Having finishing 15 points behind champions Real Madrid in LaLiga season, Atletico Madrid are in a bit of a rebuilding process.

While Hector Herrera, Luis Suarez and Sime Vrsaljko head for the exit, Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata return from loans, with Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel potentially also signing on a free transfer.

Reports suggest that Atleti are also particularly keen on keeping one of Witsel's international team-mates.

TOP STORY – ATLETI TO WARD OFF CARRASCO INTEREST

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is unwilling to let go of Yannick Carrasco amid growing interest from Premier League clubs, according to Diario AS.

Although Carrasco's contract expires in 2024, his reported release clause of €60million reportedly makes him an attractive prospect to the likes of ChelseaTottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

Simeone has apparently ordered the club to not field any offers for the 28-year-old, who he considers fundamental to his future plans.

Though the player is reportedly happy at the Wanda Metropolitano, offers from elsewhere could potentially play a role in any contract negotiations.

ROUND-UP

– Cristiano Ronaldo is considering a departure from Manchester United in response to a lack of recent transfer activity under Erik ten Hag, Record reports.

Barcelona have finally made a bid for Robert Lewandowski, with an opening offer to Bayern Munich of €40m, according to the Telegraph.

– The same publication is also reporting that, with one year remaining on his contract, France international Adrien Rabiot has requested a transfer from Juventus to the Premier League.

Milan are considering making an offer for Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, per TuttomercatoWeb.

Atletico Madrid took advantage of Carlo Ancelotti's decision to rotate as they edged out fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 on Sunday to tighten their grip on fourth place in LaLiga.

Four days on from their stunning comeback win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, Madrid made seven changes for their trip to Wanda Metropolitano.

That told as Madrid, who were crowned Spanish champions last week with four games to spare, fell behind to a 40th-minute Yannick Carrasco penalty that was awarded after a VAR check.

Despite the introduction of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior, Madrid could not find a leveller in the absence of top scorer Karim Benzema as they fell to a rare El Derbi defeat.

 

Much was made of Atleti's decision to not give Madrid a guard of honour ahead of kick-off in their neighbours' first league outing since sealing a 35th league crown.

The home side were far more fired up for the match and twice went close in the opening eight minutes, with Angel Correa and Carrasco firing wide from good positions.

Carrasco made the breakthrough from the penalty spot before half-time, though, after Matheus Cunha was barged over by Jesus Vallejo just inside the box.

The referee had initially allowed play to continue for a couple of minutes, but he was instructed by the VAR to check the pitchside monitor and reversed his initial decision.

Luka Jovic was denied by Jan Oblak and Casemiro should have done far more with a tame shot that was curled straight at the Atletico keeper as Madrid pushed for a leveller.

Atleti wasted chances of their own as Carrasco fired over and Cunha could not convert past Andriy Lunin when played in by substitute Antoine Griezmann, who also went close.

Carrasco nearly sealed things when hitting the post 14 minutes from time, but his earlier penalty proved enough in the end thanks to another Oblak save to keep out Vinicius and a bad miss from Nacho.

Diego Simeone hailed 10-man Atletico Madrid for displaying their "personality, pride and hard work" in a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Substitutes Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco combined in the 52nd minute, with the latter opening the scoring with Atletico's first shot on target at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, Geoffrey Kondogbia was dismissed for two bookable offences, with Raul de Tomas restoring parity immediately after by squeezing a free-kick under Jan Oblak.

Atletico's grasp on Champions League qualification was seemingly slipping until Carrasco converted a penalty in the 10th minute of stoppage time after De Tomas was adjudged by the VAR to have handled.

Victory moved the reigning LaLiga champions level on points, at least temporarily, with Sevilla and Barcelona and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, who were held at Real Sociedad on Friday.

Simeone's side have collected more points than any other LaLiga side this season with goals in the 90th minute or later (10 points), and the Atletico boss was delighted with his team's spirited response.

"With the sending-off comes fatigue, the goal, one less player, 20 minutes to go and the team kept looking, taking risks, with great effort from everyone," he told reporters after the game. 

"You come from the hit four days ago [after being eliminated by Manchester City in the Champions League] after playing a good game, it's not easy and these guys played with personality, pride and hard work.

"We then benefited from that penalty and Carrasco showed his courage to finish it."

Atletico have failed to score in the first half in their last four games in all competitions, having had just one shot on target in those halves, and Simeone acknowledged changes were needed at half-time.

He introduced Antoine Griezmann, Cunha and match-winner Carrasco, changes that offered Atletico the impact Simeone sought after.

"Carrasco scored a very important goal for our league position, we came from a very big effort and a bad game in Mallorca [1-0 defeat]. Today, the first half was a struggle but the second was more dynamic."

Carrasco expressed his delight to Movistar after the game but conceded Atletico have no chance of catching leaders Real Madrid, who could go 15 points clear at the LaLiga summit with victory at Sevilla.

"Very happy, it was a difficult game," he said. "We were winning, then 10 against 11 we have continued to push and very happy with the victory that brings us closer to the goal.

"[The title race] is over, we still have games left in LaLiga and we have to continue. This match is important for us for morale and to continue working."

Yannick Carrasco scored twice, including a stoppage-time penalty, as Atletico Madrid boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's side succumbed 1-0 to Real Mallorca last weekend and were eliminated in Europe by Manchester City on Wednesday, before struggling again at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico had to wait until the 52nd minute for substitute Carrasco to strike with their first shot on target, before Raul de Tomas levelled with a free-kick following Geoffrey Kondogbia's dismissal.

However, a late handball decision against De Tomas offered Atletico a penalty, which Carrasco converted in the 10th added minute to send Simeone's side level on points, at least briefly, with Sevilla and Barcelona, and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Atletico had defeated Espanyol in seven of their last nine home league games, but it was Vicente Moreno's visitors who started the brighter.

Leandro Cabrera's header from Darder's corner forced a sharp Jan Oblak stop just seven minutes in, while Joao Felix skewed over on the counter-attack at the other end.

Simeone responded by sending on Antoine Griezmann, Matheus Cunha and Carrasco at half-time and Atletico's fortunes soon changed.

Oblak reacted quickly to deny Darder and that save proved vital a minute later when Cunha and Carrasco combined on a clinical break.

Cunha raced towards the Espanyol goal before laying an inch-perfect pass for Carrasco to cut in and squeeze a right-footed strike under Diego Lopez to open the scoring.

Oblak then thwarted a low De Tomas volley but, after Kondogbia was shown a second yellow for handball, the Espanyol striker's resulting free-kick squirmed under the Atletico goalkeeper.

Carrasco snatched victory after De Tomas was adjudged to have handled an Atleti corner, allowing the home forward to fire into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored and three players were sent off as Atletico Madrid earned a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a riotous 3-1 victory over Porto.

Following a goalless first half, Griezmann arrived at the far post after the break to divert in a corner and give Atletico the edge in a tight contest.

Yannick Carrasco lost his cool in the 67th minute, being sent off after grabbing Otavio's head, before Porto's Wendell was shown a straight red card just five minutes later for an elbow, making it a 10-a-side game. Unused Porto substitute Marchesin also saw red amid chaotic scenes.

Three goals were then scored from the 90th minute onwards, with Correa racing away to slot into the bottom corner and De Paul hammering in before Sergio Oliveira netted a consolation from the spot.

The first big chance of the game fell Atletico's way in the 22nd minute as Carrasco's low ball across the face of goal found Thomas Lemar, but Costa made the save at point-blank range and Griezmann could not connect with the loose ball with the goal gaping. The Porto goalkeeper then denied Marcos Llorente from a tight angle.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Lemar's corner was flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia and turned in at the back post by Griezmann to give Diego Simeone's men a vital advantage.

Carrasco refused to give the ball back for a Porto throw-in before lashing out at Otavio as the Porto midfielder attempted to grab it from him, the Belgian earning himself a straight red card.

Ugly scenes ensued as both camps clashed, and Porto substitute Wendell suffered the same fate as Carrasco shortly after as he elbowed Angel Correa in the throat. Marchesin appeared to be red-carded for speaking out of turn from the sidelines.

Correa broke away in the 90th minute to double Atletico's advantage with a low finish into the bottom-left corner before De Paul smashed in the rebound after Griezmann's shot was saved two minutes later.

Porto pulled one back deep into stoppage time as Oliveira rifled a penalty past Jan Oblak, but Atletico had done enough to make it to the knockout stage. Porto must settle for the Europa League.

Atletico Madrid ended a three-game winless run in all competitions with a 3-0 victory over Real Betis at a rain-soaked Wanda Metropolitano.

Yannick Carrasco's superb first-half finish and an own goal from German Pezzella in the second put the champions in control against Manuel Pellegrini's side.

Joao Felix came off the bench to drill home a third as Atleti delivered their best league performance since the 2-0 win over Barcelona at the start of the month.

Betis rarely offered a threat to Jan Oblak's goal as they endured an eighth defeat in nine away league games against Atletico, a run in which they have failed to score in any of the past six games.

William Carvalho had a shot parried by Oblak in the first minute of a match that started in frenetic fashion, Betis looking to capitalise on a defence that had conceded at least twice in each of Atleti's previous three games.

Jose Gimenez and Antoine Griezmann each came close before Carrasco broke the deadlock in stunning style, taking Angel Correa's pass, turning away from Martin Montoya and blasting high past Claudio Bravo at his near post.

Luis Suarez headed wide when unmarked and Mario Hermoso saw the flag rule out a second when he nodded in Antoine Griezmann's delivery, as Atletico continued to push forward.

A fine passing move saw Griezmann pick out Suarez, but Bravo thwarted the striker again. However, from the resulting Griezmann corner, Pezzella mistimed his header and nodded the ball firmly into his own net.

Substitute Felix completed the scoring with a well-taken left-footed finish driven beneath Bravo, a VAR check showing he had timed his run to meet Carrasco's throughball perfectly.


What does it mean? Champions up into fourth

Atleti's win lifted them above Betis in the table and to within two points of leaders Real Madrid, second-placed Sevilla and Real Sociedad in third. Sociedad had a game to come later on Sunday, however.

It will also give them some confidence ahead of a Champions League visit to Liverpool in the coming week, particularly after the Reds surrendered a two-goal lead to draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Bravo keeps scores respectable

Atleti should really have been out of sight before Pezzella's unfortunate own goal, with Bravo making seven saves as Suarez in particular was profligate with his chances.

The former Barcelona keeper has never before made as many saves in a single LaLiga match.

Suarez needs sharpness

Suarez missed two big chances and had the highest expected goals figure (0.48) of any of Atletico's attacking players during his 71 minutes on the pitch.

The Uruguay striker will need to be more ruthless against his old club if Atletico are to leave Merseyside with a positive result.

What's next?

Atleti face Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday before heading to Valencia on November 7 for their final game before the next international break.

Belgium's Nations League hopes fell flat on Thursday, but Yannick Carrasco insists the squad still have faith they can achieve glory at the 2022 World Cup.

The world's number one ranked team squandered a two-goal lead as France came back to win 3-2 in their semi-final clash in Turin, Theo Hernandez scoring the crucial fifth goal of a thrilling contest in the 90th minute.

Instead of heading to San Siro to face Spain in the final, Belgium are instead back at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday, going up against European champions Italy in a third-place play-off.

It is the second such match during Roberto Martinez's tenure, the Barcelona-linked coach having previously guided Belgium to the semi-finals of World Cup 2018, where they also fell foul of France.

Belgium defeated England to claim third place in Russia, before reaching the quarter-finals at Euro 2020. Sunday's opponents Italy beat them there.

When asked if Belgium's squad still held belief in their ability to challenge at next year's World Cup in Qatar, Atletico Madrid winger Carrasco turned the tables on the media.

"Do we believe that we can win a prize in Qatar? We always believe in ourselves," he told a news conference.

"But do you still believe in us? Because we don't have that feeling. We know that we have a good team, that we can do something beautiful.

"On Friday, the coach showed what we did well and what we did badly.

"That is necessary to prepare for Qatar. A year is not long with the national team, we will use the match against France to get better."

 

Martinez, meanwhile, said a new cycle had now started for Belgium as they look to build towards the World Cup, which arguably presents the final chance for the Red Devils' 'golden generation' to claim a trophy.

He said: "A new cycle has started, that of preparing for the World Cup.

"Over the past five years we have created a style of play. Multiple players can bring what the team needs but our style of play goes beyond individuals. 

"We have been number one in the world for three years. Of course that is important. We want to remain number one. But our main motivation is to get better. The second half against France showed we are not the finished product."

Belgium will be out for revenge against the Azzurri, aiming to at least end their Nations League campaign on a high. However, they will be without Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, who have both been withdrawn due to what Martinez described as "muscle overload".

"I cannot say," Martinez said when asked if the duo would be fit for their clubs next week. "That is a question for the medical department. But it is definitely about overload and not injury."

Thomas Lemar struck in the 99th minute to complete a dramatic late comeback as Atletico Madrid edged past Espanyol 2-1 at RCDE Stadium on Antoine Griezmann's second debut for the club.

Espanyol had failed to score in their opening three games since returning to the top flight – and a joint-LaLiga record eight matches stretching back into their last campaign at this level – but they took the lead through Raul de Tomas' 40th-minute header.

That was a deserved opener for the hosts in a half they dominated and Diego Simeone responded by making a triple substitution at half-time and changing system.

Simeone's alternations ultimately paid off in an incredible conclusion to Sunday's contest as Lemar – one of those brought on – found a winner deep into added time after Yannick Carrasco had got the champions back on level terms 20 minutes earlier.

Atletico Madrid tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit after cruising to a 5-0 win over rock-bottom Eibar at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Colchoneros' bid for a first top-flight title since the 2013-14 season had faltered in recent weeks, but just a second win in six games keeps them a step ahead of neighbours Real Madrid. This result meant Real stood four points behind Atletico heading into a clash with Getafe later on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's home side were poor for much of the first half, yet Angel Correa struck twice shortly before the interval to give them a healthy lead.

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente added gloss to the scoreline in the second half as Atleti extended their unbeaten home run over Eibar to seven matches.

Despite a dismal start, which did not herald a shot until the 34th minute, Atleti went in at the break two goals to the good.

Correa opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, prodding in at the back post after Hector Herrera headed on Kieran Trippier's corner.

The man who made the breakthrough grabbed a second goal just two minutes later, superbly turning Anaitz Arbilla after collecting Carrasco's pass before slotting past Marko Dmitrovic from close range for his sixth goal of the season.

The hosts extended their advantage four minutes after the restart, Carrasco latching onto Saul Niguez's long ball over the top, rounding Dmitrovic and rolling into an empty net.

Correa turned provider for Atleti's fourth in the 53rd minute, his low pull-back into the middle of the penalty expertly dispatched by Llorente into Dmitrovic's bottom-right corner.

Llorente scored his 11th LaLiga goal of the season in the 68th minute, controlling Carrasco's pass before firing a half-volley past a hopelessly exposed Dmitrovic as Atleti sealed all three points in style.

Yannick Carrasco is a doubt for Atletico Madrid's Champions League last-16 first leg against Chelsea next week after suffering a leg injury.

Atleti on Friday revealed Belgium international Carrasco has sustained an injury setback but did not specify how long he will be out of action.

A club statement said: "Yannick Carrasco has suffered a post-traumatic injury of the left leg musculature, an MRI scan and a medical ultrasound performed at the Clinica Universidad de Navarra confirmed the injury. The Belgian is pending response to treatment."

LaLiga leaders Atleti face Levante at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, before taking on Chelsea at the neutral venue of the Arena Nationala in Bucharest three days later.

Carrasco only recently returned after missing three matches following his positive coronavirus test.

There was better news on midfielder Thomas Lemar, who is back in contention after recovering from COVID-19, while Moussa Dembele is nearing a return.

Diego Simeone told a news conference: "Yannick has a knock from the game against Granada. It's still affecting him. We'll see how it evolves.

"The good news is Lemar is with us and we look forward to Dembele possibly being able to return tomorrow and to continue adding people as quickly as possible."

Simeone's side are six points clear of second-placed Real Madrid with a game in hand after they were held to a 1-1 draw with Levante on Wednesday.

Yannick Carrasco and Mario Hermoso have tested positive for coronavirus and face a period of self-isolation, Atletico Madrid have announced.

Atletico said on Saturday that the positive results had been returned the previous day and the players have already been isolating at home.

The club have not communicated how long the two players will have to isolate or when they will be expected back in training.

However, both will miss Sunday's trip to Cadiz and are unlikely to face Celta Vigo a week on Monday.

While losing two important players will undoubtedly be a blow to head coach Diego Simeone, his side are sitting pretty at LaLiga's summit.

They have won seven in a row in the league and sat seven points clear of rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table heading into the weekend, with Los Colchoneros also having a game in hand.

Both Hermoso and Carrasco have played 15 out of Atletico's 18 LaLiga matches this term.

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