Eden Hazard vowed Real Madrid will fight to the end in their pursuit of honours this season and was delighted to be back out on the pitch in the frustrating 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.

The Belgium forward managed 70 minutes on his first outing since November due to an ankle injury.

Madrid appeared to be headed for three points after Fedor Smolov's opener was cancelled out by Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos.

But Santi Mina earned Celta a share of the spoils in the closing stages to leave Madrid just one point clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

For Hazard, it was a great feeling to be back playing even if the result was disappointing.

"I felt good," Hazard said in quotes reported by Marca. "The first 10 minutes I was tired, but as the minutes went by I felt fine. I'm happy with my performance, but not with the result.

"I hope we'll improve in the next few games. When a team is winning 2-1 you try to see out [the match], but it wasn't to be.

"There's still a lot of games left and we're going to fight it out until the end."

Madrid's goal return of 46 this season is 11 fewer than title rivals Barca, who Los Blancos meet in El Clasico on March 1.

Hazard does not believe Madrid have an issue in front of goal, though.

"I don't think [we're lacking goals]; we had chances and deserved to score more goals," he added.

"We're working well and we're going to win a lot of games together; it's going to be good for us."

Zinedine Zidane moved to defend Marcelo and Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's "painful" 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo.

Marcelo was a surprise starter ahead of Ferland Mendy for Sunday's contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Santi Mina earned the visitors an 85th-minute equaliser after Toni Kroos' strike and a Sergio Ramos penalty had cancelled out Fedor Smolov's opener.

The Brazil full-back, a mainstay of Madrid's line-up for over a decade, has faced criticism at times this season, particularly over his performances defensively, but head coach Zidane had no issues with Marcelo's showing.

"I don't think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats," Zidane said.

"I'm happy with everyone for how they play and when they play."

Bale was mainly ineffective having been selected to start in a front three alongside Karim Benzema and the returning Eden Hazard.

Zidane, though, said the focus is on how the team as a collective can improve after they missed the chance to win a sixth straight LaLiga match.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane added.

On how he felt after conceding the late equaliser, the Frenchman said: "Painful to be brutally honest. I thought the team gave a very big effort to try to win the game. 

"After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it's not very good. 

"But I'm very pleased with my team, it wasn't easy for us. A first half where we conceded a goal after six minutes and then they closed themselves at the back, very defensively solid.

"The gap in the first half, we were trying to cross the ball too much, but in the second half we did it much better."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Belgium forward Hazard, who has been absent since November with an ankle injury.

Zidane was encouraged by what he saw from the former Chelsea star.

"I'm very happy to have him back and with the 70 minutes he played," Zidane said. 

"I think we know the player he is, and after three months out it wouldn't be easy for him to come back in and play a great game, but I'm very happy with his game and to have him back."

Pep Guardiola's future at Manchester City continues to dominate discussions – and it seemingly still remains unclear.

Talk around the Spaniard has intensified after City were handed a two-season Champions League ban by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play rules, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

But will Guardiola, who is contracted at the Etihad Stadium until 2021, stay or go?

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA TO STAY AT MAN CITY DESPITE BAN

Guardiola will remain at City next season whether they have their ban overturned or not, according to the Mirror.

However, Tuttosport reports the chances of the former Barcelona head coach leaving City are "70 per cent".

Guardiola has reportedly suggested previously he intends to honour his contract at City.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are making their move for Jadon Sancho. France Football reports the Premier League club have started talks with the Borussia Dortmund star, who has attracted interest from numerous European giants, including Manchester United.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are set to pay £23million (€27.7m) for Inter midfielder Matias Vecino at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

- After strong links during the close season, Bayern Munich's interest in Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane has cooled, according to Kicker. Sane tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August.

- Staying at Bayern and Kicker reports the Bundesliga giants are keeping tabs on Liverpool's interest in RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner. Werner has been linked with the European giants after scoring 20 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this season.

- Alexander Isak's form for Real Sociedad this season is leading to interest, but Mundo Deportivo reports clubs wanting the forward at the end of the campaign must pay €70m. Former club Borussia Dortmund reportedly have an option to buy Isak for €30m, but that only comes into play in 2021.

- Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu has impressed this season and the 20-year-old is on Atletico Madrid's radar, according to Marca.

Dani Osvaldo played his first match in four years as the former Inter and Roma striker came out of retirement for Argentine side Banfield.

Ex-Italy international Osvaldo last played for powerhouse Boca Juniors before quitting football in 2016 to pursue his passion for music.

Osvaldo, however, traded his guitar for football boots in January and the 34-year-old made his stunning return on Sunday.

The veteran – who was released by Boca for reportedly smoking a cigarette in the dressing room – came off the bench with 16 minutes remaining as visiting Banfield lost 1-0 to River Plate in Buenos Aires, where he was whistled and jeered.

Osvaldo almost capped his remarkable comeback with a goal – an audacious long-range chip leaving River goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling as the ball sailed just over the crossbar.

"I am very happy, in Banfield they treat me very well and make me feel important," Osvaldo said post-match.

"Physically I felt good. I really wanted to play again, I'm happy for that."

Banfield are 16th in the 24-team Superliga, nine points outside of the Copa Libertadores places and 17 adrift of leaders River.

Raheem Sterling is focused on Manchester City, according to his agent, amid reports linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

Speculation over the futures of several City players has intensified in the wake of the two-season Champions League ban handed to the club by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

Sterling, who is contracted at City until 2023, is reportedly a target for LaLiga giants Madrid.

But the 25-year-old forward's agent, Aidy Ward, said Sterling's focus was on the Premier League club.

"Raheem is solely focused on Manchester City and will not be distracted by any talk of transfers to any club at the moment," he told the Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Sterling, who arrived at City from Liverpool in 2015, has scored 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season but is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Real Madrid and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez is eager to play for Inter, insisted club CEO Giuseppe Marotta.

Martinez continues to be linked with a move away from Serie A side Inter – LaLiga giants Madrid and Barca as well as Manchester United and Manchester City reportedly interested.

LaLiga holders Barca have been linked to Martinez as they eye a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez.

Marotta was asked about Martinez prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to Scudetto rivals Lazio in Rome.

"Lautaro is improving, he is a very young lad who I think is above all eager to wear this glorious jersey and grow professionally," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"As I always say, players only leave Inter when they point towards that exit."

Martinez has taken centre stage alongside Romelu Lukaku since Mauro Icardi's initial loan move to French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season.

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals across all competitions for Inter, who are third and three points behind leaders Juventus in Serie A.

Argentina international Martinez has netted 25 goals in total since arriving from Racing Club in 2018.

Antonio Conte said Scudetto challengers Inter gifted two goals to Lazio and were "scared" in the second half of their 2-1 Serie A loss on Sunday.

Inter's half-time lead was erased as Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic completed a comeback for Lazio, who leapfrogged the Nerazzurri into second position.

Conte's side started the weekend ahead of defending champions Juventus on goal difference but by the end of their trip to Rome, Inter were three points off the pace in the race for the Scudetto.

After the blockbuster showdown in the Italian capital, Inter head coach Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "I think it was a good performance, it's the result I didn't like and the way we conceded the two goals, as we gifted them to Lazio.

"We were not impeccable, but inevitably in these big games, the details become decisive and the margin of error becomes reduced. It's part of a growth process, there was some naivete and these lads must try to be more relaxed in these situations.

"We were too soft on the two goals. We had other situations this season where we had taken the lead and threw points away, for example also Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund [in the Champions League], games we had in our grasp and ended up losing.

"As I said, this is a growth process and we have to go through it so that we can face every situation the right way. Straight after the restart, it was as if we were scared. That has to improve.

"The lads worked hard and I thank them for that. We are trying to irritate the teams at the top, it was a 'head-to-head' with Lazio and we ought to be proud to have been in this situation in the first place. At the same time, we must improve if we are to continue causing problems up there."

Ashley Young had given Inter the lead on the stroke of half-time – the former Manchester United captain and full-back becoming the first English scorer for the Nerazzurri in Serie A since Paul Ince in 1997.

Young has impressed since arriving from Old Trafford in January and the veteran said: "We've got a lot of games coming up, we've got to dust ourselves off pretty quick and get ready for the next game.

"Of course we're still in it [title race], there are plenty of games, plenty of points up for grabs and I'm sure we'll get back to winning ways."

Porto striker Moussa Marega walked off after suffering alleged racist abuse at Vitoria Guimaraes and he hit out at their fans and the match officials.

Marega celebrated his 60th-minute goal, which put Porto 2-1 up at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques on Sunday, by pointing to his skin and was subsequently booked by referee Luis Godinho.

Objects were thrown in the direction of the Mali international, who made the decision to leave the pitch 10 minutes later.

Marega's team-mates tried to encourage him to stay on, but he was eventually helped down the tunnel and displayed his middle fingers to the supporters.

After the match, he posted on Instagram: "I would just like say to these idiots who come to the stadium to make racist chants … go f*** yourselves.

"And I also thank the referees for not defending me and for giving me a yellow card because I defend my skin colour.

"I hope I never meet you on a football pitch again! YOU ARE A DISGRACE!!!"

Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said former Vitoria player Marega had been targeted from the warm-up and the club were "indignant" with what occurred.

Vitoria president Miguel Pinto Lisboa condemned the alleged abuse but suggested the 28-year-old did not help himself with his actions.

"At Vitoria we have players of all colours, races and creeds. We promote gender and race quality in sport and do not engage in behaviours that may harm that," he said.

"If any Vitoria supporter behaved this way we will take appropriate action, but it seems to me there were also provocative actions intended to stoke the fire.

"The player's attitude was visible on the television cameras."

Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) president Fernando Gomes said in a statement: "Racist behaviour is intolerable in an open and evolved society.

"The perpetrators of racist insults must be identified and brought to justice. The Portuguese Football Federation repudiates racist behaviour, wherever it comes from and wherever it occurs.

"On Sunday, Moussa Marega was the target of racist insults that cannot fail to be severely punished, in a serious and condemnable incident.

"The Portuguese Football Federation expresses its solidarity with Moussa Marega. As the FPF president I assure you I will continue to do everything so that fans who do not respect football are definitively outside the stadium. This is an urgent fight for the whole society."

Eden Hazard made his return from a three-month injury lay-off in Real Madrid's 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, with Thibaut Courtois confident the forward will be key for Zinedine Zidane's side.

An ankle injury sidelined Hazard in late November, but he made his comeback on Sunday, winning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Madrid 2-1 up in the second half.

Madrid's run of five straight LaLiga wins was ended by Santi Mina's 85th-minute leveller, though, to ensure they only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

However, the return of Hazard, who has scored just once in nine league games since joining from Chelsea ahead of this season, was seen as an encouraging development for his compatriot Courtois.

"Little by little he will catch up again after three months," Courtois, who also played alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge, told Movistar.

"He is a player that is worth a lot to us."

Madrid surprisingly fell behind against Celta after Fedor Smolov scored his first goal for the club in the seventh minute.

The home side failed to muster a shot on target across the opening 45 minutes, but Toni Kroos' sixth goal against Celta – he only has 14 overall in LaLiga - levelled matters and Hazard then won a penalty that Ramos scored.

Yet more poor defending allowed substitute Denis Suarez to find fellow replacement Mina as Celta dramatically claimed a share of the spoils.

Asked about his emotions, Courtois replied: "Angry because we conceded a [second] goal.

"It was a difficult game because they started by scoring a goal early on. They defended well with 11 men and then I made a good save to keep the score at 0-1.

"Then in the second half, we scored two fast goals but in the end we've lost two points that are worth a lot at home.

"We defended well but Denis made a good turn and made space for Santi Mina, who put the ball away well.

"It's two points lost and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth."

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic sees no reason why Lazio should not battle Juventus and Inter for Scudetto honours after moving within a point of top spot in Serie A.

Milinkovic-Savic scored the match-winning goal as in-form Lazio rallied past title hopefuls Inter 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Ashley Young's first Inter goal was cancelled out by a Ciro Immobile penalty before Milinkovic-Savic's neat finish with 21 minutes remaining settled an absorbing contest in Rome.

Lazio leapfrogged Inter into second position behind eight-time defending champions Juventus as the Biancocelesti extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to a club-record 19 games – dating back to September.

"I scored, but the whole team got this victory. It's true what we said a few days ago, we are a family and we want to continue like this," Milinkovic-Savic told Sky Sport Italia.

"Inter didn't play a great first half and we created more chances, but they scored. So we went into the dressing room, said this has to be our game and we came back out with the same attitude, as if it was 0-0.

"What we feel obliged to achieve is a Champions League place, but if we are up there towards the end, then why not go for the Scudetto?

"Inter won't give up because we won tonight, we won't give up no matter what happens in future, then we'll just see how things pan out."

Lazio – Coppa Italia winners last season – have not won the Scudetto since Sven-Goran Eriksson led the capital club to glory in 2000.

Real Madrid's most memorable attacking moment during the first half of their title-race twisting 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo was Sergio Ramos launching into one of his driving runs in search of a goal, only to volley the ball into his own face when it arrived.

This botched attack had a claim beyond slapstick, given Zinedine Zidane's LaLiga leaders failed to muster a single shot on target before the break.

Indeed, there was nothing remotely as incisive from an forward line featuring Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale as the move Celta produced for their seventh-minute opener – Iago Aspas shifting smoothly into a pocket of space in front of a ramshackle Madrid defence and threading a perfect pass for Fedor Smolov to coolly slot home.

Hazard was making his first appearance since suffering a fractured ankle in November and, shortly after Ramos' party piece, showed signs of starting to shift through the gears.

In the 40th minute, Karim Benzema pulled out to the left channel and Hazard scampered around the outside, pulling the ball back from the byline for the on-rushing Bale to fire narrowly over.

It was link-up play to cheer Zidane as he tries to get his returning attackers up to speed ahead of the Champions League showdown against Manchester City later this month.

On this evidence, however, Hazard and Bale are playing for one spot. The ever-dependable Benzema is a guaranteed starter, fitness permitting, and Los Blancos missed the benched Vinicius Jr's dynamism for much of Sunday's contest.

Having set themselves a low bar in the first-half, Madrid improved considerably during the second period and hit the front thanks to a couple of sure things.

Toni Kroos' midfield scheming is not annotated with goals too frequently, but he dispatched Marcelo's pass to score for the sixth time against Celta. He has 14 LaLiga goals overall since joining Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014.

Ramos is, by comparison, somewhat more prolific from centre-back. A smart finish from an offside position showed his radar to be back in order following the earlier mishap and there was little doubt about the outcome when he stepped up for a 65th-minute penalty.

Ruben Blanco erred badly when Benzema and Hazard repeated their first-half link, with the Celta goalkeeper darting from his ground to needlessly bring the Belgium star down.

Blanco guessed correctly but Ramos' sprung from his staggered run-up to dispatch an unerring strike.

Hazard made way for Vinicius in the 73rd minute and enjoyed a warm ovation from the Bernabeu faithful – the sort of reception that sadly only seems to exist in the past tense for Bale nowadays.

As for the other grizzled survivors of Zidane's three consecutive Champions League final triumphs from 2016 through to 2018, they remain his dependables.

They will be asked to go to the well once more the next time Madrid emerge at their famous home ground, faced with a formidable but flawed City in a competition they know like the back of their hand.

It would be a brave person who backs against them but the sight of Celta producing a sting in the tail suggested the years could be taking a toll.

Substitutes Denis Suarez and Santi Mina combined as Aspas and Smolov had before for the latter to score – the lines of communication between Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane in the backline again appearing unhelpfully clogged.

The lead at the top of LaLiga from Barcelona was only a point at full-time, a situation roughly as comfortable as booting a football into your own face.

Of course, Ramos tumbled theatrically in stoppage time to try and win another penalty and Madrid will strain and scrap for everything until the end of the season. With 46 goals from 24 LaLiga games, don't expect them to blow too many teams away either. The Galactico grind is on.

Lionel Messi cannot diminish his reputation by leaving Barcelona because "he is the history" of the club, according to two-time World Cup winner Cafu.

Former Milan and Roma star Cafu, who is Brazil's most-capped player of all-time, says Messi "will always be Messi", regardless of which club he represents.

Speculation surrounding Messi's Barcelona future has intensified in recent weeks, amid suspicions he might consider a late-career move.

Messi reacted angrily to comments from Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal, who questioned the commitment of players during Ernesto Valverde's reign at Camp Nou.

The situation appears to have been defused for now, and Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni recently said he has no concerns about the future of his international captain.

Messi, 32, is a six-time Ballon d'Or winner and there could be a scramble among the world's richest clubs for his services if he decided he wished to seek another challenge.

Cafu admits he does not know what choice Messi will make.

"Nobody knows. It is difficult to say whether Messi will continue at Barcelona or if he will change teams," the former Champions League winner told Omnisport.

"Messi today is the man of Barcelona, he is the history of Barcelona. But if by his choice he decides to change the team, he will always be Messi and we will always be rooting for him."

Messi is Barcelona's record scorer, having netted over 650 times for the Spanish giants - more than twice as many goals as any other player.

He has racked up scores of individual records and accolades during a dazzling professional career, which has been spent in its entirety with Barcelona.

Cafu was speaking in Berlin ahead of Monday's Laureus World Sports Awards, at which Messi is a nominee for the Sportsman of the Year prize.

"If Messi was named Sportsman of the Year it is because he deserved it all year through football," said Cafu. "Playing ball, bringing joy, having fun and making Barcelona bigger and bigger."

Cafu savours his own role as a member of the award voting panel and academy at Laureus, which aims to improve the lives of young people around the world, saying: "It is an honour to be part of an institution as serious as Laureus."

Substitute Santi Mina's 85th-minute equaliser denied leaders Real Madrid a sixth successive LaLiga victory as Celta Vigo left the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-2 draw.

Los Blancos were stunned by Fedor Smolov's first goal for Celta in the seventh minute and the home side failed to register a single shot on target in the opening half.

However, they turned the game on its head within 13 minutes, Toni Kroos scoring again against Celta before Sergio Ramos slotted home a penalty after the returning Eden Hazard had been fouled.

Mina's late leveller meant Zinedine Zidane's men only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona, though, as their winning run came to an end.

 

 

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic completed a second-half turnaround as Lazio secured what could be a crucial win in the Serie A title race by beating Inter 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Lazio fell behind to Ashley Young's first goal since joining Inter in January but rallied after the restart to hand Antonio Conte's side, who went into this weekend top of the table, their first top-flight defeat in 17 matches.

Inter centre-back Stefan de Vrij, whistled incessantly by fans of his former club, was deemed to have fouled Ciro Immobile in the box and the prolific striker made no mistake from the spot five minutes into the second period.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic gave Lazio the lead with 21 minutes remaining and the hosts held on to move up to second, two points ahead of Inter and one behind leaders Juventus.

Lazio were without Milinkovic-Savic in their 1-0 win over Parma last weekend due to suspension and the Serbia international almost made a significant impact within nine minutes of his return, producing a venomous 20-yard drive that hit the crossbar.

Inter's best moments came on the break and after Thomas Strakosha blocked Antonio Candreva's swerving effort Young volleyed the follow-up into the top-left corner in the 44th minute.

Lazio were level five minutes after the restart. Milan Skriniar intercepted Luis Alberto's pass but looped it over Daniele Padelli, who fell over him, and De Vrij was penalised for a push on Immobile, who slotted home the resulting penalty.

Young was disappointed not to be awarded a spot-kick when he went down under a challenge from Luiz Felipe and Inter fell behind in the 69th minute.

Marcelo Brozovic did well to block Adam Marusic's shot on the line but Milinkovic-Savic picked out the bottom-left corner with the next attempt.

Lautaro Martinez headed in a Young cross from an offside position as Inter pushed for an equaliser, while Immobile was denied a brilliant second by Padelli as Simone Inzaghi's side extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 19 matches.

 

What does it mean? Lazio are serious challengers

Two draws in their previous four matches had seen Lazio fail to take full advantage of slip-ups from fellow title challengers Inter and Juve.

This win ensured they remain thoroughly in contention, and while Inter and Juve have European and Coppa Italia commitments in their schedule, Lazio can focus all their attention on winning a first Scudetto since 2000.

Unstoppable Immobile

Immobile was in danger of failing to score in three straight Serie A games for the first time this season but by firing home from the penalty spot he took his tally for the campaign to 26.

De Vrij slips up

His first touch – and every subsequent one – was met with a chorus of boos and, after a decent first half, the former Lazio player gave away the penalty that the hosts equalised from.

What's next?

Inter head to Bulgaria for the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Ludogorets on Thursday and entertain Sampdoria three days later. Lazio travel to Genoa next Sunday.

Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao said the club would rally around forward Moussa Marega after he was racially abused by Vitoria Guimaraes supporters during Sunday's 2-1 victory.

Marega, a former Vitoria player, scored Porto's winning goal on the hour at Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques but attempted to leave the pitch after receiving abuse from the stands.

The 28-year-old Mali international was prevented from doing so by Porto team-mates and Vitoria players before eventually being substituted by Conceicao, who described the incident as "unfortunate".

Marega scored 13 goals in 25 Primeira Liga matches during a season-long loan spell at Vitoria in 2016-17 prior to returning to Porto, where he became a league winner the following season.

"We are a family regardless of nationality, skin colour, hair colour," Conceicao told reporters. 

"We are human, we deserve respect. What happened here is unfortunate.

"We are completely indignant with what happened.

"I know the passion that exists for Vitoria and I think that most of the fans do not see themselves in the attitude of some people who insulted Moussa since the warm-up."

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