Real Madrid star Toni Kroos said he is planning to retire at the LaLiga champions.

Kroos has enjoyed great success since joining Madrid from Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich in 2014, winning three Champions League trophies and two LaLiga titles among 13 honours.

The 31-year-old midfielder has made 309 appearances for Madrid across all competitions – the most by a German player at the Santiago Bernabeu, surpassing Uli Stielike.

Reflecting on the feat, Kroos – who has scored 21 goals since moving to the Spanish capital – told Real Madrid TV: "It's something special. When you look at the Germans who have played here you realise that they are big names: [Gunter] Netzer, [Bernd] Schuster or Stielike.
 
"Overtaking Stielike, who is a club legend, makes me really happy. It's a special record and I'm delighted to get to this point.

"As I've always said, my idea is to retire here and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Kroos has scored two goals and supplied six assists in 22 LaLiga appearances this season, while he has made 31 appearances across all competitions.

Madrid are third in LaLiga, five points adrift of neighbours and leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Sunday's derby.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid have not lost any of their three games at the Wanda Metropolitano in LaLiga (W1 D2), and remain the only team to have played in the new Atletico venue without losing in the league.

Zidane is unbeaten in his three away LaLiga fixtures against Atletico as a head coach (W1 D2) and could become the second Madrid boss to avoid defeat in his first four away derbies versus Rojiblancos in the history of the competition, after Luis Molowny in 1986 (W3 D1).

"I try to give my best in every game and every pass I make that doesn't reach my team-mate annoys me," Kroos added.

"I try to strive for perfection in this sense, although you can never be perfect.

"I practice it and I've been working on it continuously for many years."

Karim Benzema has revealed how Cristiano Ronaldo's departure has allowed him to take on a different role in Real Madrid's attack.

The Frenchman has scored a goal every 1.7 games across all competitions in the two-and-a-half seasons since Ronaldo made a €100million switch to Juventus.

But in their nine campaigns together at the Santiago Bernabeu, Benzema was instead finding the back of the net once every 2.2 games.

And the 33-year-old has now acknowledged that he had to sacrifice certain parts of his game for Ronaldo's benefit - not that he has any regrets over the matter.

"Cristiano's departure allowed me to play a different role. He scored 50 goals every year and you had to adapt to his game," he told El Pais.

"He is one of the best in the world and I was happy by his side."

Nine of the 18 trophies Benzema has won in his 12 years in Madrid have come during the two separate managerial stints of Zinedine Zidane.

Of his compatriot, he added: "He is an older brother for me, he is always there to advise me."

In a wide-ranging interview, Benzema also opened up on his boyhood sporting heroes, explaining: "In football, it's Ronaldo, the Brazilian. 

"I admire [Mike] Tyson because we both came from the bottom and we went up little by little. We never had it easy, nor did they give us anything."

He also discussed his upbringing, adding: "I come from a neighbourhood where things were difficult. When I saw older boys well-dressed and with nice cars, what I wanted was to be like them.

"Money makes things a lot easier, but you don't need millions to be happy."

Real Madrid will likely be without Mariano Diaz for the derby with Atletico Madrid after the striker sustained a pelvic injury.

The 27-year-old was taken off after 61 minutes of Monday's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Madrid announced on their official website on Thursday: "Following the tests carried out today on our player, Mariano Diaz, by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a muscle injury to his left external obturator. His recovery will be monitored."

Mariano is expected to miss Sunday's clash with the LaLiga leaders, leaving Zinedine Zidane's side facing a striker shortage.

Karim Benzema is battling to be fit after missing three games with adductor problems, with 21-year-old Hugo Duro called upon for the final half-hour against Sociedad for just his second LaLiga appearance in Madrid colours.

The champions head into the contest with Diego Simeone's side trailing them by five points in the table, having played a game more.

However, they are unbeaten in the past nine league derby matches and are the only side from Spain's top flight to have played at the Wanda Metropolitano and avoided defeat.

Barcelona are set to be without Gerard Pique once again after the club confirmed he suffered a knee ligament injury shortly after his Copa del Rey heroics against Sevilla. 

Pique's stoppage-time header after the 90-minute mark in Wednesday's semi-final second leg saw Barca wipe out Sevilla's 2-0 lead from the first meeting last month, with Ousmane Dembele having struck early on. 

Barca went on to win 3-0 after extra time, Martin Braithwaite getting the decisive goal five minutes after the restart to leave Sevilla – who had Fernando set off just before Pique's header – on the receiving end of a commendable comeback. 

But it seemingly came at a cost, with Pique appearing to hurt his knee in extra time when he was forced into an awkward turn while passing back to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who had earlier saved a penalty from Lucas Ocampos when the score was 1-0.

Pique went down holding his knee only to eventually see out the game, suggesting the issue was not a particularly serious one. 

But Barca confirmed on Thursday that further examinations have revealed a sprain to the internal lateral ligament in his right knee. 

While the club said the length of his absence will be dependent on his recovery, such sprains can mean a six-week absence. 

That could potentially rule him out of El Clasico on April 10, while it seems a strong possibility Pique will miss the second leg of Barca's Champions League last-16 tie away to Paris Saint-Germain next week. 

PSG hold a 4-1 advantage from the first leg at Camp Nou on February 16, the match in which Pique returned from a previous knee injury sustained in November.

 

Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

- O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

Jose Mourinho believes anyone wondering why it took Gareth Bale so long to hit top form for Tottenham would be better off asking Real Madrid.

Bale had a miserable start to his Tottenham return after coming back to the club on a season-long loan deal in September.

He struggled with his form and fitness, quickly falling out of favour with Mourinho.

Bale has been revitalised of late though, impressing in two Europa League games against Wolfsberger as well as Premier League clashes against West Ham and Burnley.

Mourinho recently said Bale was the happiest, fittest and most confident he has ever been at Tottenham.

The Spurs boss confirmed Bale had another good reaction to his 70-minute outing in the 4-0 win over Burnley on Sunday.

It means the Wales international is in contention to play at least some part when Spurs take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

"For the past two years, he had what he had in Madrid," said Mourinho. "Ask them [why it took Bale so long to find form]. 

"Maybe if they answer you, you can understand better why he took a while. 

"Maybe to be patient was the main reason for him to reach the level he showed in the last couple of weeks."

Asked if Bale would be involved in the Fulham game, he added: "I believe so. Starting or on the bench I don't know, we have to decide that.

"He is such an experienced guy so of course his opinion is very important. But he has had a good reaction [after the Burnley game], a good recovering session and he will be involved. 

"I repeat: [it could be] bench or starting, but he will be there."

Midfielder Giovani Lo Celso will not be rushed back despite returning to training.

"He is training with the team but it was a big injury," added Mourinho.

"We are not going to risk [him] yet. In fact, we don't want to risk [him at all], we want to bring him to the team and competition when there is no risk. One week, two more weeks. 

"Apart from that, everyone OK. One more training session after this but everyone OK."
 

BALE'S SWIFT IMPROVEMENT

Bale has registered four goals and three assists in his last four games for Tottenham.

In his first 16 matches since returning, he only recorded four goals and did not register a single assist.

The 31-year-old's minutes per goal involvement have impressively plummeted from 200.8 in his first 16 matches to one every 28.7 in this most recent four-match span.

Bale is having more of an active role in other areas too. His chances created per 90 minutes are up to 3.1 from just 1.1, while his shot conversion rate is 44.4 per cent, up from 10.5.

It is only a small sample size and two of the matches were against weaker opposition in Wolfsberger, but the signs are encouraging.

The amount of shots he is taking is similar (4 per game compared to 4.3 before), but notably more of Spurs' attacks are coming through Bale. 

He has accounted for 22 per cent of Spurs' shots in the last four matches, where before he was responsible for just nine per cent of their attempts in the time he was on the pitch.
 

HOW DO HIS STATS COMPARE TO REAL MADRID?

The recent burst from Bale means his statistics since returning to Spurs compare favourably to his successful Madrid tenure in a number of categories.

Again, it is worth noting his Spurs figures are from a comparatively small sample size making them more prone to fluctuations – 20 matches compared to 251 in the Spanish capital.

Bale has 11 goal involvements for Spurs (eight goals and three assists) in 1,004 minutes on the pitch, giving him an average of 91 minutes per contribution.

At Madrid, he averaged one every 111 minutes.

Bale also compares favourably when looking solely at minutes per goal (171 at Madrid v 126 at Spurs).

He did, however, win 65 per cent of the games he played in at Madrid, compared to 60 per cent since returning to Spurs, a sign of the difficult season experienced by the London club.

Could Gianluigi Donnarumma swap Milan for London?

Donnarumma's future with Serie A outfit Milan is far from certain as he prepares to become a free agent.

While Chelsea already boast Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga in their goalkeeping ranks, the Premier League giants are reportedly interested in Donnarumma.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE DONNARUMMA

Chelsea are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma amid his contract situation at San Siro, according to Eurosport.

Donnarumma is out of contract at season's end and while Milan have been discussing a new deal, the Italy star is yet to commit to the Serie A club.

The 22-year-old has already been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports PSG are fighting Real Madrid to sign Bayern star David Alaba. The Austria international will leave Bayern on a free transfer at season's end and while he has been tipped to join Madrid, PSG remain keen on him, along with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Inter have reached a "handshake agreement" with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, claims Sport Mediaset. The Netherlands international, whose contract expires at the end of June, has been linked to Barcelona.

- Borussia Dortmund are increasingly resigned to losing star forward Erling Haaland at the end of the season as they turn to Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri, says Eurosport. Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, wanted by City, United, Madrid, Barca, PSG, Chelsea, Liverpool and others.

David Beckham's Inter Miami are trying to woo Cristiano Ronaldo to MLS.

Ronaldo, 36, is contracted at Juventus until 2022, but his next move is seemingly already a discussion point.

And MLS could suit nicely if Beckham has his way.

 

TOP STORY – BECKHAM'S INTER MIAMI EYE CRISTIANO

Beckham is speaking to Ronaldo's representatives about a move to Inter Miami, according to todofichajes.com.

The Portugal international is understood to be interested by the challenge of joining the club in the United States.

The financial contract would be massive for Ronaldo but he may potentially make the move next January, lowering the transfer fee, given the MLS runs from March to December.

Lionel Messi was reportedly previously sounded out about a possible US switch.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Express are reporting that Gareth Bale's recent form upturn means Tottenham are now keen to sign him permanently, with the Welshman having joined on loan from Real Madrid. Subsequently, the funds availed from a permanent transfer could enable Madrid to enter the fray for Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

West Ham, Leicester City, Southampton, Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa are among the list of clubs interested in Tammy Abraham if Chelsea deem him surplus to requirements, according to The Telegraph.

- The Star claims the Hammers are also keen on two other young English strikers; Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah and Brentford's Ivan Toney.

- Deportivo Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco is being pursued by Premier League pair Leeds United and Southampton, according to todofichajes.com.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is hopeful his leading marksman Karim Benzema will be available to return from injury in Sunday's huge LaLiga derby against leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema is Madrid's top-scorer this season with 17 goals in all competitions but has missed their past three games due to an unspecified knock.

The France international's finishing touch was missed in Monday's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, which leaves third-placed Los Blancos five points behind Atletico having played a game more.

"We hope he can be with us, but we have to wait and see because he still hasn't trained with the team," Zidane said.

"We'll assess the situation tomorrow. He's OK. Karim's injury is much better and we'll take a look at him."

In Benzema's absence, Madrid have collected two 1-0 wins plus the 1-1 draw with Sociedad, so his attacking prowess has been missed.

Highly rated 20-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior came off the bench to rescue a point for Zidane's side against Sociedad, scoring in the 89th minute for his third league goal of the campaign.

"I’m pleased he got the goal," Zidane said.

"We picked up a point and now we have to move on. It's the result of his hard work and effort. That's what we all have to keep doing."

Zidane remains bullish about Madrid's title hopes, with Atletico having stumbled in recent matches, collecting eight points from a possible 15, while they were also beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League last week.

Barcelona moved past Madrid into second with their 2-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday.

Zinedine Zidane held his hands up and accepted his half-time tinkering may have cost Real Madrid in their 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad on Monday. 

Madrid were the more threatening of the teams in the first half at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, with Mariano Diaz hitting the crossbar from close range in a lucky escape for the visitors. 

But, seemingly unhappy with his team's performance, Zidane altered his setup at the interval to go with a back three, only for Portu to ghost in at the back post to head in a Nacho Monreal cross in the 55th minute. 

Zidane reverted to a back four soon after and eventually Madrid got their equaliser in the 89th minute through substitute Vinicius Junior. 

But the Frenchman seemingly felt his half-time changes may have backfired. 

Speaking to reporters after the game, Zidane said: "I changed it [at half-time] because I wasn't happy with our pressing. 

"It was those 10-15 minutes and we changed it again and we were better playing a 4-3-3. Our substitutes did well after coming on." 

Zidane was then asked again if he felt he made a mistake with his initial tweaks, to which he replied: "If you've asked me, and that's now three times, then yes, maybe. 

"We had to change things because, after an hour, the team was a bit tired. Sometimes we have to change things. In the end, you try to find things to change the dynamic." 

While Vinicius' late equaliser likely prevented Madrid from suffering a massive psychological blow ahead of a potentially pivotal derby clash with Atletico Madrid at the weekend, in the grand scheme of the title race it did little to improve their standing. 

Either way, the pressure on Madrid going into the weekend is greater than if they had beaten La Real, as they stay five points behind the leaders having played a game more, yet Zidane insists Monday's result changes nothing. 

"We have to remain calm," Zidane added. "We had a good game and we had three or four chances [to score]. 

"Patience, calm and rest. We were up against a team that creates chances against you. We have to carry on. 

"It doesn't change the way we go into the derby. We have to go there to have a great game." 

Vinicius Junior salvaged a point for Real Madrid late on in Monday's 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad, though the result does little to alleviate the pressure ahead of this weekend's potentially vital derby clash with Atletico Madrid. 

Zinedine Zidane's men looked to be heading towards a defeat that could have delivered a devastating psychological blow ahead of arguably their biggest game of the season, but Vinicius spared them near the end. 

The hosts had the better of the first half and should have led when Mariano Diaz – again deputising for the injured Karim Benzema – inexplicably hit the frame of the goal, and La Real were emboldened by that as Portu gave them the lead with 55 minutes played. 

That looked destined to be the winner and potentially the goal that ended Madrid's dwindling title hopes, yet Vinicius got them back on level terms with a minute left, albeit they still end the matchweek a further two points adrift of leaders Atletico.

Madrid somehow failed to take the lead in the 23rd minute, as Mariano nodded Lucas Vazquez's chipped cross against the crossbar from point-blank range, with Marco Asensio hammering agonisingly wide a few seconds later. 

La Real goalkeeper Alex Remiro then proceeded to frustrate the hosts, first blocking a Ferland Mendy effort with his foot before parrying Luka Modric's attempt just before the interval. 

The champions were made to rue their profligacy early in the second period, La Real working the ball well to Nacho Monreal on the left and his inch-perfect cross was met by a wonderful Portu header that picked out the top-far corner. 

They should have made it 2-0 soon after but Alexander Isak could not reach Portu's squared pass, and Madrid subsequently wasted a glorious chance of their own – Casemiro heading off target. 

Madrid did eventually restore parity as Vinicius turned in Vazquez's low cross in the dying stages. Still, they remain five points adrift of Atletico having also played a game more. 

Zinedine Zidane insists Atletico Madrid can be caught at the top of the table, with the Real Madrid coach adamant the title is not out of reach for Los Blancos nor Barcelona.

Atletico lead the way in Spain's top flight and until recently looked to be running away with it, but their position has become a little less commanding after dropping points in three of their previous five league games.

A win at Villarreal on Sunday will put Atletico five points clear of Barca once again while still having a game in hand – Madrid, one point further back, will have also played one match more than their local rivals after Monday's visit of fifth-placed Real Sociedad.

Zidane is also seemingly not ruling out Sevilla despite the fact Julen Lopetegui's side lost 2-0 at home to Barca on Saturday, meaning they could end the weekend 10 points adrift of the summit.

While some are framing Atletico's position at the top as the most pressured, Zidane prefers to see it as Diego Simeone's men having an advantage, as the two Madrid giants prepare to tussle next weekend.

"Now the league [title race] is three, tomorrow it will be two and then four again," Zidane told reporters on Sunday." Everyone has their opinion.

"LaLiga is open to all and whoever is ahead has the advantage, but there are many points left and we are going to continue with our business.

"We do our thing. What's going to happen tonight, I don't know, and we don't even have to watch it – I will watch it as a fan.

"There are 42 points at stake and it is our objective is to add the maximum possible points."

Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard returning from injury would surely improve Madrid's fortunes, with the Frenchman last playing on February 14 and the former Chelsea star a month into his layoff with a thigh issue.

While both are getting closer to a return, Zidane still does not have a return date for either.

"Benzema and Hazard are better, but they are not ready," he said. "I cannot give a date, they will recover later than those who have already returned. I can't give an exact date."

Sergio Ramos is another player Madrid have had to cope without recently, with the captain absent since mid-January with a knee injury – not that it has stopped the centre-back dominating many of Zidane's news conferences since.

Ramos' contract is up at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he will agree to an extension, which, to Zidane's frustration, is becoming a regular topic.

"You always ask me the same thing – he's an impressive man. I want him to get fit, but apart from that, nothing else. Tomorrow we have a game," Zidane said.

Lionel Messi is reportedly open to staying at Barcelona, but the LaLiga giants have work to do.

Messi, 33, stayed at Barca after sensationally requesting to leave ahead of this season.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the campaign, leading to more talk over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OPEN TO BARCELONA STAY

Messi is open to staying at Barcelona and is prioritising the sporting project over the economic offer, according to Marca.

The report says Barca strengthening their squad could convince Messi, who has been linked to Manchester City.

Signing City forward Sergio Aguero, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante or Liverpool's Roberto Firmino would help Barca's position in their bid to re-sign the superstar.

ROUND-UP

- With Real Madrid linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, such a deal could lead to questions over Eden Hazard. AS reports Mbappe joining Madrid could lead to an exit for Hazard, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Raphael Varane's future. AS reports Madrid are prepared to listen to offers for Varane ahead of next season if they cannot agree to a new deal with the defender, who is out of contract in 2022. Manchester United have been linked with Varane, who is valued at £60.7million (€70m).

- Harry Kane has again starred for Tottenham this season. The Telegraph reports the forward, who is contracted until 2024, is set to stay at Spurs for at least another campaign.

- Amid suggestions Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is too expensive, Manchester United could look elsewhere. Eurosport reports Villarreal's Pau Torres may be a more realistic target due to his reported release clause of around £43m (€49.6m).

- Alexandre Lacazette seems set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports Monaco are targeting the forward ahead of next season.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has been given the all-clear to chase Erling Haaland, while Liverpool are also eyeing a forward.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland is wanted by numerous European giants, with Manchester City among those reportedly interested.

But Chelsea are also targeting the 20-year-old forward.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA GIVEN ALL-CLEAR TO CHASE HAALAND

Chelsea boss Tuchel has been given the green light to go after Dortmund star Haaland ahead of next season, according to Bild.

Haaland has scored 27 goals in 25 games for Dortmund this season.

Chelsea spent big ahead of 2020-21, but are seemingly eager to land Haaland to strengthen further.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are apparently eyeing a forward of their own. Diario Gol reports Jurgen Klopp wants Real Madrid forward Rodrygo.

- After starring for Burnley, Nick Pope is linked with a move. LancsLive reports the Premier League club want around £50million for the goalkeeper, who is said to be a target for Tottenham.

- Manchester United continue to be linked with West Ham midfielder Declan Rice. 90min reports United are willing to offer any of Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Phil Jones to West Ham in their bid to land Rice.

- Staying at Manchester United and the Daily Express reports they may give up on Norwich City right-back Max Aarons due to a £35m asking price.

- With Napoli seventh in Serie A and out of the Europa League after being eliminated by Granada, the pressure is on head coach Gennaro Gattuso. But CalcioMercato reports Gattuso is safe for now despite his side's struggles.

Zinedine Zidane accepted injury-hit Real Madrid did not do themselves justice against 10-man Atalanta but was content to come away with a 1-0 Champions League advantage.

Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off for a professional foul on Ferland Mendy only 17 minutes into the first leg of the round of 16 tie at Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday.

Lacklustre Madrid dominated possession but had just three shots on target in a drab encounter until Mendy scored his first European goal to win it four minutes from time.

A depleted Los Blancos side, who have the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard on a long list of absentees, lacked ideas and looked set to fire a blank prior to Mendy's sweetly struck late away goal.

Zidane knows Madrid's fifth consecutive win was not pretty, but he was relieved to take the upper hand heading into the second leg at home on March 16.

The Madrid head coach said: "We didn't play a great game tonight, but I think the most important thing is the result.

"In the end, scoring is what is important to us. We still have to play the second leg, but it's a good result."

The former France midfielder added: "We played against a very physically strong team. Defensively they were good and it's a good result.

"There are many casualties, but we continue with what we are doing well. The players who are here are committed."

Zidane praised Isco, who made only his fifth start of the season - and his first in the Champions League - in a more advanced role with Benzema still sidelined.

"It has been a long time since he played so many minutes and he has done very well in a position that is not his," said Zidane.

"He has played a great game, we know what he can give us and he has done very well. When he plays he gives everything on the field. It's a victory and he's done a great job for over an hour."

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