Real Madrid climbed above Barcelona at the top of LaLiga as second-half goals from Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema clinched a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad. 

Barca's goalless draw with Sevilla on Friday handed Zinedine Zidane's men the chance to leapfrog their rivals at the summit - and they duly seized the opportunity with a hard-fought triumph on the road. 

Ramos put Madrid in front from the penalty spot five minutes into the second half, while Benzema added a second less than two minutes after Adnan Januzaj had a goal controversially ruled out for Sociedad. 

The visitors lost Ramos to injury and were given a scare when Mikel Merino pulled one back seven minutes from time, but they held on to make it three wins from three since the restart and overtake Barcelona by virtue of a superior head-to-head record.  

Madrid took nearly an hour to get going in their 3-0 win against Valencia last time out and it was a similar story here against top-four hopefuls Sociedad. 

Vinicius Junior fired over from a good position inside 110 seconds and was then denied by Alex Remiro late in the first half, either side of Benzema's low effort being kept out. 

But Madrid did not have to wait too long into the second half to find a breakthrough, Vinicius tripped by Diego Llorente as he was about to shoot after gliding past two players. 

Ramos made no mistake from the spot, the skipper equalling his best-ever LaLiga goals haul of seven by sending Remiro the wrong way. 

Madrid lost their captain to an apparent knee injury 10 minutes later and nearly suffered a bigger blow when substitute Januzaj picked out the corner with a low drive, only for Merino - deemed to be in Thibaut Courtois' line of sight - to be adjudged offside. 

Sociedad's pain was doubled when Benzema brought down Federico Valverde's cross and fired home, the goal allowed to stand despite a VAR check for a possible handball by the Frenchman. 

And despite an unmarked Merino thumping home at the back post, Madrid saw things through to keep their momentum going.  

 

What does it mean? Advantage Madrid in tight title tussle 

Barcelona looked well below par in their stalemate with Sevilla two days ago and Madrid made them pay with this well-earned victory.  

Zidane's side are level on 65 points with their bitter rivals but edge in front after taking four points from the two Clasico encounters earlier in the campaign. 

Vinicius steps up for Madrid 

Brought into the side for the rested Eden Hazard on the left of Madrid's front three, Vinicius was the visitors' liveliest player in the first half and won the penalty for the key breakthrough soon after the restart. 

James unable to take his chance 

It is no secret that James is not fancied by Zidane, this the Colombia international's first league start since October. He offered little during his 78 minutes on the field and may well have to wait a little while for his next opportunity to impress. 

What's next? 

The games keep coming thick and fast for both sides, with Madrid hosting Real Mallorca on Wednesday and Sociedad at home to Celta Vigo the same day. 

Lautaro Martinez is "flattered" with links to Barcelona but has not asked to leave Inter, according to Giuseppe Marotta. 

The Argentina international has a release clause of €111million and has been strongly tipped to join the LaLiga side in the next transfer window. 

He has enjoyed an impressive campaign at San Siro, scoring 16 goals in 31 matches, and is also rumoured to be a target for Real Madrid. 

However, Inter CEO Marotta reiterated he is confident the club can keep hold of Martinez beyond the end of this season, with the forward yet to put in a request to move elsewhere. 

"Lautaro Martinez is the focus of other clubs' attention in the transfer market, everyone knows this," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"He has immense quality and many teams who would love to negotiate with us for him.  

"We have no intention of selling our best players, so if a player does not express the desire to leave, then we'll hold on tight. 

"Lautaro is flattered by the attention of big clubs, but he has never expressed the desire to leave. Never. I am very optimistic that we'll see him playing for us again next season." 

Former Inter goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi suggested this week Martinez's performances have been affected by the ongoing speculation over his future. 

The 22-year-old struggled to make an impact in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Napoli - a result that saw Inter exit the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage - but Marotta is not concerned.  

"There has been a lockdown for three months," Marotta said. "He should be evaluated on what he's done all season, not just in the Coppa Italia semi-final." 

Barcelona confirmed they have detected an issue in the soleus muscle in Frenkie de Jong's calf after missing the draw with Sevilla.

The Netherlands international had to miss Friday's trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Barca were frustrated in a goalless stalemate.

It was confirmed a day earlier that De Jong had been ruled out through injury, though the club did not reveal what the issue was.

Following further medical tests, Barca were able to determine the former Ajax talent is suffering with a problem in his soleus muscle in the right calf.

However, the club have not commented on how long he could be out for, saying the "evolution of the injury will condition the player's availability."

De Jong is in his first season at Camp Nou and has made 38 appearances across all competitions.

Barca are next in action at home to Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, but by then they could have surrendered their place atop of LaLiga.

Friday's draw in Seville leaves them just three points ahead of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Should Los Blancos win that match – away to Real Sociedad on Sunday – they will go top of the league due to their superior head-to-head record against Barca.

Dean Henderson has a decision to make as he continues to impress on loan at Sheffield United.

He is Manchester United's future number one, but Premier League rivals Chelsea are reportedly interested.

Could the 23-year-old goalkeeper swap Old Trafford for Stamford Bridge?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND CHELSEA IN TUG-OF-WAR OVER HENDERSON

Chelsea are trying to lure Dean Henderson away from Manchester United, according to The Sun.

Henderson has flourished at Sheffield United during his loan spell away from United.

Manchester United are offering Henderson a new contract amid doubts over David De Gea but Chelsea are reportedly plotting a big-money move for the Englishman.

 

ROUND-UP

- It appears as though Juventus will miss out on Barcelona midfielder Arthur. Marca says Arthur has rejected an annual salary of €5million to move to Turin.

- Liverpool are eyeing Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele after missing out on Timo Werner, claims Bleacher Report. Werner swapped RB Leipzig for Chelsea.

Inter are interested in Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, reports Calciomercato. The 21-year-old Brazilian only arrived from Leipzig in January.

Jadon Sancho's head is already at Manchester United, according to German journalist Heiko Wasser. Borussia Dortmund star Sancho has been heavily tipped to join United, while the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid are also eyeing the England international.

- Staying at San Siro and The Suns claims Inter want to sign Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker.

Dortmund have reached an agreement with Thomas Meunier to bring the Paris Saint-Germain full-back to the Bundesliga on a free transfer. It is also reported that Edinson Cavani will not sign a new deal and will sit out PSG's Champions League fixtures. He has been linked to Atletico Madrid and Inter.

- The Daily Mail says Juve are interested in bringing Wolves striker Raul Jimenez to Serie A amid interest from United and Madrid.

- Ansu Fati to United? Mundo Deportivo reports the Barca sensation wants to stay at Camp Nou and fight for his place.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone hailed his team's late win over Real Valladolid as they boosted their chances of finishing in LaLiga's top four.

Vitolo came off the bench and headed home the 81st-minute winner for Atletico in a 1-0 victory at home to Valladolid on Saturday.

Atletico moved back up to third in the standings – level on points with Sevilla through 30 games and four clear of Getafe – in the race for Champions League qualification.

"It's always important to take something from a game and even better when you win," Simeone said.

"There were things to improve, but we've had three months without a normal preparation and then you're playing every three days.

"There's a need to adapt and reinvent yourself, given the circumstances. This was a very important win.

"We had chances in the first half and couldn't score, then in the second half it was tough against a very organised side.

"We could have won or lost, but we achieved a great result."

Atletico played behind closed doors at the Wanda Metropolitano due to the coronavirus pandemic and Simeone added: "The fans weren't there in the flesh, but they were there in spirit.

"The minute of silence before the match and the music in the empty stadium were pure emotion. We lost many people."

Vitolo, whose Atletico eliminated titleholders Liverpool en route to the Champions League quarter-finals this season, said: "The club's goal is to quality for the Champions League next season.

"There are many teams that trying and it will be decided in the last matches. Hopefully we can enter and give the fans a joy."

Real Betis have parted with head coach Rubi amid the club's poor form, the LaLiga side announced.

Rubi departs Betis following Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao, a result which left the Seville-based outfit 14th in the standings and eight points above the relegation zone through 30 matches.

Betis have appointed sporting co-ordinator Alexis Trujillo until the end of the season after just one win in 10 LaLiga games.

"Real Betis Balompie administration board have decided today that Alexis Trujillo will be in charge of the first team," a statement read.

"The former green and white player and captain, currently co-ordinator of the sporting area of the club, will be at the helm until the end of the current season.

"Humberto Alexis Trujillo Oramas was a Real Betis player for seven seasons, in which he played 264 official games in total. He has also been the head coach of the green and white for two games in the 2016/2017 season

"Also, the club would like to thank Joan Francesc Ferrer Sicilia 'Rubi' and his technical staff for all their services and wish them all the best in the future."

Betis host bottom side Espanyol on Thursday.

Atletico Madrid had substitute Vitolo to thank as they boosted their prospects of Champions League football next season with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid at the Wanda Metropolitano.

A clutch of chances had been spurned by the time Vitolo came off the bench to replace Marcos Llorente with 17 minutes remaining, with Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata going close.

When the breakthrough came in the 81st minute it was dramatic, Vitolo heading at goal after a corner from the left reached him at the far post.

Valladolid defender Kiko Olivas felt he had nodded it off the line after diving spectacularly to reach the ball, but replays showed it was six inches over and Atletico moved back up to third.

Sergio Ramos should be given a new contract by Real Madrid so he can finish his career at the club, according to Predrag Mijatovic.

The defender's deal runs until the end of the 2020-21 season, by which time he will be 35.

Madrid have in the recent past allowed other legendary names to leave at the tail end of their playing days, including Ramos' former team-mates Raul and Iker Casillas, who moved on to Schalke and Porto respectively.

However, Mijatovic is adamant the Spain international must be retained despite his advancing years, giving him the chance to teach future generations about life with Los Blancos.

"We cannot afford to let our players help other teams, because they should be ours," the former Madrid forward told Stats Perform News. "I would like to have this policy back.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't happen at Real Madrid. Raul had great history at Real Madrid and left in a bad way, Fernando Hierro the same, Casillas too.

"Now they are talking about Sergio Ramos [doing the same]. His contract has to be extended, two or three years, it doesn't matter. This guy has to finish his career at Real Madrid.

"He is important, almost a treasure of the club. Both for what he has done already and what he can do In the future, maybe not on the field, but teaching the young players who join Real Madrid on how to play, behave and adapt to the club. That's what it has to happen."

Madrid also let Cristiano Ronaldo depart the Santiago Bernabeu for Juventus in 2018, while there has also been speculation Luka Modric – who turns 35 in September – could move on.

Both players were pivotal in helping win the Champions League for three successive years during Zinedine Zidane's first spell in charge.

"If I had been at the club, I wouldn't let players like Cristiano, Sergio Ramos or Luka Modric leave," Mijatovic continued. 

"They are players that despite losing maybe a bit of fitness as the years go on, they are always very positive for the upcoming players.

"Let's imagine a young striker who comes in and learns from Cristiano, giving him advice. Or a young centre-back speaking with Sergio Ramos – who could teach him better than Sergio Ramos on how he has to behave?

"Football is not just about having great players and then dropping them when you no longer need them. There are some players ...Italians do this perfectly. There are players like [Franco] Baresi, [Paolo] Maldini, and these big players who are a great asset to the club."

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists nothing has changed in the LaLiga title race despite Barcelona's slip-up at Sevilla.

Barca were held to a 0-0 draw at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Friday, opening the door for Madrid to draw level on points with the Blaugrana if they win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Victory would see Madrid leapfrog Barca at the top courtesy of their superior head-to-head record.

Speaking after their draw, Barca defender Gerard Pique told Movistar Plus that it would be "very difficult" for them to retain LaLiga, expressing his belief that "it's going to be difficult for Madrid to lose points" having seen what has happened in the games since the restart following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus.

Those comments were regarded by some as a reference to seemingly favourable refereeing decisions Madrid have received in their wins over Eibar and Valencia.

Zidane, though, showed little interest in Pique's remarks at his pre-match media conference on Saturday, telling reporters: "Nothing has changed.

"We have a game tomorrow and we have talked about 11 finals. We will give everything and without thinking about anything else."

Asked about Pique's comments, he replied: "Say one thing or another. What interests me is tomorrow's game.

"I have my opinion, but I will not comment on it because it can happen the other way around. The truth is that what encourages us is tomorrow's game. Nothing else."

"I don't believe they are favouring us," Zidane said when pressed on whether refereeing decisions had been benefiting Los Blancos.

Sociedad are contending for the Champions League places but have been held by Osasuna and beaten by Deportivo Alaves in their two games since the restart.

"I don't know if they are playing worse, the results have been worse, but they can get you into trouble at any time," added Zidane. "Tomorrow is another final."

Manchester United could be edging closer to landing Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa.

Chiesa, 22, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Serie A club, where he came through the youth system.

And the Italy international could be on his way to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GETTING CLOSER TO CHIESA

Manchester United are pushing for Chiesa and their latest offer could be enough to start proper negotiations, according to La Nazione.

Chiesa has also been linked with Juventus and Inter with his contract in Florence running until 2022.

A 17-time Italy international, Chiesa has scored seven goals and provided three assists in 26 games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Joao Felix has yet to hit top form at Atletico Madrid. Goal reports the LaLiga club turned down a £135million (€150m) offer from a Premier League side earlier this season.

- Chelsea could yet strengthen further. The Daily Express says they are in talks to sign Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell, who is said to be valued at £80m. Chelsea will have Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner arrive at the club ahead of next season.

- David Luiz's future at Arsenal remains uncertain following his horror show against Manchester City on Wednesday. According to the Daily Mail, the Brazilian defender wants a two-year deal, rather than the one being offered. Luiz is coming out of contract at the end of the month.

- Could Edin Dzeko's time at Roma be coming to an end? Corriere dello Sport reports Roma need to qualify for the Champions League to keep the striker at the club. Dzeko is contracted until 2022, while Roma are three points behind fourth-placed Atalanta in Serie A.

- Morgan Schneiderlin is set to return to France. RMC Sport says the midfielder will leave Everton to join Nice, returning to Ligue 1 for the first time since 2008.

- Staying at Goodison Park and Everton have joined the race for Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu, according to the Mirror.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen believes Barcelona will secure the LaLiga title if they can win their remaining games.

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Sevilla on Friday, giving Real Madrid the chance to join them on 65 points when they visit Real Sociedad.

Madrid would also hold the upper-hand thanks to their head-to-head record against Barcelona after their El Clasico victory in March.

But Ter Stegen believes Barcelona will be crowned league champions if they can win each of their remaining eight games.

"We no longer depend on ourselves and we will be watching what the rivals do, but we are improving," the goalkeeper said, via Sport.

"Defensively we are showing our best face and I am convinced that by winning all the remaining games we will be champions."

Barcelona dropped points for the first time since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, but they are yet to concede in three games.

However, Ter Stegen felt a draw against third-placed Sevilla was a fair result.

"I think we have played a good match, especially in the first half. We knew we were coming to the field of a very complicated team and we have dominated," he said.

"All in all, I consider that the draw was fair, because Sevilla have also had good chances."

Barcelona are in action again with a clash against Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

Barcelona coach Quique Setien disagreed with Gerard Pique and believes Real Madrid will drop points late in the LaLiga season.

Setien's men were held to a 0-0 draw at Sevilla on Friday, giving Madrid the chance to join them on 65 points when they visit Real Sociedad.

Pique said it was hard to see Madrid dropping points in their remaining nine games, but Setien disagreed.

"I think that about Pique is the frustration of the moment. We were very confident because we had 30 very good minutes at the beginning of the game and then we got messy," he said, via AS.

"In the second half, we lost balls that gave them life.

"Tomorrow, he will surely think differently because I am sure that Madrid will not win everything."

A win against Sociedad on Sunday would send Madrid top of the table thanks to their head-to-head record against Barcelona after their El Clasico victory in March.

But Setien, whose side host Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, is remaining upbeat.

"The rivals always have things to say, there are very tough confrontations and you have to be optimistic," he said.

"We don't depend on ourselves, but you have to be optimistic."

Gerard Pique said it was hard to see Real Madrid dropping points between now and the end of the season after Barcelona handed Zinedine Zidane's team a huge title boost.

A goalless draw at Sevilla on Friday opened the door for Madrid to potentially join Barcelona at the top of LaLiga on Sunday, when they tackle Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Pique could not inspire Barcelona to find a breakthrough at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, leaving the race for glory wide open again.

He said afterwards: "It's going to be difficult to win this league. We're going to do everything we can but very few points will be lost.

"From what I've seen in recent weeks, it's going to be very difficult for Real Madrid to lose points."

Lionel Messi went close with a first-half free-kick and provided a familiar spark at times, but Barcelona faded after a bright opening 30 minutes.

Pique felt he and his team-mates missed an opportunity to take another three points, but he might later reflect on how it might have been worse.

Sevilla defender Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Real Madrid, had a glorious last-gasp chance but made a hash of a close-range shot and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a comfortable save.

After this weekend, both frontrunners will have eight games left to play in the league.

Asked if it felt as though two points had got away in Seville, Pique said: "Yes, because we were in control and had more chances. They looked a bit tired. I think we were good with the ball but there was little space. We couldn't get the goal."

Barcelona slipped up with a 0-0 draw at Sevilla to hand Real Madrid a huge LaLiga title boost, as Lionel Messi was kept waiting for his 700th career goal.

Messi had scored 37 in his 38 previous outings against Sevilla, more than against any other team, but a series of threatening free-kicks were repelled by the home side this time.

Antoine Griezmann was surprisingly left out of Barcelona's starting line-up for the clash with third-placed opposition, as Martin Braithwaite was preferred, and the visitors lacked penetration.

The draw leaves them still top of the table, but Real Madrid, with a game in hand, are just three points off the summit.

This stalemate at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium could prove a costly one for Barcelona come the end of the season, and it was almost worse for them, with Sevilla's Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Real Madrid, squandering a glorious late chance.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde drilled an early shot a yard wide, but Barcelona were soon on top and for a while they looked terrific.

It took two Sevilla players to stop Messi at the expense of a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area at the 20-minute mark.

Up stepped Messi, and his shot beat the wall and might have beaten Tomas Vaclik too, but the goalkeeper was done a favour by Kounde, who cleared the ball from almost on the line with a flicked header over the bar.

Messi tested Vaclik moments later with another free-kick, and the goalkeeper was more comfortable second time around.

Inevitably at the centre of things, Messi avoided punishment for shoving Diego Carlos to the ground in first-half stoppage time after the home defender fouled Suarez.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen came to Barcelona's rescue early in the second half with a fine parry to deny Lucas Ocampos, the goalkeeper's strong left hand keeping out a thunderous shot from a tight angle to the right of goal.

The German thwarted Munir moments later too, pushing away a vicious left-footed strike.

Vaclik tipped another Messi free-kick over his crossbar at full stretch as the game entered its final 20 minutes, before Jordi Alba made a key block at the other end as Sevilla launched a three-on-one breakaway raid.

Ocampos drew a save from Ter Stegen with a low shot but neither side could successfully plot a way to a goal, Reguilon failing to properly get hold of a close-range shot at the death, to Barcelona's great relief.

Marcos Llorente's eye for goal in training has persuaded Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone to use the midfielder in more advanced positions. 

Llorente was Atletico's hero with a two-goal salvo in extra time to inspire a thrilling last-16 Champions League win over holders Liverpool in March. 

That was Atleti's last game before the coronavirus shutdown but Simeone was evidently keen to see more of the same when they resumed at Athletic Bilbao last weekend, with the 25-year-old deployed behind Diego Costa in a 1-1 draw. 

Llorente was on the bench for the midweek trip to Osasuna but came on with devastating effect during the second half – scoring once and laying on late goals for Alvaro Morata and Yannick Carrasco in a 5-0 romp. 

That goal and his Anfield brace account for three quarters of the ex-Real Madrid man's season haul, but Simeone feels he has spotted a prolific quality to Llorente's work – citing his previous success in redeploying Antoine Griezmann. 

"I saw Griezmann, who could play as a second striker or on the point of the attack, when everyone said he was a winger," Simeone told a news conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga match against Real Valladolid. 

"Lucas [Hernandez, Bayern Munich's former Atletico centre-back] was world champion [with France] at left-back. 

"When the players show they have the tools, we must be attentive as coaches to take advantage of it. 

"We saw he was making goals, goals and goals in training and that is very important in the world of football." 

Morata was on target after coming off the bench to replace Diego Costa, having also been used as a substitute against Athletic. 

Simeone insists both strikers are a key part of his plans in a reconfigured attack. 

"I spoke to them a week before the start of LaLiga and I transmitted what I feel, they are very important players,” he said. 

"Each one can be useful to the team, both are very committed." 

Costa was awarded a commemorative plaque by team-mate Koke on behalf of the club after making his 200th Atletico appearance at Osasuna. 

"It's an honour to reach 200 games for Atleti," said the former Chelsea man, who is in his second spell with Simeone's team.

"When I arrived I wanted to play and feel I was important but never imagined I to reach such a milestone."

The Valladolid game will be Atletico's first at their Wanda Metropolitano home since LaLiga resumed behind closed doors.

They lie fourth in the battle for Champions League qualification and Costa added: "We all know we have the best fans in Spain, if not the world. We're going to miss their presence, but we know what we have to do.

"We have nine finals ahead of us and we have to win. We have to play as if the fans were here to earn the three points."

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