Rodri believes that a member of Spain's Euro 2024 winning squad deserve to win this year's Ballon d'Or following their triumph over England on Sunday. 

Rodri, who won his fourth different player of the tournament award, was forced off during the final in Berlin at half-time after picking up an injury. 

Mikel Oyarzabal proved to be Spain's hero, scoring late to secure La Roja's fourth European Championship crown having seen Cole Palmer cancel out Nico Williams' opener.

The Manchester City midfielder also helped Pep Guardiola's side achieve a record fourth consecutive Premier League title ahead of the tournament in Germany. 

His performances on the pitch have him among the favourites to win the prestigious award alongside Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham. 

However, no Spaniard has won the Ballon d'Or since Barcelona's Luis Suarez in 1960, despite the award being dominated by La Liga players in recent years. 

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema have won the trophy 14 times between them during their time in Spain, while Messi claimed his eighth last year at Inter Miami for his performances at the 2022 World Cup with Argentina. 

"Spanish football deserves a Ballon d'Or winner," Rodri said. "I'm going to be honest, I would like for a Spaniard to win it, I don't care who. It would be great."

Asked about his chances of winning the award, Rodri said, "I've heard that (Champions League winners Real Madrid's) Dani Carvajal also deserves it.

"From an individual standpoint, I'm very proud of what I am doing and the recognition I'm getting. But someone else has to make that assessment."

Rodri is being told to leave Manchester City "every day" by Dani Carvajal as the Real Madrid defender believes his Spain team-mate is "perfect" for the LaLiga giants.

The pair are playing together at Euro 2024, where Spain will meet England in Sunday's final in Berlin.

While the Three Lions were widely considered the pre-tournament favourites, La Roja have been the standout team at the finals, led by Rodri.

The 28-year-old midfielder has established himself as one of the best in world football since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2019.

And despite his Atleti past, Rodri can be in no doubt about the sort of welcome he would receive if he returned to Madrid, his home city, with Los Blancos.

Carvajal has made it clear how Rodri would fit in at the Santiago Bernabeu, revealing their conversations to El Partidazo de COPE.

"Without a doubt, I tell him this every day," Carvajal said when asked if he would sign Rodri. "[I tell him] to leave Manchester, that there is no sun, 'you are from Madrid and we need you'.

"But he drags it out. He would fit in perfectly."

Rodri scored eight goals and provided nine assists in the Premier League in 2023-24, setting career highs in both categories while also shielding the second-best defence in the division.

Meanwhile, Toni Kroos was Madrid's leading creator in LaLiga, with eight assists, but has since retired.

Vinicius Junior has come on leaps and bounds and is proving himself as one of the best players in the world, according to Real Madrid team-mate Dani Carvajal.

The pair are gearing up for Madrid's mouth-watering Champions League semi-final second leg against fellow European heavyweights Bayern Munich, with the tie finely poised at 2-2.

Vinicius scored both goals for Carlo Ancelotti's side in last week's first leg, taking him to 31 goal involvements (16 goals, 15 assists) in the Champions League since the start of the 2021-22 season, more than any other player during that time.

And Carvajal says the strides made by the 23-year-old are evident.

"He's improved in every aspect - his finishing, physically, his maturity when playing, knowing when it's right to attack the space or to ask for the ball to be played to his feet," the full-back told reporters during the pre-match press conference.

"He's one of the best players in the world, and he's proving that. We know that he puts in a lot of work away from [the training ground], having his training sessions, physio and coaching.

"All of this is helping him to be one of the best in the world. Hopefully, he can help us on the pitch [in the second leg] and see us through."

The most successful side in the competition's history, Madrid are aiming to remain on course for a 15th European crown, while Ancelotti targets a record-extending sixth appearance in the final as a manager.

"There's not much more to say when the time comes to play the second leg of a semi-final in your home stadium," Carvajal added. "The motivation of the match itself ensures that your attention level is at its highest.

"We know that we're up against a side with a history in this competition [six titles], so we have to attempt to beat them and reach the final."

Carlo Ancelotti says Real Madrid must play with greater intensity if they are to keep their hopes of a record-extending 15th European title alive, with their Champions League semi-final tie against Bayern Munich in the balance ahead of Wednesday's second leg.

Madrid were crowned champions of LaLiga with four matches to spare on Saturday, beating Cadiz 3-0 before watching their closest rivals Barcelona slip to a 4-2 defeat against Girona.

However, that success has not stopped Ancelotti from being critical of Madrid's performance in last week's first leg against Bayern, a 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena.

He has warned his players that they cannot afford another subpar performance if they want to contest the final at Wembley Stadium on June 1.

"We need a match with intensity, with pace... Looking at the first leg, defensively we could have done a lot more," Ancelotti said at Tuesday's pre-match press conference.

Bayer Leverkusen ended Bayern's 11-year Bundesliga reign by securing the league crown last month, but Ancelotti says that will only boost Bayern's motivation as they chase a seventh European title.

"We are similar clubs because they have a great history and a lot of success," Ancelotti said. "We have to respect our opponents because they did very well and were better than us in the first leg.

"We are very excited because it could be another magical night for us, but there is no optimism. We are aware of the difficulties that we are going to face."

Defender Dani Carvajal, who has already lifted the Champions League trophy five times with Los Blancos, believes the squad are brimming with confidence after going unbeaten through their last 42 games (excluding extra time).

He joked Ancelotti was "getting more and more fearful" each season but praised his coach's role in keeping the players focused on the task at hand. 

"There is euphoria because we are having a great year," Carvajal said.

"We are all very excited about the European Cup. We know it in the dressing room. In the street the fans congratulate us and give us a lot of encouragement to dream of winning it again.

"We are two games away from winning the Champions League. Ancelotti has kept our eyes open and we have all added up. That's what counts for us to achieve our objectives."

Jamaica completed an unbeaten campaign in Group A of the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup with a commanding 5-0 victory versus St Kitts and Nevis on Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

With the result, the Reggae Boyz finish second in the group with a 2W-1D-0L record, clinching a berth in the quarterfinals, and will face the first-place team from Group D next Sunday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The first half hour was full of chances for Jamaica, mostly coming from a series of deep crosses but with no end product, as the Sugar Boyz defence did well to stay compact and maintain their lines.

The Reggae Boyz broke the deadlock right before the 30-minute mark, as a deep cross from Leon Bailey reached Kaheem Parris, who tried to play back across goal only for Saint Kitts and Nevis goalkeeper Julani Archibald to deflect the ball over the line for a 1-0 Jamaica lead.

Jamaica then added a second right before the break to double their advantage, as Bailey played a slick back-heel to Jonathan Russell’s whose right-footed finish beat Archibald for a 2-0 lead.

The momentum stayed with Jamaica and soon it was 3-0 on a tidy finish from DiShon Bernard after a pass from Shamar Nicholson in the 49’.

St Kitts and Nevis did get a pair of good looks at goal during the contest from Romaine Sawyers, one in each half, but the Sugar Boyz attacking player was unable to convert.

Jamaica kept their foot on the gas and quickly tacked on another two goals to make it a 5-0 lead. Daniel Johnson fired in one in the 72’ after an initial block by substitute goalkeeper Jamal Jeffers, followed by a good finish from Cory Burke in the 74’.

From there, the Jamaican defence saw things out the rest of the way to nail down the clean sheet victory and a place in the next round.

 

Oscar Trejo scored the winner with a contentious second-half penalty as Real Madrid missed the chance to return to the LaLiga summit after falling to a 3-2 defeat at Rayo Vallecano.

Carlo Ancelotti's side trail leaders Barcelona by two points after losing at Vallecas, where referee Juan Martinez Munuera and the VAR played a significant part on Monday.

Luka Modric's penalty and an Eder Militao header had put Madrid into the lead after Santiago Comesana's opener, before Alvaro Garcia equalised during a breathless first half.

Yet there was to be more drama when Dani Carvajal was deemed to have encroached as Thibaut Courtois saved a 67th-minute penalty from Trejo, who converted the retake to secure victory.

Comesana fired Rayo into a fifth-minute lead after angling a first-time left-footed shot past Courtois following Fran Garcia's whipped left-wing cross.

Martínez Munuera gave a 37th-minute penalty to Madrid after consulting the touchline monitor following a tangle of legs that saw Marco Asensio felled by Fran Garcia, with Modric coolly converting down the middle from the spot.

Militao directed a header into the bottom-left corner from Asensio's inswinging corner to give Madrid the lead, only for Alvaro Garcia to power a left-footed strike past Courtois to equalise three minutes later.

Courtois saved Trejo's penalty after Carvajal was adjudged to have handled in the second half – again following a review of the touchline monitor – but the Madrid right-back was penalised for encroachment, allowing the Rayo midfielder to find the bottom-right corner at the second attempt.

That was to prove the winner, although Madrid almost salvaged a draw when Rodrygo spurned a glorious 89th-minute chance, turning over Asensio's centre.

What does it mean? Madrid slip up again

With Liverpool confirmed as their next Champions League opponents in the last 16, reigning European and Spanish champions Madrid will have to improve both domestically and on the continent after faltering in back-to-back LaLiga games.

A 1-1 draw against Girona coupled with only Rayo's second win against Madrid in 21 LaLiga attempts will leave Ancelotti much to ponder with a game to go before November's World Cup break.

Andoni Iraola will have much to celebrate, though, despite his second-half dismissal for dissent, after Rayo won three league games in a row for just a second time under his stewardship.

Classy Comesana

Comesana appeared to be everywhere for Rayo against Madrid, scoring the opening goal with a coolly taken finish that belied his defensive-midfield position.

The Rayo man was a dominant force in the middle of the park as well, though, creating three chances and regaining possession eight times – both game-leading figures in just 79 minutes.

Defensive issues for Madrid

Madrid often relied on late fightbacks on their way to Champions League and LaLiga glory last season, perhaps masking their defensive issues.

But Los Blancos have come unstuck this term after keeping just two clean sheets in their first 13 LaLiga games, their lowest tally at this stage of a season since 2013-14 – also under Ancelotti.

What's next?

Madrid host Cadiz on Thursday in their last game before the World Cup break, while Rayo are at home to Celta Vigo on the same day.

Carlo Ancelotti says Eden Hazard is aware of exactly why he is being given so little playing time at Real Madrid this season.

Belgium international Hazard has endured a tough time of things across his three years with Madrid, mainly due to fitness reasons.

Despite largely being fit this campaign, however, the 31-year-old has started just one of Madrid's 10 matches in all competitions and has featured only twice as a substitute.

He was an unused sub in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Osasuna, with the likes of Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz being preferred as Los Blancos chased a winning goal.

Ancelotti stood by his selection calls after the match and has reiterated ahead of Wednesday's Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk that Hazard must fight for his place.

"It is clear that each player knows his situation. I have to explain to them what's going on," Ancelotti said.

"In this regard, Eden has not spoken to me. He has a lot of competition. The situation of his and others is quite clear.

"He understands the situation very well – every player understands his situation very well. There's a lot of competition here."

One player whose place in the side is not up for debate is striker Karim Benzema, who has scored four goals in seven appearances this season.

However, the France international has gone three games without finding the net, either side of a month on the sidelines, and missed a penalty in the draw with Osasuna.

But team-mate Dani Carvajal does not believe that missed spot-kick will play on Benzema's mind when Shakhtar travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

"He's a key player on and off the pitch," Carvajal said. "I don't think Karim is influenced by scoring or missing a penalty. 

"He would go away unhappy, but he is above it all. For us he is indispensable, the best in his position

"He's irreplaceable, there's no one like him. Hopefully he can score two or three goals and that penalty will be behind him."

Madrid have won each of their past six games in the group stage of the Champions League, scoring 17 goals and only conceding once in the process. 

They are two points ahead of unbeaten Shakhtar in Group F after two rounds of fixtures as they look to retain the European crown lifted in Paris a little over four months ago.

But Shakhtar have won two of their six ties with Madrid in the competition, with that 33 per cent win rate the fourth best of any side against the Spanish giants.

Madrid will be expected to claim a routine victory, though, and Carvajal accepts his side must live with the perennial tag of being favourites to conquer the continent again.

"We know how difficult it is to win the Champions League, I think when teams play us, they see we are in with a chance," he said.

"I don't know how it works, who decides who is favourite. I think in the top four or five, Real Madrid are there.

"I have to respect everyone's opinion. I think we've won five of the last nine, so I don't think it's down to luck."

Rodrygo considers Karim Benzema "impossible to replace", but the Brazilian is nevertheless giving his all to fill in for the injured Real Madrid striker.

Madrid's opener came from Rodrygo in their 2-1 derby triumph at Atletico Madrid on Sunday, as Carlo Ancelotti's side kept up their 100 per cent record in LaLiga to top the table heading into the international break.

The Brazil international combined excellently with Aurelien Tchouameni to slot home in the 18th minute, before Federico Valverde made it 2-0 prior to the break.

Atleti fought back through Mario Hermoso's late goal, but it was not enough to inspire a full comeback – with the hosts' scorer subsequently sent off after picking up two bookings in as many minutes.

While captain Benzema is set to return after the international break, Ancelotti has been able to rely on Rodrygo to lead Madrid's line in the France frontman's absence, with the 21-year-old contributing to five goals in his last four LaLiga appearances.

Asked in a post-match interview with Movistar+ how difficult it was to replace Benzema, Rodrygo said: "I've always had confidence, but last season I scored more goals at the end [of the campaign] and now I have scored them at the beginning as well.

"I'm coming off a very good season and I want to continue like this, because I [can get] even better.

"It's impossible to replace Benzema, but I try and I think I'm doing well. I have to say that I do things differently to him, we have changed the style of play."

Defender Dani Carvajal, meanwhile, said Rodrygo had given Madrid "wings in attack", even if Benzema was "fundamental" to Los Blancos.

Madrid have won all nine of their matches this season in all competitions, and they are the only side in Europe's top five leagues with a perfect record.

It marks the third time Madrid have won their first nine games in a single campaign after 1961-62 and 1968-69, when they won their opening 11 games in both campaigns.

"We are very happy. We started the season at 100 per cent, winning everything," Rodrygo said. "We are going into the break wanting to rest, play with our national teams and come back better."

Rodrygo celebrated his opener with compatriot Vinicius Junior, who in the wake of being crudely told to "stop playing the monkey" by a football agent in midweek, was the target of racist chanting from some Atleti supporters outside the Civitas Metropolitano prior to kick-off.

"It's a pleasure to play with him, something very special, without a doubt," said Rodrygo of his team-mate, who played a key role in Valverde's goal, hitting the post after a brilliant run, which enabled the midfielder to tuck home on the rebound.

The match was not without its contentious moments, with Hermoso's second yellow particularly harsh. Having previously been booked for dissent, the centre-back was adjudged to have lashed out at Dani Ceballos, though replays showed it was a questionable decision.

"Very bad taste, we have lost a very important match. We have not been so bad, we have not deserved the defeat, but it is football," Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak told Movistar+.

On Hermoso's red card, Oblak said: "I've seen the video. The referee was very close and I don't know what he saw, but it's his decision and on video it's easier than [live], it's true.

"It didn't have to be yellow, there were still three minutes left and we could have taken advantage."

Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal expressed his concern that Los Blancos' Champions League final could be "tainted" by the "chaos" of the crowd problems at the Stade de France.

The showpiece on Saturday, which Madrid won 1-0 to claim their 14th European Cup, was twice delayed before kick-off due to crowd congestion, with UEFA initially citing "security reasons".

Liverpool fans complained of heavy-handed policing outside the stadium, suggesting tear gas or pepper spray had been used on supporters. A number of British-based journalists reported first-hand accounts of witnessing poor organisation and inappropriate behaviour outside the stadium by French authorities.

The Premier League club subsequently requested a formal investigation, while UEFA blamed the delays on fans trying to use "fake tickets" to gain entry.

UEFA has since commissioned an independent inquiry into the events in Paris, with Liverpool chairman Tom Werner demanding an apology and assurances the French authorities will cooperate with the investigation.

Carvajal's family were present at the final and the Spain international detailed the unsavoury scenes outside the ground as he called for change.

"There was quite a bit of chaos," Carvajal said on Tuesday at a pre-match press conference with Spain ahead of their Nations League game with Portugal.

"Our closest relatives – my parents, my wife and my son – had to be left practically at the door of the stadium because security getting in couldn't be guaranteed.

"It's a shame that because of something external the final could be a bit tainted.

"It must be noted and corrected for the next events that take place at that stadium. It needs to improve, because there were people that suffered a lot.

"It should have been a dream day, whether you win or lose, and there were people who couldn't enjoy it."

Carlo Ancelotti insisted there are no problems with Gareth Bale within the Real Madrid dressing room after the Wales international missed Los Blancos' LaLiga title celebrations.

Madrid lifted their 35th league title last Saturday after a 4-0 hammering of Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Los Blancos celebrated on the pitch with the trophy in front of supporters after the game.

Ancelotti's side then embarked on a bus parade around the Spanish capital the following day, but Bale was not present on both occasions as he cited "back spasms" for his absence.

Eden Hazard, much like Bale, has not featured often for Madrid this season but could be seen joyously involved with the midweek celebrations after a dramatic Champions League win over Manchester City.

That continued the speculation as to the popularity of Bale, who has just played five times in LaLiga this season, but Ancelotti believes his side hold a "mutual respect" for the former Tottenham man.

"There is no distance with the dressing room, they have mutual affection, he was absent because he could not move. It happened to me," the Italian told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos is another Los Blancos name linked with the exit door in the next transfer window, but has been offered more chances in recent weeks, featuring in eight of the last nine games.

Ancelotti revealed his desire to keep the midfielder at the club ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

"I've had a chat with Ceballos, he knows what I think of him, what the club think of him and he has to make what he thinks is the best decision," he added.

"He knows what I think, what his team-mates think, then he has to sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti reserved special praise for right-back Dani Carvajal, who impressed against Pep Guardiola's City in the remarkable Champions League turnaround.

"He has struggled with injuries but he's got a good, strong personality," he continued. "I know he's been frustrated at times and has not been able to deliver to 100 per cent.

"He was outstanding against Manchester City. Nobody has ever thrown in the towel, given up. To wear the Real Madrid shirt means a lot to these players, Carvajal now is in excellent shape, he's helping a lot.

"Also, when the team need him most he's there."

Manchester United's search for a permanent manager continues to take up plenty of column inches, with a new name now entering the mix.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax chief Erik ten Hag have long been considered the two frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford.

But a somewhat surprise candidate is now reportedly being considered to succeed interim manager Ralf Rangnick on a short-term basis at the end of the campaign.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI A CONTENDER FOR UNITED

According to ESPN, United may look to appoint Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti as they explore contingency plans in their pursuit of a new manager.

While Pochettino and Ten Hag remain on the Red Devils' managerial shortlist, Ancelotti is said to be seen as an ideal short-term fix thanks to his vast experience.

The Italian has previously spent time in English football with Everton and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup with the latter in 2009-10.

Ancelotti is currently in his second spell with Madrid and has another two seasons to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.


ROUND-UP

- PSG have offered Kylian Mbappe a contract worth €50million a year to fend off interest from rival clubs, according to Le Parisian. Madrid are the strong favourites to sign the France international should he depart the Parc des Princes as a free agent in July.

- Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are also set to be out of contract at Chelsea in the next few months and are not short of potential suitors. Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona are confident of signing the pair, while Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui and Jose Gaya of Valencia are also targets.

- Madrid are hoping to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back ahead of next season and have a few potential options already lined up. That is according to El Nacional, with Man Utd's Diogo Dalot, Norwich City's Max Aarons and Pedro Porro of Sporting CP all mentioned.

- Sport claims that Barcelona are on course to wrap up contract extensions for Ronald Araujo and Gavi before the end of the month. Rising star Gavi will supposedly be offered a five-year deal that will include a mammoth release clause to ensure he stays at Camp Nou for the long term.

- Former Germany international Julian Weigl is nearing the end of his time at Benfica and has been offered to teams across the continent, according to Calciomercato. The Italian outlet suggests than Milan would prefer to sign Renato Sanches, potentially giving Roma a clear run for the €35m-rated midfielder.

Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal will miss the Supercopa de Espana final against Athletic Bilbao in Riyadh on Sunday after testing positive for coronavirus.

Carvajal started the 3-2 semi-final win over fierce rivals Barcelona at King Fahd Stadium, but will not feature in the showpiece at the same venue this weekend.

The LaLiga leaders revealed on Friday that the Spain international had returned a positive COVID-19 test.

Lucas Vazquez replaced Carvajal at the end of normal time in the victory over Barca, which was secured courtesy of Federico Valverde's extra-time strike.

Holders Athletic came from behind to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the second semi-final on Thursday.

Real Madrid cannot afford to be complacent despite Barcelona's early season struggles, defender Dani Carvajal says.

Barca are ninth in LaLiga heading into the November international break, already 11 points behind leaders Real Sociedad and 10 shy of second-placed Madrid.

The Blaugrana are winless in four as a miserable season, which began with Lionel Messi leaving for Paris Saint-Germain, continues at Camp Nou.

Club great Xavi will take charge when the campaign resumes, with Sergi Barjuan having overseen two league matches since Ronald Koeman was sacked.

Xavi, who won 25 major honours in his Barca playing career, said as he was presented this week: "We have to work hard to get back to winning trophies."

Most commentators expect, at least in the league, silverware will have to wait until next season, but Madrid stalwart Carvajal is not ruling Barca out.

"Far from it," he told Marca. "We respect all rivals. We are surprised to see Barca so far behind, but no one can rule them out for any title.

"Respect is essential. Teams have better and worse moments, but everything comes out."

Indeed, Carvajal expects a big impact from Xavi, saying: "It is a safe change. The arrival of a figure like Xavi for Barcelona will fill them with enthusiasm.

"Although he is a rival, I wish him all the luck in the world – not against us – because he is a colleague."

Dani Carvajal has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid which will keep him at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2025.

Right-back Carvajal joins midfielder Luka Modric and versatile defender Nacho in agreeing fresh terms with the club ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Carvajal came through the youth ranks but was sold to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in July 2012 having not managed to make a single first-team appearance.

However, Madrid exercised a buy-back option on Carvajal the following year and he has since gone on to become a regular, helping the club secure plenty of silverware. He has won LaLiga twice with Madrid, as well as the Champions League on four occasions.

However, Carvajal struggled with injury problems last season, making just 13 appearances in LaLiga as Zinedine Zidane's squad were unable to defend their league crown.

A hamstring injury ruled him out of contention for Spain's squad for Euro 2020 but he has begun training with his Madrid team-mates under the watch of new head coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the upcoming campaign.

 

Zinedine Zidane and Toni Kroos have lamented Real Madrid's growing injury issues after full-back Dani Carvajal limped off in Sunday's 2-0 win over Valencia.

Carvajal was making his first appearance for Madrid since January 2 but lasted just 28 minutes before sustaining an apparent injury to his right thigh.

He has been restricted to 12 games in all competitions this term and is now considered a big doubt for the Champions League last-16 first leg with Atalanta on February 24.

The Spain international joins the likes of Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao, Alvaro Odriozola, Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde and Marcelo on the sidelines.

Madrid boss Zidane is concerned about the long list of injuries he has had to contend with this term and is unsure why so many players have been ruled out of action.

"There are a lot of injuries," he told Movistar. "I'm worried because when you lose a player it bothers me. It's a relapse [for Carvajal]. 

"I'm sorry for him because he was fine to play and is a very important player to us. But I can't explain all these injuries."

Asked if the packed fixture schedule is to blame, with Madrid playing nine times since the turn of the year, Zidane said: "I'm not going to get into that.

"We already have enough trouble. The calendar is what it is. We didn't have a normal pre-season and there are many injuries. 

"I hope to get my players back but I'm not going to get involved in the rest."

Lucas Vazquez replaced Carvajal at right-back and slotted in seamlessly by teeing up Kroos for Madrid's second, 30 minutes after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring.

Kroos, who scored and assisted a goal in the same Madrid match for the first time since November 2018, joined Zidane in bemoaning his side's injury nightmare.

"It worries us a lot, of course. We are without important players," he said. "Dani has come back from three injuries in a row - it's not right, we don't like it.

"But the others have to do as much as possible. We can't change the situation, just accept it."

Valencia managed just one attempt on target at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano - Maxi Gomez's shot from range - in what was a routine third successive league win for Madrid.

Zidane's men have now kept back-to-back clean sheets and the Frenchman is pleased with the improvement made by his side at the back.

"That much is evident," he said. "We believe a lot in what we do. We are overcoming difficulties and there is a lot left for us to give."

Madrid, who have now gone 13 home LaLiga matches without losing to Valencia, are five points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played two games more than the league leaders.

But two-time title-winning boss Zidane is not yet giving up hope of chasing down rivals Atletico, who Madrid face at Wanda Metropolitano on March 7.

"We are going to continue doing what we are doing," he said. "We are not going to look at what others are doing. Today we played a very good game. 

"They all defended very well without the ball and when got forward we caused a lot of damage. We have to continue in this way."

Valencia head coach Javi Gracia has won only one of his eight LaLiga games against Madrid and took full blame for his side's lacklustre display in the Spanish capital.

"It was a bad game from us," he said. "I do not know if it was our worst of the season but one of the worst. The intention was to be more aggressive, it was very easy for them.

"The coach has the maximum responsibility in everything. This is a step backwards in our trajectory. From the first minute we have not been able to demonstrate anything. 

"We have not seen options to achieve anything positive here. We could not even link two passes"

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