Zidane critical despite win over Eibar

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane thought his side were far from their best despite Sunday’s 3-0 win over Eibar at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Marco Asensio and Marcelo added to Paulo Oliveira's own-goal to make it a comfortable win for Los Blancos, but their manager expects more.

"3-0 is a good result," he said, via Marca. "We did well in defence and I come away with the feeling that it was not all perfect, but satisfactory. It was important to get the three points today.

"Perhaps the fluency was lacking. We can be better, with the ball we can be better. In the end we made a lot of changes and sometimes you have to realise you cannot do everything perfectly."

The win, their fourth in a row, takes Madrid to third in the Liga standings, five points behind league leaders Barcelona, who beat Malaga on Saturday.

Asensio stars against Eibar

Marco Asensio impressed for Real Madrid in a 3-0 victory over Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday as they moved up to third in La Liga.

  • Real Madrid 3 Eibar 0
  • Oliveira OG puts hosts ahead
  • Asensio doubles Real's lead
  • Ronaldo wasteful for hosts
  • Marcelo wraps up victory late on

Match Summary

Asensio had a hand in both of Los Blancos' goals in the first half and Marcelo wrapped up their fourth straight win in the Spanish top flight as the gap to leaders Barcelona was cut to five points.

Full Report

The hosts could have gone ahead in the opening minute when Asensio played in Isco, but his shot was straight at Marko Dmitrovic in the visiting goal.

Los Armeros were soon threatening at the other end, though, as Joan Jordan forced Kiko Casilla into a low save with a shot from inside the area, having been set up by Charles' header on five minutes.

However, Zinedine Zidane's side were celebrating the lead on 18 minutes, with Asensio's cross taking a wicked deflection off Paulo Oliveira and looping into the top-right corner of the net.

Casilla had to be alert to keep out Takashi Inui's free-kick and it proved a crucial save as the defending league champions doubled their advantage on 28 minutes.

Asensio produced a quality finish on the half-volley from inside the area on the left to tuck away Isco's low cross - his first goal since bagging a brace against Valencia in August.

Cristiano Ronaldo then squandered a good chance from close range following superb link-up play between Isco and Asensio to set him up, with no further goals coming before the break.

Asensio looked to turn provider for Isco early in the second half with a brilliant through-ball, but Dmitrovic produced a fine save. Ronaldo also failed to beat the keeper from inside the area on 66 minutes, while the Portuguese forward could only find the side-netting from a tight angle on the right after controlling Marcelo 79th-minute cross.

A beautiful flowing move from the capital club eight minutes from time sealed the win, with Karim Benzema releasing Theo Hernandez down the left flank with a neat flick and receiving the return pass before playing in Marcelo, who showed great composure to slot home into the bottom-right corner from inside the box.

Ronaldo looked to beat Dmitrovic with power at the death, but the keeper was able to parry away his strike from inside the area on the right to win their personal duel.

Barcelona cruise to Malaga win

La Liga leaders Barcelona were always in control if not at their best in a 2-0 defeat of bottom-side Malaga at the Nou Camp on Saturday evening.

  • Barcelona 2 Malaga 0
  • Deulofeu 2'
  • Iniesta 56'

Match summary

Gerard Deulofeu scored his first goal for Barcelona after just two minutes, albeit in dubious circumstances, before Andres Iniesta fired in a deflected effort in the second half.

Full report

Malaga's hopes of a strong start were dashed when Deulofeu scored in controversial circumstances with less than two minutes on the clock.

Lucas Digne's cross into the box from the left-hand side came after the ball had gone out of play, but Deulofeu's backheel stood, even after the Malaga players had stopped in anticipation of a corner.

The visitors responded with Diego Rolan heading inches wide from their own corner while Ivan Rakitic so nearly connected to an Andres Iniesta ball over the top that Andres Prieto did well to see out of play.

Adalberto Penaranda smashed a 17th minute effort into the legs of Javier Mascherano after a quick Malaga counter, while after a wasted Messi free-kick, Digne gifted possession to Juankar, who found Chory Castro in space from a great cross, but the winger only succeeding in nodding his header wide of the post.

An unmarked Castro then kicked the air when the ball was floated to him at the far post for another excellent chance, as the half drew to a close.

But seemingly still undeterred by the injustice of the early goal they conceded, a lively Malaga emerged for the second half, with Roberto Rosales testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a stinging drive.

But Barca were always going to be a threat, and with 53 minutes on the clock Messi gave another glimse of his magic as he weaved his way into a shooting position and fired in low at Prieto, but the keeper got down well to smother the ball before Hernandez completed the clearance.

It was Iniesta though, with just 56 minutes on the clock, who doubled the league-leaders' lead, after Messi had expertly controlled a Mascherano ball before feeding his teammate, whose deflected shot off Rosales looped into the top of the goal.

Suarez did well to spin past Paul Baysse moments later but could only fire into the side-netting as Keko fired into the arms of Ter Stegen on 66 minutes.

Suarez's poor form in front of goal continued with a shot he dragged wide from inside the six-yard-box as Hernandez came close to pulling a goal back with a header that flew inches wide.

Suarez was soon replaced by Paco Alcacer, following Sergio Busquets, who made way for Paulinho and the Brazilian's first involvement saw him volley well over the Malaga goal before firing a shot into the bottom corner of Prieto's goal, that the keeper got down well to palm away.

And Messi was offside as he fired home for the last piece of action of this composed if not commanding performance from the league leaders.

Valverde backs Suarez to come good

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has backed Luis Suarez to rediscover his best form and says he is not struggling with a knee injury he sustained at the start of the season.

Having missed his side's first two La Liga games, Suarez scored in the 5-0 defeat of Espanyol at the beginning of September, but has just a further two goals in seven appearances in all competitions since then.

And most recently, he didn't look comfortable in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Olympiacos.

The Uruguayan international, was also left out of his country's most recently named squad, to face Poland and Austria in November, in order to undergo treatment on his reportedly injured knee - at the behest of Barca.

A Uruguayan Football Association statement read: "The AUF informs that the medical department of Barcelona proposes, in order to continue with the good evolution and rehabilitation of the right knee of Luis Suarez, the undertaking of medical and physiological treatment for a week from November 11. 

"For this reason, the player will not participate in the friendly games planned for November 10 and 14 against Poland and Austria."

But Valverde said: "It's true the other day he had a small problem but I don't think it was anything major.

"In Luis' case he's a player who's always had a good relationship with goalscoring. He played well against Atletico [Madrid] and scored the equaliser, he had chances against Olympiacos.

"We know in a game he will have two or three chances and his team-mates will create and he's there being a nuisance to defenders. We don't think it's too much of a problem.

"I think it's going well and the [injury] problem he had before is fine now. Because he missed a chance here and there people ask me about Suarez, but it would worry me more if he didn't have chances."

The La Liga leaders face bottom-side Malaga at the Camp Nou in their next encounter on Saturday.

Barcelona ready to recruit in January

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde admits the Catalan giants could be in the market for new recruits in the January transfer window.

The La Liga leaders are expected to revive their interest in Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho after they were unable to agree a fee with the Premier League outfit for the Brazilian during the summer.

But Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and FC Schalke 04’s Max Meyer have also been linked with moves to the Nou Camp, with Valverde conscious of reinforcements.

"Barca are always conscious of improving the team, if they can," Valverde said when asked about signings.

"But at the same time, I am here with the idea of getting the best out of the players I have. My idea is to work with the players. There's still two months until January."

Valverde has enjoyed a hugely encouraging start to his Barcelona career after 10 wins and a solitary draw from his 11 games at the helm, to give them a four-point lead at the top of La Liga.

But off-the-pitch, he also had to deal with the departure of Neymar and the ongoing political friction in Catalonia.

The former Athletic Bilbao boss hopes the next 100 days prove to be quieter than his first 100 days at the helm.

He added: “These 100 days have not been boring! Let's hope the next 100 are quieter.

“Our intention is to be strong in La Liga and then to win everything. But to win everything, the first thing is La Liga, which is what we have in front of us.”

 

Real Madrid v Eibar

Real Madrid will hope to keep the gap close on Barcelona by beating struggling Eibar, in Sunday's Primera Division clash at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Despite just one La Liga goal in four appearances, Cristiano Ronaldo has still tallied seven strikes in nine appearances for Madrid in all competitions.

With his great foe Lionel Messi of Barcelona already on 11 league goals in eight starts, Ronaldo will no doubt hope to get back to his prolific best domestically against Eibar's porous defence.

Goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic has had a torrid time so far for Eibar as the club have conceded 17 goals in eight league matches so far. With Real hungry for a win at home to keep the pressure on Barcelona, he could come in for some punishment on Sunday. How he responds could be key to Los Armeros' hopes of getting something from the match, if he starts.

The home side's boss Zinedine Zidane hinted after the 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League in mid-week that he would not be making too many changes unless otherwise forced to ahead of the encounter with Eibar.

He told reporters, "Personnel changes? I won't make changes if there are no gaps to fill. I brought on Marco Asensio because Karim Benzema was tired and Lucas Vazquez for more depth, but it wasn't possible."

Meanwhile, for the away side, coach Jose Luis Mendilibar told Marca of his team's visit to Madrid, "It is necessary to play with tranquility and good sense to obtain a good result. We can't lock up because Madrid can make a goal in any way. We have to do things well so that we do not make many chances and then we have to take advantage of the ones we have."

With Keylor Navas out with injury, Kiko Casilla is expected to start in goal for Real. In defence, Raphael Varane is a doubt, so Nacho could come in to partner Sergio Ramos. Young right-back Achraf Hakimi is set to keep his place in the absence of the sick Dani Carvajal.

Meanwhile, Yoel Rodriguez, Pedro Leon, Fran Rico, Ivan Alejo and Ivan Ramis are all injured for Sunday's game for the visitors.  

 

Barcelona v Malaga

A rampant Barcelona will be looking to maintain their unbeaten start in La Liga when they host a Malaga outfit in dire straits at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

The Catalans have been in imperious form in the Spanish Primera Division thus far, winning no less than seven of their eight games, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw away at Atletico Madrid in their last league outing.

The defending Spanish Cup champions come into the clash on the back of a 3-1 win over Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League group stage in midweek, and they will be hoping they can maintain that momentum at home.

Barcelona also look set to give Arda Turan his first game after sitting out the draw with Atletico and the win over Olympiacos.

A statement on the club's official website read: "Wednesday night's starters did recovery work and Arda Turan was back with the group. Three reserve players [Morer, Santi Bueno, Moisés and Samu Araujo] and one from the Under-19 team [Iñaki Peña] also took part in a session that served as the beginning of Barça's preparations for its next match — Saturday's La Liga encounter with Málaga at Camp Nou."

Meanwhile, Malaga have made a horrendous start to their 2017/18 campaign, bagging only a single point, in a 3-3 draw with Athletic Bilbao, while losing all seven of their other fixtures.

The visitors travel to Barcelona having lost 2-0 against Sevilla and Leganes in their most recent ties and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the standings, already five points below safety.

Malaga may take heart from the fact that they beat Barca in their most recent encounter, a 2-0 victory back in April, but manager Michel admits it will be tough to replicate that result.

He said, according to Mundo Deportivo: "It's not easy, but there are three points and we will dispute them as far as we can and, if it is to the end, it's better. Barcelona is the clear favorite."

Barca will be missing two key men in Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha, who are both sidelined with injuries, but Turan looks set to come back into the fray.

Malaga are without the services of Diego Gonzalez and Zdravko Kuzmanovic, while Recio serves a suspension.

Benzema staying put at Real - agent

Karim Benzema is committed to Real Madrid and has no intention of moving to the Premier League, according to the striker’s agent.

Benzema has netted just twice in the opening eight games of the season and that has prompted fresh speculation that the Frenchman could be a target for Arsenal.

The Gunners have continually been linked with Benzema during his Madrid career, yet the 29-year-old’s representative, Karim Djaziri, has poured cold water on the prospects of him leaving the Bernabeu.

“Karim Benzema is very happy at Real Madrid,” he told Sky Sports.

“He signed a contract extension last month and has absolutely no intention of leaving the club.”

Benzema only penned a new four-year contract at Madrid last month, which includes a staggering £890million release clause.

But with Real boss Zinedine Zidane admitting his admiration for Spurs striker Harry Kane earlier this week, Benzema’s future is likely to remain under scrutiny.

 

Simeone retains faith after Qarabag draw

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone remains confident of progressing in the Champions League despite being held to a 0-0 draw with 10-man Qarabag on Wednesday.

Playing at the Baki Olimpiya Stadionu in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Primera Division side created a number of opportunities without scoring.

The result leaves Simeone in third in Group C with two points, behind Roma (5) and Chelsea (7). Qarabag are bottom with one point.

They had earlier in their European campaign held Roma to a 0-0 draw before losing 2-1 to Chelsea.

After the game, an upbeat Simeone said: "I feel very good, with enthusiasm for returning to work tomorrow to keep improving.

"In the first half we had chances to score but we didn't, and in the second half we were anxious and could not play with the clarity that we needed.

"Now, because of these draws, there will be a lot of pessimism but I absolutely believe in this team. I signed [a new contract] three months ago, knowing what was ahead.

"I have the peace of mind to wait until tomorrow to continue our improvement."

South African striker Dino Ndlovu was dismissed in the 75th minute for a second yellow card but Atletico were unable to take advantage by having an extra man.

Simeone added: "I trust my squad of players to fight in the Champions League despite the pessimism that will now invade the moment we're in.

"I do not consider this to have been our worst game. If we would have scored in the first half we would have played differently in the second.

"Late on we did not play with order or balance, but from the heart and with desire to win. That may not have been our best version."

Valverde delighted with important victory

Ernesto Valverde was full of praise for Barcelona as they overcame Olympiakos 3-1 in a testing encounter at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

Dimitrios Nikolaou was unfortunate to turn the ball into his own net for the opening goal on 18 minutes while Gerard Pique made life difficult for Barca when he was dismissed on 42 minutes for a second yellow card.

Lionel Messi though resumed normal service when he netted his 100th European goal on 61 minutes before Lucas Digne put the result beyond doubt with 64 minutes played.

Nikolaou went some way to make up for his early error with a goal for the Greek champions in the last minute of the tie.

The result left Barca on top of Group D with nine points, ahead of Juventus (6), Sporting (3) and Olympiakos, who are yet to register a point.

After the game, Valverde said: "The match showed us there are no easy games. We should recognise how important this victory is, we secured three difficult points.”

Valverde further explained how the red card affected Barca's performance.

"We knew they'd get stronger once we went down to 10 men. That's why we needed to find a second goal, so things would become easier.

"They came to defend and find a goal on the counter-attack. With our opponents playing so deep, it was tough to find rhythm and they played a game that suited them.

"But he (Messi) splits the game up and looks for players to link up with. When he's heading towards goal, he always looks for team-mates to finish off his moves."