Real Madrid moved one step closer to the LaLiga title with a 3-1 victory at Osasuna despite Karim Benzema twice failing from the penalty spot on Wednesday.

Madrid needed a stunning comeback to win 3-2 at Sevilla after a slow start on Sunday, but were quick out the blocks at El Sadar as David Alaba struck after 12 minutes before Ante Budimir immediately equalised.

Marco Asensio restored Madrid's lead in the 45th minute and, after Benzema saw two penalties saved by Sergio Herrera in the second half, Lucas Vazquez sealed victory in stoppage-time.

Victory moved Madrid 17 points clear of Atletico Madrid, with distant chasers Sevilla and Barcelona also in action against Levante and Real Sociedad respectively on Thursday.

Rodrygo forced a smart Herrera stop with a long-range effort in the opening exchanges, but Madrid were soon ahead.

A quick free-kick from Asensio and Dani Ceballos found space for Benzema, before the striker squared for Alaba, who fortuitously bundled home on the rebound from a Herrera reflex save.

Osasuna responded a minute later when Chimy Avila whipped across from the right for Budimir to tap-in.

Asensio pounced on Ceballos' saved close-range effort to poke Madrid ahead again on the stroke of half-time, before Thibaut Courtois excellently denied a looping Budimir header after the interval.

Avila then handled when trying to stop Rodrygo to offer Madrid a penalty, which Herrera saved against Benzema.

Benzema went for the same bottom-left corner after Rodrygo was felled by Nacho Vidal, with Herrera again guessing the right way.

Vinicius Junior then rolled wide on the counter before teeing up Vazquez, who finished into the bottom-left corner to confirm the win.

What does it mean? Title procession continues for Madrid

Madrid's title charge has been characterised by their fighting spirit to come through adversity to secure victory, and their performance at El Sadar was no different.

Los Blancos weathered an early storm from the hosts to take the half-time lead and, although Benzema twice failed from 12 yards, battled to victory over Osasuna, who have not defeated Madrid in 14 top-flight meetings.

Now, Ancelotti's team will tick off another fixture as they edge closer towards lifting the LaLiga trophy.

 

Rampant Rodrygo spares Benzema blushes

Winger Rodrygo was the star of the show as his half-time introduction sparked a comeback against Sevilla, and he was on form again against Osasuna as he won two penalties and laid on a game-high four chances.

The Brazil international's creative excellence did not prove fruitful for Benzema, who became the first player to miss two penalties in a LaLiga game since Raul Tamudo against Betis in April 2006.

Budimir efforts in vain

Budimir has scored in each of his last five LaLiga games (five goals in total) as he became only the second Osasuna player to score in five successive top-flight games in the 21st century after Richard Morales in 2004. However, the striker's efforts ultimately proved in vain against the league leaders.

What's next?

Madrid visit Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final clash on Tuesday, before hosting Espanyol on Saturday – the day before Osasuna are away at Elche.

New investment at Milan could see the Italian powerhouse target the best players across Europe's top clubs.

Milan have entered into exclusive talks with Bahrain-based asset manager Investcorp over a takeover.

The Rossoneri have been linked with Real Madrid's Marco Asensio and Isco and Liverpool's Divock Origi already.

TOP STORY – STERLING ON MILAN WISH LIST

Milan are monitoring Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

The England international is among a list of players that Milan would like to sign amid a reported lucrative takeover by a Bahrain-based organisation.

Sterling's current contract with City expires in 2023, but the Daily Mail claims he would turn down the Italian move.

 

ROUND-UP

 Christian Eriksen is gaining interest from former employers Tottenham after a good run of form, although his agent is set to meet with Brentford at the end of this season to formalise his future, claims Fabrizio Romano.

– Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will hold talks at the end of this season to discuss his future having struggled for opportunities, reports Football.London.

– Jose Mourinho's Roma will open talks with Nemanja Matic's representatives as the Serbian midfielder prepares to leave Manchester United, reports Nicolo Schira.

– Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United have revived their interest in Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

One of world football's hottest commodities, Erling Haaland, is reportedly set to join Manchester City in the next transfer window after agreeing to personal terms.

It has long been understood that Haaland would likely not return to Borussia Dortmund for another season, with the Bundesliga club entertaining offers from the world's biggest clubs.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain were considered Manchester City's biggest competition for the Norway forward's signature, but a massive contract, recent success and close personal ties to his father seem to have been the deciding factors.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND CHOOSES MANCHESTER CITY

The Daily Mail is reporting Haaland has agreed to a deal with Manchester City that will make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League at £500,000 per week.

With terms agreed, City are expected to trigger Haaland's £62.2million (€75m) release clause and sign him to a five-year deal, which could be announced in the next week.

His father, Alf-Inge Haaland, played at Manchester City from 2000-2003 and is said to have been "heavily involved in the negotiations".

 

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– According to Goal, Real Madrid did not want to unsettle their dressing room by signing Haaland and making him the highest-paid player.

– Fichajes is reporting Real Madrid's attention will turn to Manchester United's Edinson Cavani now Haaland is out of the picture, while The Mirror claims Madrid have strong interest in Chelsea right-back Reece James.

Liverpool target Serge Gnabry is discussing a contract extension with Bayern Munich, according to Goal.

West Ham are hoping to add Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, with the England international likely to leave the club if they are relegated, per the Daily Mail.

Arsenal are in the box seat to land Marco Asensio from Real Madrid after Milan rejected his wage demands, reports CalcioMercato.

Not a window goes by where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's name does not emerge in transfer speculation.

The 27-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, but Juventus are keen to move on the long sought-after Lazio midfielder.

The Serbia international has only progressed under Maurizio Sarri, attracting reported interest from the Turn giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE RAMP UP CHASE FOR MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Milinkovic-Savic's agent Mateja Kezman has commenced talks with Juventus over a possible transfer from Lazio, according to Calciomercato.

The Serbian midfielder has long been a weak area since their appearance in the Champions League final in 2015, and multiple coaches in that period have not been conducive for personnel.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito famously placed an initial €100million value on Milinkovic-Savic, but it has reportedly dropped to €70m. It is perceived that price tag is still too steep a figure for Juventus, as a consequence of compatriot Dusan Vlahovic's signing in January.

It is believed that Lazio would be open to players in return as part of a packaged deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Arsenal have joined the race to sign Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, the Mirror reports.

- Erling Haaland has dismissed interest from Manchester United, believing they do not meet the Norwegian striker's ambitions, according to ESPN.

- Paris Saint-Germain are in talks to sign Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku, only a year after he joined the London club from Inter, per the Sun.

- Roma are interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, Calciomercato is reporting.

- Spanish international Marco Asensio is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, per Mundo Deportivo, with Milan and Tottenham interested.

Everton have endured a nightmarish season and currently find themselves in the Premier League's relegation scramble.

The Toffees are sitting only three points above the relegation zone, despite two games in hand on 18th-placed Watford.

Just as pertinent is their financial situation, which will reportedly force them into having to sell one of their most valuable assets.

TOP STORY – EVERTON TO CHOOSE BETWEEN RICHARLISON AND CALVERT-LEWIN

The Sun is reporting Richarlison or Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have to leave Everton in order for the club to balance their books.

Their latest figures revealed a £121million loss in the last financial year, and one of the two strikers will now have to be sold.

Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are Everton's two highest goal scorers still at the club since the latter arrived in 2016. The Brazilian has scored 47 in 142 appearances in all competitions, while the former Sheffield United man has tallied 55 in 180 games.

Richarlison is a reported target for Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Arsenal apparently keeping a close eye on Calvert-Lewin's situation.

ROUND-UP

– England midfielder Kalvin Phillips has told Leeds United he wants to sign a new contract, potentially warding off interest from the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle, per The Mirror.

– According to ESPN, Anthony Martial could be used to create a package deal from Manchester United for Tottenham's Harry Kane .

– Le Parisien report N'Golo Kante turned down an offer to leave Chelsea for Paris Saint-Germain in January.

Milan have cooled on Real Madrid's Marco Asensio due to the 26-year-old's wage demands, as reported by Tuttosport.

Marco Asensio insists he "didn't think about" leaving Real Madrid despite being linked with a move away after struggling for consistent game-time earlier this season.

The 26-year-old was touted with an exit when Carlo Ancelotti returned to the Santiago Bernabeu at the beginning of the campaign, but has since provided six league goals for Los Blancos despite starting just 11 games in LaLiga.

Ancelotti recently singled Asensio out for praise, calling him "an important player" after his winning goal against Granada stretched Real's lead at the LaLiga summit to six points, but the Italian also admitted that he was not sure if the Spain international could be classed as a regular starter.

Asensio, though, always believed he could have a big role to play for Madrid this season.

"I didn't think about it [leaving]", Asensio told Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

"I still have this and another year left [on my contract], and I have confidence in myself. 

 

Asensio, who has won two LaLiga titles and featured in two Champions League triumphs since joining the club, also hailed Ancelotti's impact on his performances.

"I had several conversations with the coach, and he gave me confidence," he added.

"I feel very comfortable with what he asks of me on the pitch. His ideas and the confidence that he has shown me helps a lot when it comes to being on the pitch.

"I knew that the season was going to start differently because of [my involvement in] the Olympics, and I had to do a mini-preseason. 

"At first, I didn't play [as much as I wanted], but then I had to take advantage when I did. 

"I want to continue growing, and I feel that I am contributing to the team."

Asensio is Real Madrid's third-highest goalscorer in LaLiga this season behind only Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, and his six strikes have come from an expected goals rate of 4.96. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesse Lingard remained at Manchester United beyond the January transfer window, but the England international's long-term future at Old Trafford is far from certain.

After struggling for appearances this term under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick, Lingard's time at United may be reaching its natural conclusion.

A number of teams have been tipped to move for the 29-year-old at the end of the campaign, at which point he will officially become a free agent.


TOP STORY - LINGARD ON JUVE'S RADAR

Juventus have been unable to agree fresh terms with Paulo Dybala and, according to Calciomercato, plans are already in place to bring in a replacement in the next window.

The report claims that Juve are big fans of Lingard, despite his limited playing time this season, and will attempt to see off competition for his signature.

Newcastle United and West Ham, where Lingard spent a successful period on loan in 2020-21, have also been tipped to move for the United academy product.


ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have taken the first steps towards signing soon-to-be free agent Marcelo Brozovic from Inter at the end of the season, according to Calciomercato. 

- Transfer expert Ekrem Konur claims that Manchester City are confident of agreeing fresh terms with Ilkay Gundogan amid interest from England, Spain and Germany.

- Juve have recently been tipped to move for Nicolo Zaniolo, and Calciomercato suggests that Roma will allow the midfielder to leave should his €40million valuation be met.

- Marco Asensio is open to extending his contract with Real Madrid beyond the end of next season, despite not being first choice. That is according to Goal.

- Douglas Costa has agreed to join Los Angeles Galaxy from Juventus on an initial 18-month contract, claims Fabrizio Romano, with a deal set to be confirmed early next week.

Substitutes Marco Asensio and Isco ensured Real Madrid avoided more Copa del Rey embarrassment against Alcoyano as ​the LaLiga leaders battled to a 3-1 victory in the round-of-32 tie.

Madrid were on the end of one of the greatest shocks in Spanish football history 12 months ago when losing to the same third-tier opponents at Estadio El Collao.

Eder Militao gave Madrid the lead late in the first half of Wednesday's clash, just like he did in last year's meeting, only for Dani Vega to hit back in style for the hosts.

But Carlo Ancelotti's side, who were without Karim Benzema, Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior, regained the lead through Asensio's heavily deflected strike 14 minutes from time before Isco's poked effort went in off goalkeeper Jose Juan to seal progression.

Alcoyano eliminated LaLiga's bottom side Levante in the last round and started strongly against Madrid, with Dani Vega testing stand-in keeper Andriy Lunin early on.

Eduardo Camavinga blocked a goal-bound shot soon after and the lively Vega had a penalty appeal turned down after being sent to the ground by Militao.

The game soon settled down and Madrid edged in front from their first attempt on target, Militao getting in front of Jose Juan to head in Rodrygo's corner.

Madrid never looked truly settled and Vega levelled up the game after driving into the box, cutting back inside past the chasing Casemiro and curling a shot away from Lunin.

But the visitors, whose 15-match unbeaten run was ended by Getafe last weekend, soon woke up and were back in front when Asensio's shot from the edge of the area, set up by Eden Hazard, took a big deflection and left Jose Juan wrong-footed.

Fellow substitute Isco thought he had himself got on the scoresheet two minutes later, but it went down as an own goal as the last touch from his prodded effort came off the veteran keeper.

 

Real Madrid have confirmed another five players and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Los Blancos revealed on Wednesday that Luka Modric and Marcelo had gone into quarantine after returning positive test results for the virus.

Having also seen positive cases appear in the basketball team, Madrid-based newspaper Marca reported on Thursday morning that the club were fearing a full-blown outbreak at their Valdebebas training base.

The first team now has at least seven members of the playing and coaching staff with coronavirus.

Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Andriy Lunin and Rodrygo are the latest players to have contracted COVID-19, while Carlo Ancelotti's son and technical assistant Davide was the one coach named on the list.

All will be absent for Madrid's final two matches of 2021 – the visit of Cadiz on Sunday and trip to Athletic Bilbao three days later.

However, there also remains the possibility that Madrid's matches are postponed either on medical grounds or due to a lack of players if there are further positive cases confirmed.

Nuno Espirito Santo's replacement at Tottenham will be no surprise.

Antonio Conte had been rumoured as the top choice.

The ex-Inter man looks set to make it official on Tuesday, barring any late hitches.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE SET FOR SPURS MOVE

With Nuno Espirito Santo officially out, Antonio Conte is set to step in at Tottenham.

According to widespread reports, Conte has agreed a contract through June 2023 and the move will be finalised on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old left Inter by mutual consent after last season.

The Sun claims Spurs will give Conte £150million to spend on new players.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Paul Pogba prefers Paris Saint-Germain over Real Madrid or Juventus once he makes his expected departure from Manchester United, Fichajes reports.

- PSG are eyeing Karim Adeyemi as a potential replacement should Kylian Mbappe leave, Sky Sport in Germany reports. The 19-year-old Red Bull Salzburg striker also has drawn interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

- Real Madrid's Marco Asensio will be in demand in January, with El Nacional reporting Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus, Milan and Dortmund all have offers ready.

- Arsenal are eyeing Torino striker Andrea Belotti, says Calciomercato.

- Villarreal's Unai Emery is the new favourite to take over as Newcastle United manager, says the Mirror.

Gavi has fast become the talk of Spanish football.

The 17-year-old is a regular for Barcelona and now an international for Luis Enrique's Spain.

His exploits have reportedly attracted interest from Europe's elite.

 

TOP STORY – TRIO CHASING GAVI

Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Manchester United are interested in Barcelona and Spain sensation Gavi, according to El Nacional.

Gavi has enjoyed a rapid rise at Camp Nou this season, while he earned his first international cap in Spain's Nations League semi-final success against Italy on Wednesday.

PSG, Liverpool and United are eyeing Gavi as Barca try to extend the 17-year-old's contract, claims Mundo Deportivo.

 

ROUND-UP

- ABC claims Liverpool have set their sights on Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, who is reportedly unhappy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Juventus and Inter are eyeing Bayern Munich centre-back Niklas Sule, says Calciomercato. The Germany international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has also been linked with Chelsea.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern are monitoring PSV winger Cody Gakpo. The 22-year-old is seen as an ideal replacement Kingsley Coman, who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Liverpool and United.

Valencia and Real Betis are battling to sign out-of-favour Inter forward Alexis Sanchez, per Calciomercato. The Chilean forward has also emerged as a target for Rayo Vallecano.

Mauro Icardi could swap PSG for Juve as the Serie A side view the former Inter captain as an alternative to Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Vlahovic is set to leave Fiorentina amid links with Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Inter.

Paul Pogba has been the subject of constant speculation over the past 12 months.

Manchester United's French midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

Pogba has been in excellent early season form, with seven assists in the league already.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID MOVE LOOMS FOR POGBA

Real Madrid are Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba's most likely destination at the end of this season, claims El Nacional.

The France international is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of this season and could leave on a free transfer.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is trying to persuade Pogba to join Madrid, despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

Liverpool target Karim Adeyemi is being chased by German pair Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, reports Sport Bild. RB Leipzig are also monitoring the 19-year-old Salzburg striker.

Marco Asensio appears destined to leave Madrid given his current role, with Sevilla hoping to sign the midfielder, according to El Gol Digital.

– Fichajes reports that Milan are plotting a January move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

– The Sun claims that Tottenham have revived their interest in West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone as they seek a successor to Hugo Lloris.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho wants to reunite with Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele by signing him, reports Calciomercato.

– Marca claims that Manchester City are considering tabling an offer to sign Villareal forward Pau Torres .

Arsenal are set for a shake-up after missing out on European football for the first time in 26 years.

Mikel Arteta's side started the new Premier League campaign slowly.

But three wins in a row have offered hope and rumours are swirling about transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL PLOT SWAP FOR EN-NESYRI

Arsenal will offer Alexandre Lacazette as part of a deal to land Youssef En-Nesyri from Sevilla, according to La Razon.

Morocco international forward En-Nesyri has sparked Arsenal's interest after netting 24 goals in all competitions in the 2020-21 season.

Lacazette has only made one league appearance for the Gunners this term and was reportedly shipped around during the off-season.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to sign a new long-term contract with Roma, which will remove his €30million release clause. Pellegrini was previously pursued by Liverpool and Tottenham.

– Liverpool scouts kept a close eye on Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at Wednesday's Champions League game against Manchester United as they plan for Sadio Mane's successor, claims the Daily Mirror.

– Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio remains in Arsenal's sights, reports the Daily Star.

Inter are not considering signing Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Ajax's Andre Onana their preferred acquisition, claims Fabrizio Romano.

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