Pique extends Barca stay

Barcelona have confirmed defender Gerard Pique has agreed a new contract that will see him stay at the Camp Nou until 2022.

The 30-year-old has played 422 games for the Catalan giants since rejoining the current La Liga frontrunners from Manchester United in 2008.

Experienced centre-back Pique has managed to win more than 20 honours at Barca, including six La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies.

The new contract also includes a 500m euro (£440m) buyout clause and is likely to see the Barcelona-born star see out the remainder of his playing career with his beloved Bluagrana.

Barca currently find themselves cruising towards this season's La Liga title, as they sit nine points clear of second place Atletico Madrid in the table.

Meanwhile arch rivals Real Madrid find themselves struggling down in fourth place in the standings and a remarkable 19 points behind champions elect Barcelona.

Barca are 6/1 to win the Champions League this season, while Real are 8/1 to put their domestic woes aside and retain their European crown this term.

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Kroos reveals top-four target

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos believes his side have to ensure they finish in the top four in La Liga, having endured a tough league season to date.

Los Blancos suffered their latest setback on Saturday as they were beaten 1-0 at home by Villarreal, who closed to within a point of Real, who currently occupy fourth place in the standings.

And Kroos accepts that all hopes of retaining the league title are gone, with Barcelona already 16 points clear of their deadly rivals.

The Germany international told BeIN Sports: "First of all, we have to think about our position at the moment.

"We have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League next season. I think that should be the objective for the rest of the season.

"That's because 16 points (to Barcelona) is very big. It's not the time to think about anything that isn't the next game and picking up points in order to get closer to our objective, which is to be among the top four."

Meanwhile, head coach Zinedine Zidane remains confident that Real will be able to turn their fortunes around as soon as they improve on a run of one win in five games since they lifted the FIFA Club World Cup.

He added: "Once we win a game it will change things. We have to keep thinking that we're going to change them. After we win a match, we must keep working hard so we can win the next one.

"I don't think we're predictable and the team haven't hit rock bottom. We're in a bad way and losing was a blow, but we'll keep going."

Real are 8/1 to win a third consecutive Champions League title this season, with Barcelona 13/2 and Manchester City 3/1.

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Coutinho to wait for Barca bow

A thigh injury means Philippe Coutinho will have to wait three weeks to make his Barcelona debut after completing his £142million switch from Liverpool.

The 25-year-old Brazil international playmaker put pen-to-paper on a five-and-a-half year contract at the Camp Nou on Monday on completion of his medical with the Catalan outfit.

The deal had been agreed with Liverpool on Saturday and Coutinho expressed his delight at finally securing a move to the La Liga leaders having missed out in the summer.

He told Barca TV: "I'm very happy, very happy. I have always said that it is a dream that I am living and I am very happy to be here.

"To be able to play, win titles, make the fans happy… always play with joy.

"It is incredible to know that I am going to live with idols, players with a lot of history.

"Footballers like Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, (Andres) Iniesta, (Gerard) Pique, (Sergio) Busquets.

"I am very happy to be able to live together, to be able to learn from them and be able to win together."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu added: "All the Barca fans are excited to have Coutinho here.

"It hasn't been easy but his effort in coming, along with his strength and patience, have been key."

Despite Coutinho successfully passing his medical, the thigh problem which kept him out of Liverpool's 2-1 win at Burnley on New Year's Day is likely to keep him sidelined until the start of February.

That means he is set to make his Barca bow in the Catalan derby against Espanyol on 4th February.

Barca are on course to win La Liga this season while they are available at 13/2 to lift the Champions League and 7/4 to win the Copa del Rey.

Marcelo: We are sinking

Marcelo accepts that the current situation at Real Madrid is the worst he has known since he joined the club more than a decade ago.

Real are 16 points behind leaders Barcelona after being held to a 2-2 draw by Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane's team were leading with eight minutes to go thanks to Gareth Bale's brace after Daniel Wass had given Celta the lead.

However, Maxi Gomez's late header ensured the match finished as a draw and 29-year-old Brazilian Marcelo admitted afterwards: "It is how it looks from the outside – we are sad, angry and we feel like we are sinking.

"It is one of the worst situations I've experienced here. We'll try to work hard and fight so we can win our next game but we don't like this situation at all. It's difficult because the more games you draw or lose the more pressure you are under."

Marcelo has won four La Liga and three Champions League titles since joining Real in 2007.

Real Madrid can be backed at 8/1 to win the Champions League again this season while they are available at 1/12 to win their next match against Numancia on 10th January.

Zidane's side have failed to win any of their last four away matches and are fourth in the table while Atletico Madrid are second and Valencia third.

Barca closing on Coutinho

Barcelona appear to be winning their battle to prize Philippe Coutinho away from Liverpool, with various media outlets reporting a deal is close to being done.

The La Liga giants are said to be ready to sign a deal worth £145m to the Anfield club to bring the Brazilian playmaker to the Nou Camp.

Coutinho could potentially be in the Catalan capital as soon as Monday to undergo his medical.

The 25-year-old attacker has not travelled to Dubai with the rest of the Liverpool team on their warm-weather break because of a minor thigh injury. Coutinho has missed the club's past two games, including Friday's FA Cup third-round win against Everton at Anfield.

Coutinho handed in a transfer request in the summer once Barcelona had registered their interest but Liverpool refused to sell their player. Three bids were rejected, with the last of those offers worth £118m.

It seems as though the Merseyside club will now gain additional compensation for a player they signed from Inter Milan for £8.5m in 2013.

Liverpool are reluctant to allow Coutinho move mid-season, with next month's Champions League last-16 clash with Porto looming and a fight on their hands to secure a top-four finish in the league.

Should Coutinho make his move to Spain this month he won't be able to play for Barcelona in the Champions League this season, having played in the group stages for Liverpool already.

Coutinho has made 20 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool this season, scoring 12 goals.

Liverpool are 14/1 to win the Champions League this season, while Barcelona are 7/1 for European glory. Real Madrid are 8/1 to win a third consecutive  European crown.

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Zidane rules out January arrivals

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he doesn't want any January arrivals despite his side having 'no room for error left this season'.

Zidane believes Real can get their season back on track without any new signings and insisted he would prefer to do his business in the summer transfer market.

The La Liga champions fell 14 points behind Barcelona in the title race following their 3-0 El Clasico defeat at the Bernabeu before the winter break.

In Europe, two-time defending champions Real Madrid face big-spending Paris St-Germain in the last-16 of the Champions League next month, prompting speculation in the Spanish press that Zidane might be tempted to bring in some January reinforcements.

That is not part of his plan, insists the French coach.

"As we all know, until 31st January, someone can come in – this is the market – but I do not want anyone as I am happy with my squad," Zidane said.

"I remember last year there were no problems like this, as Madrid was doing well, playing well, but when a team is going a bit bad, as can happen sometimes, there is talk of transfers but I am not that type of coach."

Real are 8/1 to win a third successive Champions League this season while they are 1/2 to reopen their domestic campaign with a win at Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.

With PSG looming and a big gap to bridge in the league, Zidane admits they cannot afford any more mistakes.

"We are still in three competitions and will give our best until the end of the season," he added.

"We must hit our level now and show what we can do. We are very motivated. We have no room for error left this season, but we are very excited about that."

Real Madrid are 11/10 to eliminate Paris St-Germain in their Champions League last-16 tie.

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Costa ready to play his part

Striker Diego Costa is looking forward to finally getting back out on to the pitch after being officially unveiled as an Atletico Madrid player once again.

The 29-year-old Spain international will be able to feature for Atleti in the New Year, having agreed a return to Madrid in late September after his relationship with Chelsea fell apart.

Due to transfer window rules he has had to wait several months to make his second debut for Atletico, but he believes he has done plenty of hard work on the training pitch to make himself a more than reasonable option for head coach Diego Simeone.

He told reporters: "Physically I am much better than when I arrived. That shows that I have worked and I have prepared well to play – I come here to help the team and score goals.

"I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, now I have my mind set on playing and I just want to get in shape to play as soon as possible.

"As much as I've trained, it's not like playing a match and I'm tired of training so much. I want to play. If the coach decides to play me, I'll give my best."

Atletico are currently in second place in La Liga, nine points adrift of leaders Barcelona, while they missed out on qualification for the group stages of the Champions League.

Having dropped into the Europa League, Atleti have been paired with FC Copenhagen in the last-32 of the competition.

The men from Madrid are 9/2 to win the Europa League, having previously triumphed in the competition in both 2010 and 2012.

Meanwhile, Villarreal are available at 25/1 and Athletic Bilbao can be backed at 33/1.

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Sevilla turn to Montella

Vincenzo Montella is set to be confirmed as Sevilla's new head coach just over a month after parting company with AC Milan.

The 43-year-old Italian, who will succeed Eduardo Berizzo, has penned a one-and-a-half-year deal with the La Liga outfit.

When Montella left Milan they were seventh in Serie A and he joins a Sevilla team that have not won any of their last four games in all competitions.

However, Sevilla are fifth in La Liga and have a two-legged Champions League last-16 clash against Manchester United to look forward to in the new year.

The deal will be completed once Montella's lawyers have reached an agreement with AC Milan for the terms of departure of the coach from the Rossoneri.

"Once his departure is finalised, Montella will travel to Seville on Friday night to sign his contract with the club. He will lead the team in training on Saturday morning before being formally presented," read a statement from Sevilla.

Montella's first match in charge will be in the Copa del Rey at Cadiz on 3rd January. Sevilla are 11/20 to beat Cadiz and 2/1 to finish in the top four of La Liga this season. Meanwhile, they can be backed at 11/5 to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Asensio targets regular role

Marco Asensio has set his sights on a more regular role in Real Madrid's quest for trophies in 2018.

After netting the final goal in last season's 4-1 Champions League final win over Juventus, the youngster added to his burgeoning reputation by starring for Spain's under-21s as they eventually lost to Germany in the final of the European Championships in Poland.

Asensio maintained his form in the opening weeks of the season, netting in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana win over Barcelona.

However, his star has waned in recent months and he has found himself having to play second fiddle to Los Blancos' more established names.

Inevitably, rumours have started to circulate about his future and it has been suggested he could look to move on after starting just 22 of his side's 63 games in 2017.

A place at the 2018 World Cup is on the line for the 21-year-old playmaker and Real's poor form heading into the winter break is unlikely to persuade Zinedine Zidane to blood his youngsters on a more regular basis.

Despite his lack of exposure, Asensio says he is unwilling to consider offers from elsewhere, as his main goal is to help his boyhood club rediscover their form.

"It is difficult to manage a squad as good as our one, but Zidane knows he can count on me," he told Club del Deportista.

"I work hard every day to earn more minutes, but I am aware of where I am.

"I am at the best club in the world and I am happy at Real Madrid."

Real entered the winter break 14 points behind bitter rival Barcelona and are 14/1 to retain their domestic crown and 8/1 to win a record third straight Champions League.

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History for Barca at Bernabeu

Barcelona crushed ten-man Real Madrid with a three-goal second half salvo at the Bernabeu to move 14 points clear of the champions in La Liga.

It is the first time Barca have won three consecutive away league matches at the home of Real Madrid and the result leaves Zinedine Zidane's side fourth in the table.

Barcelona produced a controlled performance and they hit the front when Luis Suarez was on hand at the end of a flowing move on 54 minutes.

Real were left to rue Karim Benzema hitting the post and Cristiano Ronaldo passing up two good chances in the first half when Dani Carvajal was sent off for handball just after the hour, leaving Lionel Messi to convert from the penalty spot.

Late substitute Aleix Vidal poured on the misery in stoppage time when his shot made it through a crowd on the Madrid goal line to make it three and easy for Barcelona.

Barcelona moved nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in second spot with their win, while Valencia are 11 points adrift in third spot, though both still have to play this weekend.

Gareth Bale, brought on after Barcelona's second goal, almost pulled one back when his close-range effort from Luka Modric's cut-back was saved by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in the 78th minute but it was a grim afternoon for the champions.

Real Madid are 8/1 to win a third successive Champions League crown this season, while Barcelona are 7/1 for European glory.

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