LaLiga club Espanyol have confirmed the appointment of Diego Martinez as their new coach.

Espanyol finished 14th in LaLiga in the 2021-22 season, after gaining promotion back to the Spanish top flight as champions of the second tier.

However, they dismissed Vicente Moreno this month and have now moved for Martinez, who left Granada in May 2021 and has signed a two-year deal.

Martinez spent three seasons at Granada. He led the team back to LaLiga in 2019 before finishing seventh and reaching the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey in the following campaign.

A ninth-placed finish followed in the 2020-21 season, along with a run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, where they were beaten by Manchester United.

He opted against extending his stay at Granada, however, and the work he had done there was emphasised when the side went on to be relegated this season, finishing 18th.

In total, 41-year-old Martinez won 29 of his 76 LaLiga games in charge of Granada (38.16 per cent), losing 32 and drawing the other 15, with his side averaging 1.34 points per game.

Diego Simeone explained Atletico Madrid's lack of "brilliance" in Wednesday's disappointing draw with Granada was down to fatigue.

Atletico were held to a goalless stalemate by struggling Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano, doing little to improve Los Colchoneros' Champions League qualification hopes.

Although the draw did move them up to second, Barcelona and Sevilla – both a point behind – each have at least one game in hand, while their inability to win ensured Atletico did not take full advantage of fifth-placed Real Betis losing on Tuesday.

Atletico recorded 1.4 expected goals (xG) against Granada but were wasteful in front of goal, hitting the target just once from their 22 attempts.

For Simeone, the explanation was simple.

Asked what was missing for Atletico, Simeone told reporters: "[We needed to] generate more chances to score, especially being more forceful in dangerous situations. Granada defended very well.

"We looked at the different options we had [in attack]. We had the [Manchester] City game, we played after three days against Espanyol and we ended up with one [player] less [Joao Felix], and in another three days we played against Granada.

"It's not an excuse, [but] we lacked brilliance due to the team's fatigue. There are five games left, and game by game we have to fight. Whoever is most engaged will go into the Champions League."

Atletico were frustrated late in the first half when a penalty was not given against Victor Ruiz for a challenge on Antoine Griezmann.

But Simeone opted against putting too much emphasis on that incident, again pointing to his team's recent workload instead.

"I didn't see the Griezmann incident. Apparently there is contact," he continued. "There's the VAR to make decisions, I am just here to improve my team.

"The boys came from making a great effort and they gave everything they had because they came here very tired.

"We lacked a goal, we lacked brilliance – that is achieved when you are fresh."

The Atletico coach gave his 19-year-old son Giuliano his LaLiga debut right at the end, though in typical Simeone fashion, he did not look at the situation with any particular sentimentality.

"I thought of him as being a footballer," the former Argentina international said. "We had one more option [on the bench] as a striker.

"He showed in a few minutes that he has a lot of intensity, aggressiveness."

Atletico Madrid's bid to qualify for the Champions League suffered a setback as they were held to a goalless draw by LaLiga strugglers Granada on Wednesday.

The toothless champions moved into second place, but had to settle for a point at the Wanda Metropolitano against a side fighting to avoid relegation.

Atleti lacked a cutting edge in their first game since Joao Felix was ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, Matheus Cunha coming closest to breaking the deadlock when he struck the post late on.

Diego Simeone's misfiring side only had one shot on target as Granada dug in to frustrate them in a drab match that will not live long in the memory.

Yannick Carrasco was Atleti's match-winner in the dramatic defeat of Espanyol on Sunday and the Belgium winger had an early strike deflected wide after earning a place in the starting line-up.

Rodrigo de Paul had a chance to open the scoring when he was set up by Koke, but Luis Maximiano made a comfortable save diving to his left

Atleti wanted a penalty for Víctor Diaz's challenge on Antoine Griezmann, but both referee Jesus Gil Manzano and the VAR saw nothing untoward late in the first half.

Simeone responded to a disjointed first-half display by replacing Javier Serrano and Reinildo Mandava with Luis Suarez and Sime Vrsaljko at the break.

Griezmann came close with a powerful left-foot drive as Atleti applied the pressure, but Njegos Petrovic flashed a sweet strike just over the crossbar at the other end against the run of play.

Stefan Savic sliced a shot wide before Petrovic tried his luck once again, bending a long-range strike narrowly wide with Jan Oblak no more than a spectator.

The closing stages saw Savic head off target from a corner and Cunha turn sharply before rattling the upright from close range as Atleti were unable to fashion a winner.

Diego Simeone rued Atletico Madrid's injury problems ahead of Wednesday's clash with Granada after Joao Felix was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Atletico saw their hopes of a top-four finish in LaLiga dealt a blow on Monday when the Portuguese forward announced his season is over after picking up a hamstring injury. 

The 22-year-old has scored eight league goals in 24 games, but just 13 starts for Simeone's team in LaLiga this season, his best return since making a big-money move from Benfica in 2019.

But after going off injured at the halfway point of Atletico's 2-1 win over Espanyol last time out, he will be unable to add to his 10 goals and five assists in all competitions this term, joining the likes of Thomas Lemar on a growing injury list.

Simeone said those injuries have come at a "bad time" as his team look to ensure Champions League qualification for next season, noting Joao Felix was in a "great moment" before sustaining the blow.

"We have lost them [Joao Felix and Lemar], and [Hector] Herrera and Jose [Gimenez] are waiting to join the group, we hope they do so after this match," Simeone told his pre-match press conference. 

"We lost Joao, who was in a great moment, with games, playing in continuity, [it was going] very well for his growth and play, [and] Lemar always gives us something different, in that defence to attack transition.

"It's a shame. They are injuries that come to us at a bad time, but I have other boys waiting to play and everyone is up to the task of continuing to compete as we have been lately."

Last month, the Portugal international became the third-youngest striker to reach 50 appearances in LaLiga for Atletico (aged 20 years and 120 days), after Sergio Aguero (19 years and 162 days) and Fernando Torres (19 years and 310 days).

The forward pledged to "come back stronger" when announcing the news of his injury on social media on Monday evening. 

"Unfortunately, the news is not what I expected, and it is with deep sadness that I find myself unable to help my team in what remains to be played this season," the 22-year-old said in an Instagram post.

"Now I can only support Atleti from the outside, and work hard on my recovery to come back stronger."

Atletico are fourth in LaLiga, leading fifth-placed Real Betis by three points ahead of their home clash against Granada, with Simeone's men winning each of their last four home league games, their longest winning streak at the Wanda Metropolitano this term. 

Struggling Granada have axed head coach Robert Moreno following a run of nine games without a win in LaLiga, with Ruben Torrecilla to take over.

Granada have spent most of the decade in the top flight, besides for two years in the Segunda Division from 2017 to 2019, and are in threat of relegation.

The club confirmed Moreno's departure following their 3-1 defeat away to midtable Valencia on Saturday.

Granada are currently 17th in LaLiga, three points above 18th-placed Alaves in the drop zone having collected one point from their past seven league games.

Moreno, who previously coached Monaco and Spain on an interim basis, had been in charge at Nuevo Los Carmenes since 2021.

Recreativo Granada's Ruben Torrecilla will take over as interim head coach until the end of the season.

Marco Asensio has been singled out for individual praise by Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti after his match-winning display in Sunday's 1-0 triumph over Granada.

Asensio proved to be Madrid's most likely attacking outlet in the absence of the injured Karim Benzema and suspended Vinicius Junior.

The Spanish forward, who has netted six LaLiga goals this term, scored the 74th-minute winner and was denied another by an outstanding save from Granada goalkeeper Luis Maximiano.

"He's a very important player," Ancelotti told reporters after the game. "He's scored a lot this season, he's made a lot of goals, and is very committed defensively, which is important for us.

"I don't know if he's a starter, but he's an important player. He is reliable, he works hard and we won the game today thanks to his best quality, his shooting.

"He returned from a difficult period of injuries full of confidence."

The hard-fought victory keeps Los Blancos top of LaLiga by six points from second-placed Sevilla, following a difficulty with availability down.

Madrid had drawn 2-2 with Elche in their last league game while they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic 1-0 in midweek.

"This is an important week for us because we've had a really tough period with some long trips and we didn't come into this game at 100 per cent," Ancelotti said.

"We had six players out for tonight’s match and I hope to have them all back for our next game."

Madrid face Villarreal in LaLiga on Saturday before returning to the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16.

Marco Asensio broke Granada's resolve to earn Real Madrid a 1-0 win in Sunday's contest at the Santiago Bernabeu and move his side six points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Madrid were eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao in midweek and, without top scorer Karim Benzema, were frustrated for large parts against lowly Granada.

But the introduction of Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic lifted Los Blancos and Asensio finally found a way through 16 minutes from time with a sublime strike from long range.

Carlo Ancelotti's side now having breathing space on second-place Sevilla, who were held 0-0 by Osasuna on Saturday.

Thibaut Courtois kept out Antonio Puertas' low drive and was the busier of the keepers in the first half until a late flurry saw Asensio and Isco test Luis Maximiano.

It was Madrid who went closest to finding a breakthrough before the interval when Carlos Neva turned Dani Carvajal's cross against the underside of his own bar.

Granada have twice drawn with Barcelona this term, as well as beating Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, and they continued to frustrate Madrid past the hour mark.

Ancelotti turned to Hazard and Jovic with 65 minutes gone and Madrid did not have to wait long for their pressure to tell, Asensio flashing a shot past Maximiano from 25 yards.

Asensio was denied a second by a fine Maximiano save, but his earlier strike proved enough to earn all three points.

Barcelona boss Xavi was "angry and upset" after his side conceded a late equaliser at Granada on Saturday.

The Blaugrana were on the verge of a crucial victory that would have seen them leap up to third in the LaLiga table, only for an 89th minute Antonio Puertas goal to cancel out Luuk de Jong's opener.

Speaking after the game, Xavi was frustrated with dropping two points as well as having to play the final 10 minutes a man down following Gavi's dismissal for a second yellow card.

"We cannot leave happy. We are angry and upset," he told reporters. "We also lack experience, it's clear.

"I'm not talking about the referees, I'm talking about the consequence of the expulsion. We are with one less, we have to go back [be defensive] and it costs us because we are not used to it.

"Experience and craft are gained with matches. [Gavi] is a player who gives us a lot."

Xavi insisted that his team had to look at themselves following the draw, adding: "We lost very silly balls. We must be self-critical.

"You have to do more things: get higher, create opportunities. If we want to grow we have to do more things and grow from now.

"[The result] is not the merit of [Granada], it is our demerit."

De Jong's header just before the hour was his second in two LaLiga games, having scored the winner at Real Mallorca last week, and Xavi suggested that the Dutchman might still have a role to play despite strong rumours that he had been on the verge of having his loan from Sevilla cut short to lessen the wage bill.

"I have already told you that he is part of the squad, like everyone else," he added. "If offers come and we have to square the salary cap, it is the situation that exists. But Luuk is a professional and he has helped us a lot. I am happy for him."

Barcelona missed the chance to go third in LaLiga as Antonio Puertas' last-gasp strike salvaged a 1-1 draw for Granada on Saturday.

After Barca had struggled to create first-half chances, Sevilla loanee Luuk de Jong rose to head a Dani Alves cross past a helpless Luis Maximiano to put Barca in front in the second half.

Gavi's late sending off put Xavi's side under pressure and with time running out, Puertas volleyed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to deny Barca all three points.

While the Catalan giants have lost just once in 10 La Liga games, they sit only sixth in the table in the battle to secure a Champions League spot.

Memphis Depay and Sergino Dest have returned to Barcelona's squad for Saturday's LaLiga clash with Granada.

Both players have been absent since Barca's 3-0 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich on December 8.

Depay has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Dest – a reported January target for Bayern – has struggled for fitness and recently tested positive for coronavirus.

However, Dest tested negative on Friday and was part of Barca's travelling party for their showdown at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Gavi and Alejandro Balde have also recovered from COVID-19 lay-offs, while Ez Abde is included in Xavi's 23-man squad for the first time this year.

Depay's return in particular is a huge boost for Xavi as the forward's 10 direct goal involvements this term – eight goals and two assists – is double that of any other Barca player.

Fifth-placed Barcelona have lost just one of their past nine LaLiga games and are unbeaten in five away from home.

The Catalan giants have won eight of their last 10 visits to Granada in LaLiga, scoring at least three goals in each of their previous four trips to Los Carmenes.

Ansu Fati is set to make his return to action with Barcelona in the upcoming Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Madrid.

The 19-year-old forward has had a particularly difficult time of it in the past 14 months, managing just five league appearances due to injury.

Fati missed the majority of the 2020-21 season after tearing the internal meniscus of his left knee in November 2020, an injury that ultimately kept him out until September 2021.

But his return then was brief – he featured five times in LaLiga, scoring three goals, before then hurting his hamstring almost exactly a year to the day after suffering that initial knee injury.

Even during his short-lived return, Fati highlighted his importance to Barca – he averaged a goal every 71 minutes, the best record at the club this season (min. 200 minutes played) and was ruthlessly clinical, those three strikes coming from just 0.85 expected goals (xG).

Fati's xG overperformance of 2.15 is comfortably the best in the Barca team this season. Their current top scorer, Memphis Depay, has underperformance in relation to non-penalty xG (6.0 xG, five goals).

But despite the evidence showing just how much of an asset Fati can be, Xavi will resist the urge to play him against Granada on Saturday, instead holding him back for a few extra days in order to feature in Wednesday's Clasico in Riyadh.

"If it were the other way around, playing Madrid tomorrow and the Supercopa against Granada, I would do exactly the same," Xavi told reporters.

"Ansu is fine, [but] I had some doubts that he would be able to play tomorrow's game. For now I prefer to wait because the last experience he had was a relapse.

 

"We love Ansu 100 per cent, and knowing that he is about to return is spectacular news for us. He has worked very well, with a very strong ambition, capable of making a difference.

"He is a fundamental player, but we do not want to take risks because we would lose him for the rest of the season. I prefer to wait until he is at full capacity – it's a question of physical condition."

Xavi was speaking a few hours after Philippe Coutinho's loan exit to Aston Villa was confirmed, a move that will go down well with many Barca supporters who had become increasingly frustrated by the Brazilian.

But while Coutinho may never have been the most popular player among fans, Xavi commended his attitude.

"It says a lot about him that he wanted to leave to have minutes," Xavi said. "His salary has been lowered. He is a great professional, who wants to succeed.

"Here he was struggling and he has looked for a solution. All the players are being very professional. I am delighted with those who play, but also with those who do not. They are exemplary."

Barca had been eager to move Coutinho on in part due to his massive salary, with the club needing to get players off the wage bill in order to register new additions.

Ferran Torres still cannot be registered following his move from Manchester City, though Xavi assured fans the club is doing everything it can to ensure the Spain international can play once he returns from his coronavirus-enforced absence.

"Today [Torres] has tested positive again. Regardless of whether we can register him or not, in principle he will not play [against Granada]," he continued.

"[Barca director] Mateu Alemany is working 24 hours a day so that Ferran can play when he tests negative for coronavirus. I am optimistic, I trust in the club management."

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke says he and his team-mates remain determined to put things right after Wednesday's loss to Granada extended their run of LaLiga defeats to four.

The reigning champions' woes continued as the hosts came from behind to snatch all three points at Nuovo Los Carmenes.

Joao Felix put Diego Simeone's side ahead after just two minutes in Andalusia, but Darwin Marchis drew Granada level with a stunning individual effort before the in-form Jorge Molina completed the turnaround in the second half.

Despite another disappointment, Koke was adamant that the visitors could not be faulted and he is confident that, with persistence, it is only a matter of time before the tables turn in Atleti's favour.

"The situation is difficult, especially because of the last two defeats," Koke said in quotes reported by AS.

"We played good games and in two actions, we lost them. 

"Today, the team has fought, given everything, and we cannot ask for more.

"Psychologically, the team has pulled forward and had chances. The victories are going to come because we are not going to stop trying."

Atletico Madrid suffered their fourth successive LaLiga defeat as Granada came from behind to defeat the reigning champions 2-1.

Joao Felix put Diego Simeone's side ahead after just two minutes at Nuevo Los Carmenes, but it was another outing to forget for the visitors.

Atletico were pegged back 15 minutes later by Darwin Machis’ wonderful individual effort, while the in-form Jorge Molina completed the turnaround just after the hour mark.

That gave Granada their first ever win over Atletico, while stretching their unbeaten run to five matches.

Seeking a fourth straight win in this fixture, Simeone's men made an excellent start in Andalusia. 

Joao Felix received the ball just inside the hosts' half and skipped away from German Sanchez and Raul Torrente, before pulling a low drive beyond the reach of Luis Maximiano for only his second league goal of the season.

However, Granada responded well and equalised in emphatic fashion. Picking up the ball on the left wing after a sweeping move, Marchis cut inside before bending a stunning 25-yard effort into the far corner.

That means the visitors have now failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 14 matches away from Wanda Metropolitano.

Joao Felix thought he had put Atletico back in front just before the break, but his header was chalked off for an alleged foul in the build-up.

The Portugal international then saw a vicious 20-yard drive crash against the post on the hour mark before Granada forged ahead from the subsequent counter-attack.

Molina was unmarked to turn home Colombian Luis Suarez's centre and, although the finish was initially ruled out for offside, the striker was eventually awarded his fifth goal in three games following a consultation with VAR.

Substitutes Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha squandered great chances late on for Atletico, who slipped to yet another defeat.

Diego Simeone is hoping to emerge as a better coach following Atletico Madrid's poor run of form as he prepares to celebrate a decade in charge.

Atleti went down 2-1 to Sevilla on Saturday and have lost three LaLiga games under Simeone for the first time ahead of Wednesday's trip to Granada.

That match comes a day before the Argentinian officially marked 10 years since replacing Gregorio Manzano at Atleti.

While Simeone has enjoyed a hugely successful period as Atleti head coach, the 51-year-old has spent most of this season fending off criticism.

But speaking ahead of his side's final outing of 2021, Simeone vowed to stick by his principles in order to turn things around.

"Criticism is understandable and normal," he said at Tuesday's news conference previewing the Granada game. "We're in a position with a lot of exposure.

"If you win everything then things are going well. I understand the situation. It's important to get back to repeating passages from when the team was performing well.

"I am always looking for ways to improve myself and this path will surely make me a better coach. That is what I hold on to. This club has known me now for 10 years.

"The players come to training knowing what I want. They know I am not going to change the line in which I believe."

 

Simeone has won eight trophies, including a second LaLiga title last season, and reached two Champions League finals across his 10 previous seasons with Atletico.

Wednesday's trip to 15th-place Granada, whom Simeone is unbeaten against in 15 league matches as Atleti boss, provides a chance for Los Colchoneros to bounce back.

"Our focus is on Granada, a team with a clear that that has been performing well and with great intensity," Simeone said. 

"It's clear our results have not been what we would have liked. It is also true that at other times we've won games we've probably not deserved to. Football gives and takes away.

"I trust my players and they are all working well. They have played good games, even if results have not indicated that. If there's something I have, it's patience."

Simeone was unwilling to comment on whether Luis Suarez would feature in midweek after the striker reacted angrily to being substituted against Sevilla.

Suarez has failed to score in each of his last seven games in all competitions, his worst goalscoring streak with both Atletico and former side Barcelona.

Asked about Suarez's outburst when leaving the field, Simeone said: "I have nothing to say.

"Suarez is lethal when we are close to the opposition area. If we can get closer then he will be like he was last season."

Carlo Ancelotti hailed his Real Madrid midfield as the best in the world after Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro turned on the style in a 4-1 win at Granada.

Kroos grabbed his first two assists of an injury-blighted season, while Modric and Casemiro laid on a goal apiece in an impressive rout on Sunday, as Madrid beat Granada for a 13th successive time in LaLiga.

The last time Granada scored a home win over Madrid was in February 2013, when they won 1-0 thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal, his only such blunder in 292 appearances in the Spanish top flight.

There was no danger of a repeat as Madrid grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck and were 3-1 up and chasing more goals by the time their hosts had Monchu sent off for a wild challenge on Vinicius Junior.

Marco Asensio, Nacho, Vinicius and Ferland Mendy got the goals, but Madrid's midfield three were outstanding, as Ancelotti admiringly acknowledged after the game.

With Real Sociedad only able to draw against Valencia in the evening game, it meant Madrid finished the weekend on top of the table by one point.

"What can you say," Madrid head coach Ancelotti told reporters. "They're playing at a very high level and are still the best midfielders in the world for me. They're doing things that I don't even ask from them, they do it naturally, and it's a big advantage for this club.

"They are the past, present and the future. If we're talking about the near future, absolutely. If we're looking in 10 years' time, then perhaps not. But we're in good shape for the future because [Eduardo] Camavinga, [Federico] Valverde and [Antonio] Blanco are ready too.

"They're used to playing together and they have qualities which are hard to explain. The way they switch positions during the game, sometimes Modric drops deep to play through the press and sometimes it's Kroos, Casemiro moves forward."

Kroos created a game-high four chances and finished the game with a passing accuracy of 97.4 per cent.

Madrid could have had more goals, but Granada goalkeeper Luis Maximiano made five saves. It was the fourth time this season the young Portuguese has made five saves or more in a LaLiga game, and only Espanyol's Diego Lopez has done so on more occasions (seven).

Ancelotti included Nacho at centre-back out of a wish to give Eder Militao a rest. He substituted the lively Vinicius late on, too, but stressed that was not due to injury but out of a wish to protect the young Brazilian.

"I took Vini Jr [off] to avoid any issues," Ancelotti said, quoted on Madrid's website. "The game was heating up, for us and for Granada I thought it was best to take him off."

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