LaLiga president Javier Tebas condemned an awful day for Spanish football after Inaki Williams reported racist abuse while Barcelona and Valencia fans clashed at Mestalla.

Athletic Bilbao striker Williams said he was racially abused by Espanyol supporters during their top-flight match on Saturday.

The forward passed on a complaint to Athletic captain Iker Muniain, who in turn spoke with referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez, while Williams appeared to clash with fans as he was substituted.

Elsewhere, supporters of Barca and Valencia were involved in violent confrontations ahead of a match the home side won 2-0, handing Blaugrana head coach Quique Setien his first defeat.

Tebas vowed LaLiga would investigate both incidents, posting on Twitter: "Today we have taken a step back in the work started years ago.

"The violent incidents of Barcelona and Valencia, the racist insults to Inaki Williams, they do a lot of damage to all of Spanish football.

"LaLiga takes responsibility. We will look with the clubs where the error is."

Williams posted a message on his official Twitter account, writing: "It is very sad that today we continue to see racism in football. We have to end it among EVERYONE. Thanks for your support."

Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williams has said he was racially abused by Espanyol supporters during Saturday's LaLiga encounter.

Raul de Tomas struck in the second half to cancel out Asier Villalibre's opener for Athletic in a 1-1 draw, however the match at RCDE Stadium in Barcelona was overshadowed by Williams' allegations of abuse.

The forward passed on a complaint to Athletic captain Iker Muniain, who in turn spoke with referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez.

Williams was substituted shortly after Espanyol's equaliser, but appeared to then become embroiled in a confrontation with some Espanyol supporters as he made his way off the pitch.

At full time, Williams told Athletic's club media he had been racially abused.

"I am sad for the draw and because I have suffered racist insults," he said. "It is something nobody wants to hear and that is totally out of place. 

"People have to come to enjoy, to help their team. It is a friendship, team sport and it has been a bit sad because these events should not happen. They are out of place."

Williams also posted a message on his official Twitter account, which read: "It is very sad that today we continue to see racism in football. We have to end it among EVERYONE. Thanks for your support."

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said Sunday's goalless LaLiga draw with Athletic Bilbao left a "bad taste".

Madrid hit the woodwork three times at the Santiago Bernabeu as Los Blancos ended the round two points adrift of leaders and defending champions Barcelona.

It was another toothless display as Madrid failed to score in back-to-back LaLiga games – Toni Kroos and Nacho hitting the crossbar either side of half-time before substitute Luka Jovic was denied by the base of the post with four minutes remaining.

Reflecting on the result, Courtois said: "It leaves us with a bad taste because we had two very intense matches [before playing Athletic].

"We struggled to get into the game at the start and then we didn't have luck on our side. We hit the woodwork three times and then the goalkeeper [Unai Simon] also deserves credit.

"Athletic try to frustrate you and the referee followed their game. They are two points lost, but we have to keep going."

"We have ended 2019 well in LaLiga," Courtois added. "At home we've dropped some points against some teams, and you come away disappointed, but overall we only lost one game and now we have to keep going.

"The team are doing well, playing well, and creating chances. It is just a shame that in the last three games we could not get the goals we needed. Karim [Benzema] is doing so well for us, he has been involved in so many goals this season."

 

Zinedine Zidane said Real Madrid will "absolutely not" sign a striker in January following another toothless display against Athletic Bilbao.

Madrid failed to score in back-to-back games after playing out a 0-0 LaLiga draw with Athletic at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Toni Kroos and Nacho hit the crossbar either side of half-time, before substitute striker Luka Jovic was also denied by the base of the post with four minutes remaining.

Karim Benzema has shouldered the goalscoring load for Madrid this season with 12 LaLiga goals and 16 across all competitions, while big-money off-season recruit Jovic has only found the back of the net once since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, Madrid head coach Zidane dismissed the possibility of attacking reinforcements as Los Blancos look to dethrone LaLiga champions Barcelona this term.

Asked if he would request a new striker, Zidane replied: "No. Absolutely not, I don't see the need to sign a striker."

The stalemate against Athletic is the fifth time Madrid have fired a blank in LaLiga this season, with Zidane's men two points behind leaders Barca heading into 2020.

"I'm annoyed by this," Zidane said. "My players have left everything on the pitch. "I'm looking at the positives and the good thing is that we're doing well. Three points from nine [available in the last three games] isn't much.

"As always, when we play a game like we did and have chances [to score], I'm annoyed for the players. For the effort that we put in, we're annoyed that we didn't score the chances that we had.

"If you have chances, you have to score them, and we've had lots of the ball in the last three games and very few goals. It's not bad luck or [a lack of] conviction - the important thing is creating chances.

"We created so many chances... we're going to continue; it's going to go in [eventually]. Now it's not going in, but we can't let our heads drop. We have to think that it's been a very good year.

"We're ending a bit flat but we're looking forward to starting 2020. I don't think [the lack of goals] is a problem, but everyone has their own opinion. We're calm. What we've done in the last four or five months was good."

Real Madrid allowed Barcelona to take an advantage into LaLiga's mid-season break after Athletic Bilbao held them to a second goalless draw in a week.

Following Wednesday's stalemate at Camp Nou in El Clasico, Zinedine Zidane's men drew a blank once more against their obdurate Basque opponents.

Toni Kroos and Nacho hit the crossbar either side of half-time and substitute Luka Jovic struck the base of the post with four minutes to play.

Champions Barca lead their great rivals by two points after 18 matches, having dispatched Alaves 4-1 on Saturday, while Athletic edge up to seventh and remain firmly in the European hunt

Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr leant a vibrant edge to the Madrid attack during the opening exchanges, with the latter denied by the boot of Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon at the end of a slaloming run.

The visitors allowed Kroos to saunter into the box on the end of Ferland Mendy's 19th-minute pass, the Germany midfielder cracking a shot against the crossbar from close quarters.

Athletic served notice of their threat a few moments later when Raul Garcia seized upon an unusually slack pass from Federico Valverde and sent Inaki Williams haring past Eder Militao. Thibaut Courtois was equal to the task at his near post.

Simon held a Karim Benzema header from Rodrygo's cross late in the first half and the Athletic keeper was grateful to see his bar frustrate Madrid once more before the hour.

Nacho rose highest to Kroos' right-wing delivery but could not direct his powerful effort downwards.

Simon plunged to keep out Benzema's angled 64th-minute shot, shortly after Gareth Bale replaced Rodrygo.

But it was another replacement, Jovic, who came closest to a winner - Simon looking on dejectedly, only for the Serbia forward's header to loop down against his upright.

What does it mean? Shot shy Madrid paying the price in the title race

There is little to choose between Barcelona and Real Madrid in terms of points as LaLiga heads into recess. However, the difference in terms of goals scored is 14 in Barca's favour and those deficiencies could tell dearly down the stretch for a Madrid team who have only lost once in the top flight this term but now drawn seven times.

Simon says, no way through

Even allowing for the fact Madrid's attack is not the potent force it once was, Athletic still needed a superb showing from their last line of defence. The latest goalkeeper off the production line that yielded Kepa Arrizabalaga, the 22-year-old Simon was near-faultless and deserved his moments of fortune.

Clock ticking on the Modric-Kroos axis

Real Madrid's engine room boasts two of the finest midfield talents of this decade in European football. As is customary, Kroos and his old ally Luka Modric were easy on the eye in a manner that sometimes becalmed the Santiago Bernabeu's mounting frustration. Nevertheless, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this Madrid need more dynamism and goal threat from deep and an interesting January beckons as those Paul Pogba rumours refuse to abate.

What's next

Madrid return to action on January 4 with a short trip to Getafe, while Athletic open 2020 against another of the division's high flyers, Sevilla.

Zinedine Zidane lavished praise on Pep Guardiola after Real Madrid were drawn against the ex-Barcelona coach's Manchester City side in the Champions League.

Two presumed contenders will square off in a highly anticipated last-16 tie, with the first leg to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26.

Guardiola welcomed the challenge, saying it would be "special" to share a touchline with Zidane, a man he "dreamed" of playing alongside.

The Frenchman returned the favour ahead of Madrid's LaLiga game against Athletic Bilbao, going so far as to call Guardiola the world's leading coach.

"Yes [it will be special]. I played against him many times," Zidane said on Saturday.

"I respected him as a player and I respect him as a coach. I think he is the best in the world and has demonstrated that throughout his career.

"Of course, I really want to face him, to play against him and his side. Not just myself but all of us here."

Overcoming the Premier League champions would be a huge boost for Madrid in their bid to be crowned Europe's best for the fifth time in seven years.

Zidane has overseen three Champions League victories, success equalled only by Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley, yet the Los Blancos coach claimed trophies were not what motivated him to prolong a potentially brief foray into coaching.

"I don't know if my career will last long," he said. "It will depend on what I feel. I am atypical, because what interests me is the day to day, how I am with the people who work with me. We will see, but I'm sure I won't be going up to 60 or 70."

Madrid's home match against seventh-placed Athletic comes four days after the club's strong showing in the goalless Clasico draw against Barca.

Federico Valverde impressed in midfield, raising more questions over whether his development would be stifled should rumoured target Paul Pogba arrive from Manchester United.

Zidane said: "I can only talk about my players. They are doing well. Fede is part of the heritage of the club and we are glad he is with us."

Real Betis winger Joaquin rolled back the years on Sunday as he became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in LaLiga history.

The 38-year-old plundered three goals inside the opening 20 minutes in his side's clash with Athletic Bilbao at Estadio Benito Villamarin.

His treble takes his LaLiga tally for the season to six goals – the same as his total from last season and the most he has scored in a domestic campaign since 2003-04.

Joaquin – capped 51 times by Spain – started his career at Betis before moving to Valencia in 2006. He then enjoyed spells at Malaga and Fiorentina before returning to Los Verdiblancos in 2015.

Manchester City are going to great lengths to keep Raheem Sterling.

Though contracted until 2023, the England international's exceptional form has led to links with Real Madrid.

But it could earn him a fresh extension to his bumper deal at the Etihad Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SEEK STERLING INSURANCE

Premier League champions City have opened contract talks with star forward Sterling, according to the Mirror.

The 24-year-old agreed a new three-year extension a mere 12 months ago but City are taking no chances with his future amid rumours of interest from LaLiga giants Madrid.

Sterling has scored 14 goals in 17 club appearances this season.

 

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- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus are preparing a €100million offer for Valencia winger Ferran Torres, who has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Bayern Munich are interested in Tottenham teenager Troy Parrott and Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports the Daily Mail. Parrott, 17, has caught the eye, while Henderson is on loan at Sheffield United.

- Napoli have offered Fabian Ruiz a contract extension through to 2025, claims Mundo Deportivo. Barcelona and Madrid are rumoured to want the Spain international midfielder.

- According to reports in Spain, Athletic Bilbao want to re-sign Javi Martinez from Bayern Munich. Martinez left the Basque club for Bayern in 2012.

Diego Simeone called on everyone associated with Atletico Madrid to pull in the same direction after his side saw off Athletic Bilbao to return to winning ways in LaLiga.

Atletico snapped a streak of three successive league draws with Saturday's 2-0 home victory thanks to goals from Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata.

Back-to-back wins in all competitions has helped to lift the mood around Wanda Metropolitano, with Koke being greeted warmly against Athletic just four days on from being jeered by the same supporters in the narrow 1-0 Champions League win against Bayer Leverkusen.

Following Atletico's third home match in a week, head coach Simeone paid tribute to the club's fanbase and talked up the importance of showing a united front.

"We have to be together forever," he said at his post-match news conference. "We are a new team, with many new players. Today, for example, we had a backline of new signings.  

"We know what our aim is and we need the fans, directors, players, coaches to be like horses looking forward. 

"Koke may have bad games, but he is always there, he covers well and he is important to the team. 

He added: "The fans were extraordinary again, they are the best around, as I've said before... 180,000 people in three games. 

"It's not easy to come to seven or nine games, but they are always there. We, with total humility, aim to give our best, even though it doesn't always come off."

A second win in seven LaLiga outings lifted Atletico up to second place and level on points with leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand to play against third-place Real Madrid.

Simeone selected Angel Correa over the benched Diego Costa for the comfortable home victory and the versatile Argentine forward repaid that faith by setting up both goals.

"He has always been a striker," Simeone replied when asked about Correa's best position in the side. "We often put him in a place where he doesn't feel comfortable but he puts in a great effort.

"His natural position is a striker. In that position he can better express his dribbling, his power, his turns, like the one for the first goal. He is a player who has done very well."

Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata were on target as Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Wanda Metropolitano to return to winning ways and move up to second in LaLiga.

The home side had drawn three league games in a row - and four of their last five - to lose ground in the title race, but they rediscovered their scoring touch on Saturday.

Saul opened the scoring for Diego Simeone's men with just under half an hour played and Morata grabbed a second 64 minutes in to seal the victory.

A second win in seven league matches lifted Atletico a point above third-placed Real Madrid and behind leaders Barcelona on goal difference alone, though both those sides have a game in hand to play after this week's El Clasico was postponed for safety reasons.

Kylian Mbappe is long admired by Real Madrid and they are again intent on adding the 20-year-old to their front line, it seems.

Mbappe was linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu before opting to stay in Ligue 1 when joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in the 2017-18 season.

The Spanish giants have not forgotten about the France international, though, and are planning to move two superstars on in order to get their man, according to reports.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE BACK ON MADRID'S RADAR WITH BALE AND JAMES TO MAKE WAY

Real Madrid were unable to land Kylian Mbappe a couple of seasons ago, but they are keen to sign him over the next few transfer windows, according to Calciomercato.

Mbappe is one of world football's star names and would fit into the old Galactico culture at Madrid, although Los Blancos would need to offload two star names in order to raise finances and complete a deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

One of those names is Gareth Bale, who is still reportedly unhappy at Madrid, while Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez could also move on having struggled at times to find form this season following a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

It remains to be seen whether any club is willing to pay the substantial transfer fee and wages required to secure either of the duo, but if they do make way then it could pave the way for Mbappe's move.

 

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- Staying in Madrid and ElDesmarque believe Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid in exchange for Gareth Bale and €90million.

- Bleacher Report claim Mesut Ozil's advisors are trying to convince the Arsenal playmaker to make a switch to MLS.

- Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is the number one transfer target for Manchester City, according to Calciomercato.

- Manchester Evening News are reporting City may also take up their option to buy back Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa.

- Frank Lampard is hopefully of securing Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to new contracts at Chelsea, Goal have said.

- Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is a January transfer target for Bayern Munich, say Spox.

- Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez's contract talks with Inter have been put on ice as Barcelona and United circle for the 22-year-old's signature, according to Calciomercato.

Diego Simeone came to Koke's defence after the Atletico Madrid midfielder was singled out for criticism from sections of the Wanda Metropolitano support.

Club stalwart Koke was jeered for his performance during the narrow Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, although he later insisted he has "total confidence" in himself.

Atletico coach Simeone had some words of comfort as they prepared to face Athletic Bilbao in a third consecutive home match, suggesting even he has had to overcome boos at times.

"Of course the fans have jeered me, in the Calderon itself in some games," he told a news conference. "I remember being whistled just because I wasn't doing a good game.

"People are spontaneous, they say what they feel. They are used to a type of situation and that is what they want.

"It is us who have to strive to improve and not have that tension. It's not just Koke - it's everyone's responsibility."

Asked why Koke might now be targeted by fans, Simeone acknowledged the midfielder may need to go back to basics.

"He is occupying too many positions," the coach said. "Maybe he should focus more on his own.

"Often he wants to fix a lot with his tactical ability. He wants to do more than he is responsible for and ends up paying for what is not his responsibility.

"He wants to fix problems in other parts of the field which are not fixable. With the tactical ability he has and the information he has gathered over the years, this makes him want to do more than he has to do.

"He is a great professional and a great player."

As Simeone reflects on criticism of himself and his team, one issue for which Atleti regularly face scrutiny is a lack of threat in the final third.

Asked if this could ever complement the usual defensive stubbornness of his side, Simeone claimed "creativity" was not Atleti's problem.

"I believe that what we need is to be more practical, not to have more creativity," he said. "Creativity is not the only factor that improves you. Creativity is good and practicality is better."

Thibaut Courtois made the move to Real Madrid in 2018, but he is already seemingly under pressure in Spain.

Life at the Santiago Bernabeu has not gone according to plan for the former Chelsea goalkeeper.

And Madrid already have their eyes on a potential replacement…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYE SIMON AS COURTOIS REPLACEMENT

Real Madrid have identified Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, according to El Desmarque.

Courtois swapped Chelsea for Madrid in 2018, yet the Belgium international has not convinced amid growing criticism in the Spanish capital.

Simon has reportedly attracted interest from Madrid, who would need to pay the 22-year-old's €50million release clause.

 

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Borussia Dortmund fear losing Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to Sport1. Sancho was suspended for last week's Bundesliga win over Borussia Monchengladbach after returning late from international duty.

- Sport claims Barcelona are ready to offload midfielders Ivan Rakitic, Carles Alena and Riqui Puig in January. Rakitic has been heavily linked to Serie A side Inter, while Tottenham are rumoured to be interested in Alena.

Manchester United have been given a boost in their pursuit of Mario Mandzukic after the Juventus striker slashed his wage demands, according to The Sun. Mandzukic is out of favour in Turin and set to leave in the January transfer window.

- Sport Bild says Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel has turned down offers from Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Roma. The 23-year-old only wants to join Bayern Munich should he leave Schalke when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- The German publication also claims Ralf Rangnick is a candidate to replace Niko Kovac if Bayern Munich decide to part with their current head coach. Bild, however, also says Rangnick is a candidate at Manchester United.

- Calciomercato says AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund are interested in Bayern Munich centre-back Lars Lukas Mai. Dortmund is believed to be the teenager's favoured destination.

- Real Madrid have informed Brahim Diaz he can leave the LaLiga club, reports AS. It comes less than a year after his arrival from Manchester City.

The future of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still up in the air amid speculation of a mid-season managerial change at Old Trafford.

Former Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has been previously linked with the Red Devils' job and reports suggest that he could bring two familiar faces with him in Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic if appointed.

A switch to the red side of Manchester could be on the cards for both players, having fallen out of favour at the Serie A champions this season under Maurizio Sarri.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI TO SWOOP FOR JUVENTUS PAIR IF APPOINTED AT MANCHESTER UNITED

Allegri has been linked with a double raid on former club Juventus should he succeed Solskjaer at Manchester United, according to Tuttosport.

Can and Mandzukic have been on the fringe of the Serie A club's squad this season and would be trusted to make an impact in Manchester, given their lack of depth in midfield and up front.

Juventus could collect up to 60 million euros if their former boss is thrust into the hot seat at Old Trafford, and they dispose of the pair in January.

 

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Manchester United are also interested in Leicester's James Maddison and Lyon's Moussa Dembele, according to ESPN.

- According to Il Giornale, Inter are looking at Zenit St Petersburg striker Artem Dzyuba as they aim to reinforce their front line, following a serious injury to Alexis Sanchez.

- CalcioMercato are reporting AC Milan are considering a move for Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa in January.

- The Daily Mail say Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Bournemouth and England midfielder Lewis Cook.

- Bayern Munich have no intention of selling Javi Martinez in the upcoming transfer window, according to TZ, despite previous links with former club Athletic Bilbao. 

- Turkish news outlet Star claim Fenerbahce and Turkey midfield Ozan Tufan is a January target for Crystal Palace.

Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

- Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

- Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

- Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

- Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

- Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

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