Nuno Espirito Santo's replacement at Tottenham will be no surprise.

Antonio Conte had been rumoured as the top choice.

The ex-Inter man looks set to make it official on Tuesday, barring any late hitches.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE SET FOR SPURS MOVE

With Nuno Espirito Santo officially out, Antonio Conte is set to step in at Tottenham.

According to widespread reports, Conte has agreed a contract through June 2023 and the move will be finalised on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old left Inter by mutual consent after last season.

The Sun claims Spurs will give Conte £150million to spend on new players.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Paul Pogba prefers Paris Saint-Germain over Real Madrid or Juventus once he makes his expected departure from Manchester United, Fichajes reports.

- PSG are eyeing Karim Adeyemi as a potential replacement should Kylian Mbappe leave, Sky Sport in Germany reports. The 19-year-old Red Bull Salzburg striker also has drawn interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

- Real Madrid's Marco Asensio will be in demand in January, with El Nacional reporting Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus, Milan and Dortmund all have offers ready.

- Arsenal are eyeing Torino striker Andrea Belotti, says Calciomercato.

- Villarreal's Unai Emery is the new favourite to take over as Newcastle United manager, says the Mirror.

Gavi has fast become the talk of Spanish football.

The 17-year-old is a regular for Barcelona and now an international for Luis Enrique's Spain.

His exploits have reportedly attracted interest from Europe's elite.

 

TOP STORY – TRIO CHASING GAVI

Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Manchester United are interested in Barcelona and Spain sensation Gavi, according to El Nacional.

Gavi has enjoyed a rapid rise at Camp Nou this season, while he earned his first international cap in Spain's Nations League semi-final success against Italy on Wednesday.

PSG, Liverpool and United are eyeing Gavi as Barca try to extend the 17-year-old's contract, claims Mundo Deportivo.

 

ROUND-UP

- ABC claims Liverpool have set their sights on Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, who is reportedly unhappy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Juventus and Inter are eyeing Bayern Munich centre-back Niklas Sule, says Calciomercato. The Germany international, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has also been linked with Chelsea.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern are monitoring PSV winger Cody Gakpo. The 22-year-old is seen as an ideal replacement Kingsley Coman, who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Liverpool and United.

Valencia and Real Betis are battling to sign out-of-favour Inter forward Alexis Sanchez, per Calciomercato. The Chilean forward has also emerged as a target for Rayo Vallecano.

Mauro Icardi could swap PSG for Juve as the Serie A side view the former Inter captain as an alternative to Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Vlahovic is set to leave Fiorentina amid links with Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Inter.

Paul Pogba has been the subject of constant speculation over the past 12 months.

Manchester United's French midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

Pogba has been in excellent early season form, with seven assists in the league already.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID MOVE LOOMS FOR POGBA

Real Madrid are Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba's most likely destination at the end of this season, claims El Nacional.

The France international is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of this season and could leave on a free transfer.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is trying to persuade Pogba to join Madrid, despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

Liverpool target Karim Adeyemi is being chased by German pair Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, reports Sport Bild. RB Leipzig are also monitoring the 19-year-old Salzburg striker.

Marco Asensio appears destined to leave Madrid given his current role, with Sevilla hoping to sign the midfielder, according to El Gol Digital.

– Fichajes reports that Milan are plotting a January move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

– The Sun claims that Tottenham have revived their interest in West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone as they seek a successor to Hugo Lloris.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho wants to reunite with Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele by signing him, reports Calciomercato.

– Marca claims that Manchester City are considering tabling an offer to sign Villareal forward Pau Torres .

Arsenal are set for a shake-up after missing out on European football for the first time in 26 years.

Mikel Arteta's side started the new Premier League campaign slowly.

But three wins in a row have offered hope and rumours are swirling about transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL PLOT SWAP FOR EN-NESYRI

Arsenal will offer Alexandre Lacazette as part of a deal to land Youssef En-Nesyri from Sevilla, according to La Razon.

Morocco international forward En-Nesyri has sparked Arsenal's interest after netting 24 goals in all competitions in the 2020-21 season.

Lacazette has only made one league appearance for the Gunners this term and was reportedly shipped around during the off-season.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to sign a new long-term contract with Roma, which will remove his €30million release clause. Pellegrini was previously pursued by Liverpool and Tottenham.

– Liverpool scouts kept a close eye on Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at Wednesday's Champions League game against Manchester United as they plan for Sadio Mane's successor, claims the Daily Mirror.

– Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio remains in Arsenal's sights, reports the Daily Star.

Inter are not considering signing Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Ajax's Andre Onana their preferred acquisition, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Marco Asensio was considering leaving Real Madrid on loan before Carlo Ancelotti told the midfielder to stay with the LaLiga leaders.

The Spain international was concerned that his first-team opportunities would be limited this season due to the options at Ancelotti's disposal in his second spell as Madrid boss.

Liverpool were among the clubs linked with Asensio, but the 25-year-old was still with Los Blancos when the transfer window closed at the end of last month.

Asensio, who missed most of the 2019-20 due to a knee injury, marked his first start of the season with a hat-trick in a 6-1 LaLiga hammering of his former club Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Horacio Gaggioli, Asensio's agent, has revealed it could have been a very different story.

"We had been considering a loan for him to get back in form as soon as possible, either in Spain or abroad," he told Cadena SER's El Larguero show.

"There were no problems in that sense. But four days ago, Carletto (Ancelotti) told him to stay.

"We knew the quality Real Madrid had in midfield, probably the best in the world. So where would he play? It's not that we had no faith in him, because he can also play on the wing.

"But we knew that the year after the injury was going to be difficult and Real Madrid can't wait for anybody. They have to win every week and recovering from an injury isn't easy at Real Madrid."

Gaggioli says Asensio had no desire to leave the Spanish capital, adding: "We cannot be more grateful to Real Madrid."

With his treble against Mallorca, Asensio became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

He has two years to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti insists the versatile midfielder has a big role to play.

"Marco was important to us even before the Mallorca game," Ancelotti said on Friday. "He has shown his quality for us. He can play in different positions and is a very important player in the squad."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed Marco Asensio following his hat-trick performance in the 6-1 LaLiga rout of Real Mallorca.

Asensio scored three goals in his first start of the season against former club Mallorca as Madrid returned to the league summit at the Santiago Bernabeau on Wednesday.

After Karim Benzema opened the scoring in the third minute, Asensio took centre stage – the Spaniard scored on either side of Lee Kang-in's goal to give Madrid a 3-1 half-time lead.

Asensio completed his treble 10 minutes into the second half as he became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

Benzema and Isco added gloss to the scoreline, though Ancelotti heaped praise on Asensio post-match.

"I invest my experience in the team and look to give them my all, both in terms of experience and confidence," Ancelotti told reporters, with Madrid now boasting 16 points from their opening six league matches – their best start to a season at this stage since 2013-14, when the Italian boss was last in charge.

"I'm lucky to coach this brave team with a lot of quality and players who learn quickly. Asensio played very well. We knew that he can do a lot of damage and they had a lot of quality between the lines, he's a very good shot taker and he combines very well.

"Asensio has performed very well and during next week he can hopefully score three goals as well. I think this is the position.

"It can be sometimes that if we push with the full-back, defending, he can play more on the outside, but with the ball it's always the same position because he likes it. When he comes inside he has the ball on the left and he is very dangerous there."

Benzema also impressed in the Spanish capital – the in-form France international has been directly involved in 15 goals in LaLiga this season (eight goals and seven assists).

It is the best start in goal involvement of any player after the first six league games of the campaign in the 21st century.

"Karim is doing well," Ancelotti said. "He's scored eight goals and can make you forget that he is playing very well with the team, he gets behind, he contributes to the other players.

"He's a striker who doesn't just score goals. He is complete in every way.

"The day when he needs a rest weell play [Luka] Jovic, who has been doing really well. Jovic is up against really tough competition, but when he's played he's done well.

"He had two chances today and he also played extremely well against Valencia. He'll play when Benzema isn't available."

Marco Asensio scored a hat-trick against former club Real Mallorca to help Real Madrid to a 6-1 win that lifted them back above Atletico Madrid at the top of LaLiga. 

Mallorca youth product Asensio added to Karim Benzema's early opener and doubled his personal tally after Lee Kang-in had pulled one back for Mallorca in a lively first half to Wednesday's contest. 

Making his first start of the season, Asensio curled in a delightful third before Benzema – who also assisted a couple of goals – and Isco rounded off a thumping victory for Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Madrid have now collected 16 points from their opening six matches, making this their best start to a season at this stage since 2013-14 when Carlo Ancelotti was last in charge. 

Benzema scored a late winner for Madrid in their victory against Valencia last weekend and opened the scoring inside three minutes, nicking the ball off Josep Gaya's toes before racing through and coolly sliding past Manolo Reina. 

Asensio put Madrid on course for a sixth successive home league win against Mallorca 21 minutes later with a close-range finish after Rodrygo's pass was deflected into his path. 

Mallorca took just 71 seconds to respond, however, as Matthew Hoppe picked out Lee and the South Korea international got the better of Thibaut Courtois. 

But Asensio raced through to restore Madrid's two-goal lead and nearly completed his hat-trick moments later with a shot that Martin Valjent blocked on the line. 

Benzema set up Asensio's second goal and thought he had further extended Madrid's lead early in the second half, only for VAR to rule it out for a push on Joan Sastre. 

It did not take much longer for the fourth Madrid goal to arrive, though, as Asensio curled a shot away from Reina into the bottom-left corner for his first Madrid treble. 

Madrid did not let up as Benzema controlled a David Alaba pass with his back and fired a deflected shot past Reina in the 78th minute. 

The Mallorca keeper had to pick the ball out of his net once again six minutes later when Vinicius Junior teed up Isco for a simple finish. 

Simone Biles provided further inspiration when she returned to action on Tuesday and secured a bronze medal on the balance beam.

China enjoyed success with a Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing one-two, but the American gymnast stole the headlines on her first appearance back after withdrawing from the team final last week.

Mental health concerns were cited as the reason for Biles stepping away from the team events and other individual disciplines, though the 24-year-old excelled in her sole event on the beam.

The four-time Rio Olympics gold medallist reminded the world of her quality with a 14.000 score, and, despite Chenchen's last-ditch 14.633, she produced an emphatic return for the United States.

"I was just happy to be able to perform, regardless of the outcome," Biles explained after Tuesday's event. "I did it for me, and I was just proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.

"Just to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games meant the world, because training for five years and then coming here, then kind of being triggered and not being able to do anything, it wasn't fun.

"To go out there and compete one more time and have everyone's support meant the world."

To add to Biles' memorable comeback, the USA's basketball stars nudged past Spain 95-81 to reach the Olympic semi-finals, with Kevin Durrant netting a team-high 29 points to drive his side towards victory.

It was a far from convincing performance from the USA, however, as they trailed 39-25 at one point in the second quarter before rallying impressively to level at 43-43 at the halfway stage.

THOMPSON-HERAH COMPLETES DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Elaine Thompson-Herah motored to sprinting history as she won the 200 metres women's final to complete the sprint double-double.

The Jamaican set a new national record with 21.53 seconds, the second-fastest time in the history of the event, making herself just the second athlete ever, after Usain Bolt, to win both titles at consecutive Games.

Thompson-Herah, who claimed 100-metre gold on Saturday after doubling up for the first time at Rio 2016, just missed out on Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 world record by 0.19s.

"Oh my god, it's amazing that I have ever seen this day. That I could complete another double. I can't believe it," the 29-year-old said after the 200 metres final.

"I really had to pull it out to win the 200m. It's a new PB [personal best] and a national record. I am so, so happy.

"Honestly I am so tired, my legs just need some rest. I've done so many races in the last few days, but I am very grateful."

WARHOLM'S WORLD

Karsten Warholm demolished the world record with a remarkable 400 metres hurdles triumph, smashing the previous record run for a second time in five weeks.

At the start of July in Oslo, Warholm cut 0.08 seconds off Kevin Young's longstanding record that was set at the Barcelona Games in 1992, though the 25-year-old slashed even more off in Tuesday's final.

The Norwegian star powered through in 45.94s, hacking an astounding 0.76s off the global mark to secure a memorable victory.

"It's just so big. It's almost like history here. It was the only thing missing from my collection," the 25-year-old said after his win. "I had a World Championships [gold medal]. I had European Championships, I had the world record, the European record.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

The top three finishers all beat the previous Olympic record, with American silver medallist Rai Benjamin running 46.17, yet the performance of Benjamin's life was simply no match for Warholm.

 

BRAZIL PREPARE TO DEFEND TITLE

Brazil inflicted shoot-out heartbreak on Mexico after a 0-0 stalemate in 120 minutes to set up a final showpiece with Spain.

Reinier converted the crucial spot-kick and, with Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez missing, the defending Olympic champions ran out 4-1 victors.

"Playing the final match in the Olympics is a dream," said Brazil's head coach Andre Jardine. "The film I saw was the film of life. Everything we’ve gone through. Although we didn’t win in the 90 minutes, we took more risks."

Japan suffered extra-time agony in their semi-final against Spain as Marco Asensio's late winner sunk the host nation to tee up a mouth-watering prospect for Saturday's final.

Despite footballing disappointment, women's boxer Sena Irie provided the host nation reason to celebrate as she edged past the Philippines' 2019 world champion Nesthy Petecio to achieve gold.

Irie's win in the women’s featherweight class final means she is Japan’s first female boxing champion at the Olympics.

CYCLING CHAOS

Germany twice recorded world record rides to earn their first gold – and, in fact, their first ever medal – in the women's team pursuit cycling track event.

A strong Great Britain side, including Laura Kenny, awaited Germany in the final but the team of Mieke Kroeger, Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Klein produced the ride of their lives to finish in 4:06.159, almost two seconds quicker than the previous record.

In a dramatic day of cycling, the reigning world champions Netherlands won their first gold since 1936 in the men's team sprint as Team GB again had to settle for silver inside the velodrome.

That silver for Jason Kenny meant he became the first athlete to win eight Olympic medals in cycling track events and also equalled the total medal haul of Britain's most successful Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins.

More controversy filled Tuesday's track events, with Denmark's Frederik Madsen crashing into the back of Team GB's Charlie Tanfield inside the closing kilometre of the men's team pursuit heats.

The UCI later deemed the Danes, who were near two seconds ahead of their opponents, to have completed a successful catch to make it through to Thursday's final against Italy, despite the incident.

Pedri and Unai Simon were among a group of six Spain stars at Euro 2020 who received an Olympic Games call-up on Tuesday.

Spain Under-21 head coach Luis de la Fuente, who will take charge of the Olympic team in Tokyo, announced a 22-man list that must be trimmed to 18 for the tournament.

Teenage Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been one of the standout figures in Luis Enrique's Spain team at the European Championship, while Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Simon got away with a huge mistake in the last-16 game against Croatia, when he conceded an own goal before Spain roared back to earn a 5-3 win.

He carelessly failed to deal with Pedri's back pass and the ball rolled into the net.

They were joined on De la Fuente's squad list by senior Spain colleagues Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

As expected, there was no place for veteran Sergio Ramos, who wanted to represent Spain at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics this year but was called up for neither tournament.

Ramos, who is leaving Real Madrid after 16 years, endured an injury-plagued 2020-21 season.

 

Spain, who were gold medallists in men's football at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, also included Real Madrid duo Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio, Valencia's Carlos Soler, Sevilla's Bryan Gil and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad in a strong line-up.

Monday's victory over Croatia at Euro 2020 has carried Spain through to a quarter-final against Switzerland, to be played in St Petersburg on Friday.

Should Spain go all the way to the final, they will contest the showpiece at Wembley on July 11. 

The Olympic football competition begins before the Games is officially declared open, with Spain due to play Egypt at the Sapporo Dome in their opening Group C game on July 22, a day ahead of the opening ceremony.

De la Fuente said he had no doubts about selecting Simon, despite his error at the Euros.

"I know Unai Simon. I know of his strength and integrity," De la Fuente said. "Yesterday he had an exceptional reaction after a difficult moment."


Provisional Spain squad for Tokyo Olympics: Alvaro Fernandez (Huesca), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)), Alex Domínguez (Las Palmas); Mingueza (Barcelona), Jesus Vallejo (Granada), Eric García (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Oscar Gil (Espanyol), Juan Miranda (Real Betis); Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Jon Moncayola (Osasuna), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Pedri (Barcelona); Bryan Gil (Sevilla), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad, Rafa Mir (Wolves), Javi Puado (Espanyol).

Zinedine Zidane was left fuming by the decision to award Sevilla a penalty for handball against Eder Militao as Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw that means the title is no longer in their hands.

A gripping game at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Sunday came to life in the latter stages as a remarkable twist left Madrid trailing 2-1 with just over 10 minutes to go.

Madrid had seemingly earned themselves a glorious opportunity to go 2-1 up as Karim Benzema led a break and was brought down in the Sevilla box by Yassine Bounou.

But a VAR review overturned the decision because a handball offence by Militao was spotted at the other end at the start of the move, and Ivan Rakitic converted the spot-kick that was subsequently awarded to Sevilla.

While a Toni Kroos effort deep into stoppage time deflected off Eden Hazard to earn a share of the spoils and essentially end Sevilla's slim title hopes, it did Madrid little good as city rivals Atletico remain top with a two-point lead heading into the final three games.

Zidane was seemingly unconvinced by the merits of the penalty against Madrid, suggesting that if Militao – who was not facing the ball when it hit his hand – was guilty of an offence then Sevilla's Joan Jordan should have conceded a penalty earlier in a similar situation.

"I don't understand anything. If there is a Militao handball, there's a Sevilla handball as well," he said.

"I was not convinced by what he [the referee, Juan Martinez Munuera] told me. I never speak about a referee, but today I am angry.

"In the end it is what it is, we are not going to change anything. I'm happy with our game, we deserved more because the second half was spectacular.

"I'm not going to talk about that anymore. We've already talked about it. The referee has to explain the rules to me, but that's it. We're going to fight to the death, until the end."

Pressed on his interpretation of the handball law, Zidane added: "We can talk now… but it will not be clarified now and that is what bothers me.

"We have to think about the three remaining games. I am angry because we deserved the victory."

He was then seemingly encouraged to denounce VAR, though Zidane again pointed to what he felt was handball by Jordan.

"I trust football. What I'm saying is that I saw two hands and they whistled ours."

Real Madrid will require a helping hand if they are to defend their LaLiga crown despite Toni Kroos' late deflected strike rescuing a 2-2 draw at home to Sevilla, whose own hopes now appear over.

Ivan Rakitic had seemingly secured Sevilla a win that would have blown the title race wide open by scoring a late penalty, but deep into second-half stoppage time Kroos saw a hopeful shot hit Diego Carlos, who was unfortunate to see the ball end up in his own net.

Sevilla had taken the lead in the first half thanks to a lovely goal from Fernando, and they were good value for it against a Madrid side that still appeared to be labouring from their Champions League disappointment in midweek – their only moment of excitement coming via a disallowed Karim Benzema header.

They improved in the second period and levelled through Marco Asensio, that goal looking like the catalyst they needed to claim the win that would have put them top, but a switch that saw VAR overturn a Madrid spot-kick because of an incident in the opposing area left Zinedine Zidane's side in trouble.

Although able to cancel out Rakitic's successful kick, the result does Los Blancos little good as they are left two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with just three games remaining.

Marco Asensio emphasised the importance of Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of mammoth matches against Liverpool and Barcelona.

Madrid had 21 shots at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano but had been frustrated prior to the breakthrough strike from Asensio four minutes before half-time, with Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic in inspired form.

Dmitrovic finished with six saves, while three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals ruled out, yet Karim Benzema secured the points with a second-half header that extended his scoring streak to seven straight games.

Benzema has plundered nine goals in that time, while he has nine against Eibar in his LaLiga career - the most of any Madrid player.

Asensio is enjoying his own fine run, netting in three consecutive matches for Madrid for the first time, and now has his sights set on more important fixtures to come.

Liverpool visit in the Champions League on Tuesday before Madrid welcome rivals Barca next Saturday.

"I work for that [to score]," Asensio told Movistar. "In the end, it's about waiting for the moment and taking advantage of it.

"I'm happy for the goals, for the team and now comes the most important moment of the season.

"There are unfortunately a lot of injuries this season, but I think we all have to contribute and that's why we're a team."

Victory took Madrid up to second, at least until Barca play Real Valladolid on Monday.

Asensio said: "We knew we had to win to get good feelings and we took the three points, which is the most important thing.

"We have played a good match, creating chances, and in the end we have won well.

"Now we face a very important week with the match against Liverpool and then Barca to come. We have to live up to it as the Madrid we are."

Real Madrid closed to within three points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid with a 2-0 win over Eibar at the start of a huge week at home and abroad.

Struggling Eibar were the first of three visitors to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in succession, with games against Liverpool and Barcelona set to go a long way to deciding Madrid's season.

Los Blancos were not tested on Saturday, though, frustrated only by offside calls and their own finishing either side of Marco Asensio's 41st-minute strike before Karim Benzema made sure 17 minutes from time.

Although Atleti and Barca – now third behind Zinedine Zidane's side – are both still to play this weekend, Madrid's title rivals will do well to find opponents as accommodating as Eibar.

An awful blind pass from Alejandro Pozo sent Benzema clear three minutes in, but the striker delayed before shooting and allowed Marko Dmitrovic to make a brilliant right-handed save.

Benzema was quickly denied again, this time by the offside flag after nodding in Marcelo's cross at the far post.

Asensio saw a wonderful free-kick bounce away off the crossbar and then joined Benzema in having a breakthrough goal struck off, his exquisite flick nutmegging Dmitrovic but drawing the attention of the VAR – again for offside.

Fortune soon found Asensio's favour, however, as he charged onto Casemiro's pass and slipped while shooting, only for his effort to clip his standing foot and beat Dmitrovic.

A second-half storm briefly threatened to derail Madrid, notably when Lucas Vazquez's backpass picked up pace on a slick pitch and required a desperate lunge from Thibaut Courtois to divert it to safety.

But after falling foul of the flag for a third time – Casemiro disappointed by team-mates standing in Dmitrovic's line of sight – Benzema wrapped up the result with a downwards header from substitute Vinicius Junior's fine centre.

What does it mean? First hurdle cleared with minimum of fuss

The weather was Madrid's most dangerous opponent against relegation-threatened Eibar. The same will not apply when Liverpool and Barca make the trip to Valdebebas.

Injured captain Sergio Ramos will be far more of a miss in those matches, but it was still important for Zidane – unbeaten against Eibar in 10 LaLiga meetings – to get three points on the board at the start of a monumental month.

Timely reminder of Marcelo's talents

This was just a ninth league outing of the season for Marcelo, who lined up on the wing with the security of fellow left-back Ferland Mendy behind him. It was a role that suited him well and no doubt gave Zidane pause for thought ahead of a big Champions League tie.

Given the license to attack without worrying about protecting a defence missing Ramos, Marcelo was a constant threat. Only the offside flag meant his final-third contributions – one blocked shot, one successful cross and no chances created – were relatively modest.

Benzema belatedly breaks through

Madrid's number nine was LaLiga's Player of the Month for March with five goals in three games, but he initially appeared to have left his fine form on the other side of the international break.

Benzema's third-minute chance really should have brought the opener, while mistimed headers followed either side of his disallowed effort. Finally, he found his range with the fourth of five attempts before being substituted with 10 minutes to go ahead of a season-defining stretch.

What's next?

Madrid have three days to prepare for the visit of Liverpool, while Eibar do not play again until next Saturday, at home to Levante.

Real Madrid kept up the pressure on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as a brace from Karim Benzema helped seal a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Benzema produced two clinical finishes inside the opening 30 minutes to put Madrid 2-0 up at Balaidos, although Santi Mina pulled one back for the hosts against the run of play before half-time. 

Despite plenty of pressure from Eduardo Coudet's side in the second half, Madrid held firm and secured the victory late on through Marco Asensio to extend their unbeaten LaLiga away run to 10 games – the first time they have achieved this since May 2016 when they went 11 without defeat on the road. 

The result moved Zinedine Zidane's men above Barcelona into second, three points behind Atleti, but Diego Simeone's men can restore the six-point advantage over their neighbours if they overcome Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

Madrid went ahead with their first shot on target in the 20th minute, Benzema superbly steering into Ivan Villar's bottom-left corner after a neat turn and pass from Toni Kroos.

Vinicius Junior then inexplicably chested over from four yards with the goal at his mercy, but his blushes were spared on the half-hour mark when Benzema grabbed his second.

Kroos was again the provider, the German picking Renato Tapia's pocket on the edge of the area and feeding Benzema, who slotted past Villar for his 17th LaLiga goal of the season.

Celta clawed their way back into the game five minutes before the interval when an unmarked Mina headed beyond Thibaut Courtois from Denis Suarez's free-kick.

Courtois had to be alert shortly after the hour mark to repel Iago Aspas' effort from distance as Celta pushed forward in search of a leveller. 

Aspas then struck the post with a deflected free-kick inside the final 10 minutes but it was Madrid who had the final say, substitute Asensio guiding Benzema's cross home deep into stoppage time.

 

 

Luka Modric believes Real Madrid's older players are still hungry for Champions League glory.

Croatia midfielder Modric, 35, has lifted the trophy four times with Madrid since he joined them in 2012 and is the eldest of seven players in their squad aged 30 or over.

Sergio Ramos (34), Karim Benzema (33), Marcelo (32), Toni Kroos (31), Nacho (31) and Eden Hazard (30) are the other Madrid players of a certain vintage.

Los Blancos did not make it beyond the last 16 in the previous two seasons after defeats to Ajax and Manchester City in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.

However, Madrid booked their place in the quarter-finals of this season's competition with a 3-1 (4-1 on aggregate) victory over Atalanta on Tuesday.

Modric completed more passes (89) than any other player in the match and had more touches (109) too, underlining his influence remains strong.

"The important thing was to get through as we have not done it in two years," Modric told Movistar.

"We have to go step by step and see where we can go, but we have shown that there is still a lot of hunger in this team and that they want to keep winning.

"I hope we can go far but it was a very important first step. It was a very demanding game, Atalanta is a very physical team, they push one by one across the pitch, they don't stop.

"I think we have done well from the beginning and very happy to be in the quarter-finals."

Modric provided an assist for Benzema to score the opening goal for Madrid, before a penalty from Ramos and Marco Asensio's late strike wrapped up the win shortly after a Luis Muriel free-kick for the visitors.

Five of Modric's last six assists in all competitions have been for Benzema and only in 2013-14 (three) has the Croatian managed more Champions League assists than his two this season - both of which came in this last-16 tie.

When asked how old he felt as a player Modric said "27" before playing down the significance of his advancing years.

He said: "I always say that you don't have to look at the years, what the player does on the field is important, it doesn't matter how old, or how old his passport is.

"My physique and with everything I have achieved here, I am still hungry to continue doing things well, I am working to achieve all this and I feel very good."

Madrid captain Ramos agreed with Modric's sentiments, adding: "In the end, when you have been taking care of yourself for so many years, when you sow you end up harvesting.

"We always try to give the highest level; people must value the performance. The objective was to get through with a good result."

Only Roberto Carlos (16) has scored more Champions League goals than Ramos (15) among all defenders in the competition.

Nevertheless, the experienced centre-back said there was no update on a new contract with Madrid, his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.

Ramos added: "I cannot report anything, when there is something new I will be the one to say so."

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