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Injury updates: De Bruyne returns, Keita out, Barkley struggling

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Ahead of the Premier League returning this weekend after the international break there is plenty of team news to catch up on.

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Kevin De Bruyne is back fit and available to play for Manchester City after injuring his knee back in August, with Pep Guardiola confirming he is ready for selection against Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

The Belgium star was said to be out until the end of November but he is back fully-fit way ahead of schedule.

“I don’t know if he is able to play 90 minutes. He’s trained well last two weeks,” Guardiola confirmed. “He’s such an important player for us. Whenever a player is out, I like it when they come back – we will be stronger.”

So, good news for league leaders and reigning champs Man City.

Not such great news for Chelsea or Liverpool, though.

Ross Barkley, who has been in fine form for Chelsea and England so far this season, has picked up a knock during the international break. Sarri confirmed that Barkley’s issue is a small problem and he will likely be out for a few days, which could mean he misses the clash against Manchester United (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) on Saturday.

“As usual after the national teams we have some problems” Sarri said. “The most serious is with Ethan Ampadu. We have a little problem with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ross Barkley, which are less serious. Antonio Rudiger has done better in the last two days, like Mateo Kovacic. I think they will be able to play.”

Chelsea’s midfield trio of N'Golo Kante, Barkley and Jorginho have been superb this season with a great balance of defensive and attacking play. That said, having the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Cesc Fabregas to step in isn’t bad at all…

As for Liverpool, their injury situation over the international break has been well documented with Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita all picking up knocks.

Keita will not be available to play against Huddersfield Town on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC online via NBCSports.com) after picking up a hamstring injury.

“We had a session yesterday and a few trained. We’ll have to see how they react, but Naby Keita will not be available for Huddersfield,” Klopp said.

With James Milner battling back early from a hamstring injury he picked up against Manchester City before the break, Liverpool will have plenty of options in midfield. If Mane or Salah aren’t risked either, then Klopp does have the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri waiting in the wings. The next few weeks will test Liverpool’s squad depth.

Mbappe sparks rally in France’s draw with Iceland

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GUINGAMP, France (AP) Kylian Mbappe saved world champion France’s blushes by creating one goal and scoring a late equalizer in the space of five minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw against Iceland in a friendly on Thursday.

Iceland was 2-0 up with five minutes left at the Roudourou stadium in Brittany and looked set to hand France its first loss since winning the World Cup in July.

But Mbappe, who went on as a substitute for the last half an hour, was the home team’s savior.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward helped to pull a goal back when he fired in from a tight angle and the ball took a deflection off Holmar Eyjolfsson to go in for an own goal in the 85th minute.

Mbappe then levelled with a penalty awarded for handball five minutes later.

“We reacted well after a bad start against a well organized team,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “It’s good for Kylian, he brought his speed to us.”

Deschamps rested several regulars to keep them fit ahead of next week’s UEFA Nations League against Germany at the Stade de France.

Without Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante, France were lacking in midfield, while Olivier Giroud was subdued up front.

Mbappe was meant to start the game but a minor thigh injury prompted Deschamps to leave him on the bench, allowing Giroud to partner Antoine Griezmann.

France lacked a cutting edge in the first half despite monopolizing possession.

Unmarked on the edge of the area, Paul Pogba fluffed a shot in the 17th minute. Griezmann also headed a cross from Lucas Digne just wide and Florian Thauvin fired a shot over from Ousmane Dembele’s precise pass.

France was made to pay when Presnel Kimpembe was dispossessed near the corner flag by Alfred Finnbogason and went down holding his ankle.

The Iceland forward carried on and sent a low cross to Birkir Bjarnasson, who beat keeper Hugo Lloris with a low shot to claim his 10th international goal in the 31st minute.

France should have gone two down but Lloris made a superb triple stop in the 37th minute.

The hosts pushed hard for an equalizer and almost got it in the 54th minute when Griezmann forced keeper Runar Runarsson to stretch and save a header that looked bound for the top corner.

France was then caught cold from a corner in the 58th as Kari Arnason lost his marker at the near post and doubled Iceland’s lead with a looping header that went in off the bar.

Mbappe had the last word, though, setting up the first France strike before bagging his 10th goal in 25 internationals.

Ballon d’Or: The Case for Messi

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The Ballon d’Or… could it really not wind up in the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

Mohamed Salah is polling very well in the fan vote.

Paul Pogba says he’s not deserving, but give it to N'Golo Kante, Raphael Varane, Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann.

And Griezmann thinks it has to be a Frenchman, saying, “In this best team in the World, there must be the best player in the world, right? … But I think that a Frenchman must be Ballon d’Or.”

Then there’s Luka Modric, who won FIFA’s Best Player award.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

This year has seen more talk of a winner not named Messi or Ronaldo since 2010, when Messi pipped Andres Iniesta to the honor, or 2007 when Kaka finished ahead of the pair.

In fact, those are the only two years since 2007 that Messi and Ronaldo didn’t finish 1-2 in some order, with each claiming five Ballons d’Or.

Our esteemed editor, Joe Prince-Wright, has Ronaldo three and Messi four this year, behind World Cup winner Mbappe and World Cup finalist Modric.

And I get that, really I do. But is there any doubt that Messi and Ronaldo remain the two best players in the world? And is there a really an argument that any player had a better season that either one?

Let’s go strictly cosmetic stats to start to separate the goal producers, which leaves Kante, Modric, and others for another discussion.

Outstanding seasons, no doubt. Ronaldo still managed better than a goal-per-game while helping Real Madrid the first Champions League threepeat since the 1970s. Salah was the best part of the most scintillating non-possession based attack in the world. Griezmann and Messi’s numbers speak for themselves, while Mbappe — sorry Joe — for me sits a clear fifth.

For me, it’s 1) Messi, 2) Griezmann, 3) Ronaldo, 4) Salah, 5) Mbappe

For non-scorers, it’s 1) Kante, 2) Modric, 3) Kevin De Bruyne

Yes, we made it this far without mentioning KDB, or Eden Hazard, or Harry Kane!

This is most certainly the dawn of the post-Messi/Ronaldo era, but I don’t see the 10-year run atop the list ending this season.

Why? Because I cannot fathom a world in which the majority of voters don’t eyeball the game, take the smell test, and say two words.

Lionel Messi.

Spending some time comparing my Top Four attackers on advanced stats site Squawka buttresses the gut feeling. While Salah was better than Messi in the Champions League — the road perhaps a bit easier — Messi was far superior to the field in league play.

Messi rates better in possession and defensive statistics, but here’s what I’d ask you to consider in assessing last season. Your favorite club earns a massive win against Barcelona, Liverpool, Real, Atleti, or PSG. Insert each players’ name, and which one feels more of an indictment on your win:

“Yeah, but (insert player here) didn’t play.”

EPILOGUE: For what it’s worth, there’s a huge sentimental part of me that says Griezmann’s continued stardom on an understated Atleti or Kante’s game-changing performance in three different champion midfields (Chelsea, Leicester City, France) should lift the trophy. But it’s going to go to one of the more prolific scorers… and that means Messi.

Ranking the 30 Ballon d’Or nominees

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Which player deserved to be named the best in the world and win the 2018 Ballon d’Or?

[ MORE: Pulisic up for prestigious award ]

France Football released its 30-man shortlist for their award which salutes the top player on the planet each year. FIFA’s The Best award has become a contender for the Ballon d’Or, but this is still the top individual award that the elite want to win.

Cristiano Ronaldo has won five, so too has Lionel Messi as they hold the record for the most Ballon d’Or’s won by a single player.

But it seems that in 2018 their decade of dominance (either Ronaldo or Messi has won the award each year since 2008) will end and there will be a new player lifting the glorious golden trophy. And to imagine the likes of David De Gea, David Silva and Roberto Lewandowski didn’t even make the shortlist.

Below we have a go at ranking the 30 nominees on the shortlist, as Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is already absolutely crushing the fans’ vote on the website, with Messi in second.

You can vote online here for the award which is dished out in December, and here’s how we think the top 30 players in the world stack up based on their form in 2018.


1. Kylian Mbappe
2. Luka Modric
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
4. Lionel Messi
5. Antoine Griezmann
6. Mohamed Salah
7. Neymar
8. Eden Hazard
9. Kevin De Bruyne
10. N'Golo Kante
11. Raphael Varane
12. Harry Kane
13. Sergio Ramos
14. Luis Suarez
15. Ivan Rakitic
16. Sergio Aguero
17. Marcelo
18. Paul Pogba
19. Thibaut Courtois
20. Sadio Mane
21. Diego Godin
22. Isco
23. Edinson Cavani
24. Alisson
25. Mario Mandzukic
26. Hugo Lloris
27. Roberto Firmino
28. Gareth Bale
29. Karim Benzema
30. Jan Oblak

Nominees for Ballon d’Or released

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The nominees for the Ballon d’Or have been announced in a staggered format and 11 of the 30 players shortlisted play in the Premier League.

[ MORE: 3 things on Liverpool-Man City ]

Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard all have a chance of winning the most prestigious individual award in the game.

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez. Luka Modric, Jan Oblak, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, Kylian Mbappe, Thibaut Courtois, Mario Mandzukic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Antoine Griezmann have also been shortlisted, with the full list of 30 announced throughout Monday (in batches of five) by France Football.

Current Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo is aiming to win the award for a sixth time, while Messi (another five-time winner) will no doubt also be among the contenders but the likes of Griezmann, Mbappe and Modric will be the favorites.

With regards to the confirmed contenders for the award this year, over the past 12 months Aguero has become Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer and has also moved into the top 10 of the PL’s all-time goalscorers. His City teammate, De Bruyne, was pipped by Mohamed Salah to all of the top individual awards last season despite leading City to their record-breaking title.

Liverpool’s Firmino gets the nod after his 27-goal season for the Reds which saw him become a regular with the Brazilian national team, while his teammate for club and country, Alisson, is also honored for his fine displays for AS Roma at at the World Cup. Mane is also included in the shortlist, while Chelsea stars Hazard and Kante are in and Tottenham’s main man Kane is up for the award after his heroics for Spurs and England, along with Lloris.

Real Madrid had an incredible eight players shortlisted, with Ramos, Marcelo, Isco, Varane, Benzema, Modric and Bale winning the UEFA Champions League for a third-straight season, with the latter scoring twice in the final including an amazing overhead kick. Modric is among the favorites after his heroics leading Croatia to the World Cup final and already winning FIFA’s The Best award as the top player on the planet.

Barcelona had three players included, with Messi joined by Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic.

PSG’s Neymar got the nod despite his injury hit season, while Cavani’s goals led PSG to another Ligue 1 title and he also starred for Uruguay in the World Cup before getting injured. Godin was at the heart of a fine campaign for Atletico Madrid and Uruguay and his Atleti teammates Oblak and Griezmann were also included, as the latter needs no introduction after he helped France to World Cup glory. Thibaut Courtois also had a fine World Cup with the Belgium star named the best goalkeeper on the planet as sealed a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid.

Below is a list of the top 30 players on the planet.


Nominees for Ballon d’Or

Sergio Aguero (ARG / Manchester City)
Alisson (BRA / Liverpool)
Gareth Bale (WAL / Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (FRA / Real Madrid)
Edinson Cavani (URU / PSG)
Thibaut Courtois (BEL / Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (POR / Juventus)
Kevin De Bruyne (BEL / Manchester City)
Roberto Firmino (BRA / Liverpool)
Diego Godin (URU / Atletico Madrid)
Antoine Griezmann (FRA / Atletico Madrid)
Eden Hazard (BEL / Chelsea)
Isco (ESP / Real Madrid)
Harry Kane (ENG / Tottenham)
N’Golo Kante (FRA / Chelsea)
Marcelo (BRA / Real Madrid)
Kylian Mbappe (FRA / PSG)
Hugo Lloris (FRA / Tottenham)
Mario Mandzukic (CRO / Juventus)
Sadio Mane (SEN / Liverpool)
Paul Pogba (FRA / Manchester United)
Neymar (BRA / PSG)
Lionel Messi (ARG / Barcelona)
Luka Modric (CRO / Real Madrid)
Jan Oblak (SVK / Atletico Madrid)
Sergio Ramos (SPA / Real Madrid)
Ivan Rakitic (CROA / Barcelona)
Mohamed Salah (EGY / Liverpool)
Raphael Varane (FRA / Real Madrid)
Luis Suarez (URU / Barcelona)