Diego Simeone came to Koke's defence after the Atletico Madrid midfielder was singled out for criticism from sections of the Wanda Metropolitano support.

Club stalwart Koke was jeered for his performance during the narrow Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, although he later insisted he has "total confidence" in himself.

Atletico coach Simeone had some words of comfort as they prepared to face Athletic Bilbao in a third consecutive home match, suggesting even he has had to overcome boos at times.

"Of course the fans have jeered me, in the Calderon itself in some games," he told a news conference. "I remember being whistled just because I wasn't doing a good game.

"People are spontaneous, they say what they feel. They are used to a type of situation and that is what they want.

"It is us who have to strive to improve and not have that tension. It's not just Koke - it's everyone's responsibility."

Asked why Koke might now be targeted by fans, Simeone acknowledged the midfielder may need to go back to basics.

"He is occupying too many positions," the coach said. "Maybe he should focus more on his own.

"Often he wants to fix a lot with his tactical ability. He wants to do more than he is responsible for and ends up paying for what is not his responsibility.

"He wants to fix problems in other parts of the field which are not fixable. With the tactical ability he has and the information he has gathered over the years, this makes him want to do more than he has to do.

"He is a great professional and a great player."

As Simeone reflects on criticism of himself and his team, one issue for which Atleti regularly face scrutiny is a lack of threat in the final third.

Asked if this could ever complement the usual defensive stubbornness of his side, Simeone claimed "creativity" was not Atleti's problem.

"I believe that what we need is to be more practical, not to have more creativity," he said. "Creativity is not the only factor that improves you. Creativity is good and practicality is better."

Thibaut Courtois made the move to Real Madrid in 2018, but he is already seemingly under pressure in Spain.

Life at the Santiago Bernabeu has not gone according to plan for the former Chelsea goalkeeper.

And Madrid already have their eyes on a potential replacement…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYE SIMON AS COURTOIS REPLACEMENT

Real Madrid have identified Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, according to El Desmarque.

Courtois swapped Chelsea for Madrid in 2018, yet the Belgium international has not convinced amid growing criticism in the Spanish capital.

Simon has reportedly attracted interest from Madrid, who would need to pay the 22-year-old's €50million release clause.

 

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Borussia Dortmund fear losing Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to Sport1. Sancho was suspended for last week's Bundesliga win over Borussia Monchengladbach after returning late from international duty.

- Sport claims Barcelona are ready to offload midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Carles Alena and Riqui Puig in January. Rakitic has been heavily linked to Serie A side Inter, while Tottenham are rumoured to be interested in Alena.

Manchester United have been given a boost in their pursuit of Mario Mandzukic after the Juventus striker slashed his wage demands, according to The Sun. Mandzukic is out of favour in Turin and set to leave in the January transfer window.

- Sport Bild says Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel has turned down offers from Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Roma. The 23-year-old only wants to join Bayern Munich should he leave Schalke when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- The German publication also claims Ralf Rangnick is a candidate to replace Niko Kovac if Bayern Munich decide to part with their current head coach. Bild, however, also says Rangnick is a candidate at Manchester United.

- Calciomercato says AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund are interested in Bayern Munich centre-back Lars Lukas Mai. Dortmund is believed to be the teenager's favoured destination.

- Real Madrid have informed Brahim Diaz he can leave the LaLiga club, reports AS. It comes less than a year after his arrival from Manchester City.

The future of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still up in the air amid speculation of a mid-season managerial change at Old Trafford.

Former Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has been previously linked with the Red Devils' job and reports suggest that he could bring two familiar faces with him in Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic if appointed.

A switch to the red side of Manchester could be on the cards for both players, having fallen out of favour at the Serie A champions this season under Maurizio Sarri.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI TO SWOOP FOR JUVENTUS PAIR IF APPOINTED AT MANCHESTER UNITED

Allegri has been linked with a double raid on former club Juventus should he succeed Solskjaer at Manchester United, according to Tuttosport.

Can and Mandzukic have been on the fringe of the Serie A club's squad this season and would be trusted to make an impact in Manchester, given their lack of depth in midfield and up front.

Juventus could collect up to 60 million euros if their former boss is thrust into the hot seat at Old Trafford, and they dispose of the pair in January.

 

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Manchester United are also interested in Leicester's James Maddison and Lyon's Moussa Dembele, according to ESPN.

- According to Il Giornale, Inter are looking at Zenit St Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba as they aim to reinforce their front line, following a serious injury to Alexis Sanchez.

- CalcioMercato are reporting AC Milan are considering a move for Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa in January.

- The Daily Mail say Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Bournemouth and England midfielder Lewis Cook.

- Bayern Munich have no intention of selling Javi Martinez in the upcoming transfer window, according to TZ, despite previous links with former club Athletic Bilbao. 

- Turkish news outlet Star claim Fenerbahce and Turkey midfield Ozan Tufan is a January target for Crystal Palace.

Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

 

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- The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

- Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

- Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

- Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

- Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

- Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has accused TV producers of manipulating VAR images after Denis Cheryshev's goal was allowed to stand in Valencia's 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

VAR ruled that Maxi Gomez was onside when collecting a pass from Rodrigo Moreno in the build-up to Cheryshev's 27th-minute strike, which proved to be the winning goal at San Mames.

Confusion arose when lines added to the live television footage of Cheryshev's goal initially showed he was marginally offside, though the VAR officials had a different view of the incident and adjudged the goal should stand.

The official VAR line used by the officials did not appear on the TV footage until the second half of the match, doing little to clear up the uncertainty.

The RFEF has released a statement concerning the controversy.

"Against the most elementary rules of the ethical sporting code and the rules of national and international competition, the producer of the match has put up images of a hypothetical offside line that doesn't correspond to the [line] of VAR," the statement read.

"These images [are] without any sort of technical rigour and offer a distorted view of the play. [It's a] manoeuvre which creates a social alarm like a loss in confidence in the current VAR provider and in the skill of the Spanish referees.

"The RFEF wants to make it clear that there can be no confusion and will raise the relevant complaint to international judicial and football organisations to analyse the situation and apply the corresponding measures. 

"We are convinced that these irresponsible actions could lead to serious penalties. Therefore, we urge the LNFP [the Spanish football league) to articulate the necessary mechanisms to cease these types of activities so as not to damage and devalue the image of Spanish football."

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