It's not often Real Madrid get painted as the good guys, but Sunday's derby clash with Atletico was one of those few occasions.

As Carlo Ancelotti's Los Blancos left the Civitas Metropolitano with a 2-1 win, there was little doubt that they were the better side on the day.

But, strangely for a fixture of such magnitude, the actual football was sadly almost a sideshow as Spanish football's racism problem reared its head once again.

Through no fault of his own, Vinicius Junior had been the chief focus in the build-up after Pedro Bravo, an agent who appears on Spanish football show El Chiringuito, made a racially insensitive comment while on TV.

Referencing Vinicius' harmless tendency to celebrate goals with a little dance, Bravo suggested the Brazilian should "respect your mates and stop playing the monkey", comments that unsurprisingly drew criticism from all over the football world.

It was heart-warming to see how many people rallied around Vinicius in the wake of Bravo's ridiculous outburst. Many of his international team-mates and Brazil great Pele issued messages of support urging him to dance on.

Vinicius himself made a statement vowing to keep dancing, and Arsenal star Gabriel Jesus dedicated a similar celebration to his colleague earlier on Sunday.

That should have been the end of all the pointless debating about whether the celebration is disrespectful or not (it clearly isn't), but unfortunately it wasn't.

As Atletico 'ultras' queued on their way into the stadium before kick-off, offensive chants targeting Vinicius were being sung by hundreds of fans. Not a few, hundreds, and video footage brought the scenes to attention on social media.

What makes those chants even more disappointing is that few would've been hugely surprised. Atletico ultras have a history of disgracing their club. In 2018, 30 of them were apprehended in Bruges for making Nazi gestures, according to Marca; and as recently as April, they were hit with a partial stadium closure in the Champions League due to similar behaviour from fans against Manchester City.

Ultra group Frente Atletico were banned from the club's old stadium the Vicente Calderon in 2014 after clashes with Deportivo La Coruna fans led to the death of 'Jimmy', a member of the latter's Riazor Blues, who was attacked and thrown into the Manzanares river.

Despite that ban, the group's attitudes were never completely banished, and Sunday's pre-match scenes were a grim reminder of Atletico's failure as a club to stamp out far-right ideologies within its fanbase.

Thankfully, though, Vinicius is a brave young man who wasn't about to suppress his personality and mentality to appease some Neanderthals.

As the pre-game chants foreshadowed, Vinicius' first touch was vociferously jeered by Atletico fans. But the Brazilian amusingly responded with the most extravagant six-yard pass he could think of, dragging the ball back with his right foot before flicking it back down the flank to Ferland Mendy with his left all in one motion. Essentially, it was as close to dancing as he could've got in that moment.

It wasn't long before he was dancing for real, though. Vinicius wasn't even involved in the goal, as Rodrygo produced an emphatic finish from Aurelien Tchouameni's gorgeous pass – the scorer then darted towards the corner flag and began to strut his stuff.

Vinicius was quickly on the scene, gyrating with extra exuberance as Atletico fans threw objects on to the pitch around the celebrating Madrid players, most of whom embraced the former Flamengo talent with greater vigour than they did Rodrygo.

There was no mistaking Vinicius' influence just after the half-hour mark, however. The winger left Marcos Llorente in his dust and darted into the left side of the penalty area before prodding an effort goalwards. It fell kindly to Federico Valverde, who smashed in from close range.

Atletico players dished out rough treatment to Vinicius, perhaps as you might have expected as their biggest attacking threat in the absence of Karim Benzema, though he continued to play his natural game, toying with Llorente on several occasions and even attempting an audacious rainbow flick over Axel Witsel, which certainly angered the home support.

In the end he never quite got the moment of personal jubilation many might've hoped he'd have, with Atletico spending much of the second half on top as they tried to produce a comeback.

But Mario Hermoso's shouldered late goal proved only a consolation as Atletico failed to rise to the occasion, with Madrid holding firm enough to continue the excellent start to their title defence.

The action, and even the result, won't be the post-match focus, however. The vile scenes from earlier in the day will be what this match is remembered for – Atletico's response to that is far more important than how they ultimately react to this defeat.

Karim Benzema will have to sit out Sunday's derby, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has announced.

The France international came off with a knee injury in Madrid's Champions League win at Celtic earlier this month and has not featured since.

Ancelotti previously said Benzema could be fit for the derby with Atletico Madrid this weekend, but also noted caution at the time by saying if he did not recover, he would also not be available for the upcoming international break.

With Benzema absent from Didier Deschamps' squad announcement for Les Bleus this week, it seemed unlikely he would feature at the Wanda Metropolitano, which Ancelotti confirmed at his press conference on Saturday, saying: "I'm not saying [who will play up front], Benzema won't be there.

"He has started working individually and will be ready after the [international] break."

Ancelotti also spoke about the recent controversial comments from Pedro Bravo, a senior agent in Spain, on Vinicius Junior.

Bravo appeared on television show El Chiringuito earlier this week, saying Vinicius had to stop dancing when he celebrated a goal, accusing the Brazilian of "playing the monkey".

Bravo has apologised and said he used the wrong expression, insisting he was sorry for causing offence.

"It's something that we don't touch on in the locker room, these are issues that are not normally discussed in the locker room, we usually talk about football," the Madrid boss said.

"Racism is one thing and what happens in football is another thing. We have not touched on this issue of racism because the player has responded very well."

When asked if he had spoken to the player about it, Ancelotti said: "No, because I'm not his father, nor am I his brother. I'm his coach.

"Nothing is wrong with him. He is playing with joy. Vini is joy, happiness."

Madrid have won all eight of their games in all competitions this season and will come up against an Atletico side who suffered a Champions League defeat at Bayer Leverkusen in midweek.

Ancelotti is not underestimating Madrid's local rivals, though.

"It will be a competitive match. They don't expect anything new and it will be a very competitive duel, a good football match, because there are very good players on both teams," Ancelotti said. "The match is open, but there is nothing definitive."

Didier Deschamps insisted he will not take a half-fit Paul Pogba to the World Cup after France saw several stars ruled out of their upcoming Nations League fixtures.

Pogba has yet to make a competitive appearance since returning to Juventus on a free transfer in July. He is a doubt for the tournament in Qatar after opting to undergo surgery to solve a lesion to the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

The 2018 World Cup winner is not the only injury concern for Deschamps ahead of Nations League contests with Austria and Denmark this month.

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema has been left out of their squad after suffering a knee injury, though Carlo Ancelotti said the striker was "progressing well" earlier this week.

Meanwhile, N'Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman are also out.

Pogba's injury is the most worrying for Deschamps, who was unable to offer any update on his condition on Thursday.

"It is impossible today to affirm anything [except] through the intervention and the treatment protocol he has," Deschamps said.

"I know very well Paul, with whom I talk regularly. Today, no one, even him, can say whether he will be there [at the World Cup]. I don't know if he can be cured.

"Since I've been here, I've never for a single final tournament taken a player if he was not fully recovered. Paul, he's not here to amuse the gallery.

"If he is recovered, it would be a very good thing. He won't come if he's not fit. He doesn't want that either. It's inconceivable. The number of players who will be there, they will all be ready to play.

"It is a question in relation to the competition, those who will be selected will be able to answer these requirements."

Benzema's absence means Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann could be handed an opportunity in Les Bleus' upcoming games, despite seeing his game-time limited at club level this season.

With Atleti reportedly looking to avoid meeting a purchase clause in Griezmann's loan deal, the striker has played just 192 minutes in all competitions this season, though he has still found the net three times.

Deschamps is not concerned by the 31-year-old's lack of action, adding: "At least he's not tired. He has a situation that you know limits his playing time.

"He remains an important and decisive player for his club. He aspires to better, to do more. It's been a good moment [even though] he hasn't done a full 90 minutes."

Deschamps has named three uncapped players in his 23-man squad for this month's fixtures: Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani, and Monaco duo Youssouf Fofana and Benoit Badiashile.

France have posted two draws and two defeats in their first four games in Group A1 of the Nations League, leaving the world champions battling relegation from the competition's top tier. They host Austria on September 22 and travel to face Denmark three days later.

France squad: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Jonathan Clauss (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid); Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid); Olivier Giroud (Milan), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

After the year Karim Benzema has had, you could be forgiven for thinking he came straight from a computer game.

Appropriately, the Real Madrid and France striker has been awarded the highest rating in FIFA 23 ahead of its release later this month.

EA Sports has announced its ratings for the top 23 players for this year's edition of the popular football simulation, with Benzema the top-ranked on 91, while the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane have fallen.

Benzema scored 44 goals in 46 games in all competitions for Madrid last season as they went on to win both the LaLiga and Champions League titles, and has already notched four goals in six appearances this season.

Last year's top-ranked, Messi, has seen his rating fall from 93 to 91, and he now sits in fifth place behind Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe and Kevin De Bruyne.

Ronaldo moves down five places to eighth as he is rated at 90, with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk placed between him and Messi in sixth and seventh, also on 90.

Harry Kane (89) has dropped nine places from last year's game to 17th, and now sits below Tottenham team-mate Son Heung-min, who is also rated 89 but is in 12th place on the list.

Manchester City hotshot Erling Haaland is up to 21st place on a rating of 88 after his electric start to life in England, where he has already scored 12 goals in eight games in all competitions.

FIFA 23 will be released on September 30, and will be the final iteration of the series after the licencing agreement between EA Sports and FIFA came to an end.

Top 10 FIFA 23 ratings

1. Karim Benzema - 91
2. Robert Lewandowski - 91
3. Kylian Mbappe - 91
4. Kevin De Bruyne - 91
5. Lionel Messi - 91
6. Mohamed Salah - 90
7. Virgil van Dijk - 90
8. Cristiano Ronaldo - 90
9. Thibaut Courtois - 90
10. Manuel Neuer - 90

Karim Benzema is progressing well in his recovery but the Real Madrid striker will only play in Saturday's derby with Atletico Madrid if there is no risk of injury.

Benzema missed Madrid's 4-1 win over Real Mallorca last weekend because of a knee injury.

It will also keep him out of Wednesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig, with the fixture against city rivals Atletico seen as a potential return date.

But head coach Carlo Ancelotti is unwilling to take any chances with his star striker.

He said ahead of the Leipzig clash: "He [Benzema] is progressing well, there are options. But he will only play if there is no risk of injury."

The win over Mallorca featured a clash between Vinicius Junior and visiting coach Javier Aguirre and a furious response from Marco Asensio after Ancelotti elected not to send the midfielder on from the bench.

Asked about the latter incident, Ancelotti replied: "[Asensio] cannot be considered a young man or a veteran. He is doing well and since his anger, he is training very well.

"It is what has to happen when someone gets angry, because you can train better or lower your arms. And he has opted for the first one. He has options to win tomorrow."

On Vinicius, he added: "He's fine, lively, in a good dynamic. Fully recovered from the Mallorca game. We don't talk about this, it's not something we need to talk about."

While Madrid coasted to victory over Celtic in their opening Group F game, Leipzig started their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk.

Ancelotti, though, is wary of the threat posed by Leipzig, referencing their 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund on Saturday as evidence of their quality.

"It's an important game, against a team that had problems at the beginning of the season, but a great game came together against Dortmund," said Ancelotti.

"They have quality, especially up front, technical and fast. We'll have to play a good game to try to win.

"Leipzig's attack is very dangerous, with Werner, Nkunku, Szobozslai, Forsberg - we're talking about a very dangerous team if you give them the chance to show their quality.

"I think the defensive aspect will be as important as the offensive."

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris says the injuries sustained by Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema are a worry for Les Bleus ahead of their World Cup campaign.

The world champions could be without key midfielder Pogba when they travel to Qatar in November after he was forced to undergo surgery on a knee injury this week.

Pogba originally opted to undergo conservative therapy to solve a lesion to the lateral meniscus in his right knee, but doctor Roberto Rossi has since declared that choice "worsened" his injury, leaving his World Cup place in doubt.

France were also left concerned when Benzema hobbled off during Real Madrid's 3-0 Champions League win over Celtic on Tuesday, although the striker's thigh injury is not thought to be serious.

Speaking after helping Tottenham to a 2-0 win over Marseille on Wednesday, Lloris said: "What worries me the most are the small physical glitches they are having.

"We will need our best players in November and I hope they will all recover. I hope it's not too serious for Karim."

Lloris was less hopeful on Pogba's injury, however, adding: "For Paul, we know that his chances are compromised."

France begin their World Cup title defence against Australia on November 22 in Al-Wakrah.

Karim Benzema is a doubt for Real Madrid's upcoming showdown with Atletico Madrid as a result of the thigh injury sustained against Celtic.

The France international hobbled off midway through the first half in Madrid's 3-0 Champions League win in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Benzema, who was considered a doubt before the game, appeared to sustain the damage – originally thought to be to his knee – when playing a pass.

Speaking after the match, Carlo Ancelotti said the injury "does not seem like anything serious", but added Madrid would await the results of a second scan.

That second scan took place at Real's Valdebebas training base on Wednesday, and it was confirmed the 34-year-old has sustained a minor muscular problem.

A statement on Madrid's website read: "Benzema has been diagnosed with an injury to the semitendinosus muscle and an overload on the quadriceps, both in the right thigh."

While no official timeframe has been given for Benzema's lay-off, reports suggest he will miss between seven-to-10 days.

Madrid host Real Mallorca and RB Leipzig over the next week, in LaLiga and the Champions League respectively, before travelling to city rivals Atletico on September 18.

Losing Benzema for any period of time will be considered a blow for Ancelotti, with his star striker having scored four goals and assisted one more in six outings this season.

He has scored and assisted 68 goals in all competitions since the start of last season – a tally bettered only by Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe across Europe's top five leagues.

Real Madrid survived a hostile reception and the loss of striker Karim Benzema to injury as they dug deep to begin their Champions League defence with a ruthless 3-0 win at Celtic.

Los Blancos' quest for a record-extending 15th European Cup got off to a bad start when losing star man Benzema to a knee injury with 30 minutes played of Tuesday's opener.

Celtic had already struck the post through Callum McGregor at that point and continued to trouble their opponents on their return to the group stage after four seasons away.

But as they so often did last season, Madrid found a way thanks to quickfire goals from Vinicius Junior and Luka Modric, which Eden Hazard added to with a brilliant third.

Liel Abada and Reo Hatate had both asked questions of Thibaut Courtois in a lively opening half an hour for the hosts at a raucous Celtic Park. 

Ange Postecoglou's side went even closer to scoring when McGregor was picked out by Giorgos Giakoumakis and unleashed a left-footed strike against the frame of the goal.

Madrid lost Benzema to injury soon after but would have been ahead before half-time had Joe Hart not denied Vinicius from a one-on-one.

The visitors, having survived another let-off when substitute Daizen Maeda scuffed a shot at Courtois from close range, opened the scoring 11 minutes into the second half.

Federico Valverde found Vinicius with a lovely ball into the centre of the box at the end of a swift attack, and the forward coolly picked his spot past Hart with a first-time finish.

Madrid had a second four minutes later as Modric, making his 100th appearance for the club in the competition, prodded past Hart with an outside-of-the-boot finish.

It was plain sailing from that point on, and Hazard – the man brought on for Benzema – added a third from close range after some smart play from Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal at the end of a fine team move.

Karim Benzema limped off the field with half an hour played of Real Madrid's opening Champions League group game against Celtic after sustaining a knee injury.

The 34-year-old, who was considered a doubt ahead of the Group F match at Celtic Park, appeared to pull up after playing a pass and was seen in visible pain.

Benzema attempted to shake off the injury but remained on the field for just a few more minutes before being replaced by Eden Hazard, with the game still goalless at that point.

France international Benzema led the Champions League scoring charts with 15 goals last season and had four goals in five games in all competitions this term prior to Tuesday.

Madrid have a busy run of fixtures ahead, with a LaLiga games against Real Mallorca and Atletico Madrid sandwiching next week's European clash with RB Leipzig.

Carlo Ancelotti has no concerns around the contract situations of several of his veteran Real Madrid stars, with Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos all now into the final 12 months of their existing deals.

The transfer window closed on Thursday, leaving Madrid coach Ancelotti with a squad to work with at least until January.

But there remains work to do in the coming months if this hugely successful group is to stay together beyond the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Madrid have a host of players out of contract at the end of the season; some, like Marco Asensio, seem certain to leave, but Benzema, Modric, Kroos and Nacho are all key men.

Benzema is reportedly expected to sign a one-year extension, however, while Modric has done so in each of the past two years.

And Ancelotti sees this approach as sensible, remaining confident these top performers will stay at the Santiago Bernabeu as long as they are wanted.

"There are some players who are in the final year of their contract with the club, but that's not an issue," he said.

Ancelotti added: "You look at Modric, Kroos, Karim, Nacho, these are players who want to stay here until they finish their careers, sometimes signing one-year contracts.

"I don't think having a player in the final year of his contract is an issue.

"There are a lot of clubs who have players in their final year of contract, because you've got to look at the economy of a club and how clubs are run.

"That's why now we're seeing more players reach their final year of contract.

"Look at our veteran players and what we do with them, bringing in their contracts on a yearly basis."

Carlo Ancelotti emerged with a sense of personal satisfaction after Karim Benzema's two late goals secured a 3-1 win for Real Madrid at Espanyol.

The head coach saw his substitutes come good in the closing stages of the game to pave the way for Benzema's heroics.

Regarded as a humble man, this time Ancelotti was happy to take credit for the decisions that saw him shuffle his Madrid pack in the second half of a hard-fought contest.

He brought off Luka Modric and Federico Valverde in the 58th minute, introducing Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo, before replacing Toni Kroos with Dani Ceballos.

Camavinga brought fresh vibrancy to the Madrid midfield, Rodrygo set up Benzema's first goal in the 88th minute, and Ceballos was fouled for the free-kick that led to a red card and Benzema's late clincher.

That final goal of the game came 10 minutes into stoppage time, after a marathon delay for the VAR to resolve the moment when home goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte clattered Ceballos. Lecomte was sent off and home captain Leandro Cabrera, a defender, took over in goal, Benzema taking advantage by firing home from the set-piece. 

"We won the game because of that energy. That of Camavinga, Rodrygo or Ceballos," Ancelotti said. "The game was slow and we changed it. Each game has its own story."

He said it was impossible to know how the game would have flowed had he fielded his substitutes from the start, allowing the likes of Modric and Kroos to come on and change the game in the second half.

"Sometimes team selection is a gamble and today I think the Real Madrid coach has gambled well."

The veteran Italian coach said Madrid had started brightly, as was exemplified by the sharp movement that brought about Vinicius Junior's early goal.

Former Madrid reserve striker Joselu equalised with his seventh goal in nine LaLiga matches against Los Blancos, before Benzema's double provided the late twist.

Three days after picking up the UEFA men's player of the year award, Benzema showed why he is earning such accolades at this stage of his career. He turns 35 in December but shows no sign of slowing down.

Benzema has scored 28 goals for Madrid in 2022 across all competitions, the joint highest of all players from Europe's top five leagues. It puts him alongside Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, who snubbed a move to Madrid in favour of signing a new PSG deal in May.

In all, Benzema had eight shots, the highest of any player in a single game during the opening weeks of the LaLiga season.

The late show poured salt on Espanyol wounds, with the team from Barcelona having now failed to win in their last 10 league games, going back to last season.

Kroos told Movistar: "It's to be expected that we suffer against a great rival, also away from home. We controlled the game until their goal. We suffered a bit in the second half, but in the last 30 minutes we regained control.

"They looked tired and we took advantage of that. Winning away is not easy and we have done it three times in a row."

Madrid's first three league assignments have indeed come away from the Santiago Bernabeu, while work is carried out on the stadium, and wins over Almeria, Celta Vigo and now Espanyol have made it an ideal start.

Madrid sit top of the table but are joined on nine points by Real Betis, the team they host next Saturday.

Kroos says Madrid are braced for a busy run of games, as the Champions League group stage begins.

He said: "Every three to four days we are going to play against difficult opponents and there are always times when we are going to have to suffer."

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been named the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, beating team-mate Thibaut Courtois and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne to the gong.

The France international solidified his status as the frontrunner for this year's Ballon d'Or with victory over the pair, with the award bestowed following the Champions League group-stage draw in Istanbul on Thursday.

Benzema, top scorer in both the Champions League and LaLiga last term as he guided Madrid to a double, netted 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti also was feted at the ceremony, beating Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp to be awarded the UEFA Men's Coach of the Year Award.

Manchester City striker Erling Haaland has cited "insanely good" Karim Benzema as inspiration as he vows to never stop improving at the Etihad Stadium.

Haaland has made a solid start to life in England since his £51million (€60m) move from Borussia Dortmund, scoring three goals in as many Premier League games for the reigning champions.

City pipped some of the world's biggest clubs in the race to secure the services of the Norway international, including reigning LaLiga and Champions League winners Real Madrid.

Madrid talisman Benzema played an instrumental role during their successful 2021-22 season - top-scoring in both competitions along the way - while he recently surpassed Raul (323) as the club's second-leading marksman of all-time behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

The 34-year-old appears certain to be in the running for the top prize at this year's Ballon d'Or awards, and his recent exploits have provided inspiration for a player 12 years his junior.

"I don’t know what will happen, but it must always be about learning, about developing," Haaland told FourFourTwo. "You can never stop looking for new ways to become better.

"Look at Karim Benzema at Real Madrid. He's 34 now and suddenly, he's developed into an even better player over the last couple of years – that's insanely good. I want to always do that."

 

Real Madrid made it back-to-back wins to start their LaLiga title defence as goals from Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde sealed a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo.

Carlo Ancelotti's side agreed a deal with Manchester United on Friday for the sale of midfielder Casemiro, but they scarcely missed the Brazilian enforcer in what was a dominant performance against Eduardo Coudet's men at Balaidos.

Benzema opened his league account for the season from the penalty spot early on, before Iago Aspas levelled with a spot-kick of his own midway through the first half.

Modric gave Madrid the lead again with a wonderful strike shortly before half-time, while Vinicius and Valverde were on target in the second half as Los Blancos, who missed a late penalty through Eden Hazard, wrapped up maximum points with the minimum of fuss.

Madrid went ahead in the 14th minute through Benzema's penalty after David Alaba's shot had crashed into the arm of Renato Tapia, the spot-kick given after a lengthy pitchside review from referee Jesus Gil Manzano.

Celta levelled with a penalty of their own in the 23rd minute, Aspas powerfully striking past Thibaut Courtois from 12 yards after Goncalo Paciencia's header was blocked by the arm of Eder Militao.

Los Blancos restored their lead three minutes before the interval, however, when Modric jinked his way to the edge of the area and whipped a sumptuous strike into Agustin Marchesin's top-left corner.

Modric was key to Madrid's third goal as well, the midfielder threading a fine ball through for Vinicius, who rounded Marchesin and slotted into an empty net in the 56th minute.

Valverde then added a fourth 10 minutes later with a clinical finish from 15 yards following a flowing counter-attacking move, before substitute Hazard saw his spot-kick saved by Marchesin after Benzema had been fouled by Hugo Mallo.

What does it mean? Madrid extend run over sorry Celta

Celta had failed to win any of their previous 16 games against Real Madrid in LaLiga (D2 L14), and it was not hard to see why as a dominant Madrid stretched that run to 17.

Despite the loss of Casemiro, Los Blancos look in rude health for the 2022-23 season. This victory meant they have won their opening two LaLiga games in a season for the first time since 2018-19 under Julen Lopetegui.

Masterful Modric

Modric certainly did not seem to suffer from Casemiro's absence. The Croatia international restored Madrid's lead with a wonderful strike – his 18th from outside the penalty area for the club – before setting up Vinicius' goal with a typically incisive pass.

Benzema punishes Celta again

Benzema's early strike from the spot means he has now been involved in an incredible 10 goals in his past four LaLiga games against Celta (eight goals and two assists), including two braces and one hat-trick. They will be glad to see the back of him for a few months at least.

What's next?

Celta are away at Girona on Friday, while Madrid travel to Espanyol two days later – their third consecutive away game to start the season.

Kylian Mbappe claimed it is a "big lie" to say players do not care about winning the Ballon d'Or as he named Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane as his main rivals for this year's award.

Mbappe was named on a 30-man shortlist to be named the best player in the world on Friday, having scored 39 goals in all competitions as Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 title last season.

No player across the top five European leagues matched Mbappe's total of 60 goal contributions across the 2021-22 campaign, although his France team-mate Benzema is the clear favourite after helping Real Madrid to the Champions League and LaLiga trophies. 

In an interview with France Football, Mbappe, who has previously backed Benzema to win the award, acknowledged he was desperate to be named the world's best.

"I've always wanted to do it early, without limiting my dreams. I want to win it and I don't mind admitting it," he said.

"I am convinced that lifting the first one is the most complicated. Once you have officially entered that select group, it will be easier to revalidate it.

"It is a big lie that a footballer is not interested in the Ballon d'Or. It is hypocritical to say that. 

"We all think about that. We talk about a team, and a collective, because in some way it serves to camouflage our ambition, but it is honest to admit that we care. 

"For two years I have been a more real candidate for the award. Before, I was content to be in the top 10. Now, on the other hand, I am among the four or five most regular.

"We don't talk about the Ballon d'Or in January, but we make comments when the lists appear. Later, as the ceremony draws near, it's obviously a topic of conversation in the group. We make our bets, we debate our opinions."

Asked for his own top three, the striker said: "I think Benzema, Mane and me."

 

Mbappe's first Ballon d'Or nomination came in 2017, when then-Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo beat Lionel Messi and Neymar to the award.

And the 23-year-old said being among the hopefuls early on in his career gave him confidence that he would make it at an elite level.

"Frankly, it was an honour," he recalled. "I was barely of legal age and I was already associated with those great names. It may seem trivial, but it was something important. A real step forward in my career. 

"Somehow it was a message that served to say that I was among the best. I accredited myself as an elite footballer in the eyes of the world, and it was significant to belong to that list at only 18 years old."

Meanwhile, the headline omission from 2022's list of nominees is seven-time winner and current holder Lionel Messi, who last failed to be nominated in 2005 – when Ronaldinho edged out Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the voting.

As Mbappe recalled his PSG team-mate's victory last year, he said the Argentina star's nervousness on the eve of the gala demonstrated that his desire to be the best remains strong.

"The morning of the last gala he was nervous because a few hours later he was going to collect a seventh Ballon d'Or. Maybe he was thinking about what he was going to say, how he was going to lift the trophy," Mbappe said.

"I told him it is not possible to be restless after having been there six other times. I would have gone with a cigarette in my mouth! 

"But that shows that he retains the soul of a child and that he is still excited to choose to be the best. He has not tired."

 

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