Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane said he aspires to play with the best players as the Frenchman addressed speculation linking Kylian Mbappe to the LaLiga giants.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid, with the France star yet to re-sign in Paris as his contract expires in 2022.

PSG remain in discussions with Mbappe – who celebrated his 100th Ligue 1 goal on Sunday – over a new deal.

Varane was asked about France team-mate Mbappe ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at home to Ukraine, and he told Europe 1: "He's still young, but he's already progressed enormously and he continues to evolve.

"He's becoming more and more complete and he's still a goalscorer; he's one of the greats.

"I aspire to play with the best players and Kylian is one of the best players in Europe."

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his desire to work with countryman Mbappe at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Zidane's future in the Spanish capital has been debated amid talk he could leave Madrid at the end of his contract in 2022.

Zidane returned to Madrid in 2019 after exiting a year earlier, having guided Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League titles and LaLiga glory.

Taking charge of France has long been mooted, with Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus contract due to expire after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"It's a possibility," Varane said of former international and 1998 World Cup winner Zidane coaching his native France.

"The French national team is a target for every French coach, it's normal that he’s potentially considered but it's not something relevant now.

"Our coach [Deschamps] is doing a very good job and we must focus on our short-term goals: clinching our presence in the World Cup and then the 2021 Euros."

Zinedine Zidane is delighted with the character Real Madrid showed to clinch a late win over Elche, but wishes his side could have scored earlier.

Karim Benzema's sensational half-volley in stoppage time secured a 2-1 comeback win for Madrid, who moved up to second in LaLiga.

It was Benzema's second goal of the game – the Frenchman having previously cancelled out Dani Calvo's header.

Madrid have scored five goals in second-half injury time in LaLiga this season, four of them scored by Benzema.

And though Madrid showing the spirit needed to score late goals is a positive for ZIdane, he is concerned that his team are becoming too reliant on last-gasp strikes.

"I like the character but I would like them to score earlier. I would like quieter games," Zidane told reporters.

"It is a team that has character, we are alive in both competitions and we will continue to fight hard and believe in ourselves.

"It's a comeback. We believe in what we do, it has cost us, we have had two or three chances to score before and we have not done it.

"In the end, it is a fair result. They are two very beautiful goals, very good plays. It is good for us."

Playing at the centre of a back three, Sergio Ramos made his first league appearance in over two months after recovering from injury, though the veteran campaigner looked to be working his way back to sharpness.

Ramos made one clearance and lost possession five times before going off after Elche opened the scoring 61 minutes in.

However, Ramos did have a penalty appeal turned down beforehand, a decision which Zidane felt went against his side, though he refused to criticise the officials.

"I shouldn't get involved there. The referee does his job and we try to do ours, that's it," Zidane said.

"I saw the play, it seems to us that there is something, but the referee has decided something else and that's it."

Real Madrid's LaLiga title hopes are still intact after Karim Benzema inspired a 2-1 comeback win over Elche on Saturday.

Having drawn their last two league fixtures, Madrid had the chance to leapfrog Barcelona into second place and close the gap on Atletico Madrid, temporarily at least, to five points.

But a lacklustre display looked like it would result in a third straight league draw – Benzema having cancelled out Dani Calvo's header.

Madrid's slim chances of catching Atleti were handed a late boost, however, when Benzema thundered in a supreme finish in stoppage time to snatch the points.

 

Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard have been named in Real Madrid's 20-man squad to face Elche.

Club captain Ramos, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has not played since suffering meniscus damage in January.

Hazard has endured an injury-plagued existence since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million before the start of last season, with a problem in his left thigh serving as the Belgium attacker's latest setback.

Asked at a pre-match media conference whether each man was ready to play a part against Elche, Zidane replied: "Yes, of course. And we are very happy. Our idea is that they have minutes."

And both are in the 20-strong party, with conjecture ongoing over whether Ramos will extend his deal in the Spanish capital.

Hazard is under contract until 2024, giving him plenty of time to turn around an underwhelming stint to date.

Zidane has every confidence the 30-year-old will do so.

"I see him 100 per cent physically and emotionally well," said the Frenchman. "He has overcome the injuries and discomfort he may have had.

"I see him well, he will be with us and I hope he can play."

The Madrid boss dismissed concerns that the catalogue of injuries suffered by Hazard could have a similarly debilitating impact as Gareth Bale's woes had over recent seasons.

"Eden has had his discomfort, it's true. He had never had a long injury before coming to Madrid," he added.

"Now here he had a lot of discomfort. But he has a long player and when he gets well, Damn, he is going to have an impressive performance.

"I speak to the fans: when a player is not at 100 per cent it is complicated, but he is going to do very well here "

Zinedine Zidane has refused to offer any guarantee over the future of Sergio Ramos, but he remains convinced Raphael Varane will stay at Real Madrid. 

Club captain Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and stated on Thursday that there was "nothing new" to report around a possible extension. 

With Madrid said to be keen to sign Ramos to a new deal but only on reduced wages due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with the 34-year-old, who has won 22 trophies in 16 years with Madrid including five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues. 

Head coach Zidane admitted on Friday he has little knowledge of Ramos' contract situation, although he would be keen for the Spain veteran to stay in the capital. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's LaLiga clash with Elche, he said of Ramos: "I can't really answer that question because I don't know. 

"I hope that Ramos remains at the club, he's a key player with everything he's done in the past and hopefully he can remain here and play." 

Meanwhile, the future of long-time centre-back partner Varane is also uncertain. The 27-year-old, whose contract runs out at the end of next season, is said to be considering a new challenge and is reportedly a target for Manchester United. 

However, Zidane appears confident his compatriot has no particular desire to move elsewhere and only has positive things to say about life at Madrid. 

"I don't think that's his first option, to play elsewhere," said Zidane. "He always speaks highly of the club. He's very happy here. I can't see him playing anywhere else." 

Madrid face Elche needing a win to put pressure on top two Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. 

The champions are two points behind Barca and eight adrift of leaders Atletico following last weekend's 1-1 derby draw.

Lionel Messi was not among the veteran Barcelona stars Ronald Koeman called on to step up prior to Wednesday's win against Elche, the coach insists.

Barca headed into the match at Camp Nou having endured consecutive disappointing results in their previous two games, losing 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and then conceding a late equaliser to Cadiz in a 1-1 draw.

While Koeman has come to rely heavily on teenagers Pedri and Francisco Trincao this season, it was the more experienced players he demanded more from in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

That would presumably include Messi, the team's 33-year-old captain, but Koeman explained after overseeing a 3-0 victory that he had not been referring to his talisman.

Messi moved up a gear anyway, scoring with two of his three shots, creating a further chance and playing a role in the build-up to Jordi Alba's clinching goal.

The Barca number 10 certainly could not be questioned after increasing his 2021 tally to 13 goals in all competitions, the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"When I talk about veterans, I don't mean him," Koeman said. "Leo continues to score many goals.

"Others have to make a difference, not Messi. He continues to score, as he has shown today."

Messi was not immediately joined in lifting Barca's level as Trincao attempted the hosts' only two shots in the first half, their lowest tally in the opening 45 minutes of a home game this season.

Koeman had no issue then with Messi making his frustration clear during a tetchy first period.

"Everyone has seen that we lacked intensity and rhythm of the ball, especially," the coach explained. "It is good that Messi, as captain, asks for intensity."

Seven attempts followed after the interval, with all three of those on target hitting the net, while Koeman ended an eight-match run without a clean sheet.

"It was good," Koeman said. "The lack of rhythm was not due to a lack of attitude.

"Sometimes the opposition make things not go the way you want. We are human. The team has shown personality and desire."

Still third but now within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Koeman was hopeful the mood in the Blaugrana camp would improve with the much-needed victory.

"Surely, having won today, tomorrow will be different," he said. "It is normal [to be upset] if you drop two points against Cadiz when it was time to cut back those at the top.

"You have to close this bad feeling with good games and good results."

Barcelona narrowed the gap to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid to five points as Lionel Messi's second-half double helped them to a 3-0 win over Elche.

Ronald Koeman's men had missed a chance to take advantage of Atletico's slip-up against Levante at the weekend when they were held at home by struggling Cadiz.

They were not at their best on Wednesday in a clash with another relegation-threatened side in Elche, but Messi's delightful double and a stylish Jordi Alba effort secured a crucial win.

Barca remain third in the table having played a game more than Atletico, whose lead over second-placed Real Madrid is just three points.

Francisco Trincao forced Edgar Badia into a close-range save in the second minute and, after Lucas Boye had spurned a gilt-edged chance at the other end, the Portugal international was denied a stunning goal by the Elche goalkeeper.

Trincao jinked past two Elche defenders after latching on to a pass from Messi, only to see Badia produce a fine diving save with his left hand.

Badia was required again to keep out Frenkie de Jong's header from a floated Messi free-kick, the frustration clear among Koeman and his players as parity was preserved.

That parity lasted just three minutes into the second half, Messi's shot squirming into the net despite Badia getting a hand to it following a superb flicked return pass from Martin Braithwaite.

Messi's second was similarly aesthetically pleasing, De Jong finding him at the end of the slaloming run before the Argentine delicately dinked the ball over Badia.

And the game was put beyond any doubt in the 73rd minute when Braithwaite nodded Messi's excellent cross-field ball into the path of Alba to dispatch with an acrobatic effort.

The scoreline could have been made more emphatic late on, but substitute Antoine Griezmann cracked the crossbar from Sergino Dest's low cross.

Ronald Koeman has not given up on Barcelona winning LaLiga as they face a pivotal run of fixtures that could define their season, starting with Elche at home on Wednesday. 

Barca sit fourth in the table after only managing a draw at home to Cadiz at the weekend, a surprise result that ended a streak of seven successive league wins. 

However, with leaders Atletico Madrid losing at home to Levante, meaning they have managed just one victory in their previous four outings, Koeman retains hope his team can make up ground and get involved in a title race. 

Atleti have a three-point cushion over second-placed Real Madrid, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while Barcelona are eight points adrift.  

In between the two Clasico rivals are Sevilla, to whom Koeman's side travel to play this weekend in league action. They then host the same opponents next Tuesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final, Barca needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the previous meeting if they are to progress. 

"I still believe that we can fight for the championship," Koeman told the media ahead of the visit of Elche to Camp Nou. "Results are showing that each team can come down.  

"It will depend on the two games that come, which are very important to fight for the title.  

"Then, in the cup, we have to come back. In the two competitions, we can do things. This week, we have three games that are important.

"It is difficult because we have to overcome a home game against Sevilla without an audience, with an audience it would be easier." 

Barca had 20 attempts and 81 per cent of possession against Cadiz but were punished for their wastefulness when Clement Lenglet was ruled to have fouled Ruben Sobrino in the penalty area, allowing Alex Fernandez to convert for an 89th-minute equaliser for the visitors with their only shot on target.

While they have scored 50 goals in LaLiga this campaign – the most by any team in the competition – Koeman wants to see his players become more ruthless in attack. 

"The problem is not that we do not create. It would be worse if we did not create opportunities," the Dutchman said when reflecting on Sunday's performance.

"We must ask for more effectiveness from the players at the top. We create opportunities and we did not score to make it 2-0.  

"These are important moments and, this season, we lack effectiveness. The percentage of goals is low for a team like Barcelona."

Koeman confirmed that Ronald Araujo is not yet ready to return from injury, though the defender is "improving" and could feature in either of the upcoming games against Sevilla.

Ronald Koeman praised Frenkie de Jong for improving the attacking aspect of his game after chipping in with another goal and an assist in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Elche.

The Netherlands international profited from a Diego Gonzalez error to give Barca a 39th-minute lead and crossed for substitute Riqui Puig to score a late second in Sunday's LaLiga clash.

De Jong now has three goals and two assists in his last six games in all competitions, while his five LaLiga goals in 18 months at Camp Nou is one more than he managed in five seasons in the Eredivisie.

He also contested more duels (11) than any other Barca player at Estadio Martinez Valero and no visiting player intercepted the ball more often (twice).

But it is the attacking side of De Jong's game that most pleased head coach Koeman, who wants his midfielders to take the goalscoring burden off the forward line.

"The three forwards aren't enough; we need the midfielders to score too," Koeman said. "It's good that he's scoring and assisting.

"He's always improving. We want the midfielders to get into the box and get up there."

Fellow midfielder Puig followed that advice by getting on the end of De Jong's cross and heading past Edgar Badia from his seventh touch after being introduced from the bench.

It was the academy graduate's first goal at senior level but he admitted to being disappointed by his lack of playing time this term, having made only one start in all competitions.

"I'm having quite a difficult season because I'm not used to playing so little," Puig told Movistar.

"But I'm getting stronger mentally. I'm happy with the team's hard work and how my team-mates are helping me."

Victory for Barcelona was their fourth in a row in the league, three of those without conceding, as they moved up to third place.

The Catalan giants have not conceded in any of their last nine LaLiga games against Elche, meanwhile, which is their best such run against a single opponent in the competition.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced a big save to deny Emiliano Rigoni with Barca 1-0 up and Koeman was grateful for his compatriot's shot-stopping ability.

"They didn't have many chances - they only had one and it came from a big mistake from our defence," Koeman said. "But Ter Stegen was very good in the one-on-one.

"Luckily we have a good goalkeeper, because they could've equalised at that point.

"Defensively, apart from that mistake, we did well. The best thing about today was our pressing and our performance without the ball. We deserved to win.

"I'm very happy with how we won. We've had lots of matches in the last few days and we've kept focus.

"We were better than our opponents. We were patient. We won possession. It was difficult to score because they had lots of men behind the ball. But we pressed well."

Barcelona return to action on Wednesday with a trip to Rayo Vallecano in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Frenkie de Jong is unsure of Barcelona's title credentials despite their improving LaLiga form.

De Jong scored the opener and created a late second for substitute Riqui Puig during Sunday's 2-0 win at Elche.

That made it four wins out of four for Barca in Spain's top flight since the turn of the year, although they will be 10 points behind Atletico Madrid having played a game more if the leaders are able to beat Valencia in Sunday's late kick-off.

"I'm not sure," he told LaLiga TV when asked whether Ronald Koeman's side are back in the title race.

"We have to win our games and we'll see where we end up towards the end of the season."

Nevertheless, the Netherlands midfielder has no doubt Barca are an improved side after a tough start to life under his former national team boss Koeman.

"Since the new year we're a lot better and we've played most of the games away from home and won all of them in LaLiga. We're in a better moment," De Jong said.

"I think [beating Elche] will do us good, we've worked hard, especially now in the new year. We're growing and improving as a team and hopefully we can keep improving."

De Jong's tally of five goals across his season-and-a-half with Barca has already bettered his total of Eredivisie strikes for Ajax (four) across five campaigns, and the 23-year-old also feels that the imperative to improve applies to him personally, even after a man-of-the-match display.

"Yes, I do think I can play better but it’s not only about goals and assists," he added. "Of course I'm happy but there's more to come."

Frenkie de Jong played a prominent role as Barcelona beat LaLiga strugglers Elche 2-0 to stay in touch with the leading pack.

Lionel Messi completed his two-match suspension for a red card during the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao and Barca struggled to create clear chances in his absence against well-organised opponents.

But an error from Diego Gonzalez allowed De Jong to take advantage in the 39th-minute – the Netherlands international unlikely to score an easier one than his fifth LaLiga goal.

A minute from time, De Jong then turned provider as he crossed for Riqui Puig to head home, ensuring Barca are three points behind Real Madrid, although they will be 10 points shy of Atletico Madrid again if the leaders are able to beat Valencia later on Sunday.

Ronald Koeman declared he must be the wrong coach for Barcelona if he cannot be allowed to criticise the team for falling short of required standards.

The Dutchman is approaching six months in charge of the Camp Nou giants and he expressed frustration on Thursday when his team needed extra time to see off third-tier minnows Cornella in the Copa del Rey.

Miralem Pjanic and Ousmane Dembele missed penalties, and that factor particularly stuck in the craw for Koeman, a spot-kick expert in his playing days.

Koeman said his players needed to "have more responsibility", adding: "You can't miss two penalties as Barcelona players."

Those forthright comments have come in for plenty of scrutiny in Spain, and Koeman was asked about their impact on his players when he spoke on Saturday, ahead of a LaLiga trip to face Elche for which Lionel Messi is suspended.

"I am not going to lie. I say what I see," said the former Everton, Netherlands and Ajax boss.

"If you are a Barca player, you have to be demanding. I criticise them with respect. I'm not going for anyone, I want to help them, but if we play against Cornella with all due respect and we are not able to win in 90 minutes, I have to say what I see.

"If not, bring in another coach."

Koeman pointed to Barcelona's dismal overall penalty record this season, including the Supercopa semi-final shoot-out against Real Sociedad.

He said: "Every player can miss a penalty but to miss seven out of 12 is too much.

"The number one to take penalties is Leo [Messi] but if he's not there on the pitch to take it we must have other players to have the responsibility to score from the penalty spot.

"Yesterday and today we trained that to improve."

Sunday's clash with Elche will be a seventh successive game away from Camp Nou for Barcelona, including their Supercopa games last week.

Barcelona have struck on strong form in LaLiga and had moved up to third place heading into the weekend.

However, leaders Atletico Madrid stood 10 points ahead of them, with their rise driven to a large part by the goals of Luis Suarez, the striker Barcelona allowed to leave in the close season.

Suarez, third on Barcelona's all-time scorers list, has 11 goals in 14 league games for his new club.

Asked if Barcelona are missing Suarez, Koeman said: "I don't like answering that. You only ask me when he scores. He is a great player, I wish him the best of luck, but the decision has been made."

Koeman would love to bring new players to Barcelona, but the club's finances have been heavily hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Any possibility of a new club president launching his tenure with marquee recruits was scotched when elections, due to take place this Sunday, were delayed.

"My position is known: we lack people, but the economic situation of the club is an influence," Koeman said. "I think we all think the same. If no one arrives, I accept it and we continue the same, but if we want more we must sign."

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.

Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona's LaLiga match at Elche on Sunday after losing his appeal against a two-match ban.

The Argentina star was suspended for his red card in the Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Athletic Bilbao, in which he was sent off for striking Asier Villalibre following a VAR review.

It was the first time in 753 appearances for the club in all competitions that Messi was dismissed.

Barca appealed against the suspension but confirmed on Friday that their efforts had been in vain, meaning Messi will not be available for the game at Estadio Martinez Valero.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had already served one match of his ban, having been absent from Thursday's Copa del Rey win at Cornella.

Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite scored in extra time after Barca missed two penalties against the third-tier side.

Messi will be free to return in next Wednesday's Copa del Rey last-16 clash against Rayo Vallecano, with another meeting with Athletic, this time in LaLiga, to follow on January 31.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said Eden Hazard needs time to return to his best and start games after making his return off the bench in Wednesday's draw with Elche.

Hazard was a substitute as LaLiga champions Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at Elche midweek, having not featured for Los Blancos since injuring his thigh in November.

The Belgium international star, who was an unused substitute against Granada last week, was introduced with 13 minutes remaining and spurned a late chance for Madrid.

"[Eden Hazard] needs time, he needs game time as well and slowly but surely he'll be back in the starting 11," Zidane told reporters.

"I do think we should have scored a second goal in the first half because we played very well [against Elche] and we struggled more in the second half, but we have to keep working hard and moving forward in the same manner we have recently because there's still a lot to play for in LaLiga."

Madrid lost ground on city rivals and LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid after their five-game winning streak in the league came to an end.

Luka Modric had opened the scoring in the 20th minute with his first header for Madrid after 364 games across all competitions, before Fidel's penalty seven minutes into the second half levelled proceedings.

Spanish giants Madrid have hit the woodwork 18 times across all competitions this season, more than any other club in the top five European leagues.

Madrid are two points adrift of Atletico – who have two matches in hand – and Zidane added: "If you base things on how we've been playing recently, that this draw is possibly not as good a result.

"I think we had more than enough chances to get the second goal which would have allowed us to be much more calm on the ball. Their equaliser made the game much more difficult for us. They then sat a bit deeper and we struggled in the second half. But that's football. I can't really say anything else.

"We have to keep working hard. When you look at how we played in the first half this is two points lost but we have to keep looking forward."

Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made his 100th appearance for the club in all competitions, with 77 of those coming in LaLiga.

"It's three points that have slipped away from us, but we mustn't feel too down because we've been on a very good run and are performing well," said Courtois, who made a late save to deny Elche a dramatic win.

"It wasn't down to being over-confident. They equalised through a penalty, they play some good stuff and defend with two very compact lines close to their box, which makes it difficult to create any sort of danger. We managed to fashion two or three chances that Edgar did well to keep out."

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