Toni Kroos believes Karim Benzema has filled the Cristiano Ronaldo void at Real Madrid "to perfection" after enjoying a stunning 2021-22 season that has him in Ballon d'Or contention.

Heading into Saturday's Champions League final, Benzema has scored 44 goals from 45 matches across all competitions this term, which is 12 more than his previous best for a single campaign.

Similarly, his record of 0.98 goals per game is also comfortably the best he has managed over the course of one season.

Add to that a haul of 15 assists, Benzema's 59 goal involvements is second only to Kylian Mbappe (60 – 39 goals, 21 assists), highlighting just how much of a double threat Los Blancos' talisman has been.

Among his goals have been some crucial strikes as well. He netted consecutive hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the Champions League, before also scoring three times over the course of the semi-final defeat of Manchester City.

He has not always been Madrid's main man in attack, with Benzema speaking openly in the past about having to sacrifice his own output for Ronaldo during their time together at the Santiago Bernabeu – he scored just five league goals in the 2017-18 season, for example.

But Kroos admires how the Frenchman has stepped up.

"It wasn't easy to become an even better player," Kroos told ZDF. "I've seen him for eight seasons in all kinds of different roles. Not in other positions, but in terms of the jobs he did on the pitch.

"There were times when he had to pull the bandwagon with his goals and others in which he used to look more to his right and left.

"Cristiano scored 50 goals per season for us and Gareth [Bale] was also on the left in his best years. Those two pillars fell from us.

"Others came like Vinicius [Junior] or Rodrygo, who are evolving very well, but we weren't able to cover Cristiano's 50 goals with just one player until Karim took on that role to perfection."

Saturday's game will be the third European Cup/Champions League final to be contested between Madrid and Liverpool, making it the most common match-up in UEFA's club showpiece.

Although Madrid won LaLiga with four matches to spare, there is a consensus they have exceeded expectations in the Champions League, particularly given they have had great escapes in all three knockout rounds.

Despite that, Kroos does not necessarily consider Liverpool favourites, even if he does accept they have been Europe's best this season.

"Honestly, I think this Liverpool are a better team than in 2018," he added, looking back to Madrid's 3-1 final victory in Kyiv.

"They managed to retain their best players and they signed a few more. Thiago [Alcantara] sets the standards in midfield, they are still very strong at the back and I think that, in terms of record, they were the best team in Europe this season.

"But it's still just one game and you also have to take into account that we eliminated them last season in the quarter-finals. It's 50-50."

He continued: "In a Champions League final you give everything, especially considering that we already had to give everything on more than one occasion to reach the final.

"Now we're there and we want to win the cup, yes, all being aware of the great rival we face."

Toni Kroos had a friendly prod at Manchester City and Sergio Aguero after the Premier League club unveiled a statue in honour of their former striker.

Aguero, who left City last year and has since retired due to a heart condition, is the club's record goalscorer. 

On the 10th anniversary of Aguero's last-gasp, title-clinching winner against QPR back in 2012, City unveiled a statue of Aguero's famous celebration.

However, the statue arguably looks more like Real Madrid midfielder Kroos, who picked up on that resemblance.

"Sure?" Kroos tweeted in response to a tweet from BBC Sport journalist Simon Stone, which included a photo of the statue.

It would not be the first time a statue of a player has drawn some ridicule – Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone? – but it may be the first time it has looked so similar to another star name.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos revealed Carlo Ancelotti sought advice from senior players when making tactical changes in the incredible Champions League semi-final win over Manchester City.

A late double from substitute Rodrygo – who became the first player in Champions League history to score twice in the 90th minute of a knockout match – saw Los Blancos force extra time in Madrid. Karim Benzema's penalty then secured a 6-5 aggregate triumph and kept alive Madrid's hopes of a 14th crown in the competition.

Madrid boss Ancelotti has now reached a fifth Champions League final, having done so in 2003, 2005 and 2007 with Milan, and in 2014 and 2022 across two spells with the Spanish champions, and his introduction of Rodrygo, who replaced Kroos after 68 minutes, proved vital.

Fellow substitute Eduardo Camavinga also produced an outstanding display from the bench as Madrid qualified for their 17th European Cup/Champions League final.

Kroos, 32, revealed he and other senior players were asked for input on Ancelotti's switches, saying the Italian's ability to communicate with his players makes him an elite coach.

"The coach himself had a few doubts about who he would bring on and who not to bring on," Kroos told DAZN. "We [the players] have all seen a few football games ourselves. That allows you to exchange ideas a bit.

"That describes him really well and why things always work well with the team. It's outstanding. In the end he decides, but of course he's interested in our opinion."

Since 2003-04, which saw the introduction of the Champions League's last-16 knockout stage, Madrid became the only team to lose a game in each of the first three knockout rounds and still make the competition's final (losing 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16, 3-2 to Chelsea in the quarter-finals, and 4-3 to City in the semi-finals).

After Los Blancos set up a repeat of their 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool, in which a Gareth Bale double won the Spanish outfit their 13th European title, Kroos said he was struggling to explain the team's remarkable ability to bounce back from falling behind.

"It's amazing, we were out 26 times during the knockout phase and fought back 26 times," he added.

"It's sometimes difficult to explain, even for me, what happened in the last few minutes. That's the belief, that's the stadium, the combination is magical."

Despite wrapping up their 35th LaLiga title and retaining a chance of winning the Champions League this term, Real Madrid find themselves at something of a crossroads.

The individual brilliance of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior may have fired Los Blancos to a dominant triumph in LaLiga, but attention will soon turn to Madrid's attempts to defend the title for the first time since 2007-08.

With the potential arrival of a true global superstar and one of the Premier League's best defenders, as well as the matter of refreshing a brilliant but ageing midfield, it promises to be an interesting few months at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Here, Stats Perform analyses what Carlo Ancelotti's men could do to fend off the potential challenge of an improved Barcelona next season.

 

The Mbappe conundrum: How would the superstar fit in?

For months, if not years, Real Madrid's plans for 2022 seem to have revolved around one name: Kylian Mbappe.

While recent reports have suggested the 23-year-old could yet remain at the Parc des Princes, a move for the talismanic attacker – who will be a free agent in June – cannot yet be ruled out.

Having scored 35 goals and provided 19 assists in 43 appearances in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappe would clearly be an asset to any team in European football, but the question remains as to how Mbappe will complement another free-scoring Frenchman in the Spanish capital.

Benzema has become just the fifth Madrid player in history to score 40+ goals in a single season for the club (after Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez), and is being touted for the Ballon d'Or after driving Madrid's Champions League run. Benzema has scored 14 goals in 10 European appearances this term, averaging a goal every 65.1 minutes in a stunning campaign.

Mbappe and Benzema are no strangers to playing together, but the PSG forward failed to score and only provided one assist when doing so during France's disappointing Euro 2020 campaign. The Madrid man, meanwhile, finished just one goal short of the golden boot after netting four times.

Matters are complicated further when taking into account the form of Vinicius, who has formed a lethal partnership with Benzema this season, registering 33 goal involvements of his own in all competitions (18 goals, 15 assists), and Mbappe's preference to play from the left could infringe on Vinicius. 

However, Mbappe's development into a more well-rounded attacking talent should ensure he at least provides a threat, whichever flank he starts from. 

As well as improving on his 11 assists from last season, Mbappe has completed more dribbles (138) at a higher success rate (50.74 per cent) than Vinicius this term (130, 41.4 per cent), and could join him in playing a more creative role supporting Benzema.

Upgrading in defence: The arrival of Antonio Rudiger

Having announced his intention to leave Chelsea at the end of his contract, Antonio Rudiger is another player strongly linked with a move to the Bernabeu ahead of next season.

The German defender has been one of the Blues' outstanding players under Thomas Tuchel, starring in their Champions League triumph last year and enjoying another fine campaign this season.

Rudiger has been a key component in the Premier League's third-best defence this season, with Chelsea keeping 15 clean sheets and conceding just 28 goals despite falling out of title contention after a promising start.

The 29-year-old appears to be an upgrade on Madrid's current defensive options after last year's departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, offering more physicality than David Alaba and greater defensive steel than Eder Militao, a partnership that was frequently exposed by Manchester City recently.

Rudiger would also offer a threat at the other end of the pitch, with his three league goals this season bettered by just one other Premier League centre-back (Jan Bednarek, four), and his ability to step out of defence was on display when he scored a 39-yard stunner against Brentford in early April – Chelsea's longest-range Premier League goal since January 2007

However, Rudiger has been accustomed to playing in a back three at Chelsea and would be most likely to play as a right-sided centre-back in a back four for Madrid, unless Ancelotti opts to shift Alaba to left-back.

Rudiger would likely have to curb his attacking enthusiasm if paired with the naturally forward-thinking Alaba, but he appears a smart choice to further solidify a defence that has been the second-strongest in LaLiga this term (only Sevilla have conceded fewer goals).

The case for Camavinga: Time to look to the future?

The midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will go down in Madrid history: they started together in three consecutive Champions League final wins between 2016 and 2018, with the Croatian also starring in 2014's victory.

Nobody can question their quality or longevity. All three have made at least 35 starts this season, while Modric in particular has produced several sumptuous contributions in big games that have helped him to an assist haul of nine, six more than any other Madrid midfielder.

 

However, given they occasionally appear to lack a certain dynamism when out of possession, could Madrid benefit from some extra mobility in the engine room?

The signing of Eduardo Camavinga, who has made 35 appearances this term, was clearly made with such a move in mind, but the French youngster has only started 14 times in all competitions and would benefit from more playing time next season as he looks to improve his all-round game.

However, neither Camavinga nor Federico Valverde possess the kind of metronomic abilities of Modric or Kroos, and the younger pair also average fewer passes into the final third per 90 minutes than their more experienced peers (6.25 and 6.1, respectively).

As such, with the rumoured arrivals of Mbappe and Rudiger involving no transfer fees, Madrid could yet benefit from dipping into the market to acquire another young, progressive midfielder in a move that might also help to prolong the excellence of Modric and Kroos.

After a third successive Champions League title, Cristiano Ronaldo's departure for Juventus was meant to signal the end for a team that had scaled the heights of European football.

The annus horribilis of the 2018-19 season seemed to reaffirm such sentiment, but with Real Madrid now claiming a second LaLiga title and sitting another hair's breadth from the Champions League final since that departure, it seems even more irrational in hindsight.

How have Madrid been able to sustain their level among the best in European football and keep fighting for silverware on multiple fronts despite such a seemingly transformative absence? How have they won this season's LaLiga title with such ease?

Despite a severely weakened Barcelona and a supposed closing of the gap to the rest, Madrid can still reach 90 points this season.

 

In reality, their three successive Champions League triumphs during Zinedine Zidane's first spell in charge were largely due to the ideal balance of their midfield, comprising of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric.

To use but one example, bring into perspective how could they nullify Liverpool's ability to press in both the 2017-18 final and then again in the 2020-21 quarter-final over two legs, with Zidane in charge for a second time.

It bears repeating. Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp – a great pressing team that squeezes the opposition into submission, consistently forces errors and is tactically transforming football before our eyes – were eventually rendered inert on multiple occasions.

At Madrid's core though, the collective did and continues to flourish via the creative and incorporative link between Modric and Karim Benzema, both with and without the ball. In a burgeoning era of automation and systems, they are the system.

 

The thing that maximises the duo's technical proficiency is their ability to improvise and embrace risk in the exploitation of space. If automation was football's equivalent to the legend of developing a pen in space, the link between Modric and Benzema is the comparative pencil – just as effective, far more practical.

Granted, that reliance on them creates volatility. When the two are on the pitch, they give Los Blancos a distinct flexibility. When they're not together, the collective is without a reference point and their relationship between defence and attack is compromised – as it was in their thumping in El Clasico in March or even going back to the 2016-17 season and their Copa del Rey elimination in the quarter-final over two legs to Celta Vigo.

 

Viewing Madrid through this prism makes a lot of other aspects relating to them clearer – the ability to feasibly play Lucas Vazquez at right-back in Dani Carvajal's absence, the varying shifts in form from the likes of Vinicius Junior and Kroos this season, or the differing fates of Eduardo Camavinga and Martin Odegaard upon attempting to integrate them into the midfield.

On that latter point, within this context, Camavinga earning more scope at Kroos' expense instead of Modric does not become much of a surprise – because while Benzema has elite comparisons in the form of Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane in terms of profile, Modric has always been one of a kind.

Midfielders as complete as Modric, possessing the effortless ability to blur the line between the elegant and the practical, simply did not exist before him – at least as a deep-lying player and not deployed higher up the pitch.

At the incomprehensible age of 36, the Croatia international is still unique, still elite. Ahead of Saturday's match, he led Madrid's midfielders in all competitions this season for chances created in open play per 90 minutes (1.1), expected assists (0.17) and trailed only Camavinga (1.5) for dribbles completed (1.4).

Only Kroos (12.5) bettered Modric (9.5) for passes into the final third per 90 in all competitions, but the German's passing represents an increasingly singular role in Madrid's midfield. He is a world-class distributor, but it is maximised as a result of the spaces that Benzema and Modric create.

No player is more relevant in this regard, however, than Vinicius. His own progression has also accelerated upon that basis. Benzema and Modric's ability to collapse opposition defences leaves the opposition full-back on Vinicius' side isolated, and the 21-year-old can be destructive when he has momentum to dribble.

This all matters because it creates a cumulative impact on how Madrid score their goals. In all competitions ahead of Saturday's game, Vinicius topped the team for dribbles completed per 90 (3.0), chances created from open play (2.3) and expected assists (0.23). 

This goes some way to explaining Benzema's dramatic increase in rate of goal scoring, especially comparing 25 goals in 29 league appearances heading into the weekend to his tally of five LaLiga goals in 2017-18.

Much like Modric, 34-year-old Benzema has the capacity to be flexible as that central striker, and to do what the game requires of him in any given moment. 

 

The reference point Benzema and Modric provide has been the primary dynamic in this season's title win – Carlo Ancelotti's first LaLiga success. They can win games in an instant but collectively, the consequent ability to manage games and keep applying pressure from either winning or losing positions, on the back of both territorial and positional superiority, has been critical.

Ultimately, intelligent footballers gravitate towards one another and it is one of most profound and beautiful aspects of the sport. While Madrid will eventually go on without Benzema and Modric, their interaction and how it has built a worthy title winner this season has only underlined that.

The dominance of Bayern Munich is not just down to financial muscle, but more the lack of consistency from their Bundesliga competition.

That is according to former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos, who played 130 times for the Bundesliga giants before swapping Bavaria for Real Madrid in 2014.

Bayern became the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions after a 3-1 victory over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund last Saturday.

Julian Nagelsmann's side had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020, before cruising to their record-setting triumph with three games to spare.

Many cited Bayern's financial power as an issue in the German top flight, such as being able to prise Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014.

Indeed, Lewandowski helped power Bayern to the title with 33 Bundesliga goals so far this term, netting once every 81 minutes on average.

However, Kroos does not believe that it is just the disparity in transfer activity that has aided Bayern's dominance, but also the lack of constant pressure from title contenders Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

"The competition has to be more constant. Teams like Dortmund or Leipzig are quite capable of keeping up in certain phases," said Kroos in the Simply Mal Luppen podcast.

"But they are not as consistent. It's not just about money."

While Kroos was quick to question the competition provided by Dortmund and Leipzig, the 32-year-old could take nothing away from another fantastic season for Nagelsmann's men.

"It's an exceptional performance, especially mentally," said the midfielder. "It's no surprise that they are the best team in Germany in terms of quality.

"But wanting to do it year after year and giving the championship title meaning is something special."

 

Thomas Muller was also integral to the success of Bayern once again, with his 17 assists in 30 top-flight games this season unmatched by any player in Europe's top five leagues.

The evergreen Muller also surpassed former team-mate David Alaba (10 titles) as the Bundesliga's most decorated player of all time, having been ever-present in the 10-in-a-row feat alongside the title win in 2010 (11).

Kroos believes his former colleague Muller relishes the prospect of protecting Bayern's dominance every campaign.

"You can also say at some point, after the eighth, ninth, tenth time: 'Well, then not for a year.'," Kroos added.

"But I have the feeling that he has a lot of fun defending the thing year after year."

Karim Benzema believes Real Madrid need another special night at the Santiago Bernabeu to progress to the Champions League final following their 4-3 loss to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were 2-0 up inside 11 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as a thrilling semi-final first leg got off to a flying start. 

Benzema's double – only his Panenka in the 82nd minute matching the degree of difficulty from a finish around body in the 33rd – ultimately helped Real Madrid limit the damage.

The 34-year-old called upon his club's fans to help them get to May's final in Paris.

"There are 90 minutes at the Bernabeu for the fans to make a difference again," Benzema told Movistar+. "We leave here with our heads held high to play a good game in the return leg. The fans leave proud.

"We have to keep our heads calm and see what we have to do to improve, a little of everything and especially at the beginning of games."

Benzema's brace against the Premier League leaders made him the fifth player in the Madrid's history to score over 40 goals in a single season, after Cristian Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez.

City were dominant against a Madrid side who badly missed Casemiro at the base of midfield, however, with Toni Kroos' defensive vulnerability a key factor in three of City's goals.

As has been the case during the knockout stage this season, in a game certainly not short on drama, Carlo Ancelotti's side managed to simply find a way to stay alive with a result that defied logic.

"A defeat is never good, but we are excited about this Champions League and the important thing is we never give up," Benzema said. "Now we have to go to the Bernabeu and we need the fans like never before to do something magical, which is to win.

"We entered the game without confidence, and that's what happens with an opponent like Manchester City. In this game a little bit of everything was missing."

Xabi Alonso says Real Madrid's ability to grind out results when not at their best has been key to their success this season, as Los Blancos eye a 35th LaLiga title. 

Alonso, who now coaches Real Sociedad's B team, made 236 appearances during a five-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Carlo Ancelotti's team lift the Champions League trophy in 2014.

With Ancelotti back at the helm, Madrid hold a 15-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, and the Italian looks set to celebrate his first Spanish title triumph after already winning league titles in Italy, England, France, and Germany.

After beating Sevilla 3-2 with a late Karim Benzema goal last time out, Los Blancos have won 17 points from losing positions this season, the most in LaLiga, and Alonso believes that fighting spirit has been crucial.

"I think the team have found that stability, knowing that maybe they can struggle during one game, but they will have a chance to win and that they can win any game," he told FedEx.

"So far, in difficult moments, they have won games, and they are feeling comfortable playing great football and comfortable playing not the best football.

"Sometimes that's important as well, not to get nervous when you are not playing your best, to deal with those difficult times. I think that Madrid, they have dealt very well with those moments and that's why they are now in a great position.

"[There are] still many points [to play for], but yes, they are favourites [to win the league]. I think that they are the most consistent team. That's what gives you the best chance to win LaLiga at the moment. 

"I think that Carlo is a wise man. He knows how to find and to put the pieces together. That's why he's been with so many clubs, and he's [done] so many great things. He's finding his team, and he's able to deal with them so well because he has those skills to deal with the players."

Madrid have won 23 of their 32 LaLiga games this season, their highest number of victories at this stage of a season since 2016-17, when they won the title after having an identical record at this stage.

Although 39-goal striker Karim Benzema has led the charge for LaLiga and Champions League trophies, Alonso heaped praise on Ancelotti's reliable engine-room trio.

The 40-year-old also highlighted the potential of Barcelona's young midfielders, but stressed that the Blaugrana are in a "different moment" to Madrid as Xavi rebuilds the Catalan giants.

"Year by year, the midfield of Madrid, they are getting older, but they are as good as always. I've seen that Casemiro, Luka [Modric] and Toni [Kroos], they are safe as houses for any manager," he added.

"I think that Carlo has found what he needs from them and for sure he will need to rotate them. [But] they are playing very, very good football, and they are showing composure. 

"As always [with] Barca players, they have different kind of midfielders, [at a] different stage of their careers. For example, Nico, Gavi with the support of [Sergio] Busquets, it's a great prospect, but they are in a different moment right now."

Alonso picked out Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane as the one man he would have loved to play alongside..

"For sure, I would have loved to play with Zidane because I remember when I started playing in Sociedad, one of my first memories was playing against one of my idols. That was him," he added.

"To play against him, it was hard, but it was so enjoyable, and he was so elegant, things looked so easy for him, and he was such a good player. I would have loved to play with him, but I played against him."

Carlo Ancelotti likened Luka Modric to Paolo Maldini as he declared the veteran midfielder would end his career at Real Madrid – also insisting he has no problem with Toni Kroos.

Ahead of a trip to Sevilla on Sunday, Ancelotti spoke glowingly about both midfielders who have put Madrid in a strong position to strike for LaLiga and Champions League glory.

There was a flash point between Ancelotti and Kroos in Tuesday's Champions League clash with Chelsea, when the former Germany international was substituted and was reported to have insulted the coach as he left the field.

Ancelotti stressed that was soon defused, meaning there seems no danger of Kroos and Modric not starting in tandem when league leaders Madrid tackle third-placed Sevilla.

With Madrid edging through to the European semi-finals after extra time, despite losing 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ancelotti's decision to bring on Eduardo Camavinga in Kroos' place proved to be justified.

The change had come with Madrid 2-0 behind and facing possible elimination. Modric played the full 120 minutes, and the 36-year-old remains as influential as ever at the heart of the team.

Addressing the Kroos kerfuffle, Ancelotti said on Saturday: "His gesture didn't bother me. He was angry with the coach but not with the person.

"As well as in sport, he is a person with a very high level. I don't need to talk to him or ask for explanations. It's all over after the game."

Kroos, 32, and Modric have been the beating heart of the Madrid midfield, and that is set to remain the case into next season.

Although Modric is now in the veteran stage of his career, Ancelotti sees that as a positive rather than a weakness.

"I think he's going to finish his career here, I don't know when but that's everyone's idea," Ancelotti said. "There is no problem for the club, neither for us nor for him to renew, that is quite clear.

"He takes great care of himself, in his career he has not had any major injuries and that helps him a lot."

Making the Maldini comparison, Ancelotti said: "I had a football legend, who won the last Champions League at the age of 40. If I have to compare him with anyone, it would be with him: for the quality, for the seriousness, for how he understands football. They are legends."

Ancelotti coached Maldini at Milan, having previously played in the same team as the defender who went on to make 902 appearances for the Rossoneri.

Maldini was in fact 38 when he helped Milan to the fifth European Cup/Champions League of his career, but he played on until the age of 40.

Madrid head into Sunday with a 12-point lead at the top of LaLiga, with Barcelona and Sevilla their nearest challengers but both surely now playing for second place.

Ancelotti, appointed for a second spell at Madrid last June, has won six of his seven games as coach against Sevilla in all competitions (L1).

Sevilla, meanwhile, have failed to win any of their past six meetings with Real Madrid in LaLiga (D1 L5), their worst winless run since a 15-game stretch between May 1993 and April 2003 (D2 L13), which is the longest such barren sequence they have suffered against Los Blancos in the competition’s history.

The pressure mounted on Paris Saint-Germain again after another defeat in Ligue 1 this weekend.

The Parisians are 12 points clear at the top but have lost four of their past six games.

Lionel Messi has only netted twice in Ligue 1 since his move from Barcelona, while fellow free signing Sergio Ramos has also only played five times.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO BLOCK MESSI OR RAMOS RETURNS

Marca reports that PSG would block any potential return to Barcelona or Real Madrid for either Messi or Ramos respectively.

The Ligue 1 giants signed both players last year from those respective clubs, yet there has been reports claiming they may want to return to Spain.

Ramos has struggled with injury while Messi has not been able to discover his best goalscoring form, but PSG are eager to hold on to them.

Messi joined on a two-year deal last August, while Ramos also penned a two-year deal last July.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have made an opening bid for Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch according to Fabrizio Romano. The fee is approximately €25million but Ajax want more.

- Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Madrid are all circling for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni but the Ligue 1 club will not accept less than €50m for him claims Foot Mercato.

- Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella according to El Nacional. Barella's arrival could force Toni Kroos out too.

- Aston Villa are prepared to pay £60m for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips claims The Times.

Carlo Ancelotti is confident Real Madrid will knock Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League and says Toni Kroos will only play if he is fully fit.

PSG will start the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Kylian Mbappe's brilliant late winner three weeks ago.

Madrid might be facing a bigger challenge to reach the quarter-finals if Thibaut Courtois had not saved a Lionel Messi penalty at the Parc des Princes.

LaLiga leaders Madrid will be without the suspended Casemiro when they face Mauricio Pochettino's side and fellow midfielder Kroos missed the 4-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad on Saturday due to a hamstring injury.

Kroos has returned to training, but Ancelotti refused to state whether he will play against the Italian's former employers.

"If a player isn't 100 per cent fit he can't play, so we'll have to wait and see," he said.

Los Blancos have won three consecutive games since their defeat in the French capital and Ancelotti believes that run will continue.

The ex-PSG head coach said: "We want to stay alive in this competition. It's massive for us, massive for the club. we don't want to be knocked out of such an important competition.

"Life will go on and hopefully we will still be in competition. I am confident we will qualify, but PSG will also be confident."

Madrid look unstoppable in their quest to win LaLiga and Ancelotti is hopeful that will not be the only trophy they can get their hands on this season.

"I think we are having a good season, it has been good so far and every time we do something there is always a 'but'," he added.

"If Karim [Benzema] doesn't score [there is] a 'but', there are lots of opinions out there. I think we are having a good season and hopefully these last two months we can end the season on a high."

Benzema says Madrid were hurt by their loss in the French capital but does not expect more pain if Los Blancos play to the best of their ability.

The striker explained: "We are a proud team and that defeat hurt us, but we know that the best Real Madrid can compete with the best PSG. We saw the best PSG in the first leg and hopefully we will see the best Real Madrid on Wednesday."

Toni Kroos insists he wants to spend the rest of his career with Real Madrid, with his current contract due to run until the end of next season.

Kroos moved to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2014 from Bayern Munich and has made 344 appearances for Los Blancos in all competitions, scoring 25 goals and assisting 77.

The German midfielder has won two LaLiga titles, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups since arriving in Spain, and has confirmed that he wishes to see the final days of his career out in Madrid.

"I want to finish my career here," Kroos said in an interview with RTVE. "My family and I are fine in Madrid, there is still a year and a half left [of this contract]."

The 32-year-old also spoke about this season's title race in LaLiga, with Madrid currently top of the league, four points ahead of second-placed Sevilla, adding: "We have to look for all the points in the league, there's still a lot left.

"At the moment the rival is Sevilla, and we have to fight for it until the end."

 

Kroos' team-mate Eden Hazard has had a difficult time since his big-money move to Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, but the Belgian has started to show shoots of form of late, scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 2-1 comeback win in extra time at Elche in the Copa del Rey.

"I believe in him," Kroos said of Hazard. "He has to do everything to return to being what he has always been – he can help us a lot."

The 2014 World Cup winner was also asked about another world champion, Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, who has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the current season.

"It is difficult to know because everything depends on the situation of his contract," he added. "It does not surprise me that Madrid are trying to sign him because he is a top player. It is not a secret that Real Madrid want him.

"In my eight years here, many names have come up and only 20 per cent have arrived."

Toni Kroos believes Real Madrid have been dealt the toughest possible Champions League last-16 tie but is relishing the chance to take on Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid were initially paired with Benfica on Monday, but a technical glitch forced a re-draw and the LaLiga leaders will now face Ligue 1 pacesetters PSG over two legs in February and March.

Record 13-time European champions Madrid finished top of Group D and could have faced either Benfica, PSG, Sporting CP, Salzburg or Chelsea.

But while the Spanish giants dodged a meeting with reigning champions Chelsea, Kroos feels his side will face an even tougher opponent in PSG, who boast the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Madrid legend Sergio Ramos in their ranks.

"We have a very interesting opponent for the next round," he said in a video posted on his Instagram page. "I think they are the toughest opponent of the five that could touch us. 

"They are the games for which we play. We look for these games, with a lot of quality on the field. Let's see what will happen – at the end of the day we are Madrid."

Madrid eliminated PSG the last time the sides met over two legs in the competition in the 2017-18 last 16, but the Parisians prevailed in their only two other previous knockout-round ties in European competition (in 1992-92 and 1993-94).

The LaLiga club have lost just one of their six Champions League encounters with PSG overall, meanwhile, when going down 3-0 at the Parc des Princes in the group stage three seasons ago.

And with his side flying high at the top of the Spanish top flight, Kroos is in positive spirits ahead of his side's blockbuster showdown with Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"We always look forward to this type of game and we are very confident about reaching the quarter-finals," Kroos said.

"We are doing very well. Our focus right now is on the league and there are many games left before the Champions League.

"The most important thing now is to continue as we are doing in the next games before Christmas, to continue scoring points that bring us closer to the goal of winning LaLiga at the end of the season.

"This is the most important thing and we have to concentrate on that and then the Champions League, but only when the time comes."

Real Madrid secured top spot in Group D of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Inter.

Toni Kroos gave the hosts a first-half lead at the Santiago Bernabeu with a wonderful effort from 25 yards.

And substitute Marco Asensio sealed the points with a beautiful strike to match 11 minutes from time.

Inter were forced to play the final 26 minutes with 10 men after Marco Barella was dismissed for violent conduct.

Needing a win to snatch top spot in Group D, the Nerazzurri made a bright start.

Marcelo Brozovic's dipping volley went just over, while Ivan Perisic saw an effort blocked in the box.

But Madrid took the lead against the run of play; Kroos receiving the ball from Rodrygo before drilling a delicious 25-yard strike past Samir Handanovic.

The hosts went close to doubling their advantage before the break. Luka Jovic chipped Dani Carvajal's precise throughball into the side-netting, while Rodrygo hit the post from 16 yards out.

Barella squandered a great opportunity to equalise three minutes after the restart; blazing over with only Thibaut Courtois to beat.

Handanovic was called into action again at the other end with smart saves to deny Jovic and Casemiro.

Inter's task became harder as they were reduced to 10 men. Following a collision with Eder Militao, Barella threw a punch at the Brazil international's calf and was subsequently dismissed for violent conduct.

And Madrid made their numerical advantage count by sealing the points; Asensio curling a lovely 20-yard effort in off the far post.

Toni Kroos scored Real Madrid's 1,000th Champions League/European Cup goal during their final Group D match against Inter.

The Germany international put the 13-time winners ahead in the 17th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Receiving the ball from Rodrygo 25 yards from goal, Kroos took a touch before drilling a beautiful left-footed strike beyond the reach of Samir Handanovic.

The wonderful effort saw Madrid become the first club to reach four figures in European Cup and Champions League matches (excluding qualifiers).

 

Page 1 of 4
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.