Real Madrid kept alive their LaLiga title hopes with an emphatic 4-1 win over Granada at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on Thursday. 

The result moved Zinedine Zidane's side above Barcelona into second, two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with just two games remaining in the season.

Luka Modric got them on their way early on with his fourth league goal of the campaign – the first time he has achieved that since 2011-12 with Tottenham in the Premier League – before Rodrygo doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Jorge Molina threatened to set up a dramatic finale with a goal 19 minutes from time, but Los Blancos comfortably sealed an 18th win in their last 19 games against Granada thanks to goals from Alvaro Odriozola and Karim Benzema.

Madrid started on the front foot and almost went ahead after 14 minutes, Benzema's header forcing a smart stop from Rui Silva. 

Zidane's men opened the scoring three minutes later, though, when Modric latched onto Miguel Gutierrez's sumptuous flicked ball over the top and rolled through Silva's legs from a tight angle. 

The visitors' dominance was rewarded again in first-half stoppage time when Rodrygo powered into the penalty area down the right-hand side and fired across Silva for his first LaLiga goal of a frustrating campaign.

Granada reduced the deficit inside the final 20 minutes, Molina stroking into an empty net after Thibaut Courtois had parried Luis Suarez's strike into his path. 

Substitute Odriozola settled any Madrid nerves, though, powering home after Eden Hazard's cross had fallen kindly to him in the 75th minute. 

Benzema added gloss to the scoreline a minute later, expertly  into an unguarded net from 35 yards after Silva's slapstick attempt to cut out Casemiro's long ball over the top.

Real Madrid star Luka Modric is not giving up on winning LaLiga following the defending champions' last-gasp draw at home to Sevilla.

The title is no longer in Madrid's hands after they were held to a 2-2 draw by rivals Sevilla in a gripping contest at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Sunday.

Toni Kroos' deflected strike off team-mate Eden Hazard deep into second-half stoppage time salvaged a point for Madrid, who are two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with three rounds remaining.

Modric, though, insisted Madrid must not lose faith after they crashed out of the Champions League semi-finals.

"We were hoping it would be in our hands, but now it's not going to be like that," Modric said post-match. "We have to focus on our game, not the others and try to win the three we've got left.

"All the teams are dropping points. We have to keep believing."

Ivan Rakitic had seemingly secured Sevilla a win that would have blown the title race wide open by scoring a late penalty, before Madrid equalised at the death.

Sevilla had taken the lead in the first half thanks to Fernando in the Spanish capital, where he opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.

Madrid improved in the second half and levelled through Marco Asensio but a remarkable twist left Los Blancos trailing 2-1 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid had seemingly earned themselves a chance to go 2-1 up as Karim Benzema led a break and was brought down in the Sevilla box by Yassine Bounou.

But a VAR review overturned the decision because a handball offence by Eder Militao was spotted at the other end at the start of the move, and Rakitic converted the spot-kick that was subsequently awarded to Sevilla.

Modric added: "We've dropped two points, we did everything to win the game. We deserved to win, but we've come away with a point. We played quite well, especially in the second half and created a lot of chances, but we didn't convert them and at the end we were awarded a penalty that ended up being a penalty for the other side.

"I'm not sure if it was a handball or not, I didn't see it. It's unlucky, but we're still very much alive, there are three games left to play and we're going to give our all until the end.
 
"We found it difficult to get into the game in the first half, but were much better in the second half. We did everything we could to get the win.

"It's a shame, but we're still there. I'm physically strong as are the rest of the players. We're looking forward to playing our remaining games and trying to win all three of them."

Madrid have not lost in their last 15 LaLiga games (W10 D5), and they conceded again after keeping a clean sheet in the last four. Only on one previous occasion have they kept five consecutive clean sheets in the competition with Zidane as head coach (in July 2020).

Meanwhile, Madrid have conceded eight penalties in LaLiga this season, their joint-highest tally in a single campaign since at least 2003-04 (also eight in 2018-19).

Real Madrid president Florentina Perez has revealed that the club has agreed a new contract with Luka Modric.

The 35-year-old Croatian midfielder, who joined Madrid from Tottenham in 2012, is out of contract in June.

Reports in January alleged that a new deal between Modric and Madrid had been agreed although nothing had ever been announced.

Perez confirmed those reports on Wednesday when discussing the European Super League, while also providing an update on out-of-contract Sergio Ramos.

"[Modric] has already signed or we have reached an agreement a long time ago," Perez said.

"Ramos is not in the same situation. We have spoken many times but I do not know, I do not want to blame anyone."

Perez refused to be drawn on 35-year-old club captain Ramos' future.

"I love him as if he were my son, I have done everything I could for him," Perez said.

"I am not going to tell you anything about Sergio Ramos. We are trying to close this season. Then we will talk about the next one."

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has heaped praise on Karim Benzema after his double in Wednesday's 3-0 win at Cadiz lifted Los Blancos into top spot in LaLiga.

The France international striker took his LaLiga season tally to 19 goals, closing within four strikes of league top scorer Lionel Messi.

Benzema converted a penalty on the half hour, before adding Madrid's third in the 40th minute.

"I’m delighted with how he’s performing," Zidane said post-game. "We know how important he is to our game and not just because of his goals.

"He makes the guys around him play, we enjoy watching him and I hope Real Madrid can continue enjoying him for a long time to come."

Madrid's win moves them ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference for the time being although Atleti are due to play on Thursday against Huesca.

Zidane was delighted to see his side sitting top of LaLiga albeit temporarily while also being through to the Champions League semi-finals.

"We’re still alive in both competitions and we keep going," Zidane said.

"We’ve picked up three very important points to keep us in the race, but there’s still a long way to go."

Zidane also praised his side's defence, having only conceded twice in their past six matches in all competitions.

He deployed a three centre-backs against Cadiz, with Marcelo and Odriozola getting up and down the flanks as wing-backs to good effect.

"We haven’t conceded a goal for three games and that’s pleasing for me," Zidane said.

Luka Modric was absent for the game with a back issue although Zidane was hopeful he would be in contention for the weekend's league game against Real Betis.

"He felt something in his back but I don’t think it’s anything serious," Zidane said.

"We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and I hope he can be back with us straight away."

Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund are preparing for home quarter-final legs knowing only victories will give them a chance of reaching the Champions League last four.

Jurgen Klopp's side were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the Spanish capital last week, the scoreline matching that of the 2018 final, when Zinedine Zidane won the trophy for the third year running.

Of course, the Reds have history of famous Anfield comebacks, most notably two years ago when Barcelona were stunned on Merseyside after winning the semi-final first leg 3-0.

Dortmund are also in need of a spirited display. Marco Reus' away goal gave them a foothold in the tie against Manchester City, but a late winner from Phil Foden at the Etihad Stadium means the Premier League leaders have the advantage.

Still, if Dortmund repeat the result of the last time they hosted City in this competition, they will be going through...

 

Liverpool v Real Madrid (1-3 on aggregate): History on Zidane's side

Liverpool's unforgettable 4-0 win over Barcelona was one of two instances out of a possible 11 where they have progressed in a knockout tie after losing the first leg by two or more goals.

They beat Madrid by the same scoreline in March 2009 at Anfield, but Los Blancos' most recent visit to Merseyside ended in a 3-0 win in October 2014. They are now on a run of four consecutive wins over Liverpool.

Given Madrid have scored in each of their previous 23 Champions League knockout games, and the fact they have won 15 of the past 16 ties where they won the first leg by at least two goals, they would appear to be in a very strong position.

If Liverpool are to produce another turnaround, Mohamed Salah will almost certainly be key. His goal in the first leg means he has scored in each of his previous four appearances in the competition, and he could become only the second Liverpool player – after Steven Gerrard in 2007-08 – to do so in five.

Luka Modric is also chasing a small slice of history. The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner has provided an assist in three Champions League games in a row; since at least 2003-04, no Madrid player has ever managed to set up a goal in four consecutive games in this competition.

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City (1-2 on aggregate): Haaland the main threat to Guardiola's record

Pep Guardiola lost three of his first five meetings with Borussia Dortmund but is unbeaten in his most recent seven, while City have only failed to progress twice in 15 European knockout ties after winning the first leg.

However, Guardiola endured the most recent of those eliminations, with Monaco upsetting City in his first season in charge in 2016-17. In fact, in Champions League history, the team to win the first leg 2-1 at home has been eliminated (15 times) more often than they have progressed (12).

It really could be a game of fine margins. If Dortmund repeat the scoreline from their only previous home game against City in December 2012 (1-0), that will be enough to send them through. However, City have kept clean sheets in four consecutive away games in the competition; another on Wednesday will guarantee their semi-final spot and see them become the first side to record shutouts in five games in a row since Manchester United a decade ago.

Inevitably, all eyes will be on Erling Haaland. The Norway star has only failed to score in three of his 15 Champions League appearances and has never drawn a blank at home for Dortmund, hitting seven in just four games.

Haaland has been tipped to replace Sergio Aguero at City next season, but this could be a chance for the Argentina striker to underline his legacy: a goal here will take him to 37 in the competition, the most of any player for a Premier League club. Aguero likes Bundesliga opposition, too: 11 of his 36 goals have come against sides from Germany, more than he has managed against teams from any other nation.

Luka Modric has admitted he would love to play with Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker continues to be linked with a switch to the LaLiga giants, and recent unconfirmed reports claimed Mbappe has told his French club he wants to leave.

Mbappe has also previously been linked with a possible switch to Liverpool, who Madrid face in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.

It now appears the Spanish capital is a likelier destination than Merseyside for 22-year-old Mbappe, who helped France win the 2018 World Cup final against Modric and Croatia.

Asked about the prospect of signings for next season, Madrid playmaker Modric told a pre-match news conference: "There are a lot of rumours and news about players coming and leaving. I can't comment on that.

"Kylian Mbappe is a great player, he has showed us many times with PSG and the French national team. Great players are always welcome at Real Madrid, of course.

"But it wouldn't be correct for me to talk about players from other teams, especially at this stage of the season.

"We'll see what happens next season, but what I can tell you is he is one of the best players in the world."

The first degree of uncertainty over whether Mbappe and Modric share a dressing room next term centres on whether a deal will be struck between PSG and Madrid, but the second would be whether Modric remains with Los Blancos.

The 35-year-old midfielder's contract expires after the end of the season, and Modric is hopeful of staying on, saying there have been positive moves towards that happening.

"Like always, my contract extension is going well," Modric said. "I can't say anything else. I've always said I want to keep playing here at Real Madrid.

"I feel very happy here and hope I can stay here next season, but apart from that I can't tell you anything else."

Modric and Toni Kroos continue to look like a midfield combination that Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane would be bold if not foolish to split up, and Modric said his German team-mate has "made me feel at my most comfortable".

"I enjoy playing alongside Toni a lot. We understand each other very well," Modric added. "Let's see how much longer we can share the pitch together."

Madrid, who lead 3-1 from the first leg against Liverpool, travelled to Anfield without injured captain Sergio Ramos, and it emerged on Wednesday the skipper has also tested positive for the coronavirus.

They are also without Raphael Varane, Lucas Vazquez, Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard for a game which Madrid approach on the back of a Clasico win over Barcelona in LaLiga.

Former Tottenham midfielder Modric said it was unfortunate the game would be played behind closed doors, given the volume that can be generated at Liverpool.

Madrid won 3-0 at Anfield in the group stage in 2014, with Modric and Kroos again at the heart of midfield.

Modric said Madrid would have relished a noisy welcome, saying: "I would like to play at Anfield with a crowd because I played a few times with Tottenham and played that game with Real Madrid and the atmosphere was amazing.

"Everyone wants to play with fans, with a crowd. That's why we're not thinking about if it's an advantage for us or not."

It was hardly the sort of entrance that said "I'm here to save the day". Luka Modric was still putting his headband on as he rather leisurely entered the Old Trafford pitch just a few moments after Nani's controversial sending off in the Champions League last-16 second leg between Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Los Blancos were down 2-1 on aggregate after a Sergio Ramos own goal had put United in the driving seat a short while earlier, but with the hosts a man light, Jose Mourinho sent Modric on as Madrid looked to suffocate Alex Ferguson's men.

Alongside Xabi Alonso, Modric was swiftly into the thick of it as Madrid tried to pull United this way and that, and he soon took matters into his own hands with Kaka, Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo unable to break through.

Allowed space just outside the United area, Modric's motioning for a shot lured Michael Carrick out of position and the Croatian easily breezed past him before lashing an unstoppable effort in off the right-hand post just seven minutes after coming on.

It was only his second goal for the club, but as it spurred Madrid on to seal a 2-1 win and a spot in the next round thanks, Modric has regarded that match as the turning point in his career at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A perfect storm

It's easy to forget how disappointing Modric's first season at Madrid was deemed to be. After all, before Christmas, he was voted as the worst signing of the campaign in a Marca poll, beating Alex Song of Barcelona to top the charts.

Two years Modric's junior, Song has been playing his football in Djibouti this season; Modric remains, at the ripe old age of 35, arguably the finest midfielder in Spain.

There are certainly comparisons to be made with Thiago Alcantara's first season in England, with Liverpool struggling to even maintain a challenge for the top four, let alone defend their title.

Thiago was seen as the missing piece of the puzzle, the sort of central midfielder that balanced flair with genuine playmaking abilities, unlike anyone already in the squad. It was said his arrival would enable to Liverpool to play with greater flexibility, but the reality has been a little different.

Teams are playing deeper against Liverpool, as evidenced by the fact their shots outside the area per game is up from 4.6 per game to 5.2, while they are being allowed 190.4 passes in the final third each match, up from 180.9. Opponents are more confident they can keep Liverpool out if they defend deep.

Of course, Liverpool's issues this term are plentiful – injuries have been particularly frequent, and Thiago himself has lost a significant chunk of the season in this regard.

But even when he has been fit, it's difficult to say the Spain international has transformed the Reds. In fact, they have a better league win percentage (57.1) when he doesn't play than when he does (37.5), while they tend to score more goals (2.4 per game, compared to 1.1 when he is playing).

One theory for Thiago's struggles has been his apparent lack of comfort with Liverpool's intense pressing style, but the data suggests that to be a red herring.

Granted, Liverpool do engage in 18.9 pressed sequences – instances where the opposition have three or fewer passes in a move, which ends within 40 metres of their own goal – per game, with their total of 567 the most in the Premier League this term.

But Bayern averaged 16.9 per game in 2019-20 and led the way in the Bundesliga in this regard. Meanwhile, they allowed 9.8 opposition passes per defensive action, with Liverpool's PPDA this term 10.7, showing the Bayern side Thiago played in wasn't too dissimilar.

So, why would Liverpool's off-the-ball intensity impact him so much? It seems far more likely the issue is simply that he's in the middle of a perfect storm of settling into new surroundings and a new team during an injury crisis that has impacted him as well.

Changing perception

Fans can forget that players are people first and foremost. Upheaval off the pitch can have a demonstrable effect on it – of course it can, just like life at home can impact the job performance of average Joe.

This was a key element for Modric, who explained how he found it difficult to settle in initially at Real Madrid, not only because as a club they are an entirely different beast to Tottenham but also as he didn't have a pre-season and gaining fitness was always likely to be a struggle when playing catch-up.

As for fan expectations, perhaps there was also a degree of misunderstanding from Madrid supporters. Maybe they were initially expecting something more than Modric.

After all, in his final season at Spurs, Modric was a key creator. His 96 key passes in 2011-12 was bettered by only two midfielders in the Premier League (David Silva – 104, Juan Mata – 103), evidence that much of the creative burden was on his shoulders.

So, perhaps the fact his creative ingenuity wasn't being so frequently displayed at Madrid coloured opinion.

Granted, his 17 key passes in 13 league appearances between the start of the season and January 1 left a lot to be desired, but his end-of-season record of 56 was the third-highest in the Madrid squad.

Time, patience and trust were seemingly key to Modric establishing himself, but to suggest he's played the same way at Madrid as in his best season at Spurs would be incorrect – the closest he's ever got to that 96 key passes haul since was 61 in 2015-16.

In fact, when you consider a whole range of his key metrics such as passes, pass completion, chance creation, touches of the ball and defensive areas, there hasn't been drastic fluctuation between 2012-13 and now.

Certainly, his 62.6 successful passes per 90 is up from 55 in 2012-13, while his touches have improved from 80 to 86.7, but those differences certainly aren't major. The fact is his figures have been pretty steady throughout his time in LaLiga.

But at 35, he has still played in 28 of Madrid's 29 league matches this term. He's arguably more important to them than ever before.

Coming back from being a target of ridicule to becoming a club great and winning the Ballon d'Or speaks to Modric's attitude and talent, but also serves as inspiration for Thiago.

While the Spaniard has not had to contend with quite the same level of criticism, there are certainly those unconvinced by him.

With a full pre-season under his belt and allowed to gel into a settled team that isn't constantly being chopped and changed due to injuries, Thiago can surely enjoy a sparkling second season at Liverpool. After all, the data proves the Reds' pressing shouldn't be a long-term issue for him given how Bayern played.

A 25-yard strike of his own against Manchester United would go down very well right now, although a similarly decisive impact against Madrid would surely be a nice compromise for the Barcelona product.

Luka Modric believes Real Madrid's older players are still hungry for Champions League glory.

Croatia midfielder Modric, 35, has lifted the trophy four times with Madrid since he joined them in 2012 and is the eldest of seven players in their squad aged 30 or over.

Sergio Ramos (34), Karim Benzema (33), Marcelo (32), Toni Kroos (31), Nacho (31) and Eden Hazard (30) are the other Madrid players of a certain vintage.

Los Blancos did not make it beyond the last 16 in the previous two seasons after defeats to Ajax and Manchester City in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.

However, Madrid booked their place in the quarter-finals of this season's competition with a 3-1 (4-1 on aggregate) victory over Atalanta on Tuesday.

Modric completed more passes (89) than any other player in the match and had more touches (109) too, underlining his influence remains strong.

"The important thing was to get through as we have not done it in two years," Modric told Movistar.

"We have to go step by step and see where we can go, but we have shown that there is still a lot of hunger in this team and that they want to keep winning.

"I hope we can go far but it was a very important first step. It was a very demanding game, Atalanta is a very physical team, they push one by one across the pitch, they don't stop.

"I think we have done well from the beginning and very happy to be in the quarter-finals."

Modric provided an assist for Benzema to score the opening goal for Madrid, before a penalty from Ramos and Marco Asensio's late strike wrapped up the win shortly after a Luis Muriel free-kick for the visitors.

Five of Modric's last six assists in all competitions have been for Benzema and only in 2013-14 (three) has the Croatian managed more Champions League assists than his two this season - both of which came in this last-16 tie.

When asked how old he felt as a player Modric said "27" before playing down the significance of his advancing years.

He said: "I always say that you don't have to look at the years, what the player does on the field is important, it doesn't matter how old, or how old his passport is.

"My physique and with everything I have achieved here, I am still hungry to continue doing things well, I am working to achieve all this and I feel very good."

Madrid captain Ramos agreed with Modric's sentiments, adding: "In the end, when you have been taking care of yourself for so many years, when you sow you end up harvesting.

"We always try to give the highest level; people must value the performance. The objective was to get through with a good result."

Only Roberto Carlos (16) has scored more Champions League goals than Ramos (15) among all defenders in the competition.

Nevertheless, the experienced centre-back said there was no update on a new contract with Madrid, his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.

Ramos added: "I cannot report anything, when there is something new I will be the one to say so."

Where will Erling Haaland be playing in 2021-22?

That is the question everyone is asking as clubs queue up to sign the Borussia Dortmund goalscoring machine.

Manchester United are reportedly determined to prise the Norway international to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SET SIGHTS ON HAALAND

Manchester United have settled on Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as their centre forward priority in the transfer market, according to Manchester Evening News.

United tried to sign Haaland before he joined Dortmund from Austrian champions Salzburg last year.

Eyeing a long-term replacement for Romelu Lukaku, with United veteran Edinson Cavani linked to Boca Juniors after signing a one-year deal at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and football director John Murtough have agreed to target Haaland.

Haaland has also been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, LiverpoolManchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

It comes after United reportedly received little encouragement of the possibility of signing Tottenham star Harry Kane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims Madrid midfielder Luka Modric has an agreement in place to sign a new one-year deal with the LaLiga champions.

- Arsenal are keen to keep Martin Odegaard – on loan from Madrid – beyond the 2020-21 season, reports the Daily Mail.

- The Daily star says Donny van de Beek wants to quit United. Van de Beek only joined from Ajax at the start of the season but he has been unable to cement a spot in the starting XI.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel wants to keep Antonio Rudiger as the Blues seek to avoid losing him on a free transfer in 2022 by offering a new contract, reports the Daily Mail.

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

The battle to sign David Alaba continues among European giants, while Thomas Tuchel is eyeing Dayot Upamecano at Chelsea.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and it was reported this month the defender had agreed a deal with Real Madrid.

But it seems the race to secure the Austria international's signature remains on.

 

TOP STORY – EUROPEAN GIANTS FIGHT FOR ALABA

Real Madrid have offered Alaba €11million per year and Manchester City are prepared to give the Bayern Munich star €14m, according to AS.

The report says Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are also battling to sign Alaba.

Alaba has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuchel's appointment as Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday, and the former PSG boss is already looking to strengthen. Bild reports Tuchel wants RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano at Stamford Bridge. It comes as The Guardian reports Chelsea's interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is likely to end following Frank Lampard's sacking.

- Real Madrid have work to do before the end of the season. Marca reports Luka Modric has agreed a new contract with Madrid, while Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez are yet to accept offers. The report says Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez are their next priorities.

- Eric Garcia is linked with a move to Barcelona. Sport reports the next president of the Catalan giants must ratify the defender's five-year deal if the Manchester City defender is to arrive ahead of next season.

- Out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain the end of the season, Angel Di Maria's future is uncertain. L'Equipe reports the attacker, though, is on track for an extension with the Ligue 1 giants.

- Staying at PSG and the club are still pushing to sign Dele Alli on loan, according to Fabrizio Romano, who reports Tottenham are unwilling to let the midfielder go until they sign a replacement.

- Jordi Alba turns 32 in March and Barcelona are considering the left-back's successor. Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia's Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso are candidates.

Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno backed Zinedine Zidane, saying he wanted the coach to return as soon as possible.

Zidane is under pressure at the helm of Madrid after a humiliating Copa del Rey loss to Alcoyano on Wednesday.

The Frenchman did not oversee Saturday's 4-1 LaLiga win over Deportivo Alaves after testing positive for coronavirus.

While Zidane has come under fire, Butragueno defended the 48-year-old, who has led Madrid to two LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies across two spells in charge.

"Everyone knows what Zidane means to us. What we want is for him to return to us as soon as possible," he told Movistar+.

"We know what football is like. We have been around for many years.

"When the team doesn't win we have to listen to comments and rumours of all kinds. You have to be united and work."

Luka Modric has also faced an uncertain future at Madrid, with the Croatian midfielder's contract expiring at the end of the season.

But Butragueno hinted Modric was set to stay at Madrid as reports suggest the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner had agreed to a one-year deal.

"There are players like Modric who make this sport better. His pass to [Ferland] Mendy in the first half was a fine thing. It's a luxury for us to have him," he said.

"He's given us so much. He's still giving us so much and he'll continue to do so."

Martin Odegaard has been left out of the Real Madrid squad to face Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, while Luka Modric and Raphael Varane are rested and Sergio Ramos misses out through injury.

Norway international Odegaard has featured just twice for Madrid in all competitions since the start of December, and Wednesday's clash with third-tier Alcoyano appeared to represent a chance for him to receive some rare minutes.

However, the 22-year-old was not included on the 20-man list for the match at El Collao.

Varane and Modric, who have missed just one game each this season, were granted a rest by Zidane, with Castilla duo Victor Chust and Antonio Blanco called up instead.

Ramos played through discomfort experienced in the warm-up during the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao last week and did not train with his team-mates on Tuesday.

Rodrygo and Dani Carvajal are also unavailable due to injury.

Luka Modric says talks with Real Madrid over a new contract are "going in a good direction".

The Croatia star's deal expires at the end of the season but it was reported by Marca last month that an agreement was in place for a year-long extension.

The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, now 35, has enjoyed a superb campaign for Madrid following early doubts over whether the return of Martin Odegaard could limit his involvement.

Of Madrid midfielders this season, nobody has scored more goals than Modric (four, level with Casemiro), while only Lucas Vazquez and Toni Kroos have created more goalscoring chances (30).

Modric has also played the most successful passes ending in the final third (451) of any Madrid midfielder this term, highlighting his attacking impact under Zinedine Zidane while Odegaard has struggled for minutes and Eden Hazard for fitness.

Ahead of the Supercopa de Espana clash with Athletic Bilbao, Modric suggested he has plenty of football left - and that it could be played in the Spanish capital.

"I can't say much. I'm speaking with the club and everything is going in a good direction," he said of his contract talks.

"I haven't changed anything in particular. I'm working a lot outside of training, I have the same desire to compete, the years are no problem at all."

The future of Sergio Ramos is similarly unclear and Modric was not prepared to offer any indication of the captain's plans.

"I can't position myself at anyone's side," he said. "Sergio is my friend and I want the best for him, for him to be happy.

"It's between him and the club. I can't get involved."

Modric was happy to offer some advice to Odegaard, though, the 22-year-old having played only nine times this season after returning following a fine loan spell with Real Sociedad.

"Last time I spoke to him, I told him I liked him as a player and a person, to keep fighting for his place in this team, that when he plays to make difference to show he deserves to be here," Modric said.

"To work and fight for your place is my advice for him."

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