Bale ‘doesn’t fit’ in Real team

Zinedine Zidane has suggested Gareth Bale simply isn't part of his plan at Real Madrid.

Bale was left on the bench for the duration of Real's final-day defeat to Real Betis in La Liga at the Bernabeu.

The home side were booed off the field at full-time, Loren Moron and Jese having scored second half goals in a 2-0 win for the visitors.

Marco Asensio, Isco and Lucas Vasquez were all sent in off the bench in the second half, while Bale stayed seated. Tellingly, Zidane suggested afterwards that he wouldn't have called on the Welsh ace even if he had a fourth change given to him.

The 29-year-old has struggled to hold down a starting place in the Real side since Zidane returned in March and the manager has consistently refused to offer assurances over his future, though it now seems clearer than ever that Bale's future may be away from the Spanish capital.

When asked about Bale leaving the Bernabeu after the defeat to Betis, Zidane said: "I don't know if it's the last game or not. I don't know what's going to happen.

"I'm sorry he didn't get to play, but no-one knows what will happen. If I think a player doesn't fit in the team I have to do what I think works best.

"No-one can change what Bale has done for the team, but as a coach I have to live in the present. I have counted on other players more in recent weeks, and if I had a fourth substitute today I would not have brought him on.

"I make these decisions when it is right to do so, and I must act in the best interests of the team at all times."

Bale has won four Champions Leagues, La Liga and the Copa del Rey during his six years at Real. His former side Spurs are 14/5 to win the Champions League final against Liverpool on 1st June. The Reds are 19/20 while the draw is 5/2.

Marcelino eyes a great prize

Valencia boss Marcelino hopes to see his side cap an 'outstanding' season by winning the Copa del Rey for the eighth time in their history.

Los Che finished their league campaign by winning 2-0 at Real Valladolid to secure fourth place in La Liga, earning themselves a place in the Champions League group stage for next season.

However, their season is not yet over, with a Copa del Rey final clash with Barcelona coming up in Seville next Saturday.

And Marcelino is hoping to see his team maintain the momentum which they built up during the second half of the campaign as they rose up the standings to clinch fourth place.

Marcelino told his club's official website: "We had a lot of problems this season, but this group have turned around the situation and earned fourth place when three places were already decided – having ended the first half of the campaign ten points off the Champions League spots.

"We always gave priority to La Liga. Valencia have to get into the Champions League repeatedly in order to grow and become one of the best teams in Europe, but that isn't easy.

"I would undoubtedly say that this has been an outstanding season.

"Qualifying for the Champions League is a very important morale-booster ahead of the Copa del Rey final and winning that would be a great prize."

Valencia are 11/4 to lift the Copa del Rey, while they are 11/2 to win the final in normal time.

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Zidane unclear on Bale future

Zinedine Zidane says he is not sure whether Sunday's final La Liga game of the season will be Gareth Bale's last for the club.

With the title long since sealed by Barcelona, Real Madrid host Real Betis on Sunday with little to play for, consigned to finishing third in the table, well behind Barca and Atletico Madrid.

Zidane was not responsible for that relative failure, only returning to the Bernabeu in March and the team starting next season is likely to be somewhat different to the side that ends the current campaign on Sunday.

One player whose future has been the subject of constant speculation in recent months is Bale with the Welshman having not played since a match against Rayo Vallecano last month.

The 29-year-old is back in the squad to face Real Betis but Zidane wasn't prepared to discuss his future at the club beyond that.

In a press conference ahead of the game Zidane said: "He'll be part of the squad tomorrow and that's all I can tell you.

"You'll see the team that we put out. I don't know whether this will be his last game.

"We're at the end of the season and next year there'll be changes, but I don't know whether this will be his last game or not."

Bale has long been linked with a move back to the Premier League with Manchester United and previous club Tottenham likely to be interested if he does become available.

Others in the Real squad including Keylor Navas, Toni Kroos and Isco could also be on the move in the summer as Zidane seeks an improvement after failing to challenge Barcelona in La Liga and also not reaching the finals of the Copa del Rey or the Champions League.

"They always win a lot of things here, and it's very difficult when you're not playing for anything, but we want to have a good game against a good Betis side who will also want to finish the season well," Zidane added.

Real Madrid are 1/2 to sign off with a win on Sunday with Real Betis 17/4 and the draw 4/1.

Barcelona play Valencia in the Copa del Rey final next weekend and are 4/9 to make it a league and cup double while Valencia are priced at 11/2.

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Griezmann confirms Atleti departure

France World Cup-winning striker Antoine Griezmann has decided to leave Atletico Madrid and seek a new challenge after five seasons with the Rojiblancos.

The 28-year-old joined Atleti from Real Sociedad in the summer of 2014 and has since scored 133 goals in 256 appearances in all competitions, helping the club to challenge strongly both domestically and in Europe.

Atletico won the Europa League in 2018 and reached the Champions League final in 2016, with Griezmann playing a pivotal role in France winning the World Cup just under a year ago.

The forward has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona for some time and Griezmann feels the time is now right for him to seek a fresh challenge.

A statement from the player read: "After speaking with people in the club's hierarchy, I wanted to speak with you, the fans. You have always shown me a lot of love and I wanted to be the first to tell you that I've taken the decision to leave to see other things and take on other challenges.

"It's been a difficult route to take, but it's what I feel I need. Thanks for everything during five fantastic years here, where I was able to win my first big trophies.

"There have been some incredible moments that I will always remember. You, the supporters, will always be in my heart."

Atletico complete a season which will see them finish second in La Liga with a trip to Levante on Saturday.

The visitors are 19/20 to win the game and 15/2 to do so by a 1-0 scoreline, with Griezmann priced at 10/11 to score at any time in the game.

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Barca confirm Suarez blow

Barcelona will be without Luis Suarez for both the remainder of their La Liga campaign and the Copa del Rey final after the Uruguayan underwent knee surgery.

The Blaugrana confirmed on Thursday that the forward had damaged the medial meniscus in his right knee and he has subsequently gone under the knife to solve the issue.

An operation such as this usually takes between four and six weeks to recover from, ruling him out of Barca's closing La Liga fixtures against Getafe and Eibar.

The 32-year-old is also set to miss the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on 25th May, while he could be a doubt for the opening stages of Uruguay's Copa America campaign which starts in June.

In a statement, the club said: "The Uruguayan will be out for around four to six weeks.

"As such, the FC Barcelona striker will miss the three remaining fixtures this season, the league games against Getafe and Eibar and the Copa del Rey final against Valencia on 25th May in Seville."

Barcelona retained their La Liga title last month but were knocked out of the Champions League this week as they squandered a 3-0 first-leg lead to lose their semi-final 4-3 on aggregate to Suarez's former club Liverpool.

A victory against Valencia in Seville would see them lift the Copa for the fifth year in a row and they are 4/9 to win the game, with the draw 15/4 and Los Che 5/1.

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Valverde coy on Barca future

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has admitted he does not know what the outcome will be from his side's 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool.

Valverde watched on as his side squandered a three-goal advantage to lose their Champions League semi-final 4-3 on aggregate.

Barca have won La Liga both seasons during Valverde's tenure, but they have not reached a Champions League final since back in 2015.

The Blaugrana chief admitted after the game that he didn't know if another failure in Europe would affect his position at the Camp Nou.

"I do not know how it's going to affect me. Here we are, the coach has to take responsibility," he said.

"It's very painful for us, especially for our people, it's the second year they've come back like that," he added.

"Things got on top of us after those two quick goals [from Georginio Wijnaldum]. We didn't manage to get on the scoresheet and they rolled us over really.

"They surprised us with the fourth goal – presumably my players weren't looking. Liverpool were street smart and they scored."

Liverpool are now 4/9 to win the Champions League final, where they will face either Ajax or Tottenham in Madrid.

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Zidane demands better from Real

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has told his team in no uncertain terms that they must finish what has been a difficult season with some improved displays.

Zidane was speaking after seeing Los Merengues lose 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano, with Real having now won just two of their last six La Liga matches.

That run has left them a massive 18 points adrift of champions Barcelona, with second place now all but certain to go to city rivals Atletico

Real also crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage in losing to Ajax, while their Copa del Rey campaign ended in a semi-final defeat to Barca, who are 1/5 to lift the trophy and 2/5 to defeat Valencia in normal time in the final.

That has left Zidane demanding better from his star-studded squad, while he also made it clear that France defender Raphael Varane will not be leaving the Bernabeu in the summer.

He told the Spanish media: "The season has to end, because it's true that we have complications and there's nothing at stake. We have to think about the future and finish the last three games well.

"It would be better for the season to end as soon as possible, but we have three games left and we have to play them and we cannot finish like that, giving that image.

"We have to respect the game of football, respect this club and we have to finish these three games, because we are going to have to play better than this. What we saw was unacceptable.

"The positive point of this season finale is that Varane will stay."

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Oblak hailed as world’s best

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak has been hailed as the best in the world by his head coach at Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone.

The 26-year-old Slovenia international has been an outstanding performer for Los Rojiblancos since his arrival from Benfica in the summer of 2014, helping Atleti reach the Champions League final in 2016.

Oblak has also excelled in aiding the men from Madrid to enjoy success in the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup.

And Oblak was at his best at the weekend as he made several fine saves in the 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo, with Simeone clearly thankful of having such a fine keeper at his disposal.

He told the Spanish media: "Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world and we are very lucky to have him in the squad.

"I am very proud to have him in my team and for him to be in the dressing room at this club – he has improved a lot since he arrived at the club.

"When he first came, until February he had not played any games, but he's worked so hard to get a regular spot in the team.

"Right now, there is no doubt that for me he is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Atleti are back in action next Saturday afternoon, when they head to the Ipurua Municipal to take on mid-table Eibar.

The visitors are 6/4 to win the game, 6/1 to do so by a 1-0 scoreline and 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.

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“Powerful” United a threat to Barca

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde said Manchester United are a "powerful" side who pose a threat to his side.

The teams meet at Old Trafford on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

The Spanish side are top of La Liga and with an 11-point lead, seemingly destined for the title.

Their focus in midweek though will be the Champions League where they are going for their first title since 2015.

Real Madrid have won for the last three years but Barca are in a good position to keep the trophy in Spanish hands, though Valverde is well aware of the threat that United pose.

After they beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Saturday, he said of the United game: "They are a powerful team. They are going through a good run, even if they lost their last match.

"Physically they are really strong and they know how to put pressure on their opponents. They have players who are physically very powerful, and they can be dangerous strategically as well.

"This match is a classic in European football. Barcelona have never won at Old Trafford I believe and we are going to try and change that."

United are 5/2 to win the first leg at Old Trafford with Barcelona 1/1 and the draw 13/5.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi got the goals against Atletico who remain second in the La Liga table.

Barcelona cruised into the last eight of this year's Champions League with a 5-1 aggregate win over Lyon in their round of 16 clash.

United looked set for an early exit after losing their home leg 2-0 to Paris St Germain but thrillingly won 3-1 in Paris to go through on away goals, a last minute penalty seeing them through.

Barcelona are 10/3 to win the Champions League this season with United 20/1.

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Messi record has Barca on brink

Lionel Messi broke his latest La Liga record as the champions Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 at the Nou Camp to move closer to retaining their crown.

Late strikes by Luis Suarez and Messi gave the Catalans an 11-point lead at the top of the table after they overcame stubborn ten-man Atletico.

Their surely unassailable lead at the top is now stretched with just seven games remaining, leaving Barca on the brink of more Spanish title glory.

Messi has now won more La Liga games than anyone in history – moving ahead of former Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas on to 335 victories.

Atletico realistically needed to win at the Nou Camp for the first time since 2006 to stay in the title race and they played with ambition and intelligence in the opening stages, though they were left staring into the abyss when Diego Costa earned a straight red card on 28 minutes, seemingly for dissent to the referee.

Several players were involved in an ensuing altercation, with Barca's Gerard Pique eventually ensuring that Costa left the field.

"I asked the referee and he told me Costa said something to him," Atletico boss Diego Simeone said afterwards. "Other players have said things and not been sent off but that does not justify what Costa did."

Former Liverpool striker Suarez bent in a low shot from 25 yards with five minutes remaining in the game and, within a minute, Messi raced in on goal to double the lead.

Barcelona are at Old Trafford this week for a Champions League last-eight showdown with Manchester United.

The Spaniards are 1/1 to win the first leg, with United 5/2 and the draw 13/5.

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