Luis Suarez scored twice as LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid secured a comfortable 3-1 home victory over Elche.

Atletico had lost the Madrid derby in their last league fixture, ending a 26-match unbeaten run in the competition.

But there was little danger of them suffering a second straight top-flight loss from the moment Suarez put them in front four minutes before half-time on Saturday.

Suarez added a second after the break as he emphatically ended a three-match run without a goal.

Lucas Boye headed in to give Elche hope, but Atletico sealed all three points when substitute Diego Costa converted a penalty with 10 minutes remaining.

Atletico thought they had won an early penalty when Joao Felix's through ball led to Suarez being tugged back by John Donald, only for a VAR check to reveal the striker had strayed offside.

Elche goalkeeper Edgar Badia used his legs to keep out a swerving drive from Marcos Llorente, who also blazed over from another opportunity later in the first half.

Badia then denied Thomas Lemar but there was nothing he could do when Suarez got a faint touch on Kieran Trippier's accurate cross to divert it into the far corner from six yards.

And it was Suarez who appeared to have put the result beyond doubt after 58 minutes, as he slid in to convert Yannick Carrasco's angled left-wing cross from close range at the far post.

Elche got back into it six minutes later when Boye headed into the roof of the net after Tete Morente did well to flick a corner into his path.

Joao Felix limped off for Atletico in the closing stages with what head coach Diego Simeone will hope is not a serious problem.

But aside from Jan Oblak denying Boye, the Joao Felix substitution was the only concern of note, one that meant Costa came off the bench to return from injury after a month out.  

The striker made a quick impression, winning a penalty when he drew a foul from Ivan Marcone before taking the spot-kick himself and sending Badia the wrong way.

Barcelona could not compete financially with Paris Saint-Germain if the French champions approach Lionel Messi, presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has conceded.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi failed in an attempt to engineer a move away from Camp Nou in the close season but is due to become a free agent at the end of this campaign, meaning he is able to open talks with other clubs from next month.

Manchester City and Inter have been strongly linked with the Argentina international, but reports from Spain last week suggested PSG are the frontrunners for Messi's signature, although his father and agent Jorge has since labelled that speculation "false".

Neymar recently hinted he would love PSG to bring his former team-mate to the Parc des Princes, and Benedito - in the running to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu in January's presidential election - acknowledges Barca have a huge battle on their hands.

PSG have huge backing from their Qatari owners and are determined to build a team that can dominate in Europe.

"When I heard Neymar [say he wants to play with Messi], I said, 'Holy s***, watch out for these guys'," Benedito told Marca.

"If PSG wanted him, economically we would not be able to compete. I hope that the day will come when Messi will say that after 20 years at Barcelona, he wants to continue."

Benedito added: "We would all like him to continue at Barcelona. He is the best player in the world. I heard Messi say he wanted to leave [earlier this year] and a decision like that is not made because he got up on the wrong side of bed.

"The first thing will be to change his opinion, because if we have to compete with other teams in Europe with their eyes on Messi... if the issue is economic, we are not going to be able to."

Barca's finances have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Catalan giants recently announcing salary payments to their players had been delayed.

Fellow presidential candidate Emili Rousaud last week talked up Barca's chances of keeping hold of Messi on a reduced contract, but Benedito is concerned about the state of the club's finances.

"Barcelona are going through a very, very, very difficult economic and financial situation," he said.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone takes full responsibility for Luis Suarez's disappointing form after suggesting he rushed the striker back from his coronavirus-enforced lay-off.

Suarez missed four matches for Atleti, including a reunion with former side Barcelona, after contracting COVID-19 while away on international duty with Uruguay last month.

The 33-year-old marked his return to action with a goal in the 4-0 win over Cadiz but has since failed to find the net in his last three appearances, totalling 200 minutes on the pitch.

He failed to test Thibaut Courtois from his only shot in last weekend's 2-0 loss to Real Madrid and his 10 completed passes was the fewest of any Atletico player on the day.

Going further back, Suarez has scored just once in his last six club appearances in all competitions, but Simeone has faith the ex-Barcelona man can regain his best form.

"The first person responsible for his form is me," Simeone said at a news conference previewing Saturday's LaLiga clash with Elche.

"As soon as he recovered from coronavirus, we had to play him right away without any time to train. But that could prove important as it has given him a chance to find his rhythm.

"We hope to find the player this team needs - decisive, strong, good movement in the area."

Fellow striker Diego Costa is back in contention for the visit of Elche as Atleti aim to return to winning ways in LaLiga against an opponent they have defeated six games running, keeping a clean sheet in the last four of those.

The Spain international has featured just five times in all competitions this year due to injuries and a deep vein thrombosis diagnosis, which has kept him out since December 21.

"Diego trained [on Thursday] with the group and played about 20 minutes," Simeone said. "He looked well so [on Saturday] he will be with us. It is good news for him and of course the team.

"He brings something different, some added aggressiveness, which I hope he can show.

"We are having to adapt to what is happening, but with Diego I see a very positive guy who is mentally strong. We hope that when he is back on the field he can give us a lot."

Atleti's defeat to bitter rivals Real last week was their first in 27 league outings since February, a run that includes eight wins and two draws this season.

Key to the LaLiga leaders' form has been Marcos Llorente, who has been transformed into a more attack-minded player under Simeone.

Llorente thanked Simeone in an interview this week for helping to get the most out of him but the Argentine coach insists there is still more to come.

"Coaches are here to improve footballers," he said. "The biggest prize that we can win when we stop training, in addition to titles, is exceeded by the fact that footballers can say 'such a coach improved me'. 

"It is our requirement, to find how to empower our players and when we saw Marcos, when he played in training in the substitute team he always scored a goal. 

"One day, two, three, four... until I thought I had to play him in a position other than central midfield. We talked about it, we tried it, we looked for that space and that he believed it, which is the most complete. 

"We find ourselves with a humble and hard-working person and a football player in continuous growth, who has a lot to improve. You have to keep giving and improving."

Atletico will be without Ivo Grbic this weekend after the goalkeeper, who made his debut in the midweek Copa del Rey win over Cardassar, tested positive for coronavirus.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Ivo Grbic has tested positive for coronavirus two days after making his debut in the Copa del Rey win over Cardassar.

Grbic, signed from Lokomotiva ahead of the 2020-21 season, played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday.

He was largely untroubled, only having one shot to save as Atletico won the away tie 3-0 to reach the second round.

However, PCR tests on the Atletico squad ahead of hosting Elche in LaLiga on Saturday have flagged up a positive result for the 24-year-old.

Atletico confirmed on Friday that Grbic is asymptomatic, isolating at home and "following the protocols of the health authorities".

Miguel San Roman is Atletico's third goalkeeper and he has been an unused substitute on seven occasions in all competitions this season.

Lionel Messi has sent "all the strength in the world" and a "hug from the heart" to Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend underwent brain surgery.

Maradona, who turned 60 last week, had what his personal doctor Leopoldo Luque described as a "routine" operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday.

Luque said the former Argentina captain, one of the all-time greats, is "under control" and had made a "great" start to his recovery.

Argentina and Barcelona skipper Messi offered his best wishes to Maradona in a social media post on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old forward posted on Instagram: "Diego, all the strength in the world. My family and I want to see you well as soon as possible. A hug from the heart!"

Maradona also played for Barcelona in his distinguished career, having a two-year spell at Camp Nou from 1982 to 1984.

He went to the Ipensa clinic in La Plata on Monday before being transferred to the Olivos clinic in Buenos Aires province.

The former Napoli talisman's lawyer revealed he only had tests that led to surgery after being admitted to hospital with depression.

"The last medical checks were excellent," lawyer Matias Morla said after visiting Maradona in hospital, according to Ole.

"Diego was very anxious [before the surgery] about what was going to happen and very satisfied with the work of Dr Luque, which was an impeccable operation.

"I want to highlight something very important: the same test that was carried out on Diego yesterday, which detected this bleeding, was also carried out in September, which shows the tireless work of Dr Luque on Diego.

"If it had not been detected by him, Maradona's fate would have been different. I want to make it very clear, mainly because of the criticism. Luque tested him in September.

"Diego had presented a picture of depression. That's why I'm with Carlos Diaz, who was the one who treated Diego before and who noticed a mental issue.

"In principle, [Diaz] linked it to the issue of his birthday, to a depression caused by the pandemic and the different circumstances around it. Later, upon seeing that this picture had developed, at the request of Luque and Diaz, he was hospitalised and that's where the test was made that resulted in the operation.

"I don't know the causes of the haematoma and I'm not a doctor. What I do know is he had strange behaviour, he was very depressed, he made comments referring to relatives who died, that he missed them. He always, on every birthday, suffers from a kind of nostalgia.

"He really misses his mother – this is always the same on the subject of birthdays – but this year it increased, so I'm here with the psychologist who intervened."

Zinedine Zidane insisted he was unfazed about silencing Real Madrid's critics after recording a 3-1 Clasico win over Barcelona.

After Ansu Fati cancelled out Federico Valverde's opener, Sergio Ramos scored a 63rd-minute penalty and Luka Modric sealed Madrid's win at Camp Nou.

Zidane was under pressure at the helm after back-to-back losses to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk, but Madrid moved top of LaLiga after Saturday's win.

And the Real Madrid coach said he had no interest in trying to respond to critics.

"That's not what we're here for, to shut them up," Zidane told a news conference.

"We do our job, believing in what we do, being together when we have to be and that's what we did. We did it as a team, I'm very proud of them.

"When it comes to defending we had a compact block. Then with a rival open like Barca, we've found gaps two or three times and in the end, it's about trying to play a good game as a team and that's what we did."

Ramos' controversial penalty proved crucial for Madrid and the defender has now scored each of his past 25 spot-kicks, including shoot-outs, for his club and Spain.

Madrid's overall performance, though, pleased Zidane, as they made it four wins in six league games this season.

"We played a good game, playing against a team that we know is open, that played well," he said.

"I'm happy for the players because in the end it's about that, after the last few days of everything they said. I am happy for them and also to finish with Modric's goal.

"I've seen the team together. I am happy because they're the ones fighting on the pitch. We can enjoy what we did."

Madrid visit Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Tuesday before hosting Huesca four days later.

Santi Cazorla said Villarreal will always be his "home" after the veteran star bid farewell to the LaLiga club amid links to Xavi's Al-Sadd in Qatar.

Cazorla and long-serving captain Bruno Soriano played their final match for Villarreal in a 4-0 final-round rout of Eibar on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Cazorla, who has made a big impact in his third spell with Villarreal after returning from a serious Achilles injury in 2018 following 636 days on the sidelines, has been linked with a move to Al-Sadd – coached by former Barcelona skipper Xavi.

And former Arsenal playmaker Cazorla bowed out on a winning note with Villareal, providing the assist for Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa's 71st-minute opener at home to Eibar.

Cazorla ended the 2019-20 campaign with 11 goals and 10 assists as Villareal finished fifth in LaLiga to qualify for the Europa League.

"I'm eternally grateful to this club and the fans for having opened the doors to me and for all the love they've shown me for so long," Cazorla, who was replaced in the 82nd minute, said via the club's website.

"I've had a great time, but it's time to end this stage of my career. It's a decision I've thought about a lot. Every game I find it harder to give 100 per cent and I had to be honest with myself and the club.

"I feel that this club is inside me. It isn't a goodbye, it's a 'we'll meet again', because Villarreal CF will always be my home."

Bruno also made an emotional swansong on the final day of the season at Madrigal, with the 36-year-old retiring after more than 300 appearances for Villarreal.

The one-club player returned to the field in June following more than three years on the sidelines due to two operations and a painful recovery.

"I've thought about it a lot and I've taken this tough decision. I've realised that my body is no longer able to give 100 per cent and play 90 minutes week in, week out, which is what I've always wanted to do. That's why I've taken the decision to end my career," Bruno said.

"This club is part of my life and that doesn't stop here. I am going to continue coming to cheer on the team every Sunday, alongside the rest of the fans and those who love this club."

Villarreal have confirmed Santi Cazorla will leave the LaLiga club and Bruno Soriano is to retire after Sunday's clash with Elbar.

Cazorla has made a big impact in his third spell with the Yellow Submarine since returning in 2018 after a serious Achilles injury.

The 35-year-old playmaker, who did not play for 636 days prior to his comeback two years ago, has scored 11 goals and provided nine assists in the Spanish top flight this season.

Cazorla will play his last game for the club this weekend, though, and has been linked with a move to Qatari club Al Sadd - coached by former Barcelona captain Xavi.

It has also been reported that Cazorla could take up a coaching role with Arsenal, but a switch to Qatar looks more likely for a player who earned a Spain recall last year.

Cazorla told Villarreal TV ahead of his final appearance: "Villarreal have given me everything. When I was 18, they gave me all the confidence.

"A guy from Oviedo who was unknown almost for everyone."

Long-serving skipper Soriano will make an emotional swansong on the final day of the season at El Madrigal.

The 36-year-old, a one-club man, has made over 300 appearances for Villarreal since making his debut 14 years ago.

"What I am going to be, for now, it is being the fan number one of Villarreal. Villarreal will be part of my life forever." he said.

Alvaro Morata scored the fastest goal of the LaLiga season after just 51 seconds but Atletico Madrid had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo.

Morata followed up his double in the win over Real Mallorca last Friday by striking in the first minute at Estadio de Balaidos.

Fran Beltran deservedly levelled early in the second half with his first goal of the season to move Celta seven points clear of the relegation zone with three matches to play, although third-bottom Mallorca have a game in hand.

Third-placed Atleti are unbeaten in 15 games and a draw keeps them on course to secure a Champions League spot.

Atleti could not have wished for a better start, Angel Correa taking a pass from Santiago Arias and picking out Morata for a tap in with less than a minute on the clock.

Celta responded to that early blow and Brais Mendez's deflected strike went into the side-netting before the midfielder curled a shot wide of the far post.

Diego Simeone's side could have doubled their lead late in the first half, but Correa was unable to apply the finish as he charged into the penalty area.

Celta were level just four minutes after the restart, Beltran not getting a clean contact on Mendez's cross but seeing his volley loop into the far corner with Jan Oblak helpless.

Oscar Garcia's men did not look like a side in danger of the drop and Mendez was denied by the busy Oblak, who then palmed Santi Mina's strike away for a corner.

Ivan Villar came on to replace injured Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco with nine minutes to play and he denied Thomas Lemar, with the home side also having a penalty appeal dismissed following a VAR check late on.

 

What does it mean? Atleti a step closer to Champions League spot

Atleti lead Sevilla, who have a game in hand, by three points and are nine better off than fifth-placed Villarreal in the battle for Champions League spots.

On the evidence of this showing, in which they could have secured a surprise win, Celta ought to have enough to avoid relegation.

Morata on a roll

Striker Morata led the line well for Atleti and was in the right place at the right time to score his third goal in two games right in a dream start.

He now has 16 goals for the season in all competitions and it looks like there will be more to come.

Llorente stifled

It was certainly not one of the Marcos Llorente's better nights as he struggled to stamp his authority on the game before being withdrawn midway through the second half.

What's next?

Atleti entertain Real Betis on Saturday, when Celta travel to mid-table Osasuna.

Sergio Ramos scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot as Real Madrid beat Getafe 1-0 to go four points clear at the top of LaLiga.

The leaders were far from convincing in a frantic derby at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium on Thursday, but captain Ramos secured a precious victory 11 minutes from time after Mathias Olivera was adjudged to have upended Dani Carvajal.

Victory for Los Blancos, who rested Eden Hazard, was their sixth in a row and they are strong favourites to dethrone stuttering Barcelona with five matches to play.

Getafe were unfortunate to make the short journey home without a point, but Madrid march on in their pursuit of the title.

Christophe Dugarry has apologised for calling Lionel Messi a "half autistic kid" while laying into Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann has failed to live up to expectations since joining Barcelona in a big-money move from Atletico Madrid last July.

The France forward this week came in for stinging criticism from his compatriot Dugarry, who suggested his fellow World Cup winner is scared of playing alongside Messi.

Dugarry has come under fire for his comments about the six-time Ballon d'Or winner on RMC Sport following Barca's 2-2 LaLiga draw with Atleti on Tuesday.

The former France striker said: "What is [Griezmann] afraid of? A kid who is 1.5 metres tall and half autistic?

"All he has to do is show some balls at some point. I've been saying for a year that he has a problem with Messi. He has to hit him in the face.

"It's true that Messi could give him more passes, but honestly I am not surprised. Griezmann loses balls, doesn't play with confidence. Griezmann should go and talk to Messi to solve the problem.

"People have been saying for a year that he has a problem with Messi. He has to give himself a slap in the face. Yes, maybe Messi could give him more passes, but it really doesn't surprise me.

"Griezmann loses possession. He plays scared. Griezmann should go and talk to Messi to resolve the problem."

Dugarry apologised for his comments on Twitter, although he later removed the post.

"I am sincerely sorry for the extent and the response to my comments on Lionel Messi," he wrote.

"I did not want to stigmatise people with autism disorders, it was not my intention. I apologise to the people I offended and will [apologise] again at 6 p.m. on Team Duga [Dugarry's radio show] this evening."

Neymar has been ordered by a judge to pay Barcelona €6.7million over a contract dispute with the LaLiga champions.

The Paris Saint-German and Brazil forward had claimed he was owed €43.6million by Barca in unpaid bonuses.

Neymar insisted he was due the huge sum as a loyalty bonus, having signed a new five-year contract with the Catalan giants in 2016.

The Brazil international, who joined PSG for a world record fee of €222m in August 2017, has instead been told he must fork out to his former employers - although an appeal could be lodged.

Barca, who have been linked with a move to re-sign Neymar, welcomed the verdict on Friday.

A club statement said: "FC Barcelona expresses its satisfaction with the verdict announced today by Social Court 15 in Barcelona in relation to the lawsuit involving FC Barcelona and the player Neymar Jr regarding the amount of the signing bonus in the final renewal of the player's contract.

"The ruling has fully dismissed the player's claim for payment of 43.6 million euros, and has accepted a large part of the defence presented by FC Barcelona, as a result of which the player must return €6.7million to the club.

"Since the player's representative is entitled to appeal this decision, the club shall continue to fervently defend its legitimate interests."

Brazil legend Ronaldo would try and lure Kylian Mbappe to Real Valladolid if he had Real Madrid's budget, revealing he sees similarities between himself and the France international. 

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo stated recently that the club has no intention of selling star duo Mbappe or Neymar. 

Mbappe has often been linked with a big-money move to Madrid but has two years remaining on his contract. 

Former Madrid star Ronaldo is a majority shareholder of LaLiga side Valladolid and can only dream of being in a position to sign the World Cup winner, who had scored 18 goals in 20 league appearances before the season was cut short in France. 

Speaking at a media event sponsored by Santander Bank, Ronaldo said: "I would sign Mbappe [if Valladolid had Madrid's money], he is the one who most reminds me of me and my playing times." 

Ronaldo also spoke of his admiration for Erling Haaland, but is not convinced Madrid would need the Borussia Dortmund striker while they have Karim Benzema.

"Haaland is a great player, he is still young and has had a pretty good year with many goals, we will see how he ends it," he said.

"Surely big teams are going to be watching, but Real Madrid have good players, like Benzema who scores goals every Sunday."

Five players in the top two tiers of Spanish football have tested positive for the coronavirus.

La Liga and Segunda Division players have been undergoing tests ahead of a potential resumption to the 2019-20 season, which was halted in March due to the health pandemic.

It was announced by LaLiga on Sunday that five players from unspecified clubs have tested positive for the virus and are in isolation.

A La Liga statement said: "Specifically, between the LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank clubs, five positive cases have been detected in players, all of them asymptomatic and in the final phase of the disease, whose specific identity LaLiga does not know in compliance with the organic law on data protection. 

The players in question will be tested again in the next few days and can only return to training after two negative results.

Barcelona were among the clubs to resume individual training this week in Spain, with talk that the campaign could restart in June.

Atletico Madrid returned to training on Saturday amid media reports Renan Lodi has tested positive for the virus.

The Brazilian left-back is asymptomatic, Marca reported, but there was no official word on his health from Atletico. However, the club did tweet: "Renan Lodi salutes you from home. See you soon on the pitch!".

Real Madrid, meanwhile, will welcome their players back to work at the club's facilities on Monday.

Five players in the top two tiers of Spanish football have tested positive for the coronavirus.

La Liga and Segunda Division players have been undergoing tests ahead of a potential resumption to the 2019-20 season, which was halted in March due to the health pandemic.

It was announced by LaLiga on Sunday that five players from unspecified clubs have tested positive for the virus and are in isolation.

A La Liga statement said: "Specifically, between the LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank clubs, five positive cases have been detected in players, all of them asymptomatic and in the final phase of the disease, whose specific identity LaLiga does not know in compliance with the organic law on data protection. 

The players in question will be tested again in the next few days and can only return to training after two negative results.

Barcelona were among the clubs to resume individual training this week in Spain, with talk that the campaign could restart in June.

Atletico Madrid returned to training on Saturday amid media reports Renan Lodi has tested positive for the virus.

The Brazilian left-back is asymptomatic, Marca reported, but there was no official word on his health from Atletico. However, the club did tweet: "Renan Lodi salutes you from home. See you soon on the pitch!".

Real Madrid, meanwhile, will welcome their players back to work at the club's facilities on Monday.

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