Conte challenges misfiring Morata

Chelsea ace Alvaro Morata has to learn how to cope with the pressure of being the main striker for the Blues, according to boss Antonio Conte.

Spain international Morata has scored 13 goals since his summer arrival from Real Madrid, but has failed to find the net in any of his last six appearances and misses the weekend action due to suspension, having been sent off in the midweek FA Cup replay against Norwich City.

And Conte has urged his former Juventus charge to accept the added responsibility he has been given since heading to Stanford Bridge, where is the undoubted first choice to lead the Blues attack.

He told reporters: "For the strikers, this situation can happen. For Alvaro, this is the first season that he's been having a full season. Maybe, for him, this is the first time to face this type of problem.

"But he has to overcome this problem because this is a stupid problem. You have to work for the team and not lose confidence.

"The coach trusts him, his team-mates trust him, the clubs trust him, the fans trust him. I don't see a problem, but this is the first time Morata has faced this situation.

"Before, if you stay on the bench, you don't have this type of pressure. So now he has to learn to face this type of situation, move forward and go on. Everyone at Chelsea trusts him."

Minus Morata, Chelsea head to the Amex Stadium to take on Brighton & Hove Albion at lunchtime on Saturday.

They will also be without Pedro, Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, but Ross Barkley could make his debut following his recent move from Everton.

The Blues are available at 8/13 to defeat the Seagulls and are 5/1 to win the game 1-0, while Chelsea are 1/4 to finish in the top four in the Premier League come the end of the season.

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This Football Betting is Hotting Up!

Football games are hotting up in La Liga.

Hot at the bottom and at the top where Barcelona are overwhelming football betting favourites to claim the top prize.

WEEK 20 SATURDAY:

Getafe vs Athletic Bilbao

What either of these sides won’t want is a draw!

With both on the fringes of European spots, three points would be so welcome.

The Basque club will have been boosted by the agreement to sign Cristian Ganea, the Romanian international, who will arrive this summer.

RCD Espanyol vs Sevilla

Few saw Sevilla’s defeat at Alaves coming and they will be ill-advised to take Espanyol for granted either.

Vincenzo Montella has had a disappointing start to his tenure but Espanyol boss Quique Sanchez Flores has his own troubles.

Jeered by some of his own supporters last weekend, it will be interesting to see if Flores’s decision to stay put and not return to the English Premier League with Stoke City will be appreciated.

Atletico Madrid vs Girona

In putting six past bottom club Las Palmas last weekend without reply, Girona catapulted themselves into the race for a European spot.

Still, they will be massive underdogs at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano against second-placed Atletico who simply have to win every match in the hope of clawing back a nine-point deficit to leaders Barcelona.

New recruits Diego Costa and Vitolo will boost the confident hosts.

WEEK 20 SUNDAY:

Villarreal vs Levante

After winning in Bernabeu, their first ever triumph in the capital venue, Villarreal will be buzzing.

They are now only a point behind the reigning champions, albeit having played a game more, and are up to fifth spot.

Battling Levante will not be brushed aside easily, however.

Las Palmas vs Valencia

It’s a miserable time to be connected with Las Palmas.

They are bottom, have just been drubbed by La Liga debutants Girona and Valencia, and are seemingly on a downward spiral.

Valencia have consolidated third spot on merit and Los Che will want to avoid any surprises.

Alaves vs Leganes

What a wonderful result for Alaves last time out, winning against Sevilla despite the dismissal of Ruben Duarte to move out of the drop zone.

If they can follow that up with another victory, Leganes will be drawn into the scrap themselves.

With their victory over Real Sociedad a fortnight ago and narrow defeat to Real Betis, the visitors are showing they have both ability and spirit.

Real Madrid vs Deportivo La Coruna

Deportivo are in the relegation zone and in trouble. Yet, it could be a good time to travel to the reigning champions who are struggling.

Real remain the top team in Europe though and form is temporary as the Galicians will be aware.

WEEK 20 MONDAY:

Real Sociedad vs Celta Vigo

Sociedad gave Barcelona a scare. Can they now defeat Celta Vigo and leapfrog them?

Both these sides are used to being in the higher echelons of La Liga but will know a string of wins would easily move them into the race for a Europa League spot.

Vigo’s danger man remains Iago Aspas who has quickly moved to deny racism allegations this week.

Real Betis vs Barcelona

Betis welcome the unbeaten leaders while in seventh spot and certainly have nothing to lose.

For Barcelona, their domination of the league has been outstanding that the loss of Neymar to PSG before the start of the season is barely felt.

And why should it when Ernesto Valverde is having a fine start to his Nou Camp tenure further boosted by the excitement of Philippe Coutinho’s arrival and the return from injury of another new recruit, Ousmane Dembele.

WEEK 20 TUESDAY:

Eibar vs Malaga

Malaga’s narrow defeat at Getafe shows they are still battling but the gap to safety is widening.

That defeat cost Michel his job and the second from bottom Andalusians need to bounce back quickly.

New signings Manuel Iturra, Ignasi Miquel and Alberto Bueno have to hit the ground running, starting against high-flying Eibar.

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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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Barcelona is Getting Better Every Day

If being nine points clear at the top of La Liga isn’t enough, Barca have splashed the cash again to pile more pressure on the chasing pack.

Betting websites already have Ernesto Valverde’s team red hot favourites for the title, and he has now lured Philippe Coutinho away from Anfield in an eye-watering £146m deal. With 20 league football games still to play, the attacking midfielder has plenty of time to impress this season.

Meanwhile, you can bank on second-placed Atletico to keep pushing Barca hard as we move into Round 19 even though betting odds are stacked against them.

WEEK 19 SATURDAY:

Getafe vs Malaga

19th-placed Malaga hope to start the weekend by springing a surprise against Getafe and ending a run of three consecutive league defeats. But I just can’t see them getting any change from the hosts’ settled and tight defence, marshalled by centre-back Juan Torres Ruis and conceding just 18 goals this season.

Girona vs Las Palmas

Manchester City’s sister club are down to 13th having suffered back-to-back losses, but Girona fans will expect their team to thrive against rock-bottom Las Palmas, who are without a win in six. Former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani is top scoring for the Catalans with nine.

Real Madrid vs Villarreal

Its isn’t often we say this but Los Blancos are short of goals and are unlikely to be able to recruit in this window. They need Cristiano Ronaldo and chums to light up the Bernabeu. Villarreal’s Cedric Bakambu and Carlos Bacca have both individually outscored Real’s stars but they are at 1.81 to win, only with a 2.00 goal start.

WEEK 19 SUNDAY:

Eibar vs Atletico Madrid

Diego Costa’s return to Atletico has been characteristically controversial and he is absent against Eibar through suspension. Diego Simeone’s men are in second and have conceded just once in six games, having cruised through to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals this week. Eibar have won four in five so this should be a cracker.

Deportivo La Coruna vs Valencia

Loan star Luciano Vietto could be the man to get third-placed Valencia’s charge back on track, having netted a hat-trick in a 4-0 cup win over Las Palmas. He’ll fancy his chances against a Depor side sitting just a point above the drop zone. You can get 2.28 on an away win.

Levante vs Celta Vigo

16th plays 15th but there’s a four-point gap between Levante and visitors Celta Vigo and the hosts haven’t won any of the last six at home. Only three points above the drop and with Alaves on the charge, the pressure is on, while Celta will be buoyed by their last two outings; draws against Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Alaves vs Sevilla

Alaves are recovering from a shocking start to the campaign and are up to 18th after three wins in five La Liga games. They may be worth a punt to beat fifth-placed Sevilla at 3.15. The visitors are going in the opposite direction with a solitary win in six.

WEEK 19 MONDAY:

Espanyol vs Athletic Bilbao

Aritz Aduriz made it seven goals for the season when he netted in Athletic Club’s win against Alaves. José Ángel Ziganda’s men made it ten points from four games to lift themselves to eighth but they won’t have it easy in Barcelona. The hosts have back-to-back 1-0 victories, including an impressive win over Atletico Madrid.

Real Sociedad vs Barcelona

If Atletico does the business then Barca’s lead could be cut to six points when they kick off against Sociedad. Coutinho is unlikely to start the game but that won’t be much comfort to the hosts, down in 12th and with three defeats in four home games. Barca are at 2.21 to add more misery by winning with a 1.50 goals handicap.

WEEK 19 TUESDAY:

Real Betis vs Leganes

This round of games rounds up with a mid-table clash between Real Betis and Leganes, sitting tenth and ninth respectively and tied on 24 points. The well-drilled visitors have conceded just 14 goals so far, and you can get odds of 1.98 on Under 2.25 goals.

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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.

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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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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Barca is the Best at these Big Football Games

Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona

And you better believe it! Barcelona raced nine points clear at the top of La Liga after a convincing Christmas El Clasico win at a packed Bernabeu.

Goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal swept Los Blancos aside, and with the gap between the two giants of Spanish football now a huge 14 points, you’ll struggle to get generous betting odds on the title returning to the Camp Nou. Betting tips were divided before the game, with home advantage making Zinedine Zidane’s team marginal favourites, but a devastating ten-minute spell early in the second half put paid to that.

The Bernabeu briefly erupted as early as two minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo converted from a corner, only to be flagged offside. And the rest of the first half was played out as a tactical battle, Paulinho coming closest for the visitors but being smartly denied by tow good saves from Keylor Navas. Then on 42 minutes, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema came agonizingly close, glancing the Barca post with a header.

At 0-0 at the break, both coaches still fancied a win, but it was Barca who came out flying. Jordi Alba crossing for Luis Suarez and the striker’s effort was held by Navas. But Los Blancos’ keeper could do nothing a minute later when Sergi Roberto crossed for Suarez, who made no mistake this time to send the visiting Catalans wild.

And it was game over, nine minutes later, when Real’s Dani Caravajal received his marching orders, after handling on the goal-line, and Lionel Messi stepped up to slam the spot-kick home for his 15th of the season.

Real’s bad day got worse when Aleix Vidal, a 92nd-minute substitute, scored a minute later, though Navas should really have kept his shot out.

It’s a long way back now for Los Blancos, and a very, very Happy Christmas to Barca!

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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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Zidane accepts the need to win

Zinedine Zidane has admitted that his Real Madrid side need to beat Barcelona in El Clasico to reignite their hopes of retaining their La Liga crown.

Los Blancos trail league leaders Barca by 11 points going into the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu at lunchtime on Saturday, with head coach Zidane well aware that a win for the hosts is something of a necessity.

He told the Spanish media: "Everybody thinks about this fixture and they are obviously significant in the season, but we must keep working as Saturday is just another match for us – another three points we can win.

"It is important in the context of the league, we have more to lose due to the league situation that we are a little bit behind.

"This is the most important game of our campaign to date and winning El Clasico is always nice.

"Barcelona are a strong team and you can see that in the standings, but we are confident we can win the match, as we always are."

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to feature after overcoming a calf injury sustained in the 1-0 Club World Cup final victory against Gremio last weekend.

However, Zidane refused to be drawn on whether Gareth Bale would start the game, having been hampered by injuries for large parts of the current campaign.

He added: "You'll see tomorrow if he plays. As always, I can't tell you, that's for me to think about.

"The good thing is everyone is fit. That's a good thing, but also bad, because I must leave players out."

Wales ace Bale is available at 4/1 to score the first goal of the game in the Bernabeu, with Ronaldo priced at 3/1, while Barca striker Luis Suarez is a 9/2 shot.

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