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.

Quique Setien would welcome any new arrival at Barcelona in January but is happy to work with what he has for the remainder of the season.

A deal to sign forward Rodrigo Moreno appeared to be on the cards after Valencia boss Albert Celades confirmed on Tuesday the two clubs were in negotiations over the Spain international.

However, reports in the Catalan media suggest that move will not be happening, leaving Barca light up front in the absence of Luis Suarez, who is set to miss the rest of the campaign with a knee injury.

Setien confirmed the reigning LaLiga champions are interested in adding to their options before the transfer window closes, though he is prepared to push for glory on three fronts with the squad at his disposal.

"First of all, I'm delighted with what I have in my squad," Setien told the media ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey tie against Leganes.

"We are not going to deny that it would have been interesting to bring in a player, but I always focus on what I have. 

"If anyone comes in, they will be welcome. If it doesn't happen, though, I will be delighted to work with the squad I have available.

"I've come here from working at other sides, I'm used to working with what I have. I'm sure that this side is prepared to compete in every competition."

While there may be no further arrivals this month, Carles Perez seems set to depart Camp Nou. 

The 21-year-old has been a peripheral figure this season under Ernesto Valverde and new head coach Setien, with Roma rumoured to be his next destination.

Asked to clarify why Perez has not featured more in the early weeks of his reign, Setien said: "It's a shared decision [with the club]. What I've spoken about with the player is very clear – the reality is I'm not going to speak about private decisions.

"It's a decision by the club and I've given my opinion – it is what it is."

Setien also refused to rule out further departures, adding: "I can't guarantee anything – we will see. These are decisions that the club takes. They are the ones who make the best decisions."

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."

Diego Simeone is determined to turn Atletico Madrid's fortunes around, explaining just how much the club means to him.

Simeone is enduring a tough spell at the Wanda Metropolitano, with Atleti losing their past three matches in all competitions heading into Sunday's LaLiga clash with Leganes.

Real Madrid saw off their city rivals in agonising circumstances in a Supercopa de Espana final penalty shoot-out, but Atleti then came unstuck against more modest opponents: Eibar in LaLiga and third-tier Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey.

Simeone insists the disappointing run of form does not come from a lack of interest on his behalf, though.

"I'm always thinking about my team," he told a pre-match news conference. "I don't think in the moments when we lose or when we win, but I always look after my team.

"Sometimes I can't sleep thinking about the line-up for a final or because we lost, or when I don't know which player to choose that will be better for the team.

"Atletico Madrid is my life - the people who know me know that. We will keep the same path, with enthusiasm and passion.

"We live in the present and we go match after match and nothing will change in my life. We've been doing it for a long time now."

Simeone accepts there was always likely to be a certain amount of criticism following recent results, but he retains belief in his side.

"It is clear that we are coming from two difficult defeats," he said. "All the criticism may seem fair, but I am convinced and I believe in my players.

"We have a great team with players who will respond to goals that we have set, and I do not change from match to match. We are convinced of what we want and we will not change in that sense.

"I understand and accept when the criticisms are fair and work accordingly to have a good game [on Sunday]."

Simeone still appears to have the support of Atleti fans, who launched a campaign showing their love for the coach on Twitter with the hashtag "#TeQueremosCholo".

"I had not seen it until the press people told me," Simeone said. "Everything natural like that is appreciated.

"It boosts the security and enthusiasm that I always have in the day-to-day at the club."

Atleti look set to be without defender Santiago Arias against Leganes after initial tests showed he suffered a muscle injury in his left thigh against Cultural.

Real Madrid must again overcome lower-league opposition in the Copa del Rey last 16, while holders Valencia go to giant-killers Cultural Leonesa.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid survived a scare against Unionistas de Salamanca in the previous round, and they will this time visit Real Zaragoza, who are fourth in LaLiga 2.

Barcelona were also tested by minnows in the previous round, scraping past Ibiza, but they have the benefit of a home fixture as they bid to reach the quarter-finals.

With LaLiga sides kept apart where possible, the Blaugrana were selected in one of just two ties solely involving top-tier teams.

They will face Leganes at Camp Nou while the majority of their LaLiga rivals are away from home.

Segunda B side Cultural defeated Atletico Madrid in extra-time on Thursday, and their reward is a meeting with Valencia, who beat Barca in last season's final.

Badajoz, the only other third-tier side remaining in the competition, also have LaLiga opposition in the form of Granada.

The second all-LaLiga tie saw Real Sociedad drawn at home to Osasuna.


Copa del Rey last-16 draw in full:

Badajoz v Granada
Cultural Leonesa v Valencia
Tenerife v Athletic Bilbao
Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid
Mirandes v Sevilla
Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal
Barcelona v Leganes
Real Sociedad v Osasuna

Diego Simeone insists his desire cannot be doubted despite Atletico Madrid's dismal early Copa del Rey exit and is confident the team will soon return to form.

Atleti were the victims of a major upset on Thursday, crashing out to third-tier Cultural Leonesa 2-1 in the last 32.

Simeone's side have now lost their past three matches in all competitions, with just six wins in 17 in LaLiga games since early September.

But the coach says he will continue to knuckle down, just as he battled on after a pair of Champions League final defeats to rivals Real Madrid, and backed his side to turn the corner.

"I have the desire to work like every day since I arrived," he told reporters.

"The penalties or the extra time in the Champions League didn't change me, nor will going out in this round.

"I have an important squad and results will come soon."

He added: "You are in the position to have an opinion on what you feel and we don't have the choice but to work, me and my players," he said.

"We couldn't be clinical in front of goal - that's football - and when you can't score, everything is more difficult."

Atletico Madrid suffered a shock defeat in the Copa del Rey round of 32 as Sergio Benito's extra-time strike secured a famous 2-1 win for minnows Cultural Leonesa.

Diego Simeone's side were sluggish for much of Thursday's encounter at Reino de Leon, though Angel Correa's 62nd-minute strike seemed set to send Atleti through.

However, third-tier side Cultural fought back - Julen Castaneda's venomous volley forcing extra-time.

And it was Benito - who had earlier missed a glorious chance to open the scoring - who had the final say, his precise volley in the 108th minute sparking huge celebrations from the home fans as Cultural claimed the unlikeliest of scalps.

Atleti wasted little time in stamping their authority on proceedings and Vitolo should have done better when he raced through one-on-one with Lucas Giffard only to prod wide in the clearest opportunity of a tepid first half.

Benito should have made Atleti pay for Vitolo's profligacy when he met Virgil Theresin's cross, but the Cultural striker diverted his close-range header over.

Vitolo looked all set to break the deadlock just before the hour, though he yet again fluffed his lines when up against Giffard.

Atleti's luck changed three minutes later - Correa keeping his cool to pick out the bottom-left corner after latching onto Joao Felix's sublime flick.

Cultural's hopes seemed to be dashed, but Castaneda had other ideas, with the left-back's volley hauling the hosts level.

Ivan Saponjic missed two glorious chances to restore Atleti's lead, before Giffard made a sensational double save to force extra-time, setting the stage for Benito.

Gabriel Gudino's lofted pass opened up Atleti's defence and, showing the composure he had sorely lacked with his earlier chance, Benito sent a crisp volley arrowing in at the near post to seal an incredible win.

 

What does it mean? Stuttering Atleti rightly punished

Leonesa were defeated 5-1 on aggregate by Barcelona at the same stage last season, but were not in awe of their illustrious opponents on Thursday. Atleti have now lost their last three matches in all competitions, and this result was a true humbling for Simeone's team.

Felix delivers the Joao factor but Castaneda and Benito the show

In a match lacking in quality, a moment of brilliance from Joao Felix with his superb, deft touch around the corner into Correa's path carving open Leonesa's defence. However, Castaneda cancelled out the Portugal international's fine work with his stunning volley with seven minutes remaining, with Benito then claiming the limelight in extra-time.

Vitolo's wastefulness proves costly

Having already missed from a one-on-one situation, Vitolo looked all ready to atone for the squandered opportunity when he was played in again in the second half, but could only send a tame effort straight at Giffard, wasting the chance to put Atleti well in control.

What's next?

Atleti face Leganes in LaLiga on Sunday, while Athletic Bilbao II await Leonesa in their next Segunda B outing.

Real Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez said the LaLiga giants must take notice of Kylian Mbappe's hints amid links to the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Speculation over Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe continues to make headlines as Zinedine Zidane's Madrid reportedly eye the France international.

Zidane has made no secret of his admiration for Mbappe, who dismissed talk over PSG contract negotiations earlier this month, while the 21-year-old revealed the Madrid boss was his idol growing up.

Nacho was asked about Mbappe following Madrid's 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday.

"If he's sending us signs, we have to be alert to receiving them," Nacho told reporters.

After scoring 33 Ligue 1 goals last season, Mbappe has 13 for defending champions PSG this term.

Mbappe has 21 goals across all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's PSG, who are preparing for the Champions League last 16 against Borussia Dortmund.

Gareth Bale will be monitored after suffering a minor ankle twist on his impressive return to Real Madrid's starting side, head coach Zidane Zidane confirmed on Wednesday.

Bale scored the opener in a 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca but was unable to continue beyond the 53rd minute midweek.

Wales star Bale, who has battled injury and illness this season, was making his first appearance since the LaLiga victory against Getafe on January 4.

"He's twisted his ankle a bit," Zidane said. "I don't think it's much but, as always, we'll see tomorrow. He couldn't go on."

Bale's forced withdrawal appeared to unsettle Madrid, who conceded a stunning equaliser four minutes later as Alvaro Romero surged forward and fired past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Juan Gongora's own goal after the hour and a late Brahim Diaz strike saved Zidane's men from an upset and extended their winning streak to five games in all competitions.

The Los Blancos boss insisted he was satisfied despite flirting with a premature exit against the third-tier minnows.

"It was a tough night at a tough place to come and play," he said.

"We struggled with moving the ball and we didn't see much great football, but that was down to the pitch, not more than that.

"We're pleased because in the end we're going through to the last-16 and that's what we came to achieve."

Madrid - level on points with leaders and defending champions Barcelona - visit Real Valladolid in LaLiga on Sunday.

Barcelona goalkeeper Neto could spend time on the sideline after spraining his left ankle in Wednesday's narrow Copa del Rey win over Ibiza.

Neto suffered the injury when he collided with team-mate Clement Lenglet and an Ibiza player in the 50th minute of the 2-1 victory.

The 30-year-old Brazilian was able to complete the match but will undergo testing on Thursday to determine the extent of the issue, Barca confirmed in a statement.

Neto was making his fourth appearance for the club since arriving from LaLiga rivals Valencia in the close season.

Barca needed two late Antoine Griezmann goals to avoid embarrassment against their third-tier opponents, who took a shock ninth-minute lead through a Josep Caballe deflection.

First-choice keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will almost certainly return in goal for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Valencia, with 20-year-old Inaki Pena in line to serve as deputy.

Ansu Fati will get more starting opportunities "as long as he keeps developing", Quique Setien said after Barcelona's Copa del Rey escape against Ibiza.

Setien rested the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for Wednesday's visit to the Segunda B club, who took a surprise lead after nine minutes against LaLiga's leaders.

An incredible upset appeared on the cards until Antoine Griezmann equalised in the 72nd minute and then netted the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Fati, 17, burst onto the scene with goals against Osasuna and Valencia earlier in the season and scored the winner at Inter in the Champions League last month, but contributed little to the 2-1 victory in Ibiza.

Despite his lack of influence on the contest, Fati will be provided with more chances to prove himself by Setien.

"The first thing we are doing is seeing the players in different positions," Setien told reporters.

"[Fati] has a lot of talent. We will see how he progresses. He will get more starting time as long as he keeps developing."

Setien was far from satisfied with Barca's performance, adding: "I did not like the team. I would have preferred things another way.

"But in a stadium like this, it is harder. They were aggressive and intense in defence. It has not been easy. 

"I would have loved for us to have been more precise and to have played better. But from here we will take away conclusions for the future. 

"It is when you do things badly that you can improve."

Alvaro Romero scored one of the solo goals of the season against Real Madrid, and little Unionistas de Salamanca were in dreamland on the hour mark of this Copa del Rey culture clash.

Madrid, thanks to Gareth Bale, a Juan Gongora own goal and Brahim Diaz's late individual effort, eventually won 3-1 at the tiny Las Pistas stadium, where 4,000 supporters of a club that has only existed since 2013 saw their side go head to head with the 13-time European champions.

Yet Romero's stunning effort after 57 minutes will live far longer in the memory than the goals that won the day for Madrid.

The substitute had been on the field barely a minute when he ran from just inside Madrid's half to the edge of the penalty area before curling a fine left-footed finish out of the reach of Alphonse Areola.

That brought Unionistas level, following Bale's first-half effort, but parity was all too brief, with the 62nd-minute own goal and Diaz's neat stoppage-time finish deciding the day, the Segunda B minnows just edged out by their millionaire visitors.

Antoine Griezmann saved Barcelona from Copa del Rey humiliation as he scored a second-half double to see off Ibiza 2-1.

Having made an impressive start to his tenure with a dominant 1-0 win over Granada in which Barca had 82 per cent of possession, Setien rested Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique for the trip to the Balearic island.

LaLiga's pacesetters enjoyed similar superiority in terms of time on the ball, but appeared on course for an incredible upset defeat to the Segunda B club, who took the lead through a goal credited to Josep Caballe inside 10 minutes.

Ibiza had chances to extend their advantage, but the hosts eventually ran out of steam and Griezmann levelled in the 72nd minute, before securing Barca's progression to the last 16 in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

The third-tier club opened the scoring with a goal that will serve as an indelible moment in their history in just the ninth minute of proceedings.

Rai Nascimento's pull-back from the left was met by Javi Perez who, after being allowed to ghost into the box by Riqui Puig, saw his shot deflected beyond Neto by Caballe.

Neto was beaten again eight minutes later, but Angel Rodado's effort was correctly chalked off for his push on Clement Lenglet.

Only the woodwork spared Barca further embarrassment as Rai's close-range effort hit the inside of the left-hand post and bounced out, with Neto palming Rodado's follow-up over the crossbar.

Barca grew more dangerous in the second half and they finally found a way through when Frenkie de Jong fed Griezmann and the France international slotted home in confident fashion.

Extra time looked an inevitability, but Barca were able to ensure they did not have to exert themselves for another half-hour as they found the winner in the fourth of six additional minutes.

Jordi Alba was this time the man to send Griezmann clear and he made no mistake with a near-post finish that broke the hearts of a raucous home crowd.

What does it mean? Setien's tinkering almost backfires

Setien unsurprisingly shuffled his pack for the cup encounter, but a back three of Sergi Roberto, Lenglet and Junior Firpo always looked vulnerable, and so it proved. Barca were fortunate not to fall further behind in the first half and can count themselves very lucky not to have suffered an almighty humbling.

A tale of two halves for Griezmann

Griezmann had the fewest touches (18) of any Barca player in the first half but he contributed the two most important ones of the second to leave Setien breathing a sigh of relief.

Puig caught napping

Brought on for Ivan Rakitic at the weekend as Barca sought the winner against Granada, Puig looks set for an increased role at Barca under Setien, but this was a learning experience for the 20-year-old. He was at fault for the opener and was ineffective at the other end of the pitch, failing to create a single chance.

What's next?

Barca face a tricky trip to Mestalla to face Valencia on Saturday. For Ibiza, it's back to the challenge of earning promotion from Segunda B Group 1, in which they trail leaders Atletico Madrid 'B' by two points. Bottom club SS Reyes are next for Pablo Alfaro's men.

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