Lionel Messi has spent his entire career with Barcelona. 

That bond will not sway Barca's off-season plans, though.

The Spanish giants have reportedly turned their eyes to a younger option. 

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PREFER HAALAND TO MESSI STAY

Barcelona are so desperate to lure Erling Haaland to Camp Nou that they would be willing to let superstar captain Lionel Messi walk away if they can sign the Borussia Dortmund star, according to The Sun.

Barca's financial situation would make it difficult to pay both players, and the report claims Messi might see his wages cut in half if he stays with the LaLiga powerhouse amid links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City

Numerous clubs are circling for Haaland, including City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Raul is favourite to take over as Madrid head coach next season if Zinedine Zidane leaves. Madrid great Raul is chasing promotion with the club's Castilla side.

Barca are set to complete the double free transfers of City star Sergio Aguero and Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sport.

Arsenal and Martin Odegaard have a mutual interest in extending the Norway international's loan stay at the Premier League, according to Football London. He has two goals in 18 appearances in all competitions since arriving on loan from Madrid.

- Diario AS reports PSG are set to swoop in for Sergio Ramos by offering the Madrid captain and soon-to-be free agent a two-year contract. Ramos has also been linked to United.

- Though Juventus may be facing an exodus if they miss out on Champions League football next season, the Bianconeri are interested in Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, says Calciomercato. 

United may shore up their midfield with a bid for Getafe's Mauro Arambarri, Diario AS reports. The 25-year-old is under contract through 2023. The Mirror, meanwhile, says United remain keen on Atletico Madrid star Marcos Llorente.

Atletico are interested in Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, claims the Daily Star. Keita has struggled for form and fitness since moving to Anfield from RB Leipzig in 2018.

Ronald Koeman does not believe Barcelona are stronger than LaLiga title rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Sevilla this season.

Barca – who have a game in hand – moved within five points of leaders Atletico following Thursday's 5-2 victory over Getafe.

Lionel Messi scored twice in an action-packed first half at Camp Nou, where Clement Lenglet's own goal cancelled out the superstar captain's eighth-minute opener within four minutes.

Getafe's Sofian Chakla turned the ball into his own net in the 28th minute before Messi extended Barca's lead five minutes later.

Enes Unal's penalty after a VAR review gave Getafe hope, but Ronald Araujo headed in from Messi's superb corner before Antoine Griezmann converted from the spot in stoppage time.

Copa del Rey champions Barca are a point ahead of fourth-placed Sevilla and two adrift of Madrid, and head coach Koeman said post-match: "I don't think we're stronger than the other three teams [Real Madrid, Atletico and Sevilla].

"They're winning games too and we all have tough matches left.

"The fight will be until the final day."

Messi reached 25 LaLiga goals for the season in Barca's win over Getafe, and in doing so he matched a feat achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner and Juventus foe Ronaldo are the only players from the 'top five' European leagues to have scored at least 25 goals in 12 different seasons this century.

Unlike Ronaldo, Messi has achieved his run of seasons with at least 25 goals by reaching the mark in consecutive campaigns, beginning in 2009-10.

While Ronaldo has had such seasons for Manchester United, Real Madrid and current club Juventus, for whom he has scored 25 in Serie A this season, Messi's goals have all come with Barcelona.

The twin strike on Thursday also ended a mini barren run in home league games against Getafe. Messi had previously not scored in his three most recent appearances against them at Camp Nou, his longest streak without scoring at home against them in the competition.

Messi has scored four doubles in his last six games, as many as in his previous 25 games in all competitions.

It comes amid continued uncertainty of Messi's future, with the 33-year-old out of contract at season's end and linked with either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

"If I had spoken to Leo, I wouldn't tell you," Koeman added. "The decision [to stay] is in his hands.

"He never lets his concentration slip. If he does, you don't notice it in his game.

"We need him. Today, he was decisive again. Let's hope he stays for many years."

Lionel Messi reached 25 LaLiga goals for the season in Barcelona's win over Getafe, and in doing so he matched a feat achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Barcelona captain's double strike in Thursday's 5-2 win means he and Ronaldo are the only players from the 'top five' European leagues to have scored at least 25 goals in 12 different seasons this century.

The 33-year-old scored twice before the break, before teeing up Ronald Araujo to head a contest-settling fourth Barca goal and then playing in Antoine Griezmann to win a late penalty.

Unlike Ronaldo, Messi has achieved his run of seasons with at least 25 goals by reaching the mark in consecutive campaigns, beginning in 2009-10.

While Ronaldo has had such seasons for Manchester United, Real Madrid and current club Juventus, for whom he has scored 25 in Serie A this season, Messi's goals have all come with Barcelona.

The twin strike on Thursday also ended a mini barren run in home league games against Getafe. Messi had previously not scored in his three most recent appearances against them at Camp Nou, his longest streak without scoring at home against them in the competition.

Barcelona kept within touching distance of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as Lionel Messi inspired Ronald Koeman's team to a 5-2 victory over Getafe.

As Atleti were beating Huesca to move three points clear at the top of LaLiga, Barca released a statement prior to their own contest at Camp Nou, reiterating a commitment to the seemingly failed European Super League project.

While that topic seems set to rumble on, Messi served up a reminder of just what the game is at its very best with another sublime showing, scoring twice in an action-packed first half which also saw Sofian Chakla and Clement Lenglet turn into their own nets.

Enes Unal's penalty after a VAR review gave Getafe hope, but Ronald Araujo headed in from Messi's superb corner before Antoine Griezmann converted from the spot in stoppage time.

A magnificent Messi strike seemed set to put Barca ahead within three minutes, yet Getafe survived – the ball bouncing down and away off the underside of the crossbar.

Messi would not be denied again five minutes later, as he beat Getafe's offside trap and finished over David Soria.

But with Oscar Mingueza off the field receiving treatment for a knee injury, Barca were swiftly pegged back when Angel Rodriguez's wayward shot diverted in off Lenglet.

It was a huge stroke of misfortune that saw Getafe concede for a second time.

Soria rushed out to get onto a loose ball, only for Chakla to instead play a blind pass beyond his goalkeeper, whose despairing dive into the net only added to the comedy of errors.

It was 3-1 five minutes later – Messi's right-footed volley coming back off the post, but Barca's talisman was on hand to tuck in the rebound.

Getafe received a lifeline when Araujo was adjudged after a VAR check to have fouled Unal, who converted the resulting penalty to reduce the deficit with 21 minutes remaining.

Yet Araujo made amends in the 87th minute, powerfully heading home from Messi's corner to secure the points, with Griezmann's last-minute penalty adding further gloss to a win which moves Barca third, five points behind Atleti with a game in hand.

Ronald Koeman does not believe Barcelona's involvement in the collapsed European Super League will have an impact on the title run-in in LaLiga.

Barca were among 12 elite clubs - three of them from Spain - to sign up for the controversial new continental competition over the weekend.

But by Tuesday night, the tournament - a rival to the Champions League - had collapsed after England's 'big six' pulled out and others followed.

The Blaugrana were said to be considering their position ahead of the first U-turn from Manchester City, although no announcement of the Catalan club's withdrawal had followed at Camp Nou by Wednesday when Koeman faced the media.

The head coach was speaking ahead of Thursday's home game against Getafe.

Barca head into the midweek round of fixtures third in LaLiga, five points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two shy of Real Madrid but with a game in hand over both.

Although Atleti and Madrid were each also part of the Super League plans, it was put to Koeman that his players might be distracted in their pursuit of the championship.

"I don't agree," he replied. "Players want to win titles, I have no doubt about my players. We're going to be fine at tomorrow's game."

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli - a key Super League figure - has accepted defeat in their breakaway bid, but Koeman was reluctant to comment on Barca's status as "no one knows what can happen".

"I spoke to the president yesterday and he explained the club's position," Koeman said.

"There's been so much movement that it's best not to have an opinion. No one knows what can happen and we have to wait. I want what's best for the club.

"I'm not the spokesman, it's the president. My job is to prepare the game. There is so much movement with this topic that we have to wait for how this ends.

"I'm not surprised. We want what's best for the club. If there's anyone who needs to talk about this, it's clearly the president.

"I don't know if they asked the players; I'm not interested. We're playing a game tomorrow."

Even those coaches critical of the Super League - like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola - have highlighted issues with UEFA, which is pressing ahead with its own expanded Champions League.

Koeman said: "The number of matches is incredible. [The players] have had to play a lot of competitions.

"Everyone is talking about the Super League, the Champions League... but UEFA is not heeding players about the number of matches. All they care about is money.

"In LaLiga, anyway, tomorrow we play at 22:00 [local time]. We have to protect the players."

Getafe won 1-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season but have never done the double over Barca, who have since turned their season around.

Prior to their Clasico defeat last time out in LaLiga, Koeman's side were unbeaten in 19 in the competition. An undefeated run at home stretches back 12 games.

Barca have scored 69 times in the league, their joint-lowest tally through 31 games in the past 13 seasons but also the highest mark in the league this term. Lionel Messi (23) alone has netted more goals than Getafe.

The Blaugrana also bounced back from the loss in Madrid by winning 4-0 against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

"The image of the team the other day in the final was very good, the attitude and the level of play," Koeman added.

"It's not just a title. We've been improving things for a while, and I think, according to a lot of people, they're happy.

"We're working well, but in a club it depends on the results. What we're doing is a big thing."

Zinedine Zidane told Real Madrid to keep going "to the death" after a goalless draw at Getafe hit their LaLiga title prospects.

Having cut Atletico Madrid's lead down to one point by winning El Clasico, Zidane's defending champions were second best at times at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Sunday.

Hampered by injuries and COVID-19 absences, under-strength Madrid needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make six saves to repel a lively Getafe.

That was the highest number of saves from shots on target that the Belgian has made in games for Madrid where he has not conceded a goal, and centre-back Eder Militao was also kept busy.

The Brazilian defender made 10 clearances, the most he has made in a match for Madrid and one short of the highest number made by any player for Los Blancos this season, after Nacho made 11 against Liverpool in the Champions League.

A makeshift back four of captain Marcelo, Victor Chust, Militao and Alvaro Odriozola faced a barrage of crosses from a Getafe side who belied their recent poor form, having previously won just one in 12 LaLiga matches (D4 L7) leading up to the game.

Zidane said after the match: "We have given our maximum. It's a draw but we continue fighting. It will not end here.

"There are many games, but the team that is going to win will need a little of everything, especially having its players.

"We have to do our best. Look at ourselves and not look at others. It's a very difficult, competitive league. Every three days we must always be good. We must go to the death and our mentality will not change."

Atletico's 5-0 win over Eibar earlier on Sunday means their lead is up to three points over Madrid and five over third-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand.

By coincidence, Atletico also drew 0-0 at Getafe last month.

Toni Kroos was absent for Madrid, with Zidane saying the midfielder had been "in discomfort".

"We have a lot of games and we can't do foolish things. We have to manage that," said the French head coach.

Madrid's unbeaten away run in LaLiga extended to 11 games (W6 D5), their longest run without losing since October 2017 (W13), and the starting XI Zidane fielded had the youngest average age of any of his teams in the league this season, at 26 years and 138 days.

Courtois was immaculate and later offered an intriguing reason for why he felt Madrid had perhaps not performed as many would have expected.

"Playing at Getafe is never easy, the pitch was dry and it was hard to move the ball around," Courtois said, in an interview released on Twitter by the club.

"We tried, we had a couple of good chances, as did they, and that's where I had good saves."

He pointed to the moment Getafe hit the post through a header from Jaime Mata midway through the first half, saying: "I caught it with my finger."

That fingertip touch had not been obvious to the naked eye. What was clear was that this result comes as a jolt, and a reminder that with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Eden Hazard, Kroos, Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde unavailable, even the depth in Madrid's squad is not such to guarantee wins at tricky grounds such as Getafe's.

"In adversity you find the strength of a group," Courtois said. "It is what we are doing all season. You always have to stand up and that's what we do."

Real Madrid might be heading for a European Super League at some point in the future but a 0-0 draw with Getafe on Sunday was a reminder of the charms of good old LaLiga.

An under-strength Madrid were given a rough ride by their near neighbours and lost ground to Atletico Madrid as a result, Diego Simeone's team seeing their lead at the top of the table grow from one point to three on Sunday.

After Atletico's 5-0 thumping of Eibar earlier in the day, the onus was on Zinedine Zidane's Madrid to follow up their Champions League success against Liverpool and last week's victory in El Clasico.

This was far from being classic Madrid, although they played their part in an entertaining tussle against relative minnows at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, the sort of match that would be missed if they were ever taken away by big-money deals.

Moments after Thibaut Courtois saved well from Mathias Olivera, Madrid had the ball in the net in the eighth minute when Mariano sprinted through and went wide of goalkeeper David Soria, sliding the ball into the net from a tight angle to the right of goal.

That was disallowed for offside after a VAR review, and Madrid were in trouble soon after when Mauro Arambarri had a clear sight of goal from 12 yards, only to rifle a foot wide of the left post.

The home side went even closer to a shock lead in the 23rd minute when Jaime Mata's flicked header from Nemanja Maksimovic's cross, drifted in from the left, rattled the right post.

David Timor made an outstanding clearance to deny Mariano in front of goal after Soria failed to gather a cross from Madrid left-back Marcelo. Vinicius Junior then drew an athletic but ultimately comfortable save from Soria with a header before half-time.

With Sergio Ramos absent through injury and Raphael Varane out after a COVID-19 positive test, it was a makeshift defence again for Madrid and they looked susceptible, Courtois having to make a fine save just before the hour mark to prevent Enes Unal finding the top left corner from 16 yards.

Madrid were sorely lacking sparkle and Angel Rodriguez nearly made a breakthrough for Getafe with 20 minutes remaining, clipping just wide of the left post. Courtois then saved expertly when a deflected shot from Maksimovic almost looped into the back of the net, the goalkeeper preventing a shock loss.

Zinedine Zidane joked he has not been a coaching "disaster" for Real Madrid and is not fretting about his contract situation.

Across his two spells in charge of Madrid, Zidane has led the club to 11 trophies. They remain in the hunt for glory in LaLiga and the Champions League this season.

The Frenchman's deal is set to expire in June 2022 and he has often shied away from confirming his long-term commitment to Los Blancos.

Club president Florentino Perez was this week re-elected for a fifth straight term running until 2025, but Zidane was guarded when asked he if could remain for the same period.

"I'm delighted that he's continuing on as president, but I'm not looking any further ahead than tomorrow's game," Zidane said at a news conference to preview Sunday's LaLiga meeting with Getafe.

"Nobody knows what'll happen later, so we just have to focus on the day to day.

"You can have a four- or five-year contract and leave tomorrow, or you can have a one-year contract and stay longer. That doesn't mean anything."

Zidane averages a trophy every 16 games with Madrid, but his detractors suggest his success is largely down to inheriting an incredibly strong squad.

"It's true that I'm lucky enough to coach this team and to be at this great club. I don't think that I'm an awful coach, but I'm sure that I'm not the best around," joked Zidane.

"I enjoy what I do and the important thing is that you're passionate about the things you enjoy.

"I know where I am and the important thing is that you always give your best. That's what me and my players, who are the most important ones, do.

"I'd like to talk more about football, but it's as if people are more interested in talking about other things. I think that it's better that we talk about football because I know that you all enjoy talking about football.

"I am happy, but I am just focusing on tomorrow's game. I never look into the future."

With Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal having suffered setbacks in their returns from injury and Ferland Mendy out with a muscle issue, Zidane only named 16 players for the trip to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

However, Madrid are on a 10-game unbeaten away run in LaLiga and Getafe have not won a home game against them since August 2012, losing five of the most recent six such meetings.

The last time Madrid went on a longer undefeated away streak in the top flight was in 2017, during Zidane's first spell in charge.

LaLiga's reigning champions moved into second by defeating Barcelona in El Clasico last weekend, with Atletico Madrid just one point ahead of them at the summit.

Despite having some key absentees against Getafe, Zidane believes he and his team have what it takes to get a positive result.

"My biggest strength in this role is that I enjoy myself every day and I've got a team that works really hard and is always hungry for more, despite having already won so much," said Zidane.

"We're going to keep battling and working because we also known how to dig in and that's something you have to do if you're going to win games. The result of our work is that it allows you to achieve something really special.

"The players believe in what they do and the challenges make us stronger. I'm really proud of that and that they're always hungry for more.

"Seeing my players so focused on everything we do fills me with joy. They're ready and we need to recover. Recovery is all about the small details to make sure you're ready when the games come round."

Diego Simeone claimed that Real Madrid and Barcelona are unlikely to lose again this season, as he conceded it is normal for his Atletico Madrid side to feel pressure.

LaLiga leaders Atleti were frustrated on Saturday, as they failed to overcome 10-man Getafe and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

Atleti had 72.7 per cent possession, their highest total in a LaLiga match since at least 2004-05, when Opta started to collect this kind of data.

David Soria was in superb form for Getafe, making seven saves – including a standout stop from Moussa Dembele – while Luis Suarez hit the post.

The result leaves Atleti six points clear of city rivals Madrid, though Barca would move within four points of Simeone's team should they beat Huesca on Monday.

Karim Benzema's double lifted Madrid to victory over Elche earlier on Saturday, and Simeone believes that neither of Atleti's title rivals will slip up again.

"We had the idea of winning again and continuing to have the advantage that we had," he told a news conference.

"The first half was not good, the game did not flow, there were no good transitions. In the second half the team improved and in the end had more chances to score.

"I maintain that the team is playing well, we have to be calm, it is a very difficult championship, Real Madrid and Barcelona are not going to lose any game from here until the end and we have to know what our path is."

Asked if Atleti were feeling the pressure, Simeone replied: "It is normal, we come almost the whole season being first. 

"There are 11 games left, they said that Barcelona was bad but against Paris Saint-Germain they could have won, they have a new president, enthusiasm and Madrid always manages to get the games won.

"We try step by step to continue our way, game by game, and we have two monsters behind us with the idea of being where we are."

Atleti's focus switches, temporarily at least, away from LaLiga for the next few days, with the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea coming up on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's team, who are still unbeaten under the German, lead 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Olivier Giroud's stunning strike in the first leg last month.

Atletico Madrid suffered another slip up in their LaLiga title charge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Getafe.

Diego Simeone brought up his record-setting 309th victory in charge of Atleti with a win over Athletic Bilbao last time out, but triumph number 310 evaded him on Saturday.

It was not for a lack of trying – Getafe goalkeeper David Soria pulling off a string of impressive stops, while Luis Suarez hit the woodwork.

Allan Nyom saw red for the hosts with 20 minutes left, yet Atleti could not make their numerical advantage count as they were forced to settle for just one point.

Perhaps spurred on by Real Madrid's earlier win, Atleti started with real intent – Suarez popping a header over before Soria denied Yannick Carrasco.

A rare error from Jan Oblak almost proved costly before the break, though Nemanja Maksimovic was unable to capitalise.

Oblak was back at his best on the hour, standing firm to deny Enes Unal after a sweeping Getafe counter.

Introduced at half-time, Joao Felix thought he had broken the deadlock moments later, but Marcos Llorente failed to keep the ball in play before squaring for the Portugal youngster.

Atleti were handed a boost with Nyom having his booking for a stamp on Renan Lodi upgraded to a red after a VAR check.

Getafe felt equally as hard done by from their next attack, the referee dismissing what seemed valid appeals for a penalty following Moussa Dembele's challenge on Maksimovic.

Dembele was in the thick of it at the other end soon after, twice testing Soria from close range – the first effort drawing a truly sensational stop – either side of Joao Felix forcing Getafe's goalkeeper into action.

Suarez thought he had won it in the closing stages, only for the post to come to Getafe's rescue, with a 90th-minute miss from Dembele ensuring Real Madrid and Barcelona were handed a boost.

Karim Benzema insists "there is a long way to go" in the LaLiga title race after Real Madrid made up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema opened the scoring on the hour-mark and Ferland Mendy doubled the lead as Zinedine Zidane’s side claimed a 2-0 victory against Getafe on Tuesday.

Atleti were held to a 2-2 home draw by Celta Vigo on Monday as Los Blancos closed the gap to five points at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, although Diego Simeone’s team still have two games in hand.

But that does not matter to Benzema, who headed in Vinicius Junior's cross to net his 16th goal of the season in all competitions, and the France international striker believes Madrid have Atleti in their sights.

"It was a good goal, a good centre from Vini and the ball goes in. I think we are back," Benzema told Movistar.

"It is always very difficult against Getafe. We will continue like this. There is a long way to go until the end.

"Each game is a final and we have to try to win every one. We are confident.

"There is always a lot of noise around Madrid because this is the best club in the world."

Next up for Madrid is a meeting with Valencia on Sunday, while table-toppers Atletico travel to face Granada on Saturday.

Third-placed Barcelona, who are three points behind Madrid and eight points off the top, host Deportivo Alaves on Saturday following their Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg against Sevilla on Wednesday.

Real Madrid will "keep on fighting" in this season's LaLiga title race, says Zinedine Zidane, whose side are five points shy of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atleti's draw with Celta Vigo on Monday gave Madrid the opportunity to make up some ground when they faced Getafe on Tuesday, and Los Blancos cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.

Karim Benzema's fifth headed goal of the season in all competitions – more than any other LaLiga player other than Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri – put Madrid ahead with an hour played before Ferland Mendy turned home Marcelo's cross.

Getafe were hardly robust opposition, however, with Jose Bordalas' side mustering just one attempt in the entire match. Indeed, Thibaut Courtois did not have to make a save, claim a catch or punch a cross clear.

It is the lowest amount of shots Madrid have faced in a LaLiga match since 2004-05, while have scored just 17 goals in the league this term - their lowest tally in a single season after 22 games played.

Nevertheless, Madrid did what was required of them and moved back into second place, three points above Barcelona and five behind Atleti, though Diego Simeone's side have two games in hand.

Zidane insisted Madrid's focus is simply on taking it game by game as they hope to retain their title.

"It will not change anything, we will do our thing. Our duty is to fight, to continue with our work, without paying attention to others," said Zidane, after seeing his side win back-to-back games for the first time in 2021.

"It's a good win. They are two consecutive victories, we needed it. Also with many injuries. We needed it now.

"I don't think there are Madridistas who think we're going to lose the league. On the contrary, they think we can always change things and that is what we are going to try to do. 

"With difficulties, it is clear, but we continue to do our thing. You have to keep fighting, little by little."

With Madrid cruising, Zidane introduced the lesser-spotted Isco in the 75th minute – the playmaker having not featured since January 23 due to a back injury.

Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season and has created five chances – registering one assist – across 12 league appearances in total.

"Isco couldn't start," Zidane explained when asked why Isco, who was linked with a move away in January, was on the bench.

"He has only trained once with the team. Then he entered the game a little later. It was just that, because he only did one training session with us."

Karim Benzema proved decisive yet again for Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane's side took advantage of Atletico Madrid's slip-up by beating Getafe 2-0 in LaLiga.

After a run of four league matches against Getafe without being directly involved in a goal, Benzema headed Madrid in front an hour into Tuesday's clash.

In a match of few clear-cut opportunities, Benzema had previously gone close to breaking the deadlock when he hit the bar 14 minutes in.

Ferland Mendy made sure of what could prove a valuable victory, given city rivals and LaLiga leaders Atleti were pegged back late on and could only draw with Celta Vigo on Monday.

Madrid relied on Raphael Varane to snatch a late winner at Huesca last time out but aimed to make a fast start this time around – Casemiro blazing over from point-blank range before Benzema's header struck the crossbar.

Los Blancos saw just under 70 per cent possession in the first half, yet ultimately their only shot on target came when Luka Modric forced David Soria into an awkward stop.

Soria was called into action much sooner in the second half, making himself big to deny Benzema from a tight angle.

A neat passage of play from Getafe saw Marc Cucurella get into a similar position down the other end, yet the former Barcelona man's touch let him down.

Getafe were duly punished – Benzema making no mistake on this occasion as he directed Vinicius Junior's pinpoint cross beyond Soria.

It was 2-0 six minutes later, Marcelo drilling a low left-wing cross to the front post, with Mendy on hand to turn home his first LaLiga goal of 2020-21.

Benzema curled wide soon after, but Getafe never came close to testing Thibaut Courtois as Madrid cruised to a routine triumph.

Zinedine Zidane has denied suggestions he is close to leaving Real Madrid, though offered no guarantees about his future.

Madrid boss Zidane defiantly declared prior to last Saturday's meeting with Huesca he would not throw in the towel after seeing his team beat Deportivo Alaves and lose at home to Levante in his absence due to a positive coronavirus test.

Prior to that, Los Blancos lost in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals against Athletic Bilbao and suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Alcoyano.

Although Madrid came from behind to beat Huesca 2-1 to record their second win in six games, Zidane still faced questions about his future ahead of a clash with Getafe on Tuesday.

When it was put to him his comments last week led to some concerns among fans that he could be on his way out of the club, Zidane replied on Monday: "No, listen, the important thing is the day-to-day work, that's what we're doing. The other day, whatever happened, we're just going to work.

"Everyone is here, we're just going to try to work. And the rest, everyone has freedom to have their opinion, that's normal.

"Everyone can say what they say, but I can also say what we're going to do here: that's work hard, believe in what we're doing and try to recover a bit of confidence and end the season well."

He added: "Why would I abandon Real Madrid? I'm doing what I like here. This is football; there are tough moments, but you just get on with it.

"We are just going to fight and battle, we need to do things properly with this team. Real Madrid is a great club and what you have to do is compete. There will always be changes here.

"We're all in the same boat here. I feel supported by everybody. You have to say what you have to say but we know what we have to do here. We just have to do things well, like we were doing just three or four weeks ago.

"There are difficult moments in a season, you have to accept it, and that helps you in more difficult moments. That's what we want to do, we want to change the situation.

"We've got important players, they're very good, they've won a lot, and nothing is going to stop us working hard for the rest of the season."

However, when asked if he would see out his contract, which runs until 2022, Zidane did not offer a straight answer.

"Well, we'll see," he said. "The important thing is, I said it to the other reporters, we're just focused on this season, the game tomorrow.

"I just focus on the day-to-day, today, tomorrow, the game. As for the rest, I don't know what's going to happen so I'm not thinking about anything apart from the game tomorrow."

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

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