Ramos was on the edge - Zidane reacts to Madrid skipper's knee surgery

By Sports Desk February 06, 2021

Sergio Ramos was at risk of an even more serious injury if he had not gone for meniscus surgery, Zinedine Zidane has claimed.

Real Madrid captain Ramos could face around two months on the sidelines after going under the knife - a considerable blow against the club's fading title defence.

The 34-year-old appears certain to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Atalanta and El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on March 7.

Madrid cut Atleti's lead at the top of LaLiga to seven points as Ramos' defensive colleague Raphael Varane scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over bottom club Huesca. However, Diego Simeone's men have two games in hand.

"It was important for him to be calm with [the operation]," Zidane told reporters when discussing Ramos after the match.

"It had to be done because he was on the edge. The operation went very well and that is the important thing. He will work from tomorrow to be with us again."

Madrid headed to El Alcoraz with two wins from their six games in all competitions in 2021 and were second-best for spells against their lowly opponents, who hit the crossbar either side of Javi Galan's emphatic 48th-minute opener.

But Varane smuggled home when a Karim Benzema free-kick looped back off the crossbar and the France centre-back was on hand once more to poke in when Casemiro's header was saved, easing the pressure on his countryman Zidane.

"We are happy with the victory. It was a difficult game but we added the three points," Zidane said.

"You have to keep fighting. This [season] is still long.

"It's never easy at 1-0 when your opponent scores a goal. We had minutes of difficulty, but we stayed in the game thinking that it could be changed and that's what we did, with personality."

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    Uruguay striker Luis Suarez "cannot understand" why players are being forced to play so many fixtures in such a congested period.

    South American nations are playing two World Cup qualifiers over the coming days, after FIFA inserted an extra international break into the calendar.

    European countries are not in action, but CONMEBOL are attempting to catch up on fixtures missed due to the coronavirus pandemic and last year's Copa America.

    Uruguay are one of five teams separated by just two points in the qualification standings, but have lost their past four games by an aggregate of 11-1.

    They travel to Paraguay on Thursday, before hosting Venezuela on February 1. However, that second game comes just two days before a crucial Copa del Rey tie for Real Madrid, and Federico Valverde is set to travel back to Spain for that match.

    Three other players, Getafe trio Mathias Olivera, Damian Suarez and Mauro Arambarri, could well have to be involved in a LaLiga match on February 4, while Suarez's Atletico Madrid are in action against his former club Barcelona on February 6.

    It is a situation that leaves Suarez frustrated.

    "I have to speak about the physical part of being a human being as well as a sportsman," he told reporters.

    "We cannot understand how it is that we will compete in a World Cup qualifier next Tuesday and that Pajarito [Valverde] in this case, will have to compete in a Copa del Rey match.

    "That my colleagues from Getafe, Mauro, Damian and Mati, will have to play that Friday in a LaLiga match. The schedule is quite tight, but we have to adapt to it.

    "We are professionals and will do our job on the pitch because that is demanded from us, but sometimes the players are not in other people's thoughts.

    "It happened before when we played three qualifiers in 10 days, with long trips of more than 12-15 hours, and obviously fatigue then has an influence."

    Suarez, however, insists the squad's full focus is on arresting their dismal form and pushing on to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar this year.

    He said: "There are players who go through different stages of both winning and losing streaks. But when you come into the national team, the games that you have been playing suddenly do not matter.

    "What matters is the hunger to compete, the wish to live and feel what I feel with this shirt on and to keep demonstrating that I am prevailing and that I want to keep competing and have the burning ambition to make it to the World Cup.

    "I've been lucky enough to have played in three World Cups already and now, at 35 years old, I want to continue with that same ambition and I wish to keep playing World Cups and to have the chance to play at my fourth World Cup. Because of that, I am here."

  • Everton managerial candidate Pereira: 'If they want me, they must call me' Everton managerial candidate Pereira: 'If they want me, they must call me'

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    Everton sacked Rafael Benitez earlier in January after a dismal run of one win in 13 league games left them six points above the relegation zone.

    That cushion has now been reduced to four points after Everton lost to Aston Villa on Saturday, with Duncan Ferguson having taken interim charge.

    A host of names have been linked with the job, though all with vastly different profiles. Former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, sacked in 2016, was an initial candidate, but the Belgian FA rebuffed Everton's approach.

    Fabio Cannavaro is also said to have been interviewed, similarly Frank Lampard. Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, confirmed last Friday that no approach had yet been made to Derby County's administrators.

    However, widespread reports on Monday claimed that Pereira was the favoured choice of owner Farhad Moshiri, whose running of the club has come under scrutiny from fans. 

    Those reports were met with some outcry, with a photo spread via social media on Tuesday showing graffiti at Goodison Park reading: "Pereira out. Lampard in."

    With suggestions on Wednesday that Everton were still weighing up options, Pereira – who was dismissed from a second spell in charge of Fenerbahce in December – took the somewhat surprising decision to speak to Sky Sports.

    "The club asked me to come for a meeting. I had a few interviews, not just one, with different people at the club, the board. We discussed everything, and I gave them my point of view about the club, the team," Pereira explained.

    "I think they were enthusiastic to what I proposed. An intense game, pressing, possession. We need to give confidence to the players, to the team and the fantastic supporters. This is what I proposed to them. What I felt in the meetings was that they were positive."

    Asked if he had been informed whether he would be getting the job, Pereira said: "They have other candidates and this is a time for decisions.

    "No, [they have not told me]. Just to wait for the decision, be calm, and they are grateful for the interviews, that's all.

    "What I want to tell you is that all of my career, I worked under pressure. About the decision? It's something I can't control.

    "I built my career with passion, organisation, competence. This is what I can offer to the club. I give 100 per cent of me, football for me is 24 hours. This is my life, my passion. 

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    In response to the graffiti, Pereira said: "This is the first time in my career that I see this kind of thing. My CV speaks for itself. The club is not in a good position and the supporters have passion, this passion is the power of this club.

    "[Critics] don't know me very well, they don’t know my work, know me as a person. I worked in a lot of countries, different clubs, different levels, got several titles.

    "I don't take this as a personal attack."

    Pereira has won four league titles across spells in charge of Porto, Olympiacos and Shanghai SIPG.

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    In a change to league rules announced on Wednesday, a new "impact threshold" will be introduced, meaning clubs can no longer request for a game to be called off if they have a single case of coronavirus.

    The change will come into effect ahead of the match between Burnley and Watford on February 5. The game was twice rescheduled because of cases of the virus leaving each side struggling to name a full contingent of players.

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    "Club applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Premier League Board examines a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of COVID-19; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.

    "The detail within all applications is scrutinised by the League’s specialist staff before the Board makes its decision."

    Previously, teams could apply for a postponement if they had a confirmed case of the virus within the squad and were unable to name 13 available players plus a goalkeeper, with injuries and international absences also taken into account.

    Frustration began to build among teams and fans as 22 matches were called off, including the north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal, with the Gunners' request for a new date granted after Martin Odegaard tested positive.

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