.

STRENGTHS: Kai Havertz scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and is a superstar-in-waiting. They have bought well, with Moussa Diaby an exciting replacement for Brandt. The arrival of Hoffenheim duo Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri also strengthens Bosz's hand significantly.

WEAKNESSES: The coach's system is always likely to lead to defensive vulnerability and there is a lack of quality cover for Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender at centre-back.

Thirteen weeks on from lifting the Bundesliga for a seventh successive year, Bayern Munich begin their latest title defence with a home match against Hertha Berlin on Friday.

Bayern have strengthened their defence during the close season, but they are a little light in attack following the departures of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez.

Will that give other teams, namely last term's runners-up Borussia Dortmund, an opportunity to catch Niko Kovac's side?

The transfer window does not shut until September 2 but, ahead of the opening round of fixtures, we look at the five best signings made by Bundesliga clubs.

 

5. Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig)

Following the success of Jadon Sancho at Dortmund, German clubs are desperate to get their hands on the next young British talent.

Others have followed in the steps of Sancho, including Rabbi Matondo, Ethan Ampadu, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson, each with the aim of making a name for themselves on foreign shores.

Lookman is no stranger to doing exactly that, having starred for Leipzig during a spell on loan at Red Bull Arena in 2018 when playing a direct part in eight goals across his 11 Bundesliga appearances.

First-team opportunities were few and far between on his return to Everton, but he now has a chance to truly kickstart his career after a permanent deal worth a reported €25million was agreed between the clubs.

 

4. Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen)

Awarded the Titi d’Or award in 2016 - given to the player deemed the most promising in Paris Saint-Germain's academy - Diaby was expected to go on and become a key member in PSG's first-team squad.

Following a brief spell on loan with Crotone in 2017-18, Diaby returned to the Parc des Princes and started 10 Ligue 1 matches last season, scoring two goals and setting up six more.

He further enhanced his reputation with France at the Under-20 World Cup, but with competition from the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler in the wide positions, he opted to move to Leverkusen.

Having also brought in Kerem Demirbay from Hoffenheim in a reported €28m deal, not many sides will have more creative midfield talents than Leverkusen this season.


3. Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)

Dortmund were quick off the mark with their transfer dealings, using the cash from Christian Pulisic's £58m sale to Chelsea to bolster their squad from front to back.

Less than a week after the 2018-19 campaign finished, Hazard and Julian Brandt arrived at Dortmund on five-year deals from Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen respectively on the same day.

Brandt boasts plenty of Bundesliga experience from his five years with Bayer and represented Germany at the 2018 World Cup. 

It is arguably the capture of Hazard that is the more exciting of the two, though. The Belgian attacking midfielder registered double figures for both goals and assists in the top flight last season and he will provide BVB with some additional creativity.

 

2. Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich)

Like Dortmund, Bayern did not hang around to get their biggest pieces of transfer business - to date, at least - out of the way early on as they completed deals for French defenders Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard before last season was even over.

Pavard arrives from Stuttgart for around €35m and Lucas makes the switch from Atletico Madrid for a mammoth €80m.

Bayern now have both of the starting full-backs from France's World Cup-winning campaign, and in Lucas they have a player capable of playing on the left or in central defence, where he is most likely to feature during his time at the Allianz Arena.

He missed all of Bayern's pre-season programme but has now recovered from knee surgery and is expected to slot in alongside Niklas Sule in the early weeks of the season.


1. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Dortmund led the way at the top of the Bundesliga for a large part of last season, only to slip away when the going got tough.

The return of experienced defender Hummels in the heart of defence could potentially be the missing piece in the jigsaw for Lucien Favre's side, then, with BVB finishing just two points behind Bayern last time around.

He returns to Signal Iduna Park for a reported fee of €31m and has plenty of title-winning experience that he can put to good use, making Bayern's decision to sell him to a direct rival somewhat surprising - and one that could potentially backfire come next May.

Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac has flatly dismissed rumours linking Jamaica international Leon Bailey with a move to the German champions.

Rumours linking the 21-year-old Bailey with a move from current club Bayer Leverkusen have gathered pace in recent weeks.  Some even went as far as to suggest that the player had agreed to personal terms ahead of the news.

Despite possibly being on the looking out for quality in the wide areas following the departure of veterans Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben last season, Kovac strongly denied the reports.

"I am not responsible for transfers, but I have to say something regarding this. I find it extraordinarily strange that you can blurt something out and nothing happens. You can just say something but it's not true,” Kovac told Goal.

"If you communicate something like this, there must be undeniable proof. Otherwise, you cannot spread it as news. I would ask you to check it. It's not true, it's not verified. It's false."

The Jamaican experienced somewhat of a dip in form last season, managing just five goals and one assist in 29 Bundesliga appearances.  His performance palled in comparison to the previous season where he was a breakthrough star, scoring 9 goals and grabbing six assists.

Lothar Matthaus rates Kai Havertz as a potential Ballon d'Or winner and the excitement surrounding the midfielder is entirely justified, according to Bayern Leverkusen team-mate Daley Sinkgraven.

Bayern Munich, Liverpool and a number of other top European sides have been linked to Havertz since he struck 17 goals during an exceptional 2018-19 Bundesliga campaign.

His list of admirers includes former Germany captain Matthaus, who on Monday tipped the 20-year-old to eventually join a "very big club," and new Leverkusen signing Sinkgraven.

The latter moved to the BayArena from Ajax in June and has been impressed with Havertz.

"I knew about him. Now I've spent [several] weeks with him and, indeed, he's a very good player," Sinkgraven told Omnisport.

"You can see it if you look at his technique: he is very relaxed when he has the ball.

"The way he scores goals during training, I love watching it, so I am really happy he will stay here for one more year."

Sinkgraven signed for Leverkusen after working with head coach Peter Bosz during an injury plagued five seasons in Amsterdam.

The versatile 24-year-old got a taste of the Bundesliga when Ajax faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season and is braced for a steep learning curve.

"It's a level up [from the Eredivisie], for sure," he said.

"I think the pace is a bit higher [than in Holland]. The games are probably more physical. Every team in Germany is strong so you have to give everything."

Jamaica international Leon Bailey admits he is champing at the bit to get on the pitch for Bayer Leverkusen, in the upcoming season, after having somewhat of a disappointing campaign last term.

The 21-year-old winger notched 5 goals and one assist in 21 appearances for Leverkusen last season, representing a less significant output than 2017 when he registered 9 goals and 6 assists.  After a second season that initially saw the player score 1 goal and 2 assists at around the halfway point, the winger did, however, pick up some speed following the appointment of Peter Bosz as head coach.

In addition, Bailey, who suffered a hamstring injury towards the end of the season, made a less than impressive long-awaited debut for Jamaica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  The Jamaicans made it to the semifinals of the competition but were defeated by the USA.

Now back to full fitness, however, the winger is eager to once again hit top gear.

"Last season I had ups and downs," he told Leverkusen's official website.

"I had an injury towards the end, so it wasn't my best season, but right now I'm really looking forward to the new season,” he added.

"I'm just trying to stay fit, stay positive and stay focused. I'm looking forward with the mindset of being better than last season."

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