Inaki Williams broke the record for most consecutive games in LaLiga history by featuring in Athletic Bilbao's win over Deportivo Alaves on Friday.

The forward made his 203rd successive appearance in the Spanish top flight, and it was marked with a victory as Athletic prevailed 1-0 thanks to Raul Garcia's 44th-minute strike.

One of only two players to feature in over 200 consecutive LaLiga matches, Williams surpassed the long-standing record previously held by former Real Sociedad defender Juan Antonio Larranaga, who played for Los Txuri-Urdin between 1980 and 1994.

The one-time Spain international, who joined the club from Pamplona in 2012, began his sequence when appearing as a substitute during Bilbao's 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in April 2016.

He has subsequently featured in every domestic match since, helping the club achieve four top-10 finishes along the way.

 

Williams, who made his senior debut in December 2014, led Bilbao in scoring in the 2018-19 season, including finding the net on 13 occasions in LaLiga.

He recently played his 300th game for the club on September 11, celebrating the personal milestone with a goal in a 2-0 victory over Real Mallorca.

Inaki Williams is set to break the record for most consecutive games in LaLiga history should he feature in Athletic Bilbao's clash with Alaves on Friday.

If he plays in the showdown at San Mames, the forward will make his 203rd successive appearance in the Spanish top flight.

One of only two players to feature in over 200 consecutive LaLiga matches, Williams would surpass the long-standing record previously held by former Real Sociedad defender Juan Larranaga, who played for Los Txuri-Urdin between 1980 and 1994.

The one-time Spain international, who joined the club from Pamplona in 2012, began his sequence when appearing as a substitute during Bilbao's 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid in April 2016.

He has subsequently featured in every domestic match since, helping the club achieve four top-10 finishes along the way.

 

Williams, who has scored 67 goals in 303 appearances since his senior debut in December 2014, was named LaLiga's player of the month in January 2019 during a season in which he led Bilbao in scoring after finding the net on 13 occasions.

He recently played his 300th game for Los Leones, celebrating the milestone on September 11 with a goal in a 2-0 victory over Real Mallorca.

And the 27-year-old will be eager to mark his historic day by helping Marcelino’s side end a run of three matches without victory on Friday.

Although, Alaves are full of momentum having recorded a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over reigning champions Atletico last time out.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone absolved his misfiring attackers of any blame following Saturday's shock LaLiga defeat to Deportivo Alaves. 

Victor Laguardia scored the only goal four minutes in at Estadio de Mendizorroza to inflict a first defeat of the season on Atleti in all competitions. 

Atleti had just one shot on target – substitute Angel Correa forcing Fernando Pacheco into a fine save – as Simeone's side missed out on the chance to overtake leaders Real Madrid. 

The Spanish champions have now failed to find the net in three of their last four matches, during which time they have won only once in all competitions. 

Despite playing a full part against Alaves, who were previously without a point this term, Luis Suarez and recent signing Antoine Griezmann failed to complete a single pass between each other. 

Griezmann has yet to so much as register a shot on target in his last seven LaLiga outings for Atleti and Barcelona combined, his longest such run in the competition. 

Rather than criticise the likes of Suarez, Griezmann and Correa, Atleti boss Simeone instead insisted it was down to him to find a way to break down a solid Alaves team. 

"The responsibility is mine for not having found options to overcome their defence," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"When opposition teams defend well, it is difficult to find those solutions. 

"It's also difficult when a team like Alaves close you down. We didn't have the speed or ability to hurt them. They deserved the win because they scored and knew how to defend." 

 

Laguardia's early goal came from a set-piece situation, the centre-back getting away from Stefan Savic and heading in Ruben Duarte's corner. 

Half of the previous 10 goals conceded by Atletico in the league have now come via headers, excluding own goals, and Simeone accepted his side must improve in that area. 

"I don't think the defence is to blame for the defeat because the goal came from a set-piece," he said.  

"But if there's a weakness at the back, or when defending set-pieces, then it is clear we will have to study that, work on it and try to correct it. 

"We have to keep improving. We had several phases of patient play today and I believe in these players." 

Atleti's fixtures do not get any easier as they travel to Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, then host Barcelona in the league four days later. 

Reflecting on a bad run of form heading into that huge double-header, Simeone added: "We always say there are bad moments during a season and this may be one of them. 

"We have a good squad, a balanced squad, and we will analyse what is going wrong and try to find solutions." 

Atletico Madrid's unbeaten start to their LaLiga title defence came to an end as Victor Laguardia's early goal proved decisive in a 1-0 win for struggling Deportivo Alaves.

Alaves headed into Saturday's early game having lost all five LaLiga matches in 2021-22, yet they overcame the champions to claim a first top-flight win over Atleti since 2003.

Laguardia was the crucial figure. His fourth-minute header gave Alaves the lead, and the 31-year-old also made a vital clearance off the line in the second half.

Mamadou Loum and Tomas Pina squandered golden chances to make sure of the points for Alaves, but Diego Simeone's team could not make their fortune count as they tasted defeat in LaLiga for the first time since April.

Javier Calleja made five changes from the side that lost to Espanyol in midweek, but it was the ever-reliable Laguardia who headed Alaves in front when he escaped Stefan Savic to meet Ruben Duarte's corner.

Laguardia almost cost Alaves with a poor clearance before the half-hour mark, though Marcos Llorente was unable to direct his effort on target in Atleti's only first-half sighting of goal.

Rodrigo de Paul and Llorente tried their luck from range to no avail, before Laguardia came to Alaves' rescue with an exceptional piece of defending.

Alaves' goalscorer judged that De Paul's free-kick was curling in, and just got back in time to head the ball off the line.

Sloppy defending from Felipe allowed Loum in at the other end, only for the Alaves midfielder to blaze over from close range.

Simeone turned to Angel Correa to offer some inspiration, and the forward soon wriggled free in the area to get a shot off, but Fernando Pacheco made an excellent stop.

And despite Pina following Loum's example and lashing a brilliant chance over, Alaves held on to a deserved victory.

LaLiga's request to postpone the upcoming match between Sevilla and Barcelona due to player involvement in South American World Cup qualifiers has been dismissed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), but a "challenge" will be lodged. 

An appeal was issued by LaLiga to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the decision taken by FIFA to put in place a two-day extension to the CONMEBOL calendar for fixtures in September and October, a move made amid the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Due to strict rules that would require players to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, England's Premier League refused to release nearly 60 players travelling to 26 countries on the United Kingdom's red list due to COVID-19. 

LaLiga announced support to those clubs in Spain that opted not to let individuals travel to play for South American nations in upcoming qualifiers. A total of 25 players from 13 different teams were due to be involved. 

The organisation also filed a lawsuit against FIFA in the Swiss courts for infraction of competition rules, adding that domestic leagues had already accepted a new window in January 2022 to accommodate matches disrupted by the global pandemic. 

However, CAS denied the interim measures put forward, meaning players would have to be released, and LaLiga responded by asking for two matches – Sevilla v Barcelona and Villarreal v Deportivo Alaves on September 11 – be postponed due to players only arriving back in Spain earlier that day. 

While the RFEF has rejected the request, LaLiga insists it will continue to fight for those postponements, adamant the decision "is not in accordance with the law". 

A statement read: "LaLiga expresses its absolute disagreement with the resolution of the president of the Competition Committee, issued by delegation of the president of the RFEF, to reject the postponement requests submitted by both Villarreal – with respect to the Villarreal v Deportivo Alaves match set for Saturday, September 11 at 18:30 – and Sevilla – for the Sevilla v Barcelona match set for Saturday, September 11 at 21:00 – and by LaLiga, organiser of this competition. 

"The reason for these requests is to be able to maintain the integrity of the competition as a consequence of the extension of the FIFA period in September (CONMEBOL confederation) established by circular 1776 of August 13, setting the end of said period on Thursday, September 9 (early morning on Friday the 10th in Europe, with many players landing in Spain on Saturday morning and having to play games hours later). 

"Finally, these requests have been rejected as it is considered, inexplicably, that based on article 239 of the general regulations of the RFEF, the circumstances raised are not identified as a cause of force majeure, motivated by an unforeseeable circumstance such as the current one that goes beyond of the mere summons of the players in the manner established by the regulations. 

"In this sense, with this resolution of the RFEF (FIFA representative in Spain), the approach made by FIFA itself to oppose the precautionary measure requested by LaLiga before the CAS is being contradicted, indicating that it was easier for LaLiga to postpone these matches than for FIFA to postpone those of the CONMEBOL qualifiers. 

"For all these reasons, LaLiga will challenge the aforementioned resolution considering it is not in accordance with the law." 

LaLiga has requested the postponement of two games, including Barcelona's trip to Sevilla, after failing to get interim measures in place relating to the release of players for international duty.

The governing body issued an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the decision taken by FIFA to put in place a two-day extension to the CONMEBOL calendar for fixtures in September and October, a move made amid the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to strict rules that would require players to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, the Premier League refused to release nearly 60 players travelling to 26 countries on the United Kingdom's red list due to COVID-19.

LaLiga announced support to those clubs in Spain that opted not to let individuals travel to play for South American nations in upcoming World Cup qualifiers. A total of 25 players from 13 different teams were due to be involved for their countries.

The organisation also filed a lawsuit against FIFA in the Swiss courts for infraction of competition rules, adding that domestic leagues had already accepted a new match window in January 2022 to accommodate matches disrupted by the global pandemic.

However, CAS denied the interim measures put forward, meaning players will have to be released. LaLiga, which claimed the appeal had been "rejected by the court with no reasoning whatsoever", has reacted by announcing proposed changes to the fixture list for matchweek four.

Barcelona had been due to travel to face Sevilla on September 11, but that game is set to be postponed, along with the top-flight meeting between Villarreal and Deportivo Alaves.

There have also been changes to kick-off times too, with Real Madrid now set to host Celta Vigo in the late game on Sunday. That match could well see the debut of Kylian Mbappe at the newly developed Santiago Bernabeu, should his move from Paris Saint-Germain be completed before the transfer window closes.

LaLiga issued a lengthy statement while announcing the planned alterations to the schedule, as well as a warning that the "senseless situation" could be set to happen again during the October international break, too.

"We emphasise that, due to FIFA's decision, the affected players will rejoin their club teams on Friday after having played three games, and many of them will play league matches on Saturday or Sunday, clearly not being in a position to compete under equal conditions with their clubs," the statement read.

"LaLiga submitted this request to the CAS in defence of the integrity of the LaLiga competition and the rights of clubs affected by players being called up for international duty with CONMEBOL national teams, due to the two-day extension of the FIFA period in September and October 2021.

"Other confederations such as UEFA and CONCACAF did not extend their match calendar despite scheduling the same number of matches (three). These confederations made the effort to adapt their fixture schedule to a maximum of 10 days (until Wednesday), so as not to disrupt national league competitions.

"In addition, this problem occurs after the domestic leagues, together with their clubs, already made an effort to admit a new FIFA window (for all confederations except UEFA) in January 2022, to accommodate match dates previously affected by the pandemic.

"We will encounter this senseless situation once again in October, this time affecting Matchday 9 of LaLiga Santander."

FIFA also issued a statement following the CAS ruling, confirming it now expects all players to be released to play in South America.

"The compromise decision to add two additional days rather than three as requested by the South American confederation CONMEBOL was taken by the competent FIFA body after consulting all relevant stakeholders and after taking into account all relevant circumstances, in particular, the challenges created by the Covid pandemic and especially health considerations for players," the statement read.

"Today's CAS decision confirms the legality of FIFA's decision and entirely rejects the arguments made by Spain's LaLiga.

"On Wednesday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino called for a show of solidarity from all member associations, leagues, and clubs, to do what is right and fair for the global game.

"We now expect the release of players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers in South America to occur in accordance with the recent FIFA decision, the legality and legitimacy of which has today been recognised in today's CAS ruling."

Carlo Ancelotti described Karim Benzema as the "complete player" after he inspired a 4-1 victory at Alaves in Real Madrid's first game of the LaLiga season.

Benzema scored twice either side of a volley from Nacho, before Vinícius Junior headed in the last of four second-half goals for Madrid in their first competitive game since Ancelotti returned to the club.

Joselu had made it 3-1 from the penalty spot just after Benzema's second goal, but Los Blancos made an impressive start to their bid to regain the title.

Benzema has scored 17 LaLiga goals this year, a tally only bettered by Lionel Messi (23), and he appeared to thrive on wearing the captain's armband with Sergio Ramos having joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid boss Ancelotti feels the France striker has matured into a magnificent all-rounder player.

He said: "Benzema is the completion of the team, reading the situations of the match very well. He is a player I think is not enough to call a forward.

"He is a very complete player. Now he is more complete than five years ago."

Gareth Bale started his first game in the Spanish top flight since June 2020 after a loan spell with Tottenham last season, while Eden Hazard caused Alaves problems after he was also named in the side.

Bale scored in the 2014 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid during Ancelotti's first spell at Madrid, but fell out of favour under Zinedine Zidane and there appeared to be no way back for him after he famously held up a 'Wales, golf, Madrid' flag.

Ancelotti is unsure whether the Wales captain has more desire to play for the club now, but says the forward has plenty to offer.

"I do not know if he is more committed than other years, because I was not there," he said. "Bale is going to improve because his condition is not optimal yet, like everyone else's. Everyone can improve."

Madrid have not been beaten in their opening game of a LaLiga campaign since 2008, winning nine and drawing four of their first games since then.

Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed an emphatic 4-1 win on his return to LaLiga at Alaves.

Ancelotti left Everton to take charge of Los Blancos for the second time in June following Zinedine Zidane's departure and the Italian secured three points in his first competitive game back at the helm.

Benzema, captaining the side following Sergio Ramos' departure, scored twice in the second half either side of a strike from Nacho at Estadio Mendizorroza on Saturday.

Joselu pulled a one back from the penalty spot before Vinicius Junior added a last-gasp fourth goal as Madrid, with Gareth Bale making his first LaLiga start since June 2020, issued an early statement of intent. 

Luis Rioja cut in from the right and tested Thibaut Courtois with a left-foot drive in a bright start for Alaves, but Madrid soon stamped their authority on the game.

Eden Hazard curled wide from just outside the penalty area and Bale was also off target as Madrid applied the pressure.

Benzema demonstrated exquisite control prior to bending a measured strike narrowly wide of the far post before Rioja poked an effort onto the roof of the net against the run of play.

France striker Benzema was not to be denied in the third minute of the second half, drilling home with his right foot after Hazard cleverly touched Lucas Vazquez's cutback into his path.

Los Blancos were dominant and soon doubled their advantage, the classy Luka Modric conjuring up trickery and an pinpoint cross for Nacho, who volleyed in from close range as Alaves were caught out by a short corner.

Madrid had seemingly only just finished celebrating when Courtois brought down John Guidetti and Joselu gave Alaves hope from the spot with 65 minutes gone.

The hosts were never likely to mount a comeback, though, and Vinicius headed home a cross from new signing David Alaba right at the end.

LaLiga is arguably harder to call than ever before heading into 2021-22 – Barcelona no longer have Lionel Messi to guide the way and Real Madrid have seen significant upheaval, so surely the smart money is on defending champions Atletico Madrid?

Diego Simeone's men won the title in 2020-21 after watching Barca and Madrid trade success for seven years and look in good shape given they've not lost any major players. But can you really write off the 'big two'?

Well, you shouldn't, according to Stats Perform predictions.

The Stats Perform League Prediction Model, created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, has analysed the division ahead of the new season to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results, with weighting based on recency and the quality of opposition. The season is then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Without further ado, let's look at what could occur over the 2021-22 LaLiga season.

 

ANCELOTTI DELIVERS THE GOODS

Carlo Ancelotti's back at the Santiago Bernabeu, and so – it seems – will the Spanish title. The Stats Perform model calculates Madrid have a 42.3 per cent chance of taking the crown back from their local rivals.

In fact, if the model proves accurate, Atletico may not even finish in the top two, as their 18.7 per cent chance is a fair bit smaller than Barca's 30.4 per cent likelihood of winning LaLiga.

However, it's worth pointing out that, because the model is based on historical data points and results, the Barcelona that appears here is one that has had Messi in the team for past 17 years.

It's entirely reasonable to expect Barca to see a significant drop-off given they'll no longer have the greatest player of all time on their books – as such, a 30.4 per cent chance of winning the title might actually be quite generous.

THE BIG FOUR?

The 2020-21 season was the tightest LaLiga title fight in recent memory. Although Atletico were 11 points clear at one point, with five matches left there were just three points separating first from fourth.

In that respect, it was the closest title race LaLiga had ever seen in a 20-team campaign (1987-1995, 1997-present) and the least predictable since 2006-07, when Madrid, Barca and Sevilla could all win the league on the final day of the season.

Sevilla's challenge ultimately faded before that stage in 2020-21 but they've managed to keep Julen Lopetegui, their coach, and their squad is largely unaltered for the time being.

The prediction model makes them fourth favourites for the title (6.8 per cent) and far better placed to take the final Champions League spot (69.4 per cent) for the third year in a row than their likeliest challengers Villarreal (36.2 per cent).

There was a 15-point gap between fourth and fifth last season – this is the closest to a 'big four' Spain has had in years.

 

FOUR TIPPED FOR RELEGATION TUSSLE

Rayo Vallecano, Real Mallorca and Espanyol were the three to come up from the Segunda last season. While most people would ordinarily point to the promoted sides as the most likely to be relegated, the prediction model disagrees.

It gives Mallorca a 30.7 per cent likelihood of going straight back down, and Espanyol are at 17.6 per cent – neither of those are among the bottom three, though Rayo (45.9 per cent) are seen as the second favourites to head back to the second tier.

But it's Elche (57.9 per cent) who are the clear front-runners in this regard, and then it looks agonisingly close for the third and final relegation spot.

According to the predictor, it's likely to be neck-and-neck between Deportivo Alaves (41.1 per cent) and Cadiz (41.9 per cent).

Diego Simeone paid tribute to Luis Suarez and Jan Oblak for their crucial roles in Atletico Madrid's slender 1-0 win over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

Suarez opened the scoring just after half-time with a glancing header, the Uruguayan converting for the 500th time in his professional career.

For a moment it looked as though his goal would not be enough to secure victory, as Stefan Savic was penalised late on for catching Luis Rioja with a flailing elbow in the penalty area.

However, Oblak threw himself to his right to turn Joselu's spot-kick away and Atletico held on for an unconvincing triumph.

Simeone saluted the decisiveness of his two main men on the day and insisted the team's attitude has been exemplary in the wake of Champions League disappointment at the hands of Chelsea in midweek.

"As happens in great teams, there is always one that scores a lot of goals and another that saves a lot of goals, and a team that competes accordingly," he said.

"It usually happens a lot in big teams, having decisive players who give the team's overall work a boost."

He added: "Beyond the elimination in the Champions League the other day, the group's work has been extraordinary. There is always an intention, an availability, a commitment.

"In the first half we had control of the ball but we weren't incisive, we didn't create goal situations to break the deadlock. They closed us off very well.

"Each time the competition progresses, the matches will be tougher, more difficult, we are seeing it in all stadiums. The differences are minimal.

"In the second half we put into practice what we talked about. We accelerated, we had more people in the area to finish, and a great goal came.

"From then on it was the best moment of the game, until the 77th minute when we had three important occasions.

"The penalty – you try to stop it. I'm very happy for Jan. It [the penalty save] generates three very important points for the team."

The victory means Atletico stayed four points ahead of second-place Barcelona, who thrashed Real Sociedad 6-1.

 

Luis Suarez scored the 500th goal of his professional career but Atletico Madrid had to rely on a late penalty save by Jan Oblak to beat Deportivo Alaves 1-0 and not have their position at LaLiga's summit weakened further.

Diego Simeone's men had won just two of their previous five league games before Sunday - form that has seen Real Madrid and Barcelona close the gap on them - and they looked destined to drop points yet again when Alaves were awarded a spot-kick in the closing stages.

But Oblak produced a wonderful save to deny Alaves a share of the spoils, sparking relieved celebrations among Atletico's players and coaching staff.

The goalkeeper's crucial stop ultimately meant Suarez's 500th professional goal at club and international level, scored from a fine Kieran Trippier cross in the 54th minute, sealed three points to keep Atletico's title push on track.

 

 

David Beckham's Inter Miami are trying to woo Cristiano Ronaldo to MLS.

Ronaldo, 36, is contracted at Juventus until 2022, but his next move is seemingly already a discussion point.

And MLS could suit nicely if Beckham has his way.

 

TOP STORY – BECKHAM'S INTER MIAMI EYE CRISTIANO

Beckham is speaking to Ronaldo's representatives about a move to Inter Miami, according to todofichajes.com.

The Portugal international is understood to be interested by the challenge of joining the club in the United States.

The financial contract would be massive for Ronaldo but he may potentially make the move next January, lowering the transfer fee, given the MLS runs from March to December.

Lionel Messi was reportedly previously sounded out about a possible US switch.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Express are reporting that Gareth Bale's recent form upturn means Tottenham are now keen to sign him permanently, with the Welshman having joined on loan from Real Madrid. Subsequently, the funds availed from a permanent transfer could enable Madrid to enter the fray for Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

West Ham, Leicester City, Southampton, Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa are among the list of clubs interested in Tammy Abraham if Chelsea deem him surplus to requirements, according to The Telegraph.

- The Star claims the Hammers are also keen on two other young English strikers; Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah and Brentford's Ivan Toney.

- Deportivo Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco is being pursued by Premier League pair Leeds United and Southampton, according to todofichajes.com.

Lionel Messi equalled Barcelona's all-time LaLiga appearances record set by Xavi by starting Saturday's clash with Deportivo Alaves.

It was thought Ronald Koeman might opt to leave Messi out given the importance of Tuesday's Champions League round-of-16 first-leg game against Paris Saint-Germain.

However, given the depleted nature of the Barca squad at the moment, Koeman made the decision to include his captain from the start.

It was Messi's 505th LaLiga appearance for Barca, tying the haul managed by club great Xavi, and the Argentinian could surpass his former team-mate next week at home to Cadiz.

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 assistant coach David Bettoni urged patience with Eden Hazard after the playmaker showed signs of his best in a win over Deportivo Alaves.

Hazard has struggled to find his best form since arriving at Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, but he scored once and set up another in Saturday's 4-1 LaLiga victory.

The 30-year-old scored and assisted in a single game for Madrid for just the second time and first since October 2019 before coming off just after the hour-mark.

Bettoni, who took charge for the game after Zinedine Zidane tested positive for coronavirus, said Hazard needed time.

"I think Eden has had a tough season and a half with Real Madrid," he told a news conference.

"We have to be patient with him, although obviously in football and especially at Real Madrid, we don't really have time to be that patient but with Eden I think we have to be.

"He had a very good game, scoring a goal and getting an assist and I think we'll see the best of him eventually. We saw a little bit of that today."

Casemiro and Karim Benzema scored before Hazard's strike, only for Joselu to pull a goal back for Alaves.

But Benzema sealed Madrid's win after Hazard came off, the Frenchman reaching at least 15 goals in all competitions for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons with the LaLiga giants.

Bettoni explained his decision to introduce Vinicius Junior in place of Hazard was a tactical choice.

"It was a change because we wanted to bring on Vinicius to give us a bit more pace," he said.

"I think Hazard had a very good hour on the pitch and it was basically just to change things, to add a bit more pace to the front three and nothing more than that."

Madrid are second in LaLiga, four points behind Atletico Madrid, who have played two fewer games.

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