Real Madrid, Atletico banned from transfer market

FIFA on Thursday banned Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from buying players for one year over their dealing in under-age players.

The ban will start from the July transfer window this year and finish with the January transfer market in 2017.

Atletico were also fined 900,000 Swiss francs (820,000 euros) and Real 360,000 francs.

“The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions,” said a FIFA statement.

Barcelona have just ended a one-year ban for similar reasons.

Photo Credits : AFP

Messi returns as Barcelona eye last 16 against Roma

Fresh from thrashing bitter rivals Real Madrid 4-0 at the weekend, Barcelona are aiming to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League when Roma visit the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The European champions need just a point to reach the knockout stages for a 12th consecutive season, and should be further boosted by the presence of Lionel Messi from the start for the first time in two months.

Messi made his return as a substitute from a knee-ligament injury with Barca already leading 3-0 against Madrid and played his part in Luis Suarez’s second goal of the evening to round off an historic night for the Catalans.

Suarez and Neymar have kept Barca afloat without Messi, scoring 24 of their last 28 goals in all competitions.

And with a win also sealing top spot in the group, Barca boss Luis Enrique is unlikely to rest any of his star front three even ahead of a busy few weeks in league, Cup and Champions League before they fly off to Japan for the World Club Cup at the end of December.

Whilst it would take a remarkable collapse for Barca not to qualify, Roma have it all to play for in their final two group games if they are to make the last 16 for the first time in five years.

The Italians sit second in the group, a point clear of Bayer Leverkusen and two ahead of BATE Borisov, who they host in their final game.

Roma got their campaign off to a great start by holding Barca to a 1-1 draw in the Italian capital thanks to Alessandro Florenzi’s sensational strike from just over the halfway line.

And he believes they can produce another upset at the Camp Nou.

“It will certainly be difficult. They’re the strongest side in the world, but we managed to produce something of an exploit against them at the Stadio Olimpico,” Florenzi told Corriere dello Sport.

“We have to be fearless in Spain and determined to make the most of our chances.”

In contrast to Barca’s brilliance, Roma’s inconsistent domestic campaign continued with a 2-2 draw in terrible weather conditions at Bologna on Saturday.

Rudi Garcia will also have to do without a number of attacking options as Gervinho and Mohamed Salah miss out through injury, whilst captain Francesco Totti hasn’t featured since suffering a thigh injury two months ago.

Photo Credits : AFP

Zidane in “no rush” to coach Real Madrid

French legend and Real Madrid reserve team coach Zinedine Zidane has played down suggestions he could be set to replace the under-pressure Rafael Benitez in the top job at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid were humiliated 4-0 at home by Barcelona on Saturday to pile the pressure on Benitez after just 16 games in charge.

Zidane has been coaching Real Madrid Castilla for the last 18 months, but was deemed not ready for the step up after a disappointing first season in charge.

“I am coach of Castilla and Benitez of the first team. Things are fine at the moment.

“I am with Castilla and if I stay at the club it is to coach Castilla. Last year, at the end of the season, I had the feeling that I still lacked something to take over the first team.

“I am doing things little by little and I am in no rush. The important thing is to be happy day-to-day with what I am doing. Right now I’m at Castilla.”

The Madrid fans called for club president Florentino Perez’s resignation towards the end of Saturday’s thrashing.

And reports in Spain had suggested appointing the hugely popular Zidane could help Perez ease the fans’ frustration with his running of the club.

Photo Credits : AFP

Casillas to leave Real Madrid for FC Porto – club

Real Madrid have reached agreement with Portuguese side FC Porto for the transfer of goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, the Spanish club announced on Saturday.

“Real Madrid and FC Porto have agreed the transfer of Iker Casillas to the Portuguese club,” Real Madrid said in a statement.

Casillas, 34, joined Real’s youth academy in 1990 and has won 17 major honours during his 16 seasons as a professional.

Photo Credits : AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo Cheated on Ex-Girlfriend Irina Shayk

They found love after modelling together on an Armani photoshoot in 2010. But earlier this year, Russian beauty Irina Shayk and football star Cristiano Ronaldo shocked fans around the world when they decided to call time on their five-year relationship. And now, it was been reported that the 29-year-old beauty was left ‘betrayed’ by the Portuguese heartthrob when she found out he’d been secretly messaging girls all over the world.

cristiano nd irina
Cristiano and Irina

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model – who is now dating Hollywood star Bradley Cooper – has revealed how ‘stupid’ she felt when the 30-year-old Cristiano confessed to her on New Year’s Eve. According to The Sun newspaper, Irina told a source close to the pair: ‘Now I know the truth and I feel completely betrayed. I trusted him and stuck up for him when there were rumours he had been with other women. I feel stupid that Cristiano has fooled me.’ The relationship began to unravel as the pair planned a party at their Madrid home when Irina spotted one of Cristiano’s phone statements lying around and spotted numbers she didn’t recognise.

She reportedly checked the numbers using messaging apps and discovered they were attached to profiles of women from all over the world, including Colombia, Australia and France. ‘She immediately confronted Cristiano about it, but he initially denied any knowledge,’ an inside explained. ‘After she explained to him what she had found he eventually admitted to messaging the girls. ‘He gave little excuse. She couldn’t believe it so immediately got out of the house. She ended the relationship there and then.’

Meanwhile, Irina appears to have mended her broken heart thanks to the American actor; the new hot couple have been pictured on various occasions, locking lips in a passionate embrace during public outings. Last week the couple appeared to be saying goodbye with their passionate PDA in a London car park, as after finally pulling themselves apart, they headed off in separate directions.

Irina jetted into the UK from a modelling gig in Barcelona a few days ago to join her man who is currently preparing for the London run of his play The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which kicks off this week.

-dailymail.co.uk

Guardiola backing Barca to win Berlin final

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is now backing his ex-club Barcelona to win the Champions League after his Bavarian giants bowed out 5-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

Guardiola’s Bayern exited at the last-four stage for the second year running, despite ending Barcelona’s 18-game unbeaten run with a 3-2 semi-final, second-leg win in Munich.

Bayern were given an early glimmer of hope in their bid to overturn a three-goal deficit in Munich when the unmarked Medhi Benatia headed home on seven minutes at the Allianz Arena.

But Barca effectively booked their place in the Berlin final on June 6 when Luis Suarez twice set up Neymar to score for the visitors before half an hour had been played.

Bayern produced a rousing second-half performance with goals by Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller, but Barcelona advance to face either bitter rivals Real Madrid or Juventus in the final.

Having won 16 titles as a player, then a further 14 in four years as head coach at the Camp Nou, Guardiola is backing Barcelona to claim their first European crown since 2011 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on June 6.

“I want to congratulate my players, I am really happy to be their manager on a day like today,” said Guardiola, as Bayern denied Barcelona a first win in Munich at the fifth attempt.

“But I hope Barcelona can now win their fifth Champions League title in Berlin.

“You can only beat Barcelona when you take the ball away from them, with it they are so strong.

“We didn’t make the most of our chances in the first leg, but here we did.

“It wasn’t enough at the end of the day, but there you go.

“I hope the Spanish league has the rights to be screened in Germany soon, so that fans here can appreciate what a good player Lionel Messi is on a regular basis.

“He was a pleasure to coach when I was at Barcelona and he has demonstrated yet again what he can do.”

The win over Barcelona ended Bayern’s four-match losing streak since winning the German league title for the 25th time a fortnight ago.

“We won four titles last season, this year we have just one, but it has been a tough season with lots of injuries and despite that, my players still attacked at every opportunity,” enthused Guardiola.

Bayern’s come-back win demonstrated how much they wanted to reach an 11th European Cup final, but it was too little, too late, after their emphatic first-leg defeat.

“We believed in the miracle, but we couldn’t make it happen,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm.

“It’s impossible to stop those Barcelona players for the whole 90 minutes.

“We didn’t lose it today, but in the first leg.”

Goal-scorer Mueller was a constant threat to the Barcelona defence and made good on his pre-match promise that Bayern would fight until the final whistle.

“We played a really great game in the first half but we’ve made two mistakes in defence and have been too wasteful with our chances,” said Mueller.

“That’s very annoying.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Ronaldo is the 1st player in history to score 50 goals in five consecutive seasons

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi often appear to be operating on their own higher plane, competing against each other for the next big record.

Just recently Ronaldo scored his 300th goal for Real Madrid, which was followed swiftly by a Messi record, who scored his 400th for Barcelona.

Barely a week can go by without either of the two breaking some record or other, and with Ronaldo scoring his 50th goal of the season against Malaga last week, the 2015 Ballon D’Or made a quite incredible new record of his own.

By reaching 50 goals this season, Ronaldo has now reached that figure in five different seasons – making him the first player to ever achieve that feat.

Ronaldo had previously been tied on 4 seasons with 50 goals alongside Pele, but he’s now out on his own with that simply astonishing record.

ro

-radiojambo.co.ke

Khedira confirms Real Madrid exit

Germany midfielder Sami Khedira on Wednesday said he will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the season.

“There is nothing more to say than what I told the sports magazine (Kicker), when there’s anything more, I’ll say it,” the 27-year-old said after captaining Germany to a 2-2 friendly draw with Australia in Kaiserslautern.

Having joined Real in 2010 from Stuttgart, Khedira won last season’s Champions League with the Spanish giants and has been linked to Bundesliga side Schalke 04.

“This is not a decision against Real, I just want to spice up my career and evolve,” Khedira told Thursday’s edition of Kicker.

“There is no absolutely no agreement with anyone or a preference at the moment.”

Premier League sides Chelsea and Arsenal have also been linked to the Real star, who was denied a place in last year’s World Cup final after suffering an injury in the pre-match warm-up having played a key role in their 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-finals.

“Until the last day of my contract, I will give everything for this jersey,” he told Wednesday’s edition of Spanish newspaper Marca.

“I love Real Madrid and it will be hard for me to leave this club,” added Khedira, who has made 17 appearances for Real in all competitions this season.

Photo Credits : AFP

Criticism part of the job says Ancelotti as pressure builds

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has said the intense scrutiny he has come under in recent weeks is part of the job of coaching one of the biggest sides in the world.

Madrid president Florentino Perez called an impromptu press conference on Thursday to deny rumours that Ancelotti could be sacked if the European champions lose El Clasico against Barcelona next weekend.

“I have always understood criticism as part of my job,” Ancelotti said on Saturday.

“Coaching Real Madrid means coaching the biggest team in the world and if you do that then you get the most criticism too. It is an honour for me to coach this club.”

Los Blancos squeezed into the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek despite am embarrassing 4-3 home defeat to Schalke – their fifth defeat in 15 games in 2015.

That run of form has also seen Ancelotti’s men surrender top spot in La Liga to Barcelona for the first time in five months and with little room for error ahead of their trip to the Catalan capital next Sunday.

And the Italian admitted there could be changes for the visit of Levante on Sunday, but insisted he would continue with his same attacking philosophy.

“The president always evaluates the work that we do and some things could change.

“We have looked at what has happened and in an ideal world we will change things, but without losing our identity.

“We have a clear identity and in the past few games we haven’t shown it.”

Ancelotti should be able to recall both Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos back into the starting line-up after long term absences due to muscle injuries.

Meanwhile, full-backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo will return after being rested in midweek.

Photo Credits : AFP

Ancelotti gets confidence vote from Real president

Carlo Ancelotti will remain as coach of Spanish giants Real Madrid for the forseeable future after being given a resounding vote of confidence by club president Florentino Perez.

Despite a rocky start to 2015, Perez addressed a hastily-convened press conference on Thursday to dispel all doubts about the under-fire coach’s future.

“Carlo Ancelotti will remain Real Madrid coach,” Perez insisted. “We’re not going to change a thing, whatever happens.”

Perez added: “He has the full confidence of the president and the management.”

After a year in which the club collected four trophies, the Champions League, domestic cup, European Supercup and World Club championship, the alarm bells have started ringing in recent weeks.

Since the turn of the year they have lost five times in 15 games to surrender their league lead to Barcelona and were on the verge of suffering one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history when they lost 4-3 at home to Schalke but scraped through 5-4 on aggregate thanks to a 2-0 away success in the first leg.

“We are playing very badly. It is quite incomprehensible after what we did until December,” said Ancelotti after the Schalke debacle.

Responding to calls for Ancelotti’s head in the Spanish press, Perez refused to accept that the recent dip in form amounted to a crisis within the club.

“We have the best coach and the best players we could have and we’re very proud of them,” he said.

Photo Credits : AFP

PSG, Bayern join Real, Porto in Champions League last eight

Ten-man Paris Saint-Germain sensationally came from behind twice to dump Chelsea out of the Champions League on away goals after extra time as Bayern Munich also qualified for the quarter-finals with a 7-0 rout of ten-man Shakhtar Donetsk.

Held 1-1 in their last 16, first leg tie at Parc des Princes, the Parisians needed an exploit on Wednesday to get past Chelsea, and they achieved just that in the English capital drawing 2-2 on the night for a 3-3 aggregate scoreline to join holders Real Madrid, Bayern and Porto in the last eight.

Despite playing the last hour of normal time and 30 minutes extra time without talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was sent off for a foul on Oscar, PSG dug deep to take revenge for last season’s quarter-final exit to Chelsea.

“PSG really wants to join the big leagues and I think we did that tonight,” estimated coach Laurent Blanc.

“I think this match will be a references for the club for some years.

“(Jose) Mourinho came up to congratulate me afterwards and told me that we had had two great matches. I felt a lot of respect.”

Chelsea manager Mourinho lamented his side’s inability to finish off the game at Stamford Bridge.

“We didn’t deserve to go through,” said Mourinho.

“The individual performances were not good enough and when you concede two goals from two corners it’s about lack of concentration, lack of responsibility to cope with the markers and the space you have to control.

“When a team cannot cope with the pressure of being one player more and playing at home… we couldn’t cope with that pressure.”

Ibrahimovic was sent off in the first half and PSG fell behind to a Gary Cahill goal with nine minutes remaining, only for Chelsea old boy David Luiz to take the tie to extra time with an 86th-minute header.

Thiago Silva appeared to have gifted Chelsea a place in the last eight after conceding a penalty for a handball that Eden Hazard converted, but the PSG captain scored with six minutes of the game remaining to send Blanc’s side through on away goals.

PSG president Nasser Al Khelaifi hailed a “magnificent, historic” victory for the club in their quest for European glory.

“It’s proof we’re on the right track. We believe in the project and we want to go as far as possible,” the Qatari businessman said.

– Bayern rout –

German champions Bayern also advanced in style in Munich, to keep their bid for a sixth elite European title on track.

Despite playing out a drab goalless draw in the first leg in Ukraine, Bayern made no such mistake against a Shakhtar side reduced to 10 men in just the third minute after Olexander Kucher brought down Mario Goetze.

Kucher’s dismissal beat the previous fastest Champions League red card of 5min 52sec for Werder Bremen’s Valerien Ismael against Inter Milan in September 2004.

“I think the red card was unfair,” lamented Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu.

“From then on we couldn’t play our game as planned. We lost out in all areas. They were stronger all round.

“The match was over for us after 3-0.”

Thomas Mueller scored from the resulting penalty, Jerome Boateng also getting on the scoresheet before half-time.

The floodgates opened in the second-half, Franck Ribery, Mueller, Holger Badstuber, Robert Lewandowski and Goetze all scoring.

On Tuesday, Real Madrid and Porto both booked their last eight berths as Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time leading goalscorer in European competition after two goals in Real’s upset 4-3 defeat against Schalke.

It took his total to 78, surpassing the previous record held by another former Real stalwart, Raul.

Real’s 2-0 win in the first leg in Gelsenkichen saw the Spaniards squeeze into the last eight 5-4 on aggregate.

FC Porto advanced past Swiss club Basel, 5-1 on aggregate and 4-0 on the night.

Photo Credits : AFP

Madrid implosion ‘incomprehensible’ for Ancelotti

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti admitted he is at a loss to explain the European champions dramatic slump in form as they sneaked into the quarter-finals of the Champions League despite losing 4-3 to Schalke.

A 2-0 first leg advantage was just enough to carry Los Blancos into the last eight for a fifth consecutive season on a night when Cristiano Ronaldo’s achievement in becoming the all-time leading scorer in European competitions was overshadowed.

Ronaldo twice equalised in the first-half to surpass Real legend Raul with 78 goals in European competitions after Christian Fuchs and Klass-Jan Huntelaar had given Schalke the lead.

Karim Benzema then put Madrid in front on the night before Leroy Sane and a stunning strike from Huntelaar gave Schalke a deserved victory.

Ancelotti’s men swept all before them in a 22-game winning run to end 2014 with a club record four-trophy haul for the calendar year after winning the Club World Cup.

However, since the turn of the year they have lost five times in 15 games to surrender their La Liga lead to Barcelona and were on the verge of suffering one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history.

“We are playing very badly. It is quite incomprehensible after what we did until December,” said Ancelotti.

“It is clear I feel very sorry because everyone has seen we played very badly. This is not good for the image of the club.

“It is normal that the players lack confidence. I think we have dipped a bit physically too. We had problems in every aspect of the game: offensive, defensive, desire, fight and concentration.”

Ancelotti was even asked whether he fears the sack in the coming days with a crucial El Clasico clash against Barcelona in the La Liga title race to come on March 22.

The Italian insisted he still has faith in the players that carried the club to their 10th European Cup win just 10 months ago.

– ‘Rock bottom’ –

“I don’t think about this (being sacked). I continue doing my job, but I need to do it better. This is the responsiblity of the coach to put out a team that can play better than they did tonight.

“I continue having total confidence in this squad because I know what they can do. We are not doing it at the moment and we need to work harder, train harder, do everything better.”

Madrid captain Iker Casillas said the Spanish giants had hit “rock bottom” after a three-game winless streak.

“It is clear we have hit rock bottom in a spectacular way, but the positive thing is that a week on Friday we will be in the draw and we can forget the past 10 days,” said the Spanish captain

Ancelotti insisted that things can turn around for the better just as quickly as they have deteriorated, especially with key players such as Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric returning from injury.

Modric made his return after four months out for the final half an hour, while Ramos is expected to make an appearance when Levante visit the Bernabeu on Sunday.

“Things change quickly in football as we have seen. No one in December would imagine what we are going through now,” said Ancelotti.

“The presence of Modric gives us more control and more possession in midfield.

“We can’t ask too much of him because he was out for four months. I think he did well for 30 minutes.

“He is going to help us in the next games, as will Sergio Ramos with his qualities and character.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo sets new European goals record

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice for Real Madrid in the first half of their Champions League last 16, second leg, match against Schalke on Tuesday to set a new record for goals in European competition with 78.

Ronaldo’s header in the 25th minute from a corner by Tony Kroos cancelled out an opener for the Germans by Christian Fuchs five minutes earlier and equalled the record of 77, held by former Real striker Raul.

After Klaas Jan Huntelaar had restored Schalke’s lead, Ronaldo equalised for a second time just before the break, with his 78th European goal in all.

It also took him to a Champions League total of 75, equalling the record held by his Barcelona arch-rival Lionel Messi.

Real won the first leg in Gelsenkirchen 2-0.

Photo Credits : AFP

Madrid look to maintain La Liga title momentum against Villarreal

European champions Real Madrid will be aiming to maintain their recent winning form when they host high-flying Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Barca’s shock 1-0 defeat to Malaga last weekend allowed Madrid to open up a healthy advantage thanks to their best La Liga performance in some time in a 2-0 win over Elche.

World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo scored his side’s second at the Martinez Valero to end a three-game La Liga goal drought and open up a three-goal lead over Lionel Messi in their personal dual for the Pichichi top goalscorer award.

However, Madrid continue to be dogged by injury problems with Gareth Bale a doubt for the visit of Villarreal due to an ankle injury he suffered as a result of a horrendous challenge from Aaron Niguez last weekend.

The Welshman’s absence could allow Jese Rodriguez a rare start with Luka Modric, James Rodriguez, Sergio Ramos and Sami Khedira all still sidelined by long-term injuries.

Los Blancos’ task is likely to be made easier, though, as Villarreal also won’t be at full strength after seeing off Red Bull Salzburg to progress to the last 16 of the Europa League just four days before their trip to the Bernabeu.

The Yellow Submarine’s coach Marcelino said after their 3-1 victory in Austria on Thursday that the “same players would definitely not play” in order to give many of his regulars a rest.

Moreover, on-form Russian winger Denis Cheryshev will definitely miss out for the visitors as he is on-loan from Madrid.

Barcelona have the chance to reduce the gap at the top to a point for 24 hours at least when they travel to Granada on Saturday.

The Catalan giants lost at Nuevo Los Carmenes 1-0 last season, but will travel with confidence having produced one of their best displays of the season in beating Manchester City 2-1 away in the first-leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday.

Luis Suarez scored both goals to register his first double since joining from Liverpool for a club record fee in July. However, coach Luis Enrique insisted that penalty duties will not be handed to the Uruguayan despite Messi missing five of his last 10 spot-kicks for club and country.

Central defender Gerard Pique is the only first-team regular unavailable to Enrique through suspension, but the former Celta coach is expected to once again make various changes as he continues to rotate his ample squad in league games.

Spain’s third remaining Champions League participants Atletico Madrid didn’t fare so well in midweek as last season’s runners-up were beaten 1-0 away by Bayer Leverkusen.

And Diego Simeone’s men face a crucial clash in ensuring their place back in European football’s premier competition next season when they travel to Sevilla on Sunday.

Sevilla haven’t been beaten at the Sanchez Pizjuan in any competition since March last year and need to win to maintain any realistic hope of catching the Spanish champions as they currently lie eight points adrift of Atletico.

Fourth-placed Valencia meanwhile can move level on points with Atletico when they host David Moyes’s Real Sociedad in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday:

Granada v Barcelona (1500), Rayo Vallecano v Levante (1700), Almeria v Deportivo la Coruna (1900), Malaga v Getafe (2100)

Sunday:

Valencia v Real Sociedad (1100), Eibar v Athletic Bilbao (1600), Sevilla v Atletico Madrid (1800), Real Madrid v Villarreal (2000)

Monday:

Celta Vigo v Elche (1945)

Photo Credits : AFP

Ronaldo returns for depleted Real in Madrid derby

World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo returns for a Real Madrid side otherwise stricken by injuries and suspensions as they look to beat Atletico Madrid for the first time in six meetings this season on Saturday.

Ronaldo completed his two-game ban for kicking out at Cordoba defender Edimar as the European champions sneaked past Sevilla to open up a four-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table on Wednesday.

However, victory came at a cost as World Cup star James Rodriguez broke a bone in his right foot that will keep him out for two months, whilst centre-back Sergio Ramos will also be sidelined due to a hamstring problem in the coming weeks.

Left-back Marcelo misses out at the Calderon too after his appeal against his fifth yellow card of the Liga campaign was dismissed on Thursday.

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti is short of defensive options with Pepe also out with a rib injury, but he insisted he has confidence in the inexperienced pairing of Raphael Varane and Nacho in central defence.

“What we lose above all is experience, but sometimes enthusiasm is a good thing,” said Ancelotti.

“The two of them (Varane and Nacho) give me a lot of confidence. Ramos and Pepe are among the best defenders in the world, but I am not worried.”

Atletico have bounced back from their heartbreaking Champions League final defeat at the hands of Real last season to beat them in the Spanish Supercup and Copa del Rey over two legs this season, as well as winning 2-1 at the Bernabeu in La Liga earlier in the campaign.

However, defeat this weekend would see them fall 10 points behind the league leaders and all but end their defence of the title.

“I think it is important because the last games against Atletico weren’t good, so we have to change this bad run,” added Ancelotti.

“It will be a very difficult game, but we want to do something different.

“The motivation is so big for this game being a Madrid derby we don’t need the motivation of leaving Atletico 10 points behind.”

In contrast to the visitors, Diego Simeone has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the first time since November and defender Diego Godin insisted their desire to beat their cross-city rivals hasn’t been diminished by recent success.

“We want to win, we always want to win and even more so against Real Madrid,” said the Uruguayan.

“It is a different game and just because we have won the previous games doesn’t mean we will win this one.

“We need to prepare well, continue with what we have been doing and that will help us get closer to the result we want.”

Barcelona will be eager to capitalise should Real slip up when they travel to face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The Catalans have been in scintillating form since their last visit to the Basque country ended in defeat to Real Sociedad at the beginning of January, winning eight games in a row and scoring 29 goals in the process.

However, they have failed to win in any of their previous three trips to Bilbao, including a 1-0 defeat on their first visit to the new San Mames last season.

Elsewhere, Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal continue their fight for the fourth and final Champions League place.

Villarreal have the easiest task on paper when they host relegation threatened Granada on Saturday.

Sevilla make their second trip to the capital in five days as they travel to Getafe, whilst Valencia are away to Espanyol on Sunday.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid (1500), Villarreal v Granada (1700), Levante v Malaga (1900), Real Sociedad v Celta Vigo (2100)

Sunday

Cordoba v Almeria (1100), Getafe v Sevilla (1600), Espanyol v Valencia (1800), Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona (2000)

Monday

Elche v Rayo Vallecano (1945)

Photo Credits : AFP

Zidane could be future Real coach – Ancelotti

Zinedine Zidane is shaping up as a future coach of Real Madrid, present incumbent Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday.

Zidane, who is currently coaching the Real reserve side Castilla, “has all the qualities” required to take the the helm of the club, Ancelotti told a news conference.

“I enjoy Zidane’s work, he’s doing very well,” Ancelotti said.

After a difficult start of the season, Castilla are top of Spain’s third tier league.

“He’s doing very well in his first year in charge. He’s taken Castilla to first place and he needs to keep up the good work.

“It’s pretty clear to me he has all the qualities to coach a big team. And that includes Real Madrid,” said the Italian manager, who appointed the French legend last season.

After seeing Castilla lose five of their first six initial games, Zidane has turned things around and his young charges have now lost just once in the past four months.

They could increase their lead when they take on Athletic Bilbao’s reserves on Sunday, a match which could see Norwegian teenage prodigy Martin Odegaard, snapped up from under the noses of many European giants in the transfer window, could make his debut.

Photo Credits : AFP

Atletico beat Real Madrid again on Torres’s return

Fernando Torres tasted victory against Real Madrid as an Atletico Madrid player for the first time as the La Liga champions downed their city rivals 2-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie on Wednesday.

Despite a disappointing performance from Torres on his first appearance since rejoining Atletico on loan from AC Milan, the hosts beat Real for the third time in four attempts this season thanks to Raul Garcia’s penalty and a thumping header from Jose Gimenez after half-time.

Last season’s Cup winners will now have it all to do when the two sides meet again for the return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on January 15.

Both coaches signalled that their priorities lay elsewhere prior to kick off as Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench by Carlo Ancelotti, while Diego Simeone made seven changes to the side that beat Levante 3-1 at the weekend.

However, the hosts were indebted to one of those coming into the side after just two minutes when Jan Oblak brilliantly parried a towering header from Sergio Ramos, reminiscent of his equaliser in the Champions League final between the two sides in May which swung the match in Real’s favour.

The visitors then had a goal rightly ruled out from another setpiece as Gareth Bale was flagged offside when he headed James Rodriguez’s free-kick into the far corner.

Straight from the free-kick, Atletico then had their first effort on goal as Oblak released Antoine Griezmann with a long ball and his low effort was turned behind by Keylor Navas.

Griezmann was then presented with Atletico’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes when he robbed Rafael Varane and closed in on goal, but his French international team-mate recovered to avert the danger with a fine last-ditch challenge.

Torres, meanwhile, was enduring a nightmare opening half as he consistently gave the ball away and was caught offside on numerous occasions.

Real passed up a couple of half chances to go in ahead at the break as Benzema fired straight at Oblak before Sami Khedira headed over when unmarked inside the area.

The visitors also had the first opening of the second period when Bale prodded wide from a narrow angle.

However, it was Atletico who finally made the breakthrough when Garcia was adjudged to have been pulled down by Ramos and the midfielder composed himself to fire low into Navas’s left-hand corner.

Torres’s disappointing evening ended early as he was replaced by Koke, while Ancelotti quickly summoned Ronaldo from the bench in the bid for an away goal, with Rodriguez making way.

Yet, the World Player of the Year made little impact on Atletico’s well-marshalled defence and centre-back Gimenez then proved to be a hero at the other end as he rose highest to power home Koke’s corner 13 minutes from time.

Real Madrid chief gets keys to Panama City

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez received the key to Panama City from its mayor on Monday, in honor of the billionaire’s achievements in business and sport.

“It is an honor for me to accept this, as well as a responsibility,” the head of the iconic Spanish football club said, after Mayor Jose Isabel Blandon bestowed the key.

Perez did not rule out the possibility of a match between Real Madrid and the Panamanian national side, in Panama.

“It is a matter of finding the dates because between world cups and European cups after national championships, there are no dates left. But it’s just a matter of finding them,” he said.

The Real chief was in Panama to expend a cooperation deal it has with the office of Panama’s first lady. Since 2006 it has been special partner to a sports and social school.