Real Madrid must again overcome lower-league opposition in the Copa del Rey last 16, while holders Valencia go to giant-killers Cultural Leonesa.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid survived a scare against Unionistas de Salamanca in the previous round, and they will this time visit Real Zaragoza, who are fourth in LaLiga 2.

Barcelona were also tested by minnows in the previous round, scraping past Ibiza, but they have the benefit of a home fixture as they bid to reach the quarter-finals.

With LaLiga sides kept apart where possible, the Blaugrana were selected in one of just two ties solely involving top-tier teams.

They will face Leganes at Camp Nou while the majority of their LaLiga rivals are away from home.

Segunda B side Cultural defeated Atletico Madrid in extra-time on Thursday, and their reward is a meeting with Valencia, who beat Barca in last season's final.

Badajoz, the only other third-tier side remaining in the competition, also have LaLiga opposition in the form of Granada.

The second all-LaLiga tie saw Real Sociedad drawn at home to Osasuna.


Copa del Rey last-16 draw in full:

Badajoz v Granada
Cultural Leonesa v Valencia
Tenerife v Athletic Bilbao
Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid
Mirandes v Sevilla
Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal
Barcelona v Leganes
Real Sociedad v Osasuna

Eden Hazard has returned to training after a lengthy injury lay-off, while Real Madrid have also been able to welcome Sergio Ramos back into the fold.

Hazard signed from Chelsea in June but missed a chunk earlier in the season due to a hamstring injury and has been out of action since November with an ankle issue.

The forward has been restricted to just 13 appearances across all competitions for Los Blancos, scoring one goal.

However, Hazard is now edging closer to making his comeback after returning to Madrid training on Thursday, running on the grass as well as performing exercises with the ball, according to the club's official website.

It seems unlikely that Hazard will be fit to feature against Real Valladolid on Sunday, though Madrid will be hopeful of having the Belgium international back by the time Atletico Madrid visit Santiago Bernabeu on February 1.

Madrid were also boosted by the return of captain Ramos, who has not played since injuring his ankle in the Supercopa de Espana final, in which he scored the winning penalty against Atleti, though the defender did not work with the ball during Thursday's session.

France will target Zinedine Zidane to replace Didier Deschamps when the World Cup-winning coach departs, FFF president Noel Le Graet revealed.

Real Madrid head coach Zidane has been linked with the France post previously, but he returned to the Santiago Bernabeu last year.

Meanwhile, Deschamps, in charge of the national team since 2012, last month signed a contract extension to stay in his role through to the 2022 World Cup.

The France boss has championed his former team-mate as a future coach of Les Bleus, though, and chief Le Graet is also keen.

"The day Didier decides to leave or his contract is not renewed, if Zidane is available at that time, he will be the man for the job," Le Graet told Canal+.

That opportunity could come as soon as 2022, as Deschamps' position beyond the Qatar World Cup is uncertain.

"There is Qatar," Le Graet said. "Didier will be there and then, maybe afterwards, I don't know."

Deschamps and Zidane won the 1998 World Cup together as players, before the former Juventus coach led his country to a second success two years ago in Russia.

Zidane won three consecutive Champions League titles in his first stint as Madrid coach, later returning when the LaLiga giants were struggling last year.

Have Tottenham finally found an alternative to Harry Kane?

According to reports, Spurs are in talks to sign Real Sociedad's Willian Jose with just over a week to go until the transfer window closes.

But it could take in excess of £50million to finally end their search for a second out-and-out striker.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS TO DIG DEEP FOR SOCIEDAD STRIKER

Krzysztof Piatek, Islam Slimani and Fernando Llorente have all been linked but Tottenham have now set their sights on 28-year-old Willian Jose, reports the Guardian.

The Brazilian was left out of his side's Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol on Wednesday and could now be headed for north London.

Talks are underway, the Guardian states, although Spurs could be forced to contemplate meeting Willian Jose's €70million (£59m) release clause as Sociedad seek adequate compensation.

The one-time Real Madrid man has scored eight LaLiga goals this term after reaching double figures in each of the previous three seasons.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dani Ceballos has asked Real Madrid to terminate his Arsenal loan and find him a move elsewhere, according to Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

- The Gunners are set to suffer another blow as Ligue 1 outfit Lyon prepare to confirm the €25million signing of rumoured Atletico Madrid target Bruno Guimaraes, reports L'Equipe.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will allow Philippe Coutinho to return to Barcelona at the end of his loan spell if, as desired, the Bundesliga giants land Leroy Sane and Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, reports Bild.

- After sealing a deal for Reinier Jesus, Madrid could return to raid Flamengo for 19-year-old forward Lincoln, says Mundo Deportivo.

- Leicester City plan to bolster their Champions League ambitions by splashing £15million on Southampton centre-back Jannik Vestergaard, according to The Sun.

- Serie A side Milan have submitted an 18-month loan offer for Manchester City-linked Florentino Luis, claims CalcioMercato. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder plays for Benfica.

Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez said the LaLiga giants must take notice of Kylian Mbappe's hints amid links to the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Speculation over Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe continues to make headlines as Zinedine Zidane's Madrid reportedly eye the France international.

Zidane has made no secret of his admiration for Mbappe, who dismissed talk over PSG contract negotiations earlier this month, while the 21-year-old revealed the Madrid boss was his idol growing up.

Nacho was asked about Mbappe following Madrid's 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday.

"If he's sending us signs, we have to be alert to receiving them," Nacho told reporters.

After scoring 33 Ligue 1 goals last season, Mbappe has 13 for defending champions PSG this term.

Mbappe has 21 goals across all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's PSG, who are preparing for the Champions League last 16 against Borussia Dortmund.

Gareth Bale will be monitored after suffering a minor ankle twist on his impressive return to Real Madrid's starting side, head coach Zidane Zidane confirmed on Wednesday.

Bale scored the opener in a 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca but was unable to continue beyond the 53rd minute midweek.

Wales star Bale, who has battled injury and illness this season, was making his first appearance since the LaLiga victory against Getafe on January 4.

"He's twisted his ankle a bit," Zidane said. "I don't think it's much but, as always, we'll see tomorrow. He couldn't go on."

Bale's forced withdrawal appeared to unsettle Madrid, who conceded a stunning equaliser four minutes later as Alvaro Romero surged forward and fired past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Juan Gongora's own goal after the hour and a late Brahim Diaz strike saved Zidane's men from an upset and extended their winning streak to five games in all competitions.

The Los Blancos boss insisted he was satisfied despite flirting with a premature exit against the third-tier minnows.

"It was a tough night at a tough place to come and play," he said.

"We struggled with moving the ball and we didn't see much great football, but that was down to the pitch, not more than that.

"We're pleased because in the end we're going through to the last-16 and that's what we came to achieve."

Madrid - level on points with leaders and defending champions Barcelona - visit Real Valladolid in LaLiga on Sunday.

Alvaro Romero scored one of the solo goals of the season against Real Madrid, and little Unionistas de Salamanca were in dreamland on the hour mark of this Copa del Rey culture clash.

Madrid, thanks to Gareth Bale, a Juan Gongora own goal and Brahim Diaz's late individual effort, eventually won 3-1 at the tiny Las Pistas stadium, where 4,000 supporters of a club that has only existed since 2013 saw their side go head to head with the 13-time European champions.

Yet Romero's stunning effort after 57 minutes will live far longer in the memory than the goals that won the day for Madrid.

The substitute had been on the field barely a minute when he ran from just inside Madrid's half to the edge of the penalty area before curling a fine left-footed finish out of the reach of Alphonse Areola.

That brought Unionistas level, following Bale's first-half effort, but parity was all too brief, with the 62nd-minute own goal and Diaz's neat stoppage-time finish deciding the day, the Segunda B minnows just edged out by their millionaire visitors.

FIFA has revealed a record amount was spent on transfers in 2019, with deals for Eden Hazard, Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix topping the bill.

A report issued by world football's governing body on Wednesday revealed $7.35billion (£5.6billion) was spent by clubs in the transfer market in 2019, an increase of 5.8 per cent on the previous year.

The study also confirmed that English clubs spent the most, though the total figure of $1.52billion (£1.14billion) was a 22.1 per cent decrease from 2018.

Joao Felix's €126million transfer from Benfica to Atletico Madrid – who sold Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona for €120m – was the biggest deal of 2019, while Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid in a deal reportedly worth €100m.

Harry Maguire became the world's most expensive defender with a reported £80m switch from Leicester City to Manchester United, while Ajax sold young stars Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong to Juventus and Barcelona respectively for an initial €75m each.

There was also a rise of 16.3 per cent in spending in the women's game, with over 800 transfers made in total.

Virgil van Dijk, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the headline inclusions in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week, which contains a plethora of superstars.

Liverpool defender Van Dijk played a vital role as Liverpool beat bitter rivals Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday, scoring the opening goal and producing a generally commanding display at centre-back.

Paris Saint-Germain talent Mbappe leads the line following his brace against former employers Monaco in last week's 4-1 win, taking his Ligue 1 goal tally to 13 for the season.

The Frenchman is joined in attack by Haaland, who enjoyed a stunning debut for Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland came on in the 56th minute with Dortmund 3-1 down, but he went on to score a hat-trick and inspire a turnaround which saw Lucien Favre's side win 5-3 at Augsburg.

That trio are by no means the only big-name players with new in-form cards set to be available – below, we have the full squad.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Nick Pope (Burnley) – 82

RB: Damian Suarez (Getafe) – 82

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 81

CB: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – 92

CM: Lucas Leiva (Lazio) – 86

CM: Casemiro (Real Madrid) – 88

CDM: Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich) – 88

CM: Sergio Canales (Real Betis) – 87

ST: Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – 85

ST: Kylian Mbappe (PSG) – 92

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Matheus (Sporting Braga) – 81

CB: Ciaran Clark (Newcastle United) – 81

RM: Edin Visca (Istanbul Basaksehir) – 86

CAM: Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge) – 83

LM: Ante Rebic (Milan) – 83

ST: Michael Gregoritsch (Schalke) – 82

ST: Jhon Cordoba (Cologne) – 81

RESERVES

CB: Esteban Burgos (Eibar) – 78

RM: Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United) – 72

ST: Alexander Sorloth (Trabzonspor) – 79

ST: Ante Budimir (Real Mallorca) – 79

ST: Ernesto Torregrossa (Brescia) – 78

Gareth Bale's agent described suggestions he is to leave Real Madrid on loan as "ridiculous" and assured he will see out the remainder of his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having made just nine LaLiga starts for Madrid this season, Bale has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move back to the Premier League with Tottenham or Manchester United.

Barnett did not rule out the possibility of the Wales international leaving Madrid but emphatically dismissed the suggestion of a loan exit.

"At the moment he is going to be playing football this evening for Real Madrid and he has got two and a half years left on his contract," Barnett told Sky Sports ahead of Zinedine Zidane's side taking on Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

"He is fine, he will be there and everything will be fine.

"He is one of the best players on earth. Why would one of the best players on earth go on loan? That's ridiculous.

"That's what I have always said. I have never deviated. Things can change but loans are ridiculous and there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway."

Bale was on the verge of a move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning before the start of this season, but a reportedly difficult relationship with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane seems to have settled down.

Since he joined Madrid from Tottenham for €100million in 2013, Bale has won one LaLiga title and one Copa del Rey to go with his four Champions League winners' medals.

Barnett backed him to add to his collection of silverware before his time at the club comes to an end.

"He is happy and hopefully he will win a couple of more things with Real Madrid," he said.

Bayern Munich have bolstered their defensive options by signing Alvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid for the remainder of the season.

The 24-year-old was a target of head coach Hansi Flick, who himself is under contract until the end of the season, and will give the Bundesliga champions more defensive flexibility as they seek to defend their crown.

Odriozola, capped four times by Spain, has only made four LaLiga appearances for Madrid this term, with the most recent of those coming in October.

While he is behind Dani Carvajal in the Madrid pecking order for right-backs, Odriozola could feature regularly for Bayern given their injury problems in defence.

His arrival may lead to Benjamin Pavard reverting inside to centre-back, where Bayern are short of options with Javi Martinez, Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule all sidelined.

In a statement on Bayern's website, chief executive Karl Heinz-Rummenigge said: "Following internal discussions, we decided to follow the wishes of our head coach Hansi Flick in strengthening the defence and decided to go for Alvaro Odriozola.

"We are delighted about the signing and thank Real Madrid for the friendly and cooperative talks."

Former Real Sociedad defender Odriozola joined Los Blancos in 2018 for a reported €40million and he featured in 14 LaLiga games in his debut term in the capital.

Bayern Munich have bolstered their defensive options by signing Alvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid for the remainder of the season.

Manchester United have lined up another exciting midfield transfer target amid their ongoing pursuit of Bruno Fernandes.

As the wrangling over figures with Sporting CP continues, the Red Devils have reportedly submitted a sizeable offer to Birmingham City for teenage talent Jude Bellingham.

But making the first move might only spark a European bidding war.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SUBMIT BELLINGHAM BID

Birmingham youngster Bellingham's clear potential has convinced United to launch an offer worth more than £30million, reports the Sun and Sky Sports.

The 16-year-old midfielder has burst onto the scene this season and the Old Trafford outfit are understood to be keen to test him in the Premier League.

However, they could face stiff competition from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and other heavyweight clubs across the continent.

The Mirror, meanwhile, claims United have made a "breakthrough" in negotiations for Portugal international Fernandes, having reached a "compromise" transfer fee in the region of £55m.

 

ROUND-UP

- David Beckham's Inter Miami have contacted Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero to assess his interest in a switch to MLS, adds the Sun.

- Tottenham have enquired about Real Madrid winger and former Spurs star Gareth Bale, according to Spanish television programme El Chiringuito.

- Barcelona, still searching for a new striker, have ruled out RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and Lille's Victor Osimhen, suggests Mundo Deportivo, with Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno a more likely target.

- Serie A side Roma are set to discuss personal terms with Matteo Politano after agreeing a €25million fee with Inter, according to Sky Sport Italia.

- Inter, meanwhile, are said to be in discussions with United youngster Tahith Chong, who is also on Chinese outfit Jiangsu Suning's radar as his contract runs close to expiring, says Sky Sport Italia.

- Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali is interesting Premier League champions City and Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain, reports SportMediaset.

Gareth Bale has returned to the Real Madrid squad for the Copa del Rey trip to Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday.

The Wales forward has not featured since the 3-0 LaLiga victory at Getafe on January 4, missing Madrid's Supercopa de Espana triumph in Jeddah and the 2-1 league win over Sevilla last week.

Bale has been brought back for the cup clash, along with James Rodriguez, while Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Rodrygo Goes have been given a rest and captain Sergio Ramos is still missing following an ankle problem.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane has also left out Alvaro Odriozola and Mariano Diaz, who are expected to leave during the transfer window.

Odriozola has emerged as a loan target for Bayern Munich and is reportedly travelling to Germany to finalise a deal.

Mariano, meanwhile, has been linked with Benfica and former club Lyon.

Zinedine Zidane expects a difficult Copa del Rey tie against minnows Unionistas de Salamanca but says his Real Madrid side will be well prepared for a wintry test.

Madrid visit Salamanca, who play at 4,000-capacity Las Pistas - a ground which was covered in snow on Tuesday.

Wednesday's match is a huge clash for the Segunda B side and Zidane is fully prepared for a tough evening.

However, the Madrid head coach insists playing at such a small venue and on a difficult pitch will be nothing new for Los Blancos' star-studded squad.

"We have to be totally concentrated, we have to do what we've been doing until now. We have to be ready for the game," Zidane, who confirmed Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez will be available, told a media conference.

"Our players have started out playing on pitches like this, me as well. Difficulties out on the pitch that you're not used to. Mentally we're prepared and in a sporting sense as well.

"We know where we're going to play and what to expect. Perhaps it's 10 or 15 years ago but we've all played on pitches like this, so we're prepared.

"We have to do what we have to do. We have to be ready, it's a cup game and we have to give everything. We know the situation, know where we're going to play, but it's a game of football and our duty is to be ready.

"We're like that not just in every game, but every training session. From day to day we have to be ready for these types of games. It's a very important game."

The Copa del Rey used to have two legs throughout each round but its schedule has been reduced, with the tournament changed to a single-match format until the semi-finals.

"From my experience in France it was always one game and that's it, so my custom is to play one game," Zidane said, when asked if the new format left Madrid with less margin for error.

"Now it's here in Spain and we have to accept that, it's one game and out. So you have to accept it and go and play it like that."

One player who seems unlikely to be involved on Wednesday is Alvaro Odriozola, with the defender having reportedly not trained amid reports he is about to join Bayern Munich on loan.

Zidane did not reveal which clubs are interested in signing Odriozola, but he confirmed the full-back could leave Madrid this month.

"He has an option to go and play elsewhere but nothing is official yet, we're going to wait and see," said Zidane, who may consider recalling Jesus Vallejo from his loan at Wolves.

"The option of Alvaro going is a possibility, it's not official. I'm not going to get rid of one to sign someone else. We've got a big squad and an option could be [bringing back] Vallejo but we don't know yet."

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