Jamaica international Adrian Mariappa has returned to English football with League One team Burton Albion following a brief spell in Australia.

The 36-year-old defender made somewhat of a surprising move after signing with Australian club Macarthur, where he made 19 A-League appearances.  Prior to that, Mariappa was a regular feature in English football, particularly for Watford where he made more than 300 appearances over two spells. 

In addition, Mariappa also played for the Hornets and made appearances in the Premier League with Reading and Crystal Palace.  The deal is initially on a short-term basis but Burton manager Dino Maamria believes his experience will be invaluable.

"He brings a lot of good experience," said Maamria.

"He's a good talker on the field and he adds another option for us.

"He's kept himself fit - his last game was just two weeks ago for Jamaica against Argentina. He had a good season in Australia last year, so he's been at a high standard."

Mariappa has made 64 appearances for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and most recently featured for the team against Argentina.

For years Robert Lewandowski was the main draw of Der Klassiker, then Erling Haaland joined him as Germany's biggest fixture became stylised as a shootout between arguably the world's finest number nines.

Of course, both players departed in pre-season meaning the build-up to Saturday's instalment needed two new poster boys.

And boys they are.

Jamal Musiala's exceptional start to the season has seen his already significant stock rise, while Jude Bellingham has elevated himself to become undroppable for BVB and almost similarly important at international level.

As it happened, Bellingham ended up being upstaged by the even younger Youssoufa Moukoko as the game became something of a 'Kids' Klassiker' – though it was ultimately 34-year-old Anthony Modeste who stole the limelight at the end of an eventually gripping 2-2 draw at Signal Iduna Park.

Frankly, though, it was difficult to rave about almost anyone during a rather frantic and chaotic first half that was sorely lacking quality.

 

Players seemed to be frequently miscontrolling the ball, falling over or bumping into each other. Scrappy, frustrating and largely devoid of goal-mouth action, it certainly wasn't what many a neutral might be accustomed to when watching the Klassiker.

At the break, Dortmund had accumulated just 0.47 expected goals (xG), while Bayern's was 0.09. Though perhaps typifying their historical ruthlessness, it was enough to give Die Roten a 1-0 lead at the interval.

Julian Nagelsmann will have felt particularly content in that regard given Bayern were unbeaten in their previous 72 Bundesliga games when leading at the break, and he'll have no doubt enjoyed seeing Musiala at the centre of things having channelled Pep Guardiola when calling him a "top-top-top player" pre-game.

The young forward was one of Bayern's brighter players in the first period and he more than played a part as the visitors opened the scoring.

He peeled into the left side of the box to receive the ball before showing admirable poise and composure to cut inside and tee up Leon Goretzka on the edge of the box, with the midfielder drilling into the bottom-left corner.

That took Musiala to nine Bundesliga goal involvements for the season, a figure bettered only by Niclas Fullkrug (10).

Those hoping for effectively a straight battle between Musiala and his former England youth colleague Bellingham will have been disappointed.

After a harsh early booking – for what appeared a fair albeit strong challenge on Musiala – the Dortmund talent struggled to impose himself as a creative influence and could even be accused of trying a little too hard in the second half, as he attempted to beat his man a second time in the area instead of feeding a team-mate when BVB caught Bayern on the break.

A few seconds later, he needlessly passed the ball out of play just outside his own area as Bayern players began to circle, with the 19-year-old – who by this point was wearing the captain's armband – subsequently showing frustration in his reaction.

On the other side of the 'Kids' Klassiker' battle, a few moments earlier Musiala had enjoyed another moment of decisiveness – if we can call it that. He broke behind the Dortmund midfield and played a pass that was nudged on by a defender to Leroy Sane, whose long-range strike found its way in even though Alexander Meyer got a firm hand to it.

 

Despite Musiala's clear impact, Moukoko had a claim to being the Klassiker's standout youngster on the day. The 17-year-old's decision-making may not have been perfect, but he worked tirelessly up front, his constant harrying and hassling kept the Bayern backline under pressure – his three tackles was second only to Emre Can (five) in the Dortmund team.

He then got Dortmund back in contention with an excellent finish. Modeste's pass into the centre of the box was ever so slightly behind Moukoko, but he still managed to get enough power to strike past Manuel Neuer despite the needing to dig the ball out from himself a little.

Modeste then went from provider to finisher with the last kick (header) of the game, nodding Nico Schlotterbeck's cross in at the far post as Dortmund piled on the pressure in stoppage time, sparking pandemonium in the stands and on the pitch – Bellingham's scream into the close-up camera presumably causing a few viewers to subconsciously jump out of their seats.

To be fair, there were few bums on seats in the Yellow Wall behind the Bayern goal as Modeste tucked his header away, with the Frenchman's double impact proving that, even around all the potential in the world, there's always space for good old experience and nous.

 

A remarkable late comeback saw Borussia Dortmund recover from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Bayern Munich, with Anthony Modeste equalising with the last kick of the game.

Leon Goretzka and Leroy Sane struck from long range either side of the interval to put Bayern in cruise control, the hosts unable to offer much of an attacking threat.

Youssoufa Moukoko sparked hope for Dortmund when he pulled one back and Modeste missed a golden opportunity from close range that appeared to condemn Edin Terzic's side to a ninth consecutive defeat in Der Klassiker.

But Kingsley Coman received a late red card and Modeste then redeemed himself in the most dramatic fashion, heading home Nico Schlotterbeck's cross to send Signal Iduna Park wild.

 

 

Xabi Alonso hailed Bayer Leverkusen's "complete performance" after his new side thrashed Schalke 4-0 in his first match as head coach on Saturday.

Former Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Alonso took the reins at the Bundesliga club on Wednesday, replacing Gerardo Seoane after Leverkusen were beaten 2-0 by Porto the previous day.

Jeremie Frimpong's brace – as well as goals from Moussa Diaby and Paulinho – handed Leverkusen just their second win of the Bundesliga season, ensuring Alonso made a flying start.

Speaking at a post-match news conference, Alonso said: "We're happy. After two days with the team, we didn't have much time, but the players understood what we want and how we want to play.

"It was a complete performance today, both offensively and defensively. I think we can still improve a lot. We talked about some concepts and the players understood them. It's a good start for the road ahead.

"I saw good quality in the team, and I have to help to bring them onto the pitch. We were very focused today, we always have to be. Good concentration and a good mentality are the key.

"As a player you play on the pitch, as a coach you play on the sidelines. You have to be part of the game and try to influence the game." 

Alonso must quickly switch his team's attention to the Champions League, however, with Leverkusen at risk of an early exit after losing two of their first three matches in Group B.

The Bundesliga outfit will host second-placed Porto on Wednesday, and Alonso is acutely aware of the match's importance.

"The game against Porto is very important for us," he added. "We still have every chance of progressing, but we need the three points to avoid being under too much pressure in the last two games."

Diego Simeone knows Atletico Madrid must raise their game after he felt they panicked in a 2-1 victory over Girona.

Angel Correa scored an early goal in each half in only his second start of the season as Atleti put a Champions League defeat at Club Brugge behind them, securing back-to-back La Liga wins and moving into fourth place.

Rodrigo Riquelme pulled a goal back with a long-range drive midway through the second half and Girona were unfortunate not to leave the Cívitas Metropolitano with at least a point from Saturday's game.

Jan Oblak produced a great save to tip Aleix Garcia's drive against the post and the Atleti goalkeeper denied the same player with another stunning late stop.

Simeone felt his side made life difficult for themselves by dropping deep after Riquelme's strike, with a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Juan Carlos for Correa's second goal costing Girona.

The Atletico head coach said: "Winning 2-0, it happens many times with the game under control a goal comes and takes you out of the state you were in.

"You begin to think more about defending in almost a game that you have won, but it is not yet won. It leads you to gather [behind the ball] as protection as anyone does when they attack you, and in the end you plant yourself in a panic situation."

Simeone has no complaints with the effort his players are showing but says they will need more when they go in search of a much-needed victory over Brugge in the coming week.

He said: "There are times when you have to win, like today. At minute 60-70 we played it the way we wanted to play it.

"They are giving everything they have to compete and be in the two competitions in the best way. We have a very tough game on Wednesday, and we need the people and the players.

"We deal with and worry about what the team are going through, how to improve it. We could make some situations better. But we are trying to give the maximum for the best of the team."

Antoine Griezmann laid on the opening goal for Correa on a day Xavi confirmed Barcelona have agreed to accept a reduced fee to make his move to Atleti permanent.

Brahim Diaz netted a delightful individual goal after Fikayo Tomori had scored a contentious opener as Milan beat rivals Juventus 2-0 at San Siro.

Spain international Diaz charged towards the Juve goal after picking up the ball in his own half to double the home side's lead early in the second half of Saturday's Serie A clash.

That came after Tomori had made the breakthrough in first-half stoppage time, though Juventus felt there was a foul in the build-up to the corner from which the defender scored.

Despite being without a number of key men, including goalkeeper Mike Maignan, Milan saw out the win to inflict fresh pain on their former head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Rafael Leao clipped the right-hand post with a back-heel flick with 20 minutes played and hit the other post soon after, this time with a powerful drive from outside the box.

Milan took the lead before the interval through Tomori, who got in the way of Olivier Giroud's goal-bound shot but turned the loose ball past Wojciech Szczesny from a few yards.

Juve were unhappy the goal stood due to a strong challenge from Theo Hernandez on Juan Cuadrado, but VAR could not intervene as it happened in a previous phase of play.

Diaz doubled Milan's lead as he intercepted a Dusan Vlahovic pass a few yards inside his own half, knocked the ball past a couple of Juve defenders and powerfully fired home.

What does it mean? Juve winning run halted as Rossoneri rise

Milan were poor in their midweek Champions League loss to Chelsea – a second defeat in three games in all competitions – but they responded well against Juventus.

The Rossoneri move level on points with pacesetters Napoli and Atalanta, who are both in action on Sunday, with this their sixth win in nine league outings this season.

As for Juve, they have failed to win any of their opening four Serie A away games for only the second time in the past 40 seasons and could drop into the bottom half on Sunday.

Diaz doubles up

Juve's defending for Diaz's goal was atrocious, from Vlahovic's loose pass to Leonardo Bonucci's failed attempt at a foul and then Szczesny's weak hand at the end of it.

Diaz is one of the three Spanish players to have scored more than one Serie A goal against Juventus, along with Jose Callejon and ex-Inter player Luis Suarez (three each).

Dusan's San Siro struggles

Not only did Vlahovic gift the ball to Diaz for his goal, the Serbia international also failed to have any sort of impact on the game in an attacking sense.

He failed to have a single shot and is now scoreless in four games at San Siro – only at Sassuolo's Mapei Stadium (four) has he played as many Serie A games without scoring.

What's next?

Both sides switch focus back to the Champions League on Tuesday, with Milan at home to Chelsea and Juventus away at Maccabi Haifa.

Angel Correa scored twice as Atletico Madrid put a midweek Champions League defeat behind them with a 2-1 win over Girona.

Atleti were beaten 2-0 by surprise package Club Brugge on Tuesday, but they responded with a LaLiga victory at the Civitas Metropolitano four days later

Correa marked his second LaLiga start of the season with an early goal set up by Antoine Griezmann, who played from the off after Barcelona boss Xavi confirmed an agreement had been reached over a permanent move for the France international.

A Juan Carlos howler gifted Correa his second, and although loanee Rodrigo Riquelme pulled a goal back against his parent club, Diego Simeone's side held on for all three points, helped by Jan Oblak's fine goalkeeping.

Griezmann missed a penalty in the defeat at Brugge, but he set about making amends by delivering a pinpoint cross from the left that was converted by Correa at the back post in the fifth minute.

Girona showed a positive response to going behind, Oriol Romeu having a shot blocked by Axel Witsel before Yangel Herrera scooped over the crossbar from inside the penalty area.

Matheus Cunha was denied by Girona goalkeeper Carlos after Griezmann played him in with a clever pass, and Herrera headed just wide at the other end on the stroke of half-time.

Carlos then gifted Correa a second goal with a casual pass that the Argentina forward cut out before applying a simple finish.

Carlos got down well to keep out Nahuel Molina's effort at his near post after a brilliant Yannick Carrasco pass opened up the Girona defence.

Riquelme gave the promoted side a deserved lifeline with a long-range drive midway through the second half.

Girona continued to pose a threat and Oblak superbly tipped a rasping Aleix García drive against the post and denied the same player with another brilliant save, as Atleti held on under late pressure.

Simone Inzaghi believes Inter demonstrated "a great desire to win" after Edin Dzeko's double secured a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo.

Inter, who beat Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, got back to winning ways in Serie A after suffering back-to-back defeats, while they also ended a run of three successive away losses.

At the age of 36 years and 205 days, Dzeko passed the 100-goal mark in the Italian top flight, becoming the third-oldest player to do so after Goran Pandev (37y 268d) and Sergio Pellissier (37y 243d).

Inzaghi hailed the character shown by his players, telling DAZN in his post-match interview: "We saw an Inter that had a lot of desire to win and this overcame physical and mental fatigue.

"The team had a great desire to win, like Tuesday [against Barcelona in the Champions League]. Towards the end, despite the tiredness, we grew technically and this allowed us to win the game."

Inzaghi also highlighted the impact of club captain Samir Handanovic who, despite dropping to the bench to facilitate a Serie A debut for Andre Onana, gave a rousing pre-match speech in the dressing room at the MAPEI Stadium.

"Samir is an added value on the pitch and also off," Inzaghi said. "Only in this way can we move forward. But not only Samir, [everyone] made an important contribution.

"[Andre] played as I expected. A goalkeeper of very important quality and, in two months, he has shown that he can play the place with a great champion like Handanovic."

The big games keep coming for the Nerazzurri, who travel to Camp Nou in midweek for their return fixture against Barca.

"Now, we will have Barcelona, it is a delicate and important moment, with a few rotations especially in attack and in midfield," Inzaghi added. "We have to recover our energy."

Simone Inzaghi believes Inter demonstrated "a great desire to win" after Edin Dzeko's double secured a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo.

Inter, who beat Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, got back to winning ways in Serie A after suffering back-to-back defeats, while they also ended a run of three successive away losses.

At the age of 36 years and 205 days, Dzeko passed the 100-goal mark in the Italian top flight, becoming the third-oldest player to do so after Goran Pandev (37y 268d) and Sergio Pellissier (37y 243d).

Inzaghi hailed the character shown by his players, telling DAZN in his post-match interview: "We saw an Inter that had a lot of desire to win and this overcame physical and mental fatigue.

"The team had a great desire to win, like Tuesday [against Barcelona in the Champions League]. Towards the end, despite the tiredness, we grew technically and this allowed us to win the game."

Inzaghi also highlighted the impact of club captain Samir Handanovic who, despite dropping to the bench to facilitate a Serie A debut for Andre Onana, gave a rousing pre-match speech in the dressing room at the MAPEI Stadium.

"Samir is an added value on the pitch and also off," Inzaghi said. "Only in this way can we move forward. But not only Samir, [everyone] made an important contribution.

"[Andre] played as I expected. A goalkeeper of very important quality and, in two months, he has shown that he can play the place with a great champion like Handanovic."

The big games keep coming for the Nerazzurri, who travel to Camp Nou in midweek for their return fixture against Barca.

"Now, we will have Barcelona, it is a delicate and important moment, with a few rotations especially in attack and in midfield," Inzaghi added. "We have to recover our energy."

Erling Haaland continued his remarkable scoring run as Manchester City climbed above Arsenal at the Premier League summit after a commanding 4-0 victory over Southampton.

City soon eased into the ascendancy at Etihad Stadium as Joao Cancelo and Manchester derby hat-trick hero Phil Foden struck in a first half where a tepid Southampton offered little.

Riyad Mahrez stretched the advantage after the break before Haaland collected his 15th league goal, as many as Kevin De Bruyne managed when finishing as City's top scorer in the competition last term.

Pep Guardiola's team moved two points clear of Arsenal, who play Liverpool on Sunday, after their ninth straight home win in the league, scoring at least three goals in each of those games.

 

Former City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu parried away a fizzing Mahrez half-volley, while Haaland struck the left post after a Foden throughball in a frantic start.

Cancelo broke the deadlock in the 20th minute as he twisted past James Ward-Prowse before drilling a left-footed strike past Bazunu, who then denied Foden on the half-hour mark.

However, there was no stopping Foden shortly after as the England international delicately chipped over the onrushing Bazunu following De Bruyne's pass.

Mahrez volleyed in a third goal from Rodri's lofted cross shortly after half-time, before City had a penalty appeal turned down for what they thought was a Mohammed Salisu pull on Haaland.

Southampton could not keep Haaland quiet for much longer, with their new talisman converting into the bottom-left corner in the 65th minute after Cancelo's cutback.

What does it mean? City dominant as Saints away woes continue

A 6-3 humbling of Manchester United and a 5-0 victory in Europe over Copenhagen were backed up in dominant fashion by City against Southampton, with Guardiola's side showing no signs of relenting.

While a tougher task will follow at Anfield against Liverpool next week, City continue to sweep aside opponents at will as they search for a fifth top-flight crown in the last six seasons.

Meanwhile, Southampton's away struggles persist, and boss Ralph Hasenhuttl is under serious pressure now. They are without a clean sheet in their last 19 Premier League away games – both the longest current run in the league and their worst such streak in the competition.

De Bruyne makes history

De Bruyne has been in incredible form throughout the start of this season and picked up yet another assist after teeing up Foden – the ninth goal the Belgium international has set up in as many Premier League games this season.

The simple throughball for Foden also marked De Bruyne's 94th assist in the Premier League for City, surpassing David Silva for the most goals created for the club in the competition.

Haaland is human

Haaland has taken to life in England with ridiculous ease, scoring 20 goals in 13 games across all competitions and breaking numerous records along the way.

After just nine Premier League games, the striker needs just one more goal to surpass City's top scorer last season, De Bruyne, which is frankly astonishing.

He missed a few chances here, though, and looked on in disbelief when his shot that rattled the left post did not bounce into the net off the upright.

What's next?

City head to Copenhagen to play in the Champions League on Tuesday, before the crunch clash at Liverpool arrives next Sunday, when Southampton host West Ham.

Goals from Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja gave Chelsea a 3-0 win over Wolves at Stamford Bridge in Graham Potter's first home league match in charge.

A much-changed Chelsea dominated the opening 45 minutes and took the lead in first-half injury time when Havertz nodded home Mason Mount's cross.

Mount then had a big hand in the second, playing in Pulisic to dink over Jose Sa, before substitute Broja raced through to add a late third as Chelsea beat Wolves for the first time in four attempts.

The Blues move up to fourth as Potter earns an important first home league victory after making seven changes.

The hosts started brightly with Conor Gallagher and Havertz both going close in the early minutes, though Daniel Podence headed just wide at the other end.

Jorginho saw a low drive parried away by Sa, while Mount dragged a shot left of the target as Chelsea pressed for an early goal.

Joao Moutinho tested Kepa Arrizabalaga with a powerful free-kick, before Sa made a brilliant save to tip a Pulisic curler wide at full stretch.

But Wolves' resistance was broken in first-half injury time as Havertz looped a sublime header into the far corner from Mount's driven cross from the right.

The visitors enjoyed a much better spell after the interval, but fell further behind when Pulisic and Mount combined before the former delicately finished to make it 2-0.

Havertz could have added a third shortly after, but his chip was pushed away by Sa before Hwang Hee-chan missed a golden opportunity to pull a goal back as he fired straight at Arrizabalaga.

Broja rounded off the scoring in the dying minutes, cutting onto his right foot before firing a delightful finish into the bottom corner to cap a brilliant Chelsea display.

Barcelona coach Xavi believes the club and Atletico Madrid have reached an agreement for the permanent transfer of Antoine Griezmann to Los Colchoneros.

Reports emerged earlier this week suggesting the two LaLiga giants had struck a €19.9million deal for the Frenchman, who is on loan at Atletico from Barca.

Griezmann made his return to Atletico on an initial temporary deal last year, with the two-year agreement set to become a permanent move for a reported €40m in 2023 if a specific clause was met.

The clause required Griezmann to play at least 30 minutes – not including stoppage time – in a percentage of Atletico's matches, though the exact proportion is unclear as some media outlets claim it is over 80 per cent and others suggest it is around 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, Atletico coach Diego Simeone had been carefully managing Griezmann's minutes seemingly to avoid triggering the €40m clause – the Frenchman has completed two full LaLiga games this term, and in his other six appearances he featured for no more than 30 minutes each time.

Atletico's tactics appears to have succeeded in getting Griezmann's price reduced considerably, with Xavi revealing an agreement was in place.

"The club tells me that they have reached an agreement, but it is not official," he told reporters on Saturday.

"If there is an agreement, all parties are happy. I wish the player the best."

Griezmann controversially joined Barca from Atletico in 2019 when the Blaugrana triggered his €120m release clause.

But in two full LaLiga campaigns at Camp Nou, Griezmann struggled to rediscover the form that attracted Barca to him in the first place, scoring 22 goals in 71 league games – he netted as many times in a single season on two separate occasions for Atletico in the past.

Although he was even less productive in front of goal upon his return to Atletico, scoring just three in 26 league outings last term, Simeone remains a strong advocate for the 31-year-old.

Edin Dzeko took his tally of Serie A goals past 100 as Inter edged out Sassuolo 2-1 at the MAPEI Stadium on Saturday.

The 36-year-old became the third-oldest player to reach a century in the Italian top light when he broke the deadlock in the 44th minute with only his second strike of the season.

Davide Frattesi's 60th-minute volley brought the hosts level, but Dzeko grabbed the winner and his 101st in the division when he headed home Henrikh Mkhitaryan's cross 15 minutes from time.

Simone Inzaghi's side are back to winning ways in Serie A following back-to-back defeats, while also ending a three-game losing streak on the road.

Sassuolo went close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute when Frattesi was denied from tight angle while Armand Lauriente's follow-up was blocked by face of Nicolo Barella, who was subsequently cleared to continue.

A scorer in two of the last three meetings between the sides, Lautaro Martinez squandered a brilliant opportunity to break the deadlock 10 minutes later. Denzel Dumfries capitalised on sloppy possession by the hosts before crossing for the sliding Argentina international, who somehow steered wide from six yards out.

Inter broke through just before half-time as Dumfries flicked on a corner and Dzeko volleyed home from close range.

The hosts equalised on the hour mark when Rogerio's deep cross was met on the volley by Frattesi in the six-yard box.

However, the visitors regained the lead with a quarter of an hour remaining. Moments after Andrea Consigli had produced stunning reflexes to deny Martinez, the goalkeeper was powerless as Dzeko headed home Mkhitaryan's delivery to snatch all three points.

Bayern Munich would not consider selling a player of Jude Bellingham's quality if the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was at the Allianz Arena, according to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. 

England international Bellingham is into his third campaign with Bundesliga side Dortmund and is considered one of the finest talents in world football, having impressed for both club and country.

The 19-year-old this week captained BVB to a 4-1 win at Sevilla, where he became only the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign after former team-mate Erling Haaland at Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

Bellingham's continued fine form has led to strong talk from Spain that Real Madrid are already in talks to sign the youngster at the end of the season, although they may face competition from Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Liverpool.

Dortmund would reportedly be open to selling Bellingham if a big enough offer is tabled, but Rummenigge insists that would never be the case at rivals Bayern, whom he spent nearly 30 years with as part of the club's board.

"As a rule, Bayern Munich do not need to sell players in order to improve their balance sheet," long-serving Bayern CEO Rummenigge told Funke Mediengruppe. 

"At Dortmund, there is already talk of Bellingham leaving. Bayern would not sell such a player."

 

Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney in the 2004-05 season.

He has featured 102 times for Dortmund in all competitions since arriving from Birmingham City in July 2020 and been capped 17 times by England at senior level – a tally he is certain to add to at this year's World Cup.

And former England centre-back Rio Ferdinand recently commented he believes Bellingham is ahead of any other previous midfielders at the same age.

"What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand told BT Sport. "The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

"He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age]. Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

Xavi revealed Frenkie de Jong could start in defence on his return from injury when Barcelona welcome Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

The Blaugrana are aiming to remain at the LaLiga summit as they seek a response from the midweek Champions League defeat by Inter.

De Jong is back in the squad having missed his side's last two matches after sustaining a thigh injury while on international duty with the Netherlands last month.

Though he did not confirm the midfielder would start at Camp Nou, Xavi indicated he could fill in at centre-half in the absence of the likes of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.

When asked about De Jong at his pre-match press conference, the head coach said: "He's 100 per cent. We'll see what we decide tomorrow.

"Frenkie can play centre-back, we've already tried it. He is powerful and fast, but there are other alternatives. There is versatility in the dressing room."

One of those alternatives could be 19-year-old Chadi Riad, who would make his senior Barca debut should he feature against Vigo.

"We know him from last year and the pre-season," Xavi said. "He is aggressive, with good output ... he has a future. We follow him. He can prove things, he can become important."

Xavi also urged his players to lend leading marksman Robert Lewandowski a hand on the goalscoring front. 

The Poland skipper has scored nine of their 19 goals in LaLiga this term, with his nearest challengers Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele both netting just twice apiece thus far.

"We have to improve the goals without him," the head coach observed. "And also improve fouls, shoot from outside the area... everyone must contribute goals. We have to improve the scoring ability of those at the top.

"We need to shoot more when we have the ball, find that final pass, find the right solutions. We must improve and be more competitive. You have to be more optimistic in front of goal."

 

 

 

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