West Ham goalkeeper Roberto has signed for Deportivo Alaves on loan for the rest of the season after a disappointing first six months in the Premier League.

The 33-year-old was brought to London Stadium on a free transfer at the end of May as a back-up to established number one Lukasz Fabianski, signing a two-year deal.

But an early hip injury for Fabianski handed Roberto his opportunity in the first team.

The Spaniard played eight times in the league but was at fault for a number of goals during a slump in form and was eventually replaced by David Martin.

Fabianski suffered another injury earlier this month, yet West Ham have brought back Darren Randolph from Middlesbrough in a reported £4million transfer.

Roberto has subsequently been allowed to return to LaLiga on a temporary deal.

Real Madrid have completed the signing of Brazilian teenager Reinier Jesus from Flamengo.

The attacker has long been linked with a €30million switch to Madrid, with reports previously suggesting he would sign after turning 18 on January 19.

Reinier's arrival was subsequently confirmed on Monday, agreeing a six-and-a-half-year deal at the Santiago Bernabeu.

He scored six goals in 14 appearances for Flamengo in Brazil's Serie A last year.

New head coach Quique Setien was pleased with Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Granada in his first game in charge but wants to see his side be more clinical in front of goal.

Lionel Messi's 76th-minute finish following an outstanding team move secured three points at Camp Nou on Sunday for Setien, who replaced Ernesto Valverde last Monday.

Barca had 82.6 per cent of possession but struggled to break down Granada prior to Messi's intervention, prompting hopes from the incoming coach there will be improvement in the final third.

"I think it was a 'good' [performance]," Setien said. "Maybe we lacked a bit of conviction in the first half. Granada defended very well, and it wasn't easy.

"Furthermore, it was an unpleasant day, with wind, a dry pitch, and this stopped the circulation [of the ball].

"I'm happy because we only conceded one shot in the first half and the shot that hit the post in the second half came from our loss [of possession].

"I think we did a lot of things well and I hope that little by little we pick up fluency and improve in front of goal."

Setien does not see a great deal of work for him to do in order to turn Valverde's side into his own, however.

"I have seen many things from Barca that I want today," he said. "There are many things that this team has done well and will continue to do.

"There are not so many things to change - perhaps just the rigour and discipline of maintaining the intensity for 90 minutes in order to not lose matches that you have won.

"Today did not bring much in front of goal, but many things we have done well."

The new boss is happy to be able to rely on Messi, too, adding: "It's what he's done his whole life. That's the reality.

"There are matches like these that are deadlocked, without conviction and without inspiration, and he always appears in a great move in the end.

"[It was] a great backheel by Arturo [Vidal to set Messi up]. This move came in the first half a couple of times and it didn't come off, but when it falls to Messi, there's a high percentage it will go in."

Manchester United are no closer to concluding their long-running search for a director of football.

Rumours emerged over the weekend indicating the Red Devils were closing in on Lille's Luis Campos, famed for spotting the likes of Kylian Mbappe during his time at Monaco.

But fresh reports in France suggest United will be left frustrated in any bid to lure the Portuguese to Old Trafford.

 

UNITED TARGET NOT INTERESTED IN LEAVING LILLE

Claims that United have commenced negotiations with 55-year-old Campos are wide of the mark, reports Le 10 Sport.

There has apparently been no contact between the parties and, in any case, the former Real Madrid scout is said to have no plans to leave Lille.

United's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday and the loss of Marcus Rashford has exacerbated the need for signings, an area in which Campos was expected to assist.

Campos previously had a long career as a head coach in his native Portugal, where he led Gil Vicente and Beira-Mar among others.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are in preliminary talks with Neymar's representatives about a contract extension, according to French broadcaster TF1, although the Brazilian would prefer to delay concrete discussions.

- Krzysztof Piatek's proposed switch to Tottenham has stalled over Milan's £30million asking price, claims the Daily Mail.

- Spurs could turn their attention to Leicester City flop Islam Slimani, according to the Telegraph. The 31-year-old is out on loan at Monaco, where he has scored seven goals in 13 Ligue 1 games.

- Inter forward Matteo Politano favours a return to Serie A rivals Roma but may be given the option of leaving San Siro for Sevilla, says Corriere dello Sport.

- LaLiga side Espanyol hope to sign Reinier on loan once the Brazilian teenager's move to Real Madrid goes through, reports Spanish newspaper SPORT.

Having already lost key midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay to serious injuries, Manchester United now face the prospect of being without top scorer Marcus Rashford for the most important part of the season.

The England international aggravated a back injury during a second-half cameo against Wolves in the FA Cup third-round replay victory, and after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer downplayed United's worries, it was later confirmed to be much more serious than first thought.

Reports began to emerge during United's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool that Rashford had actually been playing through the pain and Solskjaer confirmed he suffered a double stress fracture against Wolves, meaning he could potentially be out for three months.

As such, Solskjaer acknowledged United might be forced into seeking "short-term" solutions in the transfer market, with Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial their only recognisable forwards.

Below, we highlight some potential options.

Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund)

Spain international Alcacer has had a peculiar time at Dortmund. He managed to score 18 times in the Bundesliga last season even though he only started 11 matches, while he has five top-flight goals this term despite only six of his 11 appearances coming as a starter. While he is a completely different type of forward to Rashford, he does represent a kind of attacker United simply do not have, in that he is a poacher. Following the arrival of Erling Haaland – apparently a target of Solskjaer's before he joined BVB – Alcacer might be attainable.

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)

After falling out of favour at PSG, Uruguay striker Cavani has asked to leave before his contract expires at the end of the season, with Atletico Madrid and others said to be interested. A proven goalscorer and immensely experienced, Cavani would certainly provide United with a focal point they can aim for and play off – though his wages are not insignificant and he might not be entirely suited to counter-attacking football.

Mariano Diaz (Real Madrid)

Since returning to Madrid in 2018, Mariano has had a difficult time of it. Niggling injuries have impacted his availability and he has unsurprisingly struggled to make a telling contribution as a result. He is yet to feature in LaLiga this term, having fallen well down the pecking order – but that is not to say Mariano is a poor player. Quick, technically good and certainly capable of finding the net, he is perhaps rather more suited to United's style of play than Alcacer or Cavani.

Cedric Bakambu (Beijing Guoan)

In 2018, Bakambu cost Beijing Guoan €40million, the release fee in his contract with previous club Villarreal. The DR Congo striker had enjoyed a solid three-year spell at the Yellow Submarine, with his combination of athleticism, ability on the ball and finishing making him standout as a potential target for bigger clubs. He has continued to score on a regular basis in China and is starting to attract interest from Europe again, with Arsenal and Atletico Madrid apparently keeping tabs on him. United could do a lot worse than the former France youth international.

Promote from the academy

Solskjaer certainly can't be accused of neglecting the young talents coming through at the club. If he was to promote from within, rather than dip into the transfer market, D'Mani Mellor and Largie Ramazani would likely be the two frontrunners. Mellor is a 19-year-old forward who likes to drop deep and engage in sharp link-up play with his back to goal, while he is also a capable dribbler. Ramazani, 18, often operates a little more from wider positions, but the Belgium youth international has impressed for United's Under-23s this term with nine goals in 13 league appearances. Excellent on the ball and a possessor of explosive pace, Ramazani certainly seems to fit the mould Solskjaer likes his forwards to be.

Sergio Busquets refused to compare Barcelona under Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien after the Catalans made a winning start to life under their new head coach.

Barca returned to the top of LaLiga with a 1-0 win over a dogged Granada at Camp Nou on Sunday.

The home side enjoyed nearly 83 per cent of the possession but could not break down their visitors until Lionel Messi struck 76 minutes in after German Sanchez had been sent off.

Setien's variation of a 3-4-3 saw Barca monopolise the ball and push high up the pitch, a style more in keeping with the methods of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola than Valverde, who was sacked this month after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana.

Busquets was pleased with their display but would not enter into comparisons between the methods of Setien and Valverde, who eventually lost the faith of the fans and the board due to his more cautious approach.

"We were a solid team. We had control of the ball. They created little against us," he told Movistar.

"It's true that we struggled when they dropped deep but, in general terms, the team played a good game.

"It's not about comparing. Every coach has his style and his way of seeing football. You'll see what Setien asks us to do. We're not going to reveal it.

"We're delighted with what Ernesto did and we're delighted with Setien."

Setien also earned a cheer from the Camp Nou crowd for bringing on Masia graduate Riqui Puig, who found chances hard to come by under Valverde.

The 20-year-old won back possession on the edge of the Granada box in the build-up to the goal, and Busquets hopes it is just the start for the midfielder.

"He has a lot of things to mature, but it looks like he can be here [to boost the team]," Busquets added.

Barca are level with Real Madrid on 43 points at the top of the table after 20 games, with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla eight points adrift.

Barcelona were made to work by 10-man Granada at Camp Nou on Sunday in Quique Setien's first game in charge before Lionel Messi secured a 1-0 win.

The champions needed three points to reclaim top spot in LaLiga from Real Madrid but were mostly blunted by a disciplined defensive display in windy conditions in Catalonia.

Setien set his side up in a 3-4-3 variation reminiscent of Pep Guardiola's old formation but, despite enjoying close to 82 per cent of the possession, clear-cut chances were hard to come by.

Barca were given an advantage when German Sanchez was sent off and Messi eventually made the breakthrough with 14 minutes of normal time left as the attack finally clicked into gear.

Setien's much-discussed adherence to the Johan Cruyff school was clear in a first half in which Barcelona made more than 500 passes, but a shot from Messi that rippled the side-netting was the closest they came to a goal.

Messi saw a free-kick deflected over the crossbar before Granada gave Barca a real scare, Yan Eteki's low strike beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen only to bounce back off the inside of the post and away to safety.

Granada's game plan was working well until German was shown a second yellow card 69 minutes in for a trip on Messi, before Setien earned a cheer from the home fans by introducing Riqui Puig for Ivan Rakitic.

The 20-year-old made a telling impact, winning back possession on the edge of the box before Messi found Antoine Griezmann, he flicked the ball to Arturo Vidal and the Chilean's backheel was swept home by the captain.

 

What does it mean? Setien style already on view

This was a Barca performance to make the fans smile.

With Jordi Alba playing almost entirely as a left-winger, the midfield pushed high into Granada territory and centre-forward Griezmann running back to regain the ball in his own half, most in the stands will have considered this a return to a style more in keeping with Barca's heritage.

There needs to be more cutting edge to go with the possession, but there were few signs of the more cautious approach that saw Ernesto Valverde lose the faith of the fans and, eventually, the board.

Martinez deserves plaudits

This game was always going to be about Setien's set-up, but credit must go to Diego Martinez for making Granada such obstinate opposition.

They kept Barca away from Rui Silva's goal very effectively for 70 minutes and were inches from snatching the lead through Eteki before Messi's strike.

German inefficiency costs Granada

There was no need for German to trip Messi for the foul that earned him a second yellow card, the forward some 35 yards from goal and not likely to make inroads with this particular run. Momentum swung Barca's way at this point.

What's next?

Barca head to Ibiza in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday before facing Valencia at Mestalla next Saturday. Granada's cup game sees them head to Badalona, with Sevilla their next league opponents.

Ansu Fati is set for only his fourth LaLiga start after being given the nod to line up against Granada in new coach Quique Setien's first match in charge.

Setien was appointed on Monday following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, though he has resisted any urge to make wholesale changes.

Barca's last outing saw them lose 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final, with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez leading the line.

But since then Suarez has been ruled out for most of the season after having knee surgery, resulting in a rethink in attack.

The one to benefit from Suarez's absence is 17-year-old Fati, who broke into the first-team squad at the start of the season.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen returns in goal following a spell out with a knee injury, while the much-maligned Ivan Rakitic takes the place of the suspended Frenkie de Jong in midfield.

Setien's arrival was seen as a positive for the club's promising youngsters, with the likes of Riqui Puig – who hardly had a look-in under Valverde – brought to train with the senior side straight away.

Puig, 20, is among the substitutes at Camp Nou, as is fellow La Masia product Carles Perez.

Riqui Puig was named in Quique Setien's squad for his first Barcelona game as coach against Granada on Sunday.

Ernesto Valverde drew criticism for his refusal to give the La Masia product any first-team action this season, with the 20-year-old midfielder playing solely for Barca B in the third tier.

However, the arrival of Setien as Valverde's replacement on Monday has seen Puig immediately moved into the first team for Granada's visit to Camp Nou.

While Setien has a reputation for trusting youth from his stints at Las Palmas and Real Betis, his midfield options were restricted by a suspension for Frenkie de Jong and Arthur having spent six weeks out with a groin injury, though the Brazilian was included in the 18-man squad.

When asked about Puig on Tuesday, Setien said: "I don't know if you've followed my career, but this club has an extraordinary academy. While I don't know it in-depth, they [the biggest talents] will be training with us and participating.

"Those in the first team need to be clear; talent that's coming up will get the chances if they deserve them.

"I'll make a special effort to take care of the kids because you can always have a new kid coming through who adds energy to everything and that provides a boost to the squad, meaning those at the top don't relax.

"That's very important and it sends a message to the kids in the lower ranks. It's a message I always transmit. If they impress, earn their spot, they are perfectly able to play in the first team, that's clear."

Barca need to beat Granada to regain pole position in LaLiga from Real Madrid, who beat Sevilla 2-1 on Saturday.

Manchester City without Pep Guardiola?

Speculation over Guardiola's future is not going away, with Premier League champions City set to be dethroned by Liverpool this season.

And a move to Paris Saint-Germain could be on the cards…

 

TOP STORY – PSG PREPARE MAMMOTH GUARDIOLA OFFER

French champions Paris Saint-Germain are trying to lure Pep Guardiola from Manchester City, according to the Express.

Amid uncertainty over Guardiola's future, the Ligue 1 holders are ready to make a huge offer to tempt the City manager to Paris.

Guardiola, whose side appear set to finish some distance behind Liverpool in the Premier League, has also been linked with a return to Barcelona, despite their appointment of Quique Setien this week.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Mirror, Premier League leaders Liverpool and rivals Chelsea will battle it out for RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner.

- Juventus midfielder and former Liverpool star Emre Can is wanted by Everton, reports The Mirror. Can is out of favour in Turin and has been previously linked to Manchester United.

- Il Corriere dello Sport claims Sevilla want to sign Inter midfielder Matias Vecino, who appears destined to leave Milan ahead of Christian Eriksen's reported arrival from Tottenham.

- Speculation over Bruno Fernandes' future is set to drag on. Although he has been tipped to join United, Sporting CP and the Red Devils are reportedly miles apart in their valuations of the captain. While United want to bring in Fernandes this month, the Standard says they are threatening to abandon their pursuit over fears it could damage Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's transfer plans at the end of the season. Over-paying for Fernandes has prompted concerns it could impact United's interest in Leicester City star James Maddison and Borussia Dortmund teenager Jadon Sancho.

Real Madrid are unwilling to loan out James Rodriguez, with Marca reporting the LaLiga giants are only interested in selling the Colombia international.

Diego Simeone accused Atletico Madrid of effectively conceding the first half in their 2-0 loss to Eibar on Saturday.

Atleti suffered only their third LaLiga defeat of the season at Ipurua, Esteban Burgos scoring after just 10 minutes before Edu Exposito made the points safe heading into second-half injury time.

It was the first time Atleti had lost a competitive game against Eibar since a meeting in the second tier in 2001, and it leaves them eight points behind league leaders Real Madrid.

Simeone felt they were punished for a slow start to the game, a habit that gave him great concern in the autumn and one he hopes does not continue in 2020.

"We started badly. We didn't play in the first half. In the second, we were okay we played a good game, with more chances for danger," he told Movistar.

"We lost a half. Back in October, we were losing halves and we've gone back to doing that. It's my responsibility.

"It's a very difficult pitch. We've won here 1-0 or 2-1. Today was a similar game. They take advantage of our inattentiveness in the first half and we could have scored in the second.

"We didn't control the game, nor was there any great dominance of the opposition, but we didn't play. They played as ever, with intensity, really clear ideas – the concepts a team needs. I congratulate them."

Saul Niguez, who played at left-back, also admitted concern about the way Atleti too often start matches slowly.

"We struggled a lot at the start. They created three chances and got the goal from the third," he said.

"There have been many times this season when we haven't started games well.

"I think the end of the first half and the beginning of the second were good, but they defended well. We didn't manage to create clear chances despite getting to the byline several times.

"After the good run we were on, it's a tough blow."

Atletico Madrid suffered only their third LaLiga defeat of the season on Saturday as Esteban Burgos and Edu Exposito sealed a 2-0 win for Eibar.

Having lost the Supercopa de Espana final to Real Madrid on penalties six days ago, Diego Simeone's side looked sluggish and short of inspiration in the heavy rain at Ipurua.

Burgos struck just 10 minutes into the contest to give Eibar a deserved lead, and Jose Luis Mendilibar's side held onto their advantage with relative ease in the second half despite Atleti's control of possession.

Exposito buried a precise strike in the 90th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 victory they fully deserved.

Eibar's early pressure told 10 minutes in when Burgos tapped home following Sergi Enrich's header, the goal given after a VAR check saw the initial offside decision overturned.

Joao Felix was denied by a good Marko Dmitrovic save, but only a crucial block from Santiago Arias denied Takashi Inui a second for Eibar.

Atleti were certainly second best in the first half but Angel Correa missed two clear chances to equalise, the forward unable to connect cleanly with Vitolo's cross from barely six yards out and then failing to beat Dmitrovic after Vitolo's stumble.

Simeone opted against any changes at the break and there was little difference to Atleti's level of creativity against an Eibar side happy to hold onto their advantage.

Joao Felix worked hard to create inroads but to little effect, while Alvaro Morata saw a header comfortably saved, and the hosts secured only a second win in eight league games when Exposito arrowed a fine finish beyond Jan Oblak after a corner was cleared straight to his feet.

 

What does it mean? Atleti in danger of being cast adrift in title race

Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Sevilla earlier meant Atleti would have moved three points ahead of Julen Lopetegui's side, and back to within five of their city rivals, had they won.

However, the nature of their display will give fans little belief they can keep pace with Madrid and Barca at the top of the table even though they have 18 games still to play.

As for Eibar, they are now seven points above the drop zone.

Dmitrovic dominant

Although his four saves were relatively straightforward, Dmitrovic deserves credit for commanding his penalty area well. Atleti's rather hopeful crosses rarely looked likely to trouble him.

No delight for Angel

Atleti created few clear-cut openings but Correa spurned the best of them, managing only to meet Vitolo's good cross with his face rather than his head and then failing to find a finish when the ball fell kindly his way.

What's next?

Atleti head to Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Thursday before hosting Leganes in LaLiga on Sunday. Eibar face Badajoz in the cup, then travel to Celta Vigo.

Zinedine Zidane believes it was the right decision to rule out a Luuk de Jong goal in Real Madrid's 2-1 victory over Sevilla on Saturday.

Madrid moved top of LaLiga as two goals from Casemiro secured all three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite De Jong having briefly made it 1-1 in the second half.

The striker thought he had given Sevilla the lead half an hour in, but his header was disallowed following a VAR check, with referee Juan Martinez Munuera instead penalising Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao in the build-up.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui was aghast at the decision and director of football Monchi claimed he would have taken the team off the pitch had they seen a goal disallowed for a second time when VAR was used to check a possible handball by Munir El Haddadi.

Zidane, though, sees little reason to feel the decisions changed the game.

"What I can say is that I saw the incident and it's a block, there's a foul, the referee saw it on VAR, and he gave the foul," the Madrid boss told reporters.

"For the second, there's a hand, he doesn't give it. I can't explain anything, and I never get into evaluating these things. It's for the referee to decide.

"Sometimes these things go against you and sometimes in your favour. It's a difficult job. It's for them to decide.

"For me, there's a block, it's a foul and it's really normal."

When asked about Monchi's comments, Zidane replied: "I don't think the referee was that decisive. He did what he had to do.

"There's a hand for their goal, but that wasn't given. What can I say? I'm not going to get into it.

"It's a complicated game for everyone. We played against a good team, but the result is logical for what happened on the pitch.

"What he said is his responsibility. It's not for me to say anything. In the end, it's the referee who decides.

"What he said seems a little strong to me, but I'm not going to prevent the Sevilla sporting director from speaking."

Zidane went on to praise the performance of Casemiro, who proved Madrid's unlikely hero by scoring twice in the same game for the first time in his career with the club.

"Good, because in the end he got two goals and that's not usual," he said of Casemiro's performance. "I'm happy for him. We can make the difference in attack with any player."

Sevilla director of football Monchi was incensed by VAR's intervention in the defeat to Real Madrid, claiming he would have walked his team off the pitch had Luuk de Jong seen a second goal disallowed.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid side claimed a 2-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Casemiro scoring either side of a De Jong strike to send the hosts to the top of LaLiga.

Sevilla thought they had taken the lead in the first half through De Jong's header, only for the goal to be disallowed when a VAR check prompted referee Juan Martinez Munuera to penalise Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao.

Monchi was left furious by the decision and suggested he would have taken matters into his own hands had VAR intervened again when a possible handball by Munir El Haddadi before De Jong's finish was checked.

"Everyone saw the action. There's no footballing, technical or tactical analysis after such a clear incident that defines the game," Monchi told Movistar.

"There's nothing more to analyse about it. It's absurd.

"If they had ruled out the second goal, I would have come down to the pitch and taken the team off.

"We leave here satisfied with the game despite the defeat because Sevilla are a very big team. We're angry, outraged, and... I stop there."

Head coach Julen Lopetegui insisted there was no clear reason why Sevilla's opening goal should have been ruled out.

"I feel sad. When you lose a game, you're sad," Lopetegui said.

"We played quite a good first half. We deactivated Madrid, we scored an absolutely legal goal.

"I don't know if 'shame' is the right word. If I said that [at the time], it's not appropriate, but there's no reason to disallow the goal. We've seen it and it was legal.

"It's a great goal, a play we worked on throughout the week and I still don't know why it was ruled out."

If Real Madrid end the season as LaLiga champions, they may well look back on this win over Sevilla – and the performance of Casemiro – as a defining moment.

This was a game that had the hallmarks of a setback for Zinedine Zidane. Okay, Madrid had beaten Sevilla in 10 consecutive league games in the capital going into this meeting, but Julen Lopetegui has created an obstinacy about the Andalusians that had restricted them to just three away defeats in all competitions this term.

Consider, too, that Madrid went to penalties in the Supercopa de Espana final six days ago before the long flight back from Jeddah. They also started this game without a sizeable host of first-team stars: captain Sergio Ramos was out with a sprained ankle, Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale were not in the squad, Federico Valverde was banned and Karim Benzema only able to start on the bench.

Still, one thing about the modern Madrid is that they generally perform to a far higher standard when Casemiro is on the pitch, so maybe this kind of match-winning display was bound to happen eventually. Few would have seen this coming, though.

Zidane has made Madrid extremely tough to score against in recent weeks. They had kept five clean sheets in nine games before Sevilla's visit and conceded only 12 goals in LaLiga all season, a record only matched by, of course, Atletico Madrid.

But they found themselves in trouble on Saturday. Without Ramos to dictate terms from the back, Sevilla's high press had them worried; with a depleted attack, chances of their own were scarce. Luuk de Jong thought he had buried the opening goal just before the half-hour mark only for VAR to intervene and penalise Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao.

Amid the uncertainty of their wider display, Casemiro was doing as expected. He made five tackles and won possession 11 times in the match, more than any other player on the pitch, and only Diego Carlos bettered his tally of two interceptions.

Then came the surprise. With 57 minutes gone, Luka Jovic played an inspired backheel into Casemiro's path, he muscled his way through the Sevilla box and chipped an impudent effort beyond Tomas Vaclik. It was a striker's finish, oozing calm and precision – two qualities not always associated with one of Madrid's more ebullient characters.

Twelve minutes later, it happened again.

De Jong had equalised with a finish of the highest quality – a rare incident this season. Five minutes on, Lucas Vazquez sent in a cross and the unmarked Casemiro rose highest and nodded home his second goal of the game. Even rarer.

Casemiro had never scored twice in a Madrid match before and he cannot have ended many games with no team-mate having attempted more shots. Indeed, he could have had a hat-trick but for a miscued effort in the closing stages.

Casemiro is hardly an unsung hero at the Santiago Bernabeu, but this was a rescue act in a very different guise, his impact in the opponent's box even more important than his tigerish efforts in defending his own.

It means Madrid are unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions and return to the top of the table ahead of Barcelona's game against Granada on Sunday. With their form showing few signs of dipping and with stars aplenty to return, this might prove to be Casemiro's most decisive performance yet.

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