Barcelona begin title defence against Alavez

By Sports Desk August 17, 2018

The top La Liga teams bow into action on Saturday.  Catch the matches live on SportsMax.

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  • Simeone keeps faith with misfiring Atletico Madrid striker Costa Simeone keeps faith with misfiring Atletico Madrid striker Costa

    Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone will continue to put his faith in Diego Costa despite the striker's LaLiga goal drought continuing against Celta Vigo.

    Simeone's side endured a frustrating time in front of goal at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw.

    Costa, 30, was booked after the final whistle for his part in an ugly fracas with the Celta Vigo players.

    When asked a question about Costa's attitude for his role in the aftermath, Simeone claimed he "didn't see" the incident.

    However, the Argentinian has backed Costa to come good even though the ex-Chelsea forward has not found the net in a competitive match since he scored against Alaves in March.

    "The numbers are what you say, it's the reality, but I trust Costa," Simeone said.

    "I know he'll be fit again and it's a challenge for him. The championship is long and the team needs him."

    Simeone called on Costa and the club's other strikers to become more ruthless after Atletico's return of just seven goals in five LaLiga matches in this season so far.

    "I think we started the pre-season at a great level, especially for strikers," added Simeone.

    "The team looked good and it gives me the feeling that it is normal, when the season starts there are spikes and immediately the goals appear and in others they disappear.

    "Hopefully we can get the focus to play back because the situations are there.

    "If we do not, we must try to increase the offensive intensity because the goal comes from the rage of wanting to make a goal."

  • Kaka backs Real Madrid and 'unbelievable' Zidane to deliver trophies Kaka backs Real Madrid and 'unbelievable' Zidane to deliver trophies

    Real Madrid can overcome their indifferent start to the season and deliver a major trophy, according to Kaka.

    After finishing 19 points behind LaLiga winners Barcelona and being eliminated from the Champions League by Ajax in the round of 16 last season, Madrid have won just two of their opening five competitive matches of 2019-20.

    Draws against Real Valladolid and Villarreal in LaLiga and a 3-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League have left coach Zinedine Zidane's position under threat at a club where he won three consecutive European titles in his first spell as coach.

    Kaka, who won the LaLiga title with Madrid in 2011-12 and the Copa del Rey a season earlier, noted the expectation around Santiago Bernabeu, telling Omnisport: "For Real Madrid, we always have to win something.

    "Of course, this is the pressure for Zidane – he needs to win something. LaLiga or the Champions League. These are the two championships that are the most important for the supporters and the club.

    "Of course, he knows that. I think Real Madrid as a very good team, very good players and an unbelievable coach.

    "Real Madrid is ready to win something this season again."

    Madrid's €100million close-season signing Eden Hazard came in for criticism after a disappointing performance at Parc des Princes, where Zidane substituted him after 70 minutes.

    However, Kaka believes the Belgium international will thrive in Spanish football.

    "He's very good and playing in Spain gives him a little more space than here in England," Kaka said of Hazard.

    "He'll have the chance, when he gets used to playing in Spain, he'll be more comfortable and we will see a lot of magic from Hazard as well."

    Speculating on whether Hazard can compete with Lionel Messi for the LaLiga limelight in the way that Cristiano Ronaldo did during his spell at Madrid, Kaka added: "I think we were lucky to watch these two players [Messi and Ronaldo] playing in a battle against each other. It was really, really nice.

    "Now, we love to see how Real Madrid are going to handle Barcelona, how Real Madrid can win the league again. And, of course, Hazard will be one of the keys for these chances for Real Madrid.

    "If they are going to create this rivalry between Hazard and Messi... we will see."

  • Schoolboy football players struck by lightning on the mend Schoolboy football players struck by lightning on the mend

    Three Manning Cup players are recovering well after lightning struck the field of play on Monday.

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