Raphael Varane dismissed talk the VAR favoured Real Madrid after the LaLiga giants moved closer to the league title with a win over Deportivo Alaves.

A Karim Benzema penalty and Marco Asensio goal saw Madrid record a 2-0 win on Friday, moving four points clear of rivals Barcelona with three games left.

Madrid were awarded a spot-kick for the third straight game, while the VAR was needed after Asensio's goal was initially incorrectly ruled out for an offside decision against Benzema.

Varane, who helped Madrid keep a clean sheet for the fifth straight game, was unfazed by any talk decisions were going his team's way.

"Outside noise doesn't matter to us. We are focused on winning and giving everything on the pitch," the defender told Movistar.

"We don't control the VAR, we control the effort and attitude we show on the pitch."

Madrid are closing in on their first league title since 2016-17, with Barcelona having clinched the past two crowns.

Varane said Madrid still had finals to play ahead of matches against Granada, Villarreal and Leganes to finish the league season.

"We are focused on our objective and we have three finals left," he said.

"It was important to win, of course, but it is very important to keep a clean sheet. That gives us a lot of confidence.

"We will continue with the positive dynamics we have."

Real Madrid moved a significant step nearer to a 34th LaLiga title as Karim Benzema set them on the way to a 2-0 win over Deportivo Alaves.

The gap to Barcelona in second place is back to four points, and it would take a mighty collapse from this position for the teams to swap positions.

Marco Asensio grabbed Madrid's second goal after Benzema's early penalty, and Zinedine Zidane's side could have stretched their lead as a string of chances came their way.

But lowly Alaves contributed plenty to an entertaining game, enough to suggest they can survive in the top flight under their new coach Juan Muniz.

Vinicius Junior has been included in Real Madrid's squad to face Deportivo Alaves on Friday.

The Brazilian winger has been in outstanding form for the LaLiga leaders since the season's restart, but his involvement in their next match was in doubt.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane revealed on Thursday that Vinicius had missed training to take a coronavirus test.

An initial test "went badly" - seemingly returning an anomalous result - and had to be repeated, Zidane said.

Madrid offered no update on Vinicius but named the 19-year-old among their 22-man group for the meeting with Alaves.

Zidane's side are a point ahead of Barcelona, who have played a game more.

Vinicius Junior must repeat a COVID-19 test after an apparently anomalous result, Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has revealed.

Zidane was speaking ahead of his team's LaLiga match against Deportivo Alaves on Friday, where Vinicius' participation is now in doubt after a test "went badly".

The 19-year-old sat out training on Thursday and must wait to find out if he will be available to face Alaves.

"The doctors informed me that the test went badly and that we need to repeat it," said Zidane, who will be without Luka Jovic after the forward was forced to self-isolate due to coming into contact with a friend who contracted COVID-19.

When he was asked to clarify whether "badly" might mean Vinicius had tested positive for coronavirus, he replied: "Sometimes there are errors. That can happen.

"Whenever something like that happens, the player can't train. I hope it's nothing and that he can be with us for Friday's game.

"We'll have his results this afternoon."

Even if Vinicius is forced to sit out, Eden Hazard will be available as Madrid seek a victory that would give them a four-point advantage over Barcelona with three games remaining.

The Belgium playmaker was absent from the back-to-back 1-0 wins over Getafe and Athletic Bilbao and has had his debut season in the Spanish capital ruined by a broken foot.

"It is not a relapse and he has trained with us normally," Zidane said.

"I hope he will be with us in the four remaining games and then in the Champions League.

"He wants to be with us and he is not afraid, but it is the third relapse and it bothers him a little.

"There are people here who know much more than me and the image [X-ray] comes out clean, it is perfect, but the discomfort is normal after a game or strong training.

"He is not afraid and wants to help the team and tomorrow he will be with us "

Marcelo faces a scan on an unspecified complaint, but Raphael Varane is set to return at centre-back after recovering from concussion.

"We haven't won anything," Zidane said, when confronted with his team's strong position heading into the final stretch.

"Four games are remaining and tomorrow is another final.

"I am sorry to repeat myself, but there is no other choice. What we want is to continue with what we are doing."

Saul Niguez urged Atletico Madrid to continue their good run of form after a 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday.

Atletico consolidated third spot in the table courtesy of their fourth straight win as Saul and Diego Costa, the latter via the penalty spot, scored at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Saul was pleased to get on the scoresheet and called for Atletico to keep pushing ahead of Tuesday's clash with Barcelona.

"I'm very happy to have scored the opener. Scoring without our fans feels totally different, but it gave us the lead. It also generated spaces because they were defending deep and it was hard," the midfielder said.

"When we went 1-0 up, they left more spaces and allowed us to attack them in different ways. In the first half we were up against a side with six defenders and everyone else in the middle of the pitch.

"Sometimes we didn't interpret correctly what had to be done, because we tried to attack them through the middle. There was more space down the wings.

"I think we didn't play badly in the first half despite being 0-0. I think we did quite well, but it's difficult to unravel the opposition when they have six defenders and are fresh. That happens to us and to everyone else.

"We're going to enjoy this good win. I think it's the first time we won four straight games this season. We're enjoying a positive streak and have to continue like this. If we do, we'll reach our goal."

While Joselu scored a late spot-kick for Alaves, Atletico are now four points clear of fourth-placed Sevilla.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone talked up the importance of the win and is prepared for another difficult encounter at Camp Nou.

"The next game will be really tough, like every time we play in Barcelona," he said.

"Now it's time to rest and prepare, so that we arrive in the best possible shape."

Atletico Madrid took a big step towards sealing Champions League qualification as they defeated Deportivo Alaves in a 2-1 LaLiga win at Wanda Metropolitano.

After a low-key start to Saturday's contest, a Saul Niguez header just before the hour mark put the hosts in front.

Two Atleti substitutes played a part in the second as Diego Costa converted a penalty won by Marcos Llorente to wrap up what ultimately proved to be a comfortable victory for Diego Simeone's side.

Joselu scored a stoppage-time penalty for the visitors, but Atletico are now four points clear of Sevilla in fourth and have opened up a superb nine-point cushion over Getafe in fifth.

Alvaro Morata sent an early header just wide, shortly before his flick-on to fellow forward Joao Felix saw the Portugal international send an impressive acrobatic effort narrowly off target.

Jose Maria Gimenez put a free header over from 12 yards and, despite their opponents defending deeply, it was Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak who had the only first-half save to make from Aleix Vidal.

Diego Simeone brought on Costa and Llorente early in the second half as he attempted to inject life into the hosts and the latter made an instant impression, winning a free-kick down the right.

Kieran Trippier sent in a fine delivery and the onrushing Saul converted with a thumping header from six yards for his fourth goal of season, keeper Fernando Pacheco getting a hand to it but unable to make the save.

Alaves almost levelled when a powerful aerial effort from Oliver Burke flew inches wide, but Atleti soon threatened at the other end when Llorente's long-range effort forced Pacheco to parry.

Llorente then showed superb pace and skill down the right before drawing a foul from Ruben Duarte, with Costa sending Pacheco the wrong way from the spot 17 minutes from time.

Three minutes into added time, Joselu sent a fine penalty into the top corner after Koke was penalised for handball, but it was too late for the visitors to recover.


What does it mean? Atletico impressing since lockdown

Atletico took the chance to extend their advantage over Sevilla, who could only draw with Real Valladolid on Friday, and now look almost certain to claim a Champions League spot.

They have impressed since LaLiga resumed after the coronavirus-enforced break – having drawn their first game back, they have won four straight games, with only the late spot-kick denying them a fourth straight clean sheet.

Llorente lifts Atletico

Former Real Madrid midfielder Llorente changed the game when he came on, winning the free-kick and penalty that led to each goal, as well as testing Pacheco with a rasping drive.

Correa struggles to make an impact

Angel Correa only had one blocked shot and 10 completed passes to show for his 57 minutes on the pitch, though he was not the only one to blame for a sluggish Atletico start.

What's next?

Atletico needed points in this match as their next one is a huge test away to Barcelona on Tuesday. Alaves, meanwhile, are at home to Granada a day later as they bid to halt a run of three straight defeats.

Diego Simeone has challenged Thomas Lemar to show he is worthy of a place at Atletico Madrid.

France winger Lemar was one of the stars of Monaco's unlikely 2016-17 Ligue 1 title triumph but has found life tough since moving to Atleti two years ago.

The 24-year-old has not scored in 26 appearances across all competitions this season and has been an unused substitute in two of Atletico's four La Liga games since the campaign resumed earlier this month.

His sole start during this period came against Real Valladolid, when he was substituted before Vitolo found a late winner.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's game against Deportivo Alaves at the Wanda Metropolitano, Simeone insisted he was satisfied with Lemar's performances in training but wants to see them replicated on a matchday.

"With Lemar we have tried and we continue trying to find a way that he can express on the field everything that excites us, from what we see in training," he said of a player he stated "hasn't been able to live up to expectations" earlier this year.

"We have shown him confidence, he has played important games and it will depend on what he manages to claim in his mind, in his inner strength.

"He knows that it depends on him because we have demonstrated that we have confidence in his football abilities."

Ten points from a possible 12 since the resumption have strengthened Atletico's hand in terms of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

They sit third, six points clear of Getafe in fifth with seven matches remaining.

However, the visit of 14th-placed Alaves should not necessarily be treated as a formality, given their habit of dropping points against teams in the lower reaches of the table this term.

"I do not find anything significant in that," Simeone countered.

"I do understand that in these games we could not be forceful and when you are not, the games are long and all the teams are competitive, whether they are down or up because they have important players."

LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

Deportivo Alaves have confirmed 15 players and staff at the club have tested positive for coronavirus.

Like the vast majority of European football, Spain's LaLiga is on hiatus at least until April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted several teams.

Real Madrid were put in quarantine after a basketball player at the club was found to have contracted the virus, while Valencia confirmed 35 per cent of tests on those associated with Los Che came back positive.

Some have put Valencia's high infection rate down to them facing Atalanta of Italy in the Champions League earlier this month – they were then Alaves' last opponent before the league was suspended.

A statement on Alaves' website read: "A total of 15 people have tested positive, three of them belonging to the Deportivo Alaves first team, seven more to the coaching staff and none to the basketball team. Five workers have also been affected.

"The club made the decision to carry out the tests with respect to the responsibility policy with the people who are part of our family and the results have shown that it was the best way to urgently locate the cases and implement preventive measures to reduce, as far as possible, more infections.

"The people detected are asymptomatic and in good health."

COVID-19 has infected 208,000 people worldwide since his emergence from the Hubei region of China late last year.

With 13,910 confirmed cases, Spain is the second worst-affected European nation behind Italy.

First Barcelona and now Real Madrid. Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man.

With 16 goals across all competitions for Inter this season, Martinez is attracting plenty of interest following previous links to Manchester United.

Madrid and Barca are set to go head-to-head on and off the pitch.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID JOIN BARCA IN MARTINEZ RACE

Real Madrid want to pay the release clause of Inter star and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Tyc Sports.

Martinez has long been linked with LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

However, Martinez is now firmly on Madrid's radar with a release clause of €115million and Luka Jovic struggling to score regularly behind veteran striker Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN says Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are chasing Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United. The 22-year-old – who is contracted to United until 2022 – has impressed at Bramall Lane and is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester unless he is number one ahead of David de Gea.

Manchester City have joined Madrid, Barca, Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, reports the Manchester Evening News. Pep Guardiola's City are desperate for defensive reinforcements following Vincent Kompany's exit and injury woes.

- According to the Daily Express, Serie A champions Juventus are eying a shock move for Chelsea's Willian, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Remaining in Turin and the Daily Mail claims Juve have entered the chase for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old is also wanted by United and Chelsea.

Tottenham are plotting a double swoop for Norwich City pair Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons, the Express says. It comes as the Daily Mail reports Spurs will sell Eric Dier if he does not sign a new contract.

- Marca says Barca have contacted Levante about Roger Marti but the club have pointed to the striker's release clause. Barca are looking to bring in an emergency forward following Ousmane Dembele's long-term injury. Real Betis' Loren Moron and Lucas Perez of Deportivo Alaves are also reported options.

Barcelona expect Ousmane Dembele to be sidelined for six months, meaning a new signing could be imminent at Camp Nou.

Under LaLiga regulations, teams can look to the transfer market outside the window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

However, they can only sign individuals from the top two tiers in Spain, or those who are available as free agents.

With Luis Suarez also ruled out until May, we look at the options Barca could go for in order to bolster their attack.

 

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

The former Real Madrid striker was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham during the January transfer window but a move did not come to fruition. However, Barca reportedly only have a budget of €12million, which could prove to be insufficient to sign Willian Jose, who has fallen behind Alexander Isak in the pecking order at the Reale Arena.

Angel Rodriguez (Getafe)

A more realistic option appears to be Getafe's Rodriguez, who is believed to have €10m release clause. The 32-year-old has scored nine LaLiga goals for Jose Bordalas' Champions League-chasing side this season but has started just six top-flight matches.

Lucas Perez

After failing to make his mark in the Premier League at Arsenal and West Ham, at Deportivo Alaves Perez has rediscovered the sort of form that encouraged the Gunners to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016. He has scored nine LaLiga goals and laid on four more for Alaves this season and strike partner Joselu, formerly of Real Madrid, this week revealed he has urged Perez not to join Barca.

Loren Moron

Head coach Quique Setien coached Moron for two seasons at Real Betis and he is the club's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season, finding the net eight times and supplying two assists. Betis president Angel Haro said at the weekend there has been no official contact from Barca, and Moron's release clause is understood to stand at €40m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde paid tribute to Lionel Messi for his innate ability to make a decisive impact following a wonderful goal in Saturday's 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves.

Other than having an early goal disallowed, Messi had been unusually subdued by his standards at Camp Nou.

Although Barca went into half-time 2-0 up, Alaves scored early in the second period and grew in confidence until Messi struck his 50th goal for club and country this year.

Seemingly surrounded by players, Messi managed to unleashed a fierce strike into the left side of the net from 25 yards and Barca cruised from there, with Luis Suarez – who set up the first three goals – adding a late fourth from the penalty spot.

Despite Suarez arguably being the star of the show, Valverde focused on Messi after the match, singling out his impact when Barca were appearing to lose some of their control.

"All matches require a lot," the coach said. "When they scored, they were spurred on and they had the chance to equalise, but Leo scored a great goal and things are seen in a different way from there.

"I think we played the game well, I would say the first half was very good, then we had less momentum at the beginning of the second. We got a boost with the third goal.

"These things happen with Messi. We see it all the time. Something like that can happen, and it's a huge advantage that we have Messi.

"Leo appears and makes you a goal from anywhere."

With Saturday's win, Barca are likely to go into 2020 top of LaLiga, with Real Madrid needing a big win against Athletic Bilbao to prevent that occurring.

Lionel Messi took his goals tally for club and country in 2019 to 50 with a stunning strike in Barcelona's final match of the year, helping them to a 4-1 win over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

The Argentina superstar had been unusually subdued for much of the match, appearing a little off the pace, but he produced a ferocious 25-yard effort in the second half to ensure he finishes the sixth successive calendar year with at least half a century of goals.

Alaves kept Barca at bay for only 14 minutes, as Antoine Griezmann scored his fourth goal in seven matches across all competitions, and Arturo Vidal doubled their lead with a fierce strike just before half-time.

The visitors did hit back through Pere Pons early in the second half, offering them encouragement, but Messi effectively ended their hopes with his wonderful strike and Luis Suarez – who had set up the first three goals – deservedly got in on the act late on from a controversial penalty.

The warning signs were there early on for Alaves, as Messi had a goal disallowed in the 10th minute as a VAR review identified him to have strayed marginally offside.

But with their next move, Barca opened the scoring – Griezmann placing a right-footed effort into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box following Suarez's lay off.

Vidal was similarly decisive late in the half, receiving Suarez's pass and blasting an emphatic strike in across goal.

Alaves began the second period brightly and got themselves a lifeline through Pons' powerful header, leaving Marc-Andre ter Stegen no chance when arriving late to meet Ruben Duarte's cross.

But Messi turned on the style 21 minutes from time when lashing in from almost 30 yards despite being seemingly surrounded.

And the excellent Suarez rounded off the scoring soon after, converting from 12 yards after a VAR review deemed Martin Aguirregabiria to have handled the Uruguayan's previous header.

What does it mean? Barca set to start 2020 top

Although the scoreline arguably flattered Barca, there was rarely any doubt about who was going to win and the victory means they should begin the New Year top of the league.

Only a remarkable result in Real Madrid's match against Athletic Bilbao will prevent that.

Suarez knits it all together

Several Barca players have come in for significant criticism this season, with Suarez among them. But on Saturday he was excellent, playing a hand in all four goals. His awareness when setting up the first three was particularly impressive.

Ely fails to halt Suarez

The man tasked with keeping Suarez under control was Rodrigo Ely. The Brazilian failed. He barely got near the striker all match and had a miserable outing.

What's next?

LaLiga's winter break kicks in for these two sides now. Barca's season resumes on January 4 at struggling city rivals Espanyol, while Alaves host Real Betis the following day.

Lionel Messi reached 50 goals for the sixth consecutive calendar year by netting for Barcelona against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

The 32-year-old scored with a superb 20-yard curling strike in the 69th minute at Camp Nou as Barca moved closer to a key LaLiga victory.

Messi's effort restored Barca's two-goal advantage after Alaves had responded to earlier strikes from Antoine Griezmann and Arturo Vidal with an effort of their own from Pere Pons.

Argentina forward Messi moved on to 50 goals from 58 matches for club and country in 2019. He has also provided 18 assists as part of a fine year that saw him win a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

Of Messi's 50 this year, 34 have arrived in 32 LaLiga matches, with eight scored in the Champions League and three in the Copa del Rey. 

The remaining five came in matches for Argentina, for whom he has made 10 appearances this year.

Messi's extraordinary consistency has seen him score 50 or more in nine of the last 10 years, the only one in that span where he missed out being 2013, when he notched 45.

His best year came when he scored an astonishing 91 in 2012.

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