Kevin De Bruyne has tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Belgium; Manchester City midfielder is self-isolating for 10 days, says manager Pep Guardiola; De Bruyne will miss matches against Everton and Paris Saint-Germain.
The 30-year-old playmaker has been away on World Cup qualifying duty with his country, helping Roberto Martinez’s side to book their place at Qatar 2022.
He is, however, about to take another enforced break at club level, with Pep Guardiola also waiting to discover whether Jack Grealish and Phil Foden will be ready to face Everton on Sunday following their respective efforts with England.
De Bruyne, who is vaccinated, scored for Belgium in their World Cup qualifying draw with Wales on Tuesday. “The symptoms will be minor hopefully,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.
“As soon as possible, he can come back. We do not worry about what we are going to miss. The person is more important. We have to help him and hope it goes well while he’s isolated.”
Hey! The international break has finally gone, do you miss league games? Time to have a preview of key matches this weekend!
Liverpool vs Arsenal
20.11.2021 17:30 (utc)
Liverpool saw their 20-game unbeaten run in the top flight come to a sudden halt prior to the international break, going down 3-2 to West Ham. That makes welcoming opponents Arsenal to Anfield all the more enticing, with just two points separating them coming into the weekend, and as Liverpool’s last three league defeats have now come against London clubs!
The ‘Reds’ currently boast a nine-game unbeaten league home run (W5, D4), albeit having drawn their last two despite taking the lead in both games. The four points dropped in those two matches are as many as they surrendered from winning positions in their previous 23 league games at Anfield. A visit from Arsenal could therefore be the tonic for Liverpool to get back on track, as the Merseysiders have won the last five home league H2Hs, finding the net at least three times on all occasions. But Arsenal are one of the league’s most in-form teams at the moment as Mikel Arteta’s youth-oriented strategy finally seems to be uniting fans of the team. Their current eight-game unbeaten streak (W6, D2) is actually the longest of all PL clubs and you have to go back to August to December 2018 to find the last time they embarked on a longer top-flight run without defeat. After the hysteria surrounding starting the season with three defeats, the ‘Gunners’ have catapulted themselves to the cusp of the top four. They’ve kept three consecutive PL clean sheets on their travels and are now on the verge of securing four successive top-flight away shutouts for the first time since May 2005. That’s a big ask here though, as they’ve won only one of the last 12 league H2Hs against Liverpool (D4, L7), keeping one clean sheet in that time. Players to watch: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has seven goal contributions in five home PL games against Arsenal (G5, A2), whose in-form youngster Emile Smith Rowe has seen four of his six PL goals arrive in the first 30 minutes of play. Hot stat: Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp’s average of 2.18 points per game against Arsenal is the third-highest points per game ratio of all managers who have faced Arsenal 5+ times in the PL.
Match Facts & Betting Odds
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Liverpool’s last 8 games (Premier League). Over 2.5 goals 1.50 Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in their last 8 matches (Premier League). Over 1.5 goals 1.16 Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 away matches (Premier League). Arsenal win or draw 2.62 Liverpool are undefeated in their last 10 home matches against Arsenal in all competitions. Liverpool win or draw 1.11 Liverpool are undefeated in their last 9 home matches (Premier League). Liverpool win or draw 1.11 Arsenal have won their last 3 matches (Premier League). Arsenal win 6.50 There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Arsenal’s last 3 away games (Premier League). Under 2.5 goals 2.62
Opera Football Prediction
Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season last time out before the international break, losing 3-2 away to West Ham in a thrilling game. Arsenal now hold the longest unbeaten run in the division as a result, eight games without defeat in the Premier League. Liverpool remain favourites but they haven’t been as solid at the back this season as normal. They are struggling to get the right balance in midfield without Gini Wijnaldum. Liverpool have won their last five home league matches against Arsenal but Mikel Arteta’s side will give them a tough game on current form. So, Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal
Leicester City vs Chelsea
20.11.2021 12:30 (utc)
Things aren’t quite right at Leicester City with their pre-season expectation to challenge the top four currently off-track as they languish in the bottom half of the Premier League (PL) standings. Compounding matters further for the hosts is the fact that manager Brendan Rodgers is heavily linked with a move away from the club, stirring further unrest amongst their ranks. An optimistic fan would point to Leicester beginning this weekend just five points off the top five and being unbeaten in five of their last six PL games (W2, D3, L1). However, if Rodgers’ record against high-flying Chelsea is anything to go by, this will be a tough afternoon for the hosts (W2, D8, L8) though those outings are usually tight affairs, with eight of the last ten producing two or fewer total goals.
The international break came at the perfect time for title-chasing Chelsea, who had dropped points for just the third time this season prior with a frustrating 1-1 home draw against Burnley. Boss Thomas Tuchel also had a lengthy list of injuries to contend with and the break has given those individuals time to step up their recovery efforts ahead of the PL return. Extremely solid when playing away, Chelsea have picked up 13 of a possible 15 points on their travels so far (W4, D1) and are one of just two unbeaten PL away sides, alongside Brighton. That form has been built on a solid defensive unit that has conceded just once across five PL away games this campaign. Players to watch: Leicester’s Patson Daka became the first Zambian to score in the PL after his strike here just last month, he also netted over the international break. Another player who scored for their country during the break was Chelsea and Germany star Kai Havertz; he’s led the line in the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner. Hot stat: No PL side has picked up fewer yellow cards than Chelsea’s 12 this season (1.09 per match on average).
Match Facts & Betting Odds
Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 away matches (Premier League). Chelsea win or draw 1.18 Chelsea have won their last 3 away matches (Premier League). Chelsea win1.75 Leicester have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 3 home matches (Premier League). Over 1.5 goals1.30
Opera Football Prediction
Leicester are winless in three (D2, L1) and are already seven points adrift of fourth place. Chelsea are three points clear at the top of the Premier League but dropped points to Burnley last time out. Chelsea have only won one of their last four away to Leicester but will be considered favourites here.
So, Leicester 0-1 Chelsea.
Barcelona vs Espanyol
21.11.2021 20:00 (utc)
Club legend Xavi Hernández returns to Barcelona, but this time in the dugout, as he’s charged with turning around what is the club’s second lowest 12-game La Liga (LL) points tally in the 21st century. Their 3-3 draw (after being 3-0 up) against Celta Vigo before the international break extended Barça’s winless LL streak (D2, L2) and summed up the on-field problems and morale-sapping results that Xavi must now address.
The new boss couldn’t have chosen a better first game than the ‘Derbi Barceloní’, as Barcelona are unbeaten in 22 LL matches against city rivals Espanyol (W17, D5) – their longest-ever undefeated H2H streak against their derby foes. As Xavi plots a way to make the Nou Camp a fortress again, he’ll expect to extend Barcelona’s 11-game winning LL H2H home run. H2H history can only get you so far though, and what Espanyol have is improving form in their corner with three wins across six LL games (W3, D2, L1) – as many victories as they managed across their previous 25 LL fixtures. Three points here will actually propel Espanyol above Barcelona, and possibly heal some of the wounds of a 1-0 loss here back in July 2020 that relegated the visitors. Alternating between draw and defeat on the road since the start of the season (D3, L3), gaining a first win at the Nou Camp since February 2009 – a match that saw Barça boss Xavi play in midfield – seems a stretch of the imagination. However a stalemate would add to Espanyol’s H2H draw record of 38, which is more than they have recorded against any other LL opponent. Key battle: Barça’s Marc-André ter Stegen has gone six LL games without a clean sheet, but does have a joint-personal best of seven H2H LL clean sheets to his name. He will have to stop red-hot Raúl de Tomás who is looking to become only the second Espanyol player in the 21st century to score in six consecutive LL games. Hot stat: No side has seen more match goals (eight) beyond the 80th minute in LL home games than Barcelona.
Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 5 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions. Barcelona win or draw 1.08 Espanyol have failed to win their last 15 away matches (LaLiga). Espanyol lose or draw 1.08 Barcelona have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 4 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions. Under 2.5 goals 2.37 Barcelona have won 5 of their last 6 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions. Barcelona win 1.36 Espanyol have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 4 away matches (LaLiga). Over 1.5 goals 1.20
Opera Football Prediction
It has been a busy international break for Barcelona, who appointed legendary midfielder Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach and brought back another favourite in Dani Alves, although the experienced full-back can’t play until January. Barca head into the derby with Espanyol in pretty poor form, and are currently ninth in the table. They blew a three-goal lead last time out against Celta Vigo to draw 3-3, conceding in stoppage time. Before that, they did manage beat Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League, but even that followed a disappointing draw with Alaves in La Liga. Espanyol picked up an impressive 2-0 win last time out over a resurgent Granada thanks to goals from Raul de Tomas and Adria Pedrosa. It was an important response from Vicente Moreno’s men after suffering a defeat to bottom club Getafe. Espanyol have won three of their last six and only lost once, so they come into this game in very good form, although Xavi’s homecoming at Camp Nou has a Barcelona win written all over it. So, Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol
Watford vs Manchester United
20.11.2021 15:00 (utc)
Claudio Ranieri hasn’t quite enjoyed the ‘new manager bounce’ Watford fans were hoping for, winning just one of his four Premier League (PL) matches in charge (L3). This contributed to his side heading into the international break only two points above the drop zone, hardly ideal with Manchester United up next, especially as they’ve suffered more PL defeats against them than any other side (W2, L12). If the ‘Hornets’ are to get back on the right side of the results, then rediscovering their threat in front of goal will be key. They’ve failed to score in a joint league-high seven matches this season, a problem that’s amplified when you’re averaging 1.73 goals against per game. Yet it’s worth noting that they did win and bag 3+ goals in three of the four matches that they did score, suggesting any win could be via a thriller. With manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær still under mounting pressure, Manchester United won’t care how they win, just as long as they do. However, the ‘Red Devils’ boast only one PL success across their last six encounters (D1, L4), with those four defeats representing as many as they had in their previous 40 matches in the competition (W24, D12). Although the visitors hold a dominant H2H record against the hosts, recent issues overcoming newly-promoted sides will be causing Solskjær serious angst. United are winless in their last three PL matches against newly-promoted teams (D3) and could go four without a win in such matches for the first time since 1997! Players to watch: Josh King scored a hat-trick in Watford’s last goalscoring match, and he’s netted in two of his last three games vs United. Across spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in his last 14 league games against promoted teams. Hot stat: Watford are without a clean sheet in 21 PL matches, that’s their longest ever run without one in the top flight.
Match Facts & Betting Odds
Man Utd have won 15 of their last 17 matches against Watford in all competitions. Man Utd win 1.45 Man Utd are undefeated in 30 of their last 31 away matches (Premier League). Man Utd win or draw 1.11 Man Utd have been winning at both half time and full time in 7 of their last 8 matches against Watford in all competitions. Man Utd win/win 2.30 There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Man Utd’s last 3 away games (Premier League). Over 2.5 goals 1.66 Man Utd have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 away matches (Premier League). Over 1.5 goals 1.20
Opera Football Prediction
Watford have lost three of Claudio Ranieri’s first four matches in charge. After a shock 5-2 win away to Everton, Watford have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Southampton and Arsenal. The international break came at the right time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though the pressure is still on. Supporters are quickly losing faith after a very bad start to the season. United have lost four of their last six in the Premier League and have generally struggled at Vicarage Road in recent times. United have conceded in each of their last seven matches away to Watford and only have two clean sheets in two of 11 league matches this season. It looks like they’ll have to do it the hard away again here. So, Watford 1-1 Man Utd
Manchester City vs Everton
21.11.2021 14:00 (utc)
Manchester City are one of just three clubs ever to successfully defend a Premier League (PL) crown, though only Manchester United have retained PL titles on more than one occasion. Yet, with City beating United themselves just before the international break, they will feel confident of building on that and keeping pace with the title race, especially after eight successive wins against opponents Everton across all competitions. After a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace late last month, City will target a strong start, as they last failed to win a PL home game after scoring in the opening 15 minutes back in September 2020. Another loss certainly seems unthinkable, with City never losing successive home league games in front of attending fans under Pep Guardiola (2016/17-present). Everton’s last game before the November international break (0-0 vs Tottenham) saw them record their first clean sheet since September 25. The same result would be a huge boost to the mid-table ‘Toffees’, though they’ve not kept successive PL clean sheets since May. Following a 5-0 defeat here on the final weekend of 2020/21, Everton’s last away win against City dates back to December 2010. That hoodoo looks set to survive, though neither of Everton’s last two away league clashes against a reigning champion (W1, L1) have seen them fail to cover a +1 handicap. Key battle: Man City’s Phil Foden scored in both league H2Hs last term, whilst four of his last six PL goals have been second in the overall order on the day. Though personally goalless since September 2017, former City man Fabian Delph may be a worthy foe for him in the centre of the park, after a strong performance against Spurs earlier this month. Hot streak: City’s last six PL wins by 2+ goals have seen them score inside the first 15 minutes.
Man City have won their last 8 matches against Everton in all competitions. Man City win 1.14 Man City have scored at least 2 goals in their last 8 matches against Everton in all competitions. Over 1.5 goals 1.14 Man City have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 3 home matches against Everton in all competitions. Over 2.5 goals 1.44 There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Man City’s last 3 home games (Premier League). Under 2.5 goals 2.75 Man City are undefeated in 9 of their last 10 matches (Premier League). Man City win or draw 1.02 Everton have failed to win their last 5 matches (Premier League). Everton lose or draw 1.02
Opera Football Prediction
Manchester City bounced back from a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace with an easy 2-0 win over Manchester United before the international break. They start the weekend 3 points behind the leaders Chelsea. Everton are winless in 5 league matches and have lost 3 times in that spell. They have won one of five away league matches this season. So, Man City 3-0 Everton
Tottenham vs Leeds
21.11.2021 16:30 (utc)
The weekend’s Premier League (PL) action concludes with what should be an entertaining 100th competitive clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United. Around 8,000 fans watched on as Tottenham won 2-1 in the first edition of this game at the old White Hart Lane back in 1925 and new manager Antonio Conte would surely take a repeat of that result here on what is his home league debut as Spurs boss. The highly-coveted Italian manager will be confident of getting his tenure off to a flyer as he won at least once against each of the 53 teams he faced across his prior Serie A and PL appointments. However, he will need to get Tottenham scoring in order to achieve that feat in what will be his first meeting with Leeds, as only Norwich have netted fewer than their nine PL goals this term while they are now without a goal in three straight league games! Leeds are another side desperately struggling for goals, as only Tottenham and Norwich have scored fewer than their 11 in the league so far. As a consequence, there’s already been unwanted talk of ‘second-season syndrome’ at the club as their cult hero manager Marcelo Bielsa looks to steer the off-colour ‘Lilywhites’ away from the relegation dogfight. While Leeds gained a confidence boost when winning their first away league game of the season at rock-bottom Norwich, the quality of the opponents there will leave fans under no illusions that they should temper their expectations here. They may well score as they did in five of the last seven away H2Hs, though victory in this game would be their first at Spurs since 2001 (D1, L4 since). Players to watch: Harry Kane should return to Spurs full of confidence after scoring seven goals in two games across the international break for England. Meanwhile, Leeds forward Rodrigo has scored twice in his three career appearances against Tottenham, both coming in 3-1 victories. Hot stat: Tottenham haven’t had a shot on target in two straight PL games.
Opera Football Prediction
Tottenham failed to have a shot on target for the second league game running in their 0-0 draw at Everton prior to the international break but will be confident of getting back among the goals when they welcome a Leeds side that has conceded 18 times to north London. The Whites secured an important victory in their last away game, returning to Yorkshire from Norwich with all the spoils. However, they are winless in their last five trips to Spurs, losing four, including a 3-0 defeat here at the beginning of the year. Antonio Conte will have worked those not on international duty hard at Hotspur Way and as he aims to get his ideas across, Spurs could make it two wins from three under their new boss in Sunday’s afternoon encounter. So, Tottenham 2-1 Leeds
Wolves vs West Ham
Wolverhampton Wanderers will be itching to return from the international break to right some wrongs after forfeiting their five-game undefeated streak (W4, D1) in the Premier League (PL) by losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace last time out. In hindsight though, even Wolves will be happy with their recent recovery after a shaky start to the season, and it seems consistency is eventually paying off after using just 18 different players in the league, the joint fewest of any team. Boss Bruno Lage and his men will likely be happy to return to Molineux after winning their last two home PL fixtures, as many as they’ve managed in the nine such fixtures prior (L7). They now chase a hat-trick of home top-flight league victories for the first time since November 1980. They’ll welcome current PL high-flyers West Ham who must still be on cloud nine after their 3-2 win over Liverpool before the international hiatus put them into third place. That monumental win was their fourth PL victory in a row – the longest winning streak in the league – and they’ll now aim to win five PL games on the bounce for the first time since February 2006. The ‘Hammers’ have been breaking down doors on their travels lately, as their current 11-game unbeaten streak away from home in all competitions (W8, D3) is their longest ever undefeated away run as a top-flight club. They did the league double over their hosts last season, which was their first time doing so since 1922/23 – the same season in which West Ham last won back-to-back away league matches at Wolves! Players to watch: Wolves’ Raúl Jiménez has seen 14 of his last 17 PL goals arrive in the second half, while West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen scored three goals in the two PL H2H matches last season, and has now averaged a goal every 77 minutes vs Wolves across three PL H2Hs. Hot stat: No side has scored more set-piece goals (excluding penalties) than West Ham’s six this PL campaign.
Match Facts & Odds
West Ham have won their last 4 matches (Premier League). West Ham win 2.40 Wolves have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 home matches against West Ham in all competitions. Over 1.5 goals 1.33
Opera Football Prediction Wolves’ five-game unbeaten streak came to an end last time out in a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. Wolves are yet to keep a clean sheet at home in the Premier League this season. West Ham have won six of their last seven after beating Liverpool 3-2 before the break. With six goals conceded over their last three games, West Ham are not watertight at the back either. Nine goals have been scored across the last two meetings between the sides so we should expect another entertaining affair here. So, Wolves 1-2 West Ham?
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The Three Lions had required only a solitary point to guarantee qualification but they got more than the point they needed to reach Qatar, via a 10-0 win over Europe’s worst minnows. Qualification for England was nothing more than just a mere formality, such that it feels the result should barely even be mentioned.
Tottenham Hotspurs hitman Harry Kane struck four times on the night to edge closer to breaking the all-time national scoring record held by Wayne Rooney. It also marked the second time he scored back-to-back hat tricks, following his exploits against Albania in the penultimate game.
Harry Kane’s goals – two of them penalties – saw him move level with Gary Lineker on 48 goals in England’s all-time list and five behind Wayne Rooney. The game also saw Manchester United defender Harry Maguire score in successive matches, while Tammy Abraham registered his name on the scoresheet.
There were several other records racked up on the night. It marked the first time that England hit double-figures in a game since 1964. It was actually only the third time that had happened since the second world war.
While this was England’s second biggest ever victory, the record for their largest margin of victory still remains the 13-0 hammering of Ireland in the 19th century – precisely in the year 1882. For the record, Harry Maguire became the highest-scoring defender in the country’s history – following his headed effort, while the duo of Emile Smith Rowe and Tyrone Mings got their first international goals.
The hosts had Dante Rossi sent off because of a handball incident, but other than that, it was an encounter which had the perceived outcome of an England victory even before the start of the game.
England may have grown in leaps and bounds since current manager Gareth Southgate took the reins and while they might fancy their chance in Qatar next year, they are still not the favourites to clinch a first world title since 1966.
14 days to go! The winners of the 2021 Ballon d’Or awards are set to be announced in November, with Lionel Messi bidding to win the men’s prize for a record-extending seventh time. Robert Lewandowski is his main rival, while Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr look to be the favourites for the women’s Ballon d’Or.
The 2021 men’s Ballon d’Or winner will be announced later this month with Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho the front-runners to win the award.
The ceremony was not held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it looks a close race to decide this year’s winner. The women’s Ballon d’Or will also be held for the third time, with Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr among the favourites.
Here’s all you need to know about the ceremony, the favourites, and how to follow…
WHEN IS THE 2021 BALLON D’OR CEREMONY?
The ceremony will take place in Paris on November 29, 2021.
The initial 30-player shortlist is assembled by an editorial team at France Football magazine. A jury of journalists representing a variety of nations then votes for the players they believe should come in first, second and third.
WHO HAS BEEN NOMINATED FOR THE MEN’S AWARD?
Lionel Messi is the current holder of the trophy after being crowned the winner in 2019, and after a magnificent year where he played 48 games, scored 40 goals and led Argentina to their first Copa America title since 1993, his former team-mate Luis Suarez believes that the Paris-Saint Germain star is a no-brainer for the award.
“For the Ballon d’Or, you should not only have to look at what someone has done in a year, but you also have to look at how someone is as a player,” Suarez told Ole. “I believe that Messi has no rival.”
Messi won the player of the tournament as Argentina lifted the Copa America and he also led Barca to Copa del Rey success before leaving in the summer. Even though he has made a slow start at PSG, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believes Messi has the all-around factors that makes him deserving of the award.
“I think Leo will win Ballon d’Or for sure,” he told Spanish broadcaster Ibai Llanos. “If it’s valuing trophies plus performance plus figures…The winner is also Leo. Leo should have won more than seven times.”
But Messi faces a strong rival in Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski scored 41 goals in 29 Bundesliga games last season to break Gerd Muller’s 49-year record. He also finished as the top scorer in Europe and broke a club record for scoring in 19 consecutive matches for Bayern Munich. “I can’t think of anyone else deserving the award like he does after he over the past years continuously delivered goals,” said Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann.
Lewandowski’s goals helped Bayern win five trophies, while he has also netted nine goals in 11 appearances for Poland this year. “Collectively and individually I don’t think I could have done more,” he said.
If the award comes down to weight of trophies then Chelsea midfielder Jorginho also has a case.
The Italian was named the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year for the 2020/2021 season after winning the Champions League and Euro 2020 within a few months of each other. While he doesn’t have the same goal stats as Messi and Lewandowski, Jorginho is hopeful that others factors will be taken into account in the voting.
“It’s not up to me to say if I should win the Ballon d’Or, but it would be an incentive for other players, to show that not only goals are taken into account.” Jorginho says that if he had a vote then it would go to Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
“I believe I’d vote for Kevin De Bruyne for everything he’s been doing and for the beautiful football he’s been showing in recent years. For those who like football, it’s great to see him play because he understands football, he is a player with above-average intelligence.”
De Bruyne is behind the likes of Karim Benzema, Mohamed Salah and Gianluigi Donnarumma in the betting.
Full list of men’s nominees: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Jorginho (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Simon Kjaer (AC Milan), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Pedri (Barcelona), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Luis Suarez (Atletico Madrid)
WHO IS THE NOMINATED FOR THE WOMEN’S AWARD?
Alexia Putellas is favourite to add the Ballon d’Or to her UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award. The Barcelona midfielder was key to her side’s treble-winning season, scoring in the Champions League final and netting twice in the Copa de la Reina final. Sam Kerr looks to be her main rival after a brilliant season for Chelsea that saw her win the Golden Boot in the Women’s Super League and fire her side to a league and cup double. She also impressed for Australia at the Olympics, scoring six goals in six games, and is one of five Chelsea players on the shortlist along with Denmark’s Pernille Harder, Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson, Canada’s Jessie Fleming and England’s Fran Kirby.
Barcelona’s Jenni Hermoso is also in the running after continuing her superb goalscoring form, finishing as the top scorer in the league for the fifth time in six seasons. She also helped Barca win the Champions League with six goals in the tournament but missed the first two months of this season due to an ankle injury.
Full list of women’s nominees: Kadidiatou Diani (PSG), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jennifer Hermoso (Barcelona), Christiane Endler (Lyon), Christine Sinclair (Thorns FC), Ashley Lawrence (PSG), Irene Paredes (PSG, Barcelona), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Lieke Martens (Barcelona), Sandra Panos (Barcelona), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Ellen White (Manchester City), Pernille Harder (Chelsea), Sam Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Wendie Renard (Lyon), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (PSG), Stina Blackstenius (Hacken), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Alexia Putellas (Barcelona)
WHO ARE THE BOOKMAKERS’ FAVOURITE TO WIN?
Lionel Messi 1/2 Robert Lewandowski 3/1 Mohamed Salah 25/1 Jorginho 33/1 Karim Benzema 33/1 Gianluigi Donnarumma 66/1
Who do you think will win Ballon d’Or these two years? Leave your comment below and share your favourite!
European champions Italy missed out on automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland on Monday.
The Azzurri went into their final Group C qualification clash knowing they needed to win by enough goals to stay ahead of Switzerland to claim a place at next year’s finals in Qatar.
With the Swiss earning a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria in Lucerne, only a win by a three-goal margin would have been enough for Italy but they could not find a way past a determined Irish side and had to settle for a March playoff spot.
The playoffs do not hold fond memories for Italy, who failed to make the 2018 World Cup after losing to Sweden over two legs. Only three playoff teams out of 12 qualify for the finals.
“We can’t do anything about it now, we have this game in March and will try to give our best,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI Sport.
“At the moment we are struggling to score goals, despite dominating possession. Northern Ireland put everyone in defence and we struggle to break sides like that down.”
It was clear from the start that it was not going to be an easy task for an injury-hit Italy, who began the match without a recognised striker in the absence of Ciro Immobile.
Northern Ireland had not conceded a goal at home in their previous four qualifiers and set up to frustrate the Italians, despite being unable to qualify for the finals themselves.
Mancini threw on several other forward options as he looked to boost his side’s attacking threat, but the home team, in truth, never looked troubled.
Italy go into the March playoffs despite finishing their World Cup qualification campaign unbeaten — four draws since their Euro 2020 success being their downfall.
Premier League basement boys Norwich City have officially announced the appointment of Dean Smith on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The 50 year-old will now succeed the sacked Daniel Farke, and is saddled with the task of preventing the club from going to relegation – with the Canaries currently bottom of the Premier League, five points adrift of safety. Also, Craig Shakespeare who worked with Smith at Aston Villa, will join him as his assistant at Carrow Road.
Dean Smith is set to make history as the first man to take charge of successive Premier League matches against the same opponent with different teams, after being sacked by Aston Villa following a home defeat to Southampton. Smith’s first game in charge will be at home to Southampton on Saturday, 20 November.
Smith spent three years at Aston Villa and in that time, guided them to promotion from the Championship and reached the Carabao Cup final. But things at the club did not improve this season, with captain Jack Grealish departing for defending champions Manchester City for 100 million pounds. The team also lost five consecutive league games and have only ten points – just two points from the drop zone.
It is left to be seen whether Smith can keep Norwich up, following their terrible start to the season but his experience may just be the difference in the end. Norwich dismissed former boss Daniel Farke on 6th November despite a win away at Brentford, which was the club’s first league victory of the campaign.
Following Dean Smith’s appointment, Canaries sporting director Stuart Webber said: “I have admired his work for some time and he has been a long-term target in the event that we needed to appoint a new head coach.” Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard also held talks with the Canaries, but pulled out of the running.
Xavi’s first signing as manager of Barcelona is his former teammate Dani Alves. Alves joins his former side as a free agent after being out of contract since leaving Sao Paulo in his native Brazil in September 2021.
According to Marca, Xavi approved Barca’s negotiations with the Brazilian on Friday afternoon and within a few hours, there was an update from highly acclaimed journalist Fabrizio Romano that Xavi would join the Catalan giants.
Alves had a trophy-laden first stint at Camp Nou which saw him win a total of 23 trophies between 2008 and 2016. He had 3 Champions League winners medals and 6 La Liga winners medals in the colours of Barcelona.
There are reports that the signing of Xavi is to help add a leader to the Spanish outfit in order to boost their performances. His contract with Barcelona will include a clause to extend the deal until June 2023. Alves would train with the team but would be eligible to play from January 2022.
Alves is the most decorated player in world football, having enjoyed success at a number of clubs. As well as Barcelona and Sao Paulo, he has represented Bahia, Sevilla, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.
Mohamed Salah wins monthly award after an outstanding month that saw him score five Premier League goals, including a hat-trick against Manchester United; Phil Foden, Aaron Ramsdale and Ben Chilwell among the other nominees.
The Egyptian maestro produced an astonishing 9-goal contribution for Klopp’s men. Salah also continued his scoring exploits on the European stage with a brace in a 3-2 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.
Salah beat off competition from Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet, Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Southampton’s Tino Livramento, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, and Youri Tielemans of Leicester, to win the accolade.
Liverpool returns to action after the international break with a home game against Arsenal on November 20 – live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event.
Hansi Flick made history as the first Germany coach to win his first six games in charge, with his Covid-affected side thrashing 10-man Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier.
Flick had to make numerous changes, with five players out because of defender Niklas Sule’s Covid infection.
Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane both scored twice for the hosts, who have already qualified for Qatar 2022.
Liechtenstein were reduced to 10 men inside the first 10 minutes.
Jens Hofer was sent off for kicking Leon Goretzka with a high challenge in the face, and after a short delay, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan converted the resulting penalty.
It got worse for the visitors, who conceded three goals in three minutes, starting with Daniel Kaufmann turning in an own goal in the 20th.
Sane then slotted in before Marco Reus added another.
With Flick’s predecessor Joachim Low, who received an official farewell before the game, watching from the stands, Germany struck again four minutes after the restart with Sane before late goals from Muller and Ridle Baku.
Muller then scored his second in the 86th before another own goal by Liechtenstein, this time from Max Goppel.
Greece 0-1 Spain
Sarabia penalty puts qualification in La Roja’s hands.
Spain have World Cup qualification in their own hands going into the final round of games after winning 1-0 in Greece.
Luis Enrique’s side took advantage of a surprise slip from previous Group B leaders Sweden, who lost 2-0 in Georgia earlier on Thursday, to leapfrog them into first place.
Spain had never lost away to Greece in four previous meetings, and a first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia increased that record to four wins and one draw.
They will book their place at Qatar 2022 if they can avoid defeat to Sweden on Sunday in Seville.
The visitors unsurprisingly dominated possession but created little early on against a well-organised Greece.
The home side thought they had taken the lead on 21 minutes as Giorgos Masouras finished well from a Thanasis Androutsos throughball, but the Olympiakos forward was offside.
Just three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty after Inigo Martinez was felled in the box by Dimitris Giannoulis following a corner, and Sarabia sent Odisseas Vlachodimos the wrong way to put ‘La Roja’ ahead.
The hosts needed a win to keep alive any hopes of qualification themselves and started to gamble a little more towards the end of the game, but Spain remained relatively calm as they eased to a vital win in Athens.
Republic of Ireland 0-0 Portugal
Selecao held to set up tantalising Serbia decider in Group A
Portugal travelled to the Republic of Ireland for the first time since 2005 but could only muster a draw against Stephen Kenny’s side.
Portugal were held to a goalless draw by the Republic of Ireland to leave Sunday’s clash with Serbia as the decider for top spot in World Cup qualifying Group A.
Fernando Santos’ men had scored 16 goals during their five-game winning streak across all competitions but could only muster two shots on target during a frustrating outing in Dublin.
Cristiano Ronaldo went the closest, though even the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football could not break the deadlock in Thursday’s clash.
The visitors, who saw Pepe dismissed late on for two bookable offences, and Serbia both sit on 17 points with one game remaining as the latter travel to Lisbon for a winner-takes-all decider.
Andre Silva forced the first save of the contest from Gavin Bazunu before Seamus Coleman’s excellent last-ditch block denied Ronaldo as the visitors dominated the early proceedings.
However, the Republic of Ireland responded well and should have taken the lead on the stroke of half-time but Chiedozie Ogbene could only head over from close range.
Stephen Kenny’s men continued industriously after the interval and almost punished Matheus Nunes’ concentration lapse when Josh Cullen curled into Rui Patricio’s hands.
Ronaldo, who later fired narrowly off target, then nodded wide following Silva’s cross before the hosts saw Enda Stevens whip over from Ogbene’s inviting delivery.
The visitors, who had Pepe dismissed for a second bookable offence after catching Callum Robinson with his hand, managed to hold on for a point despite the hosts thinking they had found a late winner through Matt Doherty, Will Keane’s foul on Patricio cutting short the celebrations.
Brazil 1-0 Colombia
Paqueta nets from Neymar assist, Brazil claim another win
In a close match with few options, Lucas Paquetá scored the winning goal for the Brazilians, who remain leaders and undefeated in the knockout stage.
The star forward has featured only intermittently for his new employers but it has been a different story on the international stage
It says something about the spell-binding appeal of Lionel Messi that even fans of Argentina’s biggest rivals are hoping he takes the field on Friday.
Despite complaints over the cost of tickets for the World Cup qualifier in Montevideo between Uruguay and the Albiceleste, Penarol’s Estadio Campeon del Siglo will likely be packed to the brim when the two sides walk out.
Indeed, no less a figure than Uruguayan FA chief Ignacio Alonso used the Paris Saint-Germain superstar as justification for the rather elevated prices, telling reporters in the build-up to the game: “They are normal for an important match with world-class players, and this could even be Lionel Messi’s last time playing in Uruguay.”
Whether or not Messi would even be available for Friday’s clash had been up in the air all week but it now seems that he will start against the Uruguayans and, if he remains unscathed, also on Tuesday, for Brazil’s visit to San Juan.
That is great news for his adoring public, not just in Argentina but across the entirety of the South American continent, but less so for PSG, who, with some justification, are beginning to feel short-changed.
Messi has made no secret of the fact that leading his national team to the World Cup in a year’s time is his top priority. According to reports he even has that condition written into his PSG contract, in a clause which states that the club must release him for any international game he wishes, regardless of the circumstance.
Since leaving Barcelona in August, the 34-year-old has racked up 450 minutes for Argentina in qualifying (not including that suspended clash against Brazil), compared to just 325 minutes in Ligue 1.
In that same period he netted four goals in international colours, while he is still waiting for his first strike in the French top flight.
Leo has delivered in the Champions League, hitting three times in as many outings as PSG sit on the verge of last-16 qualification, but he was forced to sit out their last clash with a knee injury and Argentina’s subsequent decision to call him up did not amuse anyone at Parc des Princes.
“We don’t agree with letting a player, who isn’t fit to play for us and is in recovery, join up with his national side,” PSG sporting director Leonardo told Le Parisien.
“It doesn’t make sense and this kind of situation needs to be discussed with FIFA.”
It is not a new topic of complaint for the Brazilian, who at the end of October said of Messi: “In these past two months he has spent more time with his national team than here.”
“I have a good relationship with Leonardo, because Walter [Samuel] was his team-mate and spoke to him recently,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni pointed out to reporters when asked of a possible rift with PSG this week.
“Their thing is understandable, because of what’s going on with the FIFA dates and the Copa America, for clubs there are a lot of trips with the national team and that is what is being discussed with FIFA.
“It is totally understandable from PSG, due to their calendar. But there is also no doubt that we are right to call him up and, if available, play him.”
For years clubs have enjoyed dominance over their international counterparts, withdrawing players at the slightest hint of injury and making clear that, as the ones who pay their wages, the clubs should enjoy a privileged position.
Messi thinks otherwise. At this point in his career he has nothing left to prove at club level, whereas the World Cup still looms as his white whale, the prize that has remained just out of reach.
Perhaps just as importantly, he seems happiest when around his Argentina colleagues, forming a stunning rapport with new faces like midfield general Rodrigo de Paul, which seems to have restored his love for the game.
Nobody, furthermore, can accuse the legendary No.10 of not deserving the odd break. In 2020-21, he played exactly 60 games between club and country – completing the 90 minutes in all but three – including that scintillating Copa America campaign, in which he played every single minute for his country.
That would be a heavy workload for any player, let alone a man who is looked to constantly as a match-winner, treated as such by opposing defenders and fouled more often than almost any other footballer on the planet.
That takes a huge physical toll, and yet year upon year Messi has continued to push himself to incredible extremes that defy all logic.
Now, it seems, it is time to take a breather. With 11 wins in 13 games and a 10-point lead PSG are not exactly missing his talents in Ligue 1, and even if he just uses the domestic game to keep sharp, Mauricio Pochettino’s men should by all rights win the title at a canter.
That leaves the Champions League and World Cup as the two crowns the Argentine must really work for, freed of the gruelling need to dig Barcelona out of a hole every week.
He should be in better shape than ever, both physically and psychologically, to do just that.
Seeing a player pick country over club might take some getting used to for PSG, then, but if they can accommodate their star and keep him content with this more limited, well-rested role then both they and Argentina are perfectly placed to reap the benefits, making everyone a winner.