Erling Haaland is one of the sought-after players in world football.

The Borussia Dortmund forward can reportedly take his pick from Europe's elite.

But if his agent Mino Raiola has his way, Camp Nou could be Haaland's next destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND COULD LEAVE BVB AT SEASON'S END

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could leave the Bundesliga club for Barcelona at the end of the season, according to TV3 program Onze.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus following his exploits for Dortmund.

The Norway international forward reportedly has a €75million (£66.8m) release clause at the end of his second season in Dortmund, though he could depart sooner rather than later.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says United are not working on a deal to sign Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The Spanish superstar is out of contract at the end of the season, and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, City, Chelsea and Liverpool. A move to Liverpool is reportedly not on the horizon due to his role in the injury to Mohamed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final.

City have joined Serie A champions Juve in the race to sign Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports the Daily Mail.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb, Milan are set to meet with free agent Mario Mandzukic over the next 24 hours to discuss a short-term deal. Staying at San Siro and Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are close to signing Torino midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan with the option to buy.

Arsenal are interested in Barca goalkeeper Neto, claims Sky Sports. With backup Runar Alex Runarsson struggling in London, the Gunners are hoping to bring in Neto on loan.

- Marca reports Barca are targeting Valencia star Jose Gaya to bolster their left-back position, while Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza is another option.

Juventus are set to complete the signing of American defender Bryan Reynolds from MLS club Dallas, says Romano. The 19-year-old will join Benevento until June, before linking up with Juve.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said he cannot understand how Real Madrid avoided conceding a crucial late penalty in their win against Eibar.

Zinedine Zidane's side clung on for a 3-1 victory after Lucas Vazquez's stoppage-time strike clinched all three points at Municipal de Ipurua.

Karim Benzema and Luka Modric had fired the Spanish champions into a two-goal lead inside 13 minutes before Kike hit back for the home side before the half-hour mark.

Eibar were pushing for a late equaliser when the hosts had appeals for a penalty turned down after the ball appeared to strike the arm of Sergio Ramos inside the penalty area.

Eibar head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar fumed about the incident, which was not reviewed by referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero.

Madrid's fifth straight win in all competitions left them level on points with Atletico but Koeman hinted Los Blancos were fortunate.

"The day of the Madrid match, I said something that doesn't need to be repeated," Koeman said.

"I think there are things that cannot be understood. I'm sure that if you ask 10 people if yesterday's game is a penalty, nine will say yes.

"The referee and his team have decided not to call it. But, well, we know."

Following Barca’s 2-2 draw against Valencia at Camp Nou, Koeman’s side sit fifth in the LaLiga table, eight points behind Atleti and Madrid.

The Catalans face 18th-placed Real Valladolid on Tuesday at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

Ronald Koeman has put Barcelona's 2-2 draw with Valencia down to a lack of concentration from his players, rather than a problem with their attitude.

Barca were held at Camp Nou in Saturday's entertaining LaLiga clash and are now eight points adrift of Atletico Madrid having played a game more than the leaders.

Mouctar Diakhaby scored a free header to give Valencia the lead – a joint-high fourth league goal Barca have conceded from a corner this term along with Huesca – but Lionel Messi equalised and young defender Ronald Araujo put the hosts in front.

Maxi Gomez profited from yet more slack defending 21 minutes from time to score against the Catalan giants for a fourth game running, however, as Valencia became the seventh team to stop their opponents winning in 13 games this term.

Koeman did not want to blame any individuals following this latest setback but conceded his side switched off too easily for Valencia's goals.

"It was a difficult game. We fought back but have to be more focused," he told Movistar. "We had chances but weren't focused on some other actions, and the opponents defended well.

"We made more of an effort in the second half to win the game but didn't create as many chances as we wanted. It was an irregular game from us; we lost balls in areas that were dangerous.

"I don't think it was to do with an attitude problem. There was an irregularity to the whole game. We lost balls and doubted ourselves.

"We also know we have problems with set-pieces. You have to get above your opponent, but we have smaller players."

Barca had won their previous two matches, against Levante and Real Sociedad, but now face a massive battle in chasing down Atletico and the rest of the title challengers.

"We would have liked to have won all of the games," Koeman said. "The problem is not today's draw but that we lost four or five other games and that's why this draw seems worse.

"There are a lot of points left [to be won]. It's a very tough season. In two months, everything could be different. We have to fight to make up the points difference."

Koeman made one change from the 2-1 victory over Sociedad, bringing in Philippe Coutinho for Frenkie de Jong in what was an attack-minded starting line-up featuring Messi, Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Antoine Griezmann and Coutinho.

Sergio Busquets, the sole holding midfielder, picked up a knock and was replaced by De Jong at half-time.

Explaining his team selection, Koeman said: "Frenkie had discomfort in training yesterday and we couldn't risk him from the beginning, according to the doctors.

"We had to leave him on the bench until the break. I changed things around and brought off Busquets, but not because he was having a bad game."

Messi's goal was his 643rd for Barcelona, taking him level with Santos great Pele for the number of goals scored for a single club.

The Argentina international managed 10 shots in total and had a penalty saved by Jaume Domenech, but he headed in from two yards in the aftermath to bring up his landmark goal.

"We know all about his impressive career," Koeman said. "It is another very good achievement."

However, Valencia head coach Javi Gracia questioned whether a penalty should have been awarded for Jose Gaya's perceived push on Griezmann with Valencia a goal ahead at the time.

The referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez initially showed Gaya a red card before downgrading that to a yellow after checking the pitchside monitor, but Gracia feels the spot-kick should also have been rescinded at a pivotal moment in a tight game.

"Justice does not exist in football," he said. "It is always difficult to assess the referee's performance. The goal just before half-time did us a lot of damage. 

"But the team's personality was clear to see again. I am proud of my players."

Lionel Messi equalled Pele's one-club goals record but it was not enough for Barcelona as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia's in Saturday's entertaining LaLiga clash.

The superstar forward notched his 643rd goal for the Catalan giants on the brink of half-time, scoring in the aftermath of having a penalty saved by Jaume Domenech.

That milestone goal cancelled out Mouctar Diakhaby's deserved opener for Valencia, and Ronald Araujo then put the hosts in front with an acrobatic strike - his first Barcelona goal at senior level.

But Barca could not hold on for a third straight league win - and a fifth in a row at Camp Nou - as Maxi Gomez prodded in 21 minutes from time to inflict another title blow on Ronald Koeman's men.

Koeman named an attack-minded line-up that contained just one holding midfielder and Barca were regularly caught out at the back, Marc-Andre ter Stegen bailing his side out with a good save to deny Carlos Soler.

Valencia were winless in four league games prior to this clash and were taken to extra time by lower-league side Terrassa in the Copa del Rey in midweek, but they opened the scoring in Catalonia through Diakhaby's free header in the 29th minute from a Soler corner.

Antoine Griezmann then could not beat Domenech at the end of a swift counter and Martin Braithwaite had a strong penalty appeal turned down, while Ter Stegen produced a superb stop to keep out Gomez in an end-to-end contest.

Barca were given a route back into the game when Jose Gaya was adjudged to have nudged Griezmann in the back, the decision allowed to stand following a lengthy VAR check, though Gaya's red card was reduced to a yellow on second viewing.

Messi's spot-kick was pushed to one side by Domenech, only for Jordi Alba to send a deflected cross towards the back post for the Argentina international to nod over the line from two yards for his landmark goal.

Barca were given another scare early in the second half when Denis Cheryshev sliced wide from a glorious position and, three minutes later, Araujo sent a delightful half-volley away from Domenech.

But the visitors responded through Gomez, who got in front of Oscar Mingueza to poke in Gaya's left-sided cross, and they held on for a share of the spoils - Philippe Coutinho's off-target curler the closest Barca went to winning the game late on.

Paul Pogba could reportedly leave Manchester United as early as next month, while Zinedine Zidane is said to be eyeing a Real Madrid exit.

Pogba's future has again become a talking point at United after his agent, Mino Raiola, said the midfielder wanted to leave.

And the Premier League giants may be ready to make it happen.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD WANT TO SELL POGBA IN JANUARY

Manchester United want to sell Pogba in January after Raiola's latest outburst, according to The Sun.

It comes after ESPN reported the Premier League giants doubted whether Juventus or Real Madrid – the clubs the France international has been most heavily linked to – could afford the 27-year-old.

Pogba came off the bench as United were knocked out of the Champions League with a 3-2 loss to RB Leipzig on Tuesday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid managed to reach the last 16 to ease the pressure on head coach Zidane. However, Diario Gol reports Zidane has made it clear to Madrid president Florentino Perez he is likely to leave at the end of the season, regardless of what happens. The report says Zidane was promised the signings of Pogba, Liverpool star Sadio Mane and Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.

- Under pressure, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future at Manchester United is uncertain. But the Daily Mail reports United will back the manager despite their Champions League exit and the availability of Mauricio Pochettino. Meanwhile, Sky Sports says United are interested in Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier.

- David Alaba seems certain to leave Bayern Munich at the end of his contract after the 2020-21 season. Bild reports Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are on the shortlist of destinations for the defender.

- Could Frenkie de Jong leave Barcelona after just two seasons at the club? Mundo Deportivo reports Bayern Munich are in contact with the midfielder's agent regarding a possible move. De Jong joined Barca from Ajax for a reported initial fee of €75million in 2019, and he re-signed with the club in October until 2026.

- Eric Garcia has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, but it seems there is also interest from elsewhere. The Sun reports Arsenal are tracking the defender, who is out of contract at Manchester City at the end of the season.

- Arsenal and Wolves are monitoring Maxi Gomez's situation at Valencia, according to the Daily Mail, which says Valencia could sell the forward in January or at season's end as they look to raise funds.

Diego Simeone lauded Thomas Lemar for an improved performance in Atletico Madrid's win at Valencia, despite the winger again failing to contribute to a goal. 

Lemar, signed from Monaco in 2018, has not scored or provided an assist in LaLiga since his debut campaign, which yielded three goals and three assists. 

After drawing a blank in the previous season, 2020-21 is proving similarly tricky for the France international. 

However, there were signs of life in the 1-0 success on Saturday. Lemar had mustered just a single shot in the league so far this season but let fly on four occasions, drawing two superb saves from Jaume Domenech, and created three chances - more than doubling his tally for the campaign. 

Lemar was still substituted 25 minutes from time, before Toni Lato's own goal turned the game decisively in Atleti's favour, but Simeone was encouraged by what he saw. 

"He played very well, believe me," Simeone said. "We do not have players who have his drive and shooting ability. 

"The talk fades when we don't see him so often, but hopefully we can give him the confidence he needs because he can do us a lot of good." 

Lemar was replaced by ex-Valencia midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, by which point Simeone had already called on fellow substitutes Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco, each rested before a midweek Champions League match with Bayern Munich. 

"They have known me for a long time; the game is 90 minutes and I have five changes," the coach said, explaining his selection. "The squad gives me the possibility to give everyone the best minutes. 

"I am very happy with Lemar, who has not been like today for a long time."

Domenech has now made 40 saves this season, the most in LaLiga, with five of those coming against Atleti, who dominated 67 per cent of possession. 

"The standout player for our rivals was the goalkeeper and that says a lot," Simeone said. "There were shots from [Marcos] Llorente, Lemar and [Angel] Correa. He made two or three impressive saves. 

"The team needs to keep trying to create chances and, once we get them, being more forceful. 

"We felt very good, we were able to play for a long time in the opponent's territory and we were close to the goal until it came and the space changed a bit. 

"Winning in Valencia is not easy; they came from playing a good game against Madrid and recovered from 2-0 down against Alaves. They were well organised." 

Atleti - who have moved level on points with table-topping Real Sociedad – will be boosted further when Luis Suarez returns after his coronavirus diagnosis. 

"The doctor will let us know [when Suarez can return]," Simeone added. "He is fine, I have spoken a lot of times to see how he felt and he is very excited to return. 

"His presence in the dressing room gives us something and I hope he returns in the best way. The team needs it." 

Toni Lato's unfortunate own goal 11 minutes from time gave Atletico Madrid a hard-fought 1-0 win at Valencia on Saturday. 

Atleti dominated throughout yet struggled to create opportunities in the second half after Jaume Domenech had stood tall in the Valencia goal prior to the break. 

After following up last week's victory over Barcelona - the first in LaLiga during Diego Simeone's tenure - with a goalless Champions League draw against Lokomotiv Moscow, the visitors looked set to suffer further frustration. 

However, substitute Yannick Carrasco's low cross bounced off Lato's knee and into the net to finally beat Domenech and take Atleti level on points with Real Sociedad at the summit.

The highlights of the first half were superb stretching saves at either end, Valencia captain Domenech punching the air in delight after getting down to his right to expertly repel Thomas Lemar's deflected 13th-minute drive. 
 
Jan Oblak had to be alert to touch Uros Racic's awkward half-volley - seemingly a mishit cross - onto the post, before Domenech was again tested by Lemar, parrying a precise effort away from the same corner as his earlier attempt. 
 
Atleti dominated after the restart, hogging more than 70 per cent of the possession until late in proceedings while facing only a single shot, though they scarcely threatened and needed a lucky bounce to snatch the points. 
 
Carrasco advanced down Atleti's left and sent in a low ball that evaded Domenech, as well as two tussling players from either side, catching Lato unaware as the ball skipped up off his leg and in. 

Manchester City are preparing long-term plans for Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, is coming out of contract at Barcelona at the end of the season and is linked with a move, having sensationally requested a transfer ahead of 2020-21.

Strongly linked with Messi, City are making long-term plans for the Argentina star.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PREPARE 10-YEAR PLAN FOR MESSI

Manchester City are preparing a 10-year plan for Barcelona star Messi, according to The Times.

The report says the Premier League club are expected to launch another attempt to sign the superstar at the beginning of 2021 and will offer him opportunities with the City Football Group (CFG) after he plays for City.

Messi has scored six goals in 11 games for Barcelona this season.

ROUND-UP

- Amid an injury crisis in defence, Barcelona's priorities have changed. Goal reports the LaLiga giants are focusing on Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and not Lyon star Memphis Depay, following the knee injury suffered by Gerard Pique.

- Thiago Silva has made quite an impression at Chelsea. The defender signed a one-year deal ahead of this season and Tuttomercatoweb reports there have already been initial contacts to extend his contract until 2022.

- The news is a little different for Jerome Boateng. Sport Bild reports Bayern Munich have already decided not to extend the defender's contract, which expires at the end of the season.

- Valencia's 17-year-old midfielder Yunus Musah appears to be catching the eye. 90min reports Arsenal are among the Premier League sides monitoring the teenager. The two-time United States international came through Arsenal's academy before joining Valencia in 2019.

Atletico Madrid have been paired with fourth-tier side Cardassar in the first round of the Copa del Rey, though Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of four LaLiga clubs missing.

The draw took place in La Cartuja, the Olympic stadium in Seville that will host the final next April, and is organised so that all LaLiga clubs avoid each other and are instead drawn with teams from the lower reaches of the Spanish football pyramid.

Atletico are the only one of the traditional 'big three' involved and face a trip to Tercera Division side Cardassar, who are from a small town on the island of Mallorca.

Sevilla, Spain's fourth Champions League representative this term, will stay in Andalusia when they go to Ciudad de Lucena and Valencia have been drawn against Catalonian team Terrassa.

Ties will take place on December 16 between the 112 clubs involved at this stage.

Madrid, Barca and 2019-20 Copa finalists Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have byes to the third round due to their participation in the expanded Supercopa.

Athletic and La Real were unable to play their historic all-Basque final earlier this year as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the match postponed indefinitely at the time.

Recent media reports suggest the match is due to be rearranged for April 4, 2021, two weeks prior to the 2020-21 final.

Valencia have announced the death of club icon Juan Cruz Sol at the age of 73.

Sol played close to 400 games across two spells with Valencia between 1965 and 1981 and has more recently been a club ambassador and a member of the board of directors.

Valencia confirmed the news on their official website on Tuesday and said in a statement: "Juan Cruz Sol leaves behind an indelible mark on Valencia's history, and will be much missed by all who knew him.

"The club offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace."

During his 12 years with Valencia, Sol won the European Cup Winners' Cup, European Super Cup, one Spanish top-flight title and the Spanish Cup.

He also spent five seasons with Real Madrid, winning four league titles, and was capped 28 times by Spain in the 1970s.

A statement from Los Blancos read: "Real Madrid would like to send their condolences and warmest regards to his wife Paola and his two daughters, to all his relatives and loved ones, as well as to Valencia C.F., the club where he was the social ambassador in the board of directors, and to all their fans."

Spain defender Hector Bellerin struggled to accept being out of international football for such a long time.

The Arsenal right-back was called up to Spain's squad for the first time in four years after Sevilla's Jesus Navas was ruled out through injury.

He won the last of his three caps for La Roja in a friendly against Georgia in July 2016 and, although he made Spain's squad for Euro 2016, he did not feature at the tournament.

Bellerin, however, was given a recall by coach Luis Enrique for his side's friendly with the Netherlands plus the Nations League fixtures against Switzerland and Germany.

The 25-year-old has been one of Arsenal's most consistent performers this season and played every minute of their eight Premier League games.

He has made 12 interceptions and eight tackles with a success rate of 88 per cent in those matches, helping the Gunners to keep two clean sheets.

"Yes, I am so happy getting back home. It has been almost five years since the last time, so I am very happy," Bellerin said in an interview with the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

"They have been tough years, and they always are when you cannot join the national team, but I am very proud and happy now. I can't wait to start."

Another player thrilled to be recalled by Luis Enrique after a break is Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke, who last featured for Spain just over two years ago.

Koke, 28, has not featured for Spain since a 4-1 friendly defeat of Wales in October 2018.

"I am very happy to be here again with the national team," Koke explained.

"It has been a long time, but I do have the same excitement that I had on my first day and I am looking forward to helping the team win the games."

Spain are top of Nations League Group A4 with seven points but saw their 13-game unbeaten run (W10 D3) in competitive matches ended last time out with a surprise 1-0 loss to Ukraine.

Left-back Jose Luis Gaya has warned his team-mates not to let any complacency seep into their forthcoming performances.

"It is true we are still first, and that gives us a little advantage. But we know how football is and everything can happen," added the Valencia defender.

"We need to try on winning all the games, that's what this jersey demands.

"Therefore, we cannot get relaxed and we have to face two official games plus the friendly one as they were finals."

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde is set for a spell on the sidelines after the club confirmed he has suffered a fracture in his right leg.

Valverde featured in Madrid's 4-1 defeat to Valencia in LaLiga on Sunday before he was replaced by Toni Kroos in the 76th minute.

A medical bulletin issued by Madrid on Monday did not give an indication of when head coach Zinedine Zidane expected to have the player available again.

The statement said: "Following tests carried out on our player, Federico Valverde, by Real Madrid medical services, he has been diagnosed with a fracture in the posterior tibial bone in his right leg.

"His recovery will continue to be assessed."

However, the 22-year-old Uruguay international is set to miss his country's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with Colombia on November 13 and against Brazil four days later.

Valverde has made 11 appearances for Madrid in all competitions this season and scored three goals.

Madrid's next game is away to Villarreal in LaLiga on November 21.

Thibaut Courtois questioned the use of VAR in Real Madrid's heavy loss to Valencia and claimed opposition forward Maxi Gomez bought his side one of their penalties by "screaming".

Carlos Soler scored a hat-trick of spot-kicks in Valencia's surprise 4-1 win at Mestalla as Madrid conceded four goals in a LaLiga match for the first time under Zinedine Zidane.

Lucas Vazquez and Sergio Ramos were penalised for handling the ball inside the box, either side of Marcelo being punished for bringing down Gomez.

Courtois kept out the first penalty before it was retaken because of encroachment and was also beaten by a Raphael Varane own goal in Sunday's clash.

Soler is the first player to score three penalties in a single LaLiga game this century, but Courtois claimed Madrid were hard done by, particularly with the second spot-kick.

"Maxi screams more, and the way VAR gives penalties..." he said. "We had three penalties against, and the second goal was bad luck.

"I think we started well. Sometimes it happens to us that we don't move up the pitch together and we get caught out a little at the back, but [Valencia] haven't created chances.

"The first penalty is a penalty – it's bad luck. I don't know why it was retaken. The second goal is also bad luck. At half-time we were motivated to turn it around.

"As soon as I started, I make a save that goes onto the post and then two penalties."

There was also some controversy surrounding Valencia's second goal as a lengthy VAR check was needed to check for a possible Denis Cheryshev foul on Marco Asensio.

"There was a foul on Asensio in the build-up," Courtois said. "I heard him say it in the changing room, but you can't change anything there."

Madrid's defeat was their second in four league games, the other coming against newly promoted Cadiz, but Courtois reiterated that it was down to bad luck more than anything.

"We had chances to score, but the ball did not want to go in," he said. "We have to show the unity we did just after quarantine when we were barely letting in goals.

"There are some players who were not available for us but those who played have done well. Now is a good time to leave this game behind. Difficult games are coming."

Vazquez, who made more tackles (four) and clearances (three) than any Madrid player, acknowledged the importance of learning from the humbling defeat.

"It was a tough game and we've got to improve," said the makeshift right-back. "As a team, we came into the game on the back of several pretty good performances in which we performed to our best.

"This game was tough. We just weren't at it. We'll have to analyse it, learn from it and improve.

"It'll be a really interesting, open and hard-fought LaLiga season. Let's hope that we can ultimately take the title."

Zinedine Zidane took full responsibility for a dreadful defeat to Valencia on Sunday as Real Madrid conceded four goals in a LaLiga match for the first time under their title-winning coach.

Valencia ran out 4-1 winners at Mestalla after Carlos Soler became the first player to score a hat-trick of penalties in a single LaLiga game in the 21st century.

Soler's treble – the first from a Valencia player in the top flight since September 2017 – was added to by an own goal from Raphael Varane, who deflected Maxi Gomez's cross beyond Thibaut Courtois. Madrid's goalkeeper had initially saved Valencia's first penalty, which was retaken due to an infringement from Yunus Musah.

Madrid started brightly and led through Karim Benzema's brilliant opener but conceded four goals in a league match for the first time since a 5-1 defeat to Barcelona in October 2018 – the result which cost Julen Lopetegui his job.

Zidane, who Lopetegui replaced, accepted the blame for this Madrid display, acknowledging they must solve their defensive problems having conceded 14 goals in seven games in all competitions since returning from October's international break.

"Three penalties, an own goal, it's too much," said Zidane, whose side are fourth, four points behind leaders Real Sociedad.

"The fault is mine because I am the coach and I have to find the solution. I can't justify what happened. It's a bad day, there are no excuses. We must improve defensively.

"I don't think Valencia have been tactically better than us. The only thing is that we started well and everything changed after the goal. 

"This is difficult to understand. But yes, the maximum responsibility is mine. We must find solutions after the goal they scored."

While Madrid's defence endured a collective nightmare, with Varane scoring his second own goal in the space of five appearances in all competitions, playmaker Isco was equally disappointing at the other end.

Starting for the first time in LaLiga since October 17 – when Madrid lost 1-0 to Cadiz – the 28-year-old had just one shot and created only a single chance before he was taken off in the 83rd minute. Isco has played a meagre two key passes all season.

Zidane defended the player, however, saying: "Isco has tried, he has done well like everyone else. In the end, everyone loses, there is not just one guilty party."

Madrid were without holding midfielder Casemiro who, like Eden Hazard, is isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.

The champions have won just one of the six LaLiga fixtures in which Casemiro has not started since the start of last season, but Zidane insisted the Brazilian's absence was no excuse.

"We can look for a thousand things – you don't have to look for excuses," he said. "They are all Madrid players."

Carlos Soler scored a hat-trick of penalties as Valencia ended a four-match winless run in LaLiga with a 4-1 rout of Real Madrid at Mestalla.

Soler's penalties – the first of which had to be re-taken due to an infringement by Yunus Musah – were added to by Raphael Varane's own goal as Valencia came from behind in a frantic encounter.

Karim Benzema, who has now scored more LaLiga goals than any other player since the resumption in June, opened the scoring with a thunderous strike – his fifth goal in his last four top-flight meetings with Valencia.

But Benzema's brilliance was not enough to inspire Zinedine Zidane's defensively suspect side, whose misery was compounded when Sergio Ramos handled to concede a third spot-kick, which Soler duly converted to condemn Madrid to a second LaLiga defeat of 2020-21.

Madrid struck first – Benzema catching out Jaume Domenech with a thumping 23rd-minute strike – but Lucas Vazquez's handball handed Valencia an opportunity to equalise.

Yet the hosts did so the hard way. After Soler saw his penalty saved and hit the post on the rebound, Musah slammed home, only for it to be disallowed after VAR spotted the 17-year-old had encroached into the area.

Referee Jesus Gil Manzano ordered the penalty to be re-taken and, although Thibaut Courtois again guessed the right way, Soler beat Madrid's goalkeeper at the second time of asking.

More drama followed as Valencia took the lead before half-time – Varane inadvertently looping Maxi Gomez's cross over Courtois, who failed to stop the ball from crossing the line.

However, it was only given after a long VAR check, which also deemed Denis Cheryshev not to have fouled Marco Asensio in the build-up.

Courtois made a fantastic save straight after the restart, tipping Lee Kang-In's strike onto the upright, but he was soon picking the ball out of his net again.

Marcelo scythed down Gomez, and Soler stepped up to convert into the bottom-right corner.

A remarkable hat-trick, and a brilliant Valencia victory, was rounded off in the 63rd minute – Soler picking out the same corner after had Ramos hit the ball away from Musah.

 

What does it mean? Gracia ends Madrid hoodoo

At the seventh attempt, Valencia coach Javi Gracia has managed his first LaLiga win over Madrid, and the triumph takes Valencia up to ninth, level on 11 points with Barcelona.

They are five behind Madrid, who sit fourth, four points off pacesetters Real Sociedad heading into the international break. Zidane also lost Benzema to what appeared to be a groin problem late on.

Soler into LaLiga's record books

Soler's first attempt from 12 yards was poor, but the following three were all dispatched with supreme confidence. In scoring a hat-trick of spot-kicks, the 23-year-old became the first player to score three penalties in a single LaLiga match in the 21st century, and he has been directly involved in five goals in his last three meetings with Madrid at Mestalla.

Varane's bad luck strikes again

While Madrid's entire defence must shoulder the blame, one man in particular stands out. Varane's attempted clearance from Gomez's cross which resulted in Valencia's second goal was a dreadful one, and the France international has now scored two own goals in his last five games for Madrid in all competitions, as many as he had in his previous 324 matches.

What's next?

Madrid travel to Villarreal in their first fixture back after the international break, while Valencia take on Deportivo Alaves a day later.

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