Newcastle United forward Yoshinori Muto has joined LaLiga club Eibar on loan for the 2020-21 campaign.

The Japan international arrived at Newcastle from Mainz in a reported £9.5million deal two years ago and has made 28 appearances in all competitions.

However, following the signings of fellow attackers Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson this transfer window, Muto has been deemed surplus to requirements by boss Steve Bruce.

Eibar confirmed the 28-year-old's arrival on their official website on Wednesday and he will now link up with compatriot Takashi Inui, who rejoined the Basque side last year.

Former FC Tokyo and Mainz man Muto scored two goals during his time at St James' Park and will take on the number 12 shirt at new side Eibar.

Jose Luis Mendilibar's charges kicked off their LaLiga campaign with a goalless draw against Celta Vigo last weekend.

It was a familiar story in the Basque Country for Celta Vigo as they began the 2020-21 LaLiga season with a goalless draw at Eibar.

Eibar went into the contest unbeaten in three league meetings with the Galicians and have now kept four consecutive clean sheets against Oscar's side.

In an even game of few chances, Celta were unable to find a cutting edge even after Pape Diop received two bookings in the space of six minutes in the closing stages.

Celta have now failed to win any of their previous four opening-day games in the Basque County and have only come away with victory once in their past 11 trips to the region.

Eibar boss Jose Luis Mendilibar boasts an enviable record against them, having lost only once in eight home league games, keeping five clean sheets in the process.

The 2020-21 season continues on Saturday with Granada hosting Athletic Bilbao before newly promoted Cadiz take on Osasuna.

Reigning champions Real Madrid are not in action until September 20, when they visit Real Sociedad. 

Eibar coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has signed a new one-year contract extension with the LaLiga club.

The 59-year-old has been in charge since June 2015 and steered Eibar to a 14th-place finish in the 2019-20 season.

Assistants Toni Ruiz, Inaki Bea, Josu Anuzita and Andoni Azkargorta, who has signed a three-year deal, will all stay at the club.

Mendilibar has overseen 250 games across two spells in charge of Eibar, 207 of which have been in the top flight. His record stands at 68 wins, 54 draws and 85 defeats.

Lucas Ocampos scored and made an injury-time save as a goalkeeper to help Sevilla cement fourth spot in LaLiga with victory over Eibar.

Sevilla winger Ocampos netted his 15th goal of the season in Monday's 1-0 win at home to struggling Eibar.

After giving Sevilla a 56th-minute lead, Ocampos replaced injured goalkeeper Tomas Vaclick in the final minute of stoppage time as Julen Lopetegui's side had already made all five substitutions.

Ocampos put on the gloves and was forced to produce a last-gasp save, denying Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic from close range to ensure Sevilla claimed maximum points.

"It was a strange moment for sure," Ocampos said. "Sometimes I play around as a goalkeeper in practice, but I never imagined that I would have to do it in the final minute of a game.

"The goalkeeper trainer just told me not to leave the net to avoid making a mistake, and the ball ended up coming my way and I was able to make the save.

"We knew how important it was for us to win this match today."

Sevilla are fourth in LaLiga with four matches remaining, six clear of Villarreal and two adrift of third-placed Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is planning to "take it slowly" with Marco Asensio, but said the midfielder would have a role to play this season.

Asensio was an unused substitute as Madrid returned to action with a 3-1 LaLiga victory over Eibar on Sunday.

The 24-year-old suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season but is now available for Madrid, who moved back within two points of rivals and league leaders Barcelona.

Zidane has no plans to rush Asensio, but said he would be using the Spain international.

"We're happy to have Marco back available and we'll take it slowly," he said.

"We have lots of players, Asensio is in good shape and I'm going to use him. I wasn't able to today, but there are other games to come and he has to be ready just like any other player.

"I'll be counting on him."

Madrid are in action again with a clash against Valencia on Thursday.

Zinedine Zidane was happy to see Eden Hazard impress as Real Madrid made a winning return in LaLiga, saying the Belgium star was even glad to have endured some robust challenges.

Hazard started the match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Sunday as Madrid won 3-1 against Eibar to move back to within two points of league leaders Barcelona.

Injury problems have blighted Hazard's first season at the club since his €100million move from Chelsea and there were concerns his campaign was over when he fractured his ankle in February.

The coronavirus-enforced break gave the forward more time to recover and he looked sharp in the first half against Eibar, setting up Sergio Ramos for the second goal and playing a key role in Marcelo's third.

Hazard was on the receiving end of some strong challenges and was substituted after 61 minutes, but head coach Zidane had few concerns.

"We knew Eden would lack a bit of rhythm to play the whole game. In the end, he played an hour and played well, too," he said.

"They gave him a good knock, a scare, but that's football. He said he was fine at the break, that he was glad he had been hit, and wasn't afraid. He's happy with what he did and we're happy, also."

Toni Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute as Madrid dominated the first half, but their standards slipped after the break and Eibar threatened to make life difficult after Pedro Bigas deflected in a shot from Pablo De Blasis.

"It's a completely different thing to what we were experiencing before. We have to adapt," said Zidane.

"We started the game well, but it was difficult in the second half. I don't think it was physical, because we are well prepared. It was a bit of everything.

"I'll take the first half – that was dominant. It's an important win.

"Maybe we relaxed in the second. There was no one thing in particular. We had to make the changes: [Dani] Carvajal sprained his ankle, Ramos had discomfort too, Hazard because he hadn't played for a long time... I don't think it was the changes that made the game change."

Karim Benzema looked particularly sharp and combined well with Hazard in the first half, leading to a question as to whether the forward has followed a particular diet to come back in such lean shape.

"I don't know his diet, but Karim takes great care of himself, like most players," said Zidane. "He's happy to play again. I hope he keeps it up – we need him.

"It's wonderful to see them communicate and I have to talk mostly about the second goal, which came from a pass from Eden to Ramos."

Sergio Ramos sent a warning to Barcelona after Real Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga action on Sunday.

The club captain was among the goalscorers as Madrid beat Eibar 3-1 at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to move back to within two points of league leaders Barca, who won 4-0 at Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Toni Kroos and Marcelo scored either side of Ramos in a strong first-half display from the home side, but they were less convincing after the break and conceded when Pedro Bigas deflected a Pablo De Blasis shot past Thibaut Courtois.

Ramos went off after 61 minutes with what he described as "a little knock", which did not help Madrid's cause, but the centre-back was still pleased with the way they returned to action three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be suspended.

"I'm happy with the three points and to start playing again," he said to LaLiga. "We've got 10 more finals and we'll give it everything we've got.

"It was a bit strange for everybody after a tough time for everyone, I want to send, as captain, high spirits to everyone. It has been a strange situation, not being able to go out of the house, but we always have to bring positive things out of bad things.

"To get football back is happiness for the whole country. Everything is returning to its natural place, it's important for everybody – us as well – to get back out on the pitch.

"I think we did well, we worked hard over the last few weeks to come back and to keep the form that maybe we've lost over the last couple of months. We are back and playing in the best possible way, there are a lot of things we can improve but physically we were good.

"The first 45 minutes, we showed good intensity and got the goals to go ahead. A bit less intense in the second half, but that will be something for us to learn from and improve. In general, we were good, we've got things to improve and are happy to get the three points. We will now prepare for the next game in the best way."

Marcelo marked his goal in Real Madrid's 3-1 LaLiga win over Eibar by taking a knee in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Brazil full-back drilled home brilliantly to put Madrid 3-0 up in the first half of Sunday's match, which marked Los Blancos' first since the resumption of Spanish football following its suspension for the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcelo raised his right fist in the air and dropped his left knee. Taking a knee is an action that was used by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and has become synonomous with anti-racism and prejudice protests, particularly in the United States.

The gesture has been prominent since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Madrid, who were playing the game at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at their Valdebebas training complex, went on to win 3-1 and are two points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Real Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga action as they beat Eibar 3-1 in the Spanish capital on Sunday.

Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo eased Madrid into a comfortable half-time lead, with the visitors' second-half improvement yielding nothing but a Pedro Bigas consolation.

With Barcelona having won 4-0 at Real Mallorca a day earlier, the pressure was on Los Blancos to follow suit and close the gap at the top of the table back to two points.

Madrid's home games are being held at the Castilla's Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium while the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes renovation work, but the change in venue made little difference as the home side marked Zinedine Zidane's 200th game in charge in winning fashion.

Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute with a sublime first-time strike from just inside the box that looped beyond goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.

Eibar responded well but were 2-0 down after half an hour. Ramos stepped out to intercept a pass and spark a swift counter-attacking move that ended with the Madrid captain tapping in an unselfish square ball from the impressive Eden Hazard, who was back in the line-up for the first time since February after recovering from an ankle fracture.

A crisp strike from Marcelo into the bottom-right corner after more good interplay between Hazard and Karim Benzema made it 3-0 before the break, the Brazil left-back taking a knee after drilling home his first league goal of the season.

Thibaut Courtois saved superbly from Edu Exposito and Sergi Enrich hit the bar with a header, before Pablo De Blasis' shot deflected off Bigas and bobbled beyond Courtois to give Eibar a lifeline.

It was a largely pedestrian second half from Madrid, with Hazard and Ramos taken off and Marcelo struggling with a knock, but Eibar could not mount a comeback.

 

What does it mean? Title race shows few signs of fizzling out

Resounding wins apiece for Barca and Madrid mean the gap at the top is only two points with 10 games to go and neither side is looking especially rusty after the long break.

This was certainly a display to show Zidane's men will not give up the chase without a fight and will also serve as a useful reminder to Manchester City before the Champions League last-16 returns.

Eibar are just two points above the bottom three, having won just once in eight league matches.

Hazard and Benzema in harmony

Injury has ruined much of Hazard's first season in LaLiga, but this display was a sign that he plans to make the most of the coming few weeks.

His link play with Benzema was excellent, particularly in the first half, and should have given Zidane plenty of encouragement.

Who is left for the right?

Rodrygo started the match, Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior came on, Isco, James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio stayed on the bench, and we are still unclear who is Madrid's best option on the right wing.

That kind of depth will prove useful in the hectic schedule to come but settling on a first-choice front three would help bring balance to a Madrid attack that has often struggled this season.

What's next?

Madrid host Valencia on Thursday before heading to Real Sociedad three days later. For Eibar, a home match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday awaits.

Eden Hazard was named in Real Madrid's starting XI for their LaLiga return against Eibar on Sunday.

The Belgium forward has endured a stop-start campaign in the Spanish capital since joining from Chelsea in a big-money move ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Hazard suffered an ankle fracture in November, ruling him out for almost three months, and cracked his fibula shortly after returning.

The latter injury would have left Hazard facing a battle to be fit again before the end of the campaign but the coronavirus-enforced suspension of LaLiga allowed him extra time to recover.

Zinedine Zidane consequently included Hazard in the line-up to face Eibar for a match that is taking place behind closed doors at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at Madrid's Valdebebas training base.

Rodrygo was given the nod to support Hazard and Karim Benzema in attack over Gareth Bale, Isco, Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio – the latter not included in the matchday squad despite once again being available after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury in pre-season.

Marcelo was selected at left-back ahead of Ferland Mendy.

Zidane is taking charge of his 200th Madrid game, the third head coach to reach the milestone with Los Blancos after Miguel Munoz and Vicente del Bosque.

Zinedine Zidane is thrilled to have Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio fully fit again following significant injury lay-offs, but he could not guarantee Luka Jovic will recover before the end of the season.

Hazard and Asensio have both had miserable seasons, with the Belgium international enduring a continued battle with fitness problems, while the Spaniard is yet to make an appearance after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in a pre-season friendly.

Hazard suffered an ankle fracture in November, ruling him out for almost three months, and he then cracked his fibula shortly after returning.

Had the season not have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the former Chelsea star – who joined Madrid in a reported €100million deal last year – would have been expected to be out for at least another eight weeks.

But, as Madrid prepare to return to action at home to Eibar on Sunday, Zidane confirmed both Hazard and Asensio are available once again, potentially a significant boost as Los Blancos attempt to chase down pacesetters Barcelona, who go to Real Mallorca later on Saturday with a two-point lead.

"The good thing is they had the same time to prepare as the rest of the team," Zidane told reporters on Saturday.

"Asensio's injury was a bit more serious and required longer rehabilitation, but both are available, they'll be there for the team to help us and it's good news to have them back."

Zidane was again asked about Hazard's condition and the Frenchman affirmed the winger is completely recovered, though Jovic may not return anytime soon.

The Serbian forward broke his foot in May and Zidane was unable to guarantee he would be able to play again in what has been a disappointing first season at the Santiago Bernabeu for the former Eintracht Frankfurt star.

"On Hazard, I'm happy he's back and fully fit, he has re-joined the group and he can play and help us. The bad news is Jovic's injury," he said.

"He injured himself at home. It was unfortunate, obviously, because now it will keep him away from the pitch.

"We don't know for how long for, but we'll see. It's bad news of course – we hope he is back as soon as possible and before the season is over."

One of the new temporary measures brought in for the end of the season following the enforced hiatus is a substitutions increase from three to five.

Critics have suggested this will benefit the bigger clubs with deeper squads, though Zidane does not see it making a major difference to anyone.

"I don't think anyone will benefit immensely," he added. "It's a different rule, we have to adapt to it and if we have five substitutes then we'll adapt to that.

"As I say, I have 23 players available and I'll try to adapt to it. The circumstances are strange and obviously we have to take that into account, but we adapt to whatever we need to adapt to. We're ready for everything."

Nacho Fernandez is a doubt for Real Madrid's first LaLiga match in over three months after suffering a thigh injury.

Madrid are due to resume their season against Eibar on Sunday, having not played since losing 2-1 at Real Betis on March 8, with the coronavirus-enforced suspension coming into force soon after that.

With matches to come thick and fast over the coming month, as teams prepare for weekend and midweek fixtures, squad depth could be more crucial than ever.

Nacho, who has already missed a chunk of the season through injury, was likely to enjoy an increase in playing time in the final weeks of the campaign as Zinedine Zidane juggles his defenders to keep them fresh.

But he is now a doubt for at least their first game back, with Madrid yet to confirm how serious the muscular injury is.

A statement read: "After the tests carried out on our player Nacho Fernandez by the Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with a muscle injury in the right anterior rectum [thigh]."

Madrid are two points behind pacesetters Barcelona prior to LaLiga recommencing.

LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

The pause in the football calendar (except in Belarus, of course) gives players across Europe plenty of time to reflect on their efforts so far this season.

While some have a few things to work on when matches return, there are others for whom 2019-20 has been a showcase of the very best they have to offer.

In the latest piece in our series, we look at the best-performing forwards in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.

Goals might be the most obvious (and fundamentally important) of metrics for these players, but the number of times the ball crosses that white line is not the only measure of their quality.

To that end, we have also examined seven other parameters: minutes-per-goal rate, shots on target, shooting accuracy, shot conversion rate, big chance conversion rate, dribbles completed and dribble success rate. And these are for those players to make at least 10 league appearances this season, to avoid any unfair imbalance in the results (we're looking at you, Florin Andone).

Without further ado, we present the most ruthless forwards elite-level football in Europe has to offer...

THE MOST RUTHLESS FORWARDS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

 

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals scored: Robert Lewandowski (25)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Robert Lewandowski (81.7)
Most shots on target: Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Marcus Thuram (76.3 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Paco Alcacer (35.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Rouwen Hennings (71.4 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Marcus Thuram (57)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Lucas Alario (83.3 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Lionel Messi (99.5)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Lionel Messi (68.9 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Lucas Perez (40.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Charles (83.3 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Lionel Messi (118)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Pione Sisto (76.9 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most goals scored: Kylian Mbappe and Wissam Ben Yedder (18)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Kylian Mbappe (84.1)
Most shots on target: Kylian Mbappe (49)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Mauro Icardi (37.5 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Moussa Dembele (72.2 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Neymar (90)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Zaydou Youssouf (85.7 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most goals scored: Jamie Vardy (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Sergio Aguero (87.6)
Most shots on target: Mohamed Salah (43)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Anthony Martial (68.2 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (36.2 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Harry Kane (70 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Cristiano Ronaldo (53)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Romelu Lukaku (65.5 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Jeremie Boga (106)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Sergio Floccari (72.2 per cent)

AND THE TOP EIGHT:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

Martin Braithwaite enjoyed a strong second-half cameo on his Barcelona debut following a controversial transfer - and he vowed to not wash his jersey after receiving a hug from Lionel Messi.

After a difficult week for the club, Barca demolished struggling Eibar 5-0 at Camp Nou, with four-goal Messi in inspirational form as he netted a first-half hat-trick.

Before the match many Barca supporters waved white handkerchiefs towards president Josep Maria Bartomeu and chanted for his resignation after he was forced to deny allegations earlier in the week that the club had hired a firm to "damage the image" of players past and present, including Messi.

Then there was the controversial signing of Braithwaite, who arrived from Leganes as an "emergency" purchase to cover the absence of Ousmane Dembele and seen as an underwhelming acquisition.

But the Denmark international made an immediate impact, having a hand in Messi's fourth before getting involved in Arthur's goal that rounded out the scoring.

When asked about what Messi said after helping him score, Braithwaite told reporters: "He congratulated me, he's a great guy.

"He tried to make me comfortable [after being brought on], he looked for me with his passes. I won't wash my clothes after the hug he gave me," he quipped.

"Honestly, I'm very happy to have been able to give him assistance. I felt very well here, surrounded by fantastic players.

"I tried to run and move, which is what I have to do, and the team-mates have found me, so it has been amazing. I am very happy."

Barca coach Quique Setien was pleasantly surprised by Braithwaite, accepting the forward had more of an impact than anticipated.

"Braithwaite did more than I expected, much more," he said. "Honestly, he was very good and I think we have got an extraordinary signing.

"He'll adapt perfectly to what we do, he was involved in two goals and he understands the game so well. He's powerful and technically very proficient – he's a worker and has many things that will help us."

Barca are in action again on Tuesday in the Champions League against Napoli, before returning to LaLiga action against Real Madrid next Sunday.

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