Eden Hazard should recover from his latest injury setback in "two or three weeks", according to Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

A damaged rectus femoris muscle in his left leg initially led to concerns that Hazard could be sidelined for up to six weeks, making him a doubt for both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Atalanta.

However, the Belgium international should recover in half that time, meaning he could have a chance of featuring in the first leg against Atalanta in Bergamo on February 24.

Hazard has already had two spells out with muscular issues this season, while he also missed time after a positive coronavirus test.

"The best Hazard is exactly what we want, we want to see a fully fit Hazard – we look at how tough it's been for the football player, [who] wants to prove how good he is and wants to play for Real Madrid," said Zidane ahead of Saturday's LaLiga meeting with Huesca.

"It's not an easy time for the footballer. I'm sure it's a matter of time before we see him back playing and hopefully he won't pick up another injury.

"Hopefully, when he recovers, we see the best Hazard, maybe in two or three weeks when he recovers.

"I think it's a bit of bad luck. It's not been easy on the player. We have to maintain a positive attitude. He's a great player, we need him back 100 per cent."

He added: "Do you think he's happy with what's going on? Well, no. He's doing what he can to be in good shape, but you know in the life of a player you can be injured.

"We'll have to look at maybe changing something and improve this situation. He's the first player who wants to be fine, of course."

Madrid have been without captain Sergio Ramos for the past three games due to a knee injury and they will have to become accustomed to his absence if he does not extend his contract beyond this season.

Ramos has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, and Zidane reiterated his hope that Madrid could reach an agreement with the 34-year-old.

"I don't know anything. I don't think anyone really knows what the current situation is," said Zidane.

"Hopefully it's something that gets sorted out and that Sergio can continue being a part of the club, and a captain."

Martin Odegaard was allowed to leave during the latest transfer window, with the Norway international joining Arsenal on loan for the rest of the campaign.

Zidane was reluctant to let Odegaard go but sanctioned the switch at the player's insistence.

"The footballer wanted minutes, wanted to leave the club. We had two or three conversations," said the Madrid boss.

"He's a footballer who wanted to try elsewhere. It was the player who requested this move, I was of course in the know.

"I thought maybe the player could have stayed here, fought for a place in the first team. I wanted him to come back to the club because he's a talented player.

"I think the player wanted to go out on loan, get more minutes. The important thing is he's happy, we're happy too. It's good for both parties."

Zinedine Zidane was in a defiant mood and vowed neither he nor his Real Madrid players will throw in the towel during a difficult period.

Los Blancos coach Zidane was absent for the team's past two LaLiga fixtures due to coronavirus, with Madrid following a victory over Deportivo Alaves with defeat against Levante.

The Levante loss was Madrid's fourth in LaLiga this season, one more than they suffered in the whole of their title-winning 2019-20 campaign.

Throw in a shock Copa del Rey defeat to Alcoyano and the pressure has been mounting on Zidane's position as head coach.

But a noticeably fired-up Zidane came out fighting when previewing Madrid's clash against Huesca.

"Well, I can't see into the future, I can't tell you what will happen. I think we need to be in this until the end," he said.

"There's a lot of talk that maybe a change is needed, maybe the manager, maybe this, maybe that, whatever needs to happen will happen. 

"I've said since day one I'm fortunate to be here, I'll make the most of my time here until my last day at the club. 

"If people want me to throw in the towel or the players to give up, I can say neither I nor the players are going to do that. 

"Of course a lot has been said about what we're going through right now, this spell, we haven't recently won enough games. But we're confident we can turn the tide.

"I think we all want to, we all need to, give our all until the end of the season. Of course, a lot could happen from now until the end of the campaign but as a team we're all rowing in the same direction. We're never going to give up, we'll give 100 per cent."

Madrid won 10 straight games and drew their final league fixture when LaLiga resumed after lockdown last season to win the title by five points.

This time around they are third and 10 adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, with their city rivals owning a game in hand.

There have been suggestions Madrid need to freshen up an aging squad in the close season, but Zidane thinks his team deserved the opportunity to defend their title and more respect should be shown.

"I work, as you know, every day with the players, not at home, although I have been at home recently. Now I'm recovered and fully on board again," he added. 

"We're the defending league champions, we won the title last year. We had the right to try and defend the title we won last season. Maybe next season things will change, but I think we should have the chance to rightfully defend what we won last season. 

"We're not talking about what we won 10 years ago – it's about respect. It's a question I understand, I see comments of course. I think it's good you can say you don't want me here, or don't want me at the club but I think we just need a chance to defend what we won last season.

"I'm the number one in charge of this project. As for next year there'll be changes but I think we deserve this year, this squad deserves the chance to prove themselves to do this for the fans. 

"Nobody is going to jump ship, we'll all going to give it our all for the fans. Hopefully we can give them some things to celebrate, to shout about, they love their team, want to see the team win, play good football. We're going to try and do all those things.

"When we play badly or have a poor result, I think the press can sometimes criticise or be over the top. 

"I think we earnt that respect, and if we don't reach our goals come the end of the season, hand up I'll be the first to accept the blame. 

"Maybe I'm a bit angry, upset, I've been locked up indoors recovering from COVID. Now I'm back we'll battle until the end."

Is Erling Haaland's future becoming clearer?

Haaland's exploits for Borussia Dortmund have attracted interest from far and wide.

But Manchester City appear to be the frontrunners for his signature…

 

TOP STORY – CITY LINING UP BIG HAALAND BID

Manchester City are confident of landing Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal, according to the front page of Friday's Mirror.

Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, having been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus.

But City believe winning this season's Premier League will help them sign Haaland at the end of the campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal claims Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi will wait until season's end before deciding his future. Messi has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and City on a free transfer.

Sergio Aguero is tempted by a move to Barca if Messi remains at Camp Nou, reports Cadena Ser. Like Messi, City forward Aguero is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21.

- Defensa Central says Chelsea are interested in re-signing Eden Hazard, but at a huge discount. Hazard has struggled for form and fitness since leaving Chelsea for Madrid in a big-money move in 2019.

Milan will miss out on signing Ajax teenager Brian Brobbey as he is set to join RB Leipzig, according to Calciomercato and widespread reports in Italy. But Milan are close to signing Marseille's soon-to-be free agent Florian Thauvin.

- Calciomercato claims Madrid have put veteran full-back Marcelo up for sale amid links to Juventus.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi will retire wherever he wants amid doubts over his future, according to former team-mate Luis Suarez.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the current campaign and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner appears likely to leave on a free transfer amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

The 33-year-old attacker had tried to exit Camp Nou prior to the start of 2020-21 before opting to remain with the embattled LaLiga powerhouse.

Suarez won four LaLiga titles and the Champions League among other honours during his time together with Messi before joining Atletico Madrid in the off-season and he hailed the superstar.

"This afternoon I spoke with him, he was very happy about yesterday's victory [over Granada]," Suarez told El Transistor.

"He is [playing] at a spectacular level, he is the best in the world.

"Messi will retire wherever he wants, he can decide whether it's at Barcelona, in Argentina or wherever."

Suarez has starred since leaving Barca after six years at Camp Nou, spearheading Atletico's title charge this season.

The 34-year-old has scored a LaLiga-high 14 goals to help Diego Simeone's Atletico sit 10 points clear atop the table, ahead of second-placed Barca with a game in hand.

Suarez averages the fewest minutes per goal (one goal every 85 minutes) among players to have scored at least two goals this season.

The Uruguay international reflected on his Barca exit following Ronald Koeman's arrival, adding: "When Barcelona told me that they did not count on me it was hard, I did not expect it.

"They were very difficult moments because of the manner [in which it happened]. Koeman called me and told me that I was not in his plans.

"When Barcelona made it official that they did not count on me, conversations began with Atleti, with Cholo [Simeone], with Miguel Angel...

"There was interest from many clubs, not just Juventus. I wanted to make the right decision, the best for me and my family."

Atletico Madrid forward Moussa Dembele has tested positive for coronavirus.

LaLiga leaders Atletico confirmed the news on Thursday, a day after record signing Joao Felix returned a positive test.

"Our squad underwent PCR tests on Wednesday as recommended by LaLiga, in addition to the first weekly antigen tests outlined in their protocol. The PCR test showed that Moussa Dembele is positive for COVID-19," Atletico said in a statement.

"The Frenchman is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Atleti face Celta Vigo at home next Monday as they look to build on their 10-point lead at the top of the table.

Dembele joined from Lyon last month on loan until the end of the season, with Atleti retaining an option to buy the former France Under-21 international for an initial fee of €33.5million.

He has been on the bench three times in LaLiga but is yet to make an appearance under coach Diego Simeone.

Chelsea are chasing defenders and Niklas Sule is reportedly a target, with David Alaba seemingly set for Real Madrid.

Premier League outfit Chelsea have been linked with defenders, particularly since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at the helm.

They have three at the top of their list.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE SULE

Bayern Munich defender Sule is on Chelsea's shopping list, according to Sport Bild.

The report says Sule's Bayern team-mate Alaba , who is out of contract at the end of the season, and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are also among their targets.

Chelsea have kept back-to-back clean sheets since Tuchel took over last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- Alaba seems set to head elsewhere. Marca reports Real Madrid have a four-year agreement in place with Alaba, who has passed his medical.

- Borussia Dortmund seem to be preparing for Jadon Sancho's exit. Sport Bild reports PSV attacker Donyell Malen and Lyon star Memphis Depay, who is also apparently wanted by Barcelona, are targets for Dortmund with Sancho likely to leave at season's end.

- With Andre Villas-Boas having left his post, Marseille are looking for a new coach. Sky Sport reports former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri has turned down an approach from the Ligue 1 side.

- John Terry is on the list of candidates to become the next Bournemouth manager, according to the Daily Mail. The Championship side sacked Jason Tindall and are said to be looking at the Aston Villa assistant.

- Martin Braithwaite could have left Barcelona. Sport reports the forward turned down a loan move to West Brom during the previous transfer window.

Mauricio Pochettino said Paris Saint-Germain should be left to work on signings "in silence" amid Barcelona's anger over Lionel Messi.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman hit out at PSG on Wednesday, saying the Ligue 1 giants had been "disrespectful" by regularly discussing Messi.

Angel Di Maria became the latest person connected to PSG to discuss Messi, with coach Pochettino, sporting director Leonardo and Neymar having also spoken about the Argentina star in recent months.

Pochettino would not be drawn into discussing Di Maria's comments about Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

"I am not going to talk about what our player's comment, as you know, because my words can be misunderstood, and then these words can go to another country in another way," he told a news conference after a 3-0 win over Nimes.

"I have to be focused on trying to improve this team, from now to the end of the season, to try to achieve our goals, knowing that it is not going to be easy because we are in a difficult competition, in a weird situation, with the pandemic that it is affecting all of us, and also football.

"And then, the Champions League and Coupe de France, we will try to compete and go as far as we can, try to win, because in Paris, is all about to win.

"But I don't want to give names, don't want to think on the future. I'm sure that the club is working in different situations to improve. So let's leave the club working in silence, in secret, in order to have a better team and with more possibilities to win."

Di Maria opened the scoring in PSG's win over Nimes before goals from Pablo Sarabia and Kylian Mbappe.

Pochettino praised the performance of Di Maria, who is also out of contract at the end of the season.

"I'm happy with [Di Maria's] performance and compromise within the team," he said.

"I think that as every player, he needs time but Angel is a very important player for the team. He's been at this club for many years. So I'm happy for his goal and his performance."

Ronald Koeman hit out at Paris Saint-Germain, accusing the Ligue 1 giants of being "disrespectful" for continuing to talk about Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, has been heavily linked with a move to PSG when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Angel Di Maria became the latest person connected to PSG to discuss Messi, with coach Mauricio Pochettino, sporting director Leonardo and Neymar having also spoken about the Argentina star in recent months.

After opening the scoring in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Nimes, Di Maria – who is also out of contract at season's end – talked up a potential PSG move for his compatriot.

"I hope to renew with PSG. Play with Messi? Yes, hopefully, I think there are many possibilities," he said.

"I have to be calm, think about my own thing and continue in Paris because I am very happy here."

Barcelona coach Koeman is growing tired of the Ligue 1 giants speaking about his star.

After a stunning comeback to get past Granada in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, Koeman hit out at PSG, who face Barca in the Champions League last 16 beginning this month.

"It is disrespectful that so many people from PSG talk about Messi. They are spicing up the [Champions League] game," he said.

"He is still a Barca player."

Real Madrid have confirmed Eden Hazard has sustained yet another muscle injury.

The Belgium star has damaged a rectus femoris muscle in his left leg, having reportedly failed to complete training on Wednesday.

It was hoped the problem was simply muscle fatigue, but tests have shown the former Chelsea forward has a more serious injury.

According to reports in Spain, Hazard could be out for up to six weeks, which would rule him out of the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Atalanta on February 24 and perhaps make him a doubt for the return fixture on March 16.

It is the latest in a succession of injuries that have blighted Hazard's time in Madrid since his €100million move from Chelsea in 2019.

The 30-year-old was out for nearly a month at the end of September and again from late November due to muscle issues. He was also unavailable for two weeks between the injuries due to a positive coronavirus test.

Hazard has only started 20 times in LaLiga, six of those coming this season, and scored just three goals. He has failed to complete a full 90 minutes in any match this season across all competitions.

Madrid, who are third in LaLiga and 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid after playing a game more, face Huesca away on Saturday.

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.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has reportedly decided to stay with the Ligue 1 giants.

Neymar's contract is due to expire in 2022 and the forward has repeatedly been linked with a return to Barcelona.

But the Brazil international seems set to remain at PSG.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR AGREES TO FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION WITH PSG

Neymar has agreed to a four-year extension with PSG, according to TNT Sports Brasil correspondent Marcelo Bechler.

The deal will keep Neymar, who arrived at PSG from Barcelona in 2017, tied to the Parc des Princes until 2026.

Neymar has won nine domestic trophies, including three Ligue 1 titles, since arriving in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract next year is Neymar's star PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe. TNT Sports Brasil reports selling the forward, who has been linked to Real Madrid previously, would give the Ligue 1 giants the chance to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi or Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, or both.

- Real Madrid could also be set for other business. AS reports LaLiga's champions are prepared to sell Vinicius Junior in the next transfer window, with the 20-year-old having netted just three times in 25 appearances in all competitions this term.

- Arkadiusz Milik joined Marseille on loan from Napoli in January, but Juventus are still considering a move for the forward, according to CalcioMercato.

- Dele Alli was reportedly wanted by PSG in January, but the midfielder ended up staying at Tottenham. The Telegraph reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy blocked Alli's move due to the club's injuries and run of poor form.

- A free agent, Daniel Sturridge's future remains unclear. The Daily Mail reports the forward is wanted by MLS clubs.

Zinedine Zidane led a Real Madrid training session for the first time since contracting coronavirus, while club president Florentino Perez has tested positive for COVID-19.

Madrid head coach Zidane was forced to undergo a period of self-isolation and has not been in the dugout since the shock 2-1 defeat to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey two weeks ago.

Since then, Los Blancos have beaten Deportivo Alaves 4-1 and suffered a surprise 2-1 loss against Levante in LaLiga.

Madrid have slipped to third and sit 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who still have a game in hand, but Zidane has a full week to prepare for their next outing against Huesca on Saturday.

Although Zidane was back on the training pitch, Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde were only with the group for part of the session.

Dani Carvajal trained indoors while Nacho Fernandez remained at home after testing positive for COVID-19, a fate shared by Madrid president Perez.

A brief club statement read: "Real Madrid would like to inform that our president Florentino Perez has tested positive in the COVID-19 tests that he periodically undergoes, although he is not showing any symptoms."

Antoine Griezmann being a Barcelona success is important to head coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca are preparing to face Granada in an away Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday.

They are favourites to win the competition after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid crashed out against lower-league opposition.

Griezmann scored twice and set up another as Barca won 4-0 at Los Carmenes in LaLiga last month.

Ahead of their latest meeting in the cup, Koeman praised the World Cup winner for his turnaround in form, which was partly sparked by that outing.

He has five goals in his last seven games, including the winner in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

"All season Antoine is working well," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"[He has done] what a player has to do, which is help the team to the maximum. 

"With Antoine there have been moments when he has been scoring and those when he hasn't scored, but they are phases that any footballer goes through, we have all experienced it. 

"Now he is very good and that is important to me. We want to get the most out of each player in the squad."

Griezmann has seven goal involvements in his last six games at Los Carmenes and, prior to his star showing in the last meeting, had netted just three times in his first 16 LaLiga appearances this season.

Barca have five straight away wins in LaLiga, four of which have come with clean sheets. It is their best run under Koeman, who hopes they can carry that form into the cup.

"It is a different game because it is the cup and they are always different games from the championship," said the Dutchman.

"Also I think that both they [Granada] and we have played many games – they have had even more. 

"Do not forget that at the start of the other game we had quite a few complications in playing our game. We expect a difficult game in which we have to be very focused."

Koeman would not go as far as saying the Copa del Rey was now his top priority over LaLiga.

But he concedes it is the most likely route to domestic silverware with Atletico Madrid sitting 10 points clear with a game in hand atop the table.

Koeman added: "The cup is not more important than the league, but it is true that it is closer [to being won] because there are fewer games left. 

"It is not normal for Atletico Madrid to get so many points, they are very strong. In the league we can only wait for them to fail. We have lost many points at home that cannot be dropped.

"I don't give more importance to Wednesdays game than to the weekend [against Real Betis], but we want to keep winning and get through this tie to be in the semi-final. 

"Squad rotation depends on the physical condition of the players. It is a vital match, but if there is a player who is not physically well, he will not play."

Ronald Koeman believes it is "absurd" that a report over Lionel Messi's contract is still dominating headlines but has been delighted with the way his captain has responded.

The build-up to Barcelona's Copa del Rey quarter-final at Granada has been overshadowed by an apparent leak of Messi's deal at Camp Nou, which was signed in 2017.

A report by El Mundo on Sunday claimed the contract, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

It was already believed that Messi was on an extraordinary salary at Barcelona, given he is recognised by many as the greatest active player of the world's most popular sport.

But the leaking of the exact sums payable to Messi has caused a stir, coming at a time when the embattled LaLiga giants are in financial trouble.

Koeman has previously rejected any suggestion that Messi's contract was connected to Barcelona facing a financial hurdle.

He was unhappy that it remained the central story prior to Wednesday's last-eight tie, with Barca favourites to win the cup due to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid already being eliminated.

"It is something absurd that you [the media] have been on with this issue for three or four days," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"The team and Leo have responded in the way that I like, which is to try to leave the things from the press aside and concentrate on the game.

"I am happy with the team and how he [Messi] is currently working."

Koeman has previously said anyone inside Barca who is found to have leaked sensitive details would be fired.

But he reiterated his comments made after Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao – where Messi scored his 650th club goal – that the leak could well have come from outside.

Koeman added: "It can come from many places, because there is always competition between the big clubs and there are people from outside with friends inside.

"As a coach I defend the players and the club. Leaks like these are not good and have bad intentions.

"When things come out it is important to be more united in the dressing room."

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman remains hopeful Lionel Messi will opt to stay at Camp Nou, but is "not confident" about that outcome.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 33-year-old wanted to leave last season after the club finished without a trophy and he fell out with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi agreed to stay for the last year of his contract when Barca refused his request and has impressed under Koeman, scoring nine goals in his last 10 games.

But Koeman is not convinced a happier Messi this season will result in him remaining with the club for the long term.

"I'm not confident about that," Koeman said to The Athletic.

"I'm hopeful, yes, about this because he's still a great player and he's still winning matches for us, for the team. 

"I'm enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it's incredible. 

"Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don't see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt."

Messi reached 650 Barca goals in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

After the match, Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Messi as he reflected on a leak by El Mundo which claimed the deal his captain signed in 2017 is worth more than €555million.

Koeman was thrilled to get the Barcelona job ahead of 2020-21 but reflected on how tough it had been to immediately handle the Messi saga, which was already under way and has raged on since.

"It was a difficult time because he's still the best player, but he was angry about some situations in the club," added Koeman. 

"And he was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League. 

"Of course, he was angry, he had to leave, he wanted to leave the team.

"First of all, what I said to the club was, 'OK, it's not my problem. It's a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that'. 

"Finally, the club said, 'We don’t make a transfer for him. He needs to stay'. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted it."

Koeman has not had any issues with Messi's attitude.

The former Netherlands head coach added: "I spoke to him in his house before we started the season and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic.

"I knew that he had some problems with the club and I was out of that.

"I said to Leo, 'I'm really happy if you stay. If you don't stay, it's your decision and it's what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team and this will be your position to get all the best out of yourself'. 

"Little by little, he accepted that situation. And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. 

"But nobody knows what will happen in the future."

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