Eden Hazard will not be rushed back for Real Madrid's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, insists Zinedine Zidane. 

Hazard has been plagued by injuries since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million in June 2019.

He has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions in that time, scoring only four times. 

The 30-year-old returned from injury in March but then missed the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor – a development Zidane described as "inexplicable". 

That injury kept him out of the Belgium squad for the recent international break and Zidane says he has no intention of playing Hazard against Premier League champions Liverpool if he is not 100 per cent fit. 

"Eden has to be calm," the Madrid boss told a media conference on Monday. "We never risk the return of a player if he is not well. 

"We will do things little by little and we will see when he will be with us. At the moment it is like that.

"I need all my players to be available and fit. I like my players to be fit and in good health. I don't like seeing players out injured. We have had a lot of players out injured this season.

"I hope to have Eden back soon. I hope to have a fully fit squad come the end of the season."

Tuesday's clash will be the first between the sides since the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 to seal a third consecutive Champions League trophy.

Los Blancos have won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, while they have claimed victories in their last three matches against the Reds in the competition. 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, however, has won each of his last five games at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of the Reds. 

Zidane is an admirer of what Klopp has achieved at Anfield, but says he is not interested in copying the German's methods. 

"Klopp is a great manager, he has been coaching for a long time," he added. "He's got a great CV and has done superbly at Liverpool. 

"I don't have to look at what he does and copy him. Everyone has their way of going about things but I look at all the managers.

"I looked and learned when I was going to be a manager and, of course, I analysed Klopp."

Liverpool will need to be particularly wary of Madrid talisman Karim Benzema, who has scored four goals in his three Champions League appearances against them.

He is level with Didier Drogba as the player to have scored the most against the Reds in the competition. 

Benzema should lead the line on Tuesday and Zidane has attributed his success to the understanding he has developed with his team-mates.

"All the players who are here know how to play and have earned the right to be in this squad, they are the best," he explained. "They all understand Karim well and Karim the others. There is a lot of chemistry between them."

It was hardly the sort of entrance that said "I'm here to save the day". Luka Modric was still putting his headband on as he rather leisurely entered the Old Trafford pitch just a few moments after Nani's controversial sending off in the Champions League last-16 second leg between Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Los Blancos were down 2-1 on aggregate after a Sergio Ramos own goal had put United in the driving seat a short while earlier, but with the hosts a man light, Jose Mourinho sent Modric on as Madrid looked to suffocate Alex Ferguson's men.

Alongside Xabi Alonso, Modric was swiftly into the thick of it as Madrid tried to pull United this way and that, and he soon took matters into his own hands with Kaka, Mesut Ozil, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo unable to break through.

Allowed space just outside the United area, Modric's motioning for a shot lured Michael Carrick out of position and the Croatian easily breezed past him before lashing an unstoppable effort in off the right-hand post just seven minutes after coming on.

It was only his second goal for the club, but as it spurred Madrid on to seal a 2-1 win and a spot in the next round thanks, Modric has regarded that match as the turning point in his career at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A perfect storm

It's easy to forget how disappointing Modric's first season at Madrid was deemed to be. After all, before Christmas, he was voted as the worst signing of the campaign in a Marca poll, beating Alex Song of Barcelona to top the charts.

Two years Modric's junior, Song has been playing his football in Djibouti this season; Modric remains, at the ripe old age of 35, arguably the finest midfielder in Spain.

There are certainly comparisons to be made with Thiago Alcantara's first season in England, with Liverpool struggling to even maintain a challenge for the top four, let alone defend their title.

Thiago was seen as the missing piece of the puzzle, the sort of central midfielder that balanced flair with genuine playmaking abilities, unlike anyone already in the squad. It was said his arrival would enable to Liverpool to play with greater flexibility, but the reality has been a little different.

Teams are playing deeper against Liverpool, as evidenced by the fact their shots outside the area per game is up from 4.6 per game to 5.2, while they are being allowed 190.4 passes in the final third each match, up from 180.9. Opponents are more confident they can keep Liverpool out if they defend deep.

Of course, Liverpool's issues this term are plentiful – injuries have been particularly frequent, and Thiago himself has lost a significant chunk of the season in this regard.

But even when he has been fit, it's difficult to say the Spain international has transformed the Reds. In fact, they have a better league win percentage (57.1) when he doesn't play than when he does (37.5), while they tend to score more goals (2.4 per game, compared to 1.1 when he is playing).

One theory for Thiago's struggles has been his apparent lack of comfort with Liverpool's intense pressing style, but the data suggests that to be a red herring.

Granted, Liverpool do engage in 18.9 pressed sequences – instances where the opposition have three or fewer passes in a move, which ends within 40 metres of their own goal – per game, with their total of 567 the most in the Premier League this term.

But Bayern averaged 16.9 per game in 2019-20 and led the way in the Bundesliga in this regard. Meanwhile, they allowed 9.8 opposition passes per defensive action, with Liverpool's PPDA this term 10.7, showing the Bayern side Thiago played in wasn't too dissimilar.

So, why would Liverpool's off-the-ball intensity impact him so much? It seems far more likely the issue is simply that he's in the middle of a perfect storm of settling into new surroundings and a new team during an injury crisis that has impacted him as well.

Changing perception

Fans can forget that players are people first and foremost. Upheaval off the pitch can have a demonstrable effect on it – of course it can, just like life at home can impact the job performance of average Joe.

This was a key element for Modric, who explained how he found it difficult to settle in initially at Real Madrid, not only because as a club they are an entirely different beast to Tottenham but also as he didn't have a pre-season and gaining fitness was always likely to be a struggle when playing catch-up.

As for fan expectations, perhaps there was also a degree of misunderstanding from Madrid supporters. Maybe they were initially expecting something more than Modric.

After all, in his final season at Spurs, Modric was a key creator. His 96 key passes in 2011-12 was bettered by only two midfielders in the Premier League (David Silva – 104, Juan Mata – 103), evidence that much of the creative burden was on his shoulders.

So, perhaps the fact his creative ingenuity wasn't being so frequently displayed at Madrid coloured opinion.

Granted, his 17 key passes in 13 league appearances between the start of the season and January 1 left a lot to be desired, but his end-of-season record of 56 was the third-highest in the Madrid squad.

Time, patience and trust were seemingly key to Modric establishing himself, but to suggest he's played the same way at Madrid as in his best season at Spurs would be incorrect – the closest he's ever got to that 96 key passes haul since was 61 in 2015-16.

In fact, when you consider a whole range of his key metrics such as passes, pass completion, chance creation, touches of the ball and defensive areas, there hasn't been drastic fluctuation between 2012-13 and now.

Certainly, his 62.6 successful passes per 90 is up from 55 in 2012-13, while his touches have improved from 80 to 86.7, but those differences certainly aren't major. The fact is his figures have been pretty steady throughout his time in LaLiga.

But at 35, he has still played in 28 of Madrid's 29 league matches this term. He's arguably more important to them than ever before.

Coming back from being a target of ridicule to becoming a club great and winning the Ballon d'Or speaks to Modric's attitude and talent, but also serves as inspiration for Thiago.

While the Spaniard has not had to contend with quite the same level of criticism, there are certainly those unconvinced by him.

With a full pre-season under his belt and allowed to gel into a settled team that isn't constantly being chopped and changed due to injuries, Thiago can surely enjoy a sparkling second season at Liverpool. After all, the data proves the Reds' pressing shouldn't be a long-term issue for him given how Bayern played.

A 25-yard strike of his own against Manchester United would go down very well right now, although a similarly decisive impact against Madrid would surely be a nice compromise for the Barcelona product.

Juan Cala will speak to the media on Tuesday following allegations of racism by Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby, his club Cadiz have confirmed.

Sunday's LaLiga meeting between the sides – which finished 2-1 to Cadiz – was stopped for 20 minutes after Valencia's players left the field following an altercation between Diakhaby and Cala.

Gabriel Paulista and Kevin Gameiro attempted to defuse the situation before Diakhaby explained his version of events to referee David Medie Jimenez.

Valencia's players subsequently walked off the pitch, before returning to the field without Diakhaby, who asked to be taken off.

After the match had restarted, Valencia tweeted their version of events, stating Diakhaby had suffered a "racist insult".

Following the game, Cadiz issued a statement on their club website, insisting any form of racism was not tolerated.

However, they also added they had no doubts over the honesty of their squad, with Cala having been picked up by television cameras pleading his innocence during the game.

Posting on their official Twitter account on Monday, Cadiz confirmed Cala will address the media following training on Tuesday.

Romelu Lukaku has starred for Inter since arriving from Manchester United in 2019.

Lukaku is spearheading Inter's quest for a Serie A title, with Antonio Conte's side clear atop the table.

His exploits, however, have not gone unnoticed in Europe.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU HAPPY AT INTER

Inter star Romelu Lukaku is flattered by Barcelona's interest but is not looking to leave the Nerazzurri, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Lukaku has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid and former club Chelsea following his exploits for Inter, who are closing in on the Scudetto.

But Lukaku is happy at Inter, with the Belgium international only possibly leaving San Siro should the Italian powerhouse seek to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Cristiano Ronaldo wants to see out his Juventus contract, which runs until June 2022. Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where Juve are struggling under Andrea Pirlo this season. Former clubs Madrid and United have emerged as possible destinations, as well as Paris Saint-Germain. However, Ronaldo is keen to continue at the club, should they qualify for the Champions League.

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe remains a priority signing for Madrid, claims Diario AS. Mbappe has been a long-term target in the Spanish capital, though the economic fallout following the coronavirus pandemic appears to have derailed Madrid's pursuit. But Los Blancos – also linked with in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland – are still determined to prise Mbappe from Paris.

- Record reports United are ready to make a move for Sporting CP star Nuno Mendes, who has also been linked with Manchester City and Liverpool. United could reportedly use Alex Telles in a deal to sign the Portuguese full-back.

- Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is eyeing a new deal amid interest from Barca and Chelsea, according to Calciomercato. Romagnoli is contracted to the Rossoneri until 2022. Barca's reported pursuit comes as they eye the likes of Bayern Munich star David Alaba, City duo Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

Paris Saint-Germain attacker Angel Di Maria said it would be "wonderful" to play alongside Lionel Messi amid doubts over his Barcelona future.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the superstar Barca captain has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions PSG and Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Barca – led by new president Joan Laporta – remain hopeful of re-signing the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou.

Di Maria has played alongside Messi at international level for Argentina and the PSG star admitted he would love to join forces with his countryman at club level.

"From my whole career, from everything I've seen, I think Leo is from another planet," Di Maria told beIN SPORTS. "To have him as a team-mate would be wonderful.

"But he is a Barcelona player, he has a contract. After that, we'll see.

"I talk a lot with him and I always tell him that the important thing is his happiness and that of his family. It's hard to say anything else."

Barca face Real Valladolid on Monday, with Ronald Koeman's men able to move within a point of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi has been directly involved in 23 league goals in 2021 – 16 goals and seven assists – which is more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

The Argentinian has had a direct hand in eight goals in his last four LaLiga games against Valladolid – four goals and four assists.

Those goal involvements have helped Barca to 13 wins in their previous 14 LaLiga games against Valladolid, with the only exception being a 1-0 defeat away from home in March 2014.

 

Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid do not feel nervous after the LaLiga leaders slipped up, though he did question his team's intensity.

Atletico suffered a costly 1-0 loss to Sevilla on Sunday, which saw their lead atop the table cut to three points, though Barcelona could close to within a solitary point if they beat Real Valladolid on Monday.

Despite Jan Oblak's penalty heroics, Atletico lost to fourth-placed Sevilla in LaLiga for the first time since 2016 following Marcos Acuna's 70th-minute header.

Atletico have won just four of nine games, having threatened to run away with the LaLiga trophy earlier in the season but pressure is mounting on Simeone's side as defending champions Real Madrid and Barca close in.

"We have to keep working hard and taking a look at what we have to improve," Simeone told reporters. "We have to slightly question our intensity and we need to make sure we get back the intensity that won us so many games and prove the squad's talent and ability.

"We have a week ahead of us now that some players, because of bookings, will not be able to play. We'll try and prepare as well as we can, and we'll keep going game by game. That won't change my mentality at all.

"We can't accept what happened today but we also have to accept that we have to improve, and there are very negative stats at the moment."

Atletico have lost two out of their past seven games in LaLiga (W3 D2), as many as their previous 40 games in all competitions (W26 D12).

Simeone, though, shouldered the blame for Atletico's defeat away to Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla.

"If I make the change at 30 minutes in, that's because myself as the manager, I made the mistake in the analysis of the game, and we wanted to try and do something else, and we tried to make as many changes as we could to make sure we push forward," said Simeone.

"I think the team improved in the second half, we were much more competitive, and we improved a bit more closely as to what we can do. We knew it was a very level game, especially in the second half. We had the chance from Mario Hermoso as well as Angel Correa's chance which was very clear as well.

"We are a side that needs to win games like this and we knew that probably, it was my mistake because I made the wrong decisions before the game so that the team felt comfortable. In the second half we just weren't close enough to what we normally play."

Atletico captain Koke was critical of the referee for not reviewing Acuna's goal amid claims Lucas Ocampos handled the ball at the start of the goalscoring move.

"It was a clear handball for the goal and there was another handball [by Diego Carlos] which should have been a second yellow card," he said.

"We have VAR which has to be there to help out. Today wasn't our day. On other days it has favoured us, today it didn't go our way.

"This is a tough defeat but we tried everything. We struggled in the first half but in the second we had chances."

Atletico director Tomas Renones added: The handball is clear [by Ocampos] and referee should have seen it. It has hurt us, but Atletico are not going to complain, just keep working to stay top of La Liga."

Cadiz have condemned any form of racism, but stood by their players following allegations made by Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby.

Sunday's LaLiga meeting – which ultimately finished 2-1 to Cadiz – was stopped for 20 minutes after Valencia's players decided to leave the field following an altercation between Diakhaby and Juan Cala, who opened the scoring.

Gabriel Paulista and Los Che goalscorer Kevin Gameiro attempted to defuse the situation before Diakhaby explained his version of events to referee David Medie Jimenez.

Valencia's players subsequently walked off the pitch, before returning to the field without Diakhaby, who asked to be taken off.

After the match had restarted, Valencia tweeted their version of events, stating Diakhaby had suffered a "racist insult".

Following the game, Cadiz issued a statement on their club website, insisting any form of racism was not tolerated.

However, they also added they had no doubts over the honesty of their squad, with Cala having been picked up by television cameras pleading his innocence during the game.

Cadiz's statement read: "We are against any situation of racism or xenophobia, whoever its author is, and we work for its eradication. 

"All the perpetrators of these crimes, whether or not they are from our team, must pay for it.

"We do not doubt the honesty of all the members of our squad, who are firm defenders of the fight against racism, whose attitude has always been exemplary in all the matches that have been played.

"We always demand an attitude of respect and responsibility towards the opponents. We work and we will continue working so that in our football there are no xenophobic behaviors, with a 'NO TO RACISM' with all its forcefulness."

Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya said that the team had been told they would be penalised if they did not return to finish the game – a claim backed up by head coach Javi Gracia.

"If we didn’t play, they [would have] sanctioned us," Gracia, who reiterated that Diakhaby had been abused, told reporters.

"They told us that if we did not play we would have a very serious sanction. It was a very serious racist insult."

LaLiga's title race was thrown wide open as Atletico Madrid slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla despite Jan Oblak's penalty heroics.

Atleti's lead could be cut to a solitary point if Barcelona beat Valladolid on Monday after Marcos Acuna's fine header handed fourth-placed Sevilla their first LaLiga win over the capital club since 2016.

Sevilla registered 12 attempts on goal in the first half, one of those seeing Oblak, who also saved a penalty against Deportivo Alaves before the international break, denying Lucas Ocampos from the spot.

Yet Atleti's luck ran out with 20 minutes remaining, Jesus Navas crossing for fellow full-back Acuna to head home and deliver a blow to Atleti's hopes of glory.

Oblak's penalty save against Alaves came in the closing stages, but Atleti needed their goalkeeper much earlier this time around.

Ivan Rakitic drew a foul from Saul Niguez seven minutes in, yet Oblak stood firm to keep out Ocampos' effort, with Joan Jordan hitting the post a moment later.

Having faced more attempts on their goal during the first half than in any other game this season, Atleti almost made a fantastic start to the second period – Luis Suarez just failing to read Angel Correa's cross.

Rakitic sliced over from close range as Sevilla attempted to regain momentum, though Yassine Bounou had to be alert at the other end to keep Koke at bay.

However, Sevilla got the goal their display deserved in the 70th minute – Navas beating a poorly organised Atleti line to centre for Acuna, whose header found the right-hand corner.

Atleti wanted the goal disallowed for a handball earlier in the move, but the VAR saw no reason to rule it out.

Correa seemed destined to salvage a point in stoppage time, only for Bonou to pull off a brilliant stop and condemn Diego Simeone to just a fourth defeat against Sevilla in 23 meetings.

Valencia's players walked off the pitch during their LaLiga meeting with Cadiz after alleged racist abuse was directed towards defender Mouctar Diakhaby.

Sunday's match was stopped after 29 minutes when Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya led his team from the field.

The incident that sparked Valencia's fury came when Juan Cala – who had opened the scoring – went in for a challenge with Diakhaby.

While initially heading back to his position, Diakhaby suddenly turned and angrily confronted Cala.

Gabriel Paulista and Los Che goalscorer Kevin Gameiro attempted to defuse the situation before Diakhaby explained his version of events to referee David Medie Jimenez. His team-mates then departed in solidarity and play was suspended for 20 minutes before they returned.

Valencia returned without Diakhaby, who was replaced by Hugo Guillamon, but Cala stayed on until he too was substituted at half-time.

The game ended 2-1 to Cadiz, Marcos Mauro scoring an 88th-minute winner.

In a statement from Valencia said: "The team met up and decided to return to the pitch to fight for the badge, but firm in their condemnation of all forms of racism."

Valencia also confirmed that Diakhaby wanted the match to continue, though did not want to carry on playing himself.

"We offer our complete backing to Diakhaby," a tweet read. "The player, who had received a racial insult, requested that his team-mates return to the pitch. We SUPPORT YOU MOUCTAR."

Cadiz did not initially offer a comment though it has been reported that television cameras picked up Cala pleading his innocence. 

According to Gaya, Valencia were told they would forfeit the match if they did not return to the field.

"[Diakhaby] told us he insulted him in a racist way. We went back out to play because they told us they could penalise us with three points and something more," Gaya said, as reported by AFP.

"He asked us to go back. He's gutted, it was a very ugly insult."

Erling Haaland continues to be linked with a move to Barcelona, but head coach Ronald Koeman has insisted the final decision over a move for the Borussia Dortmund striker will be made by president Joan Laporta.

Barca are one of a number of elite teams to have been credited with an interest in the Norway international, who has scored 49 goals in 50 appearances for Dortmund in his 15 months at the club.

Talk of a possible switch to Camp Nou intensified on Thursday when Haaland's agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge were pictured in Barcelona reportedly on their way to a meeting with Laporta.

The pair were later spotted in Madrid and reports from Spain suggest talks are planned with a number of English clubs next week for arguably the most in-demand player in world football.

Koeman confirmed at a pre-match news conference on Sunday that he has held talks with recently elected president Laporta over possible targets, but he was unwilling to discuss any specific interest in Haaland.

"We discuss future plans, but the decision is made by the president," Koeman said ahead of Monday's clash with Real Valladolid.

"Everyone, including the president, is working to improve the team knowing the club's economic situation, which is not the best. 

"They have shown me from day one that they will try to improve this situation and, in terms of signings, everything depends on the possibilities we have. 

"It is normal to talk in the last part of the season about the next one. Now I am not interested in the names that come out, we have to be focused on the final games we have left to play."

Haaland has 21 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six matches in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Asked again if a move for Haaland has already been discussed with Laporta, Koeman said: "I am not going to talk about players who are not ours

"We have used the break to have meetings, to talk about this season, about the next one - this happens in all the clubs in the world."

A move for Haaland could be directly linked to Lionel Messi's Camp Nou future, with the superstar forward set to be out of contract at the end of the season.

The club's all-time leading goalscorer may be persuaded to sign a new deal if Barca can signal their ambitions by bringing in exciting talent Haaland.

"Messi's contract is an important matter and we are doing our all so that he stays at the club for many more years," Koeman said.

"But we are talking about tomorrow's game, which has all our thoughts right now, not next season. The future is down to the president and his team. As a coach, and as players, all we can do is focus on each game."

The 20 goals Haaland has scored in 14 games since making his Champions League debut for Salzburg in September 2019 compares to eight for Messi from the same number of outings.

Haaland's average of a goal every 53.95 minutes in Europe's elite club competition is the second best return of any player to have scored at least five times over that same timeframe, behind only Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (six goals in eight games for a return of 52.67).

Ronald Koeman has no intention of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong ahead of next week's El Clasico, despite both players being one booking away from a suspension.

Barca will be looking to extend their 18-match unbeaten run in LaLiga when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Monday.

Messi and De Jong are both available for the game as the Catalan giants look to keep the pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid, who are four points better off ahead of Sunday's trip to Sevilla.

However, both players risk being banned for next Saturday's showdown with bitter rivals Real Madrid, having each been booked four times already this season.

But while the pair may be walking a disciplinary tightrope, Koeman is ready to risk star man Messi and central midfielder De Jong against Valladolid.

"We know that these two players are one card away, but it is not the time to rest players due to cards or freshness," he said at Sunday's pre-match news conference.

"We have ten games left. There is always the risk, but the best thing is to put the team out that I think can win the game."

Messi has been directly involved in 23 league goals in 2021 - 16 goals and seven assists - which is more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

The Argentinian has had a direct hand in eight goals in his last four LaLiga games against Real Valladolid - four goals and four assists.

Those goal involvements have helped Barca to 13 wins in their previous 14 LaLiga games against Valladolid, with the only exception being a 1-0 defeat away from home in March 2014.

Sergio Gonzalez's side have won just one of their past 11 league games, but Koeman will not take Monday's opponents lightly.

"You have to be prepared, you can't think that it will be an easy game," he said. "We have to go in with a lot of energy and rhythm and be good with the ball.

"We have to get back to our level. It could be a game without problems, but you always have to work hard to win."

Gerard Pique returned to training this week after recovering from a knee problem, while Sergi Roberto is also closing in on a comeback after two months on the sidelines.

Koeman will make a late decision on whether the defensive duo are ready to play a part against Valladolid.

"They are training with the team lately. They have improved a lot," he said.

"These are decisions that will be made tomorrow after the last training session. We aren't going to take risks [with injuries], nor next week, because there are more games coming this season."

Can Borussia Dortmund keep a hold of Erling Haaland for another season?

Europe's elite are queuing up to sign the Norway sensation.

Dortmund's disappointing season could be about to force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND TRYING TO RETAIN HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund will try to keep Erling Haaland for another season but their hopes are fading amid the club's struggles to finish in the Bundesliga's top four, according to Fabrizio Romano.

As it stands, Dortmund are set to miss out on Champions League qualification, with the German side fifth and seven points adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt following Saturday's loss.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports United are set to part with star goalkeeper David de Gea. The Red Devils are reportedly prepared to pay a large chunk of De Gea's remaining contract, with Dean Henderson pushing to become the club's first choice.

Haaland is ahead of Lionel Messi on City's transfer list, claims The Mirror. Pep Guardiola's City have been heavily linked with Barcelona superstar Messi, who is out of contract at season's end. But City now appear determined to prise Haaland from Dortmund as Sergio Aguero prepares to leave. Aguero has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, InterBarca, PSG and Juventus on a free transfer.

Neymar has put contract talks with PSG on hold, according to Ara, which claims he is willing to return to Barca.

- It comes as Marca says PSG are eyeing Madrid forward Vinicius Junior amid Kylian Mbappe's links with the LaLiga champions.

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to learn if Eden Hazard will be fit to return for Real Madrid against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Madrid face a huge week in their season with the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final before a Clasico with Barcelona in LaLiga.

But head coach Zidane is hoping his side will receive a boost ahead of the first meeting with the Reds.

Hazard returned from injury shortly before the international break but then missed the European tie against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and was unable to go away with Belgium.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez could not even guarantee the €100million winger would make Euro 2020, although he was "very positive".

Hazard might be back in action as soon as Tuesday, with Madrid also looking to again bring Federico Valverde into the fold.

"Hopefully we can get Valverde and Hazard back," Zidane said on Saturday. "We will see tomorrow and the day after.

"Today it was not possible but I hope that on Tuesday they can be with us."

Hazard scored six goals against Liverpool in 16 games while with Chelsea.

But he has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts for Madrid since his signing in June 2019, scoring only four times and providing five assists from 38 chances created.

Hazard certainly was not missed as Los Blancos swept aside Eibar 2-0 at a stormy Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored in either half, while the Spain forward also hit the crossbar, opposing goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic made six saves and three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals disallowed.

"The first half, in general, was complete, with good feelings," Zidane said. "It's what I told the players.

"Then, with the storm, there were 20 difficult minutes to start the second.

"We have to recover well because we have a week with important games in the Champions League and the league. They will be entertaining.

"We must continue like this. There was a difficult moment in the season and now we have to take advantage of the current one, which is good."

Ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid and fellow challengers Barca playing this weekend, Madrid moved up to second, three points off the summit.

That promising position means Zidane will prioritise neither domestic action nor their European exploits.

"We do not look at that," he said. "We are in the day-to-day. We are thinking about today's game, which we did very well.

"We are not going to think about one competition or the other; we are alive in both. Now you have to enjoy the moment. We have done nothing - we have to continue."

Thibaut Courtois, required to make four saves against Eibar but only really tested by an awkward Lucas Vazquez backpass, added: "We've fought all season to get to April, where everything is played for.

"Winning today put pressure on Atletico and Barcelona.

"In April, everything is played for and everything is decided; hopefully we will keep winning."

Marco Asensio emphasised the importance of Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of mammoth matches against Liverpool and Barcelona.

Madrid had 21 shots at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano but had been frustrated prior to the breakthrough strike from Asensio four minutes before half-time, with Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic in inspired form.

Dmitrovic finished with six saves, while three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals ruled out, yet Karim Benzema secured the points with a second-half header that extended his scoring streak to seven straight games.

Benzema has plundered nine goals in that time, while he has nine against Eibar in his LaLiga career - the most of any Madrid player.

Asensio is enjoying his own fine run, netting in three consecutive matches for Madrid for the first time, and now has his sights set on more important fixtures to come.

Liverpool visit in the Champions League on Tuesday before Madrid welcome rivals Barca next Saturday.

"I work for that [to score]," Asensio told Movistar. "In the end, it's about waiting for the moment and taking advantage of it.

"I'm happy for the goals, for the team and now comes the most important moment of the season.

"There are unfortunately a lot of injuries this season, but I think we all have to contribute and that's why we're a team."

Victory took Madrid up to second, at least until Barca play Real Valladolid on Monday.

Asensio said: "We knew we had to win to get good feelings and we took the three points, which is the most important thing.

"We have played a good match, creating chances, and in the end we have won well.

"Now we face a very important week with the match against Liverpool and then Barca to come. We have to live up to it as the Madrid we are."

Real Madrid closed to within three points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid with a 2-0 win over Eibar at the start of a huge week at home and abroad.

Struggling Eibar were the first of three visitors to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in succession, with games against Liverpool and Barcelona set to go a long way to deciding Madrid's season.

Los Blancos were not tested on Saturday, though, frustrated only by offside calls and their own finishing either side of Marco Asensio's 41st-minute strike before Karim Benzema made sure 17 minutes from time.

Although Atleti and Barca – now third behind Zinedine Zidane's side – are both still to play this weekend, Madrid's title rivals will do well to find opponents as accommodating as Eibar.

An awful blind pass from Alejandro Pozo sent Benzema clear three minutes in, but the striker delayed before shooting and allowed Marko Dmitrovic to make a brilliant right-handed save.

Benzema was quickly denied again, this time by the offside flag after nodding in Marcelo's cross at the far post.

Asensio saw a wonderful free-kick bounce away off the crossbar and then joined Benzema in having a breakthrough goal struck off, his exquisite flick nutmegging Dmitrovic but drawing the attention of the VAR – again for offside.

Fortune soon found Asensio's favour, however, as he charged onto Casemiro's pass and slipped while shooting, only for his effort to clip his standing foot and beat Dmitrovic.

A second-half storm briefly threatened to derail Madrid, notably when Lucas Vazquez's backpass picked up pace on a slick pitch and required a desperate lunge from Thibaut Courtois to divert it to safety.

But after falling foul of the flag for a third time – Casemiro disappointed by team-mates standing in Dmitrovic's line of sight – Benzema wrapped up the result with a downwards header from substitute Vinicius Junior's fine centre.

What does it mean? First hurdle cleared with minimum of fuss

The weather was Madrid's most dangerous opponent against relegation-threatened Eibar. The same will not apply when Liverpool and Barca make the trip to Valdebebas.

Injured captain Sergio Ramos will be far more of a miss in those matches, but it was still important for Zidane – unbeaten against Eibar in 10 LaLiga meetings – to get three points on the board at the start of a monumental month.

Timely reminder of Marcelo's talents

This was just a ninth league outing of the season for Marcelo, who lined up on the wing with the security of fellow left-back Ferland Mendy behind him. It was a role that suited him well and no doubt gave Zidane pause for thought ahead of a big Champions League tie.

Given the license to attack without worrying about protecting a defence missing Ramos, Marcelo was a constant threat. Only the offside flag meant his final-third contributions – one blocked shot, one successful cross and no chances created – were relatively modest.

Benzema belatedly breaks through

Madrid's number nine was LaLiga's Player of the Month for March with five goals in three games, but he initially appeared to have left his fine form on the other side of the international break.

Benzema's third-minute chance really should have brought the opener, while mistimed headers followed either side of his disallowed effort. Finally, he found his range with the fourth of five attempts before being substituted with 10 minutes to go ahead of a season-defining stretch.

What's next?

Madrid have three days to prepare for the visit of Liverpool, while Eibar do not play again until next Saturday, at home to Levante.

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