Rayo Vallecano are set to be disciplined by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) following the display of "racist and xenophobic flags" at the club's Estadio de Vallecas during the clash with Atletico Madrid, despite them appearing in the away supporters' area of the ground.

The RFEF has initiated a disciplinary case against Rayo even though flags with racist symbols were allegedly displayed by Atletico's ultras.

Antoine Griezmann's goal settled Saturday's LaLiga clash that ended 1-0, after which complaints were made to the RFEF's competition committee.

A statement on RFEF's official website said: "In relation to the display of racist and xenophobic flags at the Vallecas stadium…in particular at the area occupied by the fans of Atletico de Madrid, the Department of Integrity and Security of the RFEF denounced this circumstance on Monday, February 18 to the Professional Football Competition Committee, which in its meeting today has agreed the initiation of extraordinary record against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in its capacity as organiser of the meeting.

"After the complaint presented to the Competition Committee on Tuesday, the State Commission was informed…this circumstance referred to the exhibition of the aforementioned flags and their denunciation to the Committee of Competition.

"Therefore, the Competition Committee initiates disciplinary actions based exclusively on the complaint filed on the 18th by the Department of Integrity and Security of RFEF, without any other communication or denunciation having been received from other institutions or sports authorities."

Emmanuel Boateng has joined Dalian Yifang from Levante for a reported fee of €11million.

The deal for the 22-year-old Ghana international was confirmed by Levante in a statement on Wednesday.

"Levante would like to thank Emmanuel Boateng for his work and commitment during all this time and wish him luck for his new professional period," the release read.

Boateng scored seven times in 41 LaLiga appearances, most notably hitting a hat-trick in a blistering performance against Barcelona last May, where a 5-4 victory for Levante ended the Catalans' hopes of an unbeaten league season.

He follows Napoli great Marek Hamsik in moving to Dalian Yifang during this transfer window.

Choi Kang-hee's side, who finished 11th in the Chinese Super League last season, begin their 2019 campaign against Henan Jianye on March 3.

Lucas Silva believes he still has a chance of succeeding at Real Madrid, two years after leaving Europe to return to Cruzeiro.

The midfielder was described as "the future of the club" by then-coach Carlo Ancelotti after moving to the Santiago Bernabeu from Cruzeiro in a reported €14million deal in January 2015.

The Brazilian was loaned to Marseille after managing just 425 minutes for the Madrid first team, but his European career was halted when a mild arrhythmia in his heart was discovered in July 2016.

After clarifying that he would not be retiring from football, Silva went back to Brazil in January 2017 and has rejuvenated his career with his old club, winning the Copa do Brasil last October.

However, the 26-year-old is still in contact with Madrid directors and has not given up on playing for the European champions again, even though he admits considering retirement after learning of his heart problem.

"A lot of things went through my head at the time; one of them was that I'd have to stop playing so young," he told Marca. "But after the tests the doctor said it was just a scare and I could be calm and play again, which made me happy and motivated to resume my career.

"I left Europe thinking about resuming my career and having more consistency and rhythm in matches. I didn't achieve it in my first season, but last year was very good because I played regularly and I was winning titles. It was a very good year. The most important thing is that I'm back playing at a high level.

"I had a little problem, but I had examinations and everything is fine; it was just a scare. I'm totally fit and can play at the highest level.

"I have contact with the [Madrid] board, but you end up distancing yourself and that's normal. I also still have a relationship with some players, but I have to thank the club for everything and their understanding. They were always concerned about my career and wanting me to play. They have taken good care of me.

"I have a contract with Cruzeiro until the middle of the year and I intend to fulfil it. From there, we'll have to see. I dream of playing in Europe again, but I feel happy and at home with Cruzeiro.

"When I arrived I trained well, started to play and even started in the Champions League, played well and we won. I am motivated and want to play at a high level and win titles. Without a doubt I think I have the option of returning to Madrid again."

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique suggested Real Madrid are hypocritical to complain about refereeing controversy after benefitting from several contentious calls against Atletico Madrid.

Madrid were angered by officiating in Sunday's basketball Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, as they believe disputed decisions cost them victory.

Officials used only two of the 11 available angles to review a pair of late incidents, as Madrid's Jeffery Taylor was denied a call close at the net despite appearing to receive contact to his arm, before Anthony Randolph was adjudged to have unfairly obstructed Barca's Anthony Tomic in the last second to effectively hand the Catalans a 94-93 win.

Madrid president Florentino Perez is reported to have threatened to withdraw the team from the Copa next year in response, while the club slammed the decisions in a statement before posting video footage of the controversial moments on Twitter.

But Pique suggested they have short memories, as Madrid's football team was helped by some fiercely debated officiating in the 3-1 derby triumph at Atletico Madrid on February 9.

Vinicius Jr was awarded a penalty when the initial foul appeared to take place outside the area, while Atleti striker Alvaro Morata had no joy from seemingly strong VAR reviews of a second-half goal and penalty appeal.

"It [Madrid complaining about referees] happens in basketball and in football," Pique told reporters.

"Then they go to the Wanda Metropolitano and they're quiet for a while after what happened there.

"It's a good thing they don't do other sports, like handball or hockey, as they'd complain about those too."

Barcelona need to recover confidence if they are to end their unconvincing recent run, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has suggested.

LaLiga's leaders were held to a goalless draw by Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, failing to make the most of their dominance of possession and a succession of chances in France.

Barca have now drawn four of their past five matches in all competitions, scoring just twice in their most recent four games.

They face a daunting run of matches over the next 10 days, with a league trip to Sevilla on Saturday followed by back-to-back away games against Real Madrid.

Ter Stegen says they must use the meeting at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to give themselves a boost as they look to sustain a treble challenge.

"The important thing is to recover. We have to be at 100 per cent and recover confidence against Sevilla," said the Germany international.

"We wanted a bit more [against Lyon]. We have to look ahead to the big games we have now and then we'll have the second leg against Lyon, a team with a lot of quality, although that's something we also have in attack.

"We know what we have to do, and we have a second leg to get it. Our goal is to reach the next round."

Alvaro Morata does not think it a major problem that some Atletico Madrid fans were against his return to the club, insisting that "not even Jesus Christ pleased everybody".

The striker joined Diego Simeone's side in January on an 18-month loan deal from Chelsea, where he had struggled following a reported £57million switch from Real Madrid.

It was his allegiances with the European champions that upset a number of Atleti supporters, while others were frustrated that a deal for Morata was pursued instead of giving youngsters such as Borja Garces the chance to impress in the first team.

There were chants to that effect heard in the home LaLiga match against Getafe just prior to Morata's arrival, but the player says he has been made to feel welcome by the club.

"You can't please everyone on every side. Not even Jesus Christ pleased everybody," he told AS.

"I'm very happy with my team-mates, with the club. They have received me very well and that's something to appreciate.

"I want to show why I'm here and to continue growing.

"The truth is I haven't needed to adapt much, because there are people here who I knew.

"Now, I just want to win. I can't stop thinking about winning. It's difficult, but we want to do it."

Morata spent the early part of his youth career with Atletico before joining Madrid after a year spent at Getafe.

Opportunities in the Madrid first team were difficult to come by and he left for Juventus in 2014 before returning to the Santiago Bernabeu after two successful seasons in Italy.

Morata says it was during the 2015-16 campaign that he first spoke with Atleti boss Simeone and promised he would join the club in the future.

"To tell the truth, the first contact was three and a half years ago," said the 26-year-old. "I gave him my word that as soon as I could, I would come.

"It wasn't possible before. It wasn't up to me. I gave my word."

James Rodriguez has suggested he would be happy to return to Real Madrid from Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

The Colombia international's two-year loan with the Bundesliga champions ends in June and Bayern are yet to take up their option to sign him permanently.

James' future has been the subject of speculation during what has proved to be a more difficult second season in Germany under Niko Kovac.

The 27-year-old insists his focus is on Bayern's objectives this term, but concedes Madrid is still very much his home.

"In Madrid, I have everything such as my house and people who love me," he told Cadena Cope's El Partidazo and Cadena SER's El Larguero.

"We will have to see what happens, but at the moment I have a contract with Bayern Munich. I just want to finish the season and we'll see what happens.

"I keep in touch with some Real Madrid players."

James was speaking after playing in Bayern's 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Anfield.

Eden Hazard should leave Chelsea and would become a better player at Real Madrid, according to former Belgium international Emile Mpenza.

Hazard's contract at Stamford Bridge expires at the end of next season and this month he said he has made a decision about his future, though he did not offer any further information.

The 28-year-old has been heavily linked with a switch to Madrid, a path trodden by former Chelsea team-mate and Belgium colleague Thibaut Courtois in the close season.

Ex-Manchester City striker Mpenza believes heading to the Santiago Bernabeu would enable Hazard to take his career to new heights.

"I think he wrote a page in Chelsea's history book and now he has to try to go somewhere else," Mpenza told Omnisport.

"A player always wants to move to another team to improve. Real Madrid won three Champions Leagues [in a row], and Hazard hasn't won it with Chelsea.

"If he wants to improve, he can go to Madrid to become stronger."

Mpenza warned City not to underestimate Schalke - another of his former teams - in the Champions League last-16 tie, the first leg of which takes place at the Veltins-Arena on Wednesday.

However, he believes Pep Guardiola's side are the favourites to retain the Premier League title due to Liverpool's history of struggling against teams beneath them in the table.

"We always try to go through, but we failed. This year it's a very tough game against Schalke. People are saying that we are favourites, but it's football, we never know," said Mpenza.

On the domestic battle with City and Liverpool locked on 65 points at the summit, though the Reds have a game in hand, he added: "It's possible [City will win the league]. Now they're tied with Liverpool, but Liverpool are always in the race until the end for the past two-three years.

"And I think City could win again this year because they have a lot of experience … and Liverpool has been losing games they shouldn't lose in the final stretch in the past.

"So I think City has an advantage when it comes to winning the league."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has revealed a proposal to convert the Supercopa de Espana from a one-off game into a mini-tournament.

Last year's Supercopa de Espana was played in Morocco and classified as a friendly, much to the confusion of Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde, whose side beat Sevilla 2-1.

Sevilla also shared objections to the change in format from a two-legged affair with home and away matches to a one-off game played in Tangier.

The Supercopa de Espana traditionally pits the winners of the Copa del Rey against the LaLiga champions at the start of the season, but another switch could be on the way.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales announced on Tuesday he wants to expand the Supercopa to four teams - LaLiga's top two and both Copa del Rey finalists.

"The next Supercopa will be played out of Spain again," Rubiales said. "And I will raise to the assembly a new format of a final four, where the finalists of the Copa del Rey and the top two of the league can meet."

Rubiales previously voiced his opposition to a proposal to play LaLiga matches outside of Spain, with Girona v Barcelona initially planned to take place in Miami before the latter pulled out.

 

Leonardo Bonucci says he turned down the chance to sign for Real Madrid in order to return to Juventus.

Bonucci left Juve for fellow Serie A side AC Milan in 2017 but re-signed for the Italian champions after a single season with the Rossoneri.

Having previously claimed to have been a target for Manchester City, Bonucci earlier confirmed he was pursued by their Premier League rivals Manchester United before rejoining Juve.

And ahead of his side's Champions League last-16 first leg away to Atletico Madrid, Bonucci revealed the tournament's holders Real Madrid tried to sign him too.

"It is the truth: Madrid looked for me," Bonucci told AS. "It has been a pride and a pleasure to be in their sights, it means that I have worked well in these years.

"But the call of Juventus and the desire to return to feel at home took my heart to decide that the white and black colours suit me better."

Bonucci explained an illness suffered by one of his children, Matteo, was among his motivations to go back to Serie A champions Juve.

"I knew this decision would cause controversy but I know myself," he added. "I know how to respond in the field.

"How did my son Lorenzo react? He's happy because dad came home. Last year I was almost always in Milan and he could not see me. It was one of the reasons why I came back.

"It was a very tough five months, and I understood what my priorities were. Before, the desire to go far, to be a great player, led me to put football and family in the same place.

"I learned, thanks to Matteo, that I can live without football, but not without my family, my children. It is the ugliest thing that can happen to you, but luckily now everything is fine."

Juventus are on track to win an eighth consecutive Serie A title, with Massimiliano Allegri's side 13 points clear of Napoli, but Bonucci denies they are cruising.

"It is not as easy as it looks. The level of Italian football has improved," he said. "I'll be honest: there was a time when Juve were far above the others.

"You played against Napoli, Inter and Milan and felt that you were going to win without problems, now it is not like that. In the last two or three years especially Napoli were very close."

Barcelona are beginning to plan for a future without Lionel Messi, although club president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes he will sign another contract.

The 31-year-old's current deal will expire after the 2020-21 campaign and the Barca captain has previously said he would like to return to his homeland with boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.

Messi started his career at Newell's but moved to Barcelona as a teenager, developing into an all-time great of the game with nine LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.

Bartomeu remains hopeful Messi can be persuaded to extend his time at the club even further but accepts Barca must have a plan for when the Argentina international moves on.

"We are already thinking about it, but it is a future still far away," Bartomeu said to Le Figaro. "He is a young player, he is 31-years-old, his performance is very good, he plays even better and better, I do not know how he does it!

"He has a contract for two seasons, but I think he will extend his career beyond 2021. But you have to think of young talent. When Messi no longer plays, no one can replace him. It's impossible.

"Behind Messi, there is nobody. Neither in Barca nor anywhere else. The coach of the day will have to think of how the team will play [but] the idea of Barca football will remain the same."

Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot, but Bartomeu denied there has been contact between the LaLiga leaders and the France international.

Rabiot is expected to leave PSG at the end of the season, when his deal expires, with the midfielder not in contention for selection by coach Thomas Tuchel due to the contract stand-off.

"The planning of the club for the next seasons is not yet launched, we will start in March," Bartomeu said of links to Rabiot.

"In addition, Barca always puts the priority on the players of our B team. If we do not find them, we will look for them outside.

"The only sure thing about Rabiot is that on June 30 he will be free."

One player who will be lining up for Barca next season is the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with the Netherlands international adding to Ernesto Valverde's midfield options after agreeing a move worth €86million.

"When a player arrives at Barca, he knows he will be competing. It's a challenge for them, some accept it, others do not," Bartomeu continued. "When we go looking for a talent outside, we are sometimes told: 'I want to play, not be on the bench.'

"He is a player who will mark a time of European football. He has an incredible talent and an understanding of football which is that of Barca... and the same as that of Ajax."

Cristiano Ronaldo will get reacquainted with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday for the first time since leaving their bitter rivals Real Madrid for Juventus, having boasted a fine record in derby clashes.

Atletico host Juve in the first leg of the Champions League's round of 16 and they are braced to face a familiar foe in the Portugal great.

Ronaldo was a regular rival of Atletico's after moving to LaLiga from Manchester United in 2009, and he went on to consistently be a nuisance.

He was on the winning side in his first eight Madrid derbies, before Atletico began to enjoy something of a resurgence and assert themselves in both LaLiga and the Champions League.

However, Madrid still generally got the better of them when it mattered and Ronaldo often played a significant role.

His form has shown no sign of letting up since moving to Serie A, scoring 19 goals in 24 appearances, and he will no doubt be expecting to continue his fine record against Atletico in their upcoming clashes.

Using Opta data, Omnisport takes a closer look at the five-time Ballon d'Or-winner's history against these opponents.

 

22  Ronaldo's overall haul of 22 goals against Atletico during his time in Spain makes him the Madrid derby's all-time top scorer. Only against Sevilla (27) and Getafe (23) has he scored more often.

10 –  Ten of those 22 goals were scored away from home. Only on trips to Sevilla and Barcelona (12) has Ronaldo been more prolific in front of goal.

8 – Ronaldo has taken more penalties against Atletico than any other side, and he has scored every single one of them.

3 – The 34-year-old has three hat-tricks against Atletico, with his most recent coming in May 2017's Champions League semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu.

18  – No player has netted more often against Atleti during Diego Simeone's celebrated tenure than Ronaldo, whose 18 goals have come across 25 derbies.

5 –  Ronaldo has also chipped in with five assists to further punish Atletico from 10 clear chances created. He had better assist hauls against only Malaga, Espnayol (nine apiece), Levante (eight) and Athletic Bilbao (seven) in Spanish football.

19 – Only three of Ronaldo's 22 goals against Atletico were not with his right foot. All of the remaining trio were headers.

6 – Ronaldo has faced Atletico six times in the Champions League. His solitary defeat in those games (2-1 on May 10, 2017) had no bearing on the end result, as Madrid had won the first leg 3-0 thanks to his hat-trick.

Lionel Messi is the "only genius in world football" according to former Real Madrid head coach Fabio Capello, who also praised Cristiano Ronaldo's impact at Juventus.

Barcelona superstar Messi and Ronaldo have won five Ballon d'Or awards apiece, with ongoing debate as to who is the greatest player of all time.

Asked about Messi at the Laureus Awards in Monaco, Capello – who won two LaLiga titles in two spells with Madrid – told reporters: "Leo Messi is not a footballer, he is a genius and the only genius in world football.

"He has not won much silverware with Argentina but that is because he cannot do it all alone."

Capello did laud Ronaldo following his move to Juventus, where the former Madrid star has flourished this season.

After joining in a €112million deal ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, Ronaldo has scored a Serie A-high 19 goals and 22 in all competitions for the Italian champions.

"Cristiano has woken up a lot of Juventus players," ex-Juve player and coach Capello said. "Bringing him to the club has been a wake-up call for many players and he has made them improve.

"He is very important for Juventus because having someone as good as him at training every day and someone who takes care of himself in the way Ronaldo does, is hugely significant for a team that was coasting.

"It is obvious that he is desperate to win the Champions League with Juventus."

Lionel Messi is the perfect team-mate in attack because of the extra opposition attention he occupies, according to fellow Barcelona star Ousmane Dembele.

Argentina great Messi and France forward Dembele have struck up a successful understanding in the latter's second season at Camp Nou, sharing 43 goals between them in all competitions.

The former Borussia Dortmund man is beginning to plug the hole left by Neymar, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 due to a reported desire to break free of Messi's shadow.

Dembele, in contrast, is more than happy for his captain to retain the burden of responsibility.

"It's great, he makes football easier," Dembele told Barca's website.

"I give him the ball and he does incredible things. When he's on the pitch it's easier for a forward, because the rivals focus mainly on him."

Messi and Dembele will both have big roles to play when the Blaugrana visit Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Bruno Genesio's men advanced undefeated through Group F and have recorded impressive victories over Premier League leaders Manchester City and Ligue 1 table-toppers PSG this term.

Ex-Rennes winger Dembele warned: "They're a team with very good players and it's very difficult to win there.

"They demonstrated this season - winning against City and PSG - that we will have to be very attentive and not think that the game will be easy.

"[Nabil] Fekir - suspended for the first leg - is their best player, but there are other players who have great qualities, and we'll have to watch everyone.

"I look closely at their Ligue 1 matches, and I play alongside some of their players in the French national team like Fekir, [Ferland] Mendy or Moussa Dembele. They are dangerous all over the pitch."

Barca remain in the hunt to win the treble and Dembele encouraged his team-mates to fight on as many fronts as possible.

"We have to be focused on our goals," the 21-year-old said. "We want to win titles, win the Champions League and also the league, of course!"

Marcelo's long-term future at Real Madrid appears increasingly shaky after the shock 2-1 home loss to Girona contributed to a damning statistical portrait of the left-back's waning influence.

After two matches among the substitutes, the experienced Brazil international was restored to the starting XI on Sunday and only succeeded in fuelling positional rival Sergio Reguilon's claims for a permanent berth.

His defending was questionable for both Girona goals as Los Blancos slumped to their seventh league loss of the season, six of which have been suffered in Marcelo's 13 matches.

The European champions have managed a paltry five victories in that time, meaning the 30-year-old has been on the victorious side in just 38.5 per cent of his LaLiga appearances this term.

Rumours that he could reunite with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus have emerged amid the decline and Santiago Solari's belief in the identity of his best option on the left side of defence could be cemented with a glance at the available data.

In 22-year-old Reguilon, the Madrid boss has a trusted commodity known since their time together with Castilla and one who statistically offers better results in all departments.

The homegrown product made headlines for the wrong reasons in October when widely shared footage showed Sergio Ramos reacting angrily to an innocuous training ground collision between the pair, but he has since remodelled his image as an important ingredient in improved Madrid performances.

Reguilon has helped Solari's men claim maximum points in eight of his nine LaLiga outings, during which their average number of goals conceded has fallen from 1.4 per game to 0.9.

In all competitions, Madrid's 2018-19 winning record with the long-serving Marcelo in the team stands at 50 per cent, a stark comparison to the 82.4 per cent of games they have won without him.

Time, at least at the Santiago Bernabeu, may be running out for the four-time Champions League winner to restore his fading reputation.

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