The 2020-21 season has only just started but Lionel Messi's future is dominating headlines once again.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona, but he decided to remain at the embattled LaLiga giants.

Manchester City, who were reportedly tipped to lure Messi to England, are still dreaming of his arrival.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOT GIVING UP ON MESSI

Manchester City are lining up a move for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi at the end of the season, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Messi handed in a transfer request prior to the 2020-21 season getting underway and Premier League giants City were favourites to sign the six-time Ballon d'Or winner before he opted to stay.

Pep Guardiola and City, however, remain interested in Messi and will be in a position to land the Barca captain should the opportunity arise next year.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United have identified a list of potential defensive reinforcements that includes RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano and Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to The Athletic.

- Fabrizio Romano says goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen's new Barcelona contract until 2025 will be confirmed soon. The 28-year-old's current deal is due to expire in 2022.

- Le10sport claims Paris Saint-Germain are considering a loan move for Inter midfielder Christian Eriksen, who has struggled to establish himself since joining from Tottenham in January.

West Ham are prepared to double Declan Rice's wages to fend off interest from London rivals Chelsea, reports The Sun.

- Tuttosport says Serie A champions Juventus are hoping to rival Madrid for Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga next year. Madrid have identified teenage midfielder Camavinga as a prime target, but Juve feel that by loaning Daniele Rugani to Rennes, it will help build a relationship with the Ligue 1 side.

- Calciomercato reports Lazio and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are facing a decisive season. The Serbia international has been previously linked to the likes of PSG, United, Inter, Juve and Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane insists he does not have any issue with Luka Jovic despite deciding not to turn to the striker in Real Madrid's goalless draw at Real Sociedad.

Jovic has struggled at the Santiago Bernabeu since his arrival from Eintracht Frankfurt last year, scoring just twice in LaLiga last season.

The 22-year-old has been linked with a transfer in recent months but was named in the champions' matchday squad for their league opener at Sociedad.

However, even as Madrid struggled to break down their stubborn hosts, Zidane did not look to Jovic, instead handing debuts to Marvin Park and Sergio Arribas.

Zidane explained: "I have many players. Today I have chosen like this.

"I have nothing against Jovic, nor against any player. I did not want to change the picture and that's why I changed the wingers."

One young player who is now getting his chance under Zidane is Martin Odegaard, who was recalled after a season on loan with Sociedad.

Odegaard made his full league debut for Madrid in an advanced midfield role and Zidane saw cause for optimism.

"I'm happy with his debut," Zidane said. "He has no knee discomfort, which is the important thing.

"It is the first game and we have only had three weeks [of pre-season]. Little by little we will improve with Odegaard.

"We have to be calm with everyone. We missed the goal, but we have to be calm."

It was also a big day for experienced centre-back Raphael Varane, with Madrid in competitive action for the first time since his dismal display at Manchester City saw them eliminated from the Champions League in early August.

"What happened in Manchester can happen," Zidane said. "We know the players we have, and all the defenders today have done very well.

"We have only conceded one shot on target. This is the work of all the players, who defend very well. Now we are going to think about doing things better in attack."

Raphael Varane will lead Real Madrid in his own way should he one day succeed Sergio Ramos as captain.

The France international has formed a formidable partnership with Ramos in the heart of Madrid's defence during his nine seasons at the club.

He has been touted as a possible contender to take on captaincy duties when Ramos, who will turn 35 later this campaign, eventually departs the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, the World Cup-winning centre-back is not thinking about what the future holds and says Ramos remains an integral player for Madrid.

"For the future, it's difficult to plan," he told beIN SPORTS. "Real Madrid is a very, very big club with great players. What is important is that everyone plays their part in the team. 

"When we won our titles, our Champions Leagues, it was as a team, with eleven leaders on the pitch each time. 

"Sergio is a legend in Madrid. The future for the moment I do not project about it, but for sure Ramos is a very important player for us.

"What is certain is that we are very complementary with Sergio Ramos, in our way of playing.

"We have qualities that complement each other perfectly. We have been playing together for several years, so we know each other very well. 

"In defense, it works in pairs and this understanding is very important. For the future, after the departure of Ramos, it is difficult to project yourself. 

"I am a leader in my own way. With my team-mates, I talk a lot before matches about tactics and positioning. We each have our own way."

Without the suspended Ramos alongside him, Varane made a couple of costly errors in August's 2-1 loss to Manchester City as Madrid exited the Champions League.

Varane takes full blame for Madrid's last-16 defeat and is keen to quickly move on when the new campaign begins next weekend.

"For sure, that will not remain a very good memory in my career. It was a difficult game for me, this elimination," he said. "Immediately after the match I wanted to take responsibility. 

"I made some mistakes, it cost us the victory. You had to digest and watch what is happening ahead, and think about what is happening.

"At the high level, we don't have time to think about it - we have to think about the next game. The days that followed were a bit difficult, I admit, but at the top level, you have to look ahead quickly."

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 head coach Zinedine Zidane wants Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi to remain in LaLiga amid speculation of a possible departure.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday, claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is considering an exit.

According to Cadena SER, Messi has halted contract negotiations due to his frustrations with Barca – who are on track to be dethroned by bitter rivals Madrid this season.

Zidane was asked about the rumours regarding Messi after Madrid moved four points clear of two-time defending champions Barca thanks to Thursday's 1-0 win over Getafe.

"I don't know what will happen but we hope not because he is in this league and we want the best in this league," Zidane said post-match.

Sergio Ramos was the hero for Madrid against Getafe, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

The victory was Madrid's sixth in a row as Los Blancos extended their advantage over stuttering Barca with five matches remaining in LaLiga.

Zidane hailed captain Ramos, who took his LaLiga tally to nine goals in 2019-20 following his 450th league appearance for Madrid.

"Our captain is our leader on the field, but also outside," Zidane said of the Spain skipper, who took his career total to 100 goals.

"He is an unrepeatable player. He is unique and we know what he transmits to everyone else. I'm happy for him for his goal because when it comes to shooting a penalty, he has a lot of confidence. 

"It's almost in the 80th minute and Dani Carvajal's effort in goal is from the whole team. We know that with patience and tranquillity we can score goals. This is what happened.

"The last 20 minutes with freshness we claimed a very important result. We have to congratulate all the players because what we are doing is not easy."

Zidane also provided an update on star centre-back Raphael Varane, who took a blow to the head and had to be replaced in the first half.

"Right now he's not right because it's a blow to the neck," Zidane added. "He has gone home and the doctor is going to see him and we will see from tomorrow [Friday]. 

"We are not going to risk anything. It was a strong blow and tomorrow we will see exactly what he has."

While the football world may be at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, that's not stopping transfer rumours from swirling in their usual manner, with Sevilla's Diego Carlos a name persistently mentioned of late.

A Brazilian centre-back recruited from Nantes last year in a reported €15million deal, the 27-year-old is enjoying a fine debut campaign in LaLiga, quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite and key member of Julen Lopetegui's team, who are third in LaLiga.

An impressive physical specimen, athletic and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Diego Carlos has been most intensely linked with Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp is said to be a big fan and has apparently identified him as a potential partner for Virgil van Dijk.

But Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been mentioned as admirers, having been able to have a close-up look at him in LaLiga.

With a €75m release clause, Diego Carlos certainly won't come cheap – but we've examined Opta's data to compare him with 16 of Europe's best centre-backs…

THE HOLLYWOOD PASS

The Sevilla team Diego Carlos plays in is quite direct, as such it's no surprise to see he plays a large portion (229) of his passes long – of our select group, only Van Dijk (281), Leonardo Bonucci (249) and Mats Hummels (235) have attempted more.

That undoubtedly impacts his overall pass accuracy of 83 per cent, the worst of the 17 players examined. However, Sergio Ramos has attempted only 10 fewer long-range passes, yet his overall completion rate is significantly better at 91 per cent.

His accuracy is even more unimpressive in the opposition's half, as it comes down to 64 per cent, compared to Ramos and Clement Lenglet at 87 per cent. Nevertheless, Sevilla's vertical style of play is significantly different to the setups of Real Madrid and, in particular, Barcelona, while the data does not take into account how difficult each pass was.

Regular Sevilla watchers will tell you Diego Carlos has a penchant for an eye-catching cross-field pass, but the data doesn't lie – many don't reach their target.

Only 48 per cent of his long-range passes find a team-mate, which again is the worst of the players analysed. It poses the question as to whether such a direct system is suited to Diego Carlos' attributes.

He is less prone to giving the ball away when distributing short – as you would expect most players to be – as he finds a Sevilla player with 90 per cent of those passes, but only Harry Maguire (89 per cent) has a lower record in this scenario, the highest being Presnel Kimpembe (96 per cent).

MUSCLE FOR A TUSSLE

Don't let his clean-cut, well-coiffed exterior fool you - one thing Diego Carlos certainly cannot be accused of is shying away from collision. He has been involved in 196 duels this season, with only Maguire (287), Van Dijk (247), Ramos (213) and Mats Hummels (205) from our select group recording more.

The Brazilian's success rate of 56 per cent in those duels is middling, though. Van Dijk leads the way here, coming out on top 75 per cent of the time in such situations.

But Diego Carlos does come off fairly well with respect to tackling, having attempted 30 and been successful 19 times. That gives him a success rate of 63 per cent, better than 10 others in this select group, including Van Dijk (55 per cent) and Ramos (62 per cent).

Diego Carlos isn't dribbled past very often either, with only eight occurrences of that this term. Six of the chosen group have better records, though three of them are on seven and only one – Leonardo Bonucci (two) – has been beaten fewer than six times.

GET RID!

The clearances metric is where Diego Carlos performs best. He has found himself in the right position to clear danger 128 times in 2019-20, the third best among defenders in LaLiga.

Only Van Dijk (135) and Maguire (132) have a better record in this area from our group, though it's worth bearing in mind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and others do not find themselves in defensive situations as often as Sevilla.

He also leads the way in terms of headed clearances in LaLiga with 71, just shy of Maguire's 80, while Diego Carlos' 25 interceptions is a solid effort as well, though it is some way behind the Manchester United captain's 53.

While it's fair to say Diego Carlos still has areas of his game that can be improved, it's worth stressing that some data points reflect – or are influenced heavily by – the team's setup.

Although the accuracy of Diego Carlos' long passes – a feature of Sevilla's direct system – leaves a mark against his name here, as an out-and-out defender, he is not disgraced when compared to a group of centre-backs most would consider the elite, an applaudable feat given this is only his fourth season in one of Europe's top-five leagues.

Defenders included in the select group: Virgil van Dijk, Harry Maguire, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Milan Skriniar, Kalidou Koulibaly

 

Europe's major leagues have been shut down due to coronavirus, but Cristiano Ronaldo is still making headlines.

Ronaldo was in the midst of his second season with Juventus before the 2019-20 campaign was postponed last month.

But there are ongoing doubts over Ronaldo's future in Turin.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO LINKED TO MADRID RETURN

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo misses Real Madrid and a reunion with his former club is not just a suggestion, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo is reportedly unhappy at Serie A champions Juve amid links to Paris Saint-Germain and another former team, Manchester United.

However, Calciomercato's report claims Ronaldo has eyes on Madrid but it will take a significant sum to prise the 35-year-old from Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona have set their asking price for out-of-favour attacker Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich. The LaLiga champions want at least €80million (£70m) for the Brazilian. The likes of Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked.

- Diario AS says Borussia Dortmund are concerned about mounting speculation surrounding Madrid's interest in Erling Haaland. The Norwegian sensation only joined Dortmund in January.

Madrid are chasing Lille's midfield star Boubakary Soumare, according to Le10Sport. United and Liverpool have also been linked to the 21-year-old.

Juve are looking to complete a deal for Mauro Icardi, says Calciomercato. Icardi is on loan at PSG from Inter but the Argentina international wants to return to Italy.

Manchester City face an uphill battle trying to sign Raphael Varane. Defensa Central says Madrid are ready to turn down any bids for the Frenchman. According to Tuttosport, City have set their sights on three Inter players – Lautaro Martinez, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni. Martinez has been tipped to join Barca.

- Diario AS claims Barca are keeping tabs on Juve midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur. It comes as Marca says Atletico Madrid are leading the race to sign Ivan Rakitic from Barca.

Milan are eyeing three candidates should star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma leave the club, reports Calciomercato. Donnarumma has been linked to Chelsea, Madrid and PSG and Napoli's Alex Meret, Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso and Sporting CP's Luis Maximiano are being considered.

Casemiro admitted Real Madrid's loss to Real Betis could cost them the LaLiga title.

Madrid were stunned in a 2-1 defeat on Sunday, leaving them second to rivals Barcelona in the table with 11 matches remaining.

Casemiro said it could be the result that denies Madrid, who are two points adrift of Barca, the league title.

"They were superior and played better, there is no excuse, football is simple," the midfielder said, via the club's website.

"In LaLiga every game is difficult. To win LaLiga we have to play well in every game and we didn't play well.

"We have to keep working hard, we have not been up to the task and we have not played like we did against Barcelona.

"We are human too, but it could cost us the league title. We have to look at Eibar now."

While Karim Benzema's penalty cancelled out Sidnei's opener in the first half, Cristian Tello scored an 82nd-minute winner for Betis.

Madrid defender Raphael Varane urged his team to continue fighting late in the campaign.

"We lacked a lot of intensity, especially in the first half. We didn't play at the pace we wanted to and we let the opponents have the ball," he said.

"We're dropping important points, but we're confident we can fight until the end.

"We're trying very hard to get back to the top of the league and today was a drop in quality from everyone.

"We still have a lot of games left to play and we're confident we're going to get that intensity back."

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.

Zinedine Zidane believes Raphael Varane's brace in the 3-0 win at Getafe showed how Real Madrid do not only have to rely on their forwards to score goals.

Los Blancos returned to duty having scored just once in their previous three LaLiga matches, but France international Varane netted either side of half-time to put them firmly in control against Jose Bordalas' men.

Luka Modric added a third deep into additional time to wrap up Madrid's biggest league win since November 9, and Zidane said his side's patience had paid off in the derby fixture.

"I already said that you have to be calm in front of goal," the Madrid coach told reporters.

"You have to be calm because sometimes the ball does not fit. And with goals today from Varane, it shows that we have many resources to score.

"For us, it is important to win here because it is a very complicated league. The boys have been plugged in since minute one with great intensity."

Zidane also paid tribute to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who kept his third consecutive clean sheet to help his side go top of the table, albeit with previous leaders Barcelona playing later on Saturday.

The Belgium international was unbeatable in goalless draws with Barca and Athletic Bilbao prior to the mid-season break, leading to Zidane underlining the importance of his performances.

"I am happy for him and sure he is happy with his work," Zidane said of Courtois. "We are happy for him and he is for us.

"We have suffered in some games and Courtois has been very good. We have played as a team, which is the most important in these games and against these teams.

"We achieved a good result as a team, thanks to everyone’s efforts."

Raphael Varane scored one and played a big part in another as Real Madrid returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory away at neighbours Getafe that took them top of LaLiga.

Madrid drew three straight league matches prior to the two-week break, including back-to-back games without scoring, but got back on track on their return to action on Saturday.

The visitors ended their goalless run in fortuitous circumstances as opposition keeper David Soria helped the ball into his own net under pressure from Varane.

Varane headed in a second eight minutes into the second half at Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez and Luka Modric tapped home a late third as Madrid saw things through to move a point above Barcelona after playing a game more.

Madrid fired a blank at this ground last term but edged in front after 34 minutes on this latest visit, Soria getting the final touch after Varane beat him to Ferland Mendy's cross.

The visitors relied on Thibaut Courtois to keep them in front, though, the Belgium keeper denying Faycal Fajr and Leandro Cabrera with impressive saves at the end of the first half.

And those stops proved defining as, two minutes after Getafe had a penalty shout for handball against Eder Militao rejected, Varane powered home a header that was allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR check.

Gareth Bale was thwarted by Soria from a one-on-one late on but Madrid scored a third in added time through Modric, who had a simple finish after being teed up by substitute Federico Valverde at the end of a swift counter.


What does it mean? Madrid back on track

Back-to-back blanks for Los Blancos made it advantage Barcelona heading into the mid-season break in Spain's top flight.

This Varane-inspired victory moves them a point above Barca, who play their game in hand against Catalan rivals Espanyol later on Saturday.

Another clean sheet for Courtois

Courtois was last month described as the best goalkeeper in the world by his Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez and the ex-Chelsea shot-stopper has certainly stepped up of late.

This was his third clean sheen on the spin, secured thanks to two fine stops in the space of 163 seconds at the end of a closely contested first half.

Stranded Soria gifts goal to Madrid

Getafe could have gone fourth with victory and were arguably the side on top when the visitors opened the scoring via a huge helping hand - literally - from former Madrid youth product Soria.

He attempted to punch clear Mendy's left-sided delivery but Varane got the slightest of glances to it first, with the final touch coming off Soria's gloves for an own goal.

What's next?

Madrid turn focus to Wednesday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final with Valencia in Jeddah, while Getafe face third-tier side Badalona in the Copa del Rey second round on their return to action in a week's time.

Raphael Varane recounted the occasion he snapped at Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid training for not calling him by his first name, though he insists he was not disrespectful to the Portugal great.

France international Varane has been at Madrid for almost nine years, having joined from Lens as a highly rated teenager.

As such, the centre-back was a long-time team-mate of Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu, before the former Manchester United forward left for Juventus in 2018.

Ronaldo is known for his often-intense personality and commitment in training, and Varane reminisced about the time he bit back at Los Blancos' then-talisman.

"'Varane, go into the middle,'" Ronaldo is said to have barked, to which Varane claims he replied: "I'm not Varane, I'm Rapha!"

But the 26-year-old says he was not showing Ronaldo a lack of respect, rather showing a bit of character.

"It was not disrespectful," Varane told Onze Mondial. "I am super nice, I am great, even in the dressing room. I am also quite shy.

"But when there are difficult times or when you have to show your character, you can count on me. The players who have known me for a while know this.

"Of course, it's not the aspect of my character that you see the most or that you see first. It was not a matter of respect or disrespect, it was just a matter of, 'If I'm not seen, I'm not considered much.'

"After that it was more like: 'Oh, I am also here, I also have a name.' It was more like that."

Any issues with Ronaldo start and end there, however, with Varane lavishing his former colleague with praise for his achievements.

"He's great, great, on a human level - and on a footballing level, I don't even have words anymore," Varane said.

"He's accomplished something extraordinary: he made his incredible achievements seem banal.

"And to do that… there are no words to explain it, it's huge, it's extraordinary. He taught me a lot and also surprised me. How many times have I said to myself: 'Wow, this is incredible.'"

Clement Lenglet called for two contentious refereeing decisions to be respected after Real Madrid were left disgruntled with VAR during Wednesday's goalless Clasico.

The Barcelona defender was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he caught Raphael Varane's thigh with a raised boot in the first half at Camp Nou.

Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez allowed play to continue and decided against punishing another apparent infringement on Varane a few moments later, the Madrid centre-back tumbling to the floor following a tug on his shirt from Ivan Rakitic.

Neither incident was reviewed on the pitchside monitor as video official opted not to intervene.

Madrid called attention to the "two controversial moments" in a statement on their website after captain Sergio Ramos criticised the failure of technology to fix what he viewed as "pretty clear" fouls.

Lenglet disagreed and said the decisions should be respected.

"For me, it's not a penalty," he told Movistar when asked about his challenge on fellow France defender Varane.

"I wanted to get the ball out with my head and give strength to my movement. I used my body and legs for that and unfortunately I touched Raphael's leg.

"I'm the protagonist and I know I'm going to clear the ball. I'm not a player who likes to kick people. But if some believe it's a penalty, it's up to the VAR.

"The VAR made a decision and must be respected."

Madrid winger Gareth Bale later had a goal disallowed for an offside against Ferland Mendy as neither side mustered a winner.

Jordi Alba squandered a good chance for Barca before Lionel Messi, who had one attempt cleared off the line, made a mess of a late opportunity to snatch all three points.

"We had clear scoring chances," Lenglet said. "Two for Messi, Luis Suarez. We're left with a bittersweet feeling.

"Madrid are a team with quality and when they come here, they come more to defend."

Real Madrid publicly highlighted the perceived injustice of multiple unsuccessful penalty shouts following their goalless Clasico draw against Barcelona on Wednesday.

Raphael Varane had two strong appeals turned down in the first half, the first for a high challenge from Barca defender Clement Lenglet at Camp Nou following a free-kick midweek.

Barca's Ivan Rakitic had grappled with the defender in the seconds before that incident and then tugged Varane's shirt when competing for a corner moments later in the LaLiga blockbuster showdown.

Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez let play continue and neither incident was checked using the VAR pitchside monitor.

Sergio Ramos described them as "pretty clear" penalties and Madrid called attention to the "two controversial moments" in a statement on their website.

It read: "The Frenchman could have had two penalties in the first half but Hernandez Hernandez did not give either of them.

"On minute 17, [Varane] went to head a corner before Lenglet stood on his thigh muscle in the area, but neither the referee nor VAR [where (Ricardo) de Burgos Bengoetxea was in charge] deemed it a penalty.

"Two minutes later and following another corner, the central defender had his shirt pulled by Ivan Rakitic, which saw him end up on the ground in the penalty area.

"However, once again, neither the referee or the VAR system decided to award the penalty."

Madrid winger Gareth Bale had a goal disallowed for an offside against Ferland Mendy after half-time as both sides failed to muster a winner.

The stalemate left them level on points in LaLiga, but Barca hold the advantage on goal difference.

Sergio Ramos questioned why VAR was not used to check two "clear" fouls on Raphael Varane in the penalty area during Wednesday's goalless Clasico.

In the first half at Camp Nou, Varane was caught by a high challenge from compatriot Clement Lenglet and then had his shirt pulled by Ivan Rakitic when competing for a corner.

Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez did not award a penalty and neither incident was checked using the VAR pitchside monitor midweek.

Madrid captain Ramos was left bemused as to why VAR did not intervene, having watched back the footage at half-time.

"We saw them at the break and they look pretty clear. They're both penalties, but we can't change that now," he said to Movistar.

"VAR is here to help. It's bad luck. On another day, it'll be our turn to have a penalty that they don't check."

Gareth Bale saw a second-half goal correctly disallowed for offside after a VAR check, as Madrid failed to make their early dominance count and Barca's front three struggled to get into the game.

The result means defending champions Barca remain top of LaLiga but level on points with Madrid, who are now unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions.

Ramos, who became the top appearance-maker in the fixture's history as he played Madrid's fierce rivals for the 43rd time, is frustrated the mid-season break starts after Sunday's game against Athletic Bilbao as he wants to sustain momentum.

"You can't be happy when you don't win, but getting something here is always positive," he said.

"We saw a great Real Madrid today, with a lot of personality, on a very tough pitch. We went to steal the ball, which helped us create many chances. There were few mistakes and that's the end result.

"We controlled the game quite well. We had more chances than them. It's not easy to get the ball off them. The strategy of pressing high worked well.

"We're going through a great dynamic in terms of play and we're also good physically. It's a shame the year is ending - we'd like this not to stop.

"Now, we have Athletic and hopefully we'll continue like this after the holidays."

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