Carlo Ancelotti refused to criticise Brazil boss Tite for snubbing Vinicius Junior after the Real Madrid star's match-winning performance at Elche.

Vinicius took his tally to seven goals in 11 LaLiga games in 2021-22, more than he managed in his previous two seasons combined, as Los Blancos claimed a 2-1 win at the Martinez Valero.

The winger scored in each half, either side of Raul Guti's dismissal, to send Madrid back to the top of the table despite a nervy finish to the game following Pere Milla's late goal.

Amid his impressive form, Vinicius has been omitted from Tite's national squad for the World Cup qualifiers in November, with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho surprisingly recalled for what could be his first Brazil game in over a year.

However, Ancelotti was not prepared to call out Tite for the decision as he praised Vinicius' commitment this season.

"I haven't done anything but play him and give him the confidence that he obviously deserves because he's playing very well and scoring goals," Ancelotti said.

"As I've said many times, I'm not a magician. I try to do my best and give the maximum confidence to all the players. The Brazil issue is a friend's decision. A great friend. I've nothing to answer.

"He has confidence now. Everything is going well for him. He's also getting used to playing a bit more inside because he has the speed to do it. It's one thing to play one-against-one on the wing and another to do it in the middle of the box. I believe that, little by little, he's learning and doing very well."

 

Vinicius' opener was set up by Mariano Diaz, who was given a surprise start in place of the rested Karim Benzema.

Luka Jovic, who is yet to start a game under Ancelotti, was again overlooked but the Madrid boss said the striker was not yet fully fit after a knee injury.

"Jovic had a problem with his knee in the last game he played," Ancelotti explained. "He still hasn't trained and he's not comfortable. That's why he didn't play. He had a sprain and he still hasn't recovered.

"I like the way Mariano played: he did well, he was committed, he gave a fantastic assist... he played a good game."

Madrid were in complete control of the contest until Milla capitalised on a mistake by Casemiro to give Elche's 10 men the chance to snatch a point.

Ancelotti felt Madrid should have managed the latter part of the game better, but he said there was little more the players could have given after playing late on Wednesday against Osasuna.

"We have to think that, after two and a half days, you can't play a game with intensity and energy," Ancelotti said. "So, you have to get into a middle block and try to look for opportunities when they come. This isn't a Real Madrid problem, it's a problem for all teams. You can't play at your highest level with two and a half days off.

"We didn't handle the end of the game well. If you're 2-0 up with an extra man, you can't think it's over because the referee still hasn't blown his whistle. We made it complicated for ourselves, but luckily we have three more points."

Vinicius Junior stepped up in the absence of Karim Benzema by scoring twice in Real Madrid's 2-1 win over 10-man Elche in Saturday's LaLiga clash.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti took a calculated risk to rest Benzema for the game at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, and his side got the job done to move level with leaders Real Sociedad, who play Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Vinicius swept a delightful opener past former Madrid man Kiko Casilla with 22 minutes played, and Elche's task was made all the more difficult when Raul Guti was dismissed shortly after the hour mark.

Brazil international Vinicius doubled his tally 17 minutes from time and, despite a late consolation for substitute Pere Milla, Madrid saw the game through to get back to winning ways on the back of their midweek stalemate against Osasuna.

 

Rodrygo and Mariano were surprisingly selected in Madrid's frontline, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Isco and Marco Asensio among the substitutes.

But Madrid were forced into an early change when the injured Rodrygo was replaced by Asensio, and they would have been behind a minute later if not for a good Thibaut Courtois save to keep out Lucas Boye's powerful strike.

Elche edged the first-half chances but fell behind to Vinicius' eighth goal in all competitions this term, as he fired across Casilla after being played in by a sublime back-heeled flick from Mariano on his first appearance of the season.

The hosts continued to look a threat as Lucas Perez somehow fired wide with plenty of the goal to aim for and Guti blasted a volley straight at Courtois.

That momentum was halted when Guti was issued a second yellow card for sliding in on Toni Kroos, however, and Vinicius made Elche pay with a chipped finish over Casilla from an acute angle.

A Casemiro error gifted Milla the chance to pull one back just five minutes after being introduced, though that proved to be nothing more than a consolation for the home team.

Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema will miss his first game of the season on Saturday after being left out of the squad for the trip to Elche.

Benzema is being rested, according to Spanish media reports, after playing in every match so far this season.

The 33-year-old French striker has played 1,158 minutes out of a possible 1,170 so far this term, and has hit 11 goals in 13 games across all competitions so far.

Benzema also has eight assists to his name for Madrid in 2021-22, five more than any other player on the team has managed.

He heads the LaLiga scoring charts with nine goals in that competition from just 10 games, but coach Carlo Ancelotti appears convinced that the skipper could do with a break, and assured that Madrid can cope for a game without him.

Elche sit 15th in the table and have lost nine of their last 10 encounters with Madrid in LaLiga, drawing only during this stretch in their last home meeting in the competition, 1-1 last December. They last beat Madrid in March 1978 (3-1).

The home side will be glad there is no sign of Benzema, given he has been directly involved in four goals in his last four LaLiga games against Elche (3 goals, 1 assist), including a brace in the last meeting in March, when he grabbed a stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 home victory.

 

Spanish newspaper Marca reported on its website that Benzema has experienced some discomfort in his instep in recent games, with Ancelotti deciding this was a convenient time to let him take a breather.

Benzema has not scored in his last two games, the 2-1 Clasico win over Barcelona and the midweek goalless draw with Osasuna.

Vinicius Jr, enjoying his best season yet for Madrid, features in the squad for Elche and will be aiming to add to his seven goals across all competitions already this season. The 21-year-old Brazilian has netted at a rate of one goal every 144.29 minutes.

Madrid sit second in LaLiga heading into the weekend, three points behind leaders Real Sociedad but with a game in hand, and on the same 21-point mark as Sevilla and Real Betis.

After the Elche game, Madrid return to Champions League action when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, having beaten the Ukrainians 5-0 in Kiev in their last match in the competition.

Carlo Ancelotti bemoaned the standard of refereeing and the impact VAR is having on delaying games as Real Madrid prepare to visit Elche in LaLiga.

Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw with Osasuna on Wednesday, making it three home matches without a win in all competitions.

However, Los Blancos felt they should have had a first-half penalty, Vinicius Junior supposedly taken down by Lucas Torro but neither referee Cesar Soto Grado nor VAR saw an infringement.

Speaking before the trip to Elche, Ancelotti explained his frustrations with Spanish top-flight officiating while comparing the quality to his previous tenure.

"I don't want to get into the issue of the referees," Ancelotti told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"There is a lot of trouble. I think that in general the end of matches are very interrupted and that has to be fixed because it is not good for the show.

"I am convinced that VAR is a good invention but in things that are not objective it is a bit complicated. I believe that VAR has fixed many things up to now.

"There are some rules that are complicated. And some unfair. For me, when a player is offside, he is offside.

"The level of the Spanish referees is neither better nor worse. It is different.

"Spanish football is now a more global football, with more styles than before when I was there. In my first stage, Spanish football was more physical."

 

Madrid have enjoyed consistent success on visits to Elche, who have lost nine of their last 10 LaLiga meetings with Saturday's opponents.

Indeed, Ancelotti's side have gone five top-flight away games without losing at Elche but the former Milan head coach implored his team to improve their finishing.

"We prepare for the game knowing that we have to continue with this commitment and try to play well and do things well from a strategic point of view," he continued.

"We need to work on the offensive aspect. We work to create opportunities and we have them but we must improve the finishes.

"I don't have any non-negotiable system. I think 4-3-3 is where the players are most satisfied but nothing else. You also have to see the situation of the matches."

Javier Pastore has joined Elche following the termination of his deal with Roma.

LaLiga club Elche confirmed the signing of free agent Pastore on Saturday, on the same day another of Spain's lesser lights - Rayo Vallecano - had announced the acquisition of Radamel Falcao.

Pastore cost Paris Saint-Germain a reported €39.8million back in 2011 when he joined from Palermo as one of the Ligue 1 club's marquee additions following the Qatari takeover.

The Argentine enjoyed a brilliant first season in Paris, scoring 16 goals and adding a further six assists in all competitions in 2011-12.

Injuries did hamper his spell at PSG, though he enjoyed another fine campaign in 2014-15, playing 51 times, assisting 16 goals and scoring six himself. However, he subsequently failed to play more than 2,000 minutes in any of the next three seasons.

Pastore left for Roma in 2018, yet he played a total of just 37 times across three years before terminating his contract with the Serie A club.

Elche have now welcomed him on board and the 32-year-old will be looking to get his career back on track in Spain.

After terminating his Roma deal on Monday, Pastore posted a farewell message on his official Instagram account.

"It's not easy for me to leave this club, the city and these fans with the awareness of not being able to meet the expectations that they had in me," he wrote.

"Anyone who knows me, knows how much I have suffered and with what commitment I have worked.

"Ours was not a lucky story, but by leaving I also feel I have kept intact a feeling of respect and gratitude towards this city and towards the people who three years ago welcomed me with love and enthusiasm.

"I wish you will be able to celebrate great success soon: Rome, Roma and their fans deserve it."

Diego Simeone revealed Atletico Madrid remain in the market for a forward after defeating Elche 1-0 win on Sunday.

Angel Correa's third goal in two games at the start of the new season proved decisive as Atletico battled to back-to-back opening victories – the fourth time they have done so under Simeone.

The makeshift striker's 39th-minute finish marked his eighth goal in his last 10 games across all competitions, having previously scored seven in his last 63 for the LaLiga champions.

Luis Suarez appeared after the hour mark for the hosts, but Atletico are still trying to sign a forward, with a reported move for Dusan Vlahovic most recently falling through.

Asked for an update on the forward situation, Simeone responded: "When we prepare a squad we do it thinking of having two players per place.

"If in the end it cannot arrive, we will look for a solution as we have always done."

On the upturn of Correa's form, Simeone added: "First he is playing where he feels most comfortable.

"In the centre of the attack he is fast, he is dynamic, he turns better than anyone. And now he is having more forcefulness, that gives him peace of mind and confidence. That allows him to have more confidence."

 

Atletico Madrid made it two wins from two to start their LaLiga title defence as they beat Elche 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

A stylish first-half finish from Angel Correa was all that separated the sides in a game of few clear-cut chances in the Spanish capital.

With temperatures still pushing 35 degrees Celcius in the second half, it was a relatively sedate contest, albeit one lit up by the display of new Atleti signing Rodrigo de Paul during the first hour.

It was the Argentina international's pass that led to the only goal via an error from Kiko Casilla and he could have had a second assist after the break had Yannick Carrasco been more clinical.

Atleti mustered little more than speculative efforts from Saul Niguez and Thomas Lemar in the opening half-hour, as the champions allowed Elche more of the ball but denied them any real openings.

The visitors ultimately gifted Atleti the lead 39 minutes in. Casilla raced off his line to clear De Paul's clever throughball and missed, allowing Correa to take his time before burying his fourth goal in three LaLiga games.

It was almost 2-0 a minute after half-time, Jose Gimenez's powerful header from a corner beaten away by Casilla, and Carrasco could not beat the Elche keeper after being picked out by De Paul.

Elche continued to have more of the ball, but Jan Oblak had largely hopeful shots from outside the box to deal with, while home substitute Luis Suarez could have done better from a Carrasco cut-back.

Suarez was booked for lashing the ball away after a tight offside call, but there was little to worry the home fans in the closing minutes.

What does it mean? Atleti keep up Elche expectations

Atletico have now won nine consecutive LaLiga games against Elche and kept clean sheets in six of them, while their unbeaten home run against Fran Escriba's side – already a club record – stands at 23 games in the top flight.

This was another controlled if not overly inspiring performance from the champions, who have started a season with back-to-back wins for the fourth time under Simeone.

For Elche, the wait for a first goal of the season goes on.

De Paul the pick of the bunch

This was a performance of real class from De Paul on his full debut in front of the Wanda Metropolitano crowd, showing what a good signing he could prove to be.

It was his outside-of-the-foot pass that led to Correa's opener, one of two chances created, while he led the way for opposition-half passes with 22 before being taken off 62 minutes in.

Suarez's welcome return

Atleti's title win in 2020-21 was built on the clinical form of Suarez in attack and the Uruguay striker was given a rapturous reception off the bench here.

Correa looks increasingly confident in attack, but Carrasco is not a long-term option as his strike partner. Keeping Suarez fit could be key to their season.

What's next?

Atleti are at home to Villarreal next Sunday, while next up for Elche is the visit of Sevilla in six days' time.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Marcos Llorente dismissed the suggestion of luck being on Atletico Madrid's side in their LaLiga title bid after their close-fought win over Elche.

Llorente scored the only goal of the game in the 23rd minute, moments after Luis Suarez had a goal disallowed by VAR for offside.

However, Llorente seemed set to go from hero to zero for LaLiga leaders Atleti when he conceded a late penalty for handball.

Yet Atleti came away unscathed, Elche captain Fidel hitting the post with his spot-kick. Atleti have now not conceded from the previous three penalties they have faced.

The victory lifted Atleti five points clear in a four-way title tussle, albeit that gap will be closed should Real Madrid beat Osasuna in Saturday's late game.

With Barcelona having lost their game in hand on Thursday, Atleti would be crowned champions should they win all of their four remaining matches – including a huge game against the Blaugrana at Camp Nou next week.

"It was an obligation to win, it was very important for everyone," Llorente told Movistar.

"The team knew how to carry out the game. All the rivals are at the top and Elche are a great team. We take all three points and it gives us great satisfaction."

Asked if luck was on Atleti's side, Llorente replied: "Starting from the fact that I don't believe in luck, in the end, if [the penalty] got to the goal, [Jan] Oblak had guessed the right way. 

"We got the points and it gives us a lot of strength for what remains.

"Winning is always positive, confidence increases, and today is one of those days."

It was a sentiment echoed by Simeone, who told a news conference: "It is time to work. The facts must be demonstrated on the pitch: that the team improves, plays with enthusiasm, is fierce and what I imagined and dreamed of when I arrived at Atletico."

Asked if Atleti must be considered favourites, Simeone said: "We are not in the moment to think; we are in the moment to do."

Simeone has now coached in 360 LaLiga games, surpassing Helenio Herrera as the Argentine to have managed the most matches in the competition.

Elche captain Fidel missed a stoppage-time penalty as Atletico Madrid picked up a narrow 1-0 win to tighten their grip on top spot in LaLiga ahead of next week's huge showdown with Barcelona.

Diego Simeone's side lost 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao last weekend and were fortunate to avoid another slip-up against relegation-threatened Elche in Saturday's contest at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.

Marcos Llorente scored what proved to be the all important goal for Atleti with his 12th league strike of the campaign in the 23rd minute after Luis Suarez had one chalked off for a marginal offside.

However, Elche wasted a glorious chance to snatch a share of the spoils in the 91st minute as Fidel fired a penalty against the post, meaning Atletico move ​five points clear of Real Madrid and Barca, who both have a game in hand to play.

Diego Simeone believes LaLiga's engrossing four-way title race is good for Spanish football and insists leaders Atletico Madrid are only focusing on themselves following Barcelona's slip-up.

Barca missed the chance to go top of LaLiga on Thursday as they slipped to a stunning 2-1 home defeat against Granada, with coach Ronald Koeman sent off prior to Jorge Molina's 79th-minute winner.

It means Atletico lead Real Madrid and Barca by two points, with Sevilla just a point further back with five games to play.

Atletico visit Elche on Saturday prior to Madrid's clash with Osasuna. Barca face Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday and Sevilla host Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

But Simeone is solely concentrated on what his side do, rather than the fortunes of others in a title race that is a welcome tonic to the Barca-Madrid duopoly that has long since dominated LaLiga.

"It is novel and does good to Spanish football," Simeone told a pre-match media conference of the four-team battle.

"The possibility that several teams can win is good. We are in a four-way fight in which match by match takes on a more important value.

"With four teams so tight I can only think about the next game. Trust the players who have been having a very good season."

Asked about Barca's defeat, Koeman replied: "I saw the end of the match. A competitive match. But I was only thinking about the only thing that matters to us, which is Elche. A team that has changed and competes very well since [head coach Fran] Escriba's arrival.

"The pressure is always there. If you play second and the rivals have won, you have pressure, but if you play before you also have it. You have to focus on what depends on you and nothing else."

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane said he aspires to play with the best players as the Frenchman addressed speculation linking Kylian Mbappe to the LaLiga giants.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid, with the France star yet to re-sign in Paris as his contract expires in 2022.

PSG remain in discussions with Mbappe – who celebrated his 100th Ligue 1 goal on Sunday – over a new deal.

Varane was asked about France team-mate Mbappe ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at home to Ukraine, and he told Europe 1: "He's still young, but he's already progressed enormously and he continues to evolve.

"He's becoming more and more complete and he's still a goalscorer; he's one of the greats.

"I aspire to play with the best players and Kylian is one of the best players in Europe."

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his desire to work with countryman Mbappe at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Zidane's future in the Spanish capital has been debated amid talk he could leave Madrid at the end of his contract in 2022.

Zidane returned to Madrid in 2019 after exiting a year earlier, having guided Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League titles and LaLiga glory.

Taking charge of France has long been mooted, with Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus contract due to expire after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"It's a possibility," Varane said of former international and 1998 World Cup winner Zidane coaching his native France.

"The French national team is a target for every French coach, it's normal that he’s potentially considered but it's not something relevant now.

"Our coach [Deschamps] is doing a very good job and we must focus on our short-term goals: clinching our presence in the World Cup and then the 2021 Euros."

Zinedine Zidane is delighted with the character Real Madrid showed to clinch a late win over Elche, but wishes his side could have scored earlier.

Karim Benzema's sensational half-volley in stoppage time secured a 2-1 comeback win for Madrid, who moved up to second in LaLiga.

It was Benzema's second goal of the game – the Frenchman having previously cancelled out Dani Calvo's header.

Madrid have scored five goals in second-half injury time in LaLiga this season, four of them scored by Benzema.

And though Madrid showing the spirit needed to score late goals is a positive for ZIdane, he is concerned that his team are becoming too reliant on last-gasp strikes.

"I like the character but I would like them to score earlier. I would like quieter games," Zidane told reporters.

"It is a team that has character, we are alive in both competitions and we will continue to fight hard and believe in ourselves.

"It's a comeback. We believe in what we do, it has cost us, we have had two or three chances to score before and we have not done it.

"In the end, it is a fair result. They are two very beautiful goals, very good plays. It is good for us."

Playing at the centre of a back three, Sergio Ramos made his first league appearance in over two months after recovering from injury, though the veteran campaigner looked to be working his way back to sharpness.

Ramos made one clearance and lost possession five times before going off after Elche opened the scoring 61 minutes in.

However, Ramos did have a penalty appeal turned down beforehand, a decision which Zidane felt went against his side, though he refused to criticise the officials.

"I shouldn't get involved there. The referee does his job and we try to do ours, that's it," Zidane said.

"I saw the play, it seems to us that there is something, but the referee has decided something else and that's it."

Real Madrid's LaLiga title hopes are still intact after Karim Benzema inspired a 2-1 comeback win over Elche on Saturday.

Having drawn their last two league fixtures, Madrid had the chance to leapfrog Barcelona into second place and close the gap on Atletico Madrid, temporarily at least, to five points.

But a lacklustre display looked like it would result in a third straight league draw – Benzema having cancelled out Dani Calvo's header.

Madrid's slim chances of catching Atleti were handed a late boost, however, when Benzema thundered in a supreme finish in stoppage time to snatch the points.

 

Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard have been named in Real Madrid's 20-man squad to face Elche.

Club captain Ramos, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has not played since suffering meniscus damage in January.

Hazard has endured an injury-plagued existence since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million before the start of last season, with a problem in his left thigh serving as the Belgium attacker's latest setback.

Asked at a pre-match media conference whether each man was ready to play a part against Elche, Zidane replied: "Yes, of course. And we are very happy. Our idea is that they have minutes."

And both are in the 20-strong party, with conjecture ongoing over whether Ramos will extend his deal in the Spanish capital.

Hazard is under contract until 2024, giving him plenty of time to turn around an underwhelming stint to date.

Zidane has every confidence the 30-year-old will do so.

"I see him 100 per cent physically and emotionally well," said the Frenchman. "He has overcome the injuries and discomfort he may have had.

"I see him well, he will be with us and I hope he can play."

The Madrid boss dismissed concerns that the catalogue of injuries suffered by Hazard could have a similarly debilitating impact as Gareth Bale's woes had over recent seasons.

"Eden has had his discomfort, it's true. He had never had a long injury before coming to Madrid," he added.

"Now here he had a lot of discomfort. But he has a long player and when he gets well, Damn, he is going to have an impressive performance.

"I speak to the fans: when a player is not at 100 per cent it is complicated, but he is going to do very well here "

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