Granada were only able to field seven senior players in their starting XI for a 2-0 defeat to LaLiga leaders Real Sociedad on Sunday because of a coronavirus outbreak.

A request by Granada to postpone the game against Sociedad at Anoeta had earlier been rejected by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and they instead played the match with a severely-weakened side.

Granada had originally claimed they could not select "the minimum number of players available" but RFEF's competition committee turned it down as regulations stated matches could only be postponed if a club has five or fewer first-team players to choose from.

Granada's 18-year-old goalkeeper Angel Jimenez saved a penalty on his debut, but goals from Nacho Monreal and Mikel Oyarzabal chalked up a fifth consecutive victory for Sociedad.

Diego Martinez's side had been told they could only name players in their squad who tested negative for COVID-19 and who did not travel to Cyprus for Thursday's Europa League match against Omonia Nicosia.

Granada are set to face disciplinary action for a breach of COVD-19 protocols after they travelled to Cyprus despite an outbreak of the virus.

It was confirmed on Saturday that Martinez and striker Antonio Puertas were self-isolating after showing symptoms of the virus.

Ansu Fati is to undergo surgery on the torn meniscus he suffered in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Real Betis. 

The teenage forward was substituted at half-time in Saturday's contest at Camp Nou, Barca later confirming the damage sustained to his left knee. 

Fati is now set to have an operation on Monday, after which Barca said they will release further details about the possible length of his absence. 

A club statement read: "The first team player Ansu Fati will undergo surgery [on] Monday for the injury to the meniscus in his left knee by Dr. Ramon Cugat under the supervision of the Club's medical services.  

"Once this intervention is completed, a new communication will be provided with information on the result and the approximate time of withdrawal." 

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga so far this term having notched four in seven appearances, while he was also on target in the 5-1 hammering of Ferencvaros in the Champions League.

His form has been a bright point in an inconsistent start Barca have made under Ronald Koeman, who had seen his side fail to win four on the bounce in LaLiga prior to the Betis win.

Only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga for Barca in 2020-21than Fati (28), while the club captain is the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than his team-mate's return of nine.

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Granada have been told Sunday's LaLiga match with Real Sociedad must go ahead despite them having only seven senior players available due to coronavirus restrictions.

Diego Martinez's side were informed they could only name players in their squad who tested negative for COVID-19 and who did not travel to Cyprus for Thursday's Europa League match against Omonia Nicosia.

It was confirmed on Saturday that Martinez and striker Antonio Puertas were self-isolating after showing symptoms of the virus.

Granada asked the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to postpone the game against Sociedad at Anoeta as they said they could not select "the minimum number of players available".

However, in a statement on Sunday, Granada said the RFEF's competition committee had rejected their request.

They added: "The team will travel to San Sebastian in the next few hours with only seven players in the squad who meet the requirements imposed by LaLiga, [the squad] completed with players from the B team and youth team who also meet these requirements."

Granada are sixth in LaLiga after winning four and losing just one of their opening seven games in 2020-21.

Sociedad are level on 17 points with league leaders Atletico Madrid.

David Beckham reportedly dreams of signing Sergio Ramos at Inter Miami, while Phil Foden seems set for a new deal at Manchester City.

Ramos, 34, is out of contract at Real Madrid at the season's end, leading to speculation over his future.

While the Madrid captain has been expected to re-sign, the defender is unsurprisingly attracting plenty of interest.

 

TOP STORY – BECKHAM DREAMS OF RAMOS AT INTER MIAMI

Inter Miami co-owner Beckham wants Real Madrid star Ramos to join the MLS club, according to AS.

Ramos and Beckham were team-mates at the Santiago Bernabeu for two seasons between 2005 and 2007.

The report says while Ramos likes Miami, the defender is likely to stay in Europe, with Madrid apparently offering him a two-year deal.

Ramos netted his 100th Madrid goal in all competitions in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League win over Inter, with 55 of those headers.

 

ROUND-UP

- Foden is set to be rewarded for his form at Manchester City. The Mirror reports the midfielder is set for a big pay rise as he is expected to sign a new contract early next year. Foden's current deal runs until 2024.

- Previously linked to Manchester United, Lyon forward Moussa Dembele is apparently wanted by West Ham. The Ligue 1 club are reportedly prepared to sell Dembele and West Ham are interested, according to the Mirror, which says a bid of about £30million (€33.2m) could be enough. Dembele has made just four Ligue 1 starts for Lyon this season.

- Another forward with an uncertain future is Luka Jovic. Marca reports the 22-year-old, who is without a goal in four games for Real Madrid this season, is considering his future.

- Sergio Romero is expected to leave Manchester United. The Sun says the goalkeeper, whose deal expires at the end of the season, is training alone and hopes to leave the Premier League club for free in January.

Diego Simeone played down the importance of Atletico Madrid's upcoming clash with Barcelona after they moved top of LaLiga.

Atletico extended their unbeaten run in LaLiga to 23 games – the most in their history – with a 4-0 thrashing of Cadiz on Saturday.

Joao Felix scored a brace and goals from Marcos Llorente and Luis Suarez at the Wanda Metropolitano moved Atletico onto 17 points from seven league games.

Simeone's men will host Barca after the international break, but the Atletico coach said it would not be a decisive clash.

"They know us, they know that beyond happiness we do not depend on what is going to happen in the game against Barcelona," he said. 

"There are 15 days left, players leave with the national team, we will have to wait for the time we have and we do not move away from that. It is our way of thinking and we live in the next game. 

"We will see when the players return in what conditions we see them and we will form the teams accordingly."

Since being humbled 4-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last month, Atletico have won four of five games.

Simeone praised the form of his side, who are joined by Real Sociedad – who have played one more game – on 17 points at the top.

"What generates enthusiasm and enthusiasm for me is what has happened since the draw against Huesca or Villarreal or the defeat in Munich," he said. 

"I see the team well, with dynamics, enthusiasm, strength, desire to do things and see how we evolve in training. What makes me happy is that those players who had fewer minutes like [Mario] Hermoso, [Hector] Herrera or Llorente last year, today are being very important in the team. 

"There is an improvement far beyond today's result. We play with four midfielders who can occupy many places. I think we have a balanced squad. 

"Let's wait for the return of those who are out – [Sime] Vrsaljko will replace [Kieran] Trippier, Vitolo, [Diego] Costa, [Yannick] Carrasco."

Atletico Madrid moved level on points with leaders Real Sociedad as they extended their unbeaten run to 23 LaLiga games by thrashing Cadiz 4-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's team – the only unbeaten side remaining in Spain's top flight – made light work of an opponent who had won their last four away matches without conceding, and Joao Felix was the star.

With help from the woeful Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma, Atleti raced into a two-goal lead by the 22nd minute – Joao Felix and Marcos Llorente on target.

Having teed up Luis Suarez for a third after the break, Joao Felix then doubled his tally with a thumping 90th-minute strike to cap off a resounding success ahead of Atleti's clash with Barcelona in 14 days' time.

Granada have asked the Spanish Football Federation to postpone Sunday's LaLiga clash with Real Sociedad due to a high number of positive coronavirus cases in the camp.

Only players who have tested negative for COVID-19 and did not travel to Cyprus for Thursday's Europa League clash with Omonoia Nicosia can play against Sociedad.

With Granada unable to name a 13-man squad for the game at Anoeta Stadium, the club have requested the game be pushed back to a later date.

A statement on their official website read: "The League has informed Granada that it only allows those players with a positive IGG index or a negative PCR and who have not travelled to Cyprus to travel to San Sebastian. 

"Given these circumstances, the Club requests the postponement of the match as it does not meet the minimum number of players available from the first team that are required for the dispute of an official match."

Granada confirmed earlier on Saturday that head coach Diego Martinez and striker Antonio Puertas were self-isolating after presenting symptoms compatible with coronavirus.

Martinez's side are sixth in LaLiga after winning four, drawing two and losing only one of their first seven matches.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus.

The 18-year-old was substituted at half-time of Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

Spain international Fati was sent for tests, which have shown a tear in the meniscus of his left knee.

The club confirmed treatment will begin over the coming days.

Fati is Barca's top scorer in LaLiga this season with four goals in seven appearances, while he also scored in the 5-1 Champions League win over Ferencvaros.

His form in attack has been a positive during an inconsistent start to life as head coach for Ronald Koeman, whose team ended a four-game winless run in the top flight by beating Betis.

For Barca, only Lionel Messi (48) has attempted more dribbles in LaLiga in 2020-21 than Fati (28), while the Argentina star is also the only Blaugrana player to create more chances (13) than Fati (nine).

Fati had been called up to the Spain squad for this month's international matches against the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Barcelona have confirmed forward Ansu Fati has suffered a torn meniscus. 

Ronald Koeman says his decision to name Lionel Messi on the bench for Barcelona's LaLiga clash with Real Betis was down to the forward carrying a knock.

Messi was absent from Barca's starting line-up for the first time during Koeman's 10-game reign yet still managed to have a major say in his side's 5-2 victory at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international had failed to assist a goal or score from open play in six league matches before Saturday's victory.

It was the first time he had been benched for a league game since September 2019, but Koeman insists he was left out purely for fitness reasons.

"We talked yesterday," Koeman said to Movistar Plus. "Leo came out of the game against Dynamo Kiev with some discomfort and was not in a position to play from the start today.

"We had to put him on the bench. If he has no problems then he plays from the beginning. Today he could not."

Messi was brought on at half-time and scored a brace as a substitute for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 2013 – also against Betis.

"I have no doubts about him," Koeman said. "I know him well and see him train every day."

Barca went into half-time level after their academy product Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Ousmane Dembele's strike, roughly 15 minutes after Antoine Griezmann had a penalty saved.

Messi inspired his side to a first win in five league games, however, by playing a pivotal part in Griezmann's strike and converting a penalty awarded for Aissa Mandi's handball.

Mandi was sent off but Loren Moreno scored to make things interesting, only for Messi's first open-play goal this term and Pedri's maiden LaLiga strike to settle things.

"It was an important victory for us because we needed the points," Koeman said. "I'm happy because we created a lot of chances, had opportunities to score and did score.

"Luckily, we scored in the second half because the first half wasn't fair. Conceding a goal against a team with 10 men also isn't good, but it was a deserved victory."

Griezmann missed three big chances in the first half, as well as a penalty, which ex-Barca stopper Claudio Bravo did well to keep out.

However, he scored and assisted a goal in the same Barca game for the first time this calendar year and Koeman was pleased with the France international's overall display.

"I hope to see him continue working like this," he said. "To miss opportunities, you have to be there. His character must be highlighted because he is always there.

"He knows perfectly well that he missed a penalty, but the important thing is that he always shows himself and that type of character is important."

Asked for an update on fellow attacker Ansu Fati, who was withdrawn for Messi at the interval, Koeman said: "He had discomfort and we did not want to risk him."

Lionel Messi scored twice and played a key part in another goal in Barcelona's 5-2 LaLiga win over 10-man Real Betis after being left out of Ronald Koeman's starting line-up for the first time.

Barca assistant Alfred Schreuder put the absence of Messi, who has struggled for form this season, down to a lack of fitness as he started a league game on the bench for the first time since September 2019.

The mercurial forward was brought on at half-time with the game poised at 1-1 after Ousmane Dembele's strike was cancelled out by Barca academy product Antonio Sanabria, either side of an Antoine Griezmann penalty miss.

Messi paved the way for Griezmann's goal 194 seconds into the second half, then scored a penalty after Aissa Mandi was dismissed for handling the ball on the line and doubled his tally late on to kill off Betis following Loren Moron's strike.

Pedri then capped a much-improved display for Koemen's side with a fifth goal late on as they secured a first league win in five on Saturday.

Barca had made their worst start to a league season after six games in the three-points-per-win era but made a bright start against Betis, with Griezmann firing wide from 12 yards and Fati curling a shot off target.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, making his first league appearance of the season, kept out William Carvalho's header before Ansu Fati and Griezmann wasted more presentable opportunities.

However, the breakthrough came 22 minutes in, as Dembele brought the ball inside Alex Moreno and beat Claudio Bravo, who got a touch to the shot but could not keep it out.

Griezmann then hit the post and was denied by Bravo from the spot after Mandi fouled Fati, and Betis were level when Sanabria guided in Cristian Tello's cross on the brink of half-time.

Messi was brought on for Fati at the break and had an instant impact, smartly dummying Jordi Alba's cross for Griezmann to slot into an unguarded net behind him.

After a lengthy VAR check, Mandi was deemed to have blocked Dembele's shot on the line with his arm and Messi had no trouble converting his fourth penalty of the season.

Moron gave the visitors a lifeline by blasting a shot past Ter Stegen after Gerard Pique flicked the ball into his path, but that proved nothing more than a consolation thanks to Messi's powerful left-footed drive and Pedri's close-range finish.

Luis Suarez is expecting a big season from strike partner Joao Felix, who he believes will be a "match-winner" for Atletico Madrid with the help of his team-mates.

Suarez joined Atleti from Barcelona at the start of the campaign, joining Diego Costa and Joao Felix in attack at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The 20-year-old Portugal international is now in his second season at the club, having signed from Benfica as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann in July 2019.

Joao Felix's first term at Atleti did not pan out quite as he might have hoped, scoring just six goals and providing a single assist in 27 LaLiga games.

But 2020-21 is already proving more fruitful as the forward has three goals - from just 15 shots - and an assist in six league matches.

Joao Felix already has two Champions League goals in the new season, too, closing on last year's tally of three, and he has Suarez's backing.

"He hasn't surprised me, because back when he was at Benfica he had already set about showing what a class player he is at a very young age," Suarez told AS.

"It's not easy when you move abroad, but in his first year, which was about settling in here, he produced moments of real quality.

"I think that this season he's really starting to get the fans excited. He feels full of confidence and, if the rest of us give him the help and support he needs, he can be a match-winner.

"But we can't place all the responsibility on his shoulders. If we work as a team and everyone does their bit, that'll have a beneficial effect on him and everyone around him."

Four-goal Suarez is already starting to benefit from Joao Felix's work, although the pair have had only 179 minutes on the pitch together in LaLiga so far.

In that time, they have shared 12 passes, with two of Joao Felix's four balls to Suarez resulting in a chance for the ex-Liverpool striker.

There have been further opportunities in the Champions League, sharing 21 passes in 247 minutes and each creating a chance for the other, albeit Suarez is still waiting to get off the mark in European competition.

Heading into Saturday's league game at home to Cadiz, Suarez and Joao Felix will now hope to combine for an assist for the first time.

Lionel Messi was named among Barcelona's substitutes for Saturday's LaLiga contest against Real Betis.

The absence of the captain from Ronald Koeman's starting XI at Camp Nou was a peculiar one given Barca have failed to win their past four matches in Spain's top flight, although reports in Spain suggest he is not being risked due to a slight ankle problem.

Messi had previously started every game in LaLiga and the Champions League under Koeman, who named Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati in his starting line-up.

Messi has regularly found himself in the spotlight since failing to engineer a move away from Barca in the past transfer window, particularly given he is yet to score from open play or provide an assist in LaLiga this term - though he has attempted more shots (28) than any other player in the competition.

On Friday, Koeman defended Messi against claims the Argentine was not working hard enough for the team following viral footage from Barca's midweek win over Dynamo Kiev, which showed him failing to press the opposition in second-half injury time. 

In that game, Messi had more shots (six) and created more chances (four) than any other player in the match, but he also lost possession more frequently than anyone else (20 times) without once winning it back.

"I didn't seem him [walking] and I'm not interested in this because I don't see him walking," Koeman said. "If you want to start a controversy around this point, it's your problem.

"Messi is mentally good, enjoying this sport. He's a winner and sometimes you go through moments when the ball doesn't go in, but he looks really focused.

"I think Messi still has so many qualities. He's very important in our game."

Last weekend's 1-1 draw at 10-man Deportivo Alaves saw Barca equal their lowest tally of points through six games in LaLiga.

Eden Hazard remains in good spirits despite being sidelined again at Real Madrid after testing positive for coronavirus.

Madrid announced on Saturday that Hazard and Casemiro had returned a positive result for COVID-19, ruling them out of the meeting with Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday.

The Belgium international has featured just 25 times in all competitions for Los Blancos since arriving from Chelsea for €100million in June last year, scoring two goals and supplying four assists. In his final campaign at Stamford Bridge, he registered 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League alone.

A persistent ankle problem blighted Hazard's first season with Madrid but Zidane assured he is not letting another setback get him down.

"Well, they're okay I think," Zidane said when asked how Casemiro and Hazard were doing after their positive tests.

"They're not happy with what's happened but they're okay and physically they don't have many symptoms, but we know it's tough.

"I left them a message and I'll speak to them later. This can happen and we have to accept that."

Asked specifically if he was worried about Hazard's state of mind, Zidane replied: "You know what he's like as a player. He's a strong player.

"It's a tough moment with injuries and everything but he's in good spirits, which is important. He has to wait a week now."

Due to the positive coronavirus cases Zidane was forced to quickly change his training plans on the eve of the trip to Valencia

"We have to adapt to the situation. We know it could be worse.. It happened to [Eder] Militao the other day, to Eden and Casemiro today," said Zidane.

"We have to accept it and keep going forward, because the strength is in the team unit. There are worse things that are happening, people are worse of elsewhere, but it's disconcerting that the training session today has been completely different the day before a game.

"It's disconcerting because you don't know what's going to happen, in what moment you're going to have positives or not and that's what's happened with these two players.

"They are responsible people but unfortunately it's happened. It could be worse. There are people in much worse situations who are really, really suffering outside of football.

"But in the world of football I'm a manager and I prefer to have them available for tomorrow obviously."

Zidane confirmed that Martin Odegaard will be in the squad to face Valencia, having spent three weeks out with a calf problem.

Madrid will be aiming to make it 10 LaLiga away games without defeat for the first time in three years against a Valencia side who, with eight points from as many games, are experiencing their worst start to a season since having seven points at the same stage in the 1999-2000 campaign.

Luis Suarez will not try to convince Lionel Messi to join Atletico Madrid but would happily endorse the move if the Barcelona captain wanted to make it happen.

Messi failed to engineer a switch away from Camp Nou in the close season and his future at Barca remains uncertain, with his contract due to expire at the end of June.

The club's interim board and numerous presidential candidates have suggested that a projected loss of revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic means the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would need to agree a pay adjustment to stay beyond this campaign.

It was believed one of the motivating factors behind Messi's desire to leave before the start of the season was the treatment of close friend Suarez, who assisted more Barca goals for him (47) than any other player, following Ronald Koeman's appointment.

Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped off to Atletico for a nominal fee, but he does not intend to go out of his way to make Messi follow him.

"I'll always say it: Leo is mature enough to make the decisions he needs to make by himself. I'll never try to influence what he does; wherever he's happy, I'll always support his right to make the decision that's best for him," Suarez told AS.

"If at any point the possibility arises, then he should say so as obviously I'm going to talk very highly of him to the club.

"But as far as suggesting things to him is concerned, I think he's the one who has to make such decisions and wherever he's happiest is the best place for him to be."

Messi is yet to score from open play in nine appearances in all competitions this season and Koeman this week defended the Argentina international after footage of him failing to close down a player in the final moments of Barca's 2-1 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev went viral on social media.

Asked if Messi looked low on morale, Suarez said: "He's 33 years old and he knows how to deal with any situation.

"To me he looks like he has the same desire that he did before, is enjoying his football and is still fighting as hard as ever, which is the main thing. He keeps on trying even if the ball doesn't want to go in. That says a lot about him."

Messi's haul of 31 goals in all competitions last season – 15 of which were scored after Quique Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde as head coach in January – was his worst tally since registering 16 in 2007-08.

Setien, who was sacked after the 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August, this week said Messi was "difficult to manage", but Suarez painted a different picture.

"I'd rather not get into that, because it only helps to turn it into a bigger issue than it should be," said Suarez. 

"Any team-mate who has worked alongside Leo will talk highly of him, of what a class player he is and what a top guy he is away from the pitch. He really helps the youngsters, giving them pieces of advice.

"Every player who has worked with him talks highly of him. That says a lot about the kind of player and person he is in that dressing room."

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