Jules Kounde apologised to his former club Sevilla after attracting criticism for a particularly exuberant celebration during Barcelona's win over the Andalusians on Sunday.

Kounde joined Barcelona from Sevilla during pre-season in a deal reportedly worth up to €62.5million.

He previously spent three seasons at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, where he emerged as one of the best young defenders in world football and was a fan favourite.

Sunday was Kounde's first game against the club since leaving, with Barca eventually running out 3-0 winners at Camp Nou.

He courted criticism on social media for appearing to celebrate the second-half opener by Jordi Alba – whose face he threw a ball at to earn a red card last season – with intense jubilation.

But the France international subsequently recognised that he went overboard.

"I was always grateful for the opportunity to wear the red and white jersey, and for the love I received during my time there," he wrote on social media.

"That is why I wanted to apologise for the goal celebration, which, in a moment of euphoria, was exaggerated on my part.

"I wish you the best, always."

Barca's win extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points, while Sevilla – who finished fourth in each of Kounde's three seasons at the club – are 16th, just two points above the relegation zone.

 

 

Liverpool are expected to bid for Athletic Bilbao duo Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet at the end of the season.

Williams is one of LaLiga's brightest young stars, with the 20-year-old winger having already earned seven senior caps for Spain, including four appearances at the World Cup in Qatar.

Attacking midfielder Sancet, 22, netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Cadiz on Saturday to take his tally of LaLiga goals this season to seven.

Williams in particular received heavy interest during the January transfer window, but Bilbao will reportedly be faced with tough decisions about both players at the conclusion of the campaign.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE SIDES TAKE A LIKING TO BILBAO PAIR

According to AS, Liverpool were joined by fellow Premier League side Aston Villa in testing Bilbao's resolved over Williams in January, although they were informed no figure would be accepted below his €50million (£45m) release clause.

That report also mentions Sancet's release clause is only slightly lower at €45m (£40m), while Fichajes add he has received interest from Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

Both players only have 18 months remaining on their contracts, meaning Bilbao will either need to sort out some extensions or be prepared to cash in.

ROUND-UP

– The Sun is reporting Manchester City, Milan and Inter are all admirers of Fulham left-back Antonee Robinson, although they will not meet the £35m asking price.

– According to the Daily Star, City will look to avoid any further depletion of their full-back stocks by offering Rico Lewis a new contract that would quadruple his salary.

– Journalist Rudy Galetti is reporting Galatasaray have agreed personal terms with out-of-favour Roma attacker Nicolo Zaniolo, and have offered a fee of €22m to the Serie A club.

Newcastle United and Fulham target Sander Berge wants to remain with Sheffield United until his contract expires in 2024, with the Norway international excited by the club's potential Premier League promotion, per The Sun.

– According to Football Insider, Newcastle will return after the season for another attempt at signing Conor Gallagher, with the belief Chelsea would have allowed him to leave in January if their signing of Enzo Fernandez had been completed sooner.

Xavi praised his Barcelona players for remaining patient in their 3-0 victory over Sevilla as the LaLiga leaders moved eight points clear of Real Madrid.

Barca dominated Sunday's contest at Camp Nou before eventually finding the breakthrough via full-back Jordi Alba in the 58th minute.

Gavi added a second 12 minutes later and Raphinha, who assisted that goal, added his name to the scoresheet as Barca made it 10 wins in a row this year.

Sevilla focused almost entirely on defending, managing only three shots in total to Barca's 16, and Xavi is delighted his side were able to break down the visitors.

"This was a day to dare," he told DAZN. "We talked about it at half-time. It's always difficult to attack when the opponent has 11 players behind the ball.

"But we did it very well and I'm very satisfied with this result."

 

Barca took full advantage of Real Madrid's surprise 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca earlier in the day to extend their lead at the summit as they close in on a first title in four seasons.

"We've gone many games unbeaten and it's important we win like we did today," Xavi said. "Against a low block, we created many chances – that is a big positive.

"Things are working out for us. We're eight points ahead of Madrid, but there is still a lot of the season left."

With a goal and an assist against Sevilla, Raphinha has been involved in more goals (eight – four goals and four assists) than any other LaLiga player in all competitions in 2023.

Xavi hailed the Brazil international's performance and also reserved special praise for Alba, who himself scored and assisted in a single LaLiga game for the fourth time.

"I was already satisfied with Raphinha's performances," Xavi said. "He is good in high-pressure scenarios and has been giving us decisive assists. He's an extraordinary player.

"As for Jordi, he gives us a lot in attack and showed that again today. We knew there would be an opportunity to take advantage of some space that was left."

Alba was recalled to the starting line-up having been made to settle for substitute appearances of late and took full advantage of his opportunity to impress.

"I take advantage of the minutes when I play; when I don't, I dedicate myself to encouraging the youngsters so they know what it means to play for this club," Alba said.

"We are having a very good season, playing well, pressing well and getting our rivals to give us chances. 

"There are eight points on Madrid and, although there is a lot of the league season left, it is a very good distance to have."

Barca's 53 points after 20 LaLiga matches has only been matched or bettered on five previous occasions, including themselves four times.

The only blemish for Xavi's side was captain Sergio Busquets limping off early following a challenge with Youssef En-Nesyri.

Busquets is reported to have sprained his right ankle and is facing two-to-three weeks out, potentially ruling him out of Barca's Europa League tie with Manchester United.

"Hopefully it's nothing serious," Xavi said. "First we'll do tests and then we'll know more."

Barcelona capitalised on Real Madrid's latest slip-up by beating Sevilla 3-0 at Camp Nou to move eight points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Madrid's surprise 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca earlier on Sunday opened the door for Barca, who took full advantage with their 10th win in a row this calendar year.

After toiling for the best part of an hour, Jordi Alba deservedly opened the scoring for Xavi's side and they did not look back.

Gavi doubled the hosts' lead 12 minutes later after being assisted by Raphinha, who added the third himself to edge Barca ever closer to a first league title in four seasons.

Barca were forced to make a change inside the opening eight minutes after Sergio Busquets injured his ankle and they struggled to find their full flow in the first half.

Yassine Bounou produced a fine stop with his leg to deny Robert Lewandowski and pulled off an even better save soon after to tip the striker's long-range drive around the post.

Sevilla brought on Bryan Gil and Erik Lamela at half-time, but Barca continued to dominate the contest as Raphinha became the latest to test Bounou, this time from a header.

The breakthrough finally arrived just short of the hour mark as Franck Kessie, brought on for Busquets, brilliantly flicked the ball into the path of Alba to fire across Bounou.

A simple finish for Gavi in the 70th minute after being picked out by Raphinha gave Barca breathing space and the Brazil winger contributed to the scoring before full-time.

Alba played the ball into the middle and Raphinha was there to poke it past Bounou and cap a fine individual and team display.

Carlo Ancelotti defended Vinicius Junior after the Brazil forward was subjected to rough treatment during Real Madrid's defeat at Real Mallorca.

Los Blancos missed the chance to close the five-point gap on LaLiga leaders Barcelona after Nacho's own goal condemned them to a 1-0 loss on Sunday, in which Marco Asensio also saw a penalty saved.

Vinicius, who complained of being targeted during his side's 4-1 victory in the reverse fixture in September, was fouled 10 times – the most by any Madrid player in a Spanish top-flight match since Isco against Real Betis in August 2013.

Having branded Vinicius "disrespectful" earlier in the season, Mallorca captain Antonio Raillo also turned up the pressure earlier this week by claiming he would "never" cite the 22-year-old as a role model for his son.

But Ancelotti leapt to his forward's defence, telling Movistar: "Everything that happens is not Vinicius' fault. All he wants to do is play football and then there is an atmosphere that provokes, rivals that squeeze him. 

"The focus must be changed. We have to look at what happened to him in today's game.

"Today, the referee has forgotten about the repetitions of the fouls. It is a yellow card when the foul is repeated, repeated, repeated and repeated again. From the first half, we have come out with two cards and Mallorca with zero.

"It's a defeat that hurts a lot in this sense, but it was the game we expected. We prepared a hard, difficult game, with many fouls and interruptions.

"The small details determined the match. We were very affected by the goal conceded early and the missed penalty."

Andriy Lunin, who was a late replacement in goal for the injured Thibaut Courtois, added: "We did not deserve to lose this game. I'm angry about conceding the goal.

"Madrid always comes back and we will fight until the end. We don't have to think about this defeat, now it's our turn to go to the World Cup [against Al Ahly on Tuesday]."

Marco Asensio missed a penalty as Nacho's own goal condemned Real Madrid to a surprise 1-0 defeat against mid-table Real Mallorca in LaLiga on Sunday.

Madrid fell behind when stand-in captain Nacho deflected Vedat Muqiri's header beyond Andriy Lunin – a late replacement for the injured Thibaut Courtois – 13 minutes in.

The champions toiled for long periods without absent striker Karim Benzema, and they missed a golden chance to level when Predrag Rajkovic saved Asensio's second-half penalty.

The result meant Los Blancos missed the chance to close the gap on LaLiga leaders Barcelona ahead of their fixture against Sevilla later on Sunday, handing the Blaugrana the chance to move eight points clear.

Fresh from three successive home wins, Mallorca wasted little time in taking the lead. Muriqi met Dani Gonzalez's inswinging cross, and his flicked header deflected off Nacho before looping over Lunin. 

Madrid controlled the remainder of a scrappy first half but failed to register a single shot on target before the break, with the likes of Federico Valverde and Antonio Rudiger restricted to ambitious long-range efforts that cleared the crossbar.

The visitors were presented with a wonderful opportunity to equalise on the hour mark when a VAR review ruled Rajkovic had fouled Vinicius Junior. However, the goalkeeper atoned for his error by guessing correctly to brilliantly deny Asensio. 

Ancelotti introduced the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in a bid to inspire Madrid, who had lost just once in their nine previous away games against Mallorca prior to Sunday's meeting.

Substitute Mariano Diaz volleyed narrowly over and Rudiger sent a header wide late on, but the stubborn hosts clung on to deal a huge blow to the champions' title defence.

 

The future of Ansu Fati at Barcelona appears to be increasingly uncertain.

Fati was a revelation when he first broke into the Barca first team, but has suffered several injury issues that have halted his momentum.

Even when fit, Fati has struggled to get into Xavi's side this season, featuring in 30 games but only nine times from the start, with six goals and three assists to show for it.

And reports are starting to emerge that vultures may be circling to offer the Spain international more regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN LEAD THE WAY IN HUNT FOR ANSU FATI

Mundo Deportivo reports that Bayern Munich are at the head of a queue of seven European clubs interested in making a move for Fati at the end of the season.

It is also mentioned that four of the seven potential suitors come from the big-spending Premier League, though only Arsenal and Tottenham are named.

The player only signed a new deal in 2021 that committed him to Barca until 2027, with a release clause of €1billion, but the continued absence of Fati in the starting XI even after Ousmane Dembele's latest injury is apparently a concern to the player's agent, Jorge Mendes.

ROUND-UP

Barca, Atletico Madrid and Milan are all looking at a move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the end of the campaign after Chelsea surprisingly left the striker out of their Champions League squad, according to the Mail.

Chelsea are poised to join Manchester United in targeting Napoli hitman Victor Osimhen as the Blues look to solve their goalscoring problems, report the Mirror.

Real Madrid turned down the chance to sign Joao Cancelo on loan from Manchester City before he went to Bayern on transfer deadline day, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– The Mail has pointed to Tottenham's good relations with Atletico as reason for their optimism about signing Jan Oblak and Yannick Carrasco at the end of the season.

– The Mirror reports that Manchester United will look to move on six players at the end of the season, including Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek.

Real Betis defender Luiz Felipe has achieved a rather unwanted record following his latest dismissal for the LaLiga club.

His 95th-minute dismissal in Saturday's 4-3 defeat to Celta Vigo was his third red card of the season in just 11 league appearances.

It was a case of deja vu for the defender, who also saw red against the same opposition back in October – when he lasted just 20 minutes before he was given his marching orders.

Felipe featured in just two of Betis' next seven games in LaLiga, before a second dismissal of the season came against Athletic Bilbao on December 29.

Absent from the side for almost a month before returning in January against Getafe, Felipe retained his spot for the subsequent match against Barcelona and Saturday's clash against Celta Vigo.

However, a third red of the campaign in that game gives Felipe a unique disciplinary record, having seen red in two of his last four appearances and three times in his last seven.

Carlo Ancelotti hailed Vinicius Junior as a role model after the Real Madrid forward faced fresh criticism from the Real Mallorca camp ahead of Sunday's LaLiga game at Son Moix.

Madrid won 4-1 at home against Mallorca in September, with Vinicius complaining during the game of instructions from visiting boss Javier Aguirre.

The Brazilian felt Aguirre was telling his Mallorca players to hand out some rough treatment, and Vinicius confronted him about his orders.

Days later, Mallorca captain Antonio Raillo told Diario de Mallorca: "Vinicius should dance, but he shouldn't be disrespectful, he shouldn't insult or belittle his fellow professionals; then when he is branded as provocative he uses the race card."

This week, Raillo spoke again about Vinicius, saying in a clip on DAZN's Twitch channel: "If tomorrow I have to set an example for my son as a player, maybe I would give [Luka] Modric or [Karim] Benzema, but never him."

It means there will be focus on Vinicius on Sunday, but Ancelotti has no doubt the 22-year-old can cope with the attention.

"Vini's going to prepare for this game the same way as he does for all matches," said Ancelotti. "He doesn't need a sit-down, for me to have a chat with him.

"For me, Vinicius is an example of a footballer. Youngsters like players with such quality. My grandchildren have his shirt and they don't want another one."

Ancelotti spoke in a press conference on Saturday, ahead of a trip to face a Mallorca side who sat 10th heading into the latest round of games.

Defending LaLiga champions Madrid began the weekend five points behind leaders Barcelona, with a win over Valencia on Thursday atoning to some extent for last weekend's goalless draw with Real Sociedad.

Madrid have won nine of their past 10 games against Mallorca in LaLiga, including each of the last four, while Los Blancos have won six times in their last nine visits to the island outfit (D2 L1).

Ancelotti is unimpressed that Madrid have been handed an early afternoon kick-off slot on Sunday, having been in action on Thursday evening.

"We're not happy," he said. "We don't have a choice. The 72 hours is the minimum needed, so playing at two o'clock I don't think is right."

A Club World Cup campaign awaits, and Ancelotti could rest veteran midfielders Luka Modric or Toni Kroos on Sunday.

Equally, he could play both, as the Italian said: "The most important game is the one against Mallorca. There is a lot riding on the match, so I'll pick my best team, with or without Modric and Kroos, we'll see.

"This is the most important game right now and will help with preparations ahead of the Club World Cup."

Xavi is expecting Barcelona's LaLiga title battle with Real Madrid to go down to the wire, despite his side opening up a five-point lead at the summit.

Barca, who last lifted the title in the 2018-19 campaign, have won 16 of their opening 19 league matches to reach the 50-point mark already.

It is only the sixth time Barca have hit that half-century milestone at this stage of a campaign, and they went on to lift the title in four of those previous five campaigns.

Reigning Spanish and European champions Madrid have struggled for consistency either side of the World Cup break, winning only half of their past eight league matches.

However, with the sides also paired together in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, Xavi insists Carlo Ancelotti's men can never be written off.

"I don't feel like the favourites, but rather just a candidate who can win the league," Xavi said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's meeting with Sevilla.

"Winning the league is one of our goals. We're competing against the current LaLiga and Champions League winners and it's hard for us to fight for titles against a strong side.

"I still consider Madrid a strong side and we will have to fight for the league right until the last or penultimate matchday."

 

Barca have won nine of their past 10 league games, including all four this calendar year, and are unbeaten in their past 14 LaLiga meetings with 13th-place Sevilla.

Jorge Sampaoli's side have won back-to-back matches without conceding to ease their relegation worries, and Xavi says his side will treat Sevilla as they do any other opponent.

"Every game brings pressure. Every time we go out on the pitch we're told it's a key game; always it's the same thing," he said.

"I've also heard that how we perform in the Europa League will determine the success of our season.

"We're a club that is exposed to pressure and that's welcome. It is better to be fighting for these titles than to be relegated.

"Up next is a difficult opponent, despite where they are in the table. Sampaoli has brought back their strong and competitive side, making them strong defensively.

"We know they are a team that can complicate things for us, a team with a lot of experience. Tomorrow is another test and we have to pass it with all three points."

The seven goals conceded after 19 LaLiga games is Barca's lowest-ever tally and the second lowest of any team at this stage after Deportivo La Coruna in the 1993-94 season.

Xavi added: "The state of the team right now is sensational. The players are working hard and getting results. In general we're in a good moment, especially in defence.

"We're playing much better football now and are understanding certain situations better. We are on the right track, but we're also still under construction in this long process."

Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista has apologised for his horrendous challenge on Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior and insists "it was never my intention to harm him".

Gabriel was issued a straight red card for a wild kick on Vinicius in the 72nd minute of Valencia's 2-0 loss at Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday.

Vinicius, who had earlier doubled his side's lead after Marco Asensio had opened the scoring, was sent flying to the ground and a scuffle between both sets of players ensued.

Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois later called for his team-mate to be better protected by officials, having been on the end of a number of bad tackles this season.

Former Arsenal defender Gabriel is now facing a two-game LaLiga ban after the Spanish Football Federation's disciplinary committee added another game to his suspension.

The 32-year-old, who will miss games against Girona and Athletic Bilbao, took to social media on Friday to apologise to Vinicius.

"I accept the criticism and the red card," Gabriel posted. "I am a physical player, but also a noble one. I respect Vinicius and it was never my intention to harm him. 

"We are struggling a lot in this great club, going through a difficult period and emotions are running high.

"Sometimes it is impossible to control one's emotions. I lost control and I sincerely ask for forgiveness."

Vinicius was able to play the remainder of the match and took part in training on Friday ahead of Madrid's league meeting with Real Mallorca.

The Brazil international has been fouled 103 times this season, which is at least 19 more than any other player across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

Forty-six of those fouls have been in the final third – exactly double the number of Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, who is the next highest on the list.

Manchester City have reportedly identified Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister as their desired replacement for Ilkay Gundogan at the end of the season.

Mac Allister, 24, is enjoying a career-best season, with his five goals in 17 Premier League fixtures already matching his best ever tally for a full league season.

The talented creative midfielder also made six starts for Argentina during their march to victory at the Qatar World Cup, scoring his first senior international goal during a 2-0 win over Poland in the group stage.

His emergence as a player capable of shining on the world stage, as well as his contribution to Brighton's terrific season, has apparently caught the eye of City boss Pep Guardiola.

 

TOP STORY – CITY VIEW MAC ALLISTER AS IDEAL GUNDOGAN REPLACEMENT

According to Fichajes, Gundogan is expected to leave City when his contract expires at the end of the season, and Bernardo Silva could follow if he gets his wish with a LaLiga move.

The report states Guardiola is a big fan of Mac Allister, and believes he has proven himself as a capable Premier League producer.

Fichajes claim Brighton have set an asking price in the range of £40million, indicating they are more willing to part ways with him than 21-year-old Moises Caicedo, with both of their contracts expiring in 2025.

 

ROUND-UP

– ESPN is reporting Napoli will hold firm with an asking price of at least €100m (£90m) for 24-year-old striker Victor Osimhen, who has strong interest from Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

– According to 90min, Chelsea's top priority now is sorting out a contract extension for 24-year-old England international Mason Mount.

Mason Greenwood will look to revive his career in China if United decide to let him go, per the Sun.

– Caught Offside is reporting West Ham and Everton will have to return after the season if they want to sign 27-year-old winger Sheraldo Becker, with Union Berlin unwilling to deal in January due to their strong league position.

Free agent Isco is in talks with Konyaspor after failing to complete a move to Union Berlin, the Turkish club's vice-president Mehmet Akcan has revealed.

Isco, who was released by Sevilla in December after just four months at the club, looked set for a new challenge in Berlin when he reportedly completed a medical with Union.

However, the 30-year-old's move to the Bundesliga side collapsed on Tuesday over personal terms, with both parties blaming the other.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Isco may now have found another club, though, as discussions are ongoing with Super Lig side Konyaspor.

"That is correct. We are in a negotiating process with Isco," Akcan is quoted as saying by Spanish outlet AS.

"I can tell you that dialogues are going well. We are not yet sure if we have reached an agreement, otherwise we'd say so openly.

"We're doing everything possible to close the signing. We have until January 8, but I think everything will be resolved one way or another as soon as possible.

"Now we have the chance to close the signing and are positive of doing so."

Isco began his career with spells at Valencia and Malaga before spending nine years with Madrid, whom he left at the end of last season for a short stint with Sevilla.

He made 19 appearances for Sevilla in the first half of the season, scoring once and providing three assists, but his contract was mutually terminated six weeks ago.

Serie A heavyweights Juventus and Napoli were previously linked with the 38-cap Spain international, while Konyaspor's league rivals Fenerbahce are also reportedly interested.

Konyaspor are eighth in the Turkish top-flight, 13 points adrift of the European places.

Isco's former Sevilla team-mate Adnan Januzaj as also secured a move to Turkey.

The winger, who signed for the club on a free transfer in August, has joined Istanbul Basaksehir on loan until the end of the season after making just six appearances across all competitions.

Newcastle United have joined the race for Jude Bellingham, with reports suggesting they are not dissuaded by Borussia Dortmund's potential £133million (€150m) asking price.

Bellingham, 19, has become one of the top prospects in world football since arriving in Germany, becoming a key player for Dortmund and impressing at the World Cup with England.

The Birmingham City youth product, who already has 22 senior caps to his name, has become more of a goal-scoring threat this season, with his 10 goals in all competitions already matching the combined total from his past two seasons. 

Bellingham netted in each of his first four Champions League fixtures this campaign, joining Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe as the only teenagers to ever score in four consecutive games in the competition.

The world's biggest clubs are set to fight it out for the young phenomenon's services, and Newcastle want in on the action.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENTER BELLINGHAM CHASE

According to Sport Bild, the main four contenders for Bellingham are Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid, but "Newcastle United are trying to get into the game".

The report says Bellingham has ruled out both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain but gives no indication that Bellingham would consider a move to St James' Park.

That could change if Newcastle – who have lost just once this Premier League season – qualify for the Champions League.

It also states Dortmund will demand "up to" £133m (€150m), but with so many wealthy, interested parties, it is hard to imagine the final figure falls below that without any unforeseen injury concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

– The New York Times is reporting Fiorentina were left frustrated by Chelsea owner Todd Boehly after he personally called them with a low-ball offer for 26-year-old Morocco midfielder Sofyan Amrabat on deadline day.

– Leeds United winger Jack Harrison, 26, is expected to sign a new contract with the club after his £20m transfer to Leicester City was called off at the 11th hour, per Sky Sports.

– According to Calciomercato, Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric has received interest from both MLS and Saudi Arabian clubs, but he has his heart set on a contract extension at the Santiago Bernabeu.

– The Telegraph is reporting Chelsea's academy players fear a mass exodus if the club misses out on Champions League qualification, as they will need to balance their books with some sales.

– According to The Independent, Everton do not feel 30-year-old free agent Isco has the physical profile to suit the Premier League and are no longer considering his signing.

Carlo Ancelotti is optimistic Karim Benzema will not miss Sunday's trip to Real Mallorca despite limping out of Real Madrid's win against Valencia, but defender Eder Militao's injury is of greater concern.

Benzema teed up second-half goals for Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior on Thursday, as Madrid moved to within five points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona with a 2-0 victory over Los Che.

However, the reigning Ballon d'Or holder limped out of the contest with an apparent thigh problem on the hour mark, after Militao had been replaced in the first half for what looked to be a groin issue.

While Ancelotti is hopeful of having his star striker available for Madrid's final league game before their Club World Cup campaign, Militao's initial prognosis is less encouraging.

Asked about the condition of the duo after Thursday's win, Ancelotti said: "Karim seems like a slight problem and Militao will not be fit on Sunday."

Benzema has been involved in 11 goals in his last 12 appearances for Madrid in all competitions, having only registered five goal contributions in his first nine matches this season.

After Sunday's trip to Mallorca, Madrid jet off to Morocco for the Club World Cup, where they will meet either the Seattle Sounders or Al Ahly in a semi-final tie next Wednesday.

Madrid's involvement in that competition means there will be no respite during a congested period, but Ancelotti is pleased with how Los Blancos have coped in recent weeks.

"January was a hard month after the World Cup and we've turned out well. We're going to see in February. It doesn't stop here," Ancelotti said.

"Luckily, they have put the game on Sunday for both us [and Barcelona]. Imagine they had put ours on Saturday night!"

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