Alvaro Morata is fit to feature in Atletico Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Valencia on Friday, Diego Simeone has confirmed.

An unspecified muscle injury in Morata's right leg forced him off early in the second half of the 1-0 defeat to his former club Real Madrid on February 1.

With Diego Costa and Joao Felix already out, Simeone had to start Saturday's 1-0 victory over Granada with Angel Correa and Vitolo in attack.

Despite confirming Morata will form part of his team for Atletico's trip to face Valencia at Mestalla on Friday - "Yes, he will be in the game tomorrow" - Simeone was unwilling to respond substantially to a follow-up question.

That concerned whether the 27-year-old Morata and fellow former Chelsea striker Diego Costa will be available for the first leg of Atletico's Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool next Tuesday.

"I'm not looking at Tuesday's game [against Liverpool], all our energy and thoughts are focused on Valencia. After that, we'll look to our next match," said Simeone.

Atletico sit fourth in LaLiga, two points ahead of Valencia, and Simeone is wary of the threat posed by Albert Celades' team.

"It's a very important match because it's the one coming next," said Simeone. "Valencia at home are very strong with their fans behind them.

"They have important players and we must think about how we can hurt them in such a difficult fixture.

"We need to win, because this generates momentum and gives a positive feeling.

"Furthermore, it helps you keep improving."

Jadon Sancho is a player in demand.

The former Manchester City youth player is a man in demand due to exploits with Borussia Dortmund.

The Premier League's elite are circling…

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL WANT SANCHO AMID UNITED LINKS

Liverpool want to sign Borussia Dortmund star and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Mail.

United are reportedly confident of luring the 19-year-old England international to Old Trafford, ahead of Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, a fresh report claims Premier League leaders Liverpool have joined the race for the teenager as Jurgen Klopp hopes to take advantage of the relationship with former club Dortmund. Sky Germany also says Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are preparing to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, reports El Confidencial. Neymar, who left Barca for a world-record €222m fee in 2017, has been heavily linked with a return to Camp Nou. After missing out on an off-season move, Neymar could be on his way back to the LaLiga giants – who are reportedly willing to sell one or two players to finance the blockbuster transfer.

- According to The Sun, Chelsea are battling United for the signature of 16-year-old Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham, who could cost up to £50million. The teenager has also attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

- United recruit Odion Ighalo has been barred from the club's training ground due to ongoing coronavirus precautions, says The Mirror. Ighalo arrived from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, moving to United on loan until the end of the season. The Nigeria international, however, has not been allowed to train at Carrington.

Barca have ruled out signing Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose, reports Marca. With Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez sidelined, Barca are set to receive permission to sign an emergency forward within Spain. Real Betis' Loren Moron now reportedly tops the list of targets.

- Sandro Tonali has been valued at €55m and €60m by Brescia amid interest from Serie A champions Juventus and Inter, according to Calciomercato.

- Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich are eyeing Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka, reports the Daily Mail.

- AS claims Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu is at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war between Madrid, United and Atletico Madrid.

Dani Ceballos believes he would have risked becoming an Anfield misfit if he had chosen to join Liverpool rather than Arsenal.

The Spain midfielder swapped Real Madrid for the Gunners in a season-long loan deal last July, but only after weighing up the idea of playing for Jurgen Klopp's Champions League winners.

Ceballos reached the conclusion that his style of play would not have been the ideal fit at Liverpool, accepting Unai Emery's invitation to head to London instead.

"I was proud to have a club like Liverpool after me, but I chose Arsenal because of Unai Emery and how he was with me," Ceballos told Marca.

"Klopp is a great coach but you have to look at the playing philosophy of each team. Right now players of my philosophy of play would not fit in the best possible way in a team like Liverpool."

Liverpool's hard-grafting midfielders have helped the Reds pull 22 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and 42 points ahead of Arsenal, who are toiling in 10th place.

Ceballos endured a long spell out of the Arsenal team because of a hamstring injury and the attack-minded 23-year-old admitted he may have played too often in his early months at the club.

He thinks he suffered the blow "because of an excess of matches", explaining: "I'd played 17 games in two months; I was the only player that had played all these games."

Ceballos had told Emery he wanted to be involved in every fixture, but he looks back now and says: "Sometimes you have to learn from mistakes. I struggled with the injury, but you learn from everything."

He was powerless to prevent Emery losing his job in November, but says successor Mikel Arteta "is going to be a great coach" and possesses the qualities that "Arsenal need right now".

Asked about the change of coach, Ceballos looked back on the turbulent period at Arsenal and said: "I'm f***** on my part because I'd never been injured and annoyingly, I got injured at a time when the team started to unravel a bit.

"I was watching the Arsenal games and I saw that we were struggling, that we weren't winning and that we'd entered a dynamic where we were finding it tough to get points.

"I'm powerless and angry that I wasn't able to have helped the boss [Emery] and repaid everything he'd done for me."

Manchester United or Chelsea?

The two Premier League giants are reportedly going head-to-head in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund teenager and England international Jadon Sancho.

And the Manchester club feel they can prise the 19-year-old to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BELIEVE THEY CAN PIP CHELSEA TO SANCHO

Manchester United are confident they will beat rivals Chelsea to the signing of in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, claims The Mirror.

Sancho is reportedly keen on returning to England, where the 19-year-old played for Manchester City's youth team before joining Bundesliga outfit Dortmund in 2017.

Dortmund are apparently willing to offload Sancho at the right price and Premier League giants United believe they can prise the England international to Old Trafford in a deal worth £120million (€142.5m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Will Mauricio Pochettino land at Old Trafford? According to journalist Duncan Castles, the former Tottenham manager is determined to take charge of United . His representatives are reportedly confident of convincing United's hierarchy that Pochettino is the right man for the job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles, with the Red Devils eighth in the Premier League.

- The Sun reports United are set for a double swoop to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish and Leicester City attacker James Maddison . Grealish has reportedly given the go-ahead for a move to Old Trafford, while Maddison has apparently been in talks over a contract extension with Leicester.

Marcelo Brozovic to Real Madrid? Mundo Deportivo says the Inter and Croatia international midfielder is wanted by the LaLiga giants. Madrid have also been linked to United's Paul Pogba and Ajax star Donny van de Beek

Barcelona have been told it will take €35m to sign Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, reports Marca. Barca are looking to strengthen their attack following long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

- According to The Express, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is plotting a £120m transfer spree at the end of the season. Benfica defender Ruben Dias is a target, as well as Norwich City's Max Aarons, Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake and Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

Stefano Pioli is contracted to Milan until 2021 but the head coach – who replaced Marco Giampaolo at the start of the campaign – is no certainty to continue beyond this season. According to Calciomercato, Elliott Management want Ralf Rangnick but Paolo Maldini is reportedly pushing for former Milan striker and current Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko.

- Football Insider claims Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new £50m deal amid reported interest from Serie A champions Juventus.

Former Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre said Neymar can forget about birthday parties in Brazil if the Paris Saint-Germain star returns to Camp Nou.

Neymar has been heavily linked with a Barca reunion after leaving the LaLiga champions for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

The Brazil forward wanted a Barca return in the off-season, but a move away from the Ligue 1 giants did not materialise.

Asked about Neymar, Mestre – who resigned in July – told Mundo Deportivo: "The players asked for him, but didn't pressurise the club. I came off badly in that.

"If he had come back and the club had benefitted because of it, I wouldn't have a problem with that. I'm not that proud.

"On sporting terms he could come back but on a series of conditions. Firstly, PSG have to agree, then he would have to withdraw his lawsuit and acknowledge that he was in the wrong and after that, all the birthday parties in Brazil would have to stop.

"There were players from the first team squad who were at a wedding with him but had no idea that he wanted to leave."

On his own exit from Barca, Mestre said: "I felt I'd been fighting an uphill battle for some time. I had a different ideas about things to other board members but it wasn't important.

"I realised that I was the only one who thought in a certain way. The football committee which comprised [Josep Maria] Bartomeu, [Javier] Bordas, [Jaume] Elias and [Xavier] Vilajoana were not in agreement with me or with Pep Segura in his role as general manager. I was the only one who defended him and I felt alone."

It has been a turbulent period for Barca – who are three points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid – after head coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked, while superstar captain Lionel Messi was involved in a public row with director of football Eric Abidal.

"You have to recognise the merits of everything they have achieved in recent years," Mestre said. "The least they deserve is some respect and gratitude but you also have to be aware that nothing lasts forever. We are going through a transition and so you have to give people time and be patient."

Philippe Coutinho is not surprised to see former club Liverpool dominate the Premier League but insists he does not "look back" despite enduring a difficult time since leaving Anfield.

Coutinho left Liverpool for Barcelona in January 2018 in a move potentially worth €160million (£142m), but, after initially impressing at Camp Nou, he failed to convince in his first full LaLiga season and was allowed to leave on loan for Bayern Munich, who also have a purchase option.

He has been similarly underwhelming in the Bundesliga, however, making just 12 league starts out of a possible 21.

Bayern have supposedly already decided they will not trigger their buy option, which is reportedly set at €120m.

While Coutinho has struggled after leaving Liverpool, the Reds have gone from strength to strength and look destined to add Premier League success to last season's Champions League crown – but the Brazilian insists he has only happy thoughts for his former club.

"Liverpool is flying, and it doesn't surprise me," Coutinho told Sports Illustrated. "We've seen it already last year when they won the Champions League, but I'm also not surprised because of their fantastic squad and manager.

"I am so happy for them, because I have so many friends there, former team-mates, so I'm just so happy for them. But that's it. I don't look back.

"I took another path, and now I am on another journey, much like everyone else. I'm focused entirely – just like them – on reaching my dreams.

"I'm happy with what I did in the past, and now I can only look forward."

Despite Coutinho's occasional issues at Bayern, Hansi Flick – who is in charge at least until the end of the season – recently offered words of encouragement for him, and the Brazil international has been impressed by the former assistant of Niko Kovac.

"He [Flick] is working so hard, and thanks to him the team is playing well and that's what's most important," he added.

"It can't be easy to manage a team like Bayern Munich, and I think he came in and has been doing a great job."

Following Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to RB Leipzig, Bayern remain one point clear of Julian Nagelsmann's side at the Bundesliga summit.

Barcelona expect Ousmane Dembele to be sidelined for six months, meaning a new signing could be imminent at Camp Nou.

Under LaLiga regulations, teams can look to the transfer market outside the window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

However, they can only sign individuals from the top two tiers in Spain, or those who are available as free agents.

With Luis Suarez also ruled out until May, we look at the options Barca could go for in order to bolster their attack.

 

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

The former Real Madrid striker was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham during the January transfer window but a move did not come to fruition. However, Barca reportedly only have a budget of €12million, which could prove to be insufficient to sign Willian Jose, who has fallen behind Alexander Isak in the pecking order at the Reale Arena.

Angel Rodriguez (Getafe)

A more realistic option appears to be Getafe's Rodriguez, who is believed to have €10m release clause. The 32-year-old has scored nine LaLiga goals for Jose Bordalas' Champions League-chasing side this season but has started just six top-flight matches.

Lucas Perez

After failing to make his mark in the Premier League at Arsenal and West Ham, at Deportivo Alaves Perez has rediscovered the sort of form that encouraged the Gunners to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016. He has scored nine LaLiga goals and laid on four more for Alaves this season and strike partner Joselu, formerly of Real Madrid, this week revealed he has urged Perez not to join Barca.

Loren Moron

Head coach Quique Setien coached Moron for two seasons at Real Betis and he is the club's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season, finding the net eight times and supplying two assists. Betis president Angel Haro said at the weekend there has been no official contact from Barca, and Moron's release clause is understood to stand at €40m.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

The injury-plagued Frenchman will miss the rest of the season and is unlikely to return in time for France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins in June.

Barca confirmed on February 6 that Dembele was due to go under the knife in Finland, with the winger having suffered a ruptured tendon in his proximal hamstring in his right thigh.

Following the procedure on Tuesday, Barca expect the former Borussia Dortmund talent to be out until August.

Dembele has endured an injury nightmare at Barca, suffering several serious problems since arriving at Camp Nou for an initial €105million in August 2017.

This term he has been limited to just nine appearances across all competitions, the last coming against former club Dortmund on November 27.

Barca are expected to be granted special dispensation to sign a replacement for Dembele, though regulations will limit them to a free agent or a domestic player.

The injury is also sure to impact France's preparations for Euro 2020.

Dembele has been a regular for the world champions ever since making his debut in 2016, but he will now likely play no part in the European Championship.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

Juventus are reportedly lining up an incredible move for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola has been in charge of City since 2016 and is contracted to remain at the helm of the Premier League champions until the end of next season.

However, Juve seemingly have other ideas.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS PLAN TO MAKE MOVE FOR GUARDIOLA

Juventus will give Guardiola whatever it takes to join them ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, according to The Sun.

The Serie A giants were linked with a stunning move for the Spaniard last year, but did not get their man.

Guardiola apparently intends to honour his contract at City, but Juve are prepared to give him whatever he wants.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho has no plans to return to Barcelona and wants to make his move to Bayern Munich permanent, according to Catalunya Radio. The Bundesliga club hold an option to buy the attacker, but are reportedly yet to make a decision over whether they will make the move permanent.

- Barcelona are not yet giving up on signing Willian Jose from Real Sociedad. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are still considering the attacker amid a negotiable price despite Willian Jose's buyout clause being set at €70million.

- Jose Mourinho is planning for next season at Tottenham. The Daily Express reports the Spurs head coach is looking to spend £120m on defenders ahead of 2020-21, with Benfica's Ruben Dias and Bournemouth's Nathan Ake leading the list of targets.

- Liverpool tried to sign Villarreal attacker Samuel Chukwueze during January, according to France Football, which reports the European champions offered £29.6m (€35m) for the Nigeria international. Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express says Liverpool are set to offer 18-year-old full-back Neco Williams a new contract.

- Amid surprise reports Barcelona tried to bring Andres Iniesta back to Camp Nou in January, Marca says the LaLiga club's sporting management never considered a return to the club for the Vissel Kobe midfielder.

- Inter are set to decide in the next 48 hours whether to sign goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano after the 34-year-old completed medicals at the Serie A high-flyers, according to CalcioMercato. Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic suffered a finger injury last week.

Fernando Hierro labelled Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos "extraordinary" and hailed the defender's goalscoring record.

Ramos moved past Hierro for the fifth most LaLiga matches for Madrid during Sunday's win over Osasuna, reaching 440.

The defender scored his sixth goal of the season in the 4-1 victory that ensured Madrid maintained a three-point lead atop the table.

Hierro, a Madrid great, said what Ramos had achieved with the Spanish giants was incredible.

"Sergio Ramos is absolutely remarkable," he told LaLiga.

"Years ago we defenders had more chances to score, we'd often play in midfield. But in today's day and age, in the 21st century, Sergio is extraordinary.

"[Gerard] Pique scores quite a few goals too, but Sergio really is an anomaly.

"His goalscoring record for Real Madrid and the national team is remarkable."

Ramos has also scored the equal 10th most goals for Spain with 21 in his 170 appearances.

Barcelona are prepared to take a loss on Philippe Coutinho, sparking apparent interest from the Premier League.

Coutinho is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona, and the Bundesliga giants hold an option to buy the Brazil playmaker.

If Bayern opt against purchasing Coutinho, Barca may be willing to sell the 27-year-old and accept a loss.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA READY TO SELL COUTINHO FOR £77M AMID PREMIER LEAGUE INTEREST

Coutinho has been told he can leave Barcelona for £77million (€90.7m) at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

Barcelona paid Liverpool €120m (£105m) for Coutinho in 2018, but are preparing for change under Quique Setien.

The report says Coutinho has already attracted interest from Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Bayern hold an option to buy Coutinho for a reported €120m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could it be one Brazilian in and another out at Liverpool? The Sun reports Bayern Munich want Roberto Firmino to leave the Premier League giants and join the Bundesliga outfit at the end of the season.

- Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz is Liverpool's top midfield target ahead of 2020-21.

- With James Maddison reportedly ready to extend his contract at Leicester City, Manchester United's interest in the attacker has cooled significantly, according to the Daily Express.

- Thiago Silva wants to stay in Paris. Paris United reports the Paris Saint-Germain captain could discuss a new contract with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi amid uncertainty over his future, with his deal expiring at the end of the season.

- Manchester United have angered Roma. The Daily Express says the Premier League club have increased their asking price for Chris Smalling from €14.1m (£12m) to €20m (£17m), with the defender having impressed during his loan spell with the Serie A outfit.

Frenkie de Jong said it is easy playing alongside Barcelona captain Lionel Messi after he guided the LaLiga champions past Real Betis.

Messi was instrumental with a hat-trick of assists as Barca twice came from behind to beat Betis 3-2 on Sunday.

After a turbulent week following a public row with director of football Eric Abidal, Messi was back doing what he does best – leading Barca to victory.

Messi teed up De Jong, Sergio Busquets and Clement Lenglet, who scored the 72nd-minute winner before he was sent off along with Betis star Nabil Fekir.

On six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, Barca midfielder De Jong said: "It's easy to play by his side because he gives you balls into space, it's not that I have a special connection, but he gives you good balls in space."

It was the perfect response for Barca, who bounced back from their shock 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Thursday.

Barca's victory away to Betis kept the defending champions within three points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid.

"It was very important to win the game and that was not easy, although in the end we could have won by more goals, for the penalty they didn't give Messi. It was clear, he caught him and pushed him," De Jong said.

"It was hard to lose in the [Copa del Rey] because it was in the last minute and we had a good game. I think we deserved more but we have to look forward."

On his own performance, Netherlands international De Jong – who arrived from Eredivisie champions Ajax in the off-season – added: "I think that was one of my best games after suffering a bit in the last few. But it wasn't brilliant either."

Zinedine Zidane wants to see more goals from Isco after the midfielder netted his first of the LaLiga season in Real Madrid's 4-1 win over Osasuna on Sunday.

Isco brought Madrid level, cancelling out Unai Garcia's opener, before Madrid eased to victory as their three-point lead at the top was maintained.

The 27-year-old Isco has only scored twice this season, with only one coming in LaLiga, a competition in which he has started nine times this campaign.

Zidane praised Isco's performance at Osasuna, but said he wanted the midfielder on the scoresheet more often.

"I don't think anything has changed. Isco's an important player in this squad," the Madrid head coach told a news conference.

"He's a player that always gives everything when he plays. He's a good footballer. I like the way he plays. He's technical and skilful. He's very important for us.

"He had a brilliant game like everyone else, but above all I am happy about his goal, because he needs to score more goals."

Madrid are next in action at home to Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Quique Setien praised Barcelona's resilience in Sunday's 3-2 win over Real Betis but said there is still room for improvement from the LaLiga champions.

Sergio Canales' early penalty for Betis was cancelled out by a wonderful goal from Frenkie de Jong, the Barcelona midfielder clinically dispatching Lionel Messi's sublime pass.

Nabil Fekir restored Betis' advantage with a fine finish, before Sergio Busquets scored a second equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Clement Lenglet then headed home Messi's free-kick 18 minutes from time to seal all three points, although the Frenchman blotted his copybook by picking up a second yellow card soon after Fekir was also dismissed for Betis.

"I really liked the team," Barca head coach Setien said of his side, who are three points behind leaders Real Madrid. "There are things we could have done better, but I'm happy. We have come from behind twice.

"The team is improving in many things and I am very happy with the performance, the result and everything. We are still missing things, though.

"You have to enjoy the win because Betis are a great team, who were playing at home."

Barca looked far from solid at the back in the first half but looked significantly more resilient after the break, much to Setien's pleasure.

"We have improved a lot [in defence]," he added. "There are always some imbalances in the way we play, but I am quite happy with the defensive attitude of the team.

"In the second half, I don't think we granted them a chance on goal."

Betis president Angel Haro, meanwhile, insisted Barca have not made an approach for Loren Moron.

The striker, who came on as a second-half substitute on Sunday, has been linked with a move to Camp Nou as the LaLiga champions look to replace injured duo Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

Barca are said to be confident of securing special dispensation from authorities to bring in a Spain-based reinforcement outside of the transfer window, but Haro said they have not made a move for 26-year-old Moron.

"They have been linked, but they haven't enquired or made a formal offer for him," he told Movistar.

"There is talk of the player, but not in a serious way. It would be if we had an offer for the player, which we don't."

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