Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale are not in the Real Madrid squad for Saturday's LaLiga derby with Atletico Madrid.

Brazilian forward Rodrygo Goes also misses out on the 19-man squad, along with Brahim Diaz and Nacho Fernandez.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane had suggested Bale and Hazard could be involved in the match at the Santiago Bernabeu after some encouraging signs in training this week.

Hazard has been out since November with an ankle injury, while Bale was hurt in the 3-1 Copa del Rey triumph over Unionistas de Salamanca last week and missed wins over Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza.

Bale had been linked with a deadline-day return to Tottenham but Zidane insisted on Friday he was "not contemplating" such a move.

Casemiro, Eder Militao and Isco have all returned to the Madrid squad for the clash with Diego Simeone's side.

Madrid are three points clear at the top of LaLiga after 21 matches, 10 points above Atleti, who sit in fifth place.

Yannick Carrasco has re-joined Atletico Madrid from Dalian Yifang on loan until the end of the season and Diego Simeone has not ruled out further deadline-day arrivals.

Belgium international Carrasco trained with Atletico prior to confirmation of the deal being announced on Friday and coach Simeone hopes to be able to call upon him in the LaLiga meeting with rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

The 26-year-old joined Atletico from Monaco in 2015 and left for Chinese Super League side Dalian in February 2018, but Simeone is pleased to have him back.

"[Carrasco] is excited and wants to be here," said Simeone. "If the paperwork is done, he will certainly be with us [against Madrid].

"I want him to come with the same commitment we spoke about on the telephone. I liked Yannick's desire to come to Atletico. That is an important step for what can happen next."


Atletico reportedly failed with an €18million bid for Edinson Cavani, whose contract at Paris Saint-Germain will expire at the end of the season, but there may still be new additions on deadline day.

"There are still a few hours left. Anything can happen," said Simeone.

The Atleti boss has been subject to increasing criticism in recent weeks, with his team falling 10 points behind LaLiga leaders Madrid and suffering elimination from the Copa del Rey to third-tier Cultural Leonesa.

Zinedine Zidane spoke out in support of his cross-city counterpart on Friday and Simeone was thankful for his words.

"It's nice when a colleague of Zidane's quality thinks this way. I return the message," said the Argentine.

"He is the ideal coach for Madrid. He has the rank and the ability to do what he feels. He returned to compete like he had before he left.

"Madrid have improved a lot defensively. They are very strong. They have many options in attack and that allows him to play with different players.

"It will be a match where the details and intelligence will have a lot of dominance."

Barcelona and Real Madrid avoided each other in the draw for the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Friday.

Quique Setien's men were pitted against Athletic in the last eight, with the game taking place at San Mames next week.

Former Athletic defender Andoni Goikoetxea, the club's representative at the draw, feels home advantage could be key.

He said: "I like the draw. I wanted it to be at San Mames. It's a very difficult draw, we'll see what happens but it'll be a party.

"Athletic always has aspirations to reach the Copa final but you have to beat all the great teams to get there. Athletic can beat anyone and San Mames is a magical place."

Madrid will also fancy their chances at home to Real Sociedad, while defending champions Valencia go to Granada.

Giantkillers Mirandes, the only team from outside LaLiga remaining, were rewarded for their defeat of Sevilla with a home tie against Villarreal.

The matches will be played across February 4, 5 and 6.

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale are in contention to return for Real Madrid in Saturday's derby against Atletico Madrid.

Belgium forward Hazard was beginning to show signs of his best form after a big-money move from Chelsea before an ankle injury sustained in November curtailed his momentum, with a hamstring issue having seen him miss large chunks earlier in the campaign.

Hazard returned to training last week and head coach Zinedine Zidane said he could be involved in El Derbi, though did not make any guarantees.

When asked about his availability, Zidane replied: "Hazard has been training with us all week.

"He could be included but we will never take any risks."

Bale twisted his ankle in a 3-1 Copa del Rey triumph over Unionistas de Salamanca last week and missed wins over Real Valladolid and Real Zaragoza.

Zidane, though, again kept his cards close to his chest when asked if the Wales forward will face Atleti.

"It's the same question, I'm not going to say who's going to play because it's something personal," Zidane added. 

"All players are prepared and then we'll see what happens.

"We have 25 players and the good thing is that they are all involved. Then I am the one to choose because I am the coach. Since we have 25, the complicated thing is the call for the 18. All I want is for the players to be focused and prepared."

Bale's future at the Santiago Bernabeu was once again a topic of discussion with reports suggesting he could make a return to Tottenham on loan.

However, Zidane is not expecting such a scenario on deadline day.

"Gareth is here with us and I am counting on him. I am not contemplating this possibility," Zidane said.

Diego Simeone appeared to have perfected a defence-first approach at Atletico Madrid.

However, Zinedine Zidane's work with Real Madrid this season has seemingly been based on the same philosophy and is reaping far greater rewards.

LaLiga leaders Madrid will hope to open a six-point lead over Barcelona when they entertain local rivals Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

With the help of Opta, we look at the impressive numbers behind Los Blancos' miserly defence.

 

A sluggish start

It was not an ideal start for Zidane when he returned for a second stint as coach last March.

A 4-1 win over Real Valladolid was not enough for Santiago Solari to keep his job following back-to-back home defeats to Barcelona and a shock Champions League last-16 exit to Ajax.

Zidane struggled to find consistency in the closing stages of the season and only managed five wins in his 11 LaLiga games at the helm.

During that time frame, Madrid appeared to increasingly struggle defensively. They saw their average goals conceded per game rise from 1.19 to 1.27 and they faced 0.5 more shots per game (up to 4.09 from 3.59).

 

Tightening up

Madrid kept just three clean sheets under Zidane last season, but they are already up to 11 in 21 LaLiga games this term. That is one more than Atletico.

Having let in 14 goals as Zidane saw out the end of the 2018-19 campaign, they have improved dramatically with just 13 put past them this term – the fewest of any teams in the top five European leagues and their best record after 21 matches since 1988.

Madrid's expected goals conceded is 19.75, meaning they have let in 6.75 fewer than anticipated, highlighting some good work from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The only teams in LaLiga with a better differential this season are Real Valladolid (-10.11) and Levante (-7.44), but they conceded more than Madrid at 24 and 32 respectively.

Greater defensive work has seen the number of shots Madrid are facing decrease from 9.91 per game under Zidane last term – and 10.24 across the whole campaign – to 8.48, a tally only Getafe (7.57) and Manchester City (7.63) have faced fewer than in the top five European leagues.

When only efforts that hit the target are taken into account, Madrid have been troubled by just 2.62 every 90 minutes this season – the lowest in the continent's leading divisions. Atletico face just 2.86 per match.

 

Attack as a form of defence?

Madrid have seen their average possession dip slightly since Zidane took over, but it has remained at just above 58 per cent under the Frenchman.

They are seemingly reaping the rewards of playing with greater intensity higher up the pitch – they have won possession in the final third 5.38 times per game this season, an increase from 4.09 in Zidane's first 11 games in charge.

Madrid are averaging more shots than any team in LaLiga at 17.89 per game, with 6.43 of those hitting the target – another league high.

Lucas Vazquez insists he never doubted he is good enough to represent Real Madrid and is not concerned about the criticism he has received.

The Spain international rifled home the second goal in Wednesday's routine 4-0 win over Real Zaragoza as Madrid cruised into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Many have questioned Vazquez's role in the team, but he was praised by boss Zinedine Zidane for his display against Zaragoza and the winger is glad to have proved himself.

Asked how he reacts to the criticism directed his way, the 28-year-old told reporters: "I isolate myself from it. I'm a Madrid player and I know what I stand for.

"What you can't do is doubt yourself."

Madrid have gone 20 games without defeat in all competitions since losing 2-0 to Real Mallorca on October 19 and they lead the way by three points at the top of LaLiga.

Next up is a home match with city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday and Vazquez said: "The game in Mallorca was a turning point. It's brought good performances and good results.

"Playing [Atletico] is always difficult. They're not going to make things easy for us."

Raphael Varane, Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were also on target at the Estadio La Romareda as Madrid made it seven wins in a row.

Zidane's men remain on course for three more trophies, having already won the Supercopa de Espana earlier this month, and defender Dani Carvajal has set his sights on a clean sweep.

"We have three matches left [in the Copa] to be in the final and we are going for it," he said.

"We will take it step by step. On Saturday there's an important match - we want to keep this going. It's a special match."

Zinedine Zidane declared Lucas Vazquez has "all my love" after the winger impressed in Real Madrid's comprehensive 4-0 beating of Real Zaragoza.

The Spain international emphatically hammered home Madrid's second after Raphael Varane's early opener, with second-half goals from Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema sending Los Blancos into the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Vazquez has not always enamoured himself to the Madrid faithful with many questioning his role in the team, but Zidane remains a big fan of the 28-year-old's qualities.

"The important thing is what I think of him. He has all my love, I believe in Lucas because he is also a lovely boy who gives everything on the field," Zidane said.

"Then people can give their opinion and you have to accept it. He is a player who came through the youth team and what people want is to see their player give everything on the field and Lucas gives it."

Toni Kroos put in a typically stylish performance in the heart of Madrid's midfield, contributing assists for the first two goals at La Romareda.

Zidane was impressed by the Germany international's showing but was keen to praise the collective effort of his side, who sit top of LaLiga.

"I'm glad for him. Toni is an example and is very good, but what should be highlighted is the work of the whole team," he added. 

"In the end for a coach it is important to see a complete game from the group. We can change players and in the end they all do well."

Real Madrid coasted into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey with a classy 4-0 victory at Real Zaragoza on Wednesday.

Raphael Varane and Lucas Vazquez were on target in the first half of the last-16 clash at La Romareda as Madrid barely had to move out of second gear.

Vinicius Junior and substitute Karim Benzema then completed the job in a second period that was even more sedate than the opening 45 minutes.

Tougher tests are on the horizon for LaLiga's leaders, starting with El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, but it was a job well done for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Madrid caught Zaragoza napping after six minutes when Toni Kroos' low ball across the box went through Vinicius' legs and was smashed in by Varane.

The visitors were playing as though the game were a mere training exercise, although Alphonse Areola had to be sharp to tip Shinji Kagawa's deflected shot over.

Miguel Linares' questionable decision to dribble out of his own area was punished as Kroos pick-pocketed the forward and laid on for Vazquez to brilliantly smash home Madrid's second.

Kagawa scooped an effort over in a rare moment of note in the second half before Madrid put the game beyond doubt.

Vinicius played a neat one-two with James Rodriguez and clipped his effort past Alvaro Raton into the bottom-right corner.

Areola kept out Luis Suarez's one-on-one effort, but Madrid had a fourth 11 minutes from time when Benzema tapped in from Dani Carvajal's teasing low centre at the end of a well-worked move.

 

What does it mean? Madrid tune up nicely for the derby

Zaragoza are riding high in the second tier but were no match for Madrid, who are now unbeaten in 20 matches across all competitions. Zidane will be happy his side did not have to shift through the gears ahead of Saturday's derby with Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid in Kroos control

Kroos was typically influential in the heart of Madrid's midfield and finished with two assists. The Germany international dictated the tempo from the centre of the park.

Lax Linares punished

Zaragoza were mainly chasing shadows but had a couple of moments, particularly through Kagawa, to threaten Madrid. Linares' ill-judged attempt to jink out of defence proved costly, though, as Madrid quickly made it 2-0 to leave the hosts with a mountain to climb and he was hauled off just before the hour.

What's next?

Madrid face the tricky task of a derby with Atletico in LaLiga on Saturday, while Zaragoza visit Cadiz a day later.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich face a struggle to compete with Premier League giants because of the financial muscle of top English clubs, admits Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The Bayern chief executive says domestic television deals have created a major distortion in wealth between many teams in mainland Europe and those in England.

Speaking at the SPOBIS 2020 business event, Rummenigge also said there was "no need for change" when it comes to the Champions League after recent talk of expansion.

He spoke from experience when he pointed to how Premier League clubs have been able to attract the best players, the best coaches and create the most profitable academies.

And Rummenigge also stated how even 13-time European champions Real Madrid, whose president Florentino Perez he knows well, find it worrying to look at the money flooding into English teams.

"I think Florentino Perez's problem is the Premier League," Rummenigge said. "With Real Madrid he belongs to the world's most prominent club, because it's the most successful one and you have to admit it is also incredibly strong in terms of star power.

"However, his problem is the Premier League because it receives three times more money from domestic TV stations than all of us. No matter if it's Spain, Germany, France etc.

"That's why they have an undeniable advantage in the transfer market."

Rummenigge is full of admiration for how English teams have spent their money, by strengthening not only their squads but infrastructure too.

"The English clubs did well, one has to admit. In step one, they bought good players; in step two, they went out for good coaches, for instance Jurgen Klopp who has tremendous success at Liverpool; and in step three they gathered quality in management.

"They used their bigger income in comparison to other leagues to develop their quality. Their youth work has become a benchmark.

"And no matter in which country, or which city we play in, we all try to keep up with the English clubs, which is not easy."

Bayern sit second in the Bundesliga after 19 games of this season, a point behind leaders RB Leipzig, and are chasing an eighth consecutive title.

They last won the Champions League in the 2012-13 season, with Real Madrid triumphing four times since then, Barcelona winning in 2015 and Liverpool scooping last term's trophy.


The format of the Champions League is ripe for debate, with reports indicating the European Club Association is urging UEFA to include more rounds of fixtures in a push for expansion.

Rummenigge, though, as a major power broker with one of Europe's most powerful clubs, stressed there is no good reason for an overhaul.

"There is no need for change," he said.

"So far no one has come to me and said, 'We need to make drastic changes'. This radicalism that is being discussed at the moment is going too far.

"We need to respect the clubs and see if they are satisfied or if they are in need of change. How do the fans see it, how do the viewers on TV or even the TV stations?

"That's why I don't see a necessity. My press officer Stefan Mennerich has a nice saying - 'Don't fix, what ain't broken'. And the Champions League is everything but broken."

Joao Felix appears set to miss Atletico Madrid's derby against Real Madrid after sustaining an unspecified muscle injury to his right leg.

The Portugal forward suffered the setback during Sunday's goalless draw against Leganes and was unable to train on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Joao Felix suffered a muscle injury to his right leg during Sunday's match against Club Deportivo Leganes," read a club statement.

"Given the ongoing pain after the day of rest, the club's medical services have performed tests to diagnose the injury. He is pending response to treatment."

While no timescale has been put on a recovery, reports in Spain suggest the injury is not serious but he will miss Saturday's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Joao Felix arrived at the Wanda Metropolitano in a €126million deal from Benfica in July.

The 20-year-old has endured mixed fortunes in Spain thus far, scoring twice and providing just one assist in 17 LaLiga appearances.

Atletico are fifth in the table, 10 points adrift of leaders and city rivals Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane has defended Real Madrid's style of play and insisted he will not change his coaching methods amid recent criticism.

Nacho Fernandez was the unlikely match-winner in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid as Madrid won a third LaLiga game in a row to open a three-point lead over Barcelona at the summit.

None of Madrid's six league goals in 2020 have been scored by attackers and they struggled to create chances at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

But Zidane, who recently acknowledged he may have enjoyed a fair share of luck as a coach, is happy for his side to continue grinding out victories.

"I don't think the Bernabeu would accept a thousand passes without a shot," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Everyone has their own style of play. I played at the Bernabeu and what the fans want to see is their team give their all on the field. It has always been that way.

"When fans see the team sweat for the shirt, that's the most important thing in the end because you can't always win.

"I always say the same - I will not change. The important thing is the club have given me the chance to train these players. It is a great team and I am lucky to be here.

"Two months ago things were not going well and there was a lot of criticism - that is not going to change. What we want is to continue what we are doing."

Madrid are unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions and travel to Real Zaragoza in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Los Blancos have won the competition on just two occasions since 1993 and Zidane is desperate to improve on that underwhelming return.

"I don't think it's a lack of motivation," he said. "I think the motivation is very high. 

"We must accept that Madrid have won 13 Champions Leagues and we want to change our history in the Copa del Rey.

"Zaragoza are going to make it difficult for us. We want to give our all on the field. We will not be surprised by them because we know it will be difficult - it is always that way."

Gareth Bale returned to full training on Tuesday after missing the weekend win over Valladolid with an ankle issue, while Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio continued to train away from the team.

Asked if Bale could return to the side in midweek, Zidane said: "I have a list of players and later you will see. Everyone wants to be available for the coach.

"Hazard has started working on the pitch again, but not yet with the team. We will see this week how he is managing his recovery.

"Before attacking, we must defend and be intense, we are doing quite well but you always have to be ready to prove it."

Zinedine Zidane called for improvements in Real Madrid's finishing after his side needed a late Nacho goal to clinch a 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Sunday.

Nacho connected with a Toni Kroos cross to head Madrid in front after 78 minutes of a tightly contested match to earn Zidane's men a win that moved them three points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Zidane praised his defence after Valladolid failed to register a shot on target but said more creativity is required to ensure struggling opponents are beaten more convincingly.

"Defensively, what we are doing, we are doing well. It is our strength," Zidane told reporters. 

"We defend all and when we lose the ball we recover it very high, and if we keep it we have a good chance of scoring.

"Nacho scored and that is part of football. We know that we can improve in this aspect.

"Nacho is a professional. When he has to compete he does well. I'm glad for his goal; he doesn't usually score them but from time-to-time we can also create chances for defenders."

Zidane refused to be drawn on his side's title chances despite opening up a gap over rivals Barcelona, who lost 2-0 to Valencia on Saturday.

Madrid have been beaten only once in the league this season but with 17 games remaining, including the visit of Barcelona on March 1, Zidane predicted a tough road ahead.

"For us, nothing changes," said Zidane. "We are happy with the victory, the work done having fought until the end, but nothing changes. There are 17 games left and we will continue fighting until the end.

"I don't want to talk about being champions because there is still a lot left to play.

"It changes nothing to be leaders, they are three important points but nothing more.

"There are a lot of league games left and it will be difficult for all teams, including us."

Madrid's next game is at home to city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

 

Real Madrid moved three points clear at the top of LaLiga after Nacho scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

With title rivals Barcelona slipping to a 2-0 defeat to Valencia on Saturday, Zidane's men earned a hard-fought victory over a Valladolid side that came into the game unbeaten in three league matches.

Chances were few and far between at either end and the points looked likely to be shared after Karim Benzema missed from point-blank range with only Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip to beat.

But Nacho arrived in the box to head home with 12 minutes left and put his side in the driving seat at a crucial stage in the title race.

Sergio Ramos is in line to make his return from injury after being included in the Real Madrid squad to face Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Madrid captain Ramos has been out of action since injuring his ankle in the penalty shoot-out victory over Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana final two weeks ago.

The 33-year-old was back in training on Thursday and completed a full session on Friday to earn a spot in Zinedine Zidane's 19-man group for Sunday's LaLiga outing.

Gareth Bale was not included due to an ankle problem, while Brahim Diaz – who impressed in the 3-1 win over Unionistas de Salamanca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday – Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz were left out.

Following Barcelona's 2-0 loss at Valencia on Saturday, Madrid will go top of LaLiga if they get a point at Estadio Jose Zorilla.

Zinedine Zidane insists Gareth Bale is not a trouble-causer at Real Madrid, with the coach adamant he will always back his players.

Bale has become a target of vitriol from Madrid's fans and sections of the Spanish media in recent seasons, with the Wales forward – who has also struggled with injuries – having often fallen down the pecking order.

The 30-year-old also incurred the wrath of the local press and Los Blancos support when he celebrated with a flag bearing the message "WALES. GOLF. MADRID... IN THAT ORDER" following Wales' qualification for Euro 2020.

Having scored in Madrid's 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday, Bale will not be available for Sunday's LaLiga encounter with Real Vallodolid due to an ankle injury.

But, when asked why he has defended the player in the past, Zidane stated he has no issues with Bale, who has scored just three goals this season.

"I always defend my players. It's not that I need to. They train every day, they work hard and want to defend the Real Madrid badge," Zidane told a news conference.

"So I don't share the same opinion. It's true he's had a few injuries but you can't do anything when a player is injured.

"Hopefully he can string together more games, a few training sessions, get minutes under his belt and get back into playing and training at the same pace as his team-mates.

"When he is fit we want him to come back and be in good shape. It is a shame. He is not happy because he wants to be training with the side."

Zidane also refuted the suggestion Bale had exaggerated his injury as to not play against Vallodolid.

"I am always worried when a player is injured, it's something I don't like to see," Zidane said.

"I have 25 players here and it is tough to me because I have to pick a side, but I don't want players injured. Gareth's injury isn't serious, a slight sprain and he'll be back soon.

"You're entitled to think what you want, but when I am with the player, I have spoken to him and he wants to be with the team and wants to play, but the other day he suffered a slight injury."

Another Madrid player who is recovering from injury is Eden Hazard, who has returned to individual training. However, Zidane was unable to confirm if the Belgium international would be fit to feature against Atletico Madrid on February 1.

"I can't confirm a comeback date as he has just started training with the ball. There is very little or no pain there now," Zidane said.

"He will no doubt improve and hopefully be back with the team soon. It is excellent for the player to be able to train with the team, it's good for his morale and confidence, but I can't confirm a date."

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