West Ham have offloaded striker Lucas Perez to LaLiga side Deportivo Alaves.

The 30-year-old struggled to make an impact in the Premier League, firstly as an Arsenal player and then after moving to the London Stadium last year.

He cost Arsenal a reported £17million from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016 before switching capital city allegiances last summer.

West Ham said Perez departed for an undisclosed fee after scoring six times in 19 appearances in all competitions for the Hammers.

Alaves, who finished 11th in LaLiga last term, announced the forward has signed a three-year contract with them.

Last month Alaves confirmed the appointment of Asier Garitano as their new head coach after the departure of Abelardo.

Barcelona are aiming for a record fifth successive Copa del Rey triumph on Saturday when they face Valencia, with the Catalans' recent dominance in the competition seeing them reach the final sixth times in a row.

If Ernesto Valverde's men complete the feat, they will certainly have done it the hard way, as they have had to get past Real Madrid and Sevilla en route to the final and will now face a Valencia side who finished fourth in LaLiga.

The pressure is on, however. Barca disappointed supporters by failing to reach the Champions League final, despite beating Liverpool 3-0 in the semi-final first leg, and some are calling for Valverde to lose his job.

Winning only LaLiga when a treble looked extremely likely just a few weeks ago could potentially spell doom for the head coach, but the omens are good for Barca, as their previous five finals have shown…

2013-14: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Having seen LaLiga and the Champions League move out of reach in the build-up, Barca – and specifically coach Gerardo Martino – needed a victory in the 2013-14 final. Things got off to a bad start when Angel Di Maria opened the scoring after a good move in the 11th minute. Marc Bartra levelled with a powerful second-half header, but Gareth Bale clinched the first piece of silverware of his career with a spectacular late solo winner, consigning Barca to their first trophyless season since 2008, which cost Martino his job.

2014-15: Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona

If 2013-14 was a failure, the following season was the complete opposite. Having already wrapped up the league title, Barca cruised to victory in the Copa, giving club great Xavi the ideal final Camp Nou outing. The magnificent Lionel Messi starred, opening the scoring with a marvellous solo effort, before Neymar rounded off a flowing move for 2-0. Their Argentinian talisman ended Athletic's chances towards the end, with Inaki Williams' goal a mere consolation. Barca then went on to complete a treble with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final.

2015-16: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (AET)

Fresh from beating Liverpool in the Europa League final, Sevilla were eager to upset another European giant. Barca were not helped by Javier Mascherano's dismissal for hauling down Kevin Gameiro in the first half, but they ended up managing the rest of the regulation 90 minutes fairly well and the numbers were evened up late on when Ever Banega was sent off. Barca simply had too much for Sevilla in extra time, as Jordi Alba and then Neymar got the goals, while Daniel Carrico was shown the game's third red card.

2016-17: Barcelona 3-1 Deportivo Alaves

A first ever Copa final for Alaves promised little given who they were up against. A Theo Hernandez free-kick offered them a measure of hope just after Messi's 30th-minute opener, but Barca ultimately had things wrapped by half-time, with Neymar and Paco Alcacer putting the game beyond Mauricio Pellegrino's men. Having missed out on the league title, Copa success at least meant Barca did not end the campaign empty-handed, with Luis Enrique leaving his post shortly after.

2017-18: Sevilla 0-5 Barcelona

While Barca's Copa tussle with Sevilla in 2016 was a gripping encounter, last season's meeting showed an alarming gulf. Andres Iniesta starred in what proved to be his last final for the club, scoring the fourth goal, but victory was effectively secured by half-time given a Luis Suarez double and a solitary Messi effort had them 3-0 up at the interval. Philippe Coutinho's penalty finished things off, as Barca went on to seal a domestic double, while Sevilla sacked Montella a week later.

Deportivo Alaves have appointed Asier Garitano as their new head coach following the departure of Abelardo.

Abelardo left the club on Monday after a run of just one win in their last 10 LaLiga matches of the season ended their hopes of an unlikely Champions League qualification place.  

They ultimately finished 11th and Abelardo decided the time was right to part ways, insisting in his farewell media conference that the club did everything they could to keep him.

They have moved quickly to name a replacement, though, appointing former Real Sociedad coach Garitano.

The 49-year-old took charge of Leganes in 2013, guiding them from the third tier of Spanish football to La Liga for the first time ever.

He then joined Real Sociedad at the start of the 2018-19 campaign but was dismissed in December after a run of four consecutive defeats.

Highly rated coach Abelardo has decided to leave Deportivo Alaves.

Abelardo replaced Gianni De Biasi in December 2017 and comfortably steered the club to safety, winning three of their final five matches of the season.

Alaves built on that with a remarkable start to 2018-19 and spent most of the campaign in the running for a top-four finish.

As recently as April 4 they were fifth in the table, but a run of just one win in their last 10 LaLiga matches ultimately saw them slide.

In the end Alaves finished 11th and Abelardo has decided the time is right to part ways, insisting in his farewell news conference on Monday the club did everything they could to keep him.

"This club's fans are fantastic; they are the main driving force behind the club and I will always keep them close to my heart," he said.

"I am bowing out with my head held high, knowing that we have achieved great things together and that is testament to this club's never-say-die attitude."

Abelardo has been linked with potentially taking over as Spain coach on a temporary basis as Luis Enrique continues a family related absence, but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) denied such an arrangement was possible.

He has also been tentatively suggested as a potential target for Real Betis, who confirmed the departure of coach Quique Setien on Sunday.

Carles Alena and Luis Suarez scored as Barcelona took another big step towards defending their LaLiga title with a 2-0 win at Deportivo Alaves.

Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba were among the stars named on the bench by Ernesto Valverde, who rested Ivan Rakitic entirely, but Barca eased to victory at Mendizorroza on Tuesday.

Alena and Suarez struck within the space of six second-half minutes to boost Barca ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash with Liverpool next week.

The Catalan giants will be confirmed as LaLiga champions for the eighth time in 11 seasons should nearest rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia on Wednesday.

Suarez and Philippe Coutinho saw early efforts blocked and the striker then saw his shot kept out by the legs of goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco after he was fed by Ousmane Dembele.

Arturo Vidal headed Dembele's right-wing cross over with Gerard Pique seemingly in a better position behind him as Barca sought the breakthrough.

Barca had created few chances in Messi's absence but they took the lead in the 54th minute.

Sergi Roberto, who switched from left-back to right-back at half-time, set up Alena with a clever pass and he beat Pacheco with a placed left-footed finish.

It was soon 2-0 in bizarre circumstances, Pique having a goal ruled out for offside as a VAR review instead led to a penalty for a handball by Tomas Pina.

Pacheco chose correctly in diving to his left but Suarez's penalty beat him for pace, and despite Barca taking a two-goal advantage Valverde sent Messi on for Dembele.

Messi and Vidal failed to add to the scoreline in the closing stages but the champagne can go on ice with the title virtually secured.


What does it mean? Barca close in on possible treble

It is fair to say Barca have not always been at their fluent best this season, but their consistency has to be admired. Since Valverde took charge in 2017 they have only lost three times in LaLiga. 

Atletico and Real Madrid have failed to muster a genuine challenge this term, but Barca will not mind as they have been able to rest players including Messi for the Champions League.

Valverde has continually dismissed suggestions the treble is on but with Barca already into the Copa del Rey final they have a serious chance of repeating the feat achieved under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.


Alena seizes his chance

One of the criticisms of Valverde has been his perceived failure to blood young talent, but Alena made his fifth LaLiga start in Vitoria.

The 21-year-old will surely get more minutes in the league with the title all but assured and four games still to play.


Pina the fall guy

Alaves competed but Pina conceding a penalty gave Barca the chance they needed to secure all three points. He may have thought he had got away with a handball before VAR intervened.


What's next?

Barca are at home to Levante on Saturday, the same day Alaves go to Athletic Bilbao, but Valverde's attentions may now turn to Liverpool as the treble becomes more realistic.

Lionel Messi is on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga game away to Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday.

Barcelona will be crowned champions this week if they beat Alaves and nearest LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid lose at home to Valencia on Wednesday.

But they will have to face Alaves without their captain as Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have been selected as support for striker Luis Suarez in Messi's absence.

Carles Alena is also in the Barcelona side, making his fifth LaLiga start of the season, with Arturo Vidal in midfield and Arthur alongside Messi and Jordi Alba on the bench.

Samuel Umtiti starts alongside Gerard Pique at the back, with Ivan Rakitic the main absentee for Barca. Sergi Roberto is expected to fill in at left-back.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde will be patient with Ousmane Dembele as the winger looks to rediscover his form following a month out injured.

Dembele's Barca career has been stop-start since joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in August 2017.

He was limited to only 24 appearances in all competitions in his first season due to injuries, and although he has managed to play 38 times this term, he has still suffered on the fitness front.

A sprained ankle saw him miss a couple of weeks of action in January and February before a hamstring tear in March ruled him out for a month.

He made his return when starting the 0-0 draw with Huesca on April 13 and lined up against Real Sociedad on Saturday. While his performances were hardly memorable, Valverde is not getting on his back.

"He played his second league game since his return the other day and he's still getting up to pace," Valverde told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's clash with Deportivo Alaves.

"He's not exactly the same as before his injury. You have to go through games before finding your place. We'll see.

"He definitely offers us speed and if other teams play high he's great on the counter. We can exploit that. He's very good in one-on-ones as well."

Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have come in for criticism during their short Barca careers and Valverde insisted every player has to earn their spot in the line-up.

"Everything is always equal between every player, no one is ahead of anyone," Valverde said.

"Sometimes one player plays, then others play. It's normal at every club, not just Barca. Every player has to find their place, their form and play well.

"They are two great players and sometimes one plays, sometimes both do."

One player Valverde is certainly happy with, however, is Arthur, with the Brazilian midfielder making a seamless transition into a key player having only joined from Gremio at the start of the season.

"He's a player who has some characteristics that fit well with the team," the coach added. "Maybe he would've had more difficulties in other teams.

"He's done very well here. He came from playing too many games, had a long-term injury last season, then playing in the national team.

"His career has taken a turn here and we hope for even more from him."

Diego Simeone has warned Barcelona that Atletico Madrid will not give up the fight for the LaLiga title following their 4-0 defeat of Deportivo Alaves.

Atleti closed the gap to the leaders back to 10 points with an emphatic win at Mendizorroza, after Barca had beaten Espanyol 2-0 earlier on Saturday.

Simeone's side suffered chastening defeats to Juventus in the Champions League and Athletic Bilbao in the league before the international break, but they swept aside top-four candidates Alaves in style thanks to goals from Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Partey.

And Simeone insists they still believe in their title chances, with the top-two meeting at Camp Nou next Saturday.

"What was most pleasing was they understood where we could hurt the opposition the most," he said after the win at Alaves. "We aim to harm the opposition and not take long to create dangerous passes. We had to play quickly.

"In principle, the players needed a game like that, at a stadium where the opponents compete well. The conviction and the way we won makes us very happy.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that, at any point in LaLiga, competing is in our nature. And we want to compete for LaLiga until our last breath."

Thomas capped the win with a spectacular strike six minute from time, which earned applause from the Alaves fans who stayed until the end.

"He did a great job," Simeone said of the midfielder. "He has so much ability and he still has things to improve. The pleasure of a stadium applauding him will stay with him, and that's something to appreciate."

Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways back with a stylish 4-0 victory over Champions League-chasing Deportivo Alaves at Mendizorroza on Saturday.

Goals from Saul Niguez, Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Thomas Partey were enough to send Atletico back to within 10 points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona and five ahead of third-place Real Madrid, who play on Sunday.

It was a commendable display from the visitors, who lost back-to-back matches to Juventus and Athletic Bilbao before the international break to effectively end their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy to add to last August's UEFA Super Cup triumph.

Saul, having been denied by a good Fernando Pacheco save, had better luck with only five minutes played when he drilled a left-footed shot beneath the goalkeeper after being sent clear by Antoine Griezmann.

Atleti doubled their lead only six minutes later, Costa collecting Koke's pass 25 yards out before bending a fine strike beyond the static Pacheco and in off the right-hand post for his first league goal since November.

The visitors eased off and nearly paid the price before the break, with Saul heading the ball off the line after Tomas Pina flicked on a corner, and Alaves were furious when Thomas Lemar escaped a second yellow card for a high foot as their pressure continued in the second half.

Those frustrations were compounded moments later when Lemar slid a fine throughball into the path of Morata, who side-footed past Pacheco with aplomb from 12 yards.

Pacheco denied Griezmann a fourth with a fine one-handed stop that sent his attempted chip onto the left-hand post, but Diego Simeone's side reserved their best moment until last, with Thomas bending a stunning strike in off the woodwork with six minutes left.

 

What does it mean? Atleti restore order after turbulent two weeks

Crashing out of the Champions League to Juventus, losing 2-0 to Athletic and seeing Lucas Hernandez agree to an €80million move to Bayern Munich all in the last two weeks must have hurt the Atletico camp.

With that in mind, their performance here was particularly impressive, and might just serve as a reminder that it need not be all doom and gloom at the Wanda Metropolitano, even if leaders Barca are 10 points clear at the top.

For Alaves, this was something of a missed opportunity, with Getafe's loss to Leganes earlier meaning they could have gone fourth had they beaten Atleti.

Griezmann brings graft and guile

Playing on the right once more, Griezmann did a lot of good defensive work to cover for Juanfran on top of his typically creative attacking display. He created three chances, earned one assist and was inches from a goal of his own.

Brasanac move backfires

Darko Brasanac was given the nod on the Alaves right ahead of Takashi Inui, and he did not repay Abelardo's faith, offering little in attack and not much cover against Saul before being replaced after less than an hour.

What's next?

Atleti host Girona on Tuesday before next Saturday's showdown with Barca at Camp Nou. Alaves are next in action on Thursday, away to Sevilla.

Real Madrid's squad love playing alongside Vinicius Junior, according to head coach Santiago Solari.

Vinicius played a starring role for Madrid against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday, as they moved to within two points of second-placed Atletico ahead of their derby clash on Saturday.

Youngster Vinicius, who has established himself as a first-team regular in recent weeks, scored one and helped create another as Madrid won 3-0, and Solari was full of praise for the attacker.

"He has done a great match, Vinicius, and was applauded from the [Santiago] Bernabeu," Solari told a news conference.

"He is responding very well when he plays and in training.

"We are delighted with his arrival and his performances, and he always has the support of the mature players in the squad, who take care of him, love him and they advise him."

Vinicius' pinpoint pass played in Sergio Reguilon to tee up Karim Benzema's opener, and the former Flamengo forward wrapped up the points with a neat finish late on.

Mariano Diaz's goal added further gloss in stoppage time, and Vinicius said he is playing with no fear despite having the responsibility of representing one of the world's biggest clubs.

"It does not scare me, I play in Madrid, in the best team in the world, I do not fear anything," Vinicius said.

"I play where the coach believes is better, I will do everything to help, on the right, the left or in the middle, I will continue working to win with Madrid.

"We have returned better in 2019. It is our best moment since the beginning of the season and we will continue to work like this to continue on this path until the end of the season."

Karim Benzema continued his scoring streak as he netted for the sixth time in four games to help Real Madrid cruise to a 3-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. 

The Frenchman struck after 30 minutes of a one-sided contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Gareth Bale made his first start overcoming a calf injury but Vinicius Junior stole the show, including scoring his side's second. 

It was the 18-year-old who unlocked the Alaves defence with a killer pass in the build-up to Benzema's opener, and he converted Marco Asensio's low cross to double Madrid's advantage 10 minutes from time.

Substitute Mariano Diaz added a late third as Madrid moved to within two points of second-placed Atletico - who lost 1-0 away at Real Betis earlier in the day - in the table after a fourth consecutive win in LaLiga.

Guillermo Maripan's error almost allowed Dani Ceballos to open the scoring after three minutes but his shot deflected over the bar, while Benzema curled an effort narrowly wide from just inside the box moments later.

Vinicius slalomed through the Alaves defence before stinging the palms of Fernando Pacheco with a shot from 15 yards before playing a key role in the first goal.

The Brazilian teenager had the vision to see Sergio Reguilon's run and played him in behind the Alaves defence, with the defender sending over a low cross that Benzema side-footed into the net.

Ruben Duarte volleyed a rare Alaves chance wide from an acute angle at the start of the second half before Bale tested Pacheco with a low drive at the other end.

Santiago Solari replaced Bale and Benzema with Mariano and Asensio in the final half-hour and the latter's centre bounced through the Alaves box to the feet of Vinicius, who calmly provided the finish.

Alvaro Odriozola was denied a goal by an offside decision but did set up Mariano in additional time, the forward's firm header wrapping up a thoroughly convincing win for the hosts in the Spanish capital.
 

Toni Kroos will miss Real Madrid's LaLiga match against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

The Germany international has not been included in the 20-man squad for the meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.

No explanation has been provided for the absence of Kroos, who trained with the squad on Saturday ahead of a daunting run of matches.

Madrid travel to Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final, first leg on Wednesday before meeting Atletico Madrid in LaLiga next Saturday.

The first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Ajax takes place just four days later in the Spanish capital.

Jesus Vallejo will also miss the Alaves match due to injury, while Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal are suspended.

Gareth Bale, who is one goal short of 100 for the club, is expected to start a league game for the first time since January 3.

Santiago Solari believes Gareth Bale looks ready to shine for Real Madrid amid further speculation over the Wales international's future.

Bale marked his return from a calf injury in last Sunday's 4-2 win over Espanyol with his fifth LaLiga goal of the season, while he managed 23 minutes of the 3-1 Copa del Rey win at Girona on Thursday.

The forward's agent, Jonathan Barnett, told fan site Madridista Real this week Bale has never wanted to leave Madrid and he is tired of the "stupid lie stories" surrounding his future, with a Premier League return often mooted for the former Tottenham star.

With Bale now pushing for a return to the starting line-up in Madrid's LaLiga clash with Deportivo Alaves on Sunday, head coach Solari hopes to see him rediscover top form as he goes in search of his 100th goal for the club.

"He is always in the spotlight. The spotlight waits for him," he told a news conference.

"He looks connected, switched on, and we want him to perform like he knows how to, like he did at the Club World Cup, at Roma ... he's so important for us."

Solari also praised the recent form of Karim Benzema, who followed up his two goals against Espanyol with another double against Girona.

"Benzema has always shone. The players who make their team-mates better have a special shine," he said.

"We have a lot of these footballers, who are sometimes well known, but have their own light and give competitiveness to the team.

"It's a great moment for him, that's for sure. He's getting goals; you're happy for him."

Ibai Gomez has returned to Athletic Bilbao after spending the last two and a half years at fellow LaLiga club Deportivo Alaves.

Gomez has made 17 LaLiga starts this term for Alaves - flying high in fourth, above Real Madrid - but has been tempted back to Athletic on a deal to 2022.

The left winger's signing will boost Athletic's battle as they bid to avoid a first LaLiga relegation in their history, with the club only two points clear of the drop zone.

Gomez, 29, was also linked with Premier League side Leicester City and Championship leaders Leeds United, has previously made 145 Athletic appearances, scoring 17 goals.

Athletic only employ players from a Basque background and have also been linked with moves for a number of the club's other former players.

Director of football Rafa Alkorta named Gomez as a transfer target, along with Javi Martinez, Ander Herrera and Fernando Llorente, this week.

Tottenham striker Llorente, who scored an FA Cup hat-trick last weekend against Tranmere Rovers, has indicated he would be interested in a return to Athletic.

"If I had the opportunity to talk, for me, yes. I would go back," he told El Larguero de la SER last month.

Atletico Madrid received a boost in the aftermath of their 3-0 victory over Deportivo Alaves as defenders Diego Godin and Filipe Luis returned to first-team training.

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