Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti backed Karim Benzema to bounce back after missing two penalties in the 3-1 win over Osasuna on Wednesday.

Ante Budimir cancelled out David Alaba's 12th-minute opener before Marco Asensio restored Madrid's advantage at El Sadar.

Benzema was then twice denied by Sergio Herrera from 12 yards as the France star became the first player to miss two penalties in a LaLiga game since Raul Tamudo against Real Betis in April 2006.

Lucas Vazquez sealed victory for the league leaders in stoppage time as Madrid moved 17 points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, with distant chasers Sevilla and Barcelona playing on Thursday.

Speaking after the game, Ancelotti was quick to defend Benzema, who leads LaLiga scoring charts with 25 goals to this season.

"Penalties are missed by those who take them, it won't affect Benzema. Karim played a super game, he's going to score the next game," he said.

Alaba limped off at half-time and was subsequently withdrawn at the interval, but Ancelotti did not appear concerned about the centre-back's injury.

"We are optimistic with Alaba. We removed him as a precaution, he has been overloaded with a lot of work," the Italian added.

Madrid will now turn their attention to the Champions League semi-final first-leg clash at Manchester City on Tuesday, and Ancelotti insists his focus will be solely on that tie and not securing the league title.

"The title? We plan to prepare well for the next match, which is the semi-final of the Champions League," he continued.

"Then let's see what happens. We need to win. We are focused on the semi-final match and I think we are going to arrive in good form."

Diego Simeone explained Atletico Madrid's lack of "brilliance" in Wednesday's disappointing draw with Granada was down to fatigue.

Atletico were held to a goalless stalemate by struggling Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano, doing little to improve Los Colchoneros' Champions League qualification hopes.

Although the draw did move them up to second, Barcelona and Sevilla – both a point behind – each have at least one game in hand, while their inability to win ensured Atletico did not take full advantage of fifth-placed Real Betis losing on Tuesday.

Atletico recorded 1.4 expected goals (xG) against Granada but were wasteful in front of goal, hitting the target just once from their 22 attempts.

For Simeone, the explanation was simple.

Asked what was missing for Atletico, Simeone told reporters: "[We needed to] generate more chances to score, especially being more forceful in dangerous situations. Granada defended very well.

"We looked at the different options we had [in attack]. We had the [Manchester] City game, we played after three days against Espanyol and we ended up with one [player] less [Joao Felix], and in another three days we played against Granada.

"It's not an excuse, [but] we lacked brilliance due to the team's fatigue. There are five games left, and game by game we have to fight. Whoever is most engaged will go into the Champions League."

Atletico were frustrated late in the first half when a penalty was not given against Victor Ruiz for a challenge on Antoine Griezmann.

But Simeone opted against putting too much emphasis on that incident, again pointing to his team's recent workload instead.

"I didn't see the Griezmann incident. Apparently there is contact," he continued. "There's the VAR to make decisions, I am just here to improve my team.

"The boys came from making a great effort and they gave everything they had because they came here very tired.

"We lacked a goal, we lacked brilliance – that is achieved when you are fresh."

The Atletico coach gave his 19-year-old son Giuliano his LaLiga debut right at the end, though in typical Simeone fashion, he did not look at the situation with any particular sentimentality.

"I thought of him as being a footballer," the former Argentina international said. "We had one more option [on the bench] as a striker.

"He showed in a few minutes that he has a lot of intensity, aggressiveness."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean? Title procession continues for Madrid

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

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

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

 

Rampant Rodrygo spares Benzema blushes

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

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

Budimir efforts in vain

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

What's next?

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

Atletico Madrid's bid to qualify for the Champions League suffered a setback as they were held to a goalless draw by LaLiga strugglers Granada on Wednesday.

The toothless champions moved into second place, but had to settle for a point at the Wanda Metropolitano against a side fighting to avoid relegation.

Atleti lacked a cutting edge in their first game since Joao Felix was ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, Matheus Cunha coming closest to breaking the deadlock when he struck the post late on.

Diego Simeone's misfiring side only had one shot on target as Granada dug in to frustrate them in a drab match that will not live long in the memory.

Yannick Carrasco was Atleti's match-winner in the dramatic defeat of Espanyol on Sunday and the Belgium winger had an early strike deflected wide after earning a place in the starting line-up.

Rodrigo de Paul had a chance to open the scoring when he was set up by Koke, but Luis Maximiano made a comfortable save diving to his left

Atleti wanted a penalty for Víctor Diaz's challenge on Antoine Griezmann, but both referee Jesus Gil Manzano and the VAR saw nothing untoward late in the first half.

Simeone responded to a disjointed first-half display by replacing Javier Serrano and Reinildo Mandava with Luis Suarez and Sime Vrsaljko at the break.

Griezmann came close with a powerful left-foot drive as Atleti applied the pressure, but Njegos Petrovic flashed a sweet strike just over the crossbar at the other end against the run of play.

Stefan Savic sliced a shot wide before Petrovic tried his luck once again, bending a long-range strike narrowly wide with Jan Oblak no more than a spectator.

The closing stages saw Savic head off target from a corner and Cunha turn sharply before rattling the upright from close range as Atleti were unable to fashion a winner.

Xabi Alonso says Real Madrid's ability to grind out results when not at their best has been key to their success this season, as Los Blancos eye a 35th LaLiga title. 

Alonso, who now coaches Real Sociedad's B team, made 236 appearances during a five-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Carlo Ancelotti's team lift the Champions League trophy in 2014.

With Ancelotti back at the helm, Madrid hold a 15-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, and the Italian looks set to celebrate his first Spanish title triumph after already winning league titles in Italy, England, France, and Germany.

After beating Sevilla 3-2 with a late Karim Benzema goal last time out, Los Blancos have won 17 points from losing positions this season, the most in LaLiga, and Alonso believes that fighting spirit has been crucial.

"I think the team have found that stability, knowing that maybe they can struggle during one game, but they will have a chance to win and that they can win any game," he told FedEx.

"So far, in difficult moments, they have won games, and they are feeling comfortable playing great football and comfortable playing not the best football.

"Sometimes that's important as well, not to get nervous when you are not playing your best, to deal with those difficult times. I think that Madrid, they have dealt very well with those moments and that's why they are now in a great position.

"[There are] still many points [to play for], but yes, they are favourites [to win the league]. I think that they are the most consistent team. That's what gives you the best chance to win LaLiga at the moment. 

"I think that Carlo is a wise man. He knows how to find and to put the pieces together. That's why he's been with so many clubs, and he's [done] so many great things. He's finding his team, and he's able to deal with them so well because he has those skills to deal with the players."

Madrid have won 23 of their 32 LaLiga games this season, their highest number of victories at this stage of a season since 2016-17, when they won the title after having an identical record at this stage.

Although 39-goal striker Karim Benzema has led the charge for LaLiga and Champions League trophies, Alonso heaped praise on Ancelotti's reliable engine-room trio.

The 40-year-old also highlighted the potential of Barcelona's young midfielders, but stressed that the Blaugrana are in a "different moment" to Madrid as Xavi rebuilds the Catalan giants.

"Year by year, the midfield of Madrid, they are getting older, but they are as good as always. I've seen that Casemiro, Luka [Modric] and Toni [Kroos], they are safe as houses for any manager," he added.

"I think that Carlo has found what he needs from them and for sure he will need to rotate them. [But] they are playing very, very good football, and they are showing composure. 

"As always [with] Barca players, they have different kind of midfielders, [at a] different stage of their careers. For example, Nico, Gavi with the support of [Sergio] Busquets, it's a great prospect, but they are in a different moment right now."

Alonso picked out Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane as the one man he would have loved to play alongside..

"For sure, I would have loved to play with Zidane because I remember when I started playing in Sociedad, one of my first memories was playing against one of my idols. That was him," he added.

"To play against him, it was hard, but it was so enjoyable, and he was so elegant, things looked so easy for him, and he was such a good player. I would have loved to play with him, but I played against him."

Gareth Bale will miss Real Madrid's trip to Osasuna on Wednesday in LaLiga, the club have announced.

The 32-year-old has played just 290 minutes of football for Madrid in all competitions this season, scoring once in seven appearances, four of which have been starts.

In a brief statement on the club's website, the league leaders referred to Bale's absence as "a last-minute withdrawal from the squad".

A one-sentence announcement, declining to give a reason, then read: "He's not available for tonight's match against Osasuna."

The Wales winger will leave the Santiago Bernabeu when his contract expires in June, with national team manager Rob Page recently saying Bale would "definitely" continue his club career next season, as he eyes a potential World Cup appearance in Qatar.

Having opened up a 15-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, Carlo Ancelotti's side would take another huge step towards the club's 35th league title by beating Osasuna, against whom they are unbeaten in 13 league matches.

Xavi has full confidence that Gerard Pique will not let off-field matters impact his performances, as he suggested the Barcelona defender will be motivated by the criticism coming his way.

Pique has had to defend himself in recent days after it emerged he had negotiated a €24million commission when the Supercopa de Espana was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

The 35-year-old's sports entertainment company Kosmos was behind the deal, and leaked audio recordings led El Confidencial to report they would benefit to the tune of €4m per tournament over the six-year agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), defended himself in a news conference on Wednesday, two days after Pique told a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal."

Another leaked discussion between Pique and Rubiales surrounded the centre-back potentially going to the Tokyo Olympics as part of Spain's squad.

While Xavi conceded the situation is difficult, he insists he trusts Pique's intentions around the Supercopa, while claiming his former team-mate will be motivated to perform better by the controversy.

"He is outgoing and likes to be on people's lips," Xavi told a news conference ahead of Barca's LaLiga meeting with Real Sociedad.

"I am more diplomatic. I know him. If he wasn't focused, I would warn him, but it [attention] gives him fuel. It's adrenaline for him. It's like a drug, in a good sense of the word. He's focused.

"Pique's Twitch didn't bother me, it [would] bother me if he didn't give it his all or didn't follow the rules. It's Gerard and I know him. I know how to manage him and he needs it. He's doing well to compete, he needs this stimulus. 

"It's very difficult, my opinion doesn't change anything. There are two people involved. I know Rubiales well, he's a noble guy.

"I trust his honesty. He must explain himself, and [so must] Pique. I think they looked for the good of the great majority. I want to think that. If it is ethical or not? There are opinions of all kinds."

 

Away from Pique, Xavi has his own problems to think about. Barca have lost their last two games, suffering successive home defeats across all competitions for the first time since April 2003 after reverses in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt and LaLiga against Cadiz.

The latter defeat left Barca 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who can move 18 points clear with a win over Osasuna before the Blaugrana's meeting with La Real the following day.

"There was no anger, but I told them things clearly," Xavi said when asked what he told his players following the loss to Cadiz. "You have to be better, the game had to be won.

"I feel bad, I like to win, but I have to face reality. I will not change what I believe. In the league we had a good run until Cadiz."

Barca did have a good run, going unbeaten in 15 LaLiga matches before that 1-0 loss at Camp Nou on Monday.

They are level with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid on 60 points, but sit just five ahead of sixth-placed La Real.

Barca, though, are unbeaten in their last 11 league meetings with the Basque team and have not lost any of their last 12 LaLiga away games.

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

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

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

TOP STORY – STERLING ON MILAN WISH LIST

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

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

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

 

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has appeared to blame groups of Barcelona fans for an estimated 30,000 Eintracht Frankfurt fans gaining entry to the clubs' Europa League tie last week.

The second leg of their quarter-final clash saw Frankfurt record a famous 3-2 win after storming into a three-goal lead, as Barcelona were eliminated before swathes of German fans at Camp Nou.

An estimated 30,000 travelling fans gained entry to the stadium despite the Bundesliga club only officially receiving 5,000 tickets for the fixture, leading Laporta to claim he was "ashamed" of the club's handling of the situation last week.

The incident led to a number of Blaugrana fans boycotting their 1-0 loss to Cadiz on Monday, as the Catalan giants suffered back-to-back home defeats for the first time since April 2003, with some protesting against Laporta prior to kick-off.

The Blaugrana chief, however, has blamed club members for the overwhelming Frankfurt presence, accusing them of selling their tickets to German fans.  

"The club is not to blame for what happened against Eintracht, but it is responsible," Lapota said on Tuesday, speaking at a news conference called to explain the incident. 

"A group of members misused their season tickets, which they ceded to German fans.

"It is sad because we love this club, and it is hard to imagine season ticket holders giving their tickets to rival fans. But this happened, and it will be subject to analysis.

"There are around 7,000 members that purchased tickets with discount codes and [those tickets] ended up in German hands. We don't want it to become a witch hunt, but there is a lot of disappointment and we will look into possibly taking action.

"We didn't sell tickets to German fans beyond the 5,000 away tickets. Sales from Germany weren't allowed, and there were many people trying to buy tickets from there. The system of control worked up to a point, but some organised groups were able to breach the mechanisms in place.

"We inherited the system from the previous board. We thought it could work, but we have seen that for special games it doesn't.

"Tickets will now be non-transferrable for non-domestic matches and high-risk games. We are working on other measures so that it does not happen again."

Laporta did, however, admit that the club did not handle the situation perfectly, and was thankful to have avoided more serious consequences.

"I am sure we could have done better," he added. "It concerned us to see so many German fans arriving at the ground, but if we impeded them from entering, we would be talking about more serious incidents."

Under 58,000 Barcelona fans turned out to see Xavi's side fall to a demoralising defeat to Cadiz on Monday, one of their lowest attendances since the legendary midfielder returned as head coach.

Diego Simeone rued Atletico Madrid's injury problems ahead of Wednesday's clash with Granada after Joao Felix was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Atletico saw their hopes of a top-four finish in LaLiga dealt a blow on Monday when the Portuguese forward announced his season is over after picking up a hamstring injury. 

The 22-year-old has scored eight league goals in 24 games, but just 13 starts for Simeone's team in LaLiga this season, his best return since making a big-money move from Benfica in 2019.

But after going off injured at the halfway point of Atletico's 2-1 win over Espanyol last time out, he will be unable to add to his 10 goals and five assists in all competitions this term, joining the likes of Thomas Lemar on a growing injury list.

Simeone said those injuries have come at a "bad time" as his team look to ensure Champions League qualification for next season, noting Joao Felix was in a "great moment" before sustaining the blow.

"We have lost them [Joao Felix and Lemar], and [Hector] Herrera and Jose [Gimenez] are waiting to join the group, we hope they do so after this match," Simeone told his pre-match press conference. 

"We lost Joao, who was in a great moment, with games, playing in continuity, [it was going] very well for his growth and play, [and] Lemar always gives us something different, in that defence to attack transition.

"It's a shame. They are injuries that come to us at a bad time, but I have other boys waiting to play and everyone is up to the task of continuing to compete as we have been lately."

Last month, the Portugal international became the third-youngest striker to reach 50 appearances in LaLiga for Atletico (aged 20 years and 120 days), after Sergio Aguero (19 years and 162 days) and Fernando Torres (19 years and 310 days).

The forward pledged to "come back stronger" when announcing the news of his injury on social media on Monday evening. 

"Unfortunately, the news is not what I expected, and it is with deep sadness that I find myself unable to help my team in what remains to be played this season," the 22-year-old said in an Instagram post.

"Now I can only support Atleti from the outside, and work hard on my recovery to come back stronger."

Atletico are fourth in LaLiga, leading fifth-placed Real Betis by three points ahead of their home clash against Granada, with Simeone's men winning each of their last four home league games, their longest winning streak at the Wanda Metropolitano this term. 

Barcelona are not "throwing in the towel" in the LaLiga title race despite sitting 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, according to Blaugrana president Joan Laporta.

Xavi's Barca slipped to a 1-0 home defeat against relegation-threatened on Cadiz on Monday, a day after Madrid came from two goals down to win 3-2 at top-four contenders Sevilla.

Carlo Ancelotti's Los Blancos still have Real Betis and Atletico Madrid to face in the final weeks of the season, but their 15-point lead looks to have secured the league title already.

However, Laporta is refusing to give up hope on an unlikely turnaround from Barca, who have a game in hand on the leaders.

"This holy week has been like the passion of Jesus Christ," Laporta said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Holy Thursday was a disappointment and we ended Easter Monday with another. We have to recover and strengthen. After yesterday's setback, I'm not throwing in the towel.

"In football, anything can happen. I would have liked to speak today after beating Cadiz and talk about things I wanted, but if I did it would seem that I am going to be a victim."

The Cadiz loss further compounded a miserable week for Barca, who were eliminated at the Europa League quarter-final stage by Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

Laporta, who assured investigations are underway into how almost 25,000 Eintracht fans turned Camp Nou into somewhat of a home stadium for the Bundesliga side, believes Xavi "is looking for solutions".

"We were improving and now we are at a standstill," Laporta continued.

"In this final stretch of the league [season] we were doing well. We got a good result at the [Santiago] Bernabeu [4-0 win over Madrid] and now we're struggling to win.

"It's obvious. In the first leg against Eintracht we didn't play a [good] game, and in the second leg we lost. Against Levante, we also struggled.

"Xavi is analysing what happened and looking for solutions. But we also have to take into account that injuries are not helping us. A player like Pedri, a starter and a standout player, has been injured."

Barca will look to get back on track when they visit Real Sociedad on Thursday, and Laporta reiterated his belief in the Blaugrana.

"The situation is different from what we expected," he added.

"But while there is life, there is hope. Mathematically, it is possible. We have to fight in the seven [upcoming] finals to try to get the best possible final result.

"We mustn't throw in the towel, but it's going to be difficult to win the league. We have to be aware that we have seven finals and we have to win them to be in the Champions League."

Carlo Ancelotti does not feel like a champion yet despite Barcelona's shock defeat to Cadiz putting Real Madrid on the brink of reclaiming LaLiga.

Madrid visit Osasuna on Wednesday with the chance to go 18 points clear at the summit.

They will win LaLiga as soon as Sunday should they beat Osasuna, Atletico Madrid fail to defeat Granada and Barca fail to win their next two games against Real Sociedad and Rayo Vallecano.

Even if Atletico and Barca continue to pick up results, Madrid have a healthy advantage to protect over the final weeks of the season and still have the opportunity to win the title at Atleti next month.

But Ancelotti's focus remains only on the task at hand, with Madrid also having to juggle a two-legged Champions League semi-final with Manchester City along with their LaLiga commitments.

Ancelotti told a pre-match media conference: "I have too much experience to have this feeling [of being a champion]. 

"We are very close, but it is not over. We have a great opportunity tomorrow. Tomorrow is a great opportunity to get closer.

"Our calculation is simple. Three points against Osasuna and then three against Espanyol. If we need more, three against Atletico.

"I don't need to be a mathematician, I like history better."

Karim Benzema will play against Osasuna, though Luka Modric is set to be rested.

Casemiro will miss the Osasuna game after withdrawing from the squad with what Ancelotti labelled a "small problem".

The Brazil midfielder is expected to return for the first leg against City next Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium.

Barcelona coach Xavi was left seething after his side missed a "golden opportunity" to move clear in second place in LaLiga.

Having been eliminated from the Europa League on home soil by Eintracht Frankfurt last Thursday, Barca lost consecutive games at Camp Nou for the first time since April 2003 as lowly Cadiz condemned them to a 1-0 defeat.

Lucas Perez's second-half winner marked the 32nd goal Barca have conceded in 31 league games this season, their worst tally at this stage of a season since the 2012-13 campaign (33).

Barca's 15-match unbeaten run in the league had seen them harbour hopes of a title challenge, but they now have just seven games left to catch Real Madrid, who are 15 points clear.

Indeed, Barca's main focus will now realistically be on the teams below them. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla sit on 60 points, like the Blaugrana, but Real Betis (57) and Real Sociedad (55) are not far behind.

"We're p***** off," Xavi told reporters. "We have lost a golden opportunity to distance ourselves from the fight for the Champions League and to continue in the fight for the title. We have almost said goodbye to LaLiga. 

"We are Barca and we must do more. The team should have shown more desire and enthusiasm. It's not about attitude because the players want it, but we need a competitive character.

"They [Cadiz] defended the play as if it were the last, and we have to match that.

"We have to be humble and think that we haven't done anything. To be in the Champions League next year, we have to play with more faith, determination and drive. We have to grit our teeth because we've got a lot at stake."

Despite overseeing a dramatic upturn in fortunes since taking charge, Xavi said the defeat showed there was much work required for Barca to return to the level of his playing days.

"When you win 4-0 at the Bernabeu it's logical that you say 'we're back', but now we're also making mistakes," he added.

"We must be self-critical, and we must react to ensure the goal of Champions League [qualification]. 

"We have to work for the great Barca to come back. We beat Madrid and Sevilla with two great games with the same team and the same staff. If we've done it [before], we can do it again."

The game was played in a muted atmosphere after a prominent group of Blaugrana fans boycotted in protest at the club's handling of last week's loss to Frankfurt, where an estimated 30,000 away fans got tickets to the match.

"We need the people," Xavi said. "The other day it affected us a lot, the fans have been extraordinary. 

"Hopefully the next game they will be with us. Barcelona must be united and at least go to the Champions League next year. It's a shame they didn't come. We need everyone. It's important that in the next game at home the three points stay here."

Barcelona lost at home for the second time in five days as Lucas Perez struck to seal a surprise 1-0 victory for LaLiga strugglers Cadiz.

Perez missed the best chance of a dull first half when blazing wide from 12 yards out, but the former Arsenal forward atoned to prod home the game's only goal after 47 minutes.

Jeremias Ledesma pulled off a string of fine saves to stem Barca's comeback attempts, as Xavi saw his side's 15-match unbeaten run in the league come to a shuddering halt.

Having crashed out of the Europa League to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, Barca's slim LaLiga title hopes are surely now over, and they sit only three points above fifth-placed Real Betis.

Despite a boycott from some fans creating a flat atmosphere at Camp Nou, Barca made a bright start – Ousmane Dembele and Ferran Torres forcing Ledesma into a double save.

Cadiz soon settled, and missed the first glaring opportunity of the match after 27 minutes, Perez inexplicably side-footing wide with the goal gaping.

Dembele shot tamely at Ledesma at the other end and Perez made Barca pay after the restart, making no mistake as he nudged in from close range after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had made a fine save.

Ledesma again thwarted Dembele 20 minutes later, though Barca were fortunate that Alex Fernandez and Ruben Sobrino missed great chances.

Ledesma denied Luuk de Jong and turned away Eric Garcia's strike before making his best save of the match, reacting brilliantly to parry Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's volley as Barca fell to a demoralising defeat.

Carlo Ancelotti says he feels "lucky" to coach Real Madrid, and claimed that former Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho can make history at Roma.

Ancelotti's Madrid side clinched a dramatic 3-2 win over Sevilla on Sunday to move 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga, and seem all but certain to be crowned champions with second-placed Barcelona having just eight games to play.

Madrid have also advanced from thrilling Champions League ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the second half of the campaign, and will face Manchester City for a place in European football's showpiece event.

Ancelotti left Everton to join Madrid for a second spell in charge, and is thrilled with how his return has unfolded so far.

"The magic of this club, of the team and of these players is coming out," Ancelotti said. "I can say I'm a lucky coach. 

"I'm coaching a team that I feel a lot and that gives me great satisfaction, [at] a very well organised club. It is I who have to thank Real Madrid for giving me the opportunity to return to coaching this team.

"Real Madrid have the possibilities for history, tradition and quality to compete until the end. Now we have a very tough challenge against City. It was very tough also against PSG and Chelsea.

"The new rule that the away goal no longer counts as double makes these challenges more balanced and exciting."

Ancelotti was also asked about the club's potential acquisition of Kylian Mbappe, with the striker widely tipped to swap Paris for Madrid at the end of his contract.

I will say that the future of this club, thanks to president [Florentino] Perez, is of the highest level," he added.

And it will also be in the next few years, regardless of the players who may come. Real Madrid made football history and will continue to do so for many more years."

Turning to Serie A, Ancelotti believes Mourinho is on the right track to succeed with Roma after difficult spells at Tottenham and Manchester United.

Ancelotti said: "I think Mourinho has given back enthusiasm to a team that needed it.

"[They have done] extraordinary work thanks to his qualities. I think Mourinho can be an important piece in the history of Roma."

Roma are in the hunt for Champions League qualification in Serie A, while they will face Leicester City for a place in the final of the Europa Conference League.

 

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