Real Madrid fired another blank as their LaLiga title hopes were further dented in a goalless draw away at Real Betis.

The reigning champions knew there was no real margin for error at Estadio Benito Villamarin following Barcelona's narrow 1-0 home win over Valencia earlier on Sunday.

However, on the back of failing to register an attempt on target in their 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg loss to Barcelona, Madrid once again failed to click in attack.

Karim Benzema had a first-half goal ruled out by VAR, but Carlo Ancelotti's side were otherwise subdued as they could only close the gap on leaders Barca to nine points.

Benzema thought he had given Madrid the lead with a superb free-kick early on, but it was ruled out after a VAR check due to the ball brushing Antonio Rudiger's arm in the wall.

While the visitors were unable to get a shot on target prior to half-time, Betis twice tested Thibaut Courtois, with Ayoze Perez forcing the Madrid goalkeeper into a good stop.

Claudio Bravo finally had something to do early in the second period when pushing aside Benzema's first-time effort from near the penalty spot.

Betis continued to look threatening and would have been in front if not for a big Courtois save to thwart Borja Iglesias, who had time to set himself and get a shot away in the box.

Rodrygo and Dani Ceballos both fired off target from good positions as Madrid, who started with Lucas Vazquez and Eduardo Camavinga at full-back, continued to toil.

Bravo stood firm in the Betis goal in a nervy conclusion to ensure the points were shared in Andalusia.

Sergi Roberto believes Barcelona's victory over Valencia provides another example of their LaLiga title-winning pedigree after being made to work hard at Camp Nou.

Barca defeated 19th-place Valencia 1-0 at Camp Nou through Raphinha's 15th-minute header to move 10 points clear of Real Madrid, who travel to Real Betis later on Sunday.

The Catalan giants squandered a big chance to effectively kill off Valencia in the 55th minute when Ferran Torres failed to convert a penalty.

A red card issued to Ronald Araujo four minutes later for bringing down Hugo Duro as last man changed the complexion of the contest, but Valencia failed to hit back.

It was far from a vintage display from Barca, but Sergi Roberto is pleased with the manner in which they dug deep to claim a fifth straight league win in this fixture.

"We showed we know how to suffer," he told Movistar. "The red card meant we found ourselves defending more as a team. This is part of a winning team.

"When you go ahead, you need to find a second goal to give yourself some peace of mind. If the penalty had gone in... well. It's a pity, but you have to know how to suffer.

"Leagues are won in matches like this. We have left Madrid 10 points behind, which is something we have to value."

 

Sunday's match marked the first time Barca have had a player sent off and also missed a penalty in a LaLiga game since March 2007 against Sevilla.

Sergi Roberto played 81 minutes of the contest and finished with the best passing accuracy (92.9 per cent) of any Barcelona player, completing 26 of his 28 passes.

The Barca academy product signed a new one-year contract on Friday, making it 14 seasons for the versatile right-back at Camp Nou.

"It is clear that I have been here for many years," he said. "I am happy to continue at this club I've spent my life with. It is where I want to be, where the coach wants me to be. 

"It has been easy and we understood each other quickly. I hope that years of many titles will come."

Barcelona have now won eight games by a 1-0 scoreline in LaLiga this season, which is their most in a full season in the competition's history.

Head coach Xavi watched this latest win from high up in the stands as he served a one-match ban and was put through the wringer by his side.

"I'm never going to protest again because watching the game up there has caused me a lot of anxiety," Xavi joked. "Not being able to communicate with my players was tough.

"The red card was clear as [Araujo] was the last man. It's a shame because we were in control but didn't deal with the danger well. It's a red card.

"You have to know how to close out games. Many times we haven't done it and today we were made to suffer even more because of the sending off.

"A lack of effectiveness is making us suffer. But with many absentees today, and a red card, we showed we still won."

Ten-man Barcelona battled to a nervy 1-0 win over strugglers Valencia at Camp Nou to move 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga.

Barca suffered a shock loss to Almeria in their last league game, prior to beating Madrid in Thursday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg, and were made to work hard by Valencia.

Raphinha put the hosts ahead early on but Ronald Araujo's 59th-minute red card, shortly after Ferran Torres missed a penalty, set up a nervier-than-expected final half an hour.

Valencia had good chances either side of Araujo's dismissal, but they failed to test Marc-Andre ter Stegen and remain two points from safety in the relegation zone.

Barca head coach Xavi was in the stands for this contest due to a one-game suspension and he would have had a perfect view of Raphinha's impressive opener.

Sergio Busquets clipped the ball into the box and Raphinha timed his run to perfection to get in front of Giorgi Mamardashvili and glance the ball into an unguarded net.

Valencia should have been level before half-time, but Thierry Correia headed a big chance wide and Samuel Lino fired off target when Ter Stegen played the ball straight to his feet.

The visitors were given a let-off when Torres clipped the post from a penalty awarded for Hugo Guillamon's handball, while Ansu Fati hit the inside of the post just a minute later.

There was then a further twist as Araujo saw red having pulled down Hugo Duro to prevent the Valencia striker charging through on goal after Jules Kounde headed the ball into his path.

Valencia had a late penalty shout rejected for Franck Kessie's challenge on Fran Perez but ultimately failed to make their one player advantage count in the final 30 minutes.

Bernardo Silva is one step closer to getting his desired move to Barcelona after it was reported that Manchester City have named a price for their wantaway midfielder.

Silva, 28, is in his sixth season with City, but after four Premier League titles and 51 goals for the club, he recently spoke about his wish for a new challenge following multiple transfer windows with heavy interest from Barcelona.

The Portugal international, who scored against Newcastle United on Saturday, has a contract that ties him to the club until 2025, but City might be set grant his wish at the end of the season and allow him to leave – for the right price.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SET ASKING PRICE FOR BARCELONA-BOUND BERNARDO

According to Sport, City have told Silva that they will accept any incoming bid that reaches their demand of £57.5million (€65m).

Barcelona are well aware of the latest development, and are said to be doing all they can in the coming months to ensure the financial rules allow them to make the move. However, Silva's contract demands could be a stumbling block for the Spanish giants.

Reports suggest City previously rejected Barcelona's £62m (€70m) approach during the January window.

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Inter will seek a €40m fee for defender Denzel Dumfries.

– According to The Mirror, Manchester United and Liverpool are among the Premier League teams preparing to make a run at New England Revolution goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.

City will pursue RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol if they sell Paris Saint-Germain target Aymeric Laporte, per the Daily Star.

– Football Insider is reporting Arsenal, City, United and Liverpool are all showing interest in Brighton and Hove Albion's World Cup-winning midfielder Alexis Mac Allister , who the Seagulls are expected to price at £70m.

– According to Calciomercato, Milan are targeting £22m-rated (€25m) Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Diego Simeone set a new record for matches in charge of Atletico Madrid on Saturday and his players provided a stunning tribute as they crushed Sevilla 6-1 at the Civitas Metropolitano.

Simeone, 54, was presiding over his 613th match as Atletico coach, breaking the record set by the late Luis Aragones.

He was handed with a framed commemorative jersey with "Legend, Simeone, 613" across the back before the LaLiga game, with Aragones' son and three of Simeone's children joining him for the presentation.

Simeone's side followed that up with a fitting homage as they brutally swept aside another of their coach's former clubs.

Memphis Depay scored twice in quick succession before the half-hour mark, his second an emphatic strike from the edge of the box, with Youssef En-Nesyri halving the deficit from close range late in the half.

Atletico need not have worried, however. Antoine Griezmann restored the two-goal lead early in the second half and Yannick Carrasco made it 4-1.

Alvaro Morata netted twice late on – his first coming just after Ivan Rakitic missed a penalty – to wrap up a memorable victory on a momentous day for Simeone.

"A night to enjoy and one that [Simeone] will surely not forget," club captain Koke told Movistar after the game. "But hey, I'm sure he's already thinking about the Girona game because his philosophy in life is like that.

"Bygones are bygones, and he always looks to the next game."

He added: "You can't imagine an Atletico Madrid without Simeone. I've been here for 11 years, he came with a very clear idea, he changed the mentality, brought us all together, given the club the stability it needed and hopefully it will continue for many years.

"He has a year and a half left on his contract and we'll see what happens later."

Griezmann celebrated his goal by running over to Simeone and wrapping him in a huge hug.

Explaining the gesture, Griezmann said: "What is an important day for him is an important day for me. I wanted it to be a magical day for the fans and for my team-mates."

For Simeone, however, his focus turned to Aragones, whom he was coached by as a player at Sevilla.

Aragones died in February 2014, but ahead of Saturday's game Simeone posted a letter to him on social media, an act the Argentinian felt was necessary to outline his emotions.

Discussing the letter after the Sevilla game, Simeone told reporters: "Explaining feelings and emotions is difficult.

"I had no doubts seven or eight days ago, I began to think about what was happening and I understood that there was a person before everything that I had to write to, Luis. I talked about it with the family and they said it was a good idea.

"Why? We have travelled the same path; that respect for an eternal person; and passing the point that places me – by numbers, not by capacity – in the history of Atletico.

"Where I am, [Aragones] knows the difficulty. He knows the anger, the egos, living with the emotions, what the club needs, the coaching staff, that we must not make mistakes, that I must say the right word at the right time.

"We have made mistakes several times, but I am calm, I am at peace, because I am in the place where I want to be, I do what I like.

"I am excited to see when the team stands up and continues fighting until the end."

Xavi described Barcelona as "the most difficult club in the world" after his team came in for criticism even after beating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Copa del Rey semi-final win by Barcelona on Thursday handed Xavi's side a 1-0 advantage to take into the second leg, with Madrid unable to manage a shot on target.

Now LaLiga leaders Barcelona face Valencia on Sunday, when they will have a chance to, perhaps only briefly, go 10 points clear of second-placed Madrid.

Barcelona had only 35 per cent of possession against Madrid but did enough, with Eder Militao's own goal decisive. It was their lowest share of possession in any game since the 2013-14 season.

"I see that there has been a stir," Xavi said. "Barca is the most difficult club in the world. You win 1-0 in Madrid, and it is not enough. The style is discussed. If it had been the other way around it would be a national holiday.

"Madrid are Champions League and LaLiga champions. When they squeeze you, it's very difficult. Talking about possession when they go man to man is absurd.

"We weren't good with the ball, we have to improve, but without the ball we were extraordinary. We don't want 36 per cent possession, but this is football and there is a rival.

"There is always noise at Barca. We have to manage the noise. We did a lot of things well and there are others to improve. There are two titles at stake, and this is the moment of truth."

 

According to Xavi, the fact Barcelona only have two titles to go for could be helpful, after their elimination from the Europa League by Manchester United.

Madrid are also still hunting a Champions League title defence, with one foot in the quarter-finals after battering Liverpool 5-2 at Anfield in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

"We will have more time, but we would like to be alive in Europe," Xavi said. "We will have more time to rest and recover better, that is a certain advantage."

Head coach Xavi will be without several important players on Sunday, with midfielder Pedri and striker Robert Lewandowski among them, both sidelined by hamstring injuries, while Gavi is suspended.

Barcelona have won 87 per cent of their LaLiga games when Pedri has played (G31 W27 D3 L1) during Xavi's time at the helm, but that dips to just 50 per cent when he has been absent (G18 W9 D4 L5).

Pedri also missed last weekend's 1-0 loss to Almeria, which was just a second league loss of the campaign for Barcelona, who have not lost successive games in LaLiga since October 2021, when Ronald Koeman was boss.

Barcelona play in the afternoon in Spain on Sunday, with Madrid not in action against Real Betis until the evening.

A win for Barcelona would be a fifth in a row against Valencia on league duty, matching their longest streak of victories against Los Che, achieved twice before.

"It's a golden opportunity to get 10 points ahead, waiting for what Madrid do," Xavi said. "We failed against Almeria, and we can't make any more mistakes."

Another man they must cope without at pitch level is Xavi himself, as the coach serves a one-match touchline ban for an accumulation of yellow cards.

"I suppose I'll be in a box, where the game and the spaces can be seen better," said Xavi. "It doesn't change anything. The only thing is that I won't be able to be on the bench."

Carlo Ancelotti is not concerned by Real Madrid's struggles in front of goal and is confident Karim Benzema will soon get back to scoring ways.

Madrid failed to register a single shot on target in Thursday's 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg loss to Barcelona – the first time that has happened in a home game since 2010.

Los Blancos managed seven attempts on target in their most recent LaLiga outing, but they found the net from just one of those in a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid.

Benzema played a full part in both games without scoring, but his mini drought was preceded by a two-goal showing in Madrid's stunning 5-2 Champions League win at Liverpool.

The former France international has 18 goals in 26 appearances this season, and Ancelotti defended Benzema's displays ahead of facing Real Betis.

"It's not possible to be 'at the top' in every game," Ancelotti said at Saturday's pre-match press conference. "Karim doesn't worry me because I see him in good shape.

"He's in a good physical condition, certainly better than in the first part of the season. At the offensive level, collectively, we are very good.

"We are the team with the most goals in the league. Benzema has failed at some specific moments, nothing more. But there is no 'offensive problem'. We scored five at Anfield."

 

Vinicius Junior was fouled a game-high five times against Barca and has now been fouled 130 times this term – 32 times more than any player across Europe's top five leagues.

The Brazil winger reacted angrily to a couple of challenges, but Ancelotti is not concerned about the 22-year-old being sent off for retaliating.

"It doesn't worry me at all," Ancelotti said. "The important thing here is that Vinicius doesn't lose the love of playing. 

"In recent games they have defended against him very well, that's why it has cost him at times."

Madrid are aiming to avoid going three games without a win in all competitions for the first time this season when they face Betis.

Ancelotti's side, who trail leaders Barcelona by seven points, have won five of their past six visits to Betis in LaLiga.

"We enter the game in good shape and we are recovering players," Ancelotti said. "We know Sunday's game will be difficult against a great team who play attractive football.

"There is no margin for error. We will have to give everything to get the win."

RB Leipzig midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai has five goals and 13 assists in 31 appearances this term.

The 22-year-old's talent has not gone unnoticed, and he is sure to have plenty of potential suitors.

Szoboszlai is contracted with Leipzig 2026, but the latest reports suggest a move is coming sooner rather than later.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA SET TO AGREE SZOBOSZLAI DEAL

Chelsea are on the verge of securing the signing of Leipzig midfielder Szoboszlai, according to TuttoMercatoWeb.

The Blues have been linked with the Hungary international for the past 12 months, but the report claims they are close to securing a deal.

Negotiations have become advanced, with the two parties "very close", and an agreement is likely to be reached in the next few days.

ROUND-UP

– Marcel Sabitzer is likely to make his loan move to Manchester United permanent, claims Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg. Bayern Munich have already identified a replacement in the form of Konrad Laimer.

– Leipzig's Josko Gvardiol  could "soon" head to the Premier League, according to Calciomercato, offering a boost for English trio Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

– Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has identified Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli as his main transfer target, reports Fichajes.

– Italian trio  MilanInter and Juventus are all monitoring  Roberto Firmino's situation at Liverpool following reports he will exit the club at the end of this season when his contract expires, claims Football Italia.

– Sport claims Newcastle United are plotting a move for Barcelona winger Raphinha . The former Leeds United man has not made a huge impact since his move to Camp Nou.

– Wilfried Zaha will exit Crystal Palace as a free agent at the end of this season, with Arsenal and Chelsea among those leading the pursuit to sign him, reports talkSPORT.

In May 2004, as Rafael Benitez and his Valencia team celebrated a LaLiga and UEFA Cup double, it was truly a bright period in the club's history.

Between 1999 and 2004, Los Che won two league titles and also reached two Champions League finals, losing both to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but it was an impressive achievement to be there in the first place, before beating Marseille 2-0 in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup final in Gothenburg.

It was not exactly all downhill from there either.

Granted, no further league titles have been forthcoming in the almost 19 years since, but in an era where the imposing pair of Barcelona and Real Madrid have only grown further, while Atletico Madrid became another formidable foe, that Valencia have had eight top-four finishes in that time is still impressive.

Two Copa del Rey wins in that time, including one as recently as 2018-19, have kept them in the conversation and from an outsider's perspective, it would have been reasonable to assume that one day, they would be back to threaten the big boys.

However, in recent seasons it has been harder and harder to imagine that scenario, with the club feeling like it was spinning its wheels, and this campaign could be one that some have seen coming for a long time.

 

A ninth-place finish last season looked better than it was, finishing closer to the relegation spots than the top seven in terms of points.

Valencia hosted Celta Vigo in the final game of the 2021-22 campaign, and secured a 2-0 win, but it was just their sixth victory at the Mestalla all season.

Prior to the game, an estimated 10,000 fans marched to the Avenida de Suecia outside the stadium in protest at owner Peter Lim and then president Anil Murthy.

The club sacked Murthy last May after audio was leaked of him threatening star midfielder Carlos Soler with bad press if he tried to leave at the end of the season. Soler ultimately sealed a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

As for Lim, he took over the ownership of Valencia in 2014, and fans have been largely unhappy with his leadership ever since.

The Singaporean former stockbroker had at least eased the debt the club had when he arrived, but the approach since then has been more about balancing the books and maintaining their LaLiga status rather than showing ambition to return them to their previous lofty position.

Since the 1987-88 season, Valencia have only had four bottom-half finishes in Spain's top-flight, with three of those coming since Lim's arrival almost nine years ago (11th in 2015-16, 12th in 2016-17 and 13th in 2020-21).

Two seasons ago, the 13th-placed finish was Valencia's joint third worst ever LaLiga season (also 13th in 1987-88), only finishing lower in 1982-83 (15th) and 1985-86 (16th).

 

Selling the likes of Soler, Ferran Torres and Goncalo Guedes in recent years without adequately replacing them has not helped, either with the performances of the team or the relationship with the fans.

And now, even that LaLiga status is in serious question.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former Valencia left-back and director of football Amedeo Carboni understands the fans' frustrations, believing a disconnect between the powers that be and the supporters has not helped.

"Valencia are not going well, you can see that in the table," the former Italy international said. "And it's been for some years, maybe not that low, but it has been now four or five years in which the club is not investing in the team, not investing enough money, so if the squad is not competitive, it's hard being high in the table.

"A lot of teams buy reinforcements, and if they don't start well in the winter market they always find something to help them. You just need to look at Sevilla, who were recently where Valencia are, and now they have risen a bit.

"Regrettably, it had started well [under Lim], then there were some changes that the people, the fans, didn’t understand, changing managers after a good season, managers that had won the Copa del Rey, or qualified for the Champions League.

"To tell the truth, we are outside and don't know what is happening in there, we can only judge what happens. The team is not going well and the people are not happy. There's no signings to [make them] dream.

"[A disconnect] is one part of it, because the fans don't play, the fans don't sign anyone. But having them against you is not a good thing. And this, regrettably, has worsened over time.

"There was a lot between the former president, Murthy and the fans... I think there was a lack of respect towards the club and the fans. They are Mediterranean fans, so hot fans, they like to be involved not only on Sunday, but every day throughout the year.

"If you think about the owner, how many years has he been in Valencia?... I think he has been [to a game] how many times? Five? Seven? No more. That tells a lot."

It seems crazy to think a team that has boasted stars like Santiago Canizares, Gaizka Mendieta, Claudio Lopez, Pablo Aimar, Roberto Ayala, David Villa and David Silva could be playing second tier football next season.

Valencia sit in the relegation zone after 23 games, having won just two of their last 15 league outings (D4 L9).

Gennaro Gattuso was appointed head coach ahead of the campaign but only lasted until late January as the team struggled for consistency under the Italian.

They are far from adrift though, sitting just a point behind Real Valladolid in 17th and just four behind Espanyol in 12th, while last Saturday saw them record a rare win against Real Sociedad in Ruben Baraja's first home game since replacing Gattuso as head coach.

The appointment of Baraja with Carlos Marchena as his assistant almost feels emblematic of the journey for Valencia over the last two decades.

Both were a part of the two title winning teams in 2002 and 2004, but simply appointing people who were there in the good times could seem like a token gesture to appease fans rather than a tactical masterstroke.

Carboni – who also played for the club during that successful period – believes having two figures like his former team-mates in charge could help to focus minds though in what will be a tough period for Los Che.

"Now, you need to be effective," he said. "If you play well, you have a better chance of winning, but when you are in a situation like Valencia, the result is fundamental. You only need to focus on the points. It doesn't matter if you draw or you win on the 95th minute, it is exactly the same. This is the situation Valencia is in.

"Probably [having] two ex-players who have lived it and know what the players are thinking in these moments, they will know how to speak to them, because in these kind of situations, the psychological factor is much bigger than the physical, so if you can recover the focus, the physical side will come as a consequence."

He also understands the desire of Baraja and Marchena to return despite the difficult circumstances, adding: "You always have that dream, knowing that Valencia is an historical team of LaLiga, when you have played there and become a coach, it is normal to want to come back to your club that brought you so much happiness."

Valencia travel to Barcelona on Sunday, a fixture once highly-anticipated as a battle between two of the top teams in Spain.

This time, the visitors will arrive more in hope than expectation, and if they are unable to get their act together in the remaining 15 games, it may not even be a fixture next season.

Real Madrid remains the "dreamland" for any footballer, according to Manchester City striker Erling Haaland's agent Rafaela Pimenta.

Haaland has scored an incredible 33 goals for City this term – four more than any other player across Europe's top five leagues – and has set a number of records along the way.

Despite being in the first season of a five-year deal at the Etihad Stadium, the Norway international continues to be linked with a move to LaLiga heavyweights Real Madrid.

City manager Pep Guardiola previously denied reports that Haaland has a release clause in his contract that will allow him to join Madrid at the end of next season.

But Haaland's agent did little to quash talk of a future switch to the Spanish capital when asked about the 22-year-old's future at the FT Business of Football Summit in London.

"There is the Premier League, and there is Real Madrid. Real Madrid has something of its own that makes it the dreamland for the players," Pimenta said. 

"Madrid keeps this magic going. They don't have the league competition every week, but they do have the Champions League.”

Haaland has previously said the attractiveness of playing under Guardiola at a club where father Alf-Inge once played was too much to turn down.

However, Pimenta suggested the former Borussia Dortmund star already knows which club he will join next.

"We have to make a plan, we need to have a goal," she said. "Maybe we won't achieve it, but if we don't know where we're going, then for sure we don't get there.

"We make plans, yes, we make plans even if they are a 15-year-old. We cannot be sitting down and waiting."

Haaland is one of a number of high-profile clients represented by Pimenta, along with the likes of Paul Pogba, Matthijs de Ligt, Marco Verratti and Ryan Gravenberch.

All of those players have either played in or been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League, which Pimenta feels is still the elite division in world football.

"When I started in this business, if I told [a player], 'you're moving to England', they would ask me, 'what did I do wrong?'," she said.

"Now when we talk to players, and ask them what is their goal, they say the Premier League. They don't say a team, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, they say 'the Premier League'.

"This is the first time in 25 years that I hear so many players say I want to go to a league, not to a club. This is the place to be for an agent.

"An agent needs to be where a player wants to be. It's a fantastic league. It's so competitive, every game is a challenge, everyone wants to watch it."

Chelsea will reportedly make a run at signing Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic at the end of the season after a troubling campaign for the Blues in front of goal.

Through 24 Premier League fixtures, Chelsea have only scored 23 goals, ranking them 14th overall and the lowest total of any side in the top 11.

Lacking a true number nine, and with it remaining unlikely that Romelu Lukaku returns from his Inter loan next season, Chelsea have been keeping a close eye on Vlahovic.

The 23-year-old, who arrived in Turin for a €70million fee in January 2022, has had an injury-interrupted first full season in Italy, with eight goals in 15 Serie A appearances.

While Massimiliano Allegri's side would likely prefer to persist with the tall frontman, who already has 10 senior international goals for Serbia in 19 appearances, the club's financial position could force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – VLAHOVIC EMERGES AS POTENTIAL ANSWER TO CHELSEA'S STRIKER DILEMMA

According to Football Insider, Chelsea are "desperate" to add a true striker, and view Vlahovic as one of three desirable Serie A targets.

They are also supposedly weighing up the possibility of bringing Roma's Tammy Abraham back to Stamford Bridge, while Chelsea will also test the availability of Napoli's Victor Osimhen, who is thought to be an unrealistic option.

The report adds that Vlahovic is one of the players Juventus may make available at the end of the season as they work to recover from financial uncertainty.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Times reports that Chelsea have reignited their interest in 21-year-old RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who they are hoping to land for a fee cheaper than the £97m (€110m) release clause that will become active in 2024.

– According to Express, 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar has decided to snub Manchester United and will instead join Eintracht Frankfurt on a free transfer when his contract expires in July.

Real Madrid are monitoring 25-year-old Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, although the Brazilian insists he is content with his current situation, per Mundo Deportivo.

– Sport reports that Madrid will be joined by rivals Barcelona in the pursuit of 28-year-old Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte.

– According to the Daily Mail, Liverpool are considered the frontrunners to land 24-year-old Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount if he decides to not sign a long-term extension.

Barcelona have handed Joao Mendes a chance to make it big at Camp Nou, just like his father Ronaldinho ascended to superstar status at the club.

The 18-year-old Mendes signed a contract on Thursday to join Barcelona's youth academy, with the young forward hoping to make the grade.

Mendes has been taken on after a trial period, having previously played at junior levels with a number of Brazilian clubs.

Across all competitions, Ronaldinho scored 98 goals in 207 games for Barcelona during a five-year spell from 2003 to 2008.

He was recruited as close to the finished article, having already shone for Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil, and went on to take his game to even higher levels by helping Barcelona win two LaLiga titles and the Champions League.

While thousands turned out to welcome Ronaldinho in 2003, his son's signing was a low-profile affair, with the club's youth football director Joan Soler Ferre joining him to overlook the completion of the deal.

Ronaldinho, who won the 2005 Ballon d'Or, is now a Barcelona ambassador.

Youngster Mendes was released by Cruzeiro last year, but in February the Barcelona president Joan Laporta welcomed the prospect of him joining the Catalan giants.

"The pressure on the boy is great, because Ronaldinho has been one of the best in history," Laporta said then. "The son has pressure, but it's the job of our coaches to develop his skills."

Investigations into Manchester City's alleged financial misconduct have "taken too long", believes LaLiga chief Javier Tebas.

The Premier League champions have been charged by the competition with over 100 rule breaches in relation to their financial dealings following an investigation lasting Wober four years.

City have denied any wrongdoing, and say they will fight the accusations, which could lead to sanctions including a points deduction and potential relegation.

Tebas, who has been frequently critical of the Premier League's wealth, suggested the investigation had dragged its feet however, having first raised the issue in 2017.

"Now it is 2023, and nothing has moved on, but suddenly there is an enquiry," he told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit.

"It has taken too long. We know there was an alleged breach of 100 articles. So any decisions will have to be adopted accordingly by the Premier League."

Tebas drew comparisons to LaLiga title frontrunners Barcelona, who have frequently been in conflict with the governing body over their own financial conduct.

The Blaugrana have amassed eye-watering debts, and were forced to activate additional financial levers in order to fund their transfer market activity last year.

"One of the worst things about financial controls is if you don't follow or comply with it," Tebas added.

"Barcelona are so important for LaLiga in Spain, but if I looked away and didn't pay attention to what is happening with their finances, it would be a gross error.

"Our whole system would collapse. It is impossible for them to do transfer business in the summer because of the numbers. This needs to be resolved, and we need to act."

Declan Rice's West Ham contract is due to expire next year and he has rejected fresh terms, prompting interest from rival English clubs.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have all been linked with the 24-year-old England international midfielder.

But the Hammers have rated Rice at £100million, which would be close to a British-record transfer fee.

TOP STORY – CITY TAKE POLE POSITION FOR RICE

Manchester City are leading the pursuit to sign West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, reports TEAMtalk.

The report claims City have come into contention with a probable trio of off-season departures paving the way for the English champions to afford the move.

Kalvin Phillips, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva are all potentially on the way out at Etihad Stadium as City contemplate a midfield overhaul.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes claims Manchester City have placed an €80m (£71m) price tag on Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva, with Barcelona interested in securing his services. However, the report claims that valuation will likely price out the Blaugrana.

Bayern Munich are set to hand Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting an improved contract from €5m a year to €10m including bonuses a year as part of an extension until 2024, reports Bild. The Cameroonian had been linked with Manchester United and Tottenham previously, and the deal may put to bed Bayern links with Spurs forward Harry Kane.

Barcelona have been linked with Manchester City's Julian Alvarez lately, but Football Insider claims Real Madrid are also keeping tabs on the Argentinian forward as they look for depth behind Karim Benzema.

– Mundo Deportivo reports Real Madrid are tracking Benfica's 19-year-old defender Antonio Silva, although he is contracted with the Portuguese club until 2027.

Manchester United and Atletico Madrid will battle it out to sign Roma forward Paulo Dybala, who has a €12m (£10.6m) release clause in his contract, according to Fichajes.

– Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar has declined Manchester United's advances and opted to sign with Eintracht Frankfurt, claims the Daily Express.

Napoli are looking to secure Chelsea and Newcastle United target Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to a new deal until 2028 to ward off interest, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

Carlo Ancelotti vowed Real Madrid will not endure the same mistakes as they did in the Supercopa de Espana ahead of Thursday's latest Clasico in the Copa del Rey.

Defeat in Saudi Arabia resulted in Barcelona's first trophy of the Xavi era and a treble-winning campaign for Los Blancos' fierce rivals remains on the cards.

March stands as a crucial month for Madrid, with both legs of the Copa del Rey semi-final coming as part of a trio of Clasicos that also sees the pair meet in LaLiga – where Barcelona currently hold a seven-point lead.

Mistakes proved costly in the previous meeting in Riyadh, but Ancelotti insisted those errors will not happen again.

"In the Super Cup we lacked commitment, with individual mistakes that will not be repeated," he told a press conference.

"We are close to winning an important competition and we will compete. It's not the decisive game, but we want to take advantage.

"We do not have the desire for a rematch of the Super Cup, but because we are close to a title, the boiler rises in temperature."

Ancelotti believes that slight progress has been made compared to last year, with Madrid continuing on three fronts as they also hold a first-leg advantage over Liverpool in the Champions League last 16.

"So far, I have said that, compared to last year, we have two points less in LaLiga. But we were also out of the Copa del Rey," he added.

"We're not much better off than last year; we're where we've deserved to be. But now comes the good stuff.

"We've got to March competing in all competitions. Let's see if we can win something."

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