Real Madrid moved three points clear at the top of LaLiga after Nacho scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

With title rivals Barcelona slipping to a 2-0 defeat to Valencia on Saturday, Zidane's men earned a hard-fought victory over a Valladolid side that came into the game unbeaten in three league matches.

Chances were few and far between at either end and the points looked likely to be shared after Karim Benzema missed from point-blank range with only Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip to beat.

But Nacho arrived in the box to head home with 12 minutes left and put his side in the driving seat at a crucial stage in the title race.

Barcelona and Real Madrid face a new threat of disruption at the season's first Clasico after pro-Catalan independence activists targeted the Camp Nou for protests.

The Tsunami Democratic protest group, which is run by anonymous leaders and mobilises followers by means including social media, has called on its supporters to head to four meeting points close to Barcelona's stadium at 4pm local time on December 18.

That is four hours before kick-off in the biggest match of the LaLiga season so far, which was moved from October 26 to its December date following civil unrest in Catalonia.

Tsunami Democratic says more than 18,000 supporters have already committed to joining its protest, including many who have tickets to the Clasico and members - known as 'socios' - of home club Barcelona.

The jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders sparked major protests in Barcelona during early autumn, and the Tsunami Democratic group was behind a move to bring the city's El Prat airport to a standstill by flooding it with protesters.

Now the same group, knowing it will be unable to protest inside Camp Nou, is intending to make itself impossible to avoid on the day of the match, which could mean political protests take place inside the stadium as millions watch across the world.

Tsunami Democratic said: "In an exceptional situation, it is necessary to act exceptionally."

In a statement posted on Twitter, the group said: "At this time, an important part of the Catalan population suffers from exclusion for ideological reasons.

"It cannot exercise fundamental rights without repression, nor can it exercise his right to self-determination. In addition, dozens of people are or have been arrested simply for exercising and promoting these rights.

"After verifying the impossibility of agreeing with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF the opportunity to make visible, in the stands and on the pitch, in an effective form, the call for dialogue that Spain ignores, Tsunami Democratic commits to doing so.

"For this, Tsunami Democratic convenes a massive concentration on December 18 at 4pm outside Camp Nou. So far, more than 18,000 people have signed up to the call.

"Many of these people, with tickets or membership [of FC Barcelona], have already received the relevant slogans and have organised to develop the actions planned for a day that will be followed by 650 million people around the world."

Saturday lunchtime, and the Gran Via and Plaza Mayor are teeming with Christmas shoppers in Madrid.

Cyclists, too, are out in force, gathering for a peaceful protest ride to make the case for leaving the car at home.

This is day one of a UN climate change convention being hosted by Spain's capital, and it is hard not to be conflicted by the collision of consumerism and conservationism.

We are living through times where we want to give, give, give to afford loved ones brief relief from cataclysmic reality, but at the same time we are warned the shop-around-the-clock culture is killing the planet.

At the nearby Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Real Madrid are wearing their mint-green third kit for a home league fixture against Espanyol.

The gesture is one of solidarity with the environmental campaigners - eco warriors, one and all, particularly when a global audience can snag a rare glimpse of a shirt that retails around the £90 mark.

At the same time, Real Madrid are wondering what their hipster manager, Zinedine Zidane, might deserve in his stocking this year.

Has he been a good boy? Does he deserve Paul Pogba? Kylian Mbappe? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?

Another pair of his beloved skinny jeans simply will not cut it this year.

Zidane, in middle age, still has the chutzpah and the physique to pull off a fashion statement, even if his band of footballers rarely catch the eye in such a manner.

A year ago he was enjoying a break from football, having grown tired of Real Madrid life. He and wife Veronique paid a trip to the Great Wall of China, and days later Zidane enjoyed dinner out with his fellow France 98 World Cup winners.

Retirement - for that is how it seemed - looked to be suiting the artisan footballer of his generation. A commercial deal here or there kept the money rolling in, and yet nine months after waving goodbye to the Bernabeu, Zidane was drawn back.

Saturday's 2-0 victory over lowly opposition was more pallid than it sounds, yet for several hours at least it lifted Madrid to the LaLiga summit. They and Barcelona are again duking it out for domestic silverware, and Madrid's saving grace is that their great rivals have also been shadows of their old selves at times this term.

The Clasico on Wednesday week - December 18 - might struggle to live up to that billing.

In this post-Cristiano Ronaldo era, Madrid all too often look bereft of the identity their great rivals still possess thanks to the ever-imperious Lionel Messi.

Neither Gareth Bale nor Eden Hazard, both temporarily absent through injury, has risen to the challenge of becoming Madrid's totemic personality, despite both being sufficiently gifted to step into the role. Newcomer Hazard deserves time to make his presence felt, but Bale's continuing presence - and the golf narrative - is helping nobody.

Bale is said by his agent to be "not ecstatic" to be at Madrid, and you wonder whether Zidane might soon feel similarly about his own second reign. The reliance on Karim Benzema, scorer of the second goal against Espanyol, is now all too obvious. This team look ripe to be picked off by stronger opposition, as Paris Saint-Germain have shown in the Champions League.

Marca reported on Saturday that Madrid must find 200 million euros to satisfy financial fair play bean-counters; presumably, in the absence of any more training grounds to sell, that means players will have to move on before others come in during January.

So recycling, fittingly enough, could be the salvation of this most functional of Real Madrid teams. The time is approaching for Zidane, the king of the first Galacticos era, to bring style and verve back to the Bernabeu.

That, or get on his bike.

Lionel Messi picked his header against Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final as the standout goal among more than 600 he has scored in his Barcelona career.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner described how the looping effort over Edwin van der Saar at Rome's Stadio Olimpico helped the Blaugrana "close the circle" as they clinched a LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble for the first time.

Samuel Eto'o's opener put Pep Guardiola's all-conquering side on their way that night, in a match Messi described as "spectacular" in a conversation with TyC Sports.

"My favourite goals are more than just attractive; they are important," said the talismanic 32-year-old.

"It was in the Champions League final and helped us to close the circle with Guardiola and win the triplete, which we had never done.

"That goal rounded up a spectacular game."

Calf and hamstring injuries have restricted Messi's appearances in LaLiga this season.

He has started just three of Barcelona's nine league games but has now hit form, scoring in consecutive victories over Sevilla and Eibar.

Messi also found the net in a 2-1 win over Slavia Prague in the Champions League to make it three goals in three games, and he spoke of his knowledge of when to become involved in Barcelona's play.

"It's not that I live in front of goal," said Messi. "I like to come from behind, be in touch with the ball and be creative, but also arrive and score goals.

"I have learned to regulate myself inside the game and find the moment. There are moments when I do not have to enter the game or do not have to participate and I wait for the arrival moment where I think it is more suitable.

"I have grown and I learned to read the games better, knowing what time and where to be effective and decisive, and little by little I gained that over time."

Christian Eriksen was rumoured to be close to leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

Real Madrid were among the clubs interested in the Dane, whose contract expires in 2020, but a move did not materialise before the end of the transfer window.

But that has not deterred the Spanish giants, with Zinedine Zidane willing to move two fringe players away from them Santiago Bernabeu to get a deal done for the 27-year-old.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS PAVING WAY FOR ERIKSEN

Real Madrid could reignite their interest in Christian Eriksen in the January transfer window, AS reports a move will only happen if Madrid dispense of two players.

Isco and Mariano Diaz are understood to be the most likely to be sacrificed.

Mariano is yet to make a single appearance this season but could command a fee of around €20million, while Isco's two LaLiga starts came in the draw against Real Valladolid in August and last weekend's loss to Mallorca.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is being eyed up by Crystal Palace for a January switch across London, according to the Daily Star.

- El Mundo reports Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ended their dispute over the transfer of Antoine Griezmann with an extra €15m changing hands.

- The Daily Mail claim Arsenal are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig's France Under-21 defender Dayot Upamecano.

- Italy boss Roberto Mancini has not ruled out a return to the national team for veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi as he shapes his squad for Euro 2020.

- The Sun says Juventus and Atletico Madrid are chasing 19-year-old West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde issued an appeal for calm as his team made an early dash to Eibar to avoid more possible protests in their home city.

Violent scenes broke out in Barcelona at the start of the week after nine Catalan political leaders were dealt long prison sentences for their roles in the region's 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

Barcelona's main airport was briefly closed on Tuesday due to the tension, with Spanish league officials later suggesting the Clasico with Real Madrid next week could be moved from Camp Nou to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Talk around that match dominated Valverde's media conference on Thursday, which had been designated to preview this Saturday's game against Eibar.

It emerged that Barca would be leaving on Thursday to make the trip to the Basque Country, rather than departing on Friday as would normally be the case.

"Tomorrow there could be things going on, protests in Barcelona," Valverde said. "There could be travel issues and we have to be there for the game. It's Saturday at 1pm and we thought this was the best option."

Valverde grew up in the Basque region and played for Athletic Bilbao for six years.

He is no stranger to tense political climates surrounding autonomy given that background, but regarding events in Catalonia he said: "I don't want to get too far into the things that are going on. They are issues that have been going on for years.

"What's happened recently is not habitual. We want people to be able to express themselves with the maximum level of freedom.

"Everyone has to respect each other and maybe that hasn’t been there the last few days."

He added: "At this time I think things need to be done in the political world so that there’s understanding. Obviously there are things you don't like to see and we hope that's a one-time thing, and that's it."

Valverde should be more comfortable once Barcelona are out of the city and he can focus on the Eibar game, an important fixture for the club given their mixed start to the campaign.

They sit second in LaLiga, two points behind Real Madrid, and have struggled at times over their opening eight games, in which they have suffered two losses.

Looking ahead to the Eibar trip, Valverde said: "These games are important because we're not at top of the table and we need three points.

"We did have a bit of a tough stretch and we reacted well to it. Sometimes you don't play well but you win anyway and you expect the team to react and that's what we've done in recent years.

"We would like to be in first place but we're not because we tripped up in a few games."

Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele scored memorable goals for Barcelona as Ernesto Valverde's decision to drop Antoine Griezmann was vindicated in a 4-0 victory over Sevilla.

While their €120million signing among the substitutes, Suarez's acrobatic overhead kick got the LaLiga champions off the mark, Arturo Vidal polished off a sublime passing move with the second and Dembele scored a solo effort to all but end the contest.

Lionel Messi wrapped up the win with a curling second-half free-kick and the synergy between Barcelona's front three, which has not always clicked with Griezmann involved, will not have been lost on Valverde.

The match ended in unsavoury fashion for the Catalans, though, who saw debutant Ronald Araujo and Dembele sent off shortly before injury time.

Luuk de Jong received good service from Lucas Ocampos in the early stages but he fluffed three chances put Sevilla ahead before Suarez broke the deadlock with a moment of magic 27 minutes in.

The Uruguay marksman watched Nelson Semedo's cross loop through the air and met it with an overhead kick into the bottom corner of the net before goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik could react.

The goal settled the hosts and five minutes later a move that incorporated 25 passes and all 11 Barcelona players culminated in Arthur's weighted ball, which allowed Vidal to slide in and glance a shot past Vaclik.

Dembele made it 3-0 inside eight first-half minutes when his slaloming run tore through Sevilla's defence, the 22-year-old opening his body and side-footing in at the far post.

The second half started just like the first, with De Jong squandering a great chance to score when he drilled a shot against the post from just inside the Barca box.

The hosts were soon back on top and Messi twice surged through Sevilla's midfield before putting the finishing touches on a fine win with a dipping, curling free-kick 12 minutes from time.

Valverde sent on Araujo for his debut, which turned sour when he was judged to have fouled Javier Hernandez as the Sevilla forward went through on goal and was shown a red card along with Dembele, who was sent off for his protests.

 

What does it mean? Barca go second

After Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Real Valladolid, Barcelona took full advantage and claimed a result that moved them up to second place in the table, two points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Frenkie says 'Relax!'

A run of mixed results in August and September left Valverde under pressure but his players looked calm and assured here, none more so than Frenkie de Jong, who looks every inch the composed midfield lynchpin to succeed Sergio Busquets – a second-half substitute here.

No luck for Luuk

While Barca's De Jong barely put a foot wrong his Sevilla namesake had a torrid evening, the centre-forward missing four clear chances to give the visitors a foothold in the game.

What's next?

Barcelona will hope to extend their winning run to five matches in all competitions by beating Eibar away from home on October 19, while Sevilla aim to get back on course as they entertain Levante a day later.

Real Madrid must treat Thibaut Courtois differently to get the best out of him, according to Belgium goalkeeper coach Erwin Lemmens.

Courtois was substituted at half-time in Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw against Club Brugge, with Madrid 2-0 down at the time.

The 27-year-old was arguably at fault for Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis' ninth-minute opener and was again beaten by the Brugge striker later in the half.

Courtois' early withdrawal was put down to illness by boss Zinedine Zidane, but Lemmens has accused Madrid of failing to get the most out of a player that previously impressed for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.

Comparing his compatriot's woes at the Santiago Bernabeu to David de Gea's slump in form with Manchester United, Lemmens told Radio MARCA: "They have to treat him differently.

"He's a special boy and it's unusual that he's always at the highest level with Belgium, but there he suffers with De Gea syndrome.

"If the Bernabeu whistles then you have to look at the team as a whole.

"He's a great goalkeeper and he'll try to make Real Madrid happy again."

Courtois' Belgium international team-mate Eden Hazard has also made a slow start to life at Madrid following a big-money switch from Chelsea.

Hazard has yet to score or assist in five outings for his new club, but Lemmens has urged Madrid supporters to remain patient.

"Hazard needs time," he said. "But Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world and it's normal for them to want players to play well as soon as they arrive."

Ernesto Valverde hailed the perseverance of Luis Suarez, who silenced his critics with a goal in Barcelona's 2-0 LaLiga victory at Getafe.

Suarez was on target in the opening half as 10-man Barca recorded their first away victory of the league season on Saturday.

Whistled during Barca's win at home to Villarreal midweek, Suarez responded by scoring his third LaLiga goal of the campaign – a lobbed effort in the 41st minute.

Barca head coach Valverde lauded 32-year-old forward Suarez, who has come in for criticism due to his form.

"Goalscorers sometimes score and sometimes they don't, but Luis always perseveres," Valverde said. "He fought for a long ball and was rewarded."

Barca had lost two and drawn one of their opening three away fixtures in LaLiga prior to Saturday's triumph against Getafe.

The result left Barca fourth in the standings, two points adrift of leaders and bitter rivals Real Madrid.

"It was important not to make mistakes early on like we have done in other games," Valverde said. "That was fundamental. The goal calmed us down and, from there, we imposed ourselves well. We didn't give much away and had chances to score more.

"If you want to win LaLiga you have to win a lot of games away from home, not just your home games. Getafe were a tough rival, it's a hard place to come and we've played well. Now we have three days to prepare for Inter."  

Barca were without Ousmane Dembele for the Getafe trip due to a thigh injury and it remains to be seen whether the France international will be fit for Wednesday's Champions League showdown against Inter.

"It's true that I left him out of the [matchday] squad," Valverde added. "It was more as a precaution. He's told me that he is calm. We think it's a little nuisance, but it's nothing serious."

When asked if Dembele would feature against Inter, Valverde replied: "I don't know. I wish that wasn't the case, but I can't say for sure."

Marc-Andre ter Stegen admitted everything was perfectly aligned to allow him to become the first Barcelona goalkeeper to claim an assist in LaLiga this century.

The club's tiki-taka playing style, established in Johan Cruyff's time as manager, has meant goalkeepers have not been typically encouraged to kick the ball long to the strikers.

Instead, the policy has been to play out from the back, and Barcelona have built great success by doing just that.

However, German shot-stopper Ter Stegen was in a hurry to clear as he raced off his line and outside the penalty area to intercept the ball against Getafe on Saturday, with the game goalless.

He looked up, noticed Luis Suarez was beginning a sprint into the Getafe half, and launched the ball long. Suarez did the rest, shaking off the attentions of a defender before lobbing David Soria, grabbing the first goal in a 2-0 victory.

"It was a bit strange because it doesn't happen to you much in your career," Ter Stegen said.

"And it's something I hadn't done, but I'm happy. It was a perfect moment, for Luis to take off and then the pass... and the pass was good. I saw him there but the pass had to be perfect. Luis was perfectly positioned and we took advantage of it."

Barcelona were able to celebrate a first away win in the league this season, even if not all aspects of the performance were encouraging. Getafe were well in the game and would have been encouraged by some haphazard Barcelona defending before Suarez's goal changed the contest.

In quotes published on Barcelona's website, Ter Stegen added: "I think it was a step we needed this season. To win games away from home is tricky, so it was a good day for us and for the fans, I think. To keep a clean sheet is always important so I'm happy with that."

Head coach Ernesto Valverde offered his approval, saying of his goalkeeper: "Obviously we want him to be very aware of long passes because the goalkeeper can do that with defences which are pushed up, and [it was] a great assist."

Valverde, whose position will be under less scrutiny than it has following the three points, said the decision to leave Ousmane Dembele out of his team was "mainly a precaution" because of a minor thigh problem. Barcelona play Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow we'll do more tests," Valverde said in quotes published by Marca.

The head coach was pleased to see Barcelona show some form away from Camp Nou, saying: "After the recent results away from home we needed to win and it was a good away trip because Getafe asked a lot of questions of us."

Goalkeepers at Barcelona are frequently consigned to a watching brief, afforded an unobstructed view of one of the world's all-time great sides.

As the goals fly in at the other end, the keeper is often left to celebrate on his own, unable to claim any direct credit.

But Marc-Andre ter Stegen decided on Saturday that it would be nice to get involved at the sharp end, providing the long-range pass for Luis Suarez's opener against Getafe.

In doing so, the German became the first Barca keeper to provide an assist in LaLiga in the 21st century. 

Ernesto Valverde's men went on to win 2-0, moving up to second in the table. 

Ter Stegen is involved in a battle with Manuel Neuer for the Germany number-one spot and Saturday's exploits at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez will have done his cause no harm. 

Luis Suarez set Barcelona on their way to a first away victory of the LaLiga season as they won 2-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Forget the often hare-brained defending from the Catalan giants, Barcelona got what they came for: three points safely accrued ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Inter.

For coach Ernesto Valverde, the pressure eases just a little, and the fact they notched this victory without Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele, both sidelined with thigh injuries, is another source of encouragement.

Suarez lobbed in the 41st-minute opener, and Junior Firpo tucked in Barcelona's second from close range early in the second half for his first goal for the club. Getafe spurned first-half chances they might have gobbled up on another day and Clement Lenglet's 84th-minute dismissal for two yellow cards came too late to give them any real advantage.

Valverde fielded a front three of Carles Perez, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann. The game largely passed Griezmann by, not for the first time since his summer switch from Atletico Madrid.

Getafe were unbeaten in their last eight home LaLiga matches; however, Barcelona had won on 10 of their 14 previous visits to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez in LaLiga, more than any other visiting side.

Perez tested David Soria in the Getafe goal early on, before Suarez stabbed a shot wide following a smart throughball from Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona's defence was then picked apart too easily, with Angel allowed space to shoot from six yards, his strike blocked by the legs of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Jaime Mata had a close-range effort deflect wide off Junior at the other, with Barcelona increasingly shambolic at the back. Inter will have taken encouragement.

But Suarez pounced to give Barcelona a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute when a clearance from Ter Stegen turned into a great long ball for the Uruguayan striker to chase, and he lobbed Soria in style.

Soria was culpable for Barcelona's second four minutes into the second half, as he could only push a 25-yard shot from Perez back into play, and Junior had an easy finish.

Suarez and Perez almost added to the lead, while Arthur nearly fired past Soria into an empty net after the goalkeeper went walkabout, but two was enough.

 

What does it mean? Barca punish wasteful hosts

It means what we already knew: that Barcelona will typically have too much firepower, if the opposition fail to take their own chances. There was little liquid football on show from the defending LaLiga champions, but a big boot downfield from their goalkeeper and a composed finish from their arch predator defined this game. Sometimes such rudimentary football will do. At other times, they will need to find a greater finesse.

Ter Stegen makes history

Incredibly, Ter Stegen's long kick that set up Suarez resulted in a first LaLiga assist by a Barcelona goalkeeper in the 21st century. It was an altogether un-Barcelona-like piece of playing out from the back.

No Messi, yet too messy

Messi typically has little direct involvement in Barcelona's defending, but whenever he is on the pitch the Argentinian hoists up the standards of those around him. Without him on Saturday, Barcelona lacked guile. It was nowhere more obvious than in their rocky rearguard where some laughable interplay played into Getafe's hands. Inter are unlikely to be as sparing with their finishing as Getafe.

What's next?

A major test awaits Barcelona as they tackle Serie A high-flyers Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday. Getafe face FC Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday.

Barcelona halted negotiations over the transfer of Neymar when Paris Saint-Germain altered their demands, according to Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Neymar was heavily linked with a return to Camp Nou throughout the transfer window, with PSG publicly confirming the Brazil star wished to leave Parc des Princes.

But no transfer materialised and Neymar will remain part of Thomas Tuchel's squad, with Barcelona president Bartomeu ruling out a move for the forward in January.

Bartomeu revealed negotiations were extensive, though only because PSG's sporting director Leonardo indicated the Ligue 1 champions would be willing to sell the 27-year-old.

However, Bartomeu has claimed a move for Neymar was never likely to come to fruition once PSG changed their demands.

"In the winter window he's not an option," said Bartomeu in an interview with Barcelona's website. "The planning for next season is done in January, February.

"That will be when we get back to talking about the topic. But [not] if PSG keep asking for such high figures.

"We heard Neymar wanted to leave PSG and there was a moment when Leonardo opened the door to negotiations, for other clubs too.

"But during the negotiations, when the new demands of PSG appeared, we said that they were unassailable. We decided to stop the conversations.

"It's a sporting decision. The technical team said we should try to sign him. He would have been an extra for the squad. We didn't arrive at a deal because we could not match PSG's demands."

Numerous Barcelona players – including Ivan Rakitic, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho – were reportedly considered in a swap deal, but Bartomeu insisted those names were not put forward by his club.

"Barca never put names on the table, they are players that PSG put there," Bartomeu said. "We could not match their demands."

Though Neymar did not arrive, Barca did spend €120million on Antoine Griezmann, while Frenkie de Jong – signed in January from Ajax – completed his €75million move.

Barca have made an indifferent start to their LaLiga campaign, losing to Athletic Bilbao and drawing with Osasuna either side of a 5-2 win over Real Betis.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.