Diego Simeone felt Atletico Madrid played perhaps their best game of the season in Saturday's 1-1 LaLiga draw with Granada.

Renan Lodi opened the scoring at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes after an hour only for German Sanchez to equalise seven minutes later.

The draw was Atleti's seventh in their past 10 LaLiga matches and leaves them three points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table, having played a game more.

Simeone was happy with the performance, though, blaming Atletico's failure to hold on for a win on a "careless moment" that allowed Sanchez to head in from a corner.

"This was our best performance of those away from home and also possibly of those at home too," the coach told reporters.

"We were very consistent, especially in the first 30 minutes. Granada didn't get close to our penalty area.

"We played a quite complete match, but we had a careless moment in the goal we conceded. But the team didn't give up."

Joao Felix was fit enough only to appear as a second-half substitute, having been struggling with an ankle injury since last month.

Simeone insists the 20-year-old must be given time to regain full fitness before he can be expected to make a significant impact.

"I act as a result of what I see in training," he said. "He has to keep picking up the pace.

"He has great quality and talent and when he is fully fit he will contribute."

Atletico Madrid lost ground on LaLiga leaders Barcelona as German Sanchez's header saw Granada, who had coach Diego Martinez sent off, fight back to claim a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Renan Lodi's first Atleti goal had put Diego Simeone's side ahead an hour in at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes, sparking into life what had previously been a drab encounter.

Jan Oblak was called into action to deny Granada an opener midway through the first half, but - after the home team's coach received his marching orders - Atleti's goalkeeper could do little to prevent German finding the net.

With Barca rallying to beat Leganes earlier on Saturday, Atletico needed a victory to remain within a point of the Blaugrana, yet two missed chances from Alvaro Morata was the closest they came to claiming the spoils.

Angel Correa was inches away from nudging Atleti ahead in the third minute but could not stretch far enough to connect with Vitolo's deflected shot across the face of goal.

It took Granada 27 minutes to test Oblak, though the visiting keeper had to react sharply to get down to Antonio Puertas' effort.

Vitolo and Correa combined after the restart, only for the latter to pull a first-time shot wide. Left-back Lodi - who has made a fine start to life at Atleti - made no mistake, however, keeping his cool to slot under goalkeeper Rui Silva.

Maxime Gonalons received a booking for his part in a tussle with Morata soon after, with Martinez then sent to the stands.

However, Granada used their frustrations to spur them on, German getting the better of Kieran Trippier to nod in from Angel Montoro's corner.

Morata failed to keep a header from six yards out on target and the former Chelsea striker then blazed over from Lodi's cutback, while substitute Dario Poveda failed to tuck home amid a goalmouth scramble as Atleti were held to a seventh league draw of the campaign.

Joao Felix has been passed fit for Atletico Madrid's LaLiga trip to Granada on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Portugal forward missed six matches after suffering right ankle ligament damage during last month's 1-1 draw against Valencia.

Club-record signing Joao Felix's return comes as a boost to head coach Diego Simeone, who learned this week he will be without Diego Costa until the new year.

The former Chelsea striker underwent neck surgery on a herniated disk and, although Joao Felix adds welcome creativity to the Atleti attack, Simeone pointed out he cannot directly solve his Costa problem.

"No, he is not a forward in that sector," Simeone told a news conference, before informing reporters youngsters Ivan Saponjic and Dario Poveda would be providing cover for first-choice striker Alvaro Morata.

"With Saponjic, we have been telling him what he needs to get close to being able to compete with us."

Atleti president Enrique Cerezo said before Costa's operation there were no plans to bring in another striker in January and Simeone is seemingly content to work with what he has, while acknowledging Atleti might look to capitalise upon any opportunities thrown up when the market opens.

"I think about reality and that is that we have Alvaro, Dario and that we have to improve Ivan," he said.

"We trust Dario who can use that space to grow, he is only 20 years old [22], good height, good in the air.

"Both in the winter and summer markets you always have to be open to everything because everything can happen. The representatives do their job well and maybe there can always be some player who wants to go, another one who wants to come.

"In the middle of the season, the loss of Costa is important for his personality and what he conveyed in the locker room.

"He was not at his best, but he was there. His place will be covered by Dario, [Rodrigo] Riquelme and Saponjic if he manages to approach what we need."

Third-placed Atletico are a point behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in LaLiga, having played a game more than the leaders, and Simeone also has selection concerns in midfield.

Saul Niguez and Thomas Partey will both sit out the trip to Los Carmenes due to already amassing five LaLiga yellow cards this season.

"Both Thomas and Saul are out and give way to Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera, to follow the line that the team has been taking," Simeone added, before noting the match as a particular opportunity for Llorente, a close-season acquisition from Real Madrid.

"For Marcos it is an important game. He is not having the chance to play because the Thomas, Saul and Koke are doing very well.

"He has worked very well and for sure he will play a game as a result of how he has worked."

Granada moved to the top of LaLiga after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday, less than five months on from their promotion back to the top flight.

Diego Martinez's side took advantage of the postponed Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Alvaro Vadillo's second-half goal sealing all three points at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

The Andalusian side have enjoyed a remarkable return to LaLiga after two seasons in the second tier, winning six of their opening 10 games, including a memorable 2-0 victory over Barca on September 21.

With Barca not playing this weekend after their clash with Madrid was postponed, Granada were able to move a point clear at the top of the table.

Their haul of 20 points from 10 games this season is as many as they managed from all 38 league matches when they were relegated in 2016-17.

They could be dethroned when Ernesto Valverde's side take on Real Valladolid in their game in hand on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Civil unrest in Catalonia forced the first Clasico of the 2019-20 season to be rearranged for December 18.

Zinedine Zidane hailed Federico Valverde's form for Real Madrid after a 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday.

Valverde, 21, made his third straight LaLiga start for Madrid, setting up a goal for Eden Hazard as Zidane's men moved four points clear at the top.

The Uruguay international's display was lauded by Zidane, who praised the midfielder's energy.

"I'm happy for him. He deserves it, he's a player that'll always prove just how good he is," the Madrid coach told a news conference.

"He's improving, he's doing exceptionally well and he's always moving forward, he wants to get on the ball and he had a hand in the goals.

"This is a team game and that first-half performance was brilliant in every sense. We did really well in terms of getting out of our half with the ball.

"That's the kind of player he [Valverde] is. He's a bit of a modern player, he's got a fantastic engine on him, it's not only in attack because he puts in just as much work in defence too and that's important in the modern game and he's doing well, just as many of them are.

"I'm delighted for Fede because he's getting game time and he deserves it."

Valverde gained possession a game-high nine times for Madrid against Granada, while he made three tackles and provided an assist.

Top of the table, Madrid's first game after the international break is a trip to Mallorca on October 19.

Eden Hazard was relieved to finally score his first Real Madrid goal in Saturday's 4-2 LaLiga win over Granada.

Hazard netted his first goal since arriving at Madrid for a reported €100million from Chelsea in June and also provided an assist as Zinedine Zidane's men pulled four points clear at the top.

The Belgium international was pleased to get on the scoresheet and the attacker hopes it is the first of many for the LaLiga giants.

"I am pleased with the win, when you play you want to score, but the crucial thing was getting the win. We are still top of the league, that was our aim," Hazard told Real Madrid TV.

"It's always difficult to get that first goal but once you get it, you have greater confidence to shoot and I hope to score lots of goals for this great club. It was important for me to score.

"It was a really hard-fought win because Granada played really well, they're a strong side and that's why they're second in LaLiga, but we gave our all throughout the 90 minutes and won the game.

"There's always room for improvement but that's three important points."

Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez also scored for Madrid, who were pegged back from 3-0 up to 3-2 before closing out their victory.

Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal said his side needed to close out matches better after the scare.

"We have to correct this way of closing out matches at home. If we continue like this and don't fix it then points will end up being dropped next time," he said, via Marca.

"It also happened against Levante and it has happened again. The feeling of winning 3-0 and then suffering isn't a sign of reliability.

"We have to be more convincing, but we go into the break as leaders and we know the path to follow."

Zinedine Zidane is hopeful Eden Hazard can build on his impressive display after the Belgium forward got off the mark with his first goal for Real Madrid in Saturday's 4-2 win against Granada. 

Hazard opened his account with an impressive lob late in the first half of the top-of-the-table clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, doubling Madrid's tally after Karim Benzema had given them the lead inside two minutes. 

He also teed up Luka Modric for the goal of the game just after the hour mark, but the home side let their opponents back into the contest when Darwin Machis converted from the spot after Alphonse Areola brought down Carlos Fernandez. 

Domingos Duarte set up a tense finale with his close-range finish 13 minutes from time, only for James Rodriguez to kill off the comeback to move Madrid four points clear at the top of LaLiga. 

It was the performance of Hazard that was most encouraging for Zidane, though, the ex-Chelsea man having failed to score or assist in his first five matches. 

"We need to see Eden like this, playing well and scoring goals," Zidane told reporters. "He wanted that, he was happy in the dressing room. We hope it's the first of many for him." 

Zidane's men rested on their laurels when boasting a commanding lead and were nearly made to pay in a similar performance to their 3-2 win against Levante last month. 

"We should not compare with the Levante game," Zidane said. 

"Granada are second in the table - if you let them back into the game… we had 10-15 difficult minutes. But even the second half we controlled the game. And we scored the fourth. 

"We are better than a month ago. Each player that comes in plays their part. But I want more, and we will play better. 

"We are perfectionists. But it is not easy, there are no easy games. You must always play from minute one to 90." 

Granada have been the surprise package in LaLiga so far and head coach Diego Martinez hailed the way his side fought back. 

"I'm proud of the second-half performance," he said. "We can't be happy if we don't pick up any points, but this game will help us grow as a team. Lifting ourselves up after being 3-0 down, showing pride and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, our mistakes were punished." 

Eden Hazard has finally arrived at Real Madrid. The reported €100million signing opened his goalscoring account and got an assist on Saturday, helping unconvincing Los Blancos see off Granada 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having played five matches before the visit of Diego Martinez's men and with only a yellow card to show for his efforts, pundits had been quick to point out the Belgium international's stuttering form.

There is no doubt Hazard's hamstring injury in August played a significant role in disrupting his start to life in Madrid, preventing him from playing the first few weeks of the season.

Yet, for all the understanding from some, Hazard had become a key conversation topic around the club, with questions dominating Zidane's news conferences.

To Zidane's credit, he had been quick to back Hazard – perhaps learning from his treatment of Gareth Bale – and even suggested there were parallels to his own start at the Bernabeu.

"I know [Hazard] is going to succeed here," Zidane said before Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"The same thing happened to me, this is why I'm very calm, I knew things would work out for me in time and it's the same with Hazard."

While Zidane is probably bending the truth with respect to his own start, having scored three times by the end of September in his first season at the club, it was a comment made to buy Hazard a little extra time – after all, Madrid's fans are infamous for their lack of patience.

Having again been underwhelming against Brugge, making just one key pass, Hazard still initially appeared rusty in the visit of Granada – allowing a defender the chance to get a foot in and tackle him when well placed to cut a ball back into the danger zone.

But in the 42nd minute a low cross almost found Bale, who wanted a penalty for an apparent foul by Carlos Neva, suggesting the Belgian was settling into the contest.

And his next involvement in stoppage time saw Hazard make the sort of impact he did so regularly with Chelsea, racing on to a throughball and nonchalantly lobbing Rui Silva to make it 2-0, adding to Karim Benzema's opener.

The relief on his face was soon replaced by unbridled joy – Sergio Ramos' reaction seeming to say, "About time!".

He followed that up in the second half with an assist, going on a mazy run on the left flank, before cutting back inside and teeing up Luka Modric, having drawn several defenders in.

Modric subsequently unleashed a ferocious strike into the top-left corner from 30 yards, taking full advantage of the space made for him.

No one will attempt to claim Hazard is back to his best on the back of this match – after all, he was generally quiet in the first half and he only got an assist because of Modric's excellence.

But after a sequence of below-par performances in which he offered precious little, Hazard has at least shown hints of his brilliance in a Madrid shirt for the first time.

And given Madrid's rather fragile mentality – as evidenced by the performances against Brugge, Levante, Real Valladolid and now Granada, who fought back from three goals down before James Rodriguez struck late on – Zidane needs Hazard in full stride as soon as possible.

Eden Hazard scored and assisted his first goals for Real Madrid as the LaLiga leaders held on to beat stubborn second-placed opponents Granada 4-2 to extend their lead at the summit. 

The Belgium international lifted the ball over Rui Silva to get off the mark in his sixth match for the club, doubling the hosts' tally after Karim Benzema's early opener in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Substitute Luka Modric added another from range for Madrid but surprise package Granada pulled one back from the spot after Alphonse Areola gave away a penalty, then Domingos Duarte set up a tense finale with his close-range finish. 

But Zinedine Zidane's men saw out their first win in three matches, James Rodriguez striking in added time, to move four points clear of Granada and city rivals Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand to play. 

Eden Hazard scored his first goal for Real Madrid in Saturday's LaLiga encounter against Granada.

The Belgium international had produced a string of largely indifferent displays since returning from a hamstring injury sustained shortly after joining Madrid from Chelsea in a reported €100million (£88.5m) deal in June.

But after failing to score or assist in his first five matches for the club, Hazard found the back of the net in the top-of-the-table showdown with Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Granada were unable to clear under pressure and Federico Valverde poked the ball through for Hazard, who kept his cool and lifted the ball over the head of goalkeeper Rui Silva.

Hazard's goal arrived in added time at the end of the first half, putting Madrid 2-0 up after Karim Benzema's early opener.

Thibaut Courtois has been left out of Real Madrid's squad to face Granada a few hours after the club denied he has an anxiety problem.

Goalkeeper Courtois was substituted at half-time in Madrid's Champions League draw with Club Brugge in midweek, with head coach Zinedine Zidane saying the player "wasn't well and couldn't continue".

It was subsequently claimed in media reports that the former Chelsea man was affected by anxiety, yet a club statement denied this on Friday, instead revealing he is suffering with gastroenteritis.

As such, Courtois was not named in the Madrid squad to face LaLiga surprise package Granada when Zidane announced his 19-man squad later the same day.

Alphonse Areola, who replaced Courtois against Brugge, will be joined by Castilla goalkeepers Javier Belman and Diego Altube in the group.

Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior both featured in the European clash but were left out of this selection, with James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Rodrygo Goes returning.

Zidane had already confirmed Madrid were considering starting Eder Militao at left-back due to a number of defensive injuries, with Marcelo, Ferland Mendy and Nacho all out. Alvaro Odriozola is another option.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is facing a full-back shortage after the club confirmed that left-sided defender Marcelo has been sidelined by a hamstring strain.

The Brazil international played the second half of Madrid's 2-2 draw with Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday, coming on as a substitute for Nacho.

After the game, Nacho was taken to hospital for tests on his left knee, which revealed ligament damage and he is expected to be ruled out until Christmas while he recovers.

Zidane is unable to call upon France international Ferland Mendy to provide cover at left-back for Madrid's clash with Granada on Saturday as he is in recovery from a thigh injury.

Los Blancos' boss was even asked in his pre-match news conference whether Gareth Bale could deputise given his experience of playing in deeper roles over the years.

"The truth is that I have not thought of that at all," said Zidane, before pointing to right-footed Brazilian defender Eder Militao as a possible solution to the problem.

"We have other possibilities before that. [Militao] may be an alternative. He is a defender, he has played in this position, it is a possibility."

Zidane faced questions about goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was jeered by Madrid supporters before being replaced at half-time against Brugge by Alphonse Areola.

The club put out a statement to say that Courtois was ill during the match, to counter reports that he was replaced due to poor performance and anxiety.

Zidane offered words of support for Courtois, who kept three consecutive clean sheets prior to the Brugge game, but stopped short of confirming who would start in goal against Granada. 

"He was bad, yes," Zidane said of Courtois. "He was disturbed. It can happen, but a player can play in spite of that. But at the break, he was no longer able to play.

"Whistles, whether unfair or not, are like that. He is strong mentally. We know, internally, that the fault is collective in the first period against Brugge.

"I have 25 players, I count on each one of them. Thibaut Courtois is one of them. People can talk, have their opinion, about what happened on Tuesday. But the three games before, it was Courtois in goal and we did not concede any goals.

"No one is indisputable, neither Courtois nor anyone. [Areola] is a great keeper, like Thibaut. He is very good, and that's it. We have two good goalkeepers who play and that's it."

Revered sporting director Antonio Cordon was frustrated at Monaco in 2017.

Having just seen the club win Ligue 1, it was becoming apparent he had less control over player sales than he previously believed. He quit almost exactly a year after he had joined.

Although the Spaniard had no shortage of offers after departing Stade Louis II, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea among his admirers, he opted for a rather more curious option.

Had a Granada fan been told at the time the highly regarded former Villarreal transfer guru was about to become an influential figure in the second-tier side's future, they'd have assumed you'd just fallen head-first from a Sierra Nevada peak.

Yet two years on, Cordon has again displayed his brilliance with Granada not only in LaLiga, but heading into Saturday's game at Real Madrid second in the table and just a point behind Zinedine Zidane's league leaders having already beaten Barcelona 2-0 as part of their best start to a top-flight season.

Hope springs eternal

Jiang Lizhang's first season as Granada owner culminated in relegation with just 20 points in 2016-17. Change was desperately needed but, luckily, the Chinese businessman's plans were already in place.

"Hope Group was established to manage the sporting activity of not just Granada, but also other clubs Jiang's invested in, such as Parma, Tondela and Chongqing Lifan. Leading things at Hope is Antonio Cordon," Heath Chesters – a fan and former Granada club journalist – told Omnisport.

"Cordon brought in Fran Sanchez to run the sports management at Granada. Between them they started the rebuild."

Although not one to bask in media attention, Cordon is a hugely respected figure in European football having spent 17 years at Villarreal and playing a vital role in turning them from a second-tier side into one of Spain's most prominent clubs.

Scout, chief scout, sporting director – Cordon's influence at Villarreal was huge, marking himself out as a shrewd talent-spotter. Now he is helping oversee several clubs at once via Hope Group.

The new system needed 2017-18 as a settling period, but they have gone from strength to strength ever since.

Jobs for locals

"Hope's aim was to focus mainly on Spanish players and particularly those from Andalusia," Chesters adds of the club's recruitment strategy.

Nine of Granada's squad are Andalusia born-and raised, while Yan Eteki, Ramon Azeez and Aaron Escandell all came through academies in the southern region.

Hope created a centralised scouting department to give their clubs access to data, tools and information that otherwise might be out of their reach financially. That certainly appears to be paying off with Granada, who finished second in La Segunda last term.

"Something that has been overlooked by much of the media is the quality of signings, both last season in Segunda and this season preparing for LaLiga," Chesters adds. "The biggest credit for the sports directive and Diego Martinez [coach] working in unison, is they signed pretty much all of their primary targets this pre-season.

"All clubs have their shopping lists, but how many actually get to sign practically all those they've targeted? Granada did that and, for the most part, that effort has gone under the radar."

Martinez the inspiration

But for all the planning and Hope Group's influence, there's no doubt who the main catalyst has been in the eyes of supporters.

"Speak to any fan and they'll say Granada's rise has everything to do with Diego Martinez," Chesters continues. "It's his sense of humility and teamwork, plus a strong family atmosphere, which has been the biggest change."

He secured an unexpected promotion back to LaLiga in his first season, earning many admirers in the process as his side went up with the best defence in the division.

Martinez spent the formative years of his coaching career at Sevilla. In eight seasons, he coached the 'C' team, guided the academy to a first ever league success, worked as assistant to Unai Emery and then took charge of the 'B' team – Sevilla Atletico – in 2014.

It was with Sevilla Atletico when he caught the attentions of other clubs, masterminding their shock promotion to La Segunda and keeping them up in 13th. They even had a spell between October 30 and December 9 when they didn't drop below fourth.

An underwhelming one-season stay at Osasuna did little to dent his burgeoning reputation and he has been the perfect fit for Granada.

"He transmits his belief, enthusiasm and encouragement to the players, and they've responded magnificently," Chesters enthused. "Most fascinating to see is interviews with every player, all praising his leadership, sharing his vision and philosophy. It's created the most unified group I think I've ever seen at Granada in 15 years following the club."

With Cordon and Martinez working in harmony, the sky is the limit. Next stop, the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ernesto Valverde admits he is to blame for Barcelona's poor form after Saturday's 2-0 loss at Granada confirmed their worst LaLiga start in 25 years.

Barca went down to goals from Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo as the promoted side moved top of the table, with Valverde's men seventh after five games.

Seven points is the fewest they have collected at this stage of the season since a difficult 1994-95 campaign under legendary coach Johan Cruyff.

Valverde's team have failed to win any of their past seven away games in all competitions, a run that dates back to last season, with pressure growing on the coach.

Although Valverde has led Barca to the title in each of his two full seasons in charge, they lost last term's Copa del Rey final to Valencia after crashing out of the Champions League in humiliating fashion against Liverpool.

Questions about Valverde's future have been a constant background presence throughout his time at the club, and the coach accepts the blame for poor results must lie at his door.

"In the end the actors are the players and the coach is responsible," he told a post-match news conference.

"I feel responsible for what has happened. You can lose but when you lose you have to deserve to win - and today we have not deserved it.

"Away from home we are not reaping good results. When it happens in four games it is already a symptom that we are not too well.

"Today we have not been well. Away from home we are not playing good games. We are dominating but we do not translate it into goal situations. It is also true that the opponent is scoring the first goal."

Valverde gave credit to Granada, who have won three LaLiga games in a row without conceding a goal.

"Granada deserve a lot of credit and we have to recognise it," the coach added. "They have been intense, strong, they have troubled us a lot.

"The first goal has put the game in their hands and they hit us when they hurt us the most. They have made their game and that we have not played well is to their credit."

Luis Suarez accepted Barcelona's 2-0 LaLiga loss at Granada was a worrying result.

Goals from Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo moved promoted Granada top of the table and deepened Barca's growing crisis.

They are without a win in seven away games in all competitions, while their start to the new LaLiga campaign is their worst in 25 years.

Regardless of their poor form, Barca are only three points off the top of the table and Suarez called for Ernesto Valverde's side to buck up their ideas quickly.

"It is a defeat that worries and hurts, and we have to look at many things," he said after the game.

"We must be self-critical in order to improve.

"After going behind in the first two minutes it was difficult for us.

"We have to be more forceful to win the title. We must be self-critical."

Suarez, though, said it is inappropriate to consider Barca's slow start an extension of their underwhelming end to the 2018-19 campaign.

"It is not necessary to mix with the ones from the last year," he added.

"We must analyse the first games that we played as visitors, that obviously worries us with the lack of effectiveness."

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