Manchester City are going to great lengths to keep Raheem Sterling.

Though contracted until 2023, the England international's exceptional form has led to links with Real Madrid.

But it could earn him a fresh extension to his bumper deal at the Etihad Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SEEK STERLING INSURANCE

Premier League champions City have opened contract talks with star forward Sterling, according to the Mirror.

The 24-year-old agreed a new three-year extension a mere 12 months ago but City are taking no chances with his future amid rumours of interest from LaLiga giants Madrid.

Sterling has scored 14 goals in 17 club appearances this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus are preparing a €100million offer for Valencia winger Ferran Torres, who has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Bayern Munich are interested in Tottenham teenager Troy Parrott and Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports the Daily Mail. Parrott, 17, has caught the eye, while Henderson is on loan at Sheffield United.

- Napoli have offered Fabian Ruiz a contract extension through to 2025, claims Mundo Deportivo. Barcelona and Madrid are rumoured to want the Spain international midfielder.

- According to reports in Spain, Athletic Bilbao want to re-sign Javi Martinez from Bayern Munich. Martinez left the Basque club for Bayern in 2012.

A new four-team format has been finalised for the Supercopa de Espana that will see the competition moved to Saudi Arabia for the next three years, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales revealed a proposal to convert the season curtain-raiser into a mini-tournament in February this year.

Last season's Supercopa – traditionally a two-legged affair played between the winners of LaLiga and the Copa del Rey – was the first to be played abroad, as Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-1 in Tangier, Morocco, with the singular match officially classed as a friendly.

But the success of the contest from the RFEF's perspective proved its viability and it is pushing ahead with the plans having struck an agreement for Saudi Arabia to play host over the next three years, starting in February 2020.

With four teams – the Copa finalists and LaLiga's top two – set to be involved, the RFEF has moved the competition to Spain's winter in order to "lighten the calendar", instead of playing it at the start of the season.

Following confirmation of the revamp on Monday, the RFEF also revealed the historic first fixtures, with Real Madrid and Barcelona facing Valencia and Atletico Madrid, respectively, in the semi-finals, teeing up a potential Clasico finale on February 12.

Copa del Rey holders Valencia were particularly vocal in their opposition of the initial plans put forward by the RFEF, while many criticised the governing body for fraternising with a country that has a questionable human rights record.

But the RFEF has called the deal an "engine for social change" and confirmed women will be allowed "unrestricted access to the matches" and the launch of a women's football competition in the region.

RFEF believe the internationalisation of the competition will improve its credibility and subsequently boost Spain's bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

Media reports have claimed the RFEF stands to bring in €40million for every season the Supercopa is hosted in Saudi Arabia. Aside from club prize money, the federation pledges to invest all its entire income from the agreement in amateur football.

Rodrigo Moreno has been ruled out of Spain's upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers after sustaining a back injury in Valencia's 2-0 win against Granada on Saturday.

The 28-year-old was on Friday named in Robert Moreno's 23-man squad for the home game with Malta on November 15 and the visit of Romania three days later. 

However, he was substituted seven minutes into the second half of Valencia's LaLiga clash with Granada and will sit out both fixtures.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation confirmed his withdrawal on Twitter but have yet to announce who will be called up in his place.

Speaking after his side's victory over Granada, Valencia head coach Albert Celades said: "Rodrigo was replaced because he had back problems. We don't think it's serious but for now we do not know any more."

Rodrigo has appeared in seven of Spain's eight Euro 2020 qualifiers and scored a late equaliser against Sweden last month to seal their place in next year's finals.

Bayern Munich have removed another name from their list of potential replacements for Niko Kovac.

Arsene Wenger reportedly contacted the managerless German giants to personally express his interest in becoming head coach but will not considered for the role.

Now back to winning ways, Bayern could even delay the naming of a new boss until the end of the season.

 

LEAD STORY – BAYERN DELIVER BAD NEWS FOR WENGER

Arsene Wenger's hopes of coaching Bayern Munich have been dashed, according to Sport Bild.

A new report from the German publication claims the Bundesliga champions, while respectful of Wenger's work at Arsenal, are not considering him for the job, despite his attempts to convince chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Interim boss Hansi Flick, who steered a wounded side to a 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League, could now remain in charge until the end of the season, when it will become easier to approach either Erik ten Hag or Thomas Tuchel.

 

ROUND-UP

- Kai Havertz's future is becoming a matter of intense speculation. SPORT say Barcelona have strengthened their interest in the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder and sent scouts to watch him in the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid. Havertz was linked with an £80million move to Manchester United earlier in the week.

- Havertz is not the only player on Barcelona's radar. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito believes the LaLiga's champions are interested in signing Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

- Arsenal, meanwhile, are preparing to part with Granit Xhaka in January after stripping him of the captaincy. The Mirror claims the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could be shipped back to Germany in the next transfer window.

- Manchester United have added Spain international Jose Gaya and his Valencia team-mates Ferran Torres and Carlos Soler to their list of transfer targets, reports Medios Deportivos. 

- There is good news for United's rivals Manchester City, who could welcome Leroy Sane back into the first-team fold in February, according to The Sun. Sane suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield in August.

Valencia have confirmed general director Mateu Alemany is to leave the club following a meeting with club owner Peter Lim in Singapore.

Alemany and the club agreed to terminate his contract last week and he has now said goodbye to Lim ahead of his formal departure.

"Valencia wish to publicly express gratitude to Mateu Alemany for his enormous dedication, effort and achievements throughout his time at the entity, and wish him all the best in his professional career," the club said in a statement.

While the news has not come as a surprise, it raises further questions of Lim's management of Valencia after a turbulent few months.

Marcelino's two-year reign as head coach was controversially ended by Lim in September, with the tactician claiming he was sacked for winning the Copa del Rey last season instead of focusing on securing a top-four finish, which they also achieved.

Several Valencia players were outraged at the decision and the squad refused to take part in post-match media duties after the 5-2 defeat by Barcelona in new coach Albert Celades' first game in charge.

Alemany was reported to have been Marcelino's main backer among the club's hierarchy, having hired him in 2017 and then supported him when under pressure last season.

The decision to dismiss Marcelino appeared to leave Alemany's position looking untenable, particularly given suggestions in local media that he was not consulted about the hiring of Celades.

Valencia, who have won only four of 12 LaLiga matches this season, sit 13th in the table.

A stunning 30-yard strike from Geoffrey Kondogbia highlighted Valencia's 4-1 come-from-behind Champions League Group H victory against Lille on Wednesday.

Victor Osimhen gave Lille a first-half lead but a 66th-minute penalty from Valencia captain Dani Parejo completely changed the complexion of the match.

Parejo's panenka finish was followed by an unfortunate Adama Soumaoro own goal and Kondogbia then whipped the Mestalla crowd into a frenzy with an incredible effort from long distance.

Ferran Torres soon made it three goals in the last 10 minutes for the hosts, the substitute's well-taken finish capping an outstanding second-half performance from Albert Celades' men.

Osimhen's opener was thanks to the sharp closing down of Benjamin Andre, who blocked Parejo's pass and watched the ricochet fall invitingly for the goalscorer.

The Lille striker still had plenty to do but he was too quick for both Gabriel Paulista and Ezequiel Garay before composing himself and shooting through the legs of Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

Valencia gradually worked their way back into the contest, and only a pair of terrific saves from Mike Maignan denied Rodrigo Moreno an equaliser just before the break.

Yusuf Yazici had a great chance to double Lille's lead in the 53rd minute, but shot straight at Cillessen after good work down the left from Osimhen, and it was a miss the visitors would come to regret.

Valencia were awarded a spot-kick after Jose Fonte handled Rodrigo's cross and Parejo showed nerves of steel to level in audacious fashion.

Pressing hard for a winner, Valencia took the lead in the 82nd minute when Jose Gaya's cross was turned in, via the inside of the post, by Soumaoro.

And that opened the floodgates, Kondogbia producing a sublime effort before Torres wrapped up the win with a smart finish on the angle.

 

What does it mean? A three-horse race for progression

Valencia's win - and Chelsea's 4-4 draw with Ajax - means all three sides have seven points after four Group H games.

An exciting race for the two last-16 spots is now on the cards, while Lille remain at the foot of the group with just one point.

A moment of pure joy

Kondogbia had not scored since February but this strike was worth the wait, the midfielder's outrageous effort sure to live long in the memory.

Lille's defenders backed off Kondogbia, almost encouraging him to shoot, and the end result was something of beauty.

A stop-start season continues

Denis Cheryshev scored Valencia's goal in a 1-1 draw at Lille last month but he has been not been able to nail down a regular starting berth for Valencia this season. He has been suspended, as well, and lasted just 30 minutes before succumbing to injury.

What's next?

Valencia will be after just their third home league win of the season on Saturday when they take on Granada. Lille are at home, too, hosting Metz.

Tuesday's Champions League schedule presents the chance for Marco Reus to set a new record for Borussia Dortmund, while Erling Haaland will hope to maintain his scoring run.

Reus drew a blank last time out in Europe, the Bundesliga side losing 2-0 to Inter, but will hope to make club history in the return fixture in Germany.

Barcelona are top of the table in the same group and the reigning LaLiga champions will be eager to preserve their unbeaten home run when they take on Slavia Prague at Camp Nou.

Liverpool are another team who seem to relish having home comforts, plus history tells us Chelsea should be feeling confident when Ajax visit Stamford Bridge.

We have picked out some of the notable numbers from Opta ahead of the eight games taking place at the start of matchweek four.

 

Barcelona v Slavia Prague

15 - Following his goal last time out, Lionel Messi has now scored in 15 consecutive UEFA Champions League seasons he has appeared in (since the start of 2005-06), a feat only matched by Real Madrid icon Raul (between 1995-96 and 2010-11).

33 - Barcelona are on a run of 33 home games without defeat in the competition. That is the longest streak in Champions League history, while they have only lost once in their last 55 outings at Camp Nou.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Inter

3 - Lautaro Martinez will look to become the first player to find the net in three consecutive Champions League appearances for Inter since Samuel Eto'o, who scored in four in a row in 2010

17 - Marco Reus has scored 17 Champions League goals for Borussia Dortmund, making him the club's joint-top scorer alongside former team-mate Robert Lewandowski.

 

Chelsea v Ajax

10 - Willian has created 10 goalscoring chances for his Chelsea team-mates so far in Europe this season. However, he is still yet to provide an assist!

100 - Chelsea have won every Champions League match when they have faced Eredivisie opponents. They overcame Ajax in the reverse fixture last time out, adding to home and away victories over Feyenoord in the 1999-2000 season.

 

Liverpool v Genk

11 - Alisson has kept 11 clean sheets in his Champions League career - six for Liverpool and five for Roma. Only Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen (12) has posted more since the start of the 2017-18 season.

23 - Liverpool have not lost at home in all European competitions since October 2014, a run of 23 games. The last visiting team to celebrate success at Anfield? Real Madrid (3-0).

 

Lyon v Benfica

0 - Benfica have won none of their four away Champions League matches played on French soil (D2 L2). In fact, they have failed to score a single goal so far!

6 - Lyon have drawn each of their last six home Champions League matches – the longest such run in the history of the competition.

 

Napoli v Salzburg

13 - Will Napoli get lucky at home for a 13th time in the Champions League? They have won 12 of their last 18 played out in front of their own fans, including four of the last five since a 4-2 loss to Manchester City in November 2017.

19 - Erling Haaland (19) is aiming to become only the second teenager in the history of Europe's top-tier club tournament to score in four consecutive appearances. Only Kylian Mbappe has previously achieved the feat.

 

Valencia v Lille 

10 - Valencia have conceded at least once in each of their last 10 home Champions League matches. They have been beaten in their last two European home games and will be aiming to avoid losing three in a row at the Mestalla for the first since November 2007.

14 - Including qualifiers, Lille are winless in their last 14 European games (D7 L7). Their last victory was way back in July 2014.

 

Zenit v RB Leipzig

14 - Zenit have won their previous 14 group-stage matches at home in the Europa League and Champions League combined, a run stretching back to November 2014, when they beaten 2-1 by Bayer Leverkusen.

10 - At 32 years and 105 days, Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann will become the youngest coach to reach the milestone of 10 Champions League matches in charge.

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham may have been humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but he is a target for the German giants.

With Niko Kovac overseeing an inconsistent start to the season in Munich, Bayern are reportedly willing to move on from the former Eintracht Frankfurt boss.

That could open the door for Pochettino, whose Tottenham have struggled to reach the heights of last season following their memorable run to the Champions League final.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN CONSIDER POCH

Bayern Munich are considering Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Niko Kovac, according to Sport1.

Kovac has found himself under increasing criticism following Bayern's inconsistent start to the season.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag – who previously worked with Bayern's reserve team – has also been linked, but sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has reportedly identified Pochettino as the man to replace Kovac should he depart.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Atletico Madrid are eyeing Napoli's Faouzi Ghoulam. The left-back is out of favour and set to leave the Serie A outfit in January.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are keen to sign Borussia Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek and Juventus midfielder Emre Can, claims Soccerlink. Piszczek's contract expires at the end of the season, while Can is reportedly eager to leave after being left out of Juve's Champions League squad.

- Sport Bild says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Valencia sensation Ferran Torres. The 19-year-old winger has attracted interest from Dortmund and Barcelona.

Arkadiusz Milik has agreed a contract extension with Napoli, reports Calciomercato. The Poland international's current deal runs out in 2021.

- Former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso is favourite to take charge of Udinese. It comes as Sky Sport Italia, Tuttomercatoweb and La Gazzetta dello Sport claim Igor Tudor's position is being considered after consecutive 7-1 and 4-0 routs in Serie A.

Dortmund have set their sights on Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun, according to Bild. As the German side reportedly prepare for life without Jadon Sancho amid ongoing links to Manchester United, former Manchester City youth-team player Dilrosun is on their radar.

Albert Celades described Valencia's performance at Lille as their weakest in this season's Champions League after a dramatic late equaliser earned the hosts a 1-1 draw.

After Denis Cheryshev's goal put Valencia on course for three points at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Mouctar Diakhaby was sent off for a second bookable offence, leaving the visitors with 10 men in the closing stages of Wednesday's game.

Diakhaby's dismissal gave Lille the boost they needed to find a way back into the match and Jonathan Ikone came off the bench to score a stunning goal in stoppage time.

Valencia head coach Celades slammed his side's display after they missed the opportunity to draw level with Chelsea and Ajax at the top of Group H, telling reporters: "I think that was our weakest performance so far.

"You got the feeling that the team wasn't at ease and that we weren't better in any area than Lille. Lille had a lot of chances. They were dangerous in a lot of situations.

"It's difficult to get out of a group like this, but we knew that each game would count.

"They caused us problems, particularly in the first half. We didn't play enough in their half of the pitch. We passed the ball around a lot, but in our own half. We wanted to play further forward, but it wasn't possible.

"We know we didn't play well, but Lille are a very good team. They have all my respect, but we know we can play better."

Lille counterpart Christophe Galtier admitted his side's hopes of progressing beyond the group stage remain slim after they picked up their first point of the campaign.

Galtier picked out the return fixture against Valencia on November 5 as a must-win for Lille, saying: "When you're in a competition, you want to go as far as you can, even though it's a very tough competition, and my players did everything they could to win. I am frustrated for them.

"I do not know if this match can revive us but it shows that we are progressing. We started from nothing in terms of experience and with experience comes progress.

"There are three games left and it will be necessary to win in Valencia."

Jonathan Ikone scored a dramatic late equaliser to earn Lille a 1-1 draw against 10-man Valencia and the first point of their Champions League campaign.

After Group H rivals Chelsea beat Ajax in Amsterdam, Valencia were on course to join those two sides on six points after three games when Denis Cheryshev gave the visitors a lead they barely deserved in the 63rd minute.

But the game unravelled for Albert Celades' men in the closing stages, with Mouctar Diakhaby's sending-off six minutes from time giving Lille a lengthy period of stoppage time to find an equaliser against depleted opposition.

That goal arrived courtesy of a moment of brilliance from second-half substitute Ikone, whose shot on the turn keeps hope alive for Christophe Galtier's men with three group games left to play.

Antoine Griezmann scored his fourth goal in eight LaLiga appearances for Barcelona as the Spanish champions beat Eibar 3-0, and he leads the line in this week's FIFA 20 FUT Team of the Week.

The France World Cup winner is joined by an all-star cast in this week's line-up, including Paris Saint-Germain's in-form winger Angel Di Maria.

After scoring twice in his side's 4-1 victory at Nice in Ligue 1, Di Maria was in scintillating form as PSG beat Club Brugge 5-0 in the Champions League.

Not all of this week's selection are competing towards the top of their respective domestic leagues, with Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure earning a place for his goal-scoring performance in the Premier League basement club's 1-1 draw with Tottenham.

Monaco are 14th in Ligue 1 and they will need more of the same from Wissam Ben Yedder if they are to turn their season around - he scored a brace in their 3-2 win over Rennes.

Find out who else made FIFA's Ultimate Team line-up below.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Stephane Ruffier (Saint-Etienne) - 86

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) - 88

CB: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) - 84

CB: Yerry Mina (Everton) - 82

CM: Dani Parejo (Valencia) - 87

CAM: Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk) - 84

CM: Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) - 84

RW: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari) - 85

LW: Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona) - 90

RW: Angel Di Maria (PSG) - 87

ST: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco) - 85

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Alfred Gomis (Dijon) - 81

CB: William Troost-Ekong (Udinese) - 81

CDM: Tomas Soucek (Slavia Prague) - 82

LM: Petros Mantalos (AEK Athens) - 81

ST: Lautaro Martinez (Inter) - 84

ST: Angel (Getafe) - 82

LW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) - 81

RESERVES

LM: Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb) - 79

LM: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) - 78

ST: Andreas Cornelius (Parma) - 80

ST: Daniel Candeias (Genclerbirligi) - 79

ST: Henok Goitom (AIK) - 78

Luis Suarez is bidding to end a miserable run in away Champions League matches as Barcelona travel to play Slavia Prague in one of eight games on Wednesday.

Barca earned an important win over Inter on matchday two but still have work to do to progress from a competitive Group F that also contains Borussia Dortmund, who face Antonio Conte's side this time around.

Chelsea travel to play Group H pace-setters Ajax in Amsterdam, having got their campaign back on track with a win against Lille last time out.

Liverpool trail Napoli in Group E but will be confident of defeating Genk after edging a thrilling contest against Salzburg 4-3 at Anfield three weeks ago.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Wednesday's contests.

RB Leipzig v Zenit

7 - RB Leipzig's last seven Champions League results have alternated between a win and a defeat. They lost their last match 2-0 at home to Lyon.

10 - Zenit are winless in their last 10 away European matches (including qualifiers), drawing three and losing seven since beating Real Sociedad 3-1 in a Europa League match back in December 2017.
 

Ajax v Chelsea

5 -  If he scores against Chelsea, Quincy Promes will become the fifth Dutchman in the history of the European Cup/Champions League to score in three consecutive appearances for Ajax. The others are Johan Cruyff (April 1969), Ruud Geels (November 1977), Ruud Krol (October 1979) and Patrick Kluivert (October 1995). 

8 - Since losing 3-0 at Barcelona in March 2018, Chelsea have lost none of their eight away European matches (W6 D2 L0), their longest ever unbeaten away run on the continent.
 

Salzburg v Napoli

0 -  This is the first Champions League encounter between an Austrian team and an Italian side since December 2005, when Juventus won 3-1 away at Rapid Vienna. A team from Austria have never beaten an Italian outfit in the Champions League (W0 D1 L7).

19 – Including qualifiers, Salzburg have not lost any of their last 19 home European matches (W15 D4 L0), winning the last six in a row.
 

Genk v Liverpool

14 - Should Genk fail to defeat Liverpool, they will set a record for games played in the European Cup/Champions League without winning. They have played 14 so far (W0 D8 L6), level with Floriana and Shamrock Rovers.

1 – Liverpool have won only one of their last 10 away Champions League group-stage matches (W1 D3 L6), losing each of the last four in a row.
 

Benfica v Lyon

10 - No French side has ever won an away European match against Benfica in 14 attempts (W0 D4 L10), with 10 different teams failing to win.

2 – Lyon are looking to win consecutive away Champions League matches in the same campaign for the first time since 2009, when they beat Debreceni and Liverpool.
 

Inter v Borussia Dortmund

6 - Inter are winless in six European matches against German opposition (W0 D1 L5) since a 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League in March 2011.

2 – Dortmund have only conceded two goals in their last eight Champions League group stage matches, keeping clean sheets in seven of those matches.
 

Slavia Prague v Barcelona

4 – This is the first meeting between the two sides in Europe, though Barcelona have won all four of their previous Champions League meetings against Czech opponents.

19 – Suarez scored twice against Inter on MD2 in Barcelona's 2-1 victory, but the Uruguay striker is goalless in his last 19 away Champions League matches, attempting 59 shots without success since a goal against Roma in September 2015.
 

Lille v Valencia

6 - Lille are yet to defeat a Spanish team in the Champions League in six attempts (W0 D3 L3), facing Deportivo de La Coruna, Villarreal and Valencia previously without success.

11 – Valencia have failed to score in seven of their last 11 Champions League matches. Prior to that run, they had been unable to score in just seven of their previous 33 in the competition.

Diego Simeone indicated the injury Joao Felix suffered in Atletico Madrid's LaLiga draw with Valencia on Saturday "could be serious".

Joao Felix, who joined Atletico in a €126million transfer in the close season, hobbled off with 10 minutes left at the Wanda Metropolitano after twisting his ankle in a tussle for the ball with Dani Parejo.

The injury left the hosts, who had already used all three substitutions, with 10 men and Valencia quickly added insult to injury as Parejo bent home a stunning free-kick to equalise and claim a 1-1 draw.

Atletico confirmed Joao Felix will have tests to confirm the severity of the injury and speaking in his post-match media conference, Simeone said: "It did not seem much at first, but the doctors say it could be serious."

Diego Costa opened the scoring for Atletico with a 36th-minute penalty, but this was another game in which he and strike partner Alvaro Morata struggled to take their chances.

The stalemate left Atletico fourth in LaLiga having failed to win five of their past six matches. Simeone's men have scored just three goals in that run and have not been victorious at home in the top flight since a 3-2 defeat of Eibar on September 1, this latest setback giving leaders Real Madrid the chance to go five points ahead of them.

"Costa and Morata know that the only path is to keep working, to insist. Forwards know that when they score goals they are fantastic, and when they don't people point fingers," added Simeone.

"We are a new team, and we don't yet have balance to manage moments in games, above all when we need to suffer and position ourselves well and keep calm. But we are convinced we have players to do this, there is work to do, and I like that.

"Nobody thought this would be an easy season, I knew we would have a lot of work to do, to get the team balanced.

"In certain moments some people look to point fingers, others to work hard. Those who want to work hard will get on well with me. Those who point fingers won't.

"We are in a very good moment to work hard, and look to see who wants to work, and who does not like to work."

Valencia are unbeaten in five league games, with coach Albert Celades heaping praise on his players, particularly Parejo, for earning a share of the spoils from a game in which they were often on the back foot.

"To come here against this team, we knew it would be difficult. The team responded in a brilliant way in the second half, showed a lot of personality and ambition," Celades said.

"It is a luxury for us to have a player like Parejo, with his personality. When he has the ball, things happen. I love the way he wants to play, to make others play, to cause problems for the opposition."

Dani Parejo's wondrous late free-kick earned Valencia a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid, who were dealt a huge blow with an injury to Joao Felix.

Atletico appeared on course for a routine 1-0 win thanks to Diego Costa's 36th-minute penalty, the striker finding the net from the spot in a game that saw he and Alvaro Morata miss great chances.

However, the much-maligned forward pair's profligacy was eventually punished as Joao Felix, the €126million close-season signing from Benfica, had to be helped off with 10 minutes remaining, leaving an Atletico side that had already used all three substitutes with 10 men.

Parejo quickly took advantage in stunning fashion, bending a sublime strike beyond Jan Oblak and into the top-right corner to secure a share of the spoils despite Lee Kang-in's injury-time red card.

 

 

 

Diego Simeone praised the enthusiasm of Atletico Madrid strikers Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata despite their struggles in front of goal this season.

Atleti have just one win from their past five LaLiga games but are only three points behind leaders and city rivals Real Madrid.

Simeone's men have drawn a blank in each of the four encounters they have failed to win in this stretch.

Costa and Morata have each scored only once in the league so far this campaign, but Simeone sees little reason to be concerned about the duo.

"I think they are great, they're doing good, even if they haven't proved it with goals yet - and I know that's their bread and butter," Simeone told a media conference. 

"I think their involvement, predisposition and their will to improve is awesome. I hope they keep it that way, it's their challenge

"They both scored one goal in La Liga, Morata played less than Diego but I see both are enthusiastic. I can see they want to improve.

"We have to keep calm and know they are two important players for this club and the team. We hope that they will start scoring soon since it's part of their lives, [but] I sincerely think they're doing good."

Atletico welcome Valencia to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, with Simeone hoping his players hit their stride quickly upon returning from the international break.

"When they come back from the national team, it is not easy," Simeone added. "They're playing more and more games with the national team and that's difficult for the teams and obviously for the players as well.

"They play almost every day. We hope they adapt again really fast to the club and competition.

"Tomorrow's game is against a competitive and historic team like Valencia, they are really powerful at recovering and counter-attacking.

"A few things are changing with [Albert] Celades from what it was with Marcelino, but obviously the team already had a structure and I imagine the coach is combining it to do the best for the team.

"They are dangerous, dynamic and have a dangerous counter-attack, and we think that's the way our rival will play tomorrow."

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