Zinedine Zidane feels his Real Madrid players deserve more respect as he is "tired" of their victories being attributed to refereeing decisions.

Madrid celebrated a seventh straight win on Sunday as they prevailed 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao, moving seven points clear of rivals Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

However, their goal came courtesy of a Sergio Ramos penalty, awarded only after a VAR review highlighted Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo.

Iker Muniain revealed his frustration at the call after the match, echoing comments from Barca's Gerard Pique, who suggested the officials were making it difficult to stop Madrid winning the title.

Zidane bristled at the accusations, though, telling a news conference: "I am tired of being told that we won because of the referees.

"This is not going to change. But the players deserve respect. Nothing is going to take away from our goal."

The head coach accepted Madrid were not at their best at San Mames, yet he pointed to a tough schedule which saw the leaders in action against Getafe as recently as Thursday.

"Our strength is what I like the most. We are showing our strength and our balance when we lose the ball," Zidane said. "We are doing very well.

"We have lacked brilliance in attack and we can improve, but most important is our defensive strength.

"[The problems in attack are due to] a little bit of everything. It can be something physical, too. We play every three days.

"But I don't think it is our own thing; I think it is something for all the teams. There is a lot of difference between the beginning and the end."

Talk is turning towards when Madrid might clinch the title, with just four games to play and Barca struggling for form.

But Zidane is not getting ahead of himself, adding: "Until it is mathematically won, we cannot relax and think about the title.

"We have shown our strength and our solidity, but I am not going to talk about it, even if you ask me every day, because I already have a lot of experience in my career, also as a player, and all the games are difficult.

"What I can say is that winning seven games out of seven is impressive."

Athletic Bilbao captain Iker Muniain became the latest player to question refereeing decisions involving Real Madrid after Sergio Ramos scored a decisive penalty at San Mames.

Madrid were made to work hard for a 1-0 victory on Sunday - their seventh win in a row - as Zinedine Zidane's men moved seven points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.

But Athletic were unhappy with the award of the spot-kick from which Ramos clinched the points, with Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo spotted only after a VAR review.

Muniain was particularly frustrated as there was then no similar call made at the other end of the pitch when Ramos appeared to step on Raul Garcia's foot off the ball.

He said: "Raul Garcia has been stamped on and they haven't even reviewed it. That's the difference.

"We've seen the theme in these weeks since the restart - depending on which teams it is, some decisions are given.

"Everyone can draw their own conclusions."

Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique has previously suggested it would be difficult to stop Madrid winning the title because decisions too often go their way.

Those claims prompted Ramos to respond: "People shouldn't be imagining things!"

Sergio Ramos revealed he enjoys the responsibility of taking crucial penalties for Real Madrid, although he claimed he would be playing tennis if he was looking for individual recognition.

For the second time in four days, Ramos grabbed the only goal from 12 yards for Madrid, this time to secure a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Sunday.

A seventh straight victory moved the LaLiga leaders seven points clear, at least until Barcelona take on Villarreal later in the day.

Ramos is focused on ensuring Madrid keep winning, having been flawless since the season's restart – a period in which the captain has now scored five times, including from the spot against Getafe on Thursday.

"All I think about is the three points," he said. "But those moments of doubt [when taking penalties], that's when I feel most comfortable.

"I just wanted to take that responsibility. What matters most is the overall result. The only thing that matters is that it helps the team win."

On his personal exploits, Ramos added: "The individual recognition is second for me.

"What matters is that the team get the objectives we want and manage to get the three points in every game we play. Luckily, for the moment, we are getting those results.

"I would have probably played tennis if I were more interested in individual recognition. This is a very beautiful sport, a team sport, and it's very nice to win as a team."

Having also overcome Getafe this week and with relatively kinder fixtures to come, Ramos acknowledged the magnitude of Madrid's latest victory.

"It was very important for us. We knew today was going to be one of the most important games of those that are left for us," he said. "It's a very difficult game always, travelling away to Bilbao.

"We just organised it like that: we had 11 finals left coming back from lockdown and we just had to go game by game, getting the three points.

"I believe today, again, the team proved that against a team like this, you always have to be at it. We're very happy with the three points. That was our objective.

"It's three very important points to put more pressure on Barcelona, who play later today.

"We just want that league title. From the first minute, you could see how we wanted to go for that game and get the result today.

"We knew we weren't going to win 3-0 or 4-0 today – it was going to be a very tough game – but it was important."

Sergio Ramos was Real Madrid's penalty hero for the second time in four days as a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao sent the LaLiga leaders seven points clear.

Zinedine Zidane's men have been flawless since the season's restart to claim control of the title rice, but they were given a stern test by Getafe on Thursday and again had their work cut out for a time on Sunday.

Yet as against Getafe, Ramos stepped up to net a second-half penalty and secure all three points in Bilbao, with his latest decisive goal coming after Dani Garcia tripped Marcelo in the area to prompt a VAR review.

A seventh straight victory ensured Madrid made the most of playing before rivals Barcelona, who will kick-off at Villarreal later in the day knowing they have an even more significant gap to make up.

Madrid recalled Marco Asensio for his first start of the season in a move which almost brought immediate reward.

The fit-again forward drew a low save from a fourth-minute free-kick, with Karim Benzema then unable to direct his header goalwards when Dani Carvajal squared the rebound.

That was about the extent of Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon's involvement before half-time, while Thibaut Courtois repelled Raul Garcia's powerful header at the other end.

Simon might have had a far greater role to play, though, as both Rodrygo and Benzema squandered huge headed opportunities from searching Asensio centres, each missing the target completely.

The second period appeared set to play out in similarly frustrating fashion for Madrid until Marcelo went down in the area and a penalty was eventually awarded, with Ramos coolly tucking his finish inside the left-hand post in the 73rd minute.

Simon saved smartly with his legs from Benzema in the closing stages, but the one Ramos goal proved enough for Madrid again.

Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz has been tipped to leave the Bundesliga outfit at the end of the season.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are among the possible destinations.

Havertz's future could become a lot clearer following Leverkusen's 4-2 defeat to Bayern in the DFB-Pokal decider.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA BOOSTED BY HAVERTZ NEWS

Kai Havertz wants to meet with Bayer Leverkusen to discuss his future after the DFB-Pokal final loss to Bayern Munich, according to Bild journalist Christian Falk.

Havertz scored a consolation goal as Leverkusen went down 4-2 to Bayern in Berlin on Saturday.

Chelsea are interested in Havertz, Real Madrid are hesitant about signing the Germany international in 2020, while Bayern are not prepared to make a bid this year.

Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester United have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Falk also claims Bayern star Thiago Alcantara could join Liverpool or United. Bayern are braced for Thiago to leave at the end of the season and the Spanish midfielder has been tipped to move to Premier League champions Liverpool. However, United are also reportedly interested.

United, Arsenal, Napoli and Atletico Madrid are among the teams eyeing a cut-price deal for Madrid outcast James Rodriguez, says Marca. Everton and Wolves have also been mentioned as suitors.

- According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are desperate to sign Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey, so much so they are prepared to sell either Matteo GuendouziAlexandre Lacazette or Lucas Torreira to fund the transfer.

- Gazzetta journalist Nicolo Schirra reports Sporting CP are in advanced negotiations to extend Joelson Fernandes' contract. The Portuguese side are looking to increase the 17-year-old's release clause from €45million to €100m amid interest from Barca, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing Monaco full-back Djibril Sidibe, Foot Mercato claims. The Ligue 1 champions are looking to sign a right-back after Thomas Meunier left for Dortmund.

- Madrid forward Luka Jovic remains Milan's first choice to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Calciomercato says. Milan are ready to meet Jovic's agent as they look to pair the Serbia international with former Eintracht Frankfurt team-mate Ante Rebic at San Siro. Patrik Schick – who spent the season on loan at Leipzig from Roma – is another option should Milan fail to land Jovic.

Inter prefer David Alaba over Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri and have already met the Bayern star twice, according to SportMediaset. Alaba has also been linked to Chelsea, PSG, Madrid and Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola has challenged Manchester City to approach the final stages of this season's Champions League with the desire and passion to become kings of Europe. 

City return to action at Southampton on Sunday after a resounding 4-0 victory over the Liverpool side who deposed them as Premier League champions. 

Such is the scale of Liverpool's lead at the top of the table – Thursday's reverse merely trimmed it to 20 points – that the Champions League has long been the competition that looks likely to define City's season, even allowing for the fact they could add the FA Cup to an already retained EFL Cup. 

Having swept the board domestically during his Etihad Stadium tenure, Guardiola is aiming to complete the set by lifting a trophy he has not won since prevailing twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. 

City hold a 2-1 first-leg lead over Real Madrid ahead of their August return, which could be moved from Manchester to Lisbon if UEFA rule a game in the United Kingdom to be unworkable due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Guardiola acknowledged a confidence boost from thrashing Liverpool and believes it will be essential to harness a positive mentality against Madrid - lending greater weight to this than the bright tactical tweaks that bested Jurgen Klopp's side. 

"Every game is different from the other one," he said. "I cannot deny that beating Liverpool the way we beat them gives us… football is feelings, is moments. 

"Sometimes your mood is up, sometimes it's down and you face these games. We beat maybe the best team in the world right now. We can do it. 

"Madrid play in a different way, we have to adjust to their qualities. What I want is to arrive in the best conditions possible for these games. 

"These games are not won with tactics and ideas. It is desire, it's is passion. We want to do it. And when one team wants to do it, okay they can be beaten, but it will not be easy for the opponent." 

Lisbon will also host the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of this season's competition as a mini-tournament, with a switch to one-off games from the standard two-legged format. 

That would at least spare City from exiting on away goals again, as was the case in their respective 2017 and 2019 knockout ties against Monaco and Tottenham, which finished 6-6 and 4-4 respectively. 

Guardiola does not want those setbacks, uncertainty over where the Madrid game will be staged or City's ongoing case with UEFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to build a perception of his club being doomed in their quest for Champions League glory. 

"This club is fantastic and we learn to accept our defeats. It is part of football, part of life," he said. "Learn from this, maybe one day we will be lucky 

"I know exactly what happened all the time in the last years in the Champions League. It is a competition where the details make the difference. 

"In the second leg against Madrid we would love to be here, in our city to feel close to our people. But we will go where UEFA decides we have to play. If we have to go to Portugal, we will go." 

CAS is soon set to deliver its verdict on whether City's appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA competitions for Financial Fair Play breaches will be upheld. 

"We are waiting. I have a lot of confidence and trust that we will be allowed to play in the Champions League," Guardiola added. 

"On July 13 we'll know the resolution and hopefully for the club, for all the workers, staff and everyone we can continue to grow up as a club in the next years." 

Zinedine Zidane insists Real Madrid are not prematurely celebrating despite taking significant steps towards LaLiga glory in recent weeks.

Barcelona have drawn three of their past four matches, with Madrid winning all of their games across the same period to open up a four-point advantage at the summit.

The Clasico rivals each have 15 points to play for, meaning Barca require a huge swing in the remaining matches, with their derby at home to Espanyol and Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao next on the agenda.

Los Blancos last won the title in 2016-17, during Zidane's previous spell in charge, and the head coach is taking nothing for granted.

"The players know that it is a complicated, difficult, long competition, and that those who did it before show that they want to go for everything," he said.

"There is no euphoria here because we have not won anything.

"There is work and commitment to do it well and try to win matches."

Sergio Ramos was Madrid's match-winner against Getafe last time out and he is set to be joined at centre-back by Eder Militao at San Mames.

Raphael Varane was struck in the face by the ball during Thursday's match and was substituted, with the France international suffering from neck pain and unable to recover in time for a place in this weekend's squad.

"He has just arrived, he is working to reach the level of Rafa and Sergio," Zidane said of the 22-year-old former Porto defender Militao.

"Tomorrow he will have to play and I am happy for Mili because he is a player for the present and the future."

Seven of Militao's 12 LaLiga appearances so far this season have been starts, while his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo has only made Zidane's first XI once since the restart and last scored in October.

Nevertheless, the teenage forward produced a lively cameo last time out, asking questions of Getafe before Ramos' 79th-minute penalty.

"He is a player who is changing little by little, working hard," Zidane added.

"He is a charming boy, he is well, and in the end we will take advantage of his qualities."

Eden Hazard will sit out Real Madrid's LaLiga match with Athletic Bilbao as he is not fully fit, head coach Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday. 

The Belgium international sustained a heavy knock in the 1-0 win over Espanyol and missed the victory against Getafe on Thursday. 

Madrid could stretch their lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga to seven points if they win at Athletic on Sunday before the Catalans face Villarreal, but Zidane is not prepared to take any unnecessary risks with Hazard that could jeopardise his chances of finishing the season. 

"Eden's having a hard time these days and we don't want to risk anything, and he's the first [to agree]," Zidane said. "Hopefully, it's a small thing and we can see him again before the end of the league [season]. 

"He's been away for three or four days and I hope he'll get over it quickly. It's day to day; we don't know anything more than it's a strong blow. There are those who know, the doctors and the medics... they are very competent people. It was a blow against Espanyol and it's a matter of days." 

Hazard's first season at Madrid since a €100million move from Chelsea has been blighted by injuries, with the 29-year-old having only started 13 league games in 2019-20. 

"The Hazard thing is the sort of thing we don't want to happen, that's the worst thing for me," Zidane said. "It's not just me, there's a lot of people here to help the player. 

"For Eden, it's his first year and he wants to help the team. And when he can't do that, he's not happy. 

"I don't think he's afraid [of injuries]; what he wants is to be good enough to play. If he doesn't look 100 per cent, it's a problem for him and for everyone, because we love him to the max. 

"What I hope is that we'll soon get out of it." 

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane wants Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi to remain in LaLiga amid speculation of a possible departure.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday, claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is considering an exit.

According to Cadena SER, Messi has halted contract negotiations due to his frustrations with Barca – who are on track to be dethroned by bitter rivals Madrid this season.

Zidane was asked about the rumours regarding Messi after Madrid moved four points clear of two-time defending champions Barca thanks to Thursday's 1-0 win over Getafe.

"I don't know what will happen but we hope not because he is in this league and we want the best in this league," Zidane said post-match.

Sergio Ramos was the hero for Madrid against Getafe, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

The victory was Madrid's sixth in a row as Los Blancos extended their advantage over stuttering Barca with five matches remaining in LaLiga.

Zidane hailed captain Ramos, who took his LaLiga tally to nine goals in 2019-20 following his 450th league appearance for Madrid.

"Our captain is our leader on the field, but also outside," Zidane said of the Spain skipper, who took his career total to 100 goals.

"He is an unrepeatable player. He is unique and we know what he transmits to everyone else. I'm happy for him for his goal because when it comes to shooting a penalty, he has a lot of confidence. 

"It's almost in the 80th minute and Dani Carvajal's effort in goal is from the whole team. We know that with patience and tranquillity we can score goals. This is what happened.

"The last 20 minutes with freshness we claimed a very important result. We have to congratulate all the players because what we are doing is not easy."

Zidane also provided an update on star centre-back Raphael Varane, who took a blow to the head and had to be replaced in the first half.

"Right now he's not right because it's a blow to the neck," Zidane added. "He has gone home and the doctor is going to see him and we will see from tomorrow [Friday]. 

"We are not going to risk anything. It was a strong blow and tomorrow we will see exactly what he has."

Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal said Los Blancos are on course to win the LaLiga title following their 1-0 victory against Getafe.

Madrid moved four points clear of bitter rivals Barcelona atop the table thanks to Thursday's hard-fought win at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium in the Spanish capital.

Sergio Ramos converted a 79th-minute penalty as Madrid claimed their sixth successive victory since the season resumed following the coronavirus crisis.

Madrid have not won LaLiga since 2016-17 but Zinedine Zidane's men are on track to end Barca's dominance with five games remaining.

"It is clear that with four points [advantage] we depend on ourselves to win this league. We are on course," Carvajal, who earned Madrid's penalty after he was upended by Getafe's Mathias Olivera, said post-match.

"Getafe played a very well-rounded game. We had to take advantage of Barcelona's slip, today was a final.

"Getafe made it tough. We had to be serious, showing that we are a unit.

"I was able to complete a one-on-one and win the penalty.

"On Sunday we have a very tough battle."

Madrid will travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday before stuttering Barca visit Villarreal later that day.

Zinedine Zidane insisted Real Madrid have not won anything after moving four points clear of Barcelona in the LaLiga title race with a hard-fought win over Getafe.

Sergio Ramos was the hero, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute as leaders Madrid defeated Getafe 1-0 on Thursday.

After full-back Dani Carvajal was upended by Getafe's Mathias Olivera, Madrid captain Ramos coolly converted the spot-kick with 11 minutes remaining at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

The victory was Madrid's sixth in a row as Los Blancos extended their advantage over stuttering defending champions Barca with five matches remaining.

But Madrid head coach Zidane refused to look too far ahead post-match.

"There are three more points," Zidane told Movistar. "They are three very important points.

"We had to win yes but nothing more. For us nothing changes. We have five finals left.

"We have not won anything. I know what this is like and until this is over, we cannot say anything.

"We have to keep working. We are happy, proud of the team ... the effort, the solidity that we show, is very good.

"This is football, football every three days is a new story. Today we suffered a lot, the other day against Espanyol too.

"We played against the bottom team, but they always make it difficult for you. Without suffering you cannot achieve anything."

Zidane, whose Madrid travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, added: "We knew that we would suffer a lot. They pressed very high, it has cost us a little, but it is normal.

"I think that with patience it was known that the goal could be reached. It is what we did, have peace of mind, because these are key moments You have to congratulate the players because it has not been easy, physically or mentally."

Sergio Ramos scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot as Real Madrid beat Getafe 1-0 to go four points clear at the top of LaLiga.

The leaders were far from convincing in a frantic derby at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Thursday, but captain Ramos secured a precious victory 11 minutes from time after Mathias Olivera was adjudged to have upended Dani Carvajal.

Victory for Los Blancos, who rested Eden Hazard, was their sixth in a row and they are strong favourites to dethrone stuttering Barcelona with five matches to play.

Getafe were unfortunate to make the short journey home without a point, but Madrid march on in their pursuit of the title.

Achraf Hakimi has joined Inter in a permanent move from Real Madrid, the Italian club confirmed.

Hakimi, 21, has reportedly cost Antonio Conte's side an initial €40million and he joins on a five-year contract.

A statement issued by Madrid read: "The club wants to thank Achraf for all these years of dedication, professionalism and exemplary behaviour since he came to our academy in 2006 and wishes him good luck in his new phase."

The Spain-born Morocco international has spent the past two seasons on loan at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, particularly impressing this term when deployed as a right-sided wing-back ahead of a three-man defence.

On top of an impressive haul of five goals, Hakimi also had 10 assists in the Bundesliga this term – the best of any defender.

Dortmund were not shy about their desire to see Hakimi remain at Signal Iduna Park, but the writing appeared to be on the wall when BVB confirmed the capture of Thomas Meunier on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain following reports of Inter closing in on their target.

Hakimi had been at Madrid since 2006 and broke into the first-team squad in 2017-18, playing back-up to Dani Carvajal.

He was sent out on a two-year loan to Dortmund and, although he enjoyed a wonderful 2019-20 in Germany, there are those who are unconvinced by his defensive qualities, particularly in a back four.

Similarly, Hakimi's contract with Madrid was due to expire in 2021, and a potential unease at being behind Carvajal in the pecking order again could have given rise to the possibility of losing him for free next year.

Their loss is Inter's gain, however, as Conte finally gets his hands on a world-class wing-back, having had Ashley Young, Victor Moses, Antonio Candreva, Cristiano Biraghi and Kwadwo Asamoah as his options in 2019-20.

Eden Hazard will soon be firing on all cylinders for Real Madrid but Zinedine Zidane has warned he will remain a target for opposing players.

The former Chelsea star has not had the expected impact since arriving in the Spanish capital in June last year.

Having dazzled at Stamford Bridge, the Belgian's maiden campaign in LaLiga has been disrupted by injury and he underwent ankle surgery in March.

Since the return from the coronavirus-enforced break, Hazard has been substituted in all four games he has played in, but he has also continued to be met with some rough treatment, drawing regular fouls.

Madrid coach Zidane, who has guided his side to the top of LaLiga ahead of Thursday's visit of Getafe, sees nothing sinister in the way opponents deal with Hazard but says he can expect more of the same as the 29-year-old seeks to rediscover his fitness and best form.

"He's very good and the opponents know it," Zidane said when asked about the number of fouls committed against Hazard. 

"But there's no intention of hurting any player.

"We have to be calm with Eden. He's been off the pitch for a long time and you have to go easy on him.

"He'll be fine in a little while."

Another player in the Madrid ranks not having quite the season he will have hoped for is James Rodriguez.

The Colombia international has spoken freely of his frustration at not getting enough playing time at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Zidane understands how he feels.

"James is telling the truth," said the Frenchman. "He wants to play more and that's normal. I understand that.

"But we're going to go until the end like this."

Zinedine Zidane is adamant the title race is far from over in LaLiga, insisting Real Madrid "have won absolutely nothing" yet despite Barcelona's recent wobble.

Leaders Madrid hold a one-point lead over their rivals and also have a game in hand – they host Getafe on Thursday aiming to make it six successive wins since the 2019-20 season resumed in Spain.

In contrast, Barca have struggled for consistency in recent weeks. The reigning champions drew for a third time in four outings on Tuesday, twice pegged back by Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

Having picked up four points in the two Clasico contests during the campaign, giving them the added buffer of the head-to-head advantage, Los Blancos are now firm favourites to finish on top.

Zidane, however, is refusing to take anything for granted.

"We haven't won anything [yet]," the Madrid boss told the media on Wednesday. "We have six games. Eighteen points.

"Until we are mathematically champions, we have to keep going, our rivals are going to do everything they can to win their games.

"No confidence and no saying, 'this is over'.

"I've experienced this situation as a player. We have won absolutely nothing."

A goal from Casemiro was enough for Zidane's side to overcome struggling Espanyol 1-0 at the weekend, boosting their bid to win the league for the first time since 2017.

With neighbours Atletico helping them out by holding Barca, Madrid have the opportunity to move four points clear at the summit when they face fifth-placed Getafe.

"I'm very happy and proud of the players," Zidane added. "But we have six 'finals' left and one is tomorrow.

"We have to think about trying our best to win. We're good, but this doesn't mean anything."

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