Zinedine Zidane has no plans to rest Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema as he vowed slowly ease Eden Hazard back to full match fitness.

Benzema failed to register a single shot on goal in Madrid's 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in LaLiga on Saturday and twice missed the target from good positions.

The 33-year-old has started 15 of Madrid's 17 LaLiga matches this season and only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Raphael Varane have played more minutes.

When asked in a post-match media conference if Benzema, who has scored eight goals in LaLiga, needed a break, following a slightly jaded showing, Zidane disagreed.

"I don’t think he’s tired," Zidane said.

"I think he did well and I took him off so that another player could play. We’re in a great spell. We’re doing the right things and we have to continue like this."

Hazard came off the bench for another run out late in the second half against Celta as he stepped up his return from an injury-hit start to the season.

"We are going to go little by little," added Zidane. "Little by little, you have to recover feelings.

"We have to take it slowly and not force anything. He has to get back to his best and take it slowly. That’s all it is."

Madrid's possession against Celta was 41 per cent which was the lowest recorded in a win under Zidane at home in all competitions.

The Madrid head coach was, however, satisfied with the manner in which his side were able to manage the game against Celta.

"We played a complete game from the beginning to the end," Zidane explained.

"We controlled the game well, we had a good balance, when it came to pressing up and getting the ball back, we did everything well.

"You have to control when the rival team has strong moments in the game, but the feelings are good, out of nine games we won six and three draws."

Goals from Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio gave Madrid the victory as the pair assisted each other in what was the fourth duo to combine between them in a single LaLiga game this season.

Zidane added: "I am happy for Asensio. He has had a major injury and now he is much better and improving every time.

"Vazquez is very reliable, very involved and I am happy for what he is doing. We played a very serious game. I'm happy for everyone."

Eden Hazard will be eased back into action for Real Madrid in Wednesday's LaLiga trip to Elche, with boss Zinedine Zidane hinting he is ready to rotate his squad.

Belgium international Hazard has not featured for Madrid since injuring his thigh during the first half of the shock 2-1 home loss to Deportivo Alaves on November 28.

He was back in the squad for last Wednesday's 2-0 win over Granada, remaining an unused substitute for that game.

Zidane revealed after the victory - Madrid's sixth in a row in all competitions - that he was not willing to risk Hazard and will instead slowly work the forward back to full fitness.

After another week on the training ground, Hazard is now in contention to play a part against Elche at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.

"He'll be there tomorrow and the plan is for him to play a little," Zidane said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"The other day we decided something different. He has been with the team for several days now and we're looking to make the most of that."

Hazard has played 19 times for Madrid in LaLiga since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea in June 2019, scoring only twice and assisting three more.

Even when fit and available, the 29-year-old has struggled to live up to expectations - his 21 chances created hardly an outstanding figure.

That equates to 1.5 key passes per 90 minutes, which is some way off Real Betis winger Joaquin (2.69) and Barcelona star Lionel Messi (2.68) as LaLiga's most frequent creators among those to have played at least 16 times since the start of 2019-20.

Hazard faces a challenge holding down a spot in the side, however, with Zidane keeping changes to a minimum in terms of his starting line-up during Madrid's impressive winning run.

But with games against Elche and Celta Vigo to come in the space of four days, Zidane suggested he is open to giving some of his fringe players an opportunity to impress.

"There are a lot of professionals here and there are very competent people paying attention to that [the risk of injury]," he said. "We will never take a risk if we know that a player can get hurt.

"The general risk is there, because there are a lot of games and training sessions. But there are very good people here."

Asked specifically about left-back Marcelo and attacking midfielder Isco, who have started a combined eight league games this term, Zidane said: "I'm counting on all my players.

"All the players are training well. That's good news for a coach. They're very professional and I think they're training well.

"I'm happy to see all the players focused. They'll all have chances to play. All these players want to play. It's difficult to leave players out, but this is part of the coach's job and it's the bad part."

Reports from Spain suggest Luka Modric is close to agreeing a one-year contract extension with Madrid and Zidane reiterated he is hopeful Lucas Vazquez and skipper Sergio Ramos will also sign fresh terms.

"The debate is there and you know how I feel about these things," he said.

"We want all these players to stay here because they are the best. I want these things fixed and quickly, of course."

Madrid, level on points with league leaders Atletico Madrid having played two games more, have won their past eight LaLiga games against next opponents Elche.

Is a Manchester United reunion on the cards for Cristiano Ronaldo?

Ronaldo's future at Juventus has dominated headlines this season.

But returning to Old Trafford is reportedly not in the pipeline.

 

TOP STORY – NO UNITED REUNION FOR RONALDO

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will not be returning to Manchester United, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

A report earlier this month claimed United were looking to re-sign Ronaldo, who won three Premier League titles and the Champions League in six years at Old Trafford before joining Real Madrid in 2009.

But Romano says United are focusing on different players and not Ronaldo – also a reported target for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are monitoring Hoffenheim centre-back Melayro Bogarde, claims Sky Italia. The 18-year-old has also captured the attention of Milan.

- Calciomercato reports Milan want to sign Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez at the end of the season. Vazquez is out of contract following the 2020-21 campaign.

Everton are in pole position to sign Juventus outcast Sami Khedira, says Calciomercato. The German midfielder looks set to leave the Serie A champions. Carlo Ancelotti's Everton have also been linked with Madrid midfielder Isco. It comes as Football Insider claims the Toffees are eyeing Tottenham trio Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Paulo Gazzaniga.

- The Express reports Liverpool could sell duo Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri in January. Origi and Shaqiri have struggled for regular game time at Anfield, where the Reds are desperate to bolster their defence amid an injury crisis. Liverpool have been linked with Schalke centre-back Ozan Kabak and Ajax's Perr Schuurs.

- Estadio Deportivo claims Real Betis are eyeing Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo, who has struggled for game time on loan at Villarreal.

Milan are a "serious candidate" to sign Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe, reports Milan Live. The Rossoneri are considering an initial loan offer.

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."

Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez is facing a spell out of action with a calf injury.

The 28-year-old missed the 3-1 victory over Eibar on Sunday as Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The club confirmed Vazquez has a soleus injury, having trained away from the first-team squad at Valdebebas on Monday.

An initial report in Marca suggested he could be out for up to two weeks, although he will then face a battle to regain full fitness after three months of relative inactivity while LaLiga was suspended.

Vazquez has only started six league matches in a season blighted by injury problems, although head coach Zinedine Zidane has long considered him an important part of his plans.

Madrid's next match is at home to Valencia on Thursday before a trip to Champions League hopefuls Real Sociedad on Sunday.

After months and months of speculation, Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved.

The 20-year-old attacker has been tipped to return to England, having left Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

And City's neighbours are reportedly set to snap up the in-demand sensation.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED THINK THEY'VE WON SANCHO RACE

Borussia Dortmund's Sancho to Manchester United is a done deal, according to The Sun.

England star Sancho has been heavily linked to United, as well as Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid following his exploits for Dortmund.

However, United believe they have won the race for Sancho after months of secret talks, with just an agreement of a fee with Dortmund remaining.

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Paris Saint-Germain are ready to offer Neymar a salary worth €38million if he stays at the Ligue 1 champions amid links to former club Barcelona.

Sandro Tonali is a real target for Milan, claims Calciomercato. The Brescia star has attracted interest from Serie A champions Juventus, Inter, PSG, Manchester City and others. But Tonali is Milan's big transfer goal as the Rossoneri board tries to rebuild around the 19-year-old.

Mauro Icardi to Napoli and Arkadiusz Milik to Juve? FCInterNews.it says Napoli are back in the hunt to sign Icardi, who is on loan at PSG from Inter. The Argentina forward has been heavily linked to Juve but he could join Napoli if Milik moves to Turin. The front page of Tuttosport also claims Federico Bernardeschi leaving Juve for Napoli could be the key in Milik's future.

Inter are interested in signing RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner if Lautaro Martinez swaps the Nerazzurri for Barca, reports Calciomercato. Liverpool and Bayern Munich have also been linked to Werner.

- AS Diario says Real Madrid are ready to sell Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez. Colombian midfielder James has been linked to United and Juve. Madrid are also prepared to part with Lucas Vazquez, Mariano Diaz, Alvaro Odriozola and Nacho Fernandez.

Arsenal and United have set their sights on Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele, according to Sport. Dembele has struggled for form and fitness at Camp Nou and the Frenchman has reportedly asked Anthony Martial about playing for United.

Real Madrid have seemingly set their sights on Eduardo Camavinga, and it may be one of several changes at the LaLiga club.

Camavinga, 17, has been linked to several European giants after impressing for Rennes.

The teenage midfielder is a target for Madrid, who could be set for sweeping changes in the close season.

 

TOP STORY – CAMAVINGA THE PREFERENCE FOR REAL MADRID

Camavinga is the preference for Real Madrid as it is likely to prove tough to land Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is also keen to avoid becoming too reliant on Casemiro, the report says.

Camavinga has made 25 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennes this season, including 24 starts.

ROUND-UP

- It may be just one of several changes at Real Madrid. AS reports there must be exits if players are to come in, with James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz potentially leaving. The futures of Nacho Fernandez, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain.

- Staying at Real Madrid and AS reports the coronavirus pandemic may impact what the club do with Martin Odegaard. The Norway international was expected to spend another season on loan at Real Sociedad but could return ahead of the next campaign as clubs become stricter with their finances.

- Diego Costa has scored just twice in 19 games for Atletico Madrid this season and could be set for a move. Sport reports Roma are interested in the 31-year-old forward.

- Achraf Hakimi appears likely to return to Real Madrid from his loan at Borussia Dortmund. However, the Mirror reports Chelsea have enquired about the defender.

- After impressing with Wolves in the Premier League, Raul Jimenez is attracting interest. Sport reports the Mexico forward could return to LaLiga, with Real Madrid and former club Atletico Madrid interested.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Pedro is poised to leave Chelsea. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Lazio are interested in the attacker.

Juventus may be able to bring Paul Pogba back to Turin, but it could cost them a star.

Pogba, 27, has been linked with a move away from Manchester United, having returned to Old Trafford in 2016.

But the Serie A champions could be ready to give up a leading player in their bid to bring the France international back.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA TO JUVENTUS, DYBALA OR PJANIC TO MAN UTD

Manchester United midfielder Pogba could return to Juventus for money plus Paulo Dybala or Miralem Pjanic, according to Tuttosport.

Dybala almost headed to Old Trafford during the close season but is reportedly close to signing a contract extension with Juventus.

Pjanic, meanwhile, has made 32 appearances in all competitions this season, having arrived at Juve from domestic rivals Roma in 2016.

 

ROUND-UP

- The talk around Lautaro Martinez possibly leaving Inter to join Barcelona continues. Sport reports Barca are advancing in their bid to convince Martinez, with their project and potentially playing with Lionel Messi at club level their key points.

- With his Real Madrid future uncertain, Marcelo could be set for a move. Juventus are again interested in the left-back, according to Marca.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu - Lucas Vazquez could also be heading for a Real Madrid exit. AS reports there have been no discussions over a potential contract extension with the forward, whose deal expires next year.

- Martin Braithwaite only arrived at Barcelona in February, but the LaLiga giants are already considering their options. Sport says Barca will not sell Braithwaite for less than €18million, which is what they paid to land the forward. Everton and West Ham are reportedly interested in the Denmark international.

- Arsenal are seemingly considering a move for Nabil Fekir again. The Premier League club were linked with the forward last year, but the Daily Star reports the Real Betis man is back on their radar as a potential replacement for Dani Ceballos, whose loan from Real Madrid ends at the conclusion of the season.

Lucas Vazquez talked up Real Madrid's character after LaLiga's leaders came from behind to beat Osasuna 4-1 on Sunday.

Unai Garcia headed Osasuna ahead at El Sadar but two goals in five minutes from Isco and Sergio Ramos put Madrid ahead before half-time.

Substitutes Vazquez and Luka Jovic extended the visitors' lead in the closing stages to make it five league wins on the spin.

Madrid exited the Copa del Rey in midweek with a surprise 4-3 quarter-final loss to Real Sociedad and Vazquez was glad to quickly put that defeat to one side.

"It was an important game for us, more so after the blow of the Copa defeat," he told reporters. 

"I think the team has left a good impression. It's really important in a difficult week. Winning in the way that we did says a lot about us."

Madrid had drawn two of their previous three league visits to Osasuna and Vazquez suggested his side have learned lessons from those costly slip-ups.

"In other years, we have struggled to win at these types of grounds and that's where we threw away the league," he said.

"We're doing very well and we're going to be there until the end."

Asked if titles are won in tricky fixtures such as Sunday's at El Sadar, Vazquez replied: "Yes, but it's also won at the Santiago Bernabeu, Camp Nou ... everywhere. It's about consistency."

Madrid were under the cosh for large parts of the game but came away with all three points to move six clear of Barcelona ahead of the reigning champions' trip to Real Betis.

Echoing the thoughts of Vazquez, midfielder Casemiro - who teed up Ramos for Los Blancos' key second goal - praised his team-mates for digging deep to get the win.

"We came off the back of being knocked out in the Copa and it was a difficult game mentally," he said.

"We showed that we can fight for everything. There are lots of things to come; they were three very important points."

Osasuna have taken points off Barcelona, Sevilla and Valencia on home soil this term and had kept back-to-back clean sheets there in the league.

"It was a typical game against Osasuna," Casemiro added. "We have to congratulate them because they have fans that bring so much.

"We knew that the match was going to be like that; they pushed forward a lot in the first 15 minutes and then, once we had control, it went how we thought it would.

"We didn't want to concede, but we came back well. We controlled the game well and it was a very focused game from everyone."

Zinedine Zidane declared Lucas Vazquez has "all my love" after the winger impressed in Real Madrid's comprehensive 4-0 beating of Real Zaragoza.

The Spain international emphatically hammered home Madrid's second after Raphael Varane's early opener, with second-half goals from Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema sending Los Blancos into the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Vazquez has not always enamoured himself to the Madrid faithful with many questioning his role in the team, but Zidane remains a big fan of the 28-year-old's qualities.

"The important thing is what I think of him. He has all my love, I believe in Lucas because he is also a lovely boy who gives everything on the field," Zidane said.

"Then people can give their opinion and you have to accept it. He is a player who came through the youth team and what people want is to see their player give everything on the field and Lucas gives it."

Toni Kroos put in a typically stylish performance in the heart of Madrid's midfield, contributing assists for the first two goals at La Romareda.

Zidane was impressed by the Germany international's showing but was keen to praise the collective effort of his side, who sit top of LaLiga.

"I'm glad for him. Toni is an example and is very good, but what should be highlighted is the work of the whole team," he added. 

"In the end for a coach it is important to see a complete game from the group. We can change players and in the end they all do well."

Real Madrid coasted into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey with a classy 4-0 victory at Real Zaragoza on Wednesday.

Raphael Varane and Lucas Vazquez were on target in the first half of the last-16 clash at La Romareda as Madrid barely had to move out of second gear.

Vinicius Junior and substitute Karim Benzema then completed the job in a second period that was even more sedate than the opening 45 minutes.

Tougher tests are on the horizon for LaLiga's leaders, starting with El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, but it was a job well done for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Madrid caught Zaragoza napping after six minutes when Toni Kroos' low ball across the box went through Vinicius' legs and was smashed in by Varane.

The visitors were playing as though the game were a mere training exercise, although Alphonse Areola had to be sharp to tip Shinji Kagawa's deflected shot over.

Miguel Linares' questionable decision to dribble out of his own area was punished as Kroos pick-pocketed the forward and laid on for Vazquez to brilliantly smash home Madrid's second.

Kagawa scooped an effort over in a rare moment of note in the second half before Madrid put the game beyond doubt.

Vinicius played a neat one-two with James Rodriguez and clipped his effort past Alvaro Raton into the bottom-right corner.

Areola kept out Luis Suarez's one-on-one effort, but Madrid had a fourth 11 minutes from time when Benzema tapped in from Dani Carvajal's teasing low centre at the end of a well-worked move.

 

What does it mean? Madrid tune up nicely for the derby

Zaragoza are riding high in the second tier but were no match for Madrid, who are now unbeaten in 20 matches across all competitions. Zidane will be happy his side did not have to shift through the gears ahead of Saturday's derby with Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid in Kroos control

Kroos was typically influential in the heart of Madrid's midfield and finished with two assists. The Germany international dictated the tempo from the centre of the park.

Lax Linares punished

Zaragoza were mainly chasing shadows but had a couple of moments, particularly through Kagawa, to threaten Madrid. Linares' ill-judged attempt to jink out of defence proved costly, though, as Madrid quickly made it 2-0 to leave the hosts with a mountain to climb and he was hauled off just before the hour.

What's next?

Madrid face the tricky task of a derby with Atletico in LaLiga on Saturday, while Zaragoza visit Cadiz a day later.

Lucas Vazquez has suffered a fractured big toe in his left foot, Real Madrid have confirmed.

Vazquez sustained the injury when he dropped a weight during a gym session, according to reports in Spain.

Madrid, who host Real Sociedad on Saturday, have not specified a timeframe for his recovery.

The 28-year-old missed matches against Mallorca and Galatasaray in October due to a calf problem.

"Following the tests carried out today on our player Lucas Vazquez by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a fracture to the distal phalanx in his left hallux," read a club statement.

"His recovery will continue to be assessed."

Vazquez has made seven LaLiga appearances this season, starting four times and scoring once.

Madrid are level on points with Barcelona but trail the leaders on goal difference.

Zinedine Zidane insists his meeting with Paul Pogba in Dubai was "pure chance" – but the Real Madrid boss will not disclose what they discussed.

Manchester United star Pogba, who has been in Dubai as part of his recovery from an ankle problem, was photographed meeting Zidane during his trip to the region for the Dubai Artificial Intelligence in Sport (DAIS) Conference and Exhibition.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he had "no problem at all" with one of his most important players being pictured speaking with the head coach of a club who are among the favourites to try to sign him.

Pogba was heavily linked with a move to Madrid in the previous transfer window after indicating he wanted a new challenge and it is likely the France international will be the subject of rumours once more in January.

Zidane is not prepared to look ahead to the next transfer window just yet, but he would not go into detail about his chat with his compatriot.

"It was pure chance," he told a news conference on Friday when asked about the meeting. "He was there and I was doing the talk and, as we know each other, we spoke. But it's personal – I'm not going to tell you what we talked about.

"We've known each other for a long time, we crossed paths, we stopped, and we talked.

"There are a lot of options, for every club [in January]. When we come to this date, the clubs will decide. We're going to play with 11 players tomorrow [Saturday, against Real Mallorca] and there will be players on the bench. We'll find a solution.

"We'll be able to sign players until the end of January, but what matters to me is the game [against Mallorca]. I'm not thinking about reinforcements. That's a long way off."

Zidane's immediate concern is Saturday's trip to Mallorca, which Madrid will make without the injured Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez.

Zidane hinted he may choose to call on Federico Valverde in midfield, given his limited options.

"Modric won't be there, Bale won't be there. Kroos won't be with us, either, nor will Lucas...," he said. "We're always playing, travelling and we never stop, so this can happen.

"[Valverde] is very good, like everyone, but we have 25 players and I have to choose the 11 and the 18 for every game. He can play box-to-box and that's important. He has personality, he wants to do well all the time, he's very demanding of himself and that's good for improvement."

Given Karim Benzema's form this season, it looks unlikely striker Luka Jovic will make only a third LaLiga start since his reported €60million transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Zidane, though, insists the 21-year-old will get his chance to impress.

"He's not discouraged. He knows the situation," he added of Jovic, who has played just 218 minutes this season for his club.

"He's a player who just arrived and he's much better, he's speaking Spanish bit by bit, training well and I will be using him. He's not played much so far, but I'll use him."

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