Carlo Ancelotti revealed David Alaba will "100 per cent" feature for Real Madrid in the Champions League final next weekend. 

Alaba has been dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City last month and did not feature in Madrid's last LaLiga game of the season against Real Betis on Friday. 

Los Blancos came through the match unscathed with a 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti confirmed afterwards that the Austria defender will play against Liverpool at the Stade de France on Saturday week. 

"Alaba is going to play the final but it wasn't necessary to take risks," Ancelotti told Movistar+. 

"He's going to play, 100 per cent. He hasn't played since April 26, it's true, but not only physical condition is taken into account for the match. Skill and experience are too." 

The Italian coach expects to have Gareth Bale available for one more time before his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Bale missed out on a place in the squad to face Betis having only recently stepped up his recovery from a back issue. 

"He wanted to say goodbye and play if he was able. Bale has one last chance because he will be fine for the final," Ancelotti added. 

Marcelo was sent on as a second-half substitute for what is anticipated to be his final outing at the Bernabeu, but Ancelotti hinted that the Brazilian could yet extend his stay. 

"He hasn't said goodbye yet, he's still our captain and will be in Paris. If he does say goodbye in the end, of the best full-backs in the world will leave. I think he's talking to the club, I don't know," said the Madrid boss. 

Real Madrid closed out their title-winning LaLiga campaign with a low-key 0-0 draw against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Friday. 

Neither team had anything to play for and that was clear from the outset, with the match played at a sedate tempo as Madrid looked to avoid overexerting themselves ahead of next weekend's Champions League final against Liverpool. 

Carlo Ancelotti named a strong line-up for the match but Los Blancos remain winless and goalless in five home league games against Betis. 

Marcelo and Isco were sent on for their final appearances at the Bernabeu but it was not to be a triumphant farewell as Betis held on for a draw. 

Toni Kroos fired wide after Karim Benzema's shot was blocked and Willian Jose narrowly missed the target from 20 yards after an open start to the half. 

Decent openings were few and far between, but Casemiro rifled a low drive just outside the post on the stroke of half-time after charging through the middle. 

Benzema volleyed straight at Rui Silva seven minutes after the restart and Rodrygo sent his follow-up wide under pressure from Marc Bartra. 

Joaquin came off the bench in the 74th minute for his 600th LaLiga appearance, joining Andoni Zubizarreta (622) as the only players to reach the milestone. 

The 40-year-old winger was unable to mark the occasion with a goal as he lifted an effort from the edge of the six-yard box over with three minutes remaining, but the point was enough for Betis to clinch fifth place.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted the ongoing Kylian Mbappe transfer saga is not on his mind as he focuses on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Mbappe's contract with Paris Saint-Germain is due to expire at the end of the season as reports persist that the World Cup winner will move to the Spanish capital.

The France international has stated he will announce his decision before joining up with Les Bleus for international duty in June, with PSG still hopeful of keeping their talisman at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe's 57 goal contributions in all competitions this season can only be bettered by Madrid forward and international team-mate Karim Benzema (59) among players in the top five European leagues.

Ancelotti could have the pair to call upon in his attack alongside Vinicius Junior next term, but the Italian insists he is concentrating on the European showpiece with Liverpool on May 28 in Paris.

"I spend my time in Valdebebas [Madrid's training ground], in the car at home or in a restaurant," Ancelotti said ahead of Friday's LaLiga game against Real Betis.

"Nobody asks me about Mbappe because everyone is thinking about the Champions League final.

"I don't consider the Mbappe issue; the only thing I have in mind is the Champions League final, and that leaves me very calm."

Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side against Betis on Friday with the LaLiga title already secured as Madrid eye their 14th European crown.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having lifted the FA Cup last Saturday against Chelsea and then beaten Southampton on Tuesday to sit one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with a game to go.

However, Ancelotti does not believe the contrasting schedules will make a difference when the two teams meet at the Stade de France in UEFA's premier club competition.

"Liverpool in this period have had more difficulties than us, because they have important games," he added.

"They have won the FA Cup. We have had the opportunity to think more about this game, but it will not affect the team. We will think about the game from Monday."

Ancelotti also called on Madrid to enjoy the occasion of the final.

"We must not forget the happiness of playing this game," he continued. "It is normal to have anxiety and worry about facing a strong team. I am happy to have time to prepare it.

"We are where many want to be – it is the most important game of the world football. Now we are enjoying it. After the match, there may be more happiness or a bit of sadness."

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Gareth Bale will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires in June as he hailed the forward who remains "a part of the history" at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid wrapped up the LaLiga title with four games to spare and host Real Betis on the final matchday of the league season, with a Champions League final against Liverpool to follow on May 28 in Paris.

Bale's role in their success to this point has been extremely limited, making just seven appearances in all competitions this season, totalling only 290 minutes of action.

The Wales international, who will hope to qualify for the World Cup when his country face either Ukraine or Scotland in their play-off final on June 5, was expected to leave Madrid when his contract runs out at the end of the season, and Ancelotti confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three final goals.

But his exit will mark the end of a turbulent stay in Madrid, with his Los Blancos commitment regularly coming under scrutiny from Madridistas and the Spanish press.

Ancelotti could not promise Bale a final farewell appearance at the Bernabeu on Friday as injury problems persist, but the Italian insisted the 32-year-old's name will be etched into Madrid's history books.

"Bale isn't 100 per cent fit, and he won't be in the squad. Tomorrow I'll choose if he's on the bench or in the stands," Ancelotti told a pre-match news conference.

Asked about his future, Ancelotti added: "The contract ends, and he will leave. It is not so important if he plays tomorrow. Bale is part of the history of this club. He will remain in the memory of all Madrid fans.

"He was important in the Decima [the club's 10th Champions League win], in Kyiv, in the Copa del Rey. He has written important pages in this club's history, and we have to take that into account."

While Bale will not feature against Betis, who are winless in their past 10 LaLiga visits to teams from the Madrid region, Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side to build fitness for the Champions League final.

"I think about giving minutes to the players who need it the most," Ancelotti continued. "Tomorrow Marcelo, [Luka] Modric... [David] Alaba will train with the group starting on Monday."

Karim Benzema has scored 27 goals in LaLiga this season and is set to become the first French player to finish a campaign as the top scorer in the competition's history, but he is expected to be rested again.

Despite fielding another heavily rotated side, Ancelotti expects an exciting game against Copa del Rey winners Betis.

"We are the two teams that have won the competitions," he added. "It will be an entertaining game because Betis plays quality football."

Wednesday's Europa League final is set to attract over 150,000 Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers fans to Seville, despite well under a third of that total having tickets.

With neither club having won a continental trophy since Eintracht lifted the UEFA Cup in 1980, this final has truly captured the imagination of supporters who certainly wouldn't have had grand expectations of getting this far.

But for Rangers especially, there's an air of destiny about their journey to the final – or, more specifically, host city Seville.

While perhaps not obvious, Scottish football can claim several football links to Andalusia's capital.

Perhaps Rangers' passage – and potential victory – were meant to be…

Sevilla's Scottish roots

These links go back as far as 1890, when a group of British men in Seville celebrated Burns Night by founding Club de Football de Sevilla.

Edward Farguharson Johnston of Elgin and Hugh MacColl, from Glasgow, were among the club's founders, with the latter appointed as Sevilla's first ever captain.

Sevilla's founding and debut match were first described in The Dundee Courier six weeks after that fateful Burns Night, with Recreativo Huelva their opponents in the first official match ever played in Spain on March 8, 1890. Sevilla won 2-0.

While Recreativo were Spain's first sports club, the match against Sevilla makes Los Nervionenses – whose Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium provides the setting for Wednesday's final – the oldest club dedicated solely to football in the country.

And it's partly thanks to a Glaswegian.

Betis' homage to Celtic

A Spanish man named Manuel Asensio Ramos studied in Scotland as a young adult, taking on Celtic as his adopted club while he was there.

He later returned home to Spain and became one of the founding members of Real Betis, who subsequently donned green and white stripes as a tribute to Celtic from 1911.

Celtic had changed to their famous hoops eight years earlier, but the link was set in history.

Five years ago, Betis briefly switched to hoops for a match against Malaga to celebrate Andalusia Day, with Celtic communicating their delight at the club choosing "to wear the hoops for their special day".

The Bhoys from Seville

Of course, 2022 isn't the first time one of the Glasgow giants has been in Seville for a European final.

Nineteen years ago, Celtic reached the UEFA Cup final, facing Jose Mourinho's Porto at the Estadio La Cartuja on the outskirts of the city – that is also the location of Rangers' 'fan zone' this week.

'The Bhoys from Seville' was the nickname bestowed upon Celtic for the trip, with the tag a pun on their 'the Boys from Brazil' moniker.

Celtic ultimately lost 3-2 via the silver goal rule in extra time, but the occasion is still widely remembered fondly by the club and supporters, 80,000 of whom were said to be in Seville for the festivities.

Fans of the club were widely commended for their behaviour in the city, with UEFA and FIFA later awarding them Fair Play Awards.

Glasgow returns the favour

Four years after Seville played host to Celtic, Glasgow welcome Sevilla and Espanyol for the 2007 UEFA Cup final.

Hampden Park was the location of Sevilla's second successive triumph in the competition, beating their LaLiga rivals 3-1 on penalties after a gripping 2-2 draw over 120 minutes.

Despite Celtic's links to Betis, it was widely felt by Sevilla fans in attendance that Bhoys supporters were cheering on Los Nervionenses, while Rangers aficionados adopted Espanyol as their team.

Dani Alves was the only Sevilla player to miss his penalty, while Andres Palop in the Andalusians' net made three vital saves.

Xavi is not ready to welcome the end of Barcelona's season despite the relief of clinching Champions League qualification on Saturday.

The Blaugrana beat Real Betis 2-1 in Seville to ensure the fifth-placed side can no longer catch them in second.

Ansu Fati's scuffed shot broke the deadlock, before ex-Barca defender Marc Bartra responded with a similarly untidy header.

It fell to Jordi Alba to win the match and secure Barca's top-four place with a sublime 94th-minute volley.

Coach Xavi saluted his side for the effort they put in to recover from a poor start to the season, having won every match they have played against top-10 opposition in 2022.

But he still has his sights set on tying up second place.

"We've taken a weight off our shoulders," Xavi said. "It could have been a more complicated and difficult season.

"The team has competed a lot. We have not played excellently in many games; in others, yes, but we have a winning soul and competitive character.

"We beat the top 10 in this second round of the season. It's evidence that we have to play better. It has to be analysed, but we have made a titanic effort from November to here.

"We will be in the Champions League, the competition we deserve. Now we want to be second."

However, Xavi added this achievement was the "minimum required" at Camp Nou, saying: "I want to compete for titles. We can't miss another year not being competitive."

The former Barca midfielder will hope Fati can have a big role to play in an improved 2022-23 campaign, having been limited to 12 appearances – in which he has still scored six goals – due to injuries this term.

Xavi hailed Fati as his "difference-maker", scoring 75 seconds after his introduction from the bench, and said: "It's a very good feeling to have him back."

Jordi Alba waited until the 94th minute on Saturday to sensationally clinch a 2-1 win at Real Betis and Barcelona's place in next season's Champions League.

The Blaugrana needed all three points against fifth-placed Betis to be sure of a top-four finish and looked set to be frustrated after Marc Bartra cancelled out Ansu Fati's opener.

But Alba unleashed an outrageous volley into the roof of the Betis net with almost the final kick to achieve Barca's aim with three matches to spare.

The result was perhaps harsh on Betis, who passed up their own chances to complete a first LaLiga double over Barca, yet there was no arguing with the quality of the decisive goal.

Barcelona coach Xavi is urging his players to take full advantage of a "golden opportunity" to seal Champions League qualification against a direct rival in Real Betis.

The Blaugrana go to Seville on Saturday sitting second in LaLiga, eight points clear of fifth-placed Betis – who won 1-0 at Camp Nou in December – as the battle for the top four nears its conclusion.

A win for Barca over the Copa del Rey winners would take them to 69 points and ensure they do not finish any lower than fourth, with Betis only able to reach 67 and sixth-placed Real Sociedad 68.

While the 15-point gap to champions Real Madrid highlights how confronting 2021-22 has been for Barca, Xavi has restored a degree of positivity since replacing Ronald Koeman in November.

Barca were ninth in LaLiga after 13 matches ahead of Xavi's first game in charge, 10 points behind second-placed Sevilla; they now appear favourites to finish ahead of Julen Lopetegui's side and dethroned champions Atletico Madrid as runners-up.

And Xavi wants his team to clinch Champions League qualification at the first time of asking.

"Hopefully, it's a golden opportunity to qualify for the Champions League," he said on Friday. "They're a direct rival, with great players and a great coach. It will be difficult.

"Football gives us the chance to take sporting revenge. We want to fulfil our goals before the end of the season.

"We are fighting for the minimum, but that's the way it is. There are two goals, but the most important is to be in the Champions League next season.

"That's the objective. If we can get second, which would give us the option of entering the Supercopa, then even better.

"We cannot think beyond this, [but] I hope that this summer there will be signings despite the economic situation. We cannot take the European qualification for granted.

"I expect an opponent [Betis] with a lot of confidence. They have won the Copa, they deserved it. I congratulate Betis, [Manuel] Pellegrini and the players, who are having an excellent, historic season. I congratulate them."

Ever since Xavi's return to the club, their "philosophy" and "DNA" have drawn a lot of focus, with many supporters feeling Barca's ethos was diluted under Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and Koeman.

Ronald Araujo commented that restoring "the Barca DNA" with Xavi was a chief goal of his after signing a new contract in April, and while the coach acknowledges he cannot change things in an instant, he is confident they are making progress with a top-four finish almost secure.

"It's not my message, it's the message of Barca's history," Xavi continued. "I don't have a magic wand, what I'm clear about is that with this model [Barca] won five Champions Leagues and world recognition.

"You leave Spain and they remember [Pep] Guardiola's Barca, [Lionel] Messi's Barca, and they remember how we won, not so much what we won.

"We have to wait and be patient. If we review history, there is no doubt."

Having helped his boyhood club to their first major trophy in 17 years by netting in a penalty shoot-out victory over Valencia in the Copa del Rey final, it is fair to say Real Betis captain Joaquin was in a celebratory mood.

Few neutrals would have denied the club, who have been relegated twice since their last Copa win in 2005, or Joaquin, a genuine Betis legend who has made the most appearances of any outfield player in LaLiga history (595), their moment of glory.

Unless, of course, they could have foreseen the way in which Joaquin chose to celebrate the triumph, in all his glory.

Having cemented his reputation as one of football's greatest practical jokers by posing stark naked with the Copa he won with former club Valencia in 2008, the 40-year-old decided to grace Betis' social media accounts with a recreation of that photo.

A Copa success might well be the most fitting end to Joaquin's career. He seems intent on making the memory last in more ways than one.

Those of a nervous disposition will probably be hoping it is the last trophy of his career, anyway.

A 10th Ligue 1 title for Paris Saint-Germain has evidently left a bitter-sweet taste.

Their devastating elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League made for a fourth last-16 exit in the past six seasons, following final and semi-final defeats to Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively.

Amid protests that culminated in fans walking out of the Parc des Princes as PSG claimed the domestic title at the weekend, the remedy reportedly appears to be a new coach.


TOP STORY – CONTE TO REPLACE POCHETTINO AT PSG

Paris Saint-Germain appear set to dismiss Mauricio Pochettino as their head coach and have lined up Antonio Conte as his replacement, Le Parisien is reporting.

Pochettino's exit is reportedly imminent and all that is left for the club is to come to a financial settlement, with another season left on the contracts of Pochettino and his staff.

PSG's preferred choice as Pochettino's replacement is apparently Zinedine Zidane, but he appears more intent to replace Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach if he leaves after the World Cup.

Tottenham boss Conte would be brought in on a two-year deal. 


ROUND-UP

Lucas Paqueta has told Lyon head coach Peter Bosz he will let the club know of his desire to stay or leave at season's end, according to the Chronicle.

- Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus is also yet to commit to his future beyond the end of this season, the Guardian reports.

Real Betis are keen to sign Real Madrid's Isco, who will be leaving at the end of the season, per Marca.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Barcelona are considering a bid for Ajax centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

A tearful Joaquin dedicated Real Betis' Copa del Rey triumph to all the club's supporters, after a tense penalty-shootout win over Valencia on Saturday.

Scores were locked at 1-1 after 120 minutes, with Hugo Duro cancelling out Borja Iglesias' opener for Betis in the 11th minute. Yunus Musah's miss in the shootout gifted the eventual opportunity for Juan Miranda to give Betis the 5-4 win on penalties, and the 22-year-old held his nerve.

"Long live Betis even when they lose" has become a mantra for supporters, with the club being relegated twice since their last Copa del Rey triumph in 2005.

The 37-year-old Joaquin, the boyhood Betis fan who was also playing against his old team on Saturday, could not hide his emotion post-match.

"These tears are the suppressed emotion of all these days, of seeing the people and how they supported us, knowing the responsibility of playing this type of game," he told TVE. "It is normal for these tears to flow. We are very happy.

"Let's enjoy the moment, we are Copa del Rey champions, and we dedicate it to everyone who is by our side – the staff, the coaches, the cooks, all the people who are not seen, for my daughters, my wife, my brothers, my parents, all the Beticos."

In characteristic Betis fashion, they had to do it the hard way against a Valencia team willing to absorb pressure.

The Verdiblancos went close to scoring a winner as Sergio Canales hit the frame of the goal, with Valencia keeper Giorgi Mamardashvili also denying Iglesias and Nabil Fekir.

Joaquin, the Betis captain and surviving member from that 2005 victory, believes his side's eventual triumph and contention for the Champions League this season was reflective of the steady improvement they have shown since gaining promotion back to LaLiga in 2015.

"I think that the work of this season and seasons past has been seen today, of gradually achieving goals and improving the team," he said.

"We are having a great season, all the fans deserve it, congratulations to Valencia because they also would have been fair winners. Penalties are a lottery but we also deserved it. It is a joy for all the Beticos."

Yunus Musah missed the only penalty as Real Betis beat Valencia 5-4 on spot-kicks following a 1-1 draw after extra time to win the Copa del Rey for a third time.

Betis entered the contest in their home city of Seville as favourites and led early on through a Borja Iglesias header, only for Hugo Duro to equalise from Valencia's only shot of the first half.

Despite chances for both sides in a gripping and feisty final, the contest at Estadio de La Cartuja went all the way to penalties and it was Manuel Pellegrini's side who prevailed.

Substitute Musah missed the only spot-kick, with Juan Miranda sending Giorgi Mamardashvili the wrong way to seal a famous victory for Betis.

 

Valencia trail Betis by 15 points in LaLiga and the gulf between the sides told early on as Borja Iglesias headed Hector Bellerin's cross past Giorgi Mamardashvili from six yards.

Jose Bordalas' men showed characteristic resolve by responding 19 minutes later, however, thanks to Duro's delightful dinked finish after being played in by Ilaix Moriba's incisive pass.

Betis went close to restoring their lead when Sergio Canales' deflected shot hit the woodwork but Valencia, who had a penalty shout for a shove on Duro turned down, held firm.

Moriba miscued a volley when spotted in a great position but Betis continued to create chances, with Juanmi denied by both Mamardashvili and then the post.

Nabil Fekir and Borja Iglesias were next to be frustrated by Mamardashvili, while Claudio Bravo was needed to keep out Carlos Soler in a gripping finale to normal time.

A quieter period of extra time followed, which was played at walking pace at times, paving the way for penalties to determine the winner of the 120th Copa del Rey final.

After the first six spot-kicks were converted, Musah skied his attempt and that set up Miranda to settle a tense final that went all the way.

 

 

There was a surprise guest at the wedding of Real Betis star Joaquin in July 2005 – surprise because this particular appearance hinged on the outcome of a football match five weeks earlier.

As Joaquin and his new wife stood at the front of the church in his hometown of Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, something else couldn't help but hog attention.

The Copa del Rey trophy, draped in green and white ribbons stood tall – literally, because it's huge – and proud.

That's right, the Copa del Rey was an especially notable guest at Joaquin's wedding, as the winger – then 23 years old – had only recently helped Betis to just their second success in the competition and first since 1977.

Joaquin has always been regarded as something of a practical joker, with that not-so-subtle wedding decoration very much from his wheelhouse.

Fast-forward 17 years and Joaquin is readying himself for another tilt at the crown with his beloved Betis, who themselves haven't reached the final since that momentous 2-1 extra-time win over Osasuna at the Vicente Calderon.

 

Fittingly, Betis' opponents on Saturday will be the other club most people would associate with Joaquin: Valencia, with whom he won the only other trophy of his career in 2008 – also the Copa – during a five-year spell.

That triumph spawned another curious – but no less Joaquin – photo of the winger with the trophy, as he was snapped stark naked squatting next to the cup in Valencia's dressing room.

Hopefully social media won't see a repeat of that one on Saturday…

Joaquin didn't feature for Valencia in that final, however, and therefore his 2005 success will gratefully remain the focus for most.

While Joaquin is by no means the Betis regular he was 17 years ago when he was an exciting fleet-footed winger, this occasion will still be all about him in the build-up, with there also a degree of aptness around the fact Saturday's game is taking place in Seville, at La Cartuja.

This campaign is expected to be Joaquin's last as a player. Now 40, his contract expires at the end of the season and in November he hinted retirement was likely in 2022. Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini quickly looked to sweep that under the rug, adamant such decisions will wait until 2021-22 is finished, and there's been very little public discussion of the subject from he or Joaquin since.

It's easy to understand why many aren't predicting another year of Joaquin in LaLiga, though. Even if you ignore the fairly important point of his age, his time on the pitch has reduced significantly this term.

In LaLiga he has made only two starts this season and in total featured for just 395 minutes. Of course, he's been used across multiple competitions in 2021-22 and was named in the starting XI eight times in the Europa League.

But while his 31 appearances is actually one more than in 2020-21, his minutes-per-game average of 36 (1,117 total) is 12.4 minutes fewer than last term, highlighting how he's become even more of a peripheral figure.

But that's not to say his influence has waned. Pellegrini stood aside before the first leg of their Copa semi-final defeat of Rayo Vallecano to let Joaquin deliver a speech.

He said: "Look each other in the eyes. We are here because of ourselves. I don't know if I should talk to you as a team-mate, friend or captain, but I will do it as a Betico, because I know what many of them must be feeling here today.

"They are going to be there until the death. The Beticos, and this club, have suffered for a long time. Sacrifice and effort lead to glory. That's the reward.

"I had an uncle who used to say, and he taught me this, that there's nothing more beautiful than making other people happy – today we have that chance. We're going to go out there and show we want to be in that final."

Betis fell behind early on in that game in Vallecas but went on to win the game 2-1. They then looked to be heading for extra time when Bebe spectacularly put Rayo ahead with 80 minutes played of the second leg in Seville, but a moment of inspiration from Joaquin right at the end opened the Rayo defence up.

He brought down a cross-field pass, glided away from Bebe and slipped a perfectly weighted pass in behind the defence for Sergio Canales, whose prodded pass was deflected towards goal and tapped in by Borja Iglesias.

The entire Betis bench and staff mobbed Joaquin at full-time, fully aware of what their achievement meant to him – but it was also a show of appreciation, with the veteran's cameo showing he remains a very useful option.

On a per-90-minute basis across all competitions this season, Joaquin tops Betis' charts for assists (0.32), expected assists (0.29) and chances created (2.9), while his 4.3 dribbles attempted is bettered by only three players.

 

Of course, his sample size is much smaller than the likes of Nabil Fekir and Canales – the point isn't that he's better than them, simply that he's packing a lot of quality into his relatively brief appearances.

Don't expect to see his name in Betis' line-up on Saturday, but do not be surprised if he comes on and makes a telling impact – given the legendary status he holds not only at Betis but also in LaLiga, there'll be many willing him to enjoy a successful end to a fine career.

Let's not forget, his 595 LaLiga appearances is a record for an outfield player, while only one man in Spanish top-flight history has appeared in more seasons (Miguel Soler, 20) than his 19.

Assuming he does in fact play some part on Saturday, it will be his 106th Copa del Rey appearance, extending another record among non-goalkeepers.

A 17th wedding anniversary might not be a big milestone for most, but you can count on Joaquin bringing the Copa along for the celebrations if Betis succeed this weekend.

Jan Oblak believes Atletico Madrid have turned a corner after battling to a 3-1 victory at Real Betis on Sunday.

Atleti followed up victories over Osasuna and Celta Vigo in LaLiga with three more points at Estadio Benito Villamarin to move above their opponents into fourth place.

Two goals for in-form Joao Felix, either side of Cristian Tello's equaliser deep in first-half stoppage time, was followed up by a late strike by Thomas Lemar.

After winning three league games in a row for the first time this term, Oblak feels confident his side can hold off the chasing pack and secure a Champions League berth.

"This is a different Atletico, we have to continue like this," Oblak told Movistar. "Only in this way can we reach the Champions League. 

"There's a long way to go. All the players and the coaching staff are involved in that. If we continue like this, we have no doubt [of finishing in the top four]."

 

Joao Felix has now scored four goals in his last four appearances in all competitions for Atletico, compared to three goals in his first 23 outings at club level this campaign.

He has scored two or more goals on five occasions for Los Colchoneros, though this is the first such occasion he has managed that since November 2020 against Cadiz.

While his output in front of goal has improved drastically in recent weeks, the Portugal international insists he has performed at a consistent level all campaign.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "I was also doing things well before, but goals were missing. Now they are arriving and I'm hoping to keep it up.

"As a team we are well-connected and clear about our objective. We are performing well and our attitude is good. When that is the case, the quality shows."

Atletico are two points better off than Betis, who slipped from third to fifth this weekend, and are level with Barcelona – 2-1 winners against Elche earlier on Sunday – in third.

Reflecting on a huge victory for his side with the pressure on, head coach Diego Simeone said: "We were facing a rival who is in a very good moment. 

"You have to play with humility, with the same spirit, and go game by game. We will now try to get better."

Joao Felix scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Real Betis 3-1 at Estadio Benito Villamarin to climb above their opponents into fourth place in LaLiga.

Barcelona's 2-1 win over Elche earlier on Sunday had knocked Betis down to fourth, and Atleti were out of the Champions League qualification berths entirely.

That increased the pressure on Diego Simeone's men to pick up a third win in a row, and they went in front inside two minutes thanks to Joao Felix's tap-in.

Betis substitute Cristian Tello equalised from the final kick of the first half, but Joao Felix netted another just after the hour mark and Thomas Lemar sealed the win for Atleti late on.

Joao Felix opened his account from close range with just 74 seconds on the clock – Atleti's earliest league goal since July 2020 – after being picked out by Angel Correa.

The visitors wasted a big chance to add a second when Yannick Carrasco somehow failed to pick out either Joao Felix or Renan Lodi alongside him in a three-on-one attack.

Soon after Jose Maria Gimenez's headed clearance ricocheted off Paul Akouokou and flew over the bar, Tello had Betis on level terms with a curling first-time shot from 20 yards.

Gimenez headed against the base of the post for Simeone's side, who were having to adjust to losing Correa and Sime Vrsaljko to injury inside the opening half an hour.

Atleti restored their lead with 61 minutes on the clock through another simple finish for Joao Felix, this time after being teed up by Marcos Llorente.

Copa del Rey finalists Betis pushed for a leveller, but tiredness crept in and Antoine Griezmann pulled the ball back for Lemar to seal three vital points for Atletico in the 80th minute.

 

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