Zinedine Zidane has denied suggestions he is close to leaving Real Madrid, though offered no guarantees about his future.

Madrid boss Zidane defiantly declared prior to last Saturday's meeting with Huesca he would not throw in the towel after seeing his team beat Deportivo Alaves and lose at home to Levante in his absence due to a positive coronavirus test.

Prior to that, Los Blancos lost in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals against Athletic Bilbao and suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Alcoyano.

Although Madrid came from behind to beat Huesca 2-1 to record their second win in six games, Zidane still faced questions about his future ahead of a clash with Getafe on Tuesday.

When it was put to him his comments last week led to some concerns among fans that he could be on his way out of the club, Zidane replied on Monday: "No, listen, the important thing is the day-to-day work, that's what we're doing. The other day, whatever happened, we're just going to work.

"Everyone is here, we're just going to try to work. And the rest, everyone has freedom to have their opinion, that's normal.

"Everyone can say what they say, but I can also say what we're going to do here: that's work hard, believe in what we're doing and try to recover a bit of confidence and end the season well."

He added: "Why would I abandon Real Madrid? I'm doing what I like here. This is football; there are tough moments, but you just get on with it.

"We are just going to fight and battle, we need to do things properly with this team. Real Madrid is a great club and what you have to do is compete. There will always be changes here.

"We're all in the same boat here. I feel supported by everybody. You have to say what you have to say but we know what we have to do here. We just have to do things well, like we were doing just three or four weeks ago.

"There are difficult moments in a season, you have to accept it, and that helps you in more difficult moments. That's what we want to do, we want to change the situation.

"We've got important players, they're very good, they've won a lot, and nothing is going to stop us working hard for the rest of the season."

However, when asked if he would see out his contract, which runs until 2022, Zidane did not offer a straight answer.

"Well, we'll see," he said. "The important thing is, I said it to the other reporters, we're just focused on this season, the game tomorrow.

"I just focus on the day-to-day, today, tomorrow, the game. As for the rest, I don't know what's going to happen so I'm not thinking about anything apart from the game tomorrow."

Sergio Ramos was at risk of an even more serious injury if he had not gone for meniscus surgery, Zinedine Zidane has claimed.

Real Madrid captain Ramos could face around two months on the sidelines after going under the knife - a considerable blow against the club's fading title defence.

The 34-year-old appears certain to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Atalanta and El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on March 7.

Madrid cut Atleti's lead at the top of LaLiga to seven points as Ramos' defensive colleague Raphael Varane scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over bottom club Huesca. However, Diego Simeone's men have two games in hand.

"It was important for him to be calm with [the operation]," Zidane told reporters when discussing Ramos after the match.

"It had to be done because he was on the edge. The operation went very well and that is the important thing. He will work from tomorrow to be with us again."

Madrid headed to El Alcoraz with two wins from their six games in all competitions in 2021 and were second-best for spells against their lowly opponents, who hit the crossbar either side of Javi Galan's emphatic 48th-minute opener.

But Varane smuggled home when a Karim Benzema free-kick looped back off the crossbar and the France centre-back was on hand once more to poke in when Casemiro's header was saved, easing the pressure on his countryman Zidane.

"We are happy with the victory. It was a difficult game but we added the three points," Zidane said.

"You have to keep fighting. This [season] is still long.

"It's never easy at 1-0 when your opponent scores a goal. We had minutes of difficulty, but we stayed in the game thinking that it could be changed and that's what we did, with personality."

Raphael Varane was Real Madrid's unlikely hero as he scored twice in a 2-1 comeback win over LaLiga basement boys Huesca.

Under-fire head coach Zinedine Zidane looked to rally his players with a defiant media briefing on Friday but they were often lacklustre El Alcoraz, with Javi Galan brilliantly giving Huesca the lead in the midst of a five-minute spell after half-time where they hit the crossbar twice.

Karim Benzema waged an at-times lone battle to get Madrid back into the match and countryman Varane converted the rebound when his 55th-minute free-kick spun up off the crossbar.

Alvaro Fernandez made a string of magnificent saves to frustrate the tireless Benzema, but Varane was on hand six minutes from time to close the gap at the top of the table to seven points - although Atletico Madrid have two games in hand.

Zinedine Zidane was in a defiant mood and vowed neither he nor his Real Madrid players will throw in the towel during a difficult period.

Los Blancos coach Zidane was absent for the team's past two LaLiga fixtures due to coronavirus, with Madrid following a victory over Deportivo Alaves with defeat against Levante.

The Levante loss was Madrid's fourth in LaLiga this season, one more than they suffered in the whole of their title-winning 2019-20 campaign.

Throw in a shock Copa del Rey defeat to Alcoyano and the pressure has been mounting on Zidane's position as head coach.

But a noticeably fired-up Zidane came out fighting when previewing Madrid's clash against Huesca.

"Well, I can't see into the future, I can't tell you what will happen. I think we need to be in this until the end," he said.

"There's a lot of talk that maybe a change is needed, maybe the manager, maybe this, maybe that, whatever needs to happen will happen. 

"I've said since day one I'm fortunate to be here, I'll make the most of my time here until my last day at the club. 

"If people want me to throw in the towel or the players to give up, I can say neither I nor the players are going to do that. 

"Of course a lot has been said about what we're going through right now, this spell, we haven't recently won enough games. But we're confident we can turn the tide.

"I think we all want to, we all need to, give our all until the end of the season. Of course, a lot could happen from now until the end of the campaign but as a team we're all rowing in the same direction. We're never going to give up, we'll give 100 per cent."

Madrid won 10 straight games and drew their final league fixture when LaLiga resumed after lockdown last season to win the title by five points.

This time around they are third and 10 adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, with their city rivals owning a game in hand.

There have been suggestions Madrid need to freshen up an aging squad in the close season, but Zidane thinks his team deserved the opportunity to defend their title and more respect should be shown.

"I work, as you know, every day with the players, not at home, although I have been at home recently. Now I'm recovered and fully on board again," he added. 

"We're the defending league champions, we won the title last year. We had the right to try and defend the title we won last season. Maybe next season things will change, but I think we should have the chance to rightfully defend what we won last season. 

"We're not talking about what we won 10 years ago – it's about respect. It's a question I understand, I see comments of course. I think it's good you can say you don't want me here, or don't want me at the club but I think we just need a chance to defend what we won last season.

"I'm the number one in charge of this project. As for next year there'll be changes but I think we deserve this year, this squad deserves the chance to prove themselves to do this for the fans. 

"Nobody is going to jump ship, we'll all going to give it our all for the fans. Hopefully we can give them some things to celebrate, to shout about, they love their team, want to see the team win, play good football. We're going to try and do all those things.

"When we play badly or have a poor result, I think the press can sometimes criticise or be over the top. 

"I think we earnt that respect, and if we don't reach our goals come the end of the season, hand up I'll be the first to accept the blame. 

"Maybe I'm a bit angry, upset, I've been locked up indoors recovering from COVID. Now I'm back we'll battle until the end."

Zinedine Zidane led a Real Madrid training session for the first time since contracting coronavirus, while club president Florentino Perez has tested positive for COVID-19.

Madrid head coach Zidane was forced to undergo a period of self-isolation and has not been in the dugout since the shock 2-1 defeat to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey two weeks ago.

Since then, Los Blancos have beaten Deportivo Alaves 4-1 and suffered a surprise 2-1 loss against Levante in LaLiga.

Madrid have slipped to third and sit 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who still have a game in hand, but Zidane has a full week to prepare for their next outing against Huesca on Saturday.

Although Zidane was back on the training pitch, Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde were only with the group for part of the session.

Dani Carvajal trained indoors while Nacho Fernandez remained at home after testing positive for COVID-19, a fate shared by Madrid president Perez.

A brief club statement read: "Real Madrid would like to inform that our president Florentino Perez has tested positive in the COVID-19 tests that he periodically undergoes, although he is not showing any symptoms."

Will he stay or will he go?

That is the question regarding Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who is a reported target for Real Madrid and Liverpool.

If Mbappe opts to call time on his PSG stall, the French champions are still aiming high.

 

TOP STORY – LIFE WITHOUT MBAPPE IN PARIS?

Paris Saint-Germain are more determined than ever to give head coach Mauricio Pochettino a dream forward line amid doubts over Kylian Mabppe's future, according to Le10 Sport.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid and Premier League holders Liverpool.

If Mbappe does not remain in Paris, PSG will step up their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

Massimiliano Allegri has turned down Roma as he waits for Madrid, repots Todofichajes. Zinedine Zidane is under mounting pressure in the Spanish capital, while it is a similar situation for Roma boss Paulo Fonseca.

Manchester City are willing to sign a striker and Messi this offseason, according to The Athletic. With City yet to offer Sergio Aguero a new deal, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter pair Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku are reported targets as Pep Guardiola's side also eye soon-to-be free agent Messi.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool have agreed to sign Ben Davies from Preston North End ahead of Monday's deadline day. Jurgen Klopp has been eyeing a defender due to the club's injury crisis.

Dele Alli's proposed switch from Tottenham to PSG is not progressing, reports Romano. Struggling for game time at Spurs, Alli has been keen for a loan move to PSG, but Tottenham are unwilling to sanction a departure as Inter block Christian Eriksen's return.

Leicester City are the frontrunners to sign Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles, claims The Mirror.

Sergio Ramos' future is not a cause for concern for Real Madrid assistant David Bettoni despite rumours the defender has decided to leave.

Media reports in Spain have claimed Ramos will exit Madrid at the end of the season when his contract expires after failing to respond to the club's latest contract offer, which is said to be worth 10 per cent less than his existing agreement. 

The experienced centre-back has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, though they are rumoured to have distanced themselves from such stories given it was claimed Ramos was asking for a wage greater than that of Kylian Mbappe. 

Either way, Ramos' future remains uncertain and there appears to be a significant chance of him opting to move elsewhere. 

But Bettoni – still standing in for head coach Zinedine Zidane as he isolates with coronavirus – insists it is not a situation that is worrying right now, as they are focusing on Ramos' recovery from the various ailments that have kept him out of LaLiga action since mid-December. 

"I'm not worried [about the renewal]," Bettoni told reporters. "I see him every day and he's recovering. He is our captain, a great professional. We are not going to risk with him, but I cannot say anything else." 

The 34-year-old is currently out with a knee injury, but he has also recently suffered with a hamstring issue and illness.

Regarding Ramos' fitness, Bettoni added: "Every week he feels better, but we don't want to risk it – luckily now we are only playing once a week. 

"We are evaluating him week by week, we will see how his knee is next week. 

"The Sergio I know has a great heart, he's the captain, he's always there, he's a great professional. He is somewhat annoyed because he cannot play, he always wants to compete. But I don't see him differently, I see him normal." 

Zidane has been away from the Madrid squad for a week following his positive test for coronavirus, though Los Blancos cruised to a 4-1 win in the only match he has been forced to miss. 

He will be absent again on Saturday when Levante visit Estadio Alfredo di Stefano, though Bettoni says Zidane's condition is improving and he has still been able to talk with his staff every day. 

"Zidane is much better," he said. "And every day he gets better. We talk every day, we watch the training sessions, we discuss the contents. 

"He is not physically there, but he is with us. The week was very good. It's true that his presence is missed - it is a pity because of his personality and charisma." 

The pressure is on Madrid in LaLiga – they host Levante on Saturday already trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by seven points, and Diego Simeone's men also have a game in hand.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno backed Zinedine Zidane, saying he wanted the coach to return as soon as possible.

Zidane is under pressure at the helm of Madrid after a humiliating Copa del Rey loss to Alcoyano on Wednesday.

The Frenchman did not oversee Saturday's 4-1 LaLiga win over Deportivo Alaves after testing positive for coronavirus.

While Zidane has come under fire, Butragueno defended the 48-year-old, who has led Madrid to two LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies across two spells in charge.

"Everyone knows what Zidane means to us. What we want is for him to return to us as soon as possible," he told Movistar+.

"We know what football is like. We have been around for many years.

"When the team doesn't win we have to listen to comments and rumours of all kinds. You have to be united and work."

Luka Modric has also faced an uncertain future at Madrid, with the Croatian midfielder's contract expiring at the end of the season.

But Butragueno hinted Modric was set to stay at Madrid as reports suggest the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner had agreed to a one-year deal.

"There are players like Modric who make this sport better. His pass to [Ferland] Mendy in the first half was a fine thing. It's a luxury for us to have him," he said.

"He's given us so much. He's still giving us so much and he'll continue to do so."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE BEING QUESTIONED AS REAL MADRID BOSS

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

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

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

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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