Zinedine Zidane again reiterated there is no problem between himself and Gareth Bale after recalling the winger for Real Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Madrid extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to six points ahead of Barcelona's trip to Real Betis as they prevailed in a feisty encounter at El Sadar.

Unai Garcia headed the hosts into a 14th-minute lead but Isco volleyed in his first league goal of the campaign and Sergio Ramos edged Madrid in front before the break.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic added gloss to the scoreline late on, the former having replaced the recalled Bale 20 minutes from time.

The Wales star passed up a pair of half-chances before having a hand in Isco's equaliser and Zidane was impressed by his efforts without the ball, during what was at times a gruelling contest.

"He is an important player, he has shown it," Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"He has not played the last three games and has made 70 very good minutes defensively.

"Then, the problem is that they want us to have a problem with Gareth, but there is not one.

"There are many players, it’s not easy to manage all that. He’s a very important player, he’s always shown it and he’ll keep playing, like the others."

Asked again about Bale's performance, Zidane added: "He has done well. I am happy for his game, offensively and defensively he has given everything.

"He was a bit short physically at the end, so he has left the field. We know the player he is and that he is going to give a lot from now until the end of the season. Let's count on Gareth."

Jovic is another player who has not always found favour with his boss and the former Eintracht Frankfurt striker's fabulous left-footed finish marked only a second LaLiga goal, and his first since October.

"I'm glad for him, I needed him, he is a pure striker of whom you can say many things," Zidane said.

"He plays well, but if he does not score a goal he is not happy. He has to improve, but I'm glad for his goal. It will come in handy."

Eden Hazard was absent once more, with the Belgium playmaker running out of time to prove his fitness before the Champions League clash with Manchester City at the end of this month.

"It's a thing we do together," Zidane explained when discussing the management of Hazard's recovery from a fractured ankle.

"It wasn't the time today again and we'll see this week. He's going to need this week, it's going to be long. We're going to see him next week, I hope."

Isco's first LaLiga goal of the season helped Real Madrid to a battling 4-1 win at Osasuna on Sunday.

The hosts deservedly hit the front at a bristling El Sadar thanks to Unai Garcia's header, but Isco finished with aplomb in the 33rd minute.

Sergio Ramos' knack for vital goals came up trumps for Zinedine Zidane once more before the interval, and Madrid now lead Barcelona by six points at the summit.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic made sure of that state of affairs before Quique Setien takes Barca to face his old employers Real Betis in the day's late kick-off.

Right-back Nacho Vidal fizzed a 20-yard shot narrowly wide inside the first minute to serve notice of Osasuna's intentions before Jose Arnaiz and Ruben Garcia raided down the right-hand side of Madrid's defence to go close.

It meant the 14th-minute opener was on the cards when it arrived – Unai Garcia stooping to head home Ruben Garcia's corner.

Madrid's most immediate route back into the match appeared to be Osasuna keeper Sergio Herrera, who twice darted from his goal and was indebted to last-ditch clearances from shots by Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal.

Herrera was more conventionally placed but had no chance when Isco dispatched a looping ball on the volley after Gareth Bale's attempt was blocked.

Casemiro atoned for his poor marking on Osasuna's goal by heading Luka Modric's corner back across goal for Ramos to make it 2-1.

Unai Garcia got in the way of Benzema's goalbound 49th-minute effort from a Modric cutback, and Osasuna kept scrapping away – Casemiro turning Ruben Garcia's shot behind after Nacho Vidal ransacked Isco.

The playmaker was certainly more at home in the opposition half and a sharp low stop from Herrera kept out an Isco snapshot before Vazquez replaced Bale.

The Spain winger benefitted from Benzema's unselfish 84th-minute pass, while Modric and Federico Valverde combined for Jovic to rifle in his second LaLiga goal – and first since October – in stoppage time.

Inigo Perez rattling Thibaut Courtois crossbar showed Osasuna's spirit remained intact until the last.
 

What does it mean? Pressure on Barca

Madrid might not have been at their best here, but it does not matter. Barcelona's uncertain start to life under Setien will now continue with them eyeing a mounting deficit when they kick-off at Estadio Benito Villamarin. Anything more than three points for the Blaugrana and this weekend will come to appear pivotal in the title battle.

Ramos proves the master of irritation once more

He is certainly not to everyone's taste, but if you're a fan, this was time to enjoy some pure, unadulterated, hook-it-to-my-veins Sergio Ramos. Madrid were lucky to be level when Ramos decided to begin a prolonged argument with any Osasuna player willing to listen. The trap of distraction was set for the corner to come and the unmarked skipper proceeded to mock his opponents by sucking his thumb and blowing kisses in celebration. In a title race that could be scrapped for until the last, Madrid have the ideal man leading the charge.

Lack of sharpness does Bale no favours

Claiming an assist for Isco's equaliser would be ambitious, but Bale needs all he can get at Madrid right now. Granted only a 10th LaLiga start this term, the Wales star volleyed into the side-netting and headed over from Carvajal deliveries before half-time. They were, at best, half-chances but Bale's dwindling standing with Zidane means he now needs something special every time an opportunity comes his way.

What's next?

Madrid host Celta Vigo in seven days' time, when Osasuna travel to Athletic Bilbao.

Gareth Bale was named in Real Madrid's starting line-up for Sunday's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna at El Sadar.

Wales international Bale sat out Madrid's past four games, having initially struggled with an ankle injury sustained in the Copa del Rey clash against Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

However, he got the nod from Zinedine Zidane to make just his 10th league start of the season and first in over a month.

Bale's return was one of eight changes to the team that was eliminated from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals by Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Karim Benzema were the only players to hang onto their places.

Thibaut Courtois was back in goal, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy joining Ramos in defence.

Luka Modric and Casemiro were brought in for Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, while Zidane picked Bale and Isco to flank Karim Benzema in attack.

Paris Saint-Germain reportedly have no interest in listening to offers for star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, 21, has repeatedly been linked to Real Madrid, rumours which only intensified after the forward was involved in a bust-up with coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG are prepared to make the France international see out his contract, rather than lose one of their star players.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STANDING FIRM OVER MBAPPE AMID MADRID LINKS

PSG will not listen to offers for Mbappe amid links to Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Mbappe is contracted in Paris until 2022 and the Ligue 1 giants are willing to make him see out his deal.

PSG have also tried to extend Mbappe's contract, moves which are set to continue despite his seeming unhappiness at the club.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under some pressure at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on becoming Manchester United manager ahead of next season, according to the Mirror.

- While Pochettino may arrive, Paul Pogba seems likely to leave United. Tuttosport reports the midfielder and Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala dream of playing together again, with Pogba perhaps set for a return to Turin. Dybala is in contract talks with Juventus with his deal expiring in 2022.

- Jack Grealish seems to know where he wants to be. Goal reports the midfielder is ready to join Manchester United from Aston Villa, although no formal talks have taken place. The Sun says Grealish prefers Manchester United over other clubs, while the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the race for the Englishman.

- With Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to injury, Barcelona are eyeing a move for … Luis Suarez. El Larguero reports Barcelona have made contact with Real Zaragoza over the forward, who is on loan from Watford. Suarez has scored 14 goals in the Segunda Division this season.

- On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham, Danny Rose will be watched by Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a possible move at the end of the season, according to The Sun.

Gareth Bale is back in Real Madrid's squad for Sunday's LaLiga trip to Osasuna following Zinedine Zidane's insistence there is no issue between the pair.

Bale, who is enduring an underwhelming season, last featured for Madrid in the Copa del Rey clash with Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

The ankle knock he suffered in that encounter was only minor, but after being left out for their next game – a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid – he also failed to get himself back in contention for the next three outings.

Most recently Madrid lost 4-3 at home in a thrilling Copa del Rey quarter-final tussle with Real Sociedad, and despite scoring Los Blancos' third, Rodrygo Goes is one of those to come out of the travelling party.

Eden Hazard continues to miss out as well – the Belgian yet to make his return from an ankle injury he suffered in November, despite making his comeback to training more than two weeks ago.

Also returning are Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal as Madrid look to restore their six-point lead over Barcelona at the summit, who face head coach Quique Setien's former team Real Betis later the same day.

Zinedine Zidane admits "the knives come out" whenever Real Madrid lose but said criticism of Marcelo after the club's midweek Copa del Rey defeat was "upsetting".

Madrid suffered a miserable 4-3 reverse to Real Sociedad on Thursday to tumble out of the cup at the quarter-final stage, and the scoreline arguably flattered the Santiago Bernabeu hosts.

Trailing 4-1 at one stage, it took late goals from Rodrygo Goes and Nacho to garner any sense of respectability.

Zidane used the match to give several of his fringe players a chance, and although 31-year-old Marcelo last month made a 500th appearance for Madrid, he is no longer the first choice left-back.

Ferland Mendy is Zidane's preferred pick now, and Marcelo, despite netting Madrid's first goal, was one of a cluster of players whose performance came in for criticism after the Sociedad loss.

The likes of James Rodriguez, right-back Nacho, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and forward Brahim Diaz all struggled to impose themselves on the game.

But when asked about Marcelo facing flak, Zidane said on Saturday: "It's upsetting because he gives his all when he plays – not just Marcelo, all the players do – but this isn't going to change. I can say it's upsetting, it's not good because they go out there and play to their maximum.

"The fans who were there saw that. The fans have a role to play – they could be upset when we get knocked out, but I know they know we've given 100 per cent.

"I think Marcelo gave his all the other day. The knives come out when you lose. When we lose, everything gets analysed. The important thing is my players give 100 per cent and he did, I think.

"He's been an important player for many years and I'm sure he's going to continue to be important until the end of the season

"It's very difficult with 50-60 games to play your best football always, so there are ups and downs. There's a long way to go and everyone is needed until the end of the season."

Madrid are back in action at Osasuna on Sunday and entered the weekend with a three-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

Marcelo's fellow Brazilian Casemiro was another to sit out the Sociedad game and the midfielder's absence was felt, but head coach Zidane said the team should have been able to cope without his presence.

"We have one player in that mould. But we have other players who can come in and do a good job," said the Frenchman. 

"People analyse too much the issue of if Casemiro plays or not. We all know what he brings to the side when he plays in that central position, but we need to play well when he's not available."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane refused to spill the secrets of the dressing room but admitted his team are desperate to make up for their Copa del Rey exit.

A 4-3 defeat to Real Sociedad saw Madrid slump at the quarter-final stage on Thursday, with the fact it came in front of their own fans at the Santiago Bernabeu making the exit all the more uncomfortable.

The chance to quickly put the loss to the back of their minds arrives in Pamplona on Sunday when LaLiga's leaders tackle Osasuna.

When asked about the mood in the Madrid camp, Zidane, whose team were unbeaten in 21 games before their cup blow, was giving little away.

"What goes on in the locker room stays there," he said. "We've analysed the game. We're not happy with the outcome, but luckily there's another game just three days later and now we're focusing on that game.

"It's not the end of the world. There's been lots of good work until now."

Madrid began the weekend three points ahead of bitter rivals Barcelona, who suffered their own cup misery at the hands of Athletic Bilbao.

Mid-table Osasuna have been blighted by draws this season, with 10 of their 22 matches ending level, but Madrid got the better of them in September when goals from Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo Goes secured a 2-0 home victory.

"The last 20, 21 games, I've been saying we've yet to win anything," Zidane said. "What we have to do is fight, battle away until the end of the season.

"We've got a game on Sunday and another game after that, and it's going to be non-stop. The players have plenty of self-belief.

"I was a player. I know what it's like to be in their shoes. It's not easy to be playing every three days and to play your best football in each and every game.

"We played against a team who played very well, never stopped running. No team had run more against us this season.

"We'll get more games like this coming up, no doubt. I'm always going to defend my players."

Zidane made a host of changes for the cup clash but looks set to restore his strongest available side for the Osasuna game.

"There's going to be movement, rotation. I have my way of doing things and I can make mistakes," he said, "But I'm confident in my players and we have to praise Real Sociedad for how they played.

"I have decisions I need to make and I'm the man responsible here and that won't change."

Zidane added: "We know what game to expect on Sunday. It's another tough game and I always say the same but it's a tough team, a tough ground and they've been doing things very well this season.

"We know what kind of game and opponents we're going to face. It's going to be a tough 90 minutes and we have to give our all. It's another final for us."

Zinedine Zidane insisted it "couldn't be further from the truth" to suggest there is a problem with Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.

Wales forward Bale has played just 12 LaLiga matches for Madrid this season and was not involved in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarter-final against Real Sociedad.

Spanish media reported Bale left the Santiago Bernabeu long before the final whistle in that match, which ended in a 4-3 defeat for Madrid.

He has barely been involved since the turn of the year, yet Zidane told reporters in a news conference on Saturday they should not "read between the lines".

Bale's situation dominated the media room discussion before Madrid's Sunday trip to face Osasuna.

When asked if he was happy with the way Bale is training, Zidane said: "Yes, and I'm happy with all the players I have here.

"I know the answer you're looking for, but I have 25 players at my disposal and I have to pick a team. There's no issues or underlying problems and I'm sure he's going to keep working as he has been and he's going to be a part of this team."

The question of Bale leaving before the end of the Sociedad match was raised, but again Zidane played it straight, saying: "The most important thing is he wants to be here, wants to work hard, wants to train.

"There are times when he's not named in the matchday squad but I wouldn't read between the lines. I understand everyone has a point of view but he's going to be a player I'll lean on from now until the end."

Bale's agent recently said the former Tottenham star intends to stay at the club at least until the end of his contract in 2022, spurring Zidane to say he has "no issue whatsoever" with that plan.

The 30-year-old almost left Madrid in the close season, when a move to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning was called off.

What might be said in private between Zidane and Bale remains the subject of conjecture.

"We talk regularly, but I'm not going to tell you what I tell my players behind closed doors," Zidane said.

"He hasn't been in the last few squad lists – I have to choose. We know what he can bring to the side – he has to be fit and ready and I want him to be in the best shape to play.

"I have to pick a team, a squad, and the players are battling for a place in the squad and the starting XI. I have to choose the players every three days.

"You might think there's a problem but no, that couldn't be further from the truth."

Real Madrid attacker Vinicius Junior dismissed speculation over a move to Paris Saint-Germain, insisting he wants to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinicius was linked with PSG in January – the Ligue 1 champions' sporting director Leonardo a reported admirer of his fellow Brazilian.

However, Vinicius has no plans to leave LaLiga giants Madrid, where the 19-year-old arrived in 2018.

Speaking after Thursday's shock 4-3 Copa del Rey quarter-final loss to Real Sociedad, Vinicius told reporters: "There's no choice, I want to stay at Madrid."

Trailing Sociedad 1-0 at half-time, Madrid found themselves 3-0 down before the hour-mark in the Spanish capital.

Marcelo reduced the deficit in the 59th minute but Mikel Merino restored Sociedad's three-goal advantage 10 minutes later.

Late goals from Rodrygo Goes and Nacho gave Madrid some hope, however, it was not enough for the LaLiga leaders at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"I would like to ask to the fans to keep this way up, we are going to fight until the end of the season in order to win La Liga and Champions League too," Vinicius said.

Vinicius added: "We were not in good shape, and Sociedad plays football really well, they're well-placed in LaLiga. It was a difficult match. The only Copa one played at home, and we lost.

"It is hard to lose at home. We were unbeaten at home and we got beaten on the single match we can't afford to lose. But on the other hand, we keep fighting until the end, fighting to keep in good shape looking forward the end of this season."

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid – three points clear of Barcelona atop LaLiga, travel to Osasuna on Sunday.

Real Madrid and Barcelona exited the Copa del Rey on the same date for the first time since 1955 following shock defeats.

LaLiga giants Madrid and Barca both crashed out in the quarter-finals on Thursday, stunned by Basque pair Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

Madrid were upstaged 4-3 by visiting Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Lionel Messi's Barca – runners-up for six successive seasons – conceded a 93rd-minute goal in a 1-0 loss away to Athletic.

It is the first time in 65 years Madrid and Barca have been eliminated on the same day – the pair ousted by Sevilla and Athletic in the 1955 semi-finals.

LaLiga leaders Madrid and Barca will now turn their attention to league and Champions League honours.

Madrid – three points clear atop LaLiga – face Manchester City in the Champions League last 16, while Barca meet Napoli.

Zinedine Zidane felt the Real Madrid XI he sent out for Thursday's 4-3 Copa del Rey quarter-final loss to Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu should have been good enough to progress.

Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard opened the scoring and an Alexander Isak brace saw Sociedad surge into a 3-0 lead before the hour.

Marcelo pulled a goal back and, after Mikel Merino made it 4-1, late goals from substitute Rodrygo Goes and Nacho left the visitors hanging on, with Andoni Gorosabel dismissed for a second booking in stoppage time.

Alphonse Areola was culpable for Odegaard's goal, while James Rodriguez was withdrawn at the break and Brahim Diaz had a minimal impact upon the contest.

Nevertheless, Zidane maintained a team that featured captain Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema had more than enough to get the job done.

"I put out a team that thought I could do well," Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"I don't think we were wrong with the team, but there is a rival who played very well and that has cost us.

"Here we are all together, when you win and when you lose."

Zidane felt Madrid grew into the game after the interval, only to be punished by frequent and uncharacteristic defensive lapses.

"The second half was better than the first and we tried until the end," he said.

"Even when it was 1-4 we tried. The opponent played very well and in the first half we had a lot of difficulty with their pressure. We also had defensive mistakes."

LaLiga leaders Madrid are back in action at Osasuna on Sunday, chasing a fifth consecutive top-flight win.

"This hurts, yes, you have to tell the truth," Zidane added.

"But you have to think about Sunday. You have to recover because the effort has been great."

Raheem Sterling will miss Manchester City's clash with West Ham on Sunday after it was confirmed the England forward has suffered a hamstring injury.

The blow to Sterling came about late in City's defeat to Tottenham last weekend, and the reigning Premier League champions have stated only that he will be absent for this weekend.

It remains to be seen whether Sterling recovers in time for the match against Leicester on February 22, or the Champions League last-16 first-leg tussle with Real Madrid four days later.

A statement on City's official website said: "Raheem Sterling will miss the visit of West Ham after scans revealed he has suffered damage to his left hamstring.

"The forward limped out of our game at Tottenham on Sunday with six minutes remaining and was assessed on Thursday at the CFA [City Football Academy].

"He will continue to be monitored during the winter break. Everyone at City wishes Raheem a full and speedy recovery."

City begin their short mid-season break after the match against lowly West Ham, with Pep Guardiola's side, who sit a distant second to Liverpool in the table, returning to action 13 days later against Leicester.

Sterling has scored 11 goals in 23 Premier League outings for City this season.

Martin Odegaard gave his parent club a telling reminder of his talents as Real Sociedad stunned Real Madrid with a 4-3 victory in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

The 21-year-old playmaker opened the scoring midway through the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu, assisted by a dreadful goalkeeping error from Alphonse Areola.

That was Odegaard's sixth goal in the first season of a planned two-campaign loan stint in San Sebastian and Sociedad striker Alexander Isak then took centre stage with two goals in as many second-half minutes.

 

Mikel Merino made it 4-1 after Marcelo pulled one back for Madrid, and Sociedad held out to hand Zinedine Zidane's shuffled line-up a first defeat in 22 matches, despite goals from Rodrygo Goes and Nacho and a red card for Andoni Gorosabel in a riotous finale.

Areola erred terribly to reward an enterprising start from Sociedad, pushing Isak's strike into Odegaard's path before allowing the midfielder's first-time follow-up to slide embarrassingly through his legs.

James Rodriguez's snapshot from the edge of the box drew a fine stop from Alex Remiro low to his right, with the Real Sociedad goalkeeper denying Vinicius Jr and Federico Valverde in quick succession before Sergio Ramos planted a 39th-minute header against the crossbar from an offside position.

Isak's wayward finishing had threatened to undermine Sociedad's fine work during the first half and he had a 49th-minute effort chalked off when a VAR review showed him to be offside on the end of Odegaard's throughball.

But the Sweden forward swivelled to superbly volley a chipped cross from Ander Barrenetxea – on as a half-time replacement for Adnan Januzaj – into the top left corner.

Isak then made further mockery of his earlier wastefulness by thundering an unstoppable shot high beyond Areola from Nacho's mishit clearance.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Remiro's earlier sureness deserted him as Marcelo fired through his grasp at the near post, handing Madrid a 59th-minute lifeline.

More slapdash defending sealed their fate, however, with Merino the unlikely and unmarked beneficiary when Isak turned provider.

Madrid almost dug themselves out of a hole of their own making, with Vinicius cutting back for Rodrygo to slam in after having a header of his own disallowed for offside.

Nacho's stoppage-time header and Gorosabel's second yellow card, for a foul on Vinicius, meant Sociedad stumbled over the line in a manner at odds with their earlier brilliance.

Pep Guardiola warned Barcelona they would need time to readjust when Lionel Messi leaves the club, after Real Madrid's struggles following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in July 2018 and the Spanish giants battled that season, winning only the Club World Cup and seeing three different coaches at the helm, including the return of Zinedine Zidane.

Manchester City manager Guardiola expects his former club Barca to endure a similar problem when Messi, another all-time great, departs Camp Nou.

"It is inevitable, these players are so transcendent," he told Post United in an interview conducted by Spanish YouTuber DjMariio, via Marca.

"When Messi leaves Barca it will take time to readjust. It is inevitable.

"They score 40-50 goals per season."

Guardiola has continued to enjoy coaching success since leaving Barcelona, a spell at Bayern Munich preceding his move to Manchester.

Already a two-time Premier League winner, Guardiola has another young star in his squad in highly rated midfielder Phil Foden.

Foden has only made two Premier League starts this season, but Guardiola talked up the 19-year-old's talent.

"He will be a bomb," he said.

"There are no clauses here, you have it raw, you have to negotiate with me."

Eden Hazard must wait to make his Real Madrid comeback after failing to make the matchday squad for the Copa del Rey clash with Real Sociedad, while Gareth Bale is missing once again.

Belgium forward Hazard has been absent since November with an ankle injury and only returned to training last week.

There had been hope he could feature in the derby against Atletico Madrid, which Zinedine Zidane's men won 1-0 on Saturday, but he was not included for that game.

Head coach Zidane was non-committal on his involvement for the quarter-final tie against Sociedad and Hazard was not among a 19-man squad named on Wednesday.

Bale remains conspicuous by his absence after Zidane said his exclusion for the match against Atleti was not due to injury, saying: "He was available. When it came to deciding, I picked others."

Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal are also not among those selected. Reports in Spain suggest Casemiro has been suffering with flu, while Carvajal took a knock against Atleti. 

Nacho Fernandez, Brahim Diaz and Rodrygo Goes – all absent against Atleti – are included against Sociedad.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.