Carlo Ancelotti says Luka Modric and Toni Kroos understand the need to refresh Real Madrid's midfield after the duo found themselves on the bench for last week's win at Athletic Bilbao.

Modric and Kroos were introduced as late substitutes during Madrid's impressive 2-0 win at San Mames on Sunday, with the former Germany man making the points safe with a fine long-range finish.

Modric's tally of 17 starts in all competitions this season has been bettered by team-mates Federico Valverde (24), Kroos (21) and Aurelien Tchouameni (18), while no Madrid midfielder has made more total appearances than Eduardo Camavinga's 27.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey quarter-final against rivals Atletico Madrid, Ancelotti said the experienced players in his squad understood the nature of Los Blancos' transition.

"They are professionals and understand the quality of this team," he said of Modric and Kroos. "I don't need to explain why they don't play. 

"They understand it very well, we talked about it in pre-season. Now is a time of transition for this team. 

"The veterans must have understanding and young players must have patience. That has been key to success in the squad. They are all motivated.

"They [Modric and Kroos] can still play together, I don't have a single doubt. They contribute a lot and will continue to contribute during this season. They are always decisive."

Ancelotti is yet to decide who will start in the engine room against Los Colchoneros, who triumphed in a two-legged tie when the rivals last met in the domestic cup back in 2015.

Asked about possible changes in midfield, the coach said: "It could be a part of the rotation that we have to take on for this game. Tomorrow we have to put together the best possible team, and that's what we'll try to do."

The last meeting between the clubs was marred by racist abuse directed towards Vinicius Junior, audible before and during Madrid's 2-1 win at the Civitas Metropolitano in September.

Vinicius was on the receiving end of several heavy challenges against Athletic last time out, and Ancelotti wants the winger to be afforded greater physical and mental protection. 

"It is a subject that we are concentrating on," Ancelotti said. "The player is in good physical condition, and mentally you have to protect him. 

"It's very important. Football needs Vinicius, who has an extraordinary talent. You have to protect the physical and mental aspects. He is very motivated and eager to contribute."

Meanwhile, with reports continuing to suggest Ancelotti is a contender to coach Vinicius in international football by taking the vacant Brazil job, the Italian insisted he had not received any proposal from the Selecao.

"So far, we haven't been in touch," he said. "If that contact ever takes place, I will let you know."

Goals for Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos saw Real Madrid battle their way to a 2-0 win against Athletic Bilbao in a lively LaLiga encounter on Sunday.

Veteran France international Benzema hooked back a loose ball with a sensational volley to beat Unai Simon in the 24th minute at San Mames Stadium.

Kroos then swept home a breakaway finish in the 90th minute to wrap up the points for Carlo Ancelotti's men and keep the pressure on league leaders Barcelona.

But Ernesto Valverde's side will be left to mull whether they should have taken a point from the encounter after pushing hard for a draw before Kroos' goal ended those hopes.

Carlo Ancelotti believes a "zero tolerance" policy needs to be taken against racism after Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior was abused by some Real Valladolid fans on Friday.

Madrid won the game 2-0 thanks to a Karim Benzema double, but shocking footage emerged after the final whistle of Vinicius being racially abused as he was substituted late on, while objects were also thrown at the Brazil international from the stands.

Vinicius voiced his frustration on social media over LaLiga bosses' inaction in tackling racism, saying the league "continues to do nothing".

Ancelotti agreed with Vinicius that racism needs to be stamped out with more action, though he stopped short of criticising LaLiga.

When asked if he had discussed the topic with the Brazil international, Ancelotti told reporters: "I don't have to [talk to Vinicius].

"It's quite clear to me. Racism shouldn't exist, and xenophobia shouldn't exist. Talking about it with Vinicius would be a mistake.

"It's society's problem, it shouldn't exist, for me it has to be zero tolerance.

"I don't think it's LaLiga's problem. It's a general, cultural problem in society. Society doesn't have the education it should have.

"With such an important issue I wouldn't focus on Vinicius or LaLiga or the punishments. It's much bigger."

A number of Madrid's key players are set to run out of contract at the end of this season, including midfield pair Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

Ancelotti is relaxed over their futures though, explaining: "Football is changing. When a player reaches the end of his contract it isn't as worrying as it was a few years ago.

"A lot of players reach the end of their contract and it's no problem, if they want to stay, they stay, and if they want to go, they go. Clubs aren't so worried about that."

Former Germany defender Per Mertesacker insists he has his hands full at Arsenal and is not considering the possibility of his country coming calling.

Mertesacker is the academy manager at Arsenal, but he has been tipped as a "perfect man for the job" as Germany seek a new national team director.

That was the view expressed this week by Real Madrid star Toni Kroos, a former international team-mate of Mertesacker.

Mertesacker, speaking to German broadcaster Sky Sport on Saturday at a charity ice hockey game benefitting his Per Mertesacker Foundation, spoke of his enjoyment of his role in England.

The national team role has become vacant after long-time incumbent Oliver Bierhoff moved on after Germany's second consecutive World Cup group-stage exit.

"I'm super happy in England and I'm in charge of the youth academy. There's a lot to do there," said Mertesacker, who won 104 caps for Germany. 

"We're very committed and try to introduce young talent, but also give them certain values. That's very, very important to me."

Regarding the DFB position, he added: "I haven't been spoken to yet, so I don't want to speculate. We're all interested in German football and in having a lot to offer in the future."

Mertesacker, 38, retired from playing at the end of the 2017-18 season after seven campaigns with Arsenal, and immediately took up his current role.

Germany's football association, the DFB, recently announced a new advisory group to help the national team bounce back from their latest dismal World Cup performance.

It includes ex-Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, BVB adviser Matthias Sammer, Red Bull managing director Oliver Mintzlaff, current Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn and long-time Bayer Leverkusen managing director Rudi Voller.

The group will be led by DFB president Bernd Neuendorf and vice-chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Lionel Messi has been linked with a blockbuster move to MLS club Inter Miami.

The Times report that the US franchise, co-owned by David Beckham, are ready to make Messi the highest-paid player in MLS history.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has also been linked with a move to his former club Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI AND BUSQUETS COULD BE BOUND FOR MIAMI

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is set to join ex-team-mate Lionel Messi at MLS club Inter Miami, according to Cope.

The 34-year-old Spain captain is out of contract at the end of this season and has been weighing up his future at Camp Nou.

Messi and Busquets spent more than a decade together at the Blaugrana and could re-unite in Florida, where the Argentina great regularly vacations at a house he owns.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Manchester United are exploring a January loan move for Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. Newcastle United and Arsenal have also been linked with the United States international by the Mail.

- Chelsea have been keeping a close watch on Bayer Leverkusen's Ecuadora centre-back Piero Hincapie during the World Cup, reports the Mirror.

- Fichajes claims that Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos has rejected the chance to move to Manchester City.

- Newcastle will move for 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos in January, according to the Northern Echo.

- Milan are eager to discuss lowering the €22m purchase option fee for on-loan midfielder Brahim Diaz with parent club Real Madrid, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Spaniard's two-year loan deal is due to expire at the end of the season.

Manchester United are reportedly setting their sights as high as possible for their Cristiano Ronaldo replacement, planning a massive bid for Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

According to The Mirror, the 37-year-old Ronaldo has played his last game for the Red Devils after burning bridges with his explosive interview during the week.

Meanwhile, Mbappe is considered arguably the most valuable player in world football, racking up 169 goals in 193 games across his past five seasons with the French giants.

While there has been no indication the 23-year-old would consider United as a potential landing spot for the next stage of his career, the report claims he is their number one target.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PLAN SHOCK BID FOR PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN'S MBAPPE

The Mirror claims that if United can get Ronaldo's contract off their books, they will be one of the only clubs in Europe who can afford the eye-watering contract demands of France's top star.

Sure to demand a fee north of £150million, and a contract exceeding £500,000 per week, it is a financial proposition that has caused even heavyweights such as Liverpool to declare him too expensive.

The report also states United will push forward their plans to invest at striker to January, further harming their chances of securing Mbappe as Paris Saint-Germain seek their first Champions League title.

However, it also mentions 23-year-old Napoli striker Victor Osimhen as their back-up plan, as the Nigeria international is expected to be available in the range of £60m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Football Italia is reporting Bayern Munich right-back Benjamin Pavard would be open to joining Milan, despite the 26-year-old being heavily linked with Manchester United.

- According to 90min, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United are all showing interest in 27-year-old Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, who is yet to renew his contract beyond this season.

- Leicester City, Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion have Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba on their radars, per 90min.

- According to Sport, Manchester City are monitoring 33-year-old Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos with the hope that he does not renew his contract.

- Calciomercato is reporting Tottenham target Weston McKennie could leave Juventus in January.

Manchester United are reportedly setting their sights as high as possible for their Cristiano Ronaldo replacement, planning a massive bid for Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

According to The Mirror, the 37-year-old Ronaldo has played his last game for the Red Devils after burning bridges with his explosive interview during the week.

Meanwhile, Mbappe is considered arguably the most valuable player in world football, racking up 169 goals in 193 games across his past five seasons with the French giants.

While there has been no indication the 23-year-old would consider United as a potential landing spot for the next stage of his career, the report claims he is their number one target.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PLAN SHOCK BID FOR PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN'S MBAPPE

The Mirror claims that if United can get Ronaldo's contract off their books, they will be one of the only clubs in Europe who can afford the eye-watering contract demands of France's top star.

Sure to demand a fee north of £150million, and a contract exceeding £500,000 per week, it is a financial proposition that has caused even heavyweights such as Liverpool to declare him too expensive.

The report also states United will push forward their plans to invest at striker to January, further harming their chances of securing Mbappe as Paris Saint-Germain seek their first Champions League title.

However, it also mentions 23-year-old Napoli striker Victor Osimhen as their back-up plan, as the Nigeria international is expected to be available in the range of £60m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Football Italia is reporting Bayern Munich right-back Benjamin Pavard would be open to joining Milan, despite the 26-year-old being heavily linked with Manchester United.

- According to 90min, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United are all showing interest in 27-year-old Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, who is yet to renew his contract beyond this season.

- Leicester City, Everton and Brighton and Hove Albion have Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba on their radars, per 90min.

- According to Sport, Manchester City are monitoring 33-year-old Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos with the hope that he does not renew his contract.

- Calciomercato is reporting Tottenham target Weston McKennie could leave Juventus in January.

Toni Kroos scored a superb volley and assisted another goal as Real Madrid moved within two points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona by beating Cadiz 2-1 in their final match before the World Cup break.

Carlo Ancelotti's side suffered their first loss of the top-flight season at Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but returned to winning ways with a much-improved showing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Eder Militao opened the scoring with a first-half header from Kroos' cross on Thursday, marking the centre-back's second goal in as many league games.

Kroos' emphatic second-half strike meant Lucas Perez's late goal proved irrelevant as Madrid closed the gap on Barca.

Alfonso Espino offered Madrid an early scare as his long-range strike clipped the top of the crossbar, before Federico Valverde fired narrowly wide at the other end.

A frenetic first half continued with tempers flaring for both sides before Militao headed Toni Kroos' left-wing cross into the bottom-right corner five minutes before half-time.

Thibaut Courtois thwarted Ruben Sobrino from a rare Cadiz chance after the interval, before Kroos powered into the bottom-left corner stylishly from the edge of the area. 

Luka Modric inexplicably missed an open goal to add a late third and was punished as Perez pounced on a spilled Courtois save, though Madrid held on for victory.

What does it mean? Los Blancos back on track

Madrid were a shadow of their usual high standards in their last two league outings and faced a three-match winless LaLiga run for the first time in two years – under Zinedine Zidane.

However, Ancelotti's side bounced back to record just their second victory in five league games against Cadiz, who have won just three of their 38 top-flight visits to Madrid (D5 L30).

With the World Cup now taking centre stage, Ancelotti will be delighted to head into the break with victory before Madrid reconvene in their seemingly two-horse race for the LaLiga title with Barca.

Kroos control

Kroos will be an integral figure for Germany in their bid to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in the Middle East and the veteran midfielder offered a timely reminder of his qualities with his second-half strike.

The 32-year-old appeared to be everywhere for Madrid, assisting Militao's header with one of his game-high four chances created, as well as regaining possession eight times – another game-leading figure.

Gonzalez struggles again

Cadiz coach Sergio Gonzalez must be pondering what he must do to taste victory against Madrid.

He has gone 11 games without defeating Los Blancos in LaLiga (D2 L9), more than against any other team in the competition.

What's next?

Madrid are not in action until visiting Real Valladolid on December 31 after the World Cup in Qatar, while Cadiz travel to Real Union Club on Sunday in the Copa del Rey first round.

Toni Kroos is "calm" about his future and plans to hold contract talks with Real Madrid next year.

The former Germany midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season and it has been reported he is considering his options.

Kroos has experienced a glorious eight years with Los Blancos following his move from Bayern Munich, winning the Champions League four times, claiming three LaLiga titles and lifting the FIFA Club World Cup on four occasions.

The 32-year-old plans to end his career with Madrid and is happy to wait until 2023 to begin contract negotiations.

He said on the eve of Wednesday's Champions League game against Celtic: "I'm very well physically, I'm feeling in good shape and things are going well on the pitch.

"I'm happy and very calm. Right now I'm very relaxed, I see things printed in the press and I don't know what is going to happen myself. 

"During the break [for the World Cup] I'm going to think about what could happen and then I'll decide. I'm going nowhere, I'm going to retire here, the only thing I don't know is when that will be. 

"It's funny that a lot of people know what I think when I don't even know. There's nothing new, the club and I are very calm."

He added: "We've arranged a talk next year, we're calm, the relationship with the club is very special. I've been here for eight years and I've said before I want to end my career here. We'll talk in January, February, March... Everything will be fine, that's for sure."

Kroos was sent off for the first time in his club career in the closing stages of Sunday's 1-1 LaLiga draw with Girona, but will face Celtic when Madrid attempt to win Group F at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Toni Kroos has enjoyed one of the most garlanded careers in world football, but on Sunday he finally collected something rather less treasured than his many medals: a red card.

In his 634th competitive top-flight game at club level, Kroos was dismissed for the first time as Real Madrid were held 1-1 by Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Germany international had already been booked when he cynically fouled Aleix Garcia as Girona looked to break at speed in stoppage time.

That meant the 32-year-old had to go, with referee Mario Melero Lopez ordering him off.

Kroos played at the highest level in Germany for Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen, where he had an 18-month loan spell early in his career.

After making his Bundesliga debut in 2007 and gradually developing into a Bayern star performer, Kroos was signed up by Madrid in July 2014, days after helping his national team win the World Cup.

He has won the Champions League five times, landed three Bundesliga titles and three LaLiga crowns, and added five Club World Cup wins.

That is just scratching the surface, with Kroos scoring 59 goals and adding 130 assists while prompting skilfully from midfield.

The 634-game total consists of all competitions, including Kroos playing 253 times in LaLiga, 173 games in the Bundesliga, and 132 matches in the Champions League.

Kroos was not entirely a stranger to referees over that time, but they had always held off showing him red. He had totted up 84 bookings before Lopez decided the moment had arrived for an early bath.

Toni Kroos was sent off in a 1-1 draw against lowly Girona as Real Madrid returned to the top of the table but dropped LaLiga points for only the second time this season.

Vinicius Junior's ninth goal of the season with just over 20 minutes of normal time remaining put Los Blancos in front at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That was not enough to secure the victory, though, as Marco Asensio was penalised for handball following a VAR check and Cristhian Stuani converted from the spot in the 80th minute.

Rodrygo had a late goal disallowed and Kroos was sent off for a second bookable offence as Los Blancos had to settle for a result that inched them a point above Barcelona at the summit, while Girona are out of the relegation zone.

Luka Modric shot wide in the second minute on his return from injury before Valentin Castellanos fired an early warning shot at the other end, drilling narrowly off target.

Rodrygo let fly with a rasping right-foot drive that was superbly tipped wide by Paulo Gazzaniga, but Girona continued to look dangerous and a header from captain Valery Fernandez flashed just past the left post.

A strike from Madrid forward Rodrygo rattled the right post and Yangel Herrera's left-foot effort for Girona crashed against the crossbar after Fernandez outmuscled Dani Carvajal.

There was a flashpoint early in the second half when David Lopez was perhaps fortune to only be shown a yellow card for a clash with Vinicius, who went down claiming the Girona defender headbutted him.

It was Vinicius who made the breakthrough in the 70th minute, Federico Valverde spinning away from a defender and giving the forward a tap-in from inside the six-yard box.

Gazzaniga brilliantly palmed Asensio's powerful strike against the bar soon after that opening goal, before the Madrid winger was adjudged to have handled in the box following a VAR check.

Stuani sent Thibaut Courtois the wrong way with a superb spot-kick, and there was more drama when Rodrygo found the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out as Gazzaniga had a hand on the ball when the striker poked it past him.

Kroos was then dismissed for a second bookable offence after a cynical stoppage-time foul as Madrid slipped up.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Toni Kroos will extend his stay at the club beyond his current contract.

Kroos has been a core part of Los Blancos' success in the past eight years, lifting the LaLiga title on three occasions and clinching victory in the Champions League four times – including last season.

Now 32, and with fellow midfielder Luka Modric also in his twilight years, Madrid have looked to the future with the signings of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, but Kroos remains crucial for Ancelotti's side.

The Germany international has started seven of Madrid's 10 LaLiga matches this season and, while his current deal is set to expire at the end of the campaign, Ancelotti expects him to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"I've talked to him, he's very calm. He's going to think about it after the World Cup, in January or February. I think he's going to continue," he said in Friday's press conference ahead of the clash against Sevilla.

 

"His level is better than last year, he had physical problems at the beginning and then he did very well. He's at a very high level."

Kroos is set to represent Germany at the World Cup in Qatar, which begins next month, where Ancelotti expects to see matches played with a higher level of intensity compared to the usual post-season tournament.

"I think this part of the season helps, you can see a World Cup with much more intensity, they will reach the top," he added.

"In the previous ones they arrive exhausted to play the World Cup. Now they will arrive with a lot of energy."

Toni Kroos has hailed his Real Madrid team-mate Federico Valverde as one of the "top three" players in the world.

Valverde continued his sensational start to the season on Sunday by scoring Los Blancos' second goal in their 3-1 Clasico triumph over Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After failing to find the back of the net in 31 LaLiga games last season, Valverde has now scored four in nine appearances this term.

The Uruguay international's fine strike was the first Madrid have scored at home against Barca from outside the area since Raul did so during the 1998-99 season.

Kroos is in no doubt about Valverde's standing in world football, with the former Germany international taking to social media to heap praise on his team-mate.

Posting on Twitter, Kroos said: "Fede Valverde top 3 in the world right now."

Karim Benzema had earlier given Los Blancos the lead against Barcelona, before Valverde's crisp strike from 20 yards doubled their advantage.

Ferran Torres pulled one back for Barca with seven minutes remaining, but Rodrygo restored the hosts' two-goal advantage in stoppage time from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by Eric Garcia.

The win saw Madrid move three points clear of their great rivals at the summit of LaLiga.

Real Madrid had a drawn-out pursuit of Kylian Mbappe earlier this year but ultimately missed out on the France forward.

Mbappe opted to sign a lucrative contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain in May, tying him to the Parisians until 2025.

But earlier this week, Fabrizio Romano reported the situation between PSG and Mbappe had got tense, with the player keen to depart.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MOVE ON FROM MBAPPE AMID TRANSFER TWIST

Marca claims that Real Madrid are no longer have interest in signing Mbappe amid reports that he is unsettled at PSG and wants to leave.

The report claims that Los Blancos are observing the situation from afar with no desire to participate in the latest drama.

Romano also said PSG had no intention of selling Mbappe in January amid the speculation he wanted out. PSG director Luis Campos denied the report on Tuesday.

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will turn to Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram should they fail to land Tottenham's Harry Kane , reports TZ. Thuram's Gladbach deal ends at the end of this season.

– Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg reports that Toni Kroos and Real Madrid are set to commence talks on a new deal running until 2024, with his currently deal expiring at season's end.

Barcelona will try to lure Chelsea pair N'Golo Kante and Jorginho to Camp Nou as free agents at the end of this season, claims the Evening Standard. The Blues are currently trying to convince both to re-sign.

– 90min claims Manchester City have told Bayern Munich and Inter that defender Nathan Ake is not for sale in January, following speculation about their interest.

West Ham have joined Roma and Manchester United in pursuing a deal for Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi, according to Calciomercato.

– Football Insider reports Brentford have commenced discussions with England international striker Ivan Toney on a new deal, with Tottenham linked to him.

Toni Kroos has hailed the performance of the Shakhtar Donetsk squad following their 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Ukrainian side came agonisingly close to a remarkable victory against the European champions but Antonio Rudiger's last-gasp header ensured honours would be even, clinching Madrid's spot in the knockout stages.

Shakhtar's valiant display came on the back of more difficult days for Ukraine, with Russia resuming missile strikes across the country, including upon the capital Kyiv, in a further escalation of the conflict.

Kroos was left impressed by the spirit of Shakhtar's squad, praising them for their efforts this season as they play out their campaign in their adopted home of Warsaw.

"In general, the last couple of months, it's been a very difficult situation to be playing football at this time," he told CBS Sports.

"For that, hats off to them. How they play, how they fight, how they are able to concentrate on the less important thing called football, a lot of respect for that.

"We're here to play a Champions League game but, knowing what happened, it affects everybody, of course more the Ukrainian players.

"But I think it's a good thing for them to go out here, forget a bit the things that happened, to just play football, to play together, to enjoy it and I think that is what they did and they had a great game today."

Madrid's passive display came ahead of El Clasico against Barcelona on Sunday, with Carlo Ancelotti resting key players, but Lucas Vazquez denied the side were focusing on that fixture.

"Not at all. We knew the importance of this match, which was an important day for the qualification to the round of 16. We're going to make this point in the next game," he told Movistar.

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