Santi Mina scored twice as Barcelona's slim hopes of winning this season's LaLiga title ended after a 2-1 defeat to Celta Vigo at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana entered the penultimate matchday of the season in third, four points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two shy of second-placed Real Madrid.

But Atleti and Madrid both won, meaning Barca's challenge would have concluded early even if they had protected the lead forged by Lionel Messi.

As it was, Mina had the visitors level seven minutes before the break and then, after Clement Lenglet was sent off for a second booking, the Celta forward lashed in an 89th-minute winner.

It had all started so well for Barca, with Messi predictably at the heart of their best work up to and including his 28th-minute header.

Sergio Busquets' deep cross from the left found Messi beyond the Celta defence to nod past Ivan Villar, who had repelled the hosts' best chance to that point when he blocked from Antoine Griezmann.

But Celta levelled with their first shot, a smart Mina finish from 20 yards that wrongfooted Marc-Andre ter Stegen, apparently unsighted behind Gerard Pique.

Although that goal did not initially alter the pattern of play, Barca became increasingly impatient as they struggled to forge clear-cut openings and left gaps at the back.

A far more impressive contribution from Ter Stegen saw the goalkeeper dive to his right to deny Denis Suarez, while he tipped away an awkward free-kick moments after Lenglet earned his second card seven minutes from time for a rash challenge on Kevin Vazquez.

There was another stop from Suarez, too, and those saves might have provided a platform for a Barca winner, only for Martin Braithwaite to miss the target from close range.

The decisive goal instead arrived at the other end, with Ter Stegen caught under Augusto Solari's cross, which bounced back out off the post for Mina to blast into the net.

Zinedine Zidane is baffled by Karim Benzema's continued absence from the France squad after the striker scored twice to help Real Madrid record a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.  

The Frenchman managed a brace inside the opening 30 minutes to put Los Blancos 2-0 up, then turned provider for Marco Asensio's late third after Santi Mina had pulled one back for the hosts.  

Benzema has scored in each of his last six games in all competitions (nine goals), equalling his best scoring streak for Madrid (also six games between January and February 2016). 

It was his fifth LaLiga brace of the season, just one behind the six he achieved in 2011-12. 

Benzema has not represented his country since 2015 after being investigated in relation to an alleged attempt to blackmail his international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.  

"For people who like football, seeing Karim is a luxury because we enjoy him and his team-mates do too," Zidane told a media conference.

"How can we understand why Karim doesn't go with the national team? There are many who don't understand it. 

"But it's better for me as the coach of Madrid that he stays. He has done a great job for us." 

The result moved Madrid above Barcelona into second, three points behind Atleti, but Diego Simeone's men can restore the six-point advantage over their neighbours if they overcome Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. 

Madrid's unbeaten LaLiga away run now stands at 10 games – the first time they have achieved this since May 2016 when they went 11 without defeat on the road – and Zidane was pleased with how his side navigated a potentially tricky fixture.   

"It's not easy. You can't think you're going to score four, five or six goals," he added. 

"It's getting more and more complicated. In the end, I'll stick with the game we played, suffering in the second half but controlling the game. There was a rival and we controlled them well. We deserved the triumph.  

"We have to continue with what we are doing. We are in a good moment and we enter the final stretch where everything is played." 

Madrid host Eibar in LaLiga on April 3 following the international break.

Real Madrid kept up the pressure on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as a brace from Karim Benzema helped seal a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Benzema produced two clinical finishes inside the opening 30 minutes to put Madrid 2-0 up at Balaidos, although Santi Mina pulled one back for the hosts against the run of play before half-time. 

Despite plenty of pressure from Eduardo Coudet's side in the second half, Madrid held firm and secured the victory late on through Marco Asensio to extend their unbeaten LaLiga away run to 10 games – the first time they have achieved this since May 2016 when they went 11 without defeat on the road. 

The result moved Zinedine Zidane's men above Barcelona into second, three points behind Atleti, but Diego Simeone's men can restore the six-point advantage over their neighbours if they overcome Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

Madrid went ahead with their first shot on target in the 20th minute, Benzema superbly steering into Ivan Villar's bottom-left corner after a neat turn and pass from Toni Kroos.

Vinicius Junior then inexplicably chested over from four yards with the goal at his mercy, but his blushes were spared on the half-hour mark when Benzema grabbed his second.

Kroos was again the provider, the German picking Renato Tapia's pocket on the edge of the area and feeding Benzema, who slotted past Villar for his 17th LaLiga goal of the season.

Celta clawed their way back into the game five minutes before the interval when an unmarked Mina headed beyond Thibaut Courtois from Denis Suarez's free-kick.

Courtois had to be alert shortly after the hour mark to repel Iago Aspas' effort from distance as Celta pushed forward in search of a leveller. 

Aspas then struck the post with a deflected free-kick inside the final 10 minutes but it was Madrid who had the final say, substitute Asensio guiding Benzema's cross home deep into stoppage time.

 

 

Zinedine Zidane believes Liverpool are capable of two top performances against Real Madrid, even if the Premier League champions are struggling domestically.

Liverpool have lost eight games in the Premier League since the turn of the year, slipping from the top of the table down to sixth place.

With their title aspirations well and truly over, as well as their campaigns in both domestic cup competitions, the Reds' only chance of silverware this season is the Champions League.

Standing in their way of a place in the semi-finals are Zidane's Madrid, who won in the last meeting between the teams in the competition – Gareth Bale inspiring Los Blancos to a 3-1 victory in the 2017-18 final.

Madrid and Liverpool will face each other in a two-legged knockout tie for only the second time – the first saw the Reds inflict Los Blancos' biggest-ever Champions League aggregate defeat (5-0) in 2008-09.

Despite Liverpool's struggles in the Premier League, Zidane is anticipating a stern quarter-final challenge for his team, who are six points off the pace in the Spanish title race.

"We cannot say that it is a bad draw or that it is good, because what happens throughout the season does not matter," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.

"It doesn't matter how Liverpool are in their league today because at any time, in a tie, they can play their cards without looking at how they are doing in their championship.

"We know who Liverpool are and that is not going to change. It's like us, who have been on the edge of the precipice, but we are alive in both competitions.

"It will be a match between two teams that have won many Champions League [trophies], a very complicated tie. At that level it is always very difficult to win."

There has been some doubt over Zidane's future at Madrid. The Frenchman left his post as head coach in the aftermath of Los Blancos' last victory over Liverpool – their third straight Champions League success – only to return for a second spell in March the following year.

Zidane's deal runs out at the end of next season, but he affirmed he is content to focus on the here and now, rather than his future.

"The world of football is what it is, I am not going to change anything. I enjoy being here every day, I don't care what is said from the outside," he added.

"We have to enjoy every day because this will end one day. We are alive in both competitions, that is what motivates us. The players have the ambition to show that they are the best.

"I look no further. I don't plan anything. You can sign for 10 years and be out tomorrow, and vice versa, you can sign a year and be here a long time. I cannot say anything."

Diego Simeone insists there are plenty of positives to take from Monday's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo despite the disappointment of conceding an 89th-minute equaliser. 

Los Rojiblancos looked set to restore their 10-point lead over Barcelona and Real Madrid at LaLiga's summit after a Luis Suarez brace overturned Santi Mina's opener for Celta. 

They were denied a ninth consecutive top-flight win, however, when substitute Facundo Ferreyra - making his debut after joining from Benfica on transfer deadline day - bundled home from close range late on. 

Despite that late blow, Atleti still have an eight-point lead at the top of the table and boast a game in hand on their rivals.

They are unbeaten in 22 home league games - their best run in the competition since a 22-match streak between September 2015 and October 2016 - while their tally of 51 points after 20 games is their best at this stage of the season since they last won the league in 2013-14.

Simeone refused to be too harsh on his side after Ferreyra's late leveller and felt there were plenty of plus points to take into next weekend's game at Granada.

"It is normal that during the season, with the number of games there are, things will happen like this," he told a news conference.

"Today, we continue on our way, match by match, and I am left with many positive things that were taken from negative things. 

"Some players came in, took their opportunity, and played very good games, such as [Renan] Lodi, [Geoffrey] Kondogbia and [Lucas] Torreira. Those are important things for the future.

"It was a difficult start for us. They played well. I think there were not many chances in the first half for anyone, but they did feel more comfortable with possession. 

"In the second half we improved with the change of system to have one more in the middle and take one from behind. Kondogbia and Torreira managed to press higher."

Suarez's latest double took his tally to 16 goals in his first 17 league games for Atleti, overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo as the fastest player to reach 16 goals for the same club in the competition in the 21st century.

Those goals have secured 12 points for Atleti this season - more than any other player in the league. 

Simeone knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Suarez from Barcelona ahead of the 2020-21 season and the Atleti boss says his side tries to play to the Uruguay international's strengths.

"It [Suarez's record] speaks for itself," he added. "He always scored goals, it's not just now that he does. 

"We try to enhance everything he brought and bring him closer to the area. Let's all hope we continue growing as a team."

Atletico Madrid were denied the opportunity to restore their 10-point lead at the LaLiga summit after Facundo Ferreyra's 89th-minute equaliser sealed an unlikely 2-2 draw for Celta Vigo on Monday. 

Wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona over the weekend put the pressure on Diego Simeone's men, who lost Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera shortly before kick-off after positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed.

They started poorly at the Wanda Metropolitano and slipped behind to Santi Mina's third top-flight goal of the season, but Luis Suarez levelled matters in the 45th minute with a simple finish at the back post. 

The former Barcelona striker repeated the trick five minutes after the interval, but Los Rojiblancos were denied a ninth consecutive top-flight win when Ferreyra - a debutant from the bench - scrambled in from close range late on.

 

Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera are the latest Atletico Madrid players to test positive for coronavirus.

Atletico confirmed last week that Joao Felix and new signing Moussa Dembele returned positive test results in consecutive days, ruling them out of Monday's LaLiga visit of Celta Vigo.

Now their midfield and attacking options have been further depleted, with Herrera and Lemar immediately beginning periods of isolation.

A club statement read: "Our players Hector Herrera and Thomas Lemar underwent antigen tests prior to the match against Celta Vigo according to the LaLiga protocol, giving a positive result for COVID-19, which was later confirmed with the relevant tests PCR.

"Both players remain isolated in their respective homes, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and LaLiga protocol."

Atletico did not provide any further information regarding their respective conditions.

Lemar and Herrera could miss as many as three games, with Atletico facing Celta, Granada and Levante in the next 10 days.

Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19, adding to Diego Simeone's problems ahead of Atletico Madrid's meeting with Celta Vigo.

Portugal international Joao Felix is self-isolating at home, as team-mates Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco have been doing since Friday.

A brief Atletico statement read: "Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19. The striker is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Simeone's men have a 10-point advantage at the top of LaLiga and welcome Celta to the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday. They then travel to Granada the following Saturday.

Hermoso and Carrasco are unlikely to return for the meeting with Celta, while Kieran Trippier will be absent due to suspension.

Joao Felix marked his return to the starting line-up against Valencia on January 24 by scoring his first goal in almost two months and setting up another, leading Atletico from a goal down to a 3-1 victory.

The 21-year-old has been left out of the first XI eight times in LaLiga this season and Atletico have won all those matches.

However, when Joao Felix starts they average two more shots (12.1 to 10.0) and their goals-per-game ratio improves from 1.9 to 2.3.

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

Zinedine Zidane has no plans to rest Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as he vowed slowly ease Eden Hazard back to full match fitness.

Benzema failed to register a single shot on goal in Madrid's 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in LaLiga on Saturday and twice missed the target from good positions.

The 33-year-old has started 15 of Madrid's 17 LaLiga matches this season and only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Raphael Varane have played more minutes.

When asked in a post-match media conference if Benzema, who has scored eight goals in LaLiga, needed a break, following a slightly jaded showing, Zidane disagreed.

"I don’t think he’s tired," Zidane said.

"I think he did well and I took him off so that another player could play. We’re in a great spell. We’re doing the right things and we have to continue like this."

Hazard came off the bench for another run out late in the second half against Celta as he stepped up his return from an injury-hit start to the season.

"We are going to go little by little," added Zidane. "Little by little, you have to recover feelings.

"We have to take it slowly and not force anything. He has to get back to his best and take it slowly. That’s all it is."

Madrid's possession against Celta was 41 per cent which was the lowest recorded in a win under Zidane at home in all competitions.

The Madrid head coach was, however, satisfied with the manner in which his side were able to manage the game against Celta.

"We played a complete game from the beginning to the end," Zidane explained.

"We controlled the game well, we had a good balance, when it came to pressing up and getting the ball back, we did everything well.

"You have to control when the rival team has strong moments in the game, but the feelings are good, out of nine games we won six and three draws."

Goals from Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio gave Madrid the victory as the pair assisted each other in what was the fourth duo to combine between them in a single LaLiga game this season.

Zidane added: "I am happy for Asensio. He has had a major injury and now he is much better and improving every time.

"Vazquez is very reliable, very involved and I am happy for what he is doing. We played a very serious game. I'm happy for everyone."

Real Madrid went top of LaLiga for the first time since October after a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday thanks to goals from Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio.

Vazquez headed Madrid in front six minutes into the game and Asensio added a second after the break with a fine finish.

Celta rarely threatened Thibaut Courtois' goal as their six-game unbeaten run came to an end.

The result helped Zinedine Zidane's side move a point clear of city rivals Atletico Madrid, who will have the chance to return to the summit when they face Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

Celta almost stole an early lead when Iago Aspas chased a ball behind the defence and chipped an effort over Courtois as he raced off his line, but Nacho chased back to hook it away.

From the resulting counterattack, Madrid went ahead when Asensio broke down the left and his cross picked out Vazquez, who headed in at the back post.

Celta's players claimed for a penalty after Jeison Murillo's volleyed effort struck Ferland Mendy, but the referee dismissed the visitors' appeals.

Madrid went close shortly before the break as Dani Carvajal saw an audacious volley from the edge of the box fly just past the post.

Zidane's side ruthlessly punished some sloppy Celta play soon after half-time, which allowed Vazquez to slide in Asensio to clinically fire past goalkeeper Ruben Blanco.

Fine play by Toni Kroos opened up the Celta defence again on the hour but Madrid captain Karim Benzema lost his footing at the critical moment and flashed his shot past the upright.

Madrid brought on Eden Hazard with 16 minutes left as the Belgian forward continued to build up his match fitness following a long-term injury.

Benzema squandered another late chance when he lifted a shot over the crossbar, while former Los Blancos youngster Miguel Baeza was denied at the death as Madrid saw the game out without conceding.

 

Sergio Ramos has not been named in Real Madrid's squad for their LaLiga match Celta Vigo on Saturday.

The Madrid captain did not train on Friday and, according to Marca, is struggling with a stomach issue.

Ramos, the only unexpected absentee from a 23-man group, has scored twice in 13 league appearances this season.

The centre-back has contributed to five clean sheets, averaging 1.1 tackles, 2.8 clearances, 1.5 interceptions and 0.3 blocks per 90 minutes.

He has made only a single error leading to a shot and received three yellow cards.

Madrid will have to adapt to the absence of the talismanic Ramos, having won just one of the three prior league games he has missed this term.

However, the defending champions are unbeaten in 12 against eighth-placed Celta in LaLiga.

Zinedine Zidane is aiming to "take advantage of the moment" at Real Madrid as he is unsure how long his Santiago Bernabeu reign will last.

The four-year anniversary of Zidane's initial appointment at Madrid is approaching, but the head coach revealed last month he was not discussing an extension to a contract that expires in 2022.

The Frenchman was asked prior to Saturday's game against Celta Vigo if another four years at Madrid - this time unbroken by a spell away - could be on the cards.

However, unable to provide any promises over a long-term stay, Zidane responded: "It takes a lot out of you, but it's a great position here.

"I'm lucky enough to say I'm manager of Real Madrid and take advantage of every moment. I can't say a month, a year or four years. Life is just about the day to day.

"That's what I'm interested in: the day to day, to give everything I can, in every training session, every game. That's what I'm interested in.

"The rest? I don't know what's going to happen in one week. That's why we have to take advantage of the moment."

Zidane will hope to have added to his 11 major honours by the time he does depart, although this season's LaLiga title race is far from straightforward.

Defending champions Madrid can at least briefly move above Atletico Madrid if they beat Celta, against whom they are unbeaten in 12 in LaLiga, but Zidane's men have already played two more games than their city rivals.

It is advantage Atleti for now, yet the former Ballon d'Or winner is not overly concerned.

"Being first means you have an advantage, and that's it," Zidane explained. "We just have to keep on going. We can't control [Atleti being favourites].

"They have an advantage because they're first, and that's it. People are speaking a lot about Atletico now, because, as I said, they're first.

"But the nice thing about this league, right up until the end, it's going to be an open league - as it always is. We'll see."

Despite their strong recent record against Celta - scoring in 28 consecutive home LaLiga meetings, their longest ongoing such run against any side - Madrid were held 2-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu last season.

Eighth-placed Celta could draw against Madrid in consecutive matches for the first time since May 2003.

Zinedine Zidane is not entertaining speculation about transfer talks with David Alaba as Real Madrid battle to defend their LaLiga title.

Bayern Munich defender Alaba is out of contract in Germany at the end of the season and negotiations over an extension have so far proved fruitless for the European champions.

The Austria international has been mooted as a target for Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain as well as Madrid, although Zidane's outfit are considered favourites for his signature in some quarters.

Alaba was a key part of the Bayern team that won the Champions League last season.

However, since the start of 2019-20, he has committed four errors leading to shots in the competition, a joint-high among defenders. None of these have resulted in goals, while Madrid's Raphael Varane has made the same number of mistakes but been punished on all four occasions.

Alaba's statistics over this period are very similar to Varane's, playing 13 games to his 14 and having 29 fewer touches and seven fewer successful passes.

Varane is also just four tackles, two blocks, five clearances and seven interceptions ahead of his counterpart.

Rather than being signed as a competitor to Varane, though, Alaba could partner the World Cup winner as talismanic Madrid captain Sergio Ramos approaches his 35th birthday.

Either way, the speculation does not interest head coach Zidane, who said ahead of facing Celta Vigo: "We've got all our players here. I'm just thinking about the game tomorrow with the players that I have here.

"Then maybe you're going to ask me about the players that are playing a lot or not playing a lot. We have 22 players, 25 with the goalkeepers, a very big squad.

"We have enough to think about with the games that we have not to be thinking about players that aren't even ours. Please, we're thinking just about the game tomorrow."

While Zidane is keeping his focus on LaLiga, where Madrid trail Atletico Madrid by two points, the need to bring in a player of Alaba's calibre would become urgent if a new contract for Ramos was not agreed.

The PSG-linked skipper, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez are all free agents, like Alaba, in June 2021.

"Yes, we all want [contracts to be signed]," Zidane said. "We want the situation to be sorted as quickly as possible.

"It's in everyone's interests, it would be good for everyone, so hopefully it can be sorted out quickly."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.