Sadio Mane has been speculated as a potential Ballon d'Or winner in recent weeks.

And the Liverpool forward is also gathering speculation about his club future.

The 30-year-old helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations in February and has netted 15 goals in Liverpool's Premier League title challenge.

TOP STORY – BARCA TO SWOOP FOR BAYERN TARGET MANE

Barcelona are ready to swoop in to sign Liverpool's Mane amid reported interest from Bayern Munich, Mundo Deportivo claims.

The Senegal international is reportedly interested in a switch and is moving into the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract.

Barcelona have missed out on Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland who will join Manchester City and are determined to land an elite forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry is drawing attention from several clubs, with Real Madrid among the clubs interested, according to Fichajes.

- Newcastle United have made contact with Philippe Coutinho about a move, reports Goal. Coutinho is currently on loan with Aston Villa from Barcelona.

- The Guardian claims that West Ham United are plotting an off-season move for Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins. Villa would demand a £50m fee for the forward.

- Manchester United and Newcastle are both interested in signing Napoli's Victor Osimhen, claims Calciomercato. Napoli want 100m euros (£85.5m) for the Nigerian forward.

- Super Deporte claims that Sevilla are interested in a transfer for Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe.

Raphinha has been a bright spark for Leeds United as they have battled relegation from the Premier League this season.

Following the weekend's results, the Whites are in huge danger of going down after they dropped into the bottom three. As is the case in football, the vultures will circle in that eventuality.

The Brazil international has long been on the list of targets for Barcelona and the winger looks likely to move on at the end of the season, when Leeds could find themselves back in the Championship.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS RELEGATION TO SPEED UP RAFINHA'S BARCELONA MOVE

Leeds United's potential relegation from the Premier League could help force Raphinha's move to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Even if Ousmane Dembele signs a new contract, the Catalan giants are keen to land another winger.

While Dembele's future has reportedly depended on Barcelona's qualification for the Champions League, the desire to sign Raphinha has been clear regardless. 

Leeds' relegation would reportedly allow the the 25-year-old to leave for €25million (£21.4m), though there is no clause in his contract that establishes an exact price.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez could be scuppered with Inter Milan not looking to sell the 24-year-old, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester City's deal with Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland could be finalised and announced next week, the Sun is reporting.

- Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea in the race to sign Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni , according to Marca.

- Bayern Munich are preparing to begin talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Konrad Laimer , Fabrizio Romano reports.

Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid still have plenty of work to do if they are to finish in LaLiga's top four and qualify for the Champions League.

Atleti beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday to move six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with three games to go.

Yannick Carrasco's 40th-minute penalty, awarded for Jesus Vallejo's barge on Matheus Cunha, was enough for Atletico to snap an 11-game winless run in this fixture.

Los Rojiblancos can seal a 10th straight season of Champions League football with three points against Elche on Wednesday, but Simeone is taking nothing for granted.

"There are three games left. Everyone is competing to finish fourth and it will not be easy," he told Movistar. "But of course this is a strong and decisive step for us.

"We played the game we wanted to play. We had many chances but couldn't be forceful and that pushed us to the limit against a rival that improves as the minutes go by."

Atletico hit the post through Carrasco late on and outshot their opponents 16 to 15, but just two of those attempts were on target – one of those being Carrasco's penalty.

Madrid had six shots on target by comparison – only against Cadiz have they tested the opposition goalkeeper more times in LaLiga this season (nine) without scoring.

Jan Oblak has struggled for form this season but produced a number of fine saves to help Atleti to their first ever win over Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano.

Indeed, those six saves are the most he has made in a single LaLiga match this campaign, surpassing the five he registered in March's 3-1 win against Betis.

 

Like head coach Simeone, though, the Atletico goalkeeper is not thinking of Champions League football just yet.

"We're still not sure of that," he said. "Until it's secured then the weight is going to be on us. On Wednesday we have to come out in the best way and get the three points.

"There are three games left, which is a lot. Hopefully we're not made to suffer until the last minutes."

Following their midweek trip to 14th-placed Elche, Atletico host Sevilla and then travel to Real Sociedad on the final day.

Carlo Ancelotti intends to continue rotating his Real Madrid side across their remaining LaLiga matches with all focus on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Madrid were beaten 1-0 by fierce rivals Atletico Madrid in Sunday's El Derbi after making seven changes from their dramatic midweek European win against Manchester City.

While the likes of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior were brought on at the second half, Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois remained on the bench at Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Blancos have already sealed the title and can afford to chop and change with three more LaLiga outings to come before their May 28 showdown with Liverpool. 

Ancelotti's side host Levante on Thursday and round off their domestic campaign with games against Cadiz and Real Betis.

Asked if he will continue to make changes to his side, the Italian coach told Movistar: "Yeah. Those who played less today will now play on Thursday.

"But the team that plays against Betis will more or less be the team that will play the [Champions League] final. The aim is to reach the final with everyone available.

"We still expect to compete, play with a high intensity and good rhythm. In the second half today the rhythm was good."

 

Madrid's defeat was their first against neighbours Atletico in 12 matches in all competitions in a run stretching back to 2018.

The visitors fired in 15 shots against Atleti, six of which were on target – only against Cadiz have they tested the keeper more times in LaLiga this term without scoring (nine).

Yannick Carrasco's penalty shortly before half-time proved the difference for Atleti, who ended the game with an expected goals (xG) value of 2.33 compared to 1.26 for Madrid.

"It was a good, competitive match," Ancelotti added. "We played much better in the second half and couldn't have asked for more in a match that comes after an exciting week.

"I didn't really expect any more from my side."

Atletico's penalty was awarded two minutes after Jesus Vallejo felled Matheus Cunha in the box, with VAR instructing referee Cesar Soto Grado to check the pitchside monitor.

That was the first spot-kick Los Rojiblancos have scored against Madrid in LaLiga since Diego Forlan converted from 12 yards in March 2010.

Ancelotti was surprisingly not asked about the contentious incident and joked "aren't we talking about the penalty" as he exited his post-match news conference.

Atletico Madrid took advantage of Carlo Ancelotti's decision to rotate as they edged out fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 on Sunday to tighten their grip on fourth place in LaLiga.

Four days on from their stunning comeback win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, Madrid made seven changes for their trip to Wanda Metropolitano.

That told as Madrid, who were crowned Spanish champions last week with four games to spare, fell behind to a 40th-minute Yannick Carrasco penalty that was awarded after a VAR check.

Despite the introduction of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior, Madrid could not find a leveller in the absence of top scorer Karim Benzema as they fell to a rare El Derbi defeat.

 

Much was made of Atleti's decision to not give Madrid a guard of honour ahead of kick-off in their neighbours' first league outing since sealing a 35th league crown.

The home side were far more fired up for the match and twice went close in the opening eight minutes, with Angel Correa and Carrasco firing wide from good positions.

Carrasco made the breakthrough from the penalty spot before half-time, though, after Matheus Cunha was barged over by Jesus Vallejo just inside the box.

The referee had initially allowed play to continue for a couple of minutes, but he was instructed by the VAR to check the pitchside monitor and reversed his initial decision.

Luka Jovic was denied by Jan Oblak and Casemiro should have done far more with a tame shot that was curled straight at the Atletico keeper as Madrid pushed for a leveller.

Atleti wasted chances of their own as Carrasco fired over and Cunha could not convert past Andriy Lunin when played in by substitute Antoine Griezmann, who also went close.

Carrasco nearly sealed things when hitting the post 14 minutes from time, but his earlier penalty proved enough in the end thanks to another Oblak save to keep out Vinicius and a bad miss from Nacho.

Erling Haaland looks set to announce his exit from Borussia Dortmund within days as the club prepare to lose their star striker. 

Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl, who will step up from his player licensing role to become sporting director at the season's end, said on Sunday that the club were braced for the 21-year-old to move on. 

Manchester City are reported front-runners for the signature of the Norway international, who joined Dortmund in late December 2019 after catching the eye at Salzburg. 

Kehl told German broadcaster Sport1: "I think we will have clarity next week. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves on in the end." 

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have also been heavily linked with Haaland, but the prospect of a move to LaLiga has seemed to cool in recent months. 

Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, had a playing stint at City and the Dortmund striker was born in Leeds, so a move to England may hold particular appeal. 

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, has repeatedly declined to discuss the prospect of bringing in Haaland. 

However, with Champions League trophy success again proving elusive for City this season, acquiring a striker of Haaland's pedigree looks imperative for Guardiola. 

Dortmund are expected to sign Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg as Haaland's replacement, with Kehl also expecting movement in that direction in the coming week. 

Haaland has scored 28 goals in 29 games across all competitions for Dortmund this season, proving prolific despite his campaign being disrupted by injuries. He scored 41 times in 41 matches last term, his first full season in Germany. 

Kylian Mbappe will be making the right choice if he leaves Paris Saint-Germain for Real Madrid, according to Bixente Lizarazu. 

France international Mbappe is set to be out of contract at PSG at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid. 

The Ligue 1 champions hope to convince the 23-year-old to extend his stay at the Parc des Princes, though.

According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Madrid want 50 per cent of Mbappe's image rights and that is making the attacker seriously consider a renewal in the French capital. 

However, Lizarazu thinks a move the Champions League finalists and the possibility to link up with international team-mate Karim Benzema would be ideal for Mbappe. 

Asked where he would like to see Mbappe playing, Lizarazu told Telefoot: "Real Madrid – it seems clear to me. 

"The Champions League culture, the electricity there is in the stadium, and on top of that the team is perfect. He would do well there. The combination with Benzema would be great. 

"Now, if he's taking so long to decide, it's because he's waiting for an answer from PSG. The answer on the structure, the organisation, the mentality. The team, collectively, will it respond? 

"There are a number of factors, so maybe he is waiting for that and changes at the level of certain directors." 

Following their exit at the hands of Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, Leicester City are at the fork in the road that faces every club their size following some success.

History says that sustainable progress will have to come at the expense of selling the players who got the club to such heights.

While James Maddison and Wesley Fofana have long been on the wish lists of bigger clubs, Youri Tielemans reportedly looks set to leave also.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL, REAL MADRID SET ON TIELEMANS

Arsenal are closing in on a £40million transfer for Leicester City and Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans, The Sun is reporting.

Real Madrid are waiting to pounce, however, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Leicester are now reportedly resigned to selling the 25-year-old, whose goal won the Foxes the FA Cup last term. 

Tielemans has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football, meaning Manchester United have dropped out of the race.

ROUND-UP

- Fernandinho appears set to leave Manchester City, despite having a year remaining on his contract, citing a personal decision, per Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are looking to sign Villarreal's Pau Torres for a fee below his release clause of £55million (€64.3m), Football Insider reports.

- The Daily Star are reporting Nemanja Matic, who will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, is set to join Juventus.

- West Ham are leading the race to sign 23-year-old Chile international Ben Brereton-Diaz from Blackburn Rovers, according to The Sun.

Joey Barton had cited Real Madrid's remarkable Champions League fightback against Manchester City as an example to Bristol Rovers before Saturday's promotion decider, but even he might have struggled to imagine the "footballing miracle" that unfolded.

Former City and Newcastle United midfielder Barton led Rovers into their final match of the League Two season outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference and so needing to better Northampton Town's result by five goals.

Still, boss Barton's focus was on what Rovers could achieve against already-relegated Scunthorpe United, rather than worrying about Northampton's result at Barrow.

"If we win 10-0, we're up, aren't we? It is in our hands in that way," he said, adding: "It's very rare you do someone by 10, but who knows?"

As it was, seven would do – tying a club record.

At half-time, Rovers were 2-0 up, but Northampton also led by two, 3-1 in front and coasting towards League One.

Having scored four in the second half of the previous week's sensational 4-3 win at Rochdale, Barton's side this time needed five in the same period.

But the one-time England international was not daunted by the challenge, having pointed to Madrid's turnaround that secured a Champions League final place.

"Madrid thought they were out of the Champions League, then they scored two goals in stoppage time," he had said. "It only takes a second to score a goal."

Rovers certainly did not lack ambition in pursuit of their unlikely aim, attempting 34 shots – the second-most by a team in a single League Two game this season.

Elliot Anderson, the Newcastle loanee dubbed 'the Geordie Maradona' following a comparison from Barton to the late Argentina legend, contributed to 15 of those efforts, taking eight shots himself and creating seven chances.

Following his signing, winger Anderson – who only ended up at Rovers after a Championship loan collapsed – led League Two in shot involvements (133) and ranked second for goal involvements (13).

It was no surprise then that the teenager, having supplied two assists, scored the decisive seventh goal in a 7-0 win while Northampton failed to add to their lead. Even Madrid would surely have been impressed.

"Incredible," Rovers owner Wael al-Qadi told BBC Sport. "It was fantastic to have experienced such a moment.

"The plan was to go for it. I never doubted this bunch of players. They went for it and look what happened. It's a footballing miracle."

Both the owner and Barton had taken to the pitch to plead with Rovers fans to return to the stands and allow the match to finish after Anderson's header.

"I can't describe it," Barton added. "It's probably something when I'm in my rocking chair, and the fact I've headed a lot of balls out at the near post area has caught up with me, I'll remember this favourably with Weetabix running down my chin.

"I'll be thinking of the scenes at the Mem on this day."

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is "one of the most underrated players in history" according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d'Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti's team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.

The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former "awesome".

"For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays," Ceferin said.

"Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone's shadow. 

"It's amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.

"We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all."

After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City's expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition's history.

He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti's men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.

"That's the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world," he added. "And when you watch these games… it's amazing. 

"I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs. 

"But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.

"The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I'm looking forward to the final."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the remaining Super League clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus could yet face sanctions, also insisting they are free to form their own competition if they give up their places in the Champions League.

Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus were the only three founding clubs not to renounce their backing for the widely derided Super League after the breakaway project's collapse in April 2021.

Last month, a Madrid court lifted precautionary measures preventing UEFA from punishing the trio, who have continued to voice their backing for a new competition – to be governed by its founding clubs – despite the withdrawals of the other nine founding members.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin hinted sanctions against the trio could be on the horizon and hit out at the "incredible arrogance" of the clubs.

Ceferin, who assumed his post in 2016 after succeeding Michel Platini, also said the clubs were free to do whatever they liked, but would not be allowed to participate in UEFA competitions if the venture was revived.  

"Of course it's possible [to sanction the clubs] but let's see what happens," he said. "The only 'hello' UEFA got from them came from the courts, as they tried to challenge us everywhere. 

"We never said that they couldn't play their own competition, because they can if they want. But it's funny that these were the clubs that first registered in the Champions League. 

"If they play other tournaments, they cannot play in our competitions. That is not a monopoly. They can create their own UEFA and do what they think is right. 

"I showed them a lot of respect in the past. I don't want to talk about the president of Juventus [Andrea Agnelli], but my relationship with him was very open and honest. 

"I never said this before, but I invited the president of Madrid, Florentino Perez, to Nyon before it all happened to talk about future competitions. He called off the meeting with a text message just 24 hours earlier because of 'a basketball-related event'. With [former Barca president Josep Maria] Bartomeu I never spoke.

"Everyone had a chance to speak, and we've never been pushy or arrogant. The announcement of that project was an act of incredible arrogance on their part, and that's probably why they don't want to communicate with UEFA. 

"But that has never influenced how we treat them in our tournaments. You can see it in their successes: Real Madrid will play in the Champions League final and Barca will play in the Women's Champions League. That is a clear sign that our competitions are healthy, fair and correct.

"Football must remain open to all, and we will not back down one millimetre to defend the European sporting model. What they want is theirs, and they are free to get together and do what they want."

Amid their refusal to back down on their support for the Super League, Real Madrid will appear in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month after a remarkable 6-5 aggregate triumph over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, although UEFA has faced criticism for proposed Champions League reforms which could allow two qualification places to be awarded based on historical performances, Ceferin said the demise of the Super League made clear that continental football must remain open to all.

"I was glad it happened because it was always up in the air," he added. "When it finally came out, we ended once and for all with this nonsense that football can be bought, that football is only for the elite, only for the rich. 

"That will never happen. People warned me that the same people killed basketball, but I told them, 'Basketball is not football. It will never be football.' Football is part of our history. It is part of our traditions."

Carlo Ancelotti insisted there are no problems with Gareth Bale within the Real Madrid dressing room after the Wales international missed Los Blancos' LaLiga title celebrations.

Madrid lifted their 35th league title last Saturday after a 4-0 hammering of Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Los Blancos celebrated on the pitch with the trophy in front of supporters after the game.

Ancelotti's side then embarked on a bus parade around the Spanish capital the following day, but Bale was not present on both occasions as he cited "back spasms" for his absence.

Eden Hazard, much like Bale, has not featured often for Madrid this season but could be seen joyously involved with the midweek celebrations after a dramatic Champions League win over Manchester City.

That continued the speculation as to the popularity of Bale, who has just played five times in LaLiga this season, but Ancelotti believes his side hold a "mutual respect" for the former Tottenham man.

"There is no distance with the dressing room, they have mutual affection, he was absent because he could not move. It happened to me," the Italian told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos is another Los Blancos name linked with the exit door in the next transfer window, but has been offered more chances in recent weeks, featuring in eight of the last nine games.

Ancelotti revealed his desire to keep the midfielder at the club ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

"I've had a chat with Ceballos, he knows what I think of him, what the club think of him and he has to make what he thinks is the best decision," he added.

"He knows what I think, what his team-mates think, then he has to sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti reserved special praise for right-back Dani Carvajal, who impressed against Pep Guardiola's City in the remarkable Champions League turnaround.

"He has struggled with injuries but he's got a good, strong personality," he continued. "I know he's been frustrated at times and has not been able to deliver to 100 per cent.

"He was outstanding against Manchester City. Nobody has ever thrown in the towel, given up. To wear the Real Madrid shirt means a lot to these players, Carvajal now is in excellent shape, he's helping a lot.

"Also, when the team need him most he's there."

Carlo Ancelotti hopes to continue living a "long honeymoon" at Real Madrid, and said he respects Atletico Madrid despite the fact the club will not give his side receive a guard of honour in Sunday's derby.

Los Blancos celebrated a 35th LaLiga title by hammering Espanyol 4-0 last week before reaching the Champions League final in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Madrid were trailing 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate before substitute Rodrygo scored twice in injury time, dramatic scenes that preceded Karim Benzema scoring the winning penalty in extra time to set up a showpiece with Liverpool in Paris.

Following the win over Espanyol, Ancelotti was pictured smoking a cigar when celebrating with his squad – a photo that went viral on social media.

Asked if he was enjoying a renewed youth in his second spell at Madrid, Ancelotti told a news conference: "You can say that [I am enjoying it more than ever].

"But I really enjoyed my time at Napoli for example, I didn't win titles I enjoyed my time at all the clubs I've managed.

"At Everton I didn't win a title but loved beating Liverpool. Everton are now struggling, we finished quite high up in the table with Everton. 

"Real Madrid is different. You could say, yeah, it's a honeymoon period. I'm still on the honeymoon, a long honeymoon, from December through to May – hopefully the end of May."

Madrid's first league encounter since regaining the title is against the side they deposed at champions in the form at Atleti, who released a statement on Monday saying they will not provide a guard of honour – an act that is commonplace in Spanish football.

Ancelotti has no qualms about the decision, though.

"I'm not used to this because we don't see it in Italy. If they do it then great, if they don't then I still respect the club," he added.

"I have the utmost respect for Atletico Madrid."

Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid have "four finals" left to secure Champions League football as they prepare for the derby with Real Madrid on Sunday.

Atletico followed up a goalless draw with Granada by losing 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao last Saturday, allowing fifth-placed Real Betis to move just three points behind Simeone's side.

LaLiga champions Real Madrid secured the title with four games to spare courtesy of a victory over Espanyol last weekend and are up next for Atletico, who have lost their past eight in all competitions against Los Blancos.

Madrid are also on an 11-game unbeaten streak against Atletico in LaLiga, their best such derby run against Simeone as coach, and the Argentine knows the Rojiblancos are in need of a result to ease the pressure.

"The reality is that we are in a decisive situation, there are four finals left," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"We will face the derby in the best way, with great enthusiasm and try to evade everything that is being talked about around the situation. What worries us is the result.

"I hope that the team can express itself in the best way, that it is strong, focused, competitive and from there good things happen. If you show yourself strong, in the match everything will be positive."

 

Atletico have already caused a stir prior to kick-off at Wanda Metropolitano by confirming they will not offer Madrid a guard of honour, with their strong response claiming the performative gesture was not required.

Instead, Atletico congratulated their neighbours in a statement and Simeone followed suit by commending the work of Carlo Ancelotti as he questioned the need for the media frenzy surrounding the guard of honour.

"Always in this search for questions they try to generate controversy, what he said, what he feels," he added.

"The reality is what the club said in a statement, explained perfectly, to congratulate Real Madrid above all, to the footballers and to their coaching staff because they have done a great job.

"I have great respect for Madrid, who have just become champions, but we have more respect for our people who are with us all day."

Despite Madrid already lifting the title, Simeone suggested Ancelotti will not make many tactical changes as he prepares for a familiar Los Blancos set-up.

"The structure is not going to change or the way of playing," he continued. "Carlo is a great coach, with very clear ideas. In that case, the names vary but not the tactics."

Amid the furore of Real Madrid's quite astonishing great escape in the Champions League – well, their latest – it's easy to forget they only won the Spanish title last weekend.

Of course, it had been long foreseen, but Madrid's 35th LaLiga crown was secured with their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading to a party that had Marcelo climbing statues, Carlo Ancelotti smoking a cigar and David Alaba getting his chair out again.

With a record-extending 17th Champions League final appearance wrapped up, Madrid can turn their attention back to LaLiga knowing they still have a reason to keep themselves sharp, and they could yet equal their best points tally (93) since reaching 100 in 2011-12.

Fittingly, their first league match as champions comes against the team they ousted, with bitter rivals Atletico Madrid playing host to Los Blancos at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

While that match has taken a back seat over the past few days, in Spain there has been a debate centred on the derby rumbling in the background for some time now.

As champions, Madrid might feel entitled to a pasillo, or 'guard of honour' – but they won't get one.

'A public toll'

While the guard of honour is a tradition with deep roots in sport, there's little doubt that it's a polarising gesture.

A mark of respect, perhaps, but more and more it is seen as a tool of humiliation, particularly when expected in such contests between major rivals.

The decision was down to Atletico's decision makers rather than the players, though captain Jan Oblak made his feelings perfectly clear after their defeat to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

He said: "As captain, I'm one of those who doesn't like to give or receive the guard of honour, but the club will decide and we'll do whatever is necessary."

Atletico subsequently released a statement on Monday confirming they'll not participate, with their strong response claiming the recent debate was stirred purely to stoke anger between fanbases.

They said: "Some want to turn what was born as a gesture of recognition for the champion into a public toll that their rivals must pay, also impregnated with the aroma of humiliation. Under no concept are Atletico Madrid going to collaborate in this attempt at derision in which the true values ​​of sport are completely forgotten and tension and confrontation between the fans is encouraged."

Additionally, Atletico suggested there was no such debate around Celta Vigo's decision not to give them a guard of honour at the start of this season, with the controversy around the upcoming derby "exaggerated and artificial".

Some might feel Atletico's disdain for the tradition is disrespectful, but there is refreshing sentiment behind their stance as well: not every mark of respect needs to be accompanied by a performative gesture.

In this age of obsessing over social media engagement, there seems a need to turn normal behaviour into a song and dance, the classic example being the tidy changing room photo. "That's class" or "respect [clapping emoji]" litter the replies on Twitter – it's not, it's just common courtesy.

If Atletico players, officials, coaches or fans wish to congratulate Madrid, it doesn't require a forced gesture.

Madrid's refusal

This is by no means the first time Madrid have been involved in guard of honour controversy. Four years ago, the debate around the pasillo was arguably at its zenith.

Barcelona had won the title prior to facing Madrid in El Clasico, meaning there were those in the Blaugrana ranks expecting a show of respect at Camp Nou.

But Madrid refused. Zinedine Zidane, coach at the time, pointed the finger. He suggested they might have reciprocated had Barca given them a guard of honour a few months earlier when Los Blancos won the Club World Cup.

Barca's justification then was that they didn't play in the Club World Cup so didn't need to acknowledge Madrid's success – not that Zidane was buying the excuse.

"It's a lie," he said. "You have to win the Champions League to play in the Club World Cup. I am not the one to decide that we don't want to do the pasillo. They didn't do it, we respect that; we'll not do it because they didn't do it."

Gerard Pique, true to form, found a novel way to get around the issue while simultaneously highlighting Madrid's refusal – he arranged for Barca's coaching staff to give the players a pasillo instead at full-time.

Had Sergio Ramos still been at Madrid, one might have been expecting a similar arrangement for Sunday.

'Party of the champions'

The only other time this century that the pasillo has been such a contentious subject was in 2008, when Madrid did receive one in El Clasico.

The 2007-08 season was a dire one for Barca. Not only did Madrid win the title comfortably with 18 points more than their great rivals, but Frank Rijkaard's men also finished 10 points adrift of second-placed Villarreal.

 

Although Barca crushed Valencia 6-0 leading up to the Clasico clash on May 7, 2008, they were unable to prevent Madrid claiming the title, setting things up perfectly for the ultimate humiliation.

"The party of the champions", read the front page of Madrid-based daily newspaper AS on the morning of the game. Notoriously pro-Madrid Marca went with "Barca is here", accompanying a picture showing where the visitors were due to form their guard of honour. And Catalan publication Sport highlighted the other side of things, saying, "the pasillo that suffers alone", and adding, "Barca fans do not deserve to have to see the pasillo".

Despite the shameless nose-rubbing of the Madrid press and the intense humiliation that was about to befall them, Barca gritted their teeth. "Although it hurts, we will do it," Rijkaard said.

Club captain Carles Puyol sang from a similar hymn sheet: "As an athlete you have to recognise the champion, and we will do that. They have won it on the pitch. Real Madrid have been fair champions."

The emotions of the two coaches that night could not have been more different. Rijkaard slowly ambled out and took his position, hands together behind his back, before the Barca players jogged out and formed two columns either side of the halfway line, the cameras of the Bernabeu crowd incessantly flashing with glee.

Meanwhile, Bernd Schuster watched on as his Madrid side triumphantly walked through that red-and-blue-walled corridor, twenty years after he was a part of the last guard of honour Barca performed in El Clasico, wearing a Blaugrana jersey.

Some, such as Pepe, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder walked straight down the middle, seemingly preserving the thoughts of a true rivalry by refusing to thank their counterparts for the degrading act of a Clasico pasillo, but looking back, that was the least embarrassing part of the whole night for Barca.

What started with a pasillo ended in a pasting, with Barca flattered by a 4-1 defeat in which Madrid were utterly dominant.

Atletico will at least avoid one form of humiliation, but considering the contrasting fortunes of the two teams on the pitch this term, it's hardly a given that Diego Simeone's side will prevent a mauling.

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