Karim Benzema has urged Eden Hazard to "make another story" at Real Madrid, after the Belgium star impressed against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday. 

Hazard scored himself and also set up the first of two Benzema goals as Madrid eased to a 4-1 win over LaLiga strugglers Alaves, relieving some of the pressure on Zinedine Zidane, who was absent from the touchline after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Madrid had lost their previous two matches, against Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana before going down to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey in midweek. 

Casemiro opened the scoring before Benzema struck either side of Hazard's third goal of the season in all competitions. 

Hazard, signed from Chelsea in 2019, has struggled for form amid an injury hit spell at Madrid, but he seemed close to his best against Alaves. 

The 30-year-old both scored and assisted in a league game for just the second time in a Madrid shirt, while only Benzema (four) managed more attempts than Hazard's two.

With Hazard showing signs of a resurgence, Benzema, who has scored 10 league goals this season, wants his team-mate to go on and make his name in the Spanish capital.

"You always notice the depth in this team, I always want to help my team-mates," Benzema told Movistar. 

"Hazard I think he was a great player at Chelsea and now he has to make another story at Madrid. He is well, much better. He works hard and has played a good game. We need the best Hazard." 

Madrid's victory closed the gap, temporarily at least, on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who host Valencia on Sunday.

Los Blancos are four points shy of their city rivals but six clear of Barcelona, who are also in action on Sunday. 

"It was a good game, very good for confidence, we know that each game is very difficult, each rival makes it difficult for us," said Benzema, who has now been involved in 10 goals in eight appearances against Alaves in LaLiga. 

"Today everything came out, we all wanted to play, it was a very good game for us. That is worked every day, the goals, the crosses, the passes. We are on the right track after a hard week for us. We always want to win."

Real Madrid returned to winning ways in style as Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard helped the defending champions to a 4-1 rout over Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga. 

Madrid were in desperate need of a victory after a Supercopa de Espana reverse to Athletic Bilbao and a shock Copa del Rey defeat to lower-tier Alcoyano piled the pressure on Zinedine Zidane, who was absent on Saturday after testing positive for coronavirus. 

Atletico Madrid's late victory at Eibar on Thursday had moved them seven points clear in the title race, though Los Blancos never looked in danger of failing to win on the road in LaLiga for a third successive game, Benzema and Hazard putting them in control after Casemiro's opener. 

Joselu's fifth league goal against Madrid gave Alaves hope, but Benzema's second meant the visitors had little trouble seeing out just their second win in 2021. 

Benzema seemed set to open the scoring when he latched onto Luka Modric's lofted pass, only to be denied first by Fernando Pacheco and then a deflection onto the right-hand upright. 

Madrid made the resulting corner count, though, with Casemiro rising high to head home from Toni Kroos' outswinger.

Madrid’s second goal should have followed in the 22nd minute, yet Ferland Mendy failed to tee up Benzema for a simple finish. 

Benzema had his goal 19 minutes later, sensationally picking out the top of the net with a wonderful, dipping effort from just inside the penalty box. 

Having curled wide earlier on, Hazard made it three on the stroke of half-time with a delicate finish over the onrushing Pacheco. 

Madrid are Joselu's favourite LaLiga opponent and the forward netted again when facing the capital club, this time sending a brilliant header beyond Thibaut Courtois. 

Alaves' comeback hopes were quashed with 20 minutes remaining, however, when Benzema cut in from the left to thump home and settle the contest.

Luka Jovic continues to make an impressive impact back at Eintracht Frankfurt after scoring again for the Bundesliga club – meaning the striker has already surpassed his goals tally for Real Madrid.  

The Serbia international departed Frankfurt after a hugely productive 2018-19 season, during which he scored 27 times in all competitions.  

Madrid paid €60million to sign him, though the move has failed to work out as hoped. During his 18 months in the Spanish capital, Jovic managed just two goals in 32 appearances, albeit he started on just 11 occasions.  

However, a return to familiar territory has helped the 23-year-old - who will spend the rest of the season on loan in Germany - quickly rediscover his form. 

He scored twice in his first game back, a 3-1 triumph over Schalke, and while unable to find the net as a substitute against Freiburg, he was on the scoresheet once more on Saturday.  

On as a second-half substitute once again, Jovic rounded out the scoring for Adi Hutter's in-form side as they thrashed Arminia Bielefeld 5-1 on the road.  

It means the former Benfica player has now managed three goals from four attempts in just 76 minutes of action for Eintracht - and he is also having a big impact on one of his team-mates.

Filip Kostic provided two assists against Bielefeld and, according to Hutter, has been rejuvenated by the arrival of his countryman.

"I do think that his improvement has a lot to do with the return of Luka, because they got along really well and are friends off the pitch, as well as in the Serbia national team," Hutter told the media. 

"So, I think that played a part in it, too. But I felt that when Luka came, Filip's confidence went up a lot." 

Andre Silva was the beneficiary of Kostic's work, the Portuguese forward grabbing a first-half brace to take his tally to 14 in 18 league games, equalling a club record previously set by Theofanis Gekas. 

"We worked hard for this win and we deserved it," Silva said. "I was in the right place with the first goal, and with the second I hit the ball really well.  

"Luka is a great player. We can get even better together and help the team even more."

Didier Deschamps has tipped Zinedine Zidane to "go full circle" by succeeding him as head coach of the France national team.

Zidane is in his second spell as Real Madrid boss and finds himself under intense pressure following Wednesday's defeat to third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, a week on from losing to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

He was part of France's World Cup-winning squad in 1998 and has long been touted as the leading contender to replace his former team-mate Deschamps when the 52-year-old's deal expires next year.

It is a job Deschamps, who guided Les Blues to World Cup success in 2018, can see Zidane taking in the near future.

Asked in an interview with BFMTV if Zidane could be his successor, Deschamps replied: "Yes, obviously.

"I know this will be discussed again and it makes sense. It would be like going full circle."

Since bringing an end to his trophy-laden playing career and taking over at Madrid in 2016, Zidane has won 11 trophies, including the Champions League three seasons running.

"He always had a decisive element to his game and I never had a problem with that," Deschamps said. "Afterwards, everything he has done... Zizou is Zizou."

As well as winning the 2018 World Cup, Deschamps also guided France to the European Championship final two years earlier, when they were beaten by Portugal on home soil.

The reigning world champions will face Hungary, Portugal and Germany in the rescheduled Euro 2020 finals later this year.

Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

Real Madrid have flatly denied there is any "tension" with Inter concerning an alleged agreement over deferred payments for the transfer of Achraf Hakimi.

The full-back moved to San Siro last July for a reported fee of around €40million, which was to be paid in four instalments.

It has been claimed in Italy and Spain that, due largely to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Madrid agreed with Inter's request to defer the first payment of €10m, which had been due last month, until March 30.

However, according to a story in Corriere dello Sport on Saturday, Madrid insisted on "a series of guarantees" over the outstanding balance and that the LaLiga champions could even move to bring Hakimi back if Inter appear unable to keep up with payments.

In a subsequent statement, Madrid said there was no basis to claims of a dispute with the Nerazzurri and that relations between the clubs remain positive.

"In relation to the story published by Corriere dello Sport regarding alleged tension between our club and Inter Milan, Real Madrid wishes to clarify that these reports are completely false," the statement said.

"At no point in time has Real Madrid asked Inter Milan for an alleged guarantor, as the aforementioned publication states.

"The terms of the player's transfer to Inter fall within the standard and normal contractual relationships between football clubs. 

"This is particularly true in this case with Inter Milan, with whom Real Madrid has always and continues to enjoy an excellent relationship on account of its status as a historic club and one that is a friend of ours."

Hakimi's agent, Alejandro Camano, told FCInter1908.it that he did not know anything about the rumoured dispute between the clubs.

"We haven't received any calls from Madrid," he said. "Achraf is happy at Inter and is only focused on doing his best for Inter.

"His goal is to win with the Inter shirt, and he's not thinking about anything else."

Hakimi has enjoyed a strong first season in Italy, with six goals and four assists in 24 appearances in all competitions.

Could Barcelona be about to make a splash in the free-agent market?

Strapped for cash amid the coronavirus pandemic, Barca are believed to have set their sights on two stars.

David Alaba and Sergio Aguero are on the agenda at Camp Nou…

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING OUT-OF-CONTRACT DUO

Barcelona are set to target Bayern Munich star David Alaba and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero , according to Mundo Deportivo.

Alaba and Aguero are both out of contract at the end of the season, prompting interest from embattled LaLiga giants Barca.

Bayern's Alaba has been tipped to join Real Madrid , while the likes of Manchester United , Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Aguero, meanwhile, is no certainty to renew in Manchester, where Pep Guardiola is reportedly eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter's Romelu Lukaku .

 

ROUND-UP

-   Sport reports Raphael Varane wants to leave LaLiga champions Madrid . The French defender has previously been linked to United .

- Madrid cannot afford to sign the likes of PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Haaland due to their current financial situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, claims Marca.

- The Guardian says West Ham have lowered their asking price for Declan Rice , who has been linked to Chelsea and United .

- Martin Odegaard is close to swapping Madrid for Arsenal on loan, reports journalist Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also says United have not opened talks with Lens to sign Argentine centre-back Facundo Medina . The Red Devils are eyeing a new centre-back amid links with in-demand RB Leipzig star Dayot Upamecano .

Napoli want to sign either Sporting CP full-back Nuno Mendes or Benfica's Nuno Tavares , reports Calciomercato.

- There are serious doubts over Edin Dzeko's future at Roma, with Calciomercato claiming Juventus and Inter are monitoring the situation.

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

Martin Odegaard will not be involved for Real Madrid against Deportivo Alaves amid speculation he could be set to join Arsenal. 

Odegaard excelled out on loan at Real Sociedad in the 2019-20 season but has found first-team opportunities limited under Zinedine Zidane upon his return to the Spanish capital.  

The Norway international has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances this season in all competitions and, having made just five starts, seems keen to seal a move away in January.  

A return to the Basque club – where he managed seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances – appeared to be on the cards, but Arsenal have now emerged as the clear favourites to sign the midfielder on loan.  

Madrid assistant coach David Bettoni, who is to take charge of Madrid while Zidane isolates after testing positive for coronavirus, was asked about Odegaard's future during his media duties on Friday - and hinted there could be developments in the player's situation soon.

"What happened with Martin is something that I don't know too well," Bettoni said.  

"I'm the assistant coach and there are some things that I don't follow too closely, so I can't give the exact context.  

"He is an important member of the squad and we'll see what happens with him in the coming days."  

Odegaard is not part of Madrid's squad for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Alaves amid speculation he could be confirmed at Arsenal imminently. 

The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term - a tally only beaten by four other players, one of which was predictably Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.  

His contributions in terms of goals and assists helped La Real finish in sixth place. They also reached the Copa del Rey final, though that fixture against rivals Athletic Bilbao is yet to take place due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The addition of Odegaard would add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed just 23 goals in 19 league games so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season.  

Arsenal have created 158 scoring opportunities, of which 33 are considered big chances by Opta, well adrift of the league-high 53 recorded by Manchester City this term. The Gunners have managed 20 goals from 221 attempts (excluding penalties), slightly below their xG figure of 23. 

Emile Smith Rowe has been a revelation of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for the Premier League club than full-back Kieran Tierney, his total of 22 putting him one above Bukayo Saka. 

Having been busy so far in January trimming the squad, including the impending departure of Mesut Ozil, Arteta has admitted he hopes to make additions before the transfer window closes. 

"We are in that process right now, we have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase," he told the media on Thursday. 

"Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do."

Zinedine Zidane is in "good spirits" after testing positive for COVID-19 as Real Madrid get ready to take on Deportivo Alaves without their head coach.

The Spanish club confirmed on Friday that Zidane is isolating after contracting coronavirus, meaning he will not be present for Saturday's LaLiga fixture.

Having already lost to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de Espana, Los Blancos suffered a humiliating defeat to third-tier club Alcoyano to exit the Copa del Rey in midweek.

With their title defence also stuttering, the pressure has increased on Zidane, whose absence this weekend means assistant coach David Bettoni will be in charge.

"I spoke to him this morning, he's feeling fine," Bettoni told the media ahead of a trip to an Alaves side that won 2-1 in Madrid last season.

"He's in good spirits. He won't be with us in person but we know he'll be supporting us. The important thing is that everyone knows he'll be there in spirit.

"We're just finalising how we're going to do things."

Zidane insisted he remained calm about his own future in the aftermath of the defeat to Alcoyano, having seen a strong Madrid side let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 after extra time.

Bettoni insists the squad remain united with the focus now shifting back to LaLiga, where they quickly need to make up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

"At Real Madrid, every defeat brings criticism, but we have enough experience to know we've got a chance against Alaves to show everyone we're a unit," he said.

"We're all together in this and we're going to do all we can to take the three points. We work hard every day towards just that and we have another chance to show it."

Sergio Ramos did not feature in the cup tie on Wednesday and will once again be absent this weekend, while fellow defender Dani Carvajal is not yet ready to make a return.

"With Sergio Ramos, he is in his recovery process and he won't be with us tomorrow," Bettoni confirmed.

"Dani Carvajal trained a little with us, but he won't be with us either and will be able to train normally from Monday."

Madrid have lost just one of their previous 15 away games in LaLiga but have found goals hard to come by this season, managing 30 in 18 games. That is their second-worst tally at this stage in the past 14 campaigns.

Zinedine Zidane has tested positive for COVID-19, Real Madrid have confirmed.

Los Blancos made the announcement via a short statement on their official website on Friday.

It is not known how long Zidane will be absent from the Madrid dugout but he will definitely not be on the sidelines for what has become a potentially crucial LaLiga clash at Deportivo Alaves this weekend.

Zidane's position as head coach at the Santiago Bernabeu has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the shock 2-1 extra-time defeat to third-tier Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Madrid were crowned LaLiga champions in the heavily disrupted 2019-20 campaign but are seven points adrift of leaders and rivals Atletico Madrid, who also own a game in hand.

The Copa capitulation in midweek led to Spanish paper Marca leading with the headline "No one escapes this embarrassment".

After Alaves, Madrid face Levante on January 30 and travel to Huesca a week later in what looks a critical period for Zidane's long-term future at the club.

 

 

 

Zinedine Zidane's future at Real Madrid is being questioned, while Paul Pogba could be set to stay at Manchester United.

Madrid were stunned by third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, sparking fresh talk about Zidane's position at the helm.

Zidane is under fire, but the Frenchman may get more time.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE BEING QUESTIONED AS REAL MADRID BOSS

Zinedine Zidane is being questioned more than ever as Real Madrid head coach, according to AS.

The report says he will remain at the helm until the Champions League, which will resume in February, and former star forward Raul is the top candidate to replace him.

Madrid are second in LaLiga, seven points behind Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

ROUND-UP

- Pogba may be happier at Manchester United. The Daily Star reports United are increasingly confident the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2022, despite interest from Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

- Christian Eriksen looks set to leave Inter, but it remains to be seen where he ends up. The Telegraph claims Leicester City have ruled out a loan move for the midfielder due to his wage demands.

- RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is set to be the subject of speculation for months to come. Goal reports Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have shown interest in the defender, who is also wanted by Bayern Munich.

- Dele Alli wants to reunite with Mauricio Pochettino at PSG. 90min says the Tottenham midfielder has asked chairman Daniel Levy not to block a potential switch this month.

- Arsenal appear set to strengthen in January. Sport reports midfielder Martin Odegaard is very close to joining the Premier League club on loan from Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid found no sympathy on the front pages of the Spanish sports press on Thursday after their shock Copa del Rey exit to third-tier Alcoyano.

The future of coach Zidane is back under the spotlight after the painful extra-time defeat that saw Juanan score in the 115th minute to earn a famous 2-1 victory.

Marca's front page showed Zidane, head bowed, walking away from the scene of one of Madrid's worst cup defeats.

Its headline said: "No one escapes this embarrassment."

Tumbling out to opposition from Segunda Division B was all the more pitiful given Alcoyano had been reduced to 10 men before they snatched their late winner.

In an editorial, Marca's Hugo Cerezo said the loss revealed a "deep crisis" at Madrid and claimed that Zidane's position was at serious risk.

"If he is saved from this, it is a miracle," wrote Cerezo. "His position now hangs by a thread, on the edge of the abyss."

Marca reported elsewhere on its website that Madrid directors hope to avoid making major decisions now and to hang on until the end of the season.

Zidane said after the game that it had been "another painful day" but that he believed the players still backed his leadership.

Having also lost in the semi-finals of the Supercopa to Athletic Bilbao last week, Madrid are having a grim time of it.

AS described Madrid's exit in much the same way as its fellow Madrid-based newspaper Marca, with a headline of "Embarrassment" followed by subheadings of "Second title gone in a week for Los Blancos" and "Zidane is hurt".

The Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo said the setback "opens another crisis" for Zidane, with its headline of "Humiliation" accompanied by scenes of joy among the Alcoyano players.

Columnist Josep M Artells wrote of "another embarrassment" and said critics would again look to Zidane, adding: "His management is more in question than ever."

Sport, another Barcelona daily operating out of Barcelona, also chose a single-word headline - going with 'Castanazo', a word which can mean great slap or punch.

That was reflected in the words of pundit Cristobal Soria, who on television show El Chiringuito said: "Today is a historic day, we are witnessing the biggest ridicule in the history of Real Madrid."

Inter star Lautaro Martinez's future could be closer to being sorted, while Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez, 23, has been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona.

The Argentina international is contracted at Inter until 2023, but that could be set to change.

 

TOP STORY – INTER OPTIMISTIC OVER MARTINEZ RENEWAL

Inter are optimistic about reaching an agreement for a new contract with Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport.

The report says Martinez's agents met with Inter on Wednesday.

Martinez has scored nine goals in 18 Serie A games this season, having netted 14 in 35 in the league in 2019-20, leading to interest from Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Chelsea's struggles continue, Lampard is under growing pressure as head coach. Sky Sports reports the former England international will lose his job unless results improve immediately. Chelsea have lost five of their past eight Premier League games to slip to eighth in the table. The Independent, meanwhile, reports Chelsea are not interested in an interim replacement. Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl and ex-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri have been linked.

- Previously linked to Arsenal, Houssem Aouar may be looking elsewhere if he leaves Lyon. ESPN claims the midfielder is eager to join Barcelona or Real Madrid.

- Set to stay at Manchester City until the end of the season, Eric Garcia has been linked with a move to Barcelona when his deal expires in June. However, Mundo Deportivo says PSG are planning a move for the defender.

- Arsenal could make moves in January. Sky Sports reports they have approached Real Madrid about a move for Martin Odegaard, while Cuatro claims Sevilla are hoping to loan the midfielder.

Zinedine Zidane insisted there was no shame in Real Madrid's shock loss to third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey.

Madrid were stunned by the Segunda Division B outfit in the last 32 as Juanan scored a 115th-minute winner on Wednesday.

Jose Solbes had earlier cancelled out Eder Militao's opener and Alcoyano found a winner despite Ramon Lopez's red card in extra time.

But Madrid head coach Zidane dismissed suggestions the defeat was shameful for the LaLiga champions.

"Those are your words. Those words, they do not belong to me," he told a news conference.

"This is football, difficult things because it's true that we play against a Segunda B team and we need to win the match normally, but at the end it hasn't been like that and this does not mean that this is a shame. It can happen and it happens sometimes in a footballer's career and responsibility must be assumed. I completely do.

"We will keep working … another painful day because we don't like to lose and overall for the players, because they just want to win. We won't get crazy now, let's think and keep working."

Excluding the defeat to Cadiz in 2015 for an illegal line-up, Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by a lower-league side for the first time since 2009.

No goalkeeper has made more saves than Jose Juan Figueras (10) in a game against Madrid this season as Zidane's men suffered back-to-back cup losses.

Asked if the players still believed in him, Zidane said: "Yes, I believe so. Then you have to ask them.

"We work, we try and lately we have done good things even though lately a bit less, but apart from the last three or four games, I believe that we have done good things this season.

"Now we have to think on LaLiga and the Champions League and that's it. To focus because things can be done. But if the players are still touched by my message? You have to ask the players. I believe so and we are in the same boat here."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.