Lucas Vazquez scored a stoppage-time winner for 10-man Real Madrid against Alaves to send Carlo Ancelotti’s men to the top of the LaLiga table for Christmas.

Girona’s draw earlier in the evening meant Real knew victory would be enough to see them leapfrog the Catalan side but they played most of the second half with 10 men after Nacho was sent off.

The game appeared to be heading for a goalless draw but Vazquez headed in a corner two minutes into injury time to seal a 1-0 victory.

The Real players came out of the tunnel in tops showing support for their team-mate David Alaba, who became the third Madrid player this season to rupture his anterior cruciate ligament in last weekend’s victory over Villarreal.

Real have been badly hit by injuries and Ancelotti was limited in his options, although he brought back Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.

Alaves were without a win or a goal in their previous three LaLiga matches and again started with teenage forward Samu Omorodion, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

Real immediately cut through the home side, with Jude Bellingham playing in Brahim Diaz, who drove towards the box before teeing up Federico Valverde for a shot from a tight angle that was saved by Antonio Sivera.

Alaves showed good intent with the ball, though, and they created a clear opportunity in the eighth minute but Luis Rioja’s shot from the middle of the box was blocked by Fran Garcia.

An 18th-minute free-kick from Toni Kroos evaded all of his team-mates and dropped just wide of the far post, while at the other end Samu headed straight at Kepa.

Real were struggling to create anything clear-cut and Sivera beat away a fierce shot from outside the box from Valverde seven minutes before the break.

The visitors’ hopes of forcing a victory were dealt a major blow nine minutes after the break when Nacho was shown a straight red card.

The defender went into a tackle from behind on Samu and raked his studs down the youngster’s calf.

The referee initially gave a yellow card but was sent to have a look on the pitchside monitor by the VAR officials and changed his decision, with Ancelotti reacting by sending on Aurelien Tchouameni for Luka Modric.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Real looked the side more likely to find a winner, and Rodrygo came close in the 75th minute, breaking away down the left and cutting inside but driving his shot high and wide.

When it did finally come, the breakthrough was from an unlikely source, with one of their smallest players, Vazquez, left alone in the middle of the box to head in Kroos’ cross.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insists football clubs will be the “masters of their destiny” as it was deemed UEFA rules blocking the formation of the European Super League contravened EU law.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice had been asked to decide whether UEFA and FIFA acted against competition law by blocking the formation of a breakaway Super League in 2021 and seeking to sanction the clubs involved.

The court ruled on Thursday that the governing bodies’ rules granting prior approval for new competitions are contrary to EU law and Perez, who has remained an avid supporter of a European Super League, said “law, reason and freedom” have prevailed after the hearing.

“At Real Madrid, we welcome the decision taken by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is responsible for guaranteeing our principles, values and freedoms,” he said in a statement.

“In the coming days we will study the scope of this resolution in detail, but I do anticipate two conclusions of great historical significance.

“Firstly, that European club football is not and will never again be a monopoly. And secondly, that from today the clubs will be the masters of their destiny.

“We, the clubs, see our right to propose and promote European competitions that modernise our sport and attract fans from all over the world fully recognised. In short, today the Europe of freedoms has triumphed again and today so have football and its fans.

“In the face of the pressures we have been under for more than two years, law, reason and freedom prevail today. And that’s why Real Madrid will continue to work for the good of football.”

Despite being long-term rivals on the pitch, Real Madrid and Barcelona have united as advocates of a Super League.

A Barca statement read: “FC Barcelona would like to express its satisfaction with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in which the Super League project proposed by A22 Sports is endorsed.

“As one of the driving forces behind the Super League, FC Barcelona believes the ruling opens the way to a new top-level football competition in Europe by opposing the monopoly over the football world, and wishes to initiate new discussions as to the path that European competitions should take in the future.”

The views of LaLiga’s two biggest clubs were in stark contrast to those of Football Supporters Europe, who maintain any plans to form a Super League continue to “endanger the future” of European football.

Fans across the continent came together to vehemently oppose the Super League’s formation in 2021, with the six Premier League clubs among those to pull out once the negative reaction flooded in.

“FSE notes today’s decision by the CJEU and wants to reiterate that there is no place in European football for a breakaway super league,” a statement read.

“Since 2021, FSE and fans across Europe have stood firm against a breakaway super league time and time again, and repeatedly called for the greater protection of our game.

“Our clubs, our competitions and our local communities need protection. We will examine the ruling’s wider implications and comment further in due course.

“Whatever comes next, the super league remains an ill-conceived project that endangers the future of European football. FSE, our members, and fans across Europe will continue to fight it.”

In the UK, a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “The attempt to create a breakaway competition was a defining moment in English football and was universally condemned by fans, clubs and the Government.

“We took decisive action at the time by triggering the fan-led review of football governance, which called for the creation of a new independent regulator for English football.

“We will shortly be bringing forward legislation that makes this a reality, and will stop clubs from joining any similar breakaway competitions in the future.”

The European Club Association said “the world of football moved on from the Super League years ago and progressive reforms will continue” and that “the judgment in no way whatsoever supports or endorses any form of Super League project”.

Carlo Ancelotti has lauded the “special” job his Real Madrid players are doing this season ahead of their trip to Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Thursday.

Madrid, sitting in second, have added David Alaba to their now six-man long injury list after the Austrian international damaged a cruciate ligament.

And Ancelotti praised his available players for challenging Girona at the top of the table and called for them to finish 2023 on a high.

“We want to keep up the good momentum we’ve had in the last few games, get the three points and finish this 2023 campaign on a high note.” Ancelotti said.

“It’s a very complicated moment of the season.

“Fortunately, I have the players to thank for pulling through. It’s not that we’re doing a special job, we have to invent something, but what is special is what this squad is doing at such a tough time.”

Alaba’s serious knee injury comes after both Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois suffering the same injury this season.

Ancelotti admitted the nature of cruciate ligament damage is horrific and shed some light on when Militao and Courtois could return to action.

He added: “The cruciate injury is an horrific injury. You can’t prevent it.

“Players who haven’t had any knee problems have had this injury. It’s something you can’t control. It’s different from muscle injuries, which can be caused by fatigue.

“Let’s see what happens in the second half of the season. In March or April we may be thinking that Militao or Courtois could come back if everything goes well with their respective recoveries.”

The Real Madrid boss hinted that the club may dip into the transfer market during January to add centre-back options.

He said: “We have spoken to the club and we will evaluate it over the next few days. We have time because the January transfer window ends on the 31st.

“We will look for the best possible solution, but for now we’re not in a hurry. We will try to finish the year well with tomorrow’s game and then we have time to make the best possible decision.”

What the papers say

Suitors of Brentford’s in-demand striker Ivan Toney have reportedly been warned they will need to pay at least £100,000,000 for his services. The Sun, citing Talksport, says the Bees would want a nine-figure fee for the 27-year-old. Arsenal and Chelsea are both believed to be considering a move for Toney, who returns from a betting ban next month.

The Manchester Evening News reports Preston are interested in a loan move for Manchester United midfielder Dan Gore. Despite the 19-year-old only making one appearance for the first team, North End bosses are interested in bringing him in to help the club chase a play-off place.

Tottenham are monitoring Genoa centre-back Radu Dragusin, according to The Telegraph. The 21-year-old is expected to cost £26m, should he move in the January transfer window.

And the paper also says Newcastle have opened talks with 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley over signing a long-term deal once he turns 18.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Sergio Reguilon: Bild reports the Tottenham defender – on loan at Manchester United – is wanted by Borussia Dortmund.

Mauro Icardi: Real Madrid are set to make a move for the Galatasaray striker, according to Marca.

Harry Kane racked up his 20th Bundesliga goal in a record 14 games as he fired Bayern Munich to a 3-0 win over Stuttgart on Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the exploits of the England captain – and his international team-mate Jude Bellingham, who scored again for Real Madrid the same night.

Kane shatters record

Kane’s double against Stuttgart took him to 20 goals in the German top flight 50 per cent quicker in terms of matches than the previous record, held since the Bundesliga’s inaugural season in 1963-64 by Uwe Seeler.

The late Hamburg and West Germany striker scored 20 in his first 21 league appearances for his hometown club and 30 in 30 that season, taking his Hamburg tally to 297 in 267 games after several prolific years in the Oberliga Nord before the formation of the new national top flight.

His record came under threat in 2020 from another name familiar to Premier League fans as Erling Haaland made a mid-season move to Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg. The Norwegian scored 11 in 15 games in the remainder of that season and began 2020-21 with 10 in seven.

He therefore missed out on Seeler’s record by one game before passing 20 in style with four in a 5-2 win over Hertha Berlin.

Kane, though, has produced an unprecedented start.

He netted on his Bundesliga debut against Werder Bremen and scored twice against Augsburg before being shut out by Borussia Monchengladbach.

A goal against Bayer Leverkusen made it four in four games, followed by a hat-trick against Bochum. Goals against RB Leipzig and Mainz took him to nine in eight games.

He scored eight in his next three, successive hat-tricks against Darmstadt and Dortmund and a brace against Heidenheim, and also scored against Cologne before Sunday’s historic double.

In all he has three hat-tricks and three doubles and has scored in 11 of his 14 league appearances. Four Champions League goals take his Bayern total to 24 in 21 appearances.

The last man to score 20 goals or more in the first half of a Bundesliga season was Kane’s predecessor in Bayern’s number nine shirt, Robert Lewandowski, who had 22 in 2020-21 and went on to score 41 in the season – breaking Gerd Muller’s Bundesliga record of 40, also for Bayern in 1971-72. Muller in 1968-69 was the only other player to reach 20 by this stage.

Golden Boy Bellingham

Bellingham’s form this year earned him Tuttosport’s Golden Boy award in November and the Kopa Trophy at October’s Ballon d’Or ceremony, awarded respectively to Europe and the world’s best young player.

A stunning start to his LaLiga career has raised the possibility of the 20-year-old pushing for the main Ballon d’Or award in future seasons, with Sunday’s opener in Madrid’s 4-1 win over Villarreal being his 17th goal in 20 appearances for the Spanish giants.

That includes 13 in 15 league games, with doubles against Almeria, Osasuna and bitter rivals Barcelona, the latter to earn a last-minute Clasico win after Barca had led 1-0.

He has also scored Champions League goals against Union Berlin, Braga and in both meetings with Napoli to further justify his claim to Zinedine Zidane’s old number five shirt at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid’s David Alaba is set for an extended spell on the sidelines after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament against Villarreal on Sunday.

The Austria international was forced off in the first half of his side’s 4-1 victory at the Bernabeu and tests have confirmed his and his club’s worst fears.

A statement from Madrid read: “Following tests carried out on our player David Alaba, he has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“He will undergo surgery in the coming days.”

Alaba, 31, joined Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2021.

Jude Bellingham struck his 17th goal of the season as Real Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga with a thumping 4-1 win over Villarreal at the Bernabeu.

Bellingham paved the way for the hosts to leapfrog previous leaders Girona – who face Alaves on Sunday – when he struck midway through the first half before Rodrygo doubled Real’s lead.

Jose Luis Morales reduced the deficit for the visitors but Real made sure of victory with further goals from Brahim Diaz and Luka Modric.

Real Sociedad stay in sixth place, just above rivals Real Betis after the two clubs ground out a goalless draw in San Sebastian, while the match between bottom club Almeria and Mallorca also finished goalless.

Chris Ramos scored a late equaliser as Cadiz sealed their fourth consecutive LaLiga draw against Las Palmas, for whom Pejino grabbed an early opener.

Inter Milan stretched their lead at the top of Serie A to four points after a 2-0 win over Lazio in Rome.

Lautaro Martinez pounced on a calamitous back-pass by home defender Adam Marusic to put his side in front and Marcus Thuram’s second-half effort sealed the points before Lazio had Manuel Lazzari sent off late on.

City rivals AC Milan strengthened their grip on third place as they coasted to a 3-0 win over Monza at San Siro.

A third-minute strike from Tijjani Reijnders paved the way for a comfortable victory, with Jan-Carlo Simic adding a second just before half time and Noah Okafor completing the scoring in the second half.

Bologna kept in touch in fourth place with a 2-0 win over Roma courtesy of Nikola Moro and a Rasmus Kristensen own goal, while a late Lucas Beltran effort saw Fiorentina edge struggling Verona 1-0, and Udinese and Sassuolo shared the points in a 2-2 draw.

Harry Kane scored twice as Bayern Munich erased the memory of last weekend’s shocking 5-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt with a 3-0 win over fourth-placed Stuttgart.

Kane hit the opener after just two minutes and doubled his tally early in the second half before Kim Min-Jae completed the scoring for the revived hosts.

But Bayer Leverkusen maintained their four-point lead by succeeding where Bayern failed and thumping Frankfurt 3-0 at the BayArena, with goals from Victor Boniface, Jeremie Frimpong and Florian Wirtz.

Freiburg claimed a 2-0 win over struggling Koln who had Julian Chabot sent off for two bookable offences midway through the second half.

Paris St Germain were denied an eighth successive Ligue 1 win as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mouroy.

Kylian Mbappe’s 66th-minute effort looked set to send his side to another victory but Jonathan David fired home in the fourth minute of injury time to salvage a point and protect fourth place.

In-form Brest were 2-0 winners at Nantes, while Marseille laboured to a 2-1 win at home to bottom club Clermont.

Strasbourg won 2-1 at Lorient, Montpellier edged a 1-0 win at Metz, while Toulouse and Rennes battled out a stalemate.

Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga with a 4-1 victory over Villareal at the Bernabeu.

Jude Bellingham’s dream debut season in Madrid continued when he opened the scoring and a strike before the break from Rodrygo helped give Los Blancos a commanding half-time lead.

Villareal fought back in the second half when Jose Luis Morales pulled a goal back but further goals from Brahim Diaz and Luka Modric ensured Madrid returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion.

Madrid forced the opening chance inside eight minutes when Bellingham headed into the grasp of goalkeeper Filip Jorgensen from inside the box.

The hosts dominated the early parts of the contest with wave after wave of attack and came within inches of the first goal when Modric’s curling effort from outside the area kissed the top of the crossbar.

Madrid inevitably took the lead a couple of minutes later when England midfielder Bellingham headed home from Modric’s cross for his 17th goal of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side doubled their advantage in the 38th minute after Modric’s corner caused a scramble inside the area and the ball popped to Rodrygo who placed into the back of the net. The goal was initially ruled out but was given following a brief VAR check.

Villareal responded nine minutes after the break as Dani Parejo picked out Morales in between Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger and the forward slotted past Andriy Lunin to cut the deficit to one.

Madrid almost instantly regained their two-goal cushion after Rodrygo latched onto Lucas Vazquez’s long ball and attempted to poke it past Jorgensen, but the keeper was on hand to deny a certain goal.

Diaz scored Madrid’s third in superb style. After picking the ball up in the middle of the pitch, he made his way into the box and fired into the back of the net.

Madrid threatened to run away with the contest and added a fourth four minutes later after they capitalised on a Villarreal error in possession and Modric was on hand to blast home and make it 4-1.

Villareal keeper Jorgensen prevented Madrid bagging more goals as he stopped further efforts from Rodrygo and Diaz to keep the scoreline at 4-1.

But could not deny the home side from moving at least temporarily back above Girona, who play Alaves on Monday.

Carlo Ancelotti knows Real Madrid still have a long way to go if they are to achieve their targets for the season.

Los Blancos host Villarreal at the Bernabeu on Sunday looking to keep up the pressure at the top of LaLiga, with surprise leaders Girona not in action until Monday night.

Having secured safe passage through to the knockout stage of the Champions League with a perfect group record, Ancelotti wants full focus on the last two games before the Christmas break.

 

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“We are up against a well-organised, well-prepared team, but we are on a great run, the results reflect that,” Ancelotti said.

“The atmosphere is good, there’s a good mood around the place and the players are motivated.

“We want to finish the first half of the season strongly, we’ve done really well so far.

“We’ve managed the first part of the campaign well, despite all the problems we’ve had. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I have faith in the campaign.

“I’m pleased with what we’ve done to this point, but well aware of what is still to come because it’s a long season – there are still six months to go.”

Ancelotti’s current deal runs through to the end of the season and the veteran Italian coach has been linked with a switch to take over Brazil’s national team.

For the moment, though, the 64-year-old is just concentrating on the job in hand.

“Being Real Madrid coach is the most important thing. I hope the players will give me a Christmas present by winning the last couple of games so we can have a relaxed festive period,” Ancelotti said at a press conference.

“If the club is happy then I am too. There is no rush to renew my deal, it’s not a problem. We are here until 30 June 2024.”

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Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is fit again after a thigh injury and started the Champions League win at Union Berlin on Tuesday night ahead of Ukrainian Andriy Lunin.

“I have decided (who will play against Villarreal), but I haven’t spoken to them yet. I want them to hear it from me before finding out in the press,” Ancelotti said.

“The good thing is that they make it hard for me because they are both in such great form.”

Villarreal head coach Marcelino, who returned to the club last month, knows his side will have to try to shackle “extraordinary” England midfielder Jude Bellingham if they are to leave the Bernabeu with a positive result.

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“He is the player who has given the best performance in all of Europe,” Marcelino said at a press conference.

“We will try not to let him get involved too much. It will be difficult because he has a lot of participation in most of the pitch, especially in the final third.

“He is accompanied by players of great quality like Rodrygo.

“We are going to need to be strong collectively to reduce their influence on the game.”

Dani Ceballos’ 89th-minute goal ensured Real Madrid finished their Champions League group stage with a perfect record after they beat Union Berlin 3-2.

Ceballos’ deflected strike settled a topsy-turvy battle in the German capital, with Union heading out of Europe for the season.

They had taken the lead in the first half through Kevin Volland’s opener, but Joselu scored twice in 11 second-half minutes to put Real in front.

Alex Kral levelled for the hosts in the 85th minute as Union looked set for a point before former Arsenal loanee Ceballos won it for the 14-time champions.

It might have been a more serene night for Carlos Ancelotti’s side had they taken some early chances, with Jude Bellingham going close from distance and Joselu missing a good chance that he should have put away.

A golden chance came their way just before half-time when Diogo Leite made a rash challenge in the box and the referee pointed to the spot.

Luka Modric stepped up and he went down the middle, but Union goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow was waiting and saved.

It kicked off a dramatic two minutes as the hosts went down the other end and when David Alaba missed his kick, Volland stormed through and converted.

Real were in control in the second half and Ronnow made another fine save as he kept out Rodrygo’s header from close range.

But there was nothing the Danish goalkeeper could do to prevent the leveller in the 61st minute as Joselu nodded in Rodrygo’s cross.

It was a clinical finish by Joselu which gave the visitors the lead 11 minutes later as he superbly turned in Fran Garcia’s cross at the near post.

Kral looked to have earned Berlin an unlikely point when he slammed home from the edge of the area as the hosts suddenly had hopes of finding another goal that would have sent them through to the Europa League.

However, Ceballos broke their hearts in the 89th minute when his deflected effort nestled in the bottom corner as Real Madrid ended with a perfect record.

Carlo Ancelotti says he is not planning major player rotation for Tuesday’s final Champions League group game against Union Berlin in Germany.

Real have already won their group and reached the last 16 following five successive victories.

They are the only team in the tournament with a 100 per cent record, but, even though it is an emphatic case of job done, manager Ancelotti does not envisage wholesale changes.

Real drew 1-1 at Real Betis on Saturday and Ancelotti said: “We need to evaluate how the players that played against Betis recover, then we will choose the best possible starting XI.

“If there are some tired players who don’t recover very well, they will rest, but we don’t think about a big rotation with a lot of players resting.

“We will rotate some players if we see any risk, if the players are tired. The ones who played and don’t have any fatigue will be no problem at all.

“Our main goal was to finish top of the group, so we want to put in a good performance and close out the group stage on a high.

Ancelotti has confirmed that Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal, but a lengthy list of injury absentees includes keeper Thibaut Courtois, Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga.

“This is a very special competition,” Ancelotti added at his pre-match press conference in Berlin.

“Real Madrid are always favourites to win this competition whatever happens in the group stage.

“It is always difficult to win it, but we have the quality to fight for it until the end.”

Whether in-form England star Jude Bellingham, who has scored 16 goals in the Champions League and LaLiga this season, is rested or not remains to be seen.

But his stunning impact since moving to Real is not lost on his team-mates, least of all midfielder Lucas Vazquez.

“What a player. We are thrilled to have him here,” Vazquez told Real Madrid’s official website.

“The kind of player he is was clear from day one. He helps the team with his goals and works as hard as anyone.

“He is really enjoying Real Madrid, and I hope he can keep up his form and continue helping Madrid in every facet of the game.

“The team is on a great run, it’s been a strong start to the season. The aim is to finish with a 100 per cent record, so we will try and put on a good display and win the game.

“This season, despite all the injuries we’ve had, the team has not faltered from its winning mentality.

“Whoever plays, the team remains the same and that reflects very well on the group we have here.”

Real Madrid were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Real Betis despite another goal from Jude Bellingham.

The England midfielder netted in the 52nd minute of a thrilling LaLiga contest at the Benito Villamarin Stadium but it was not enough for victory as Aitor Ruibal hit back.

The result took Madrid a point clear at the top of the table but Girona and Barcelona – second and third respectively – will have a chance to take advantage when they face each other on Sunday.

Bellingham’s goal was his 16th for the club and continued his extraordinary start to life in Madrid since his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.

Yet he did not have things all his own way in what was an open and entertaining encounter.

Betis had the first opportunity when Marc Roca tested Andriy Lunin but Madrid also went close as Luka Modric flicked a header wide.

Rodrygo suffered double frustration as he was denied a penalty after going down in the area and then thwarted by an offside flag after teeing up Brahim Diaz to score.

Betis enjoyed a good spell and Ayoze Perez forced a fine reaction save from Lunin with a powerful shot before Willian Jose sent a ferocious strike narrowly wide.

Modric attempted to score from distance on a quick Madrid counter-attack but Rui Silva got back to save. David Alaba was also just wide with a strongly-hit free-kick on the stroke of half-time.

Betis threatened early in the second half when Perez released Isco but Lunin forced him away from goal.

Bellingham opened the scoring after brilliantly exchanging passes with Diaz and then running through to slide the ball beneath Silva.

Diaz had a chance to double the lead but shot wide from a tight angle and Betis responded as Ruibal took the ball from Jose on the right and lashed a thunderous strike into the far corner.

Both sides had good opportunities to win the game, with Silva first making a decent save from a Toni Kroos free-kick.

Isco went even closer for Betis in the final minute when he got his head to a cross into the box but his effort thumped against the post.

Madrid had one last chance in stoppage time as Rodrygo fed Joselu but his shot flew narrowly wide.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti remains confident Jude Bellingham is getting stronger every day from his shoulder problem – but feels surgery cannot be ruled out if the issue flares up again.

The England midfielder is enjoying a standout debut campaign with Los Blancos, having scored 15 goals so far in all competitions.

Bellingham, 20, had been sidelined ahead of the international break, missing England’s final Euro 2024 qualifiers, as he managed a dislocated shoulder.

After returning to club duties, the midfielder then picked up an ankle issue during the Champions League win over Napoli.

Bellingham has been doing some training sessions in the gym this week ahead of Saturday’s LaLiga match at Real Betis.

Ancelotti moved to allay any fears over a serious setback, but accepts the club will have to monitor how Bellingham’s shoulder responds to on-going treatment alongside a hectic match schedule.

“Bellingham is working on his own because he still has to recover from the ankle injury he had against Napoli. He has recovered well,” the Real Madrid coach said.

“The shoulder is something he has to look after to strengthen it on his own. He hasn’t had any problem to play, and every day that goes by, he is improving in that sense.”

Pressed if Bellingham might need surgery, Ancelotti told a press conference: “Not right now. The shoulder is very particular. If it happens again or keeps happening, maybe, but we will see.”

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has stepped up his recovery from a thigh injury, but Ukraine international Andriy Lunin could still retain his place between the posts against Betis.

“Nothing has changed with Kepa, we still trust him just as we did. Lunin has shown character and personality,” Ancelotti said.

“The good thing is that we have both, and one could play and the other could. One could play tomorrow, but another another time, there could be rotation.”

Real head to Betis looking to extend a 13-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

Ancelotti is expecting a stern test from Manuel Pellegrini’s side, who sit seventh and are unbeaten at home in LaLiga so far.

“It will be a difficult game because Betis are doing very well,” Ancelotti said. “Especially at home, they are solid and well organised.

“We have to try to do our best and try to win, to continue our good form that we have had lately. The game will be difficult, but we’re confident of doing a good job.”

Former Real Madrid boss Pellegrini is relishing facing his old club.

“They have always been very close matches in the last three years, since I have been here we have lost by one goal, we have tied – and there has been a lot of controversy regarding those goals,” Pellegrini said at a press conference.

“They are very important games for us and I hope we have the opportunity to beat Real Madrid.

“They have been very close games and hopefully tomorrow we will win. If we are not capable, then we will go for the next game.”

What the papers say

Real Madrid are reportedly ready to offer Kylian Mbappe a contract, but it comes with a deadline. The Daily Mail, citing AS, says the Spanish giants are committed to offering the Paris St Germain forward a deal before the expiration of his current deal next summer. However, Real are expecting a firm answer to their offer by January 15 at the latest.

The Mail, this time via Tuttosport, also says Juventus are prepared to withdraw from talks to sign Manchester United forward Jadon Sancho. According to the paper, bosses at the Italian club are concerned by the 23-year-old’s potential price tag. Sancho was signed from Borussia Dortmund for £73million, and United would be determined to receive as much as possible in any transfer.

And The Sun reports 19-year-old United States and Hajduk Split attacking midfielder Rokas Pukstas has emerged on Arsenal’s radar.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Richarlison: The Tottenham forward is attracting plenty of interest from the Saudi Pro League, according to the website 90 Min.

Hakan Calhanoglu: Calciomercato says West Ham would need to stump up more than £40m for the Inter Milan midfielder.

Real Madrid returned to the top of the LaLiga table with a 2-0 win against struggling Granada.

Rodrygo continued his impressive scoring streak with his seventh goal in his last five Real appearances to seal victory at the Bernabeu following Brahim Diaz’s first-half opener.

It means Real are now tied on 38 points with Girona at the top after Cristhian Stuani’s late brace saw the latter beat Valencia 2-1.

Hugo Duro gave Valencia the lead and they looked set to see out the win, but Stuani levelled in the 82nd minute before completing the comeback by scoring the winner six minutes later.

Osasuna and Real Sociedad settled for a 1-1 draw, while Athletic Bilbao moved into fifth in the table after beating Rayo Vallecano 4-0.

Gorka Guruzeta put them ahead in the first half and they extended their lead after half-time when Alfonso Espino turned the ball into his own net before brothers Inaki Williams and Nico Williams struck in quick succession.

In Serie A, Luka Jovic scored his first AC Milan goal as they beat Frosinone 3-1 at San Siro.

Christian Pulisic scored a superb individual effort and Fikayo Tomori wrapped up the win before Marco Brescianini scored a late consolation for the visitors.

Pedro handed Lazio a 1-0 win against Cagliari, who were reduced to 10 men in the 27th minute when Antoine Makoumbou was sent off.

Matteo Cancellieri earned a point for Empoli as they drew 1-1 with Genoa, who had led through Ruslan Malinovskyi.

Stuttgart closed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga with a 2-0 win against Werder Bremen.

Deniz Undav and Sehrou Guirassy were both on target for Stuttgart, who remain third in the table but are now two points away from second-placed Bayern Munich whose game against Union Berlin was cancelled due to snow.

RB Leipzig sit just behind Stuttgart in fourth following a 2-1 win over Heidenheim, going ahead through Lois Openda and Yussuf Poulsen before Benedikt Gimber pulled one back.

Nathan Ngoumou scored the winner as Borussia Monchengladbach beat Hoffenheim 2-1, while Bochum earned their first home league win of the season with a 3-1 victory against Wolfsburg.

In Ligue 1, Florent Mollet’s goal was the difference for Nantes to beat Nice 1-0, while Lens bounced back from their midweek Champions League thrashing to Arsenal with a 3-2 win against struggling Lyon.

Jake O’Brien gave Lyon the lead, but Wesley Said levelled before Przemyslaw Frankowski’s spot-kick put Lens ahead.

O’Brien equalised in the 72nd minute but Frankowski restored the lead four minutes later and despite going down to 10 in the 90th minute when Florian Sotoca was sent off, Lens held on to heap more misery on bottom-of-the table Lyon.

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