A resurgent Joao Felix is doing everything that Atletico Madrid are asking of him, according to head coach Diego Simeone.

The Portugal international continued his fine form on Saturday with two goals as LaLiga champions Atleti claimed an emphatic 4-1 win over lowly Deportivo Alaves.

Joao Felix has now been involved in eight goals in his last six games in all competitions (six goals, two assists), which is the same as his 33 games before that (four goals, four assists).

Simeone is thrilled with the 22-year-old's contribution and believes he is on the right path after what has been a far from smooth Atleti career so far, since his big-money switch from Benfica in 2019.

"He continues to grow, he's in a great moment," Simeone told Movistar+. "He's happy. He's fine and he's doing everything we need from him."

Luis Suarez came off the bench to score a late double of his own, the first of which came from the penalty spot, and Simeone said the striker is enjoying his role as one of the team's elder statesmen.

"I am very happy for him," Simeone added. "He is in a moment that he has not lived. He is enjoying the hierarchy, the security.

"Before the game he told Joao Felix to score two goals. It's nice. He wants to compete to win. To win, everyone has to be involved."

There was a moving tribute before the game to Simeone's father, Carlos, who died in March, and the Atleti coach was thankful to the club for putting it on.

"Out of respect I will say that I will never forget it," he said. "And a thank you to the club for having done it."

 

Joao Felix had 52 touches in Saturday's win, more than any other Atleti attacker, while his 20 attempted passes in Alaves' half was the second-most and he led the way, along with Yannick Carrasco, for chances created (three).

"We're working well. The team is very good and when that's the case, individuals stand out," Joao Felix said.

"I go in with the same mentality of winning and scoring. At the beginning, I am fresh and I can do a little more. The desire to win and score is in the first minute or in the last.

"It's a natural process for players. Some start playing, others start on the bench. I have never stopped working."

Atleti, who are up to third in LaLiga, travel to England to face Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

Atletico Madrid went third in LaLiga after doubles from Joao Felix and Luis Suarez sealed a 4-1 victory over lowly Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

It had looked like Diego Simeone's side would be denied a sixth straight top-flight win when Gonzalo Escalante cancelled out Joao Felix's opener in the 63rd minute. 

However, Suarez's penalty and Joao Felix's second inside wrapped up maximum points at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Suarez prodded in a fourth in the 90th minute as Atleti moved level with second-placed Sevilla on 57 points, although Julen Lopetegui's side do have a game in hand. 

Atleti thought they had opened the scoring in the ninth minute, yet Thomas Lemar's finish was ruled out for offside.

They went ahead two minutes later, though, as an unmarked Joao Felix superbly headed Sime Vrsaljko's cross into Fernando Pacheco's top-left corner.

Yet a sluggish start to the second half meant Atleti had to wait until the hour mark for another clear sight of goal, Marcos Llorente whipping wide from just outside the area. 

Atleti were made to pay when Escalante stole into the area and headed Edgar Mendez's sumptuous cross past Jan Oblak. 

However, Florian Lejeune's foul on substitute Matheus Cunha and Suarez duly slammed his penalty down the middle.

Joao Felix got his second in the 82nd minute with a venomous close-range effort after Cunha's initial shot had been saved.

Suarez added gloss to the scoreline in the 90th minute with a cool finish after being played in by the hugely influential Cunha.

 

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone believes Barcelona president Joan Laporta merely demonstrated his intelligence and good taste by expressing interest in Joao Felix.

The Portuguese attacker has recorded six goal involvements in his last five games in LaLiga – four goals and two assists – which is as many as he managed in his previous 30 games in the competition, when he tallied just three goals and three assists.

Joao Felix is helping his side to a strong run of form as they chase Champions League qualification for another season, impressing not only Simeone.

Earlier this week, Barcelona chief Laporta confirmed an admiration for the 22-year-old, revealing he attempted to engineer a swap for the forward when Antoine Griezmann agreed to leave Camp Nou for Atleti early in the season.

Joao Felix's six league goals this season put him third in Atletico's goalscoring charts behind Angel Correa (11) and Luis Suarez (nine) for the season.

"I live from day to day, from game to game," Simeone told a news conference ahead of Atletico's clash with Alaves.

"[But] it doesn't seem surprising to me that a president as intelligent as Laporta speaks perfectly about Joao. It doesn't surprise me at all.

"He is in a great moment. He feels good, strong, committed to what the team needs, and we always look for that, he is performing and that is why he is playing."

The Atletico boss also confirmed the former Benfica prospect is "fine" and showing "no discomfort" after making two substitute appearances for Portugal during the international break.

Simeone's team are chasing Champions League qualification after winning five consecutive league games, having won just one of their previous 10. They could win six successive games in LaLiga for the first time in over a year – they won eight in a row on a run which ended in January 2021 – when they host Alaves.

Carlo Ancelotti believes the fans are still firmly behind Real Madrid despite a disappointing attendance for their 3-0 win over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

Madrid scored all three goals in the second half to go seven points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Marco Asensio's stunning long-range effort broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute, with Vinicius Junior and then Karim Benzema from the penalty spot making the points safe.

A performance in which they struggled to break Alaves down until Asensio's spectacular effort came after a Champions League showing at Paris Saint-Germain in which Madrid were fortunate to escape with a 1-0 defeat.

With a sparse, by their standards, crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu and whistles from the stands as Madrid initially laboured against their less illustrious opponents, Ancelotti was asked if the fans are disengaged.

"No, I perceive that the fans are with us," he replied at a post-match media conference. 

"I see them hooked, wanting us to win LaLiga. On Tuesday we played poorly, but today I think they have seen a reaction."

Madrid have not scored in the first half in all competitions since their Supercopa de Espana triumph over Athletic Bilbao last month.

"We have talked about it this week, that we need to enter the games with the necessary intensity," added Ancelotti. 

"In Bilbao, in December, we opened the scoring twice, but since then we have had more difficulties. The rivals press a lot in the first and usually go down in the second."

Vinicius had been enduring a goal drought stretching back to Madrid's 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Supercopa, with Ancelotti confident the end of that barren stretch will be a boost for the entire side.

"When strikers score, it's always essential," said Ancelotti. "He was having difficulties, but this game is going to help him and the whole team."

Marco Asensio's second-half stunner helped send Real Madrid seven points clear at the top of LaLiga with a 3-0 win over Deportivo Alaves.

Madrid, having been shut out by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in midweek, struggled to break down Alaves for long periods at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, it was Asensio who found a remarkable way through, breaking the deadlock in spectacular fashion in the 63rd minute with a curling effort into the top-left corner.

A late second from Vinicius Junior ensured earlier missed chances did not haunt Los Blancos, before Karim Benzema's stoppage-time penalty added gloss to a win that means the pressure is on Sevilla to trim the gap at the top back to four points when they visit Espanyol on Sunday.

Such was Madrid's lack of threat in the first half that a lofted effort from Federico Valverde that landed on top of the net following a throughball from Ferland Mendy represented their best chance of the opening period.

They improved after the interval, Fernando Pacheco forced to make a fine save to deny Vinicius after he was played in by Valverde, with Benzema's goal-bound follow-up cleared by a defender on the line.

Asensio, though, ensured there was nothing Alaves could do to prevent him from opening the scoring in style with a career-best seventh LaLiga goal this season.

Benzema trickled an effort against the post as Madrid sought to put the game to bed, but he atoned for that miss as his wonderful build-up play with Asensio allowed the France star to tee up Vinicius for a simple finish to make the points safe.

Reward for another instrumental showing from Benzema came when he calmly converted from 12 yards after Florian Lejeune had fouled Rodrygo in the area.

Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Javier Berasaluce has died at the age of 91, the Spanish club have announced.

Berasaluce spent five years at Madrid between 1955 and 1960, during which time he won five European Cups and two LaLiga titles, albeit while playing understudy to Juan Alonso.

The Spaniard, who was never capped by his country, also represented Deportivo Alaves and Racing Santander in the Spanish top flight.

Los Blancos confirmed Berasaluce's passing on their official website on Tuesday.

Alaves also sent their condolences to the family of Berasaluce, who along with his granddaughter took the honorary kick-off against Madrid last January to mark the club's centenary.

Jordi Alba feels "singled out" at Barcelona and says he is "killed" by his critics every time he has a bad performance.

The Spain international is approaching a decade at Camp Nou and remains a regular for Barca, who have endured another difficult campaign.

He has featured 408 times for the Catalan giants in all competitions since his debut in August 2012 and has helped the club to 15 trophies.

But Alba has come in for criticism of late, with Barca losing to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals before exiting the Copa del Rey to Athletic Bilbao. 

After impressing in Sunday's 1-0 win over Deportivo Alaves, a game in which he led the way for touches (112) and fouls won (four), Alba expressed his frustration.

"I have felt singled out for many years, it is not the first time it has happened to me," he told Movistar+. "I accept the criticism that there is in this circus. Criticism will always be there, I have assumed it.

"If I play a good game they won't talk about me, if I don't play well like the other day [against Athletic], I admit it, they will kill me. I have accepted it.

"I don't care because I have respect from my team-mates and from all the coaching staff I've had.

"It seems that there are only 'veterans' in Barcelona. There has been talk of veterans for four or five years, and I was 28, damn it. But I've always accepted it."

 

Alba has started 23 games under Ronald Koeman and successor Xavi this season – only Marc-Andre ter Stegen (27) and Sergio Busquets (29) have done so more times.

No defender has more assists than Alba's four in LaLiga this term, while his 1.62 chances created per 90 minutes is the fourth-best among those to have played more than once.

Responding to Alba's comments following the win over Alaves, Xavi praised the 32-year-old for learning to live with the weight that comes with playing for Barcelona.

"Alba was criticised and he played a great game," Xavi said at his post-match news conference. "At Barca, the shirt is 20 kilos more than at another club."

Barcelona head coach Xavi says Sunday's 1-0 win at Alaves shows that there is life in the Blaugrana yet.

Frenkie de Jong netted an 88th-minute winner to clinch the points for Xavi's side, who move up to fifth in LaLiga, one point behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona bossed possession (76-24 percent) and generated 10-6 shots with 4-2 on target, getting their just reward with the Dutchman's late goal.

"It cost us a lot, but they were three crucial points and the team needed and deserved them," Xavi told reporters. "The sun has risen again, this victory shows that there is life."

He added: "It means a lot of confidence, continuing to believe in what we do."

Barcelona will enjoy a break before their next league game against Spanish champions Atletico Madrid on Sunday 6 February.

“We are in the fight, one point away from the Champions League," Xavi said. "These days are going to come in handy. They will come in very handy."

The Barcelona boss was also complimentary towards teenager Pedri, who has only just returned to the fold following a thigh injury. Pedri made his first LaLiga start since August.

"He’s a marvellous little player, and at 19, to do everything well is spectacular," Xavi said.

"How he looks in possession, how he perceives the game, he is excellent and the model player. He can lead by character, quality, ambition, it’s great to have him back in the team."

Frenkie de Jong disagreed with Joan Laporta after the Barcelona president said the club could be proud of their performance in the Supercopa de Espana final defeat to Real Madrid. 

Barcelona twice came from behind to force extra time against Madrid in Riyadh last week, but Federico Valverde struck the decisive goal in the 98th minute to give Los Blancos a 3-2 success. 

Laporta went to the dressing room after the final whistle and told the players they could be proud of their performances, with the footage being published on the club's official social media channels.

De Jong took a dim view of Laporta's perspective after his 87th-minute goal against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday secured a 1-0 LaLiga success, ending a three-game winless streak. 

"We didn't play badly against Madrid, but it saddens me to say that we are proud," said De Jong. "When you lose, you always have to be disappointed." 

The victory saw Barca move above Real Sociedad and into fifth in LaLiga, with fourth-placed Atletico Madrid just one point ahead of them. 

"The victory was very important because we are in a difficult phase of the season," said De Jong. 

"We have to improve our play, although it was very difficult because the pitch was frozen. We have to be more precise with the ball, especially in the opposition's half. 

"The goal is to qualify for the Champions League and then we'll see what position we achieve." 

On his personal display, he added: "When you score, it doesn't mean you play well. I have to improve, but it's not a disaster either." 

Frenkie de Jong netted an 87th-minute winner as Barcelona finally found themselves on the right side of late drama in a 1-0 victory at Deportivo Alaves.

Barca entered the game on a three-match winless run in all competitions, having been held by Granada following a last-gasp equaliser before consecutive cup defeats after extra-time.

The stage was set for another frenzied finish after Luuk de Jong passed up two presentable opportunities for the Blaugrana, and it was his namesake who delivered this time.

Xavi's men leapfrogged Real Sociedad into fifth place in the LaLiga table, a point behind Atletico Madrid after their own late show a day earlier.

Xavi has told Ousmane Dembele to stop prevaricating and either sign a new Barcelona deal or find another club by the end of January.

According to Xavi, there is "no alternative" for the French forward, who has entered the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou.

Dembele has struggled since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, and this month's transfer window could be a final chance for the club to recoup some of that outlay.

Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany told Dembele this week he must leave "immediately", which prompted the 24-year-old to issue an angry riposte on social media.

"I am not a man who cheats and even less a man who has a habit of giving in to blackmail," Dembele wrote.

Barcelona are fed up and want a resolution one way or the other, with Xavi seemingly willing to keep Dembele and let this storm pass if he agrees to extend his contract before the end of the month.

"Ousmane's situation hasn't changed," said Xavi on Saturday. "He has to decide. He is training well, but he knows his situation perfectly. There is no more debate, I think I was clear. It depends on him now. There are still days left and there is no alternative."

 

The situation is one that Barcelona could do without as they reel from a Copa del Rey exit at Athletic Bilbao's hands, and the crushing blow of losing teenage forward Ansu Fati yet again to a hamstring injury.

Fati could be out of action for months after the substitute was substituted during the Bilbao game, seemingly in tears as he left the pitch.

Xavi said the plan, agreed with club doctor Ricard Pruna, was for Fati to play for half an hour, so when the cup game went to extra time it conflicted with Barca's intentions.

Fati, who entered the game just after the hour mark, came off injured in the 96th minute, an apparent recurrence of the problem that had recently kept him out for two months.

"Ansu is very affected," said Xavi.

On Monday, a meeting will take place to decide on the next course of action, with Barca reportedly keen for Fati to go down the route of surgery.

"It is a relapse," Xavi said. "Pruna told me that he was to play for half an hour and extra time disrupted our plans. We are going to make a specific plan for him. On Monday we will have a meeting to decide what to do. 

"I'm not a doctor, but we have to mentally allow him to recover. [We need to] let him forget about the injuries and make a specific plan. We have lost an impressive footballer and it affects us all, but he is the main victim. We must do an exhaustive follow-up so that he does not injure himself more.

"It's a shame. We are sad because we have tried to take good care of him and he has been injured again. This is part of football. We are suffering major setbacks and this is very serious."

Fati previously spent 10 months on the sidelines due to a serious knee injury, resuming his Barcelona career in September this season.

Despite his limited action, Fati is Barcelona's second-highest scorer in 2021-22 with five goals. They have come in just 456 minutes of on-pitch action, with Fati out-performing his expected goals (xG) score of 1.92.

On Sunday, Barca travel to face Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga, with Fati definitively ruled out and Dembele also expected to be sidelined by the club.

Alaves have not won any of their last 10 LaLiga games against Barcelona (D2 L8), conceding 3.1 goals on average in these matches.

Barcelona have avoided defeat in their last seven away LaLiga games against Alaves (W4 D3), keeping a clean sheet in six of them. This is their longest unbeaten run at Mendizorrotza in the top flight, but this season's Barcelona are a different proposition, with the loss of Lionel Messi and to a lesser extent Antoine Griezmann meaning they lack presence on the road.

Indeed, Barcelona have won only two of their last 10 away games in LaLiga (D6 L2), beating Villarreal in November and Mallorca earlier this month. That follows a run of 12 wins from their previous 14 away games in the competition (D1 L1).

The likes of Sergio Busquets have come in for flak from supporters of the club, and Xavi says the veteran members of the team must justify their selection.

"The shots go towards the sacred cows, and they have to understand it," Xavi said. "The commitment of the veterans is spectacular, unquestionable, but now it depends on the performance. Until recently we didn't have many alternatives."

The former Al Sadd coach said he remains "optimistic" about Barcelona's prospects, and said there could be additions to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

"We are working on it, in several areas," he said.

Jordi Alba lamented Barcelona's "bad point" after the embattled LaLiga giants were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Alaves.

Barca – playing for the first time since Ronald Koeman's sacking – saw Memphis Depay's sublime 49th-minute strike cancelled out within three minutes at Camp Nou on Saturday.

Spanish side Barca have taken 16 points from 11 games in LaLiga this season (W4 D4 L3) – equalling their worst start at this stage in the three points for a win era (also 16 in the 2000-2001 and 2002-03 campaigns).

"It's a bad point," star Barca full-back Alba told Movistar. "Anything other than three points for Barcelona is bad and even more so when you see where we are in the table.

"We did enough, but we're struggling to score and teams are scoring against us with very little. It's tough. The team is trying, but it's complicated." 

Sergi Barjuan has stepped in to replace Koeman on an interim basis amid growing links with club great Xavi, who is currently head coach of Qatari outfit Al-Sadd.

Sergi became the first Barcelona coach without a win in his LaLiga debut since Pep Guardiola in 2008.

"They're different coaches, but the idea is the same," Alba said when asked about Koeman and Sergi. "We had very clear chances.

"I hope we can improve, for our own good. We're grateful to the fans that are with us in difficult moments."

Barca are ninth in the standings after 11 rounds, eight points behind leading trio Real Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad.

Sergio Aguero was taken to hospital following his early substitution against Deportivo Alaves, Barcelona have confirmed.

The Argentina international was making his first LaLiga start at Camp Nou, but was replaced by Philippe Coutinho after just 41 minutes.

Aguero went down clutching his chest and was tended to by the medical team, although he was able to get to his feet and walk from the field.

The club later confirmed the former Manchester City striker had complained of chest discomfort and had been admitted to hospital for a cardiac exam.

Barca also lost Gerard Pique to a right calf strain during the 1-1 draw.

"[Aguero] told me he was a little dizzy," interim coach Sergi Barjuan told Marca. 

"Now, I have learned that he has been taken to the hospital. I can't say more.

"Between cheering on the guys and the press conference, it's hard to know more."

The stalemate marked Sergi's first match in temporary charge following the departure of Ronald Koeman earlier this week.

Memphis Depay's sublime strike was immediately cancelled out by Luis Rioja and despite just under 80 per cent of possession and 16 shots on goal, the hosts were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

"We controlled the game, and we were intense in the second half," Sergi continued.

"We had our chances to score and win the game, but we could not take them.

"I have had very little time to work with the players. I have tried to get them in order in both a defensive and an offensive level.

"But, these players are very good, and they have to believe in themselves."

Barcelona's struggles continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou in their first game since the dismissal of Ronald Koeman.

Under the temporary stewardship of Sergi Barjuan, Memphis Depay opened the scoring early in the second half as the hosts sought to overcome consecutive LaLiga losses. 

But the Blaugrana were pegged back almost immediately as Luis Rioja netted a fine equaliser for the visitors.

Another concern for Barca saw a distressed Sergio Aguero forced off before half-time on his first home LaLiga start.

Barcelona had won eight of their nine previous meetings with Alaves and quickly stamped their authority in possession.

They went close to breaking the deadlock when Eric Garcia's header was brilliantly clawed away by Antonio Sivera, while an unmarked Edgar Mendez nodded Ruben Duarte's deep free-kick just wide at the other end.

Concerns grew for the hosts when Aguero was forced to leave the field before the break.

The Argentina international went down clutching his chest and appeared to be in some discomfort when tended to by the medical team, but was able to get to his feet and walk from the field.

Nevertheless, Barca took the lead in emphatic fashion four minutes after the restart; Depay bending a tremendous 25-yard effort into the far corner for his fifth goal of the season.

However, the visitors hit back within three minutes; Rioja playing a neat one-two with Joselu before rounding Marc-Andre ter Stegen and slotting into the empty net.

Barca looked to restore their advantage and Sivera produced smart saves to deny Philippe Coutinho and Depay, who also hit the post following a wonderful individual run by Gavi.

But despite dominating possession, the hosts were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

Sergio Aguero's first Barcelona start at Camp Nou ended prematurely as he was substituted before half-time against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

The former Manchester City striker, who arrived on a free transfer in July, led the line in Barca's first game since the departure of Ronald Koeman this week.

Aguero went down clutching his chest just before the break and appeared to be in some discomfort as he was tended to by the medical team.

Although the stretcher was initially called for, the Argentina international was able to get to his feet and walk from the pitch to be replaced by Philippe Coutinho in the 41st minute.

Sergi Barjuan was taking temporary charge of the hosts, who had lost three of their past four LaLiga matches.

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