Real Madrid struck twice deep into extra time to book their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup with a thrilling 5-3 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in Riyadh.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked to be heading out of the competition after Antonio Rudiger’s 78th-minute own goal put Atletico 3-2 up but Dani Carvajal struck with five minutes remaining to send the match into extra time.

The derby seemed destined for a penalty shoot-out until Joselu’s header deflected off Atletico defender Stefan Savic and into the net before Brahim Diaz’s late breakaway goal sealed Real’s spot in the final.

Antione Griezmann had earlier become Atletico’s all-time record goalscorer by netting his 174th goal for the club to make it 2-2 after a pulsating first half which also featured strikes from Mario Hermoso, Rudiger and Ferland Mendy.

Diego Simeone’s men had the first big chance in the sixth minute as Samuel Lino’s whipped effort looked to be heading into the top corner from the edge of the box but goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was on hand to tip over the crossbar.

The save counted for very little as Atletico hit the front from the resulting corner when Hermoso was left unmarked at the back post to nod into the net from Griezmann’s delivery.

Real swiftly equalised in similar fashion from a corner when Rudiger headed home from Luka Modric’s cross.

Ancelotti’s side turned the game on its head just before the half-hour mark as Carvajal’s pass into the area was cleverly flicked home by Mendy to make it 2-1.

But Atletico responded just seven minutes later when Griezmann slammed into the bottom-left corner from outside the area to seal his place in the club’s history.

Real had a golden opportunity to retake the lead as Rodrygo picked up the ball inside the area and pulled off a clever fake shot to open up the space for him to shoot at goal but Jan Oblak brilliantly dived in front of the effort to somehow keep the scores level.

Atletico came closest to the opening goal of the second period when Lino capitalised on some sloppy play from Real Madrid and burst forward to strike just wide of the far post.

But they did take the lead with 12 minutes left as Kepa failed to deal with a ball into the box which bounced off Rudiger and into the net.

Real were not to be denied though as Carvajal hit back with five minutes to go. Vinicius Jr’s initial effort was kept out by Oblak but the ball fell to Jude Bellingham whose drilled shot was cleared off the line before Carvajal slammed into the top corner.

As spot-kicks loomed on the horizon Real found the killer blow.

Joselu’s flicked header was bundled into his own net by Savic and Ancelotti’s side added the icing on the cake when Diaz won a foot race with Oblak and slotted into an empty net to book Real’s place in the final against either Barcelona or Osasuna.

Carlo Ancelotti has admitted “it hurt” when Real Madrid slipped to their only defeat of the season so far against Atletico Madrid in September.

On Wednesday, the city rivals will meet in the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia, their first encounter since Diego Simeone’s side ran out 3-1 winners at the Wanda Metropolitano with two goals from Alvaro Morata and one from Antoine Griezmann.

That loss saw Real slip to third in the table but they have since recovered to lead the way in La Liga at the halfway stage, level on points with the season’s surprise package Girona.

Atletico, meanwhile, are clinging on in the title race after slumping to fifth off the back of a run of two wins in six in the league.

Ancelotti was confident his side had corrected the errors that led them to derby defeat four months ago, and reflected on a rivalry with opposite number Simeone increasingly rooted in mutual admiration.

“The last time we played Atletico it hurt us,” he said. “I think we’ve fixed that. But (on Wednesday) we will need to show a better version of ourselves than in the first game of the season against Atletico.

“It’s a relationship of respect (with Simeone). We talk a lot. We’ve faced each other many times, he scored against my team once for Lazio against Juventus in Turin. We respect one another. I think we’re neighbours and we see each other sometimes.

“I’m very happy in the atmosphere at the club now. From outside, it seems that Simeone is very happy at Atletico. He seems the ideal profile, otherwise you wouldn’t stay there so long.”

Ancelotti has Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Carvajal all available after injury but will be without Lucas Vazquez, who has a thigh problem, as well as long-term absentees Thibaut Courtois, David Alaba and Eder Militao.

Ferland Mendy is also an injury doubt, though Arda Guler could feature after making his debut in the Copa del Rey win over Arandina on Saturday.

Atletico boss Simeone has included Pablo Barrios in his travelling squad as he nears a return to fitness, whilst Mario Hermoso, Samuel Lino, Koke, Marcus Llorente and Rodrigo de Paul are all expected to return to the starting line-up after sitting out the cup win over Lugo.

What the papers say

Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite, 21, has found himself on the radar of Spanish giants Real Madrid, the Daily Mail reports. The England Under-21 international has played 17 games for the Toffees in the Premier League this season.

The Evening Standard says West Ham could make a move for 26-year-old Ajax and  Netherlands forward Steven Bergwijn. The former Tottenham player has scored eight goals in all competitions this year for Ajax.

One player who could be making the opposite journey from England to the Netherlands is Manchester United winger Facundo Pellistri, who has been linked with a loan move to PSV Eindhoven – and LA Galaxy – according to journalist Fabrizio Romano, cited by Teamtalk.

Social media round-up

Real Madrid ‘to turn to Erling Haaland if they fail in Mbappe transfer but will only have to pay HALF his release fee’https://t.co/1JoTm4tiE4https://t.co/1JoTm4tiE4

— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) January 8, 2024

Players to watch

Hugo Ekitike: Wolves are reportedly interested in signing the 21-year-old Paris St Germain forward, according to French outlet L’Equipe.

Jonathan David: The 23-year-old Canada forward, currently at Lille in France, has attracted interest from Manchester United and Aston Villa, Football Transfers reports.

What the papers say

Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite, 21, has found himself under the scope of Spanish giants Real Madrid, the Daily Mail reports. The England Under-21 international has played 17 games for the Toffees in the Premier League this season.

The Evening Standard says West Ham could make a move for 26-year-old Ajax and  Netherlands forward Steven Bergwijn. The former Tottenham player has scored eight goals in all competitions this year for Ajax.

One player who could be making the opposite journey from England to the Netherlands is Manchester United winger Facundo Pellistri, who has been linked with a loan move to PSV Eindhoven – and LA Galaxy – according to journalist  Fabrizio Romano, cited by Teamtalk.

Social media round-up

Real Madrid ‘to turn to Erling Haaland if they fail in Mbappe transfer but will only have to pay HALF his release fee’https://t.co/1JoTm4tiE4https://t.co/1JoTm4tiE4

— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) January 8, 2024

Players to watch

Hugo Ekitike: Wolves are reportedly interested in signing the 21-year-old Paris St Germain forward, according to French outlet L’Equipe.

Jonathan David: The 23-year-old Canada forward, currently at Lille in France, has attracted interest from Manchester United and Aston Villa, Football Transfers reports.

Second-half goals from Joselu, Brahim Diaz and Rodrygo saw Real Madrid into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey with a 3-1 win over fourth-tier Arandina.

Although the final score looked comfortable, Madrid had to be patient against their lowly opponents, who were able to celebrate getting on the scoresheet with a late own goal from Nacho.

Unsurprisingly, Madrid dominated in every department but they had to wait for a 54th-minute penalty from Joselu to break the deadlock, with Diaz adding another just a minute later as Arandina’s resistance finally cracked.

Rodrygo then added a third in the first minute of stoppage time, but Madrid then blotted their copy book with the own goal allowing the hosts to celebrate before the end.

It was pretty much one-way traffic at El Montecillo throughout the night as Madrid enjoyed 78 per cent possession and had 15 attempts on goal to Arandina’s two.

But the hosts should still take credit for how difficult they made it for their illustrious opponents to score as they defended in numbers and made a series of blocks.

Arda Guler had already been the first to draw a save from Adrian Alvarez before then hitting a post with a free-kick in the 18th minute, but more often than not it was the Arandina defenders who got a foot in before Madrid’s attempts could find their way to goal.

But things changed eight minutes into the second half when Zazu fouled Diaz in the box, giving Joselu an opportunity from the spot that he did not pass up.

Arandina barely had time to gather their thoughts before Diaz doubled the lead, but it did not signal the opening of the floodgates.

A string of substitutions interrupted the flow of the game and allowed Arandina to regroup.

Madrid did have chances to add to their lead, but young Vinicius Tobias had a shot saved before Alvaro Rodriguez headed over from close range.

Having won the penalty and scored the second, Diaz then added an assist to his night’s achievements as he set up Rodrygo’s stoppage-time strike.

Arandina responded by going close through Kevin Manzano before Nacho put through his own net at the death.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti says Jude Bellingham is “obviously” one of the best players in the world.

The England international has had a brilliant start to life in the Spanish capital, scoring 17 goals in all competitions since signing from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

Bellingham, who is LaLiga’s top scorer with 13 goals in 17 league appearances, is in Real’s squad for their Copa del Rey round-of-32 clash at fourth-tier Arandina on Saturday evening, and Ancelotti did not hold back on his opinion on the 20-year-old midfielder.

“He is doing very well,” Ancelotti told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

“He’s done well in the first half of the season. Bearing in mind that he’s had to adapt to our club, to a new culture and language, he’s done it very well. For us, obviously he’s the best.”

Arandina currently sit rock bottom of Group 1 in Spain’s fourth division and represent a banana skin for the holders of the trophy, which Los Blancos have won on 20 occasions.

Real struggled to a 1-0 victory at the same stage last season when they faced fellow fourth-tier side Cacereno.

Arandina have already defeated LaLiga opponents this season, knocking out Cadiz in the previous round, and Ancelotti is determined not to follow suit.

“We are the defending champions. We enjoyed the competition last season and our aim is to win it again this year,” the 64-year-old added.

“It is our first game in the competition on Saturday and we’ve got to try and put in our best performance.

“Last season against Cacereno, it was a tough game and we know we have to take this game seriously.

“We will try and win this game. We played on Wednesday night so there will be some tired players no doubt, but I will still put out a competitive side for that game.

“Hopefully, we can play to our full potential. We want to compete and I’m sure we will. The team is fully focused, motivated. We were very successful in this competition last season and we would like to be again.”

Ancelotti confirmed he will be without Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez for the clash at Estadio El Montecillo to due to their respective ankle and thigh issues picked up during Wednesday’s 1-0 LaLiga win against Mallorca.

The Italian has been hit by a spate of long-term injuries this season, but has still selected a strong travelling party for the clash in Aranda de Duero, with only Vinicius Junior and Aurelien Tchouameni rested for the cup tie.

In Kroos’ absence, 18-year-old Turkey international Arda Guler could make his long-awaited Madrid debut after recovering from a series of injury setbacks since joining from Fenerbahce last summer.

Ancelotti said: “All the players who have come into the side, who have been given the opportunity, have played very well. Guler is available and Guler could play, perhaps.”

Leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona remain level on points at the top of LaLiga after both securing victory via late goals on Wednesday.

Real won 1-0 at home against Mallorca, with Antonio Rudiger heading in the only goal in the 78th minute.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men had survived a scare with the visitors hitting the woodwork twice, via Antonio Sanchez and Samu Costa, then did so themselves, with Brahim Diaz heading against a post when looking certain to score, before Rudiger showed greater accuracy.

Girona then kept pace as they emerged triumphant from a thriller, beating Atletico Madrid 4-3 at home thanks to a stoppage-time finish from Ivan Martin.

After Valery’s opener for the home side had been cancelled out by Alvaro Morata, an eventful first half continued with them adding further goals via Savio and Daley Blind.

Morata subsequently made it 3-2 in the 44th minute and completed his hat-trick to draw things level nine minutes into the second half, but Martin then had the final say with a finish into the top corner a minute into time added on at the end.

While Michel’s side join Real on 48 points, Diego Simeone’s Atletico are now 10 points back in third.

There was also a last-gasp winner for Celta Vigo as they came from behind to beat Real Betis 2-1 at home, courtesy of Williot Swedberg’s last-gasp effort.

That moved Celta out of the relegation zone at the expense of Cadiz, who were beaten 2-0 at second-bottom Granada, their first win under Alexander Medina.

Myrto Uzuni and Bryan Zaragoza scored for the hosts either side of Ruben Sobrino being sent off for the visitors as the gap between them reduced to one point.

Antonio Rudiger headed home a late winner as LaLiga leaders Real Madrid opened 2024 with a 1-0 victory over Mallorca at the Bernabeu.

Real edged in front when the centre-back connected with Luka Modric’s 78th-minute corner, having survived some scares with Mallorca hitting the woodwork via Antonio Sanchez and Samu Costa.

The hosts then did so themselves, substitute Brahim Diaz heading against a post when looking certain to score, before Rudiger showed greater accuracy to ensure they celebrated boss Carlo Ancelotti’s new contract with three points.

Real went three points clear of second-placed Girona ahead of them playing Atletico Madrid later on Wednesday.

Ancelotti – whose new deal to 2026 was announced on Friday – made four changes from the 1-0 victory at Alaves, which included bringing in Andriy Lunin in goal for Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had been recovering from illness, and the fit-again Vinicius Junior in attack, for his first appearance since sustaining an injury on Brazil duty in November.

Lunin came out of his box early on to intercept a ball with a diving header before Cyle Larin could latch on to it, before Jude Bellingham saw a header at the other end caught by Predrag Rajkovic.

Vinicius Junior was then to the fore, shooting just wide after a delightful through ball from Modric, missing with another attempt and then hitting a piledriver from just outside the box that the diving Rajkovic did well to keep out.

Mallorca had offered little going forward, but almost grabbed a shock lead in the 42nd minute as Sanchez saw a header come down off the underside of the Real crossbar.

Javier Aguirre’s visitors threatened again in first-half stoppage time as Larin sent an effort bouncing wide, and after Toni Kroos curled a free-kick over early in the second half for Real, Mallorca were then once again denied by the goalframe, with Costa unleashing a shot from distance that struck the foot of a post.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Real then gathered some momentum again and in the 69th minute Rodrygo brought a parry out of Rajkovic and the loose ball came to Diaz, only for the former Manchester City man to head against the upright from close range.

The hosts then made the breakthrough nine minutes later as skipper Modric sent a corner into the area and Rudiger was there to power past Rajkovic.

Top-scorer Bellingham sent an effort off-target as Real sought to add to their lead in the closing stages.

Carlo Ancelotti has expressed his wish to remain at Real Madrid beyond his current contract extension after committing to stay with the LaLiga leaders until at least 2026.

Ancelotti signed a new two-year deal on Friday, ending speculation linking him with the Brazil national team, and increasing the likelihood that the 64-year-old will be at the Bernabeu for the rest of his career.

The Italian leads his side into Wednesday’s home game against Mallorca sitting back at the top of the table on goal difference from surprise package Girona after two straight wins.

Ancelotti told a press conference: “I’m very happy to have my contract renewed, it was very simple and both sides agreed on it.

“It’s important that the club continues to trust in my work. My contract was up on June 30 and the club decided to do it now because they’re happy with my work.

“I don’t know if it will be my last spell as a coach. I don’t know what will happen once I finish here. I might still be here in 2026, depending on how successful I am.

“I’d like to be Madrid coach until 2026, and hopefully I can continue to be here in 2027 and 2028 because I want to stay here.”

With his side’s injury problems starting to ease, Ancelotti insisted he will not be in the market for new players in the January transfer window, despite first-choice centre-backs Eder Militao and David Alaba still sidelined.

“We are not planning to sign another centre-back,” said Ancelotti, who will have Vinicius Junior, Dani Carvajal and Arda Guler all available after returning from injury.

“We’ve got two important ones out, but we’ve got two more in Nacho and (Antonio) Rudiger. And then we have others options in case of emergencies such as (Eduardo) Camavinga and Carvajal.”

Having hauled in the early domestic leaders, Ancelotti is confident his side will continue to assert their authority in LaLiga with so many big names becoming available.

“We must wait and see what happens this season. We’ve done well so far, the team has changed, it’s changing, and it will change in the future,” he added.

“We have a lot of talent that we haven’t been able to put into action yet, like Guler, who is finally getting back to his best.

“We’ll have to wait for the second half of the season. We did well in the first half, even with a lot of problems.”

The European Super League's pledge to stream all matches for free is unsustainable and merely a ploy to coax fans into supporting the project.

That is the view of finance expert Dan Plumley, who does not see how a breakaway competition could offer enough prize money to earn the support of clubs while showing games for free. 

Despite a backlash from fans, players and media thwarting the Super League's attempted launch in 2021, the project reared its head again this week with a reworked format being announced.

After the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled FIFA and UEFA "abused a dominant position" in blocking the Super League two years ago, the competition's organisers, A22 Sports, revealed a new format for the tournament, which is still supported by Real Madrid and Barcelona. 

The plan features promotion and relegation across three tiers and also includes a promise to make all games free to stream, but Plumley doubts whether that is possible.

"Everything we've seen throughout history would point to the fact that won't be sustainable, which is where the finances and the distribution models get interesting," he told Stats Perform. 

"We've seen the proposed format of the new ESL but we've not seen the financial distribution mechanisms, we've not seen where the money's coming from and if you are going to promote a free-to-air model through a streaming service, that obviously looks good for the fans.

"But at some point you have to have some form of broadcaster to be able to generate prize money and to generate the finances of the competition. 

"Everything I've seen throughout the years would suggest that you can't go that long without a decent broadcasting deal or big commercial and sponsorship partnerships." 

Asked whether the promise of free coverage was purely intended to get fans onside, Plumley added: "Yeah, for sure. 

"You've probably made the most relevant point there, which is how much people are paying currently for sports subscription content. 

"Talking from a basis of us being located in the UK, it's not cheap. If you want a Sky Sports subscription, a TNT Sports subscription, the Amazon one… it does become quite costly for the fans. 

"So to have something that is free at the point of consumption is obviously a hook for fans to come on board with it. 

"I think we've clearly seen the backlash in the UK with the English clubs and many English fans. 

"Even if it is free-to-air and dependent on the clubs that would be involved, I think some would still turn around and say: 'No, thank you very much. Even if it's free, I'm not interested'. 

"But there is a whole range of international fans out there that follow European football and follow some of these clubs. Maybe some of those are interested. 

"You look at it through your own lens, but you also have to look at it through the lens of others. Obviously it's a ploy to try and get some positivity on board by offering it free-to-air."

Plumley said the only way the project could succeed financially with a free-to-air model was through the potential involvement of a state wealth fund.

"I think where you might see some shift in the future, and this might start to make it bigger than Europe, is will we see sovereign state wealth funds or private equity consortiums get involved with the financing of the competition, to enable them to show some free-to-air content?" Plumley said.

"In the 2021 project, it was supposed to be financed by JP Morgan and we saw that American influence, we've seen an explosion in Saudi Arabian football in the last couple of years. 

"Do one of those other big players in the market get involved in the future? I think all those questions are a little bit up in the air at the minute. 

"At some point, you have to start talking about broadcasting deals because there's only so much free-to-air content you can give away if you're going to be putting a load of prize money on the table."

The European Super League needs English clubs more than they need the breakaway competition, says football finance expert Dan Plumley.

The European Super League was initially announced back in April 2021, with 12 of the continent's biggest clubs announcing their intention to join. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all agreed to participate.

However, a fan backlash eventually forced nine of the clubs to back down, including all six English teams, and the Super League looked to be a thing of the past.

A ruling this week may have given it a second life, though, with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg deciding FIFA and UEFA "abused a dominant position" in blocking the Super League.

A new proposal was swiftly announced, but all six English clubs invited to join rejected the request.

Plumley believes the Super League would need the support of English clubs to get off the ground, though he did warn their involvement could still be a possibility despite the heavy opposition seen after the initial launch in 2021.

When asked if the Super League required the English clubs' involvement, Plumley told Stats Perform: "Yes, I think that's absolutely the way to position it at the moment.

"And I'm not saying that it would never happen. The Premier League clubs don't really need to go following the Super League, but the Super League would be better with English clubs.

"I don't think the Super League idea is ever going to be fully dead in the water. I think we'll see it in some way, shape or form, and maybe it will happen.

"When you're talking about lots of money on the table, a lot of clubs will often look for the best deal on the table and if that is a European Super League in the future, that's when heads might start to be turned.

"But the English situation is a bit of a problem for them, because you're talking about wanting the biggest clubs in the world to be part of it. And there are some very big English clubs that have already ruled themselves out."

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of the clubs spearheading the Super League project, with the latter's president Florentino Perez hailing the ECJ's ruling as a "great day for the history of football".

Plumley feels the poor financial situations of Barcelona and Madrid are a key reason behind their Super League support, as well as the recent power shift towards the Premier League in terms of revenue and talent.

"I think, certainly for them, the driving force over the last couple of years has been financial," Plumley stated. "We know the financial situation at Barcelona has not been great. We know Real Madrid have had problems as well.

"I think the other thing with those two clubs that we've seen is a real stubbornness to dig their heels in. They wanted to be proved right and in a way that verdict does prove them right. Part of their argument was that UEFA and FIFA were acting unlawfully by blocking it.

"I think what's hurt Barcelona and Real Madrid along the way is all the other clubs that have moved away from the project.

"I think it's symptomatic also of Barca and Real's position in Spain. Yes, they are dominant, but where are they seeing the growth?

"I don't think they're seeing as much growth as potentially the Premier League's got to offer and those are little things where it becomes about, 'well, now I'm going to look at my own self-interest'. You can see how they've tried to leverage that through the Super League.

"At the end of the day it comes down to finance, and certainly in the early stages of it, it was all about money for those two clubs. Don't get me wrong, it probably still is, but I think a lot of it then was they felt like they needed to see the case through because they dug their heels in."

Lucas Vazquez scored an injury-time winner for 10-man Real Madrid against Alaves to send Carlo Ancelotti’s men above Girona 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 for a bad challenge on Samu Omorodion.

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.

Earlier, German Pezzella’s late strike earned Real Betis a 1-1 draw against Girona.

Artem Dovbyk swept home a first-half penalty to put Girona on course for a ninth win in 10.

Betis tried to force the issue in the second period but failed to register a shot on Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal until Pezzella’s rocket found the top corner late on.

Mallorca claimed a second home win in a row, defeating Osasuna 3-2 in an entertaining clash at the Iberostar Stadium.

Pablo Ibanez put the visitors ahead in the seventh minute but the hosts hit back quickly through Matija Nastasic and took control early in the second half with goals from Dani Rodriguez and Antonio Jose Raillo Arenas.

Osasuna threatened a dramatic comeback when Raul Garcia grabbed their second in injury time but Mallorca held on.

Sixth-placed Real Sociedad recorded a third successive 0-0 draw, this time against struggling Cadiz.

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.”

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