Diego Costa Quits Atletico Madrid

GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Former Spain and Chelsea striker Diego Costa’s contract with Atletico Madrid was terminated on Tuesday, six months before it was scheduled to end.

“Atletico de Madrid and Diego Costa have reached an agreement for the termination of the striker’s contract, which was to end on June 30, 2021,” the club said in a statement.

The 32-year-old Brazilian-born forward, who has been capped 24 times by Spain after twice appearing in friendlies for the country of his birth, had asked to leave the club for “personal reasons”.

READ ALSO: Croatia Hit By Powerful 6.4 Earthquake

Costa arrived at Atletico in 2006 at the age of 17, going on to play 215 matches over two spells (2010-14 and then 2018-20) either side of three seasons at Chelsea, scoring 83 goals and providing 36 assists.

During his time at Atletico, Costa was part of a squad that won one La Liga title in the 2013-14 season, one Copa del Rey (2013), one Europa League (2018) and two UEFA Super Cups (2010 and 2018).

“The club thanks Diego Costa for his dedication during these years and wishes him well in the next stage of his professional career,” the club said.

Costa To Pay 1.7 Million Euros To Settle Spain Tax Fraud Case

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa eyes the ball during the UEFA Champions League group A football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Club Brugge at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.  GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa has agreed to pay 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million) to Spain’s tax agency which was investigating him for non-payment of taxes on image rights, a Spanish newspaper reported Tuesday.

The agency said the 30-year-old hid income earned in 2014 from a sponsorship deal signed with Adidas shortly before he joined Chelsea from Atletico that year. Costa, who has both Brazilian and Spanish citizenship, returned to Atletico in 2018.

Under a deal with Spain’s tax office, Costa will plead guilty to tax evasion and pay 1.1 million euros in back taxes, daily newspaper El Mundo, reported.

He will also be sentenced to six months in jail but will not serve time and instead pay a fine of 600,000 euros, the paper said. The agreement will be made official at a Madrid court on October 4, El Mundo reported.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the tax office, said he could not comment on individual tax files.

Costa is the latest famous footballers to have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities.

A Spanish court in January handed Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo a suspended two-year prison sentence for committing tax fraud when he was at Real Madrid.

The player, who joined Italian side Juventus last year, also agreed to pay 18.8 million euros in fines and back taxes to settle the case, according to judicial sources.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi paid a two-million-euro fine in 2016 in his own tax wrangle and received a 21-month jail term.

The prison sentence was later reduced to a further fine of 252,000 euros, equivalent to 400 euros per day of the original term.

AFP

Diego Costa Suspected Of Tax Fraud In Spain

Costa Returns To Training Ahead Of Atletico, Barcelona Clash
Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa eyes the ball.       GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is the latest star to fall foul of the Spanish authorities for possible non-payment of taxes on image rights, a Spanish newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“The tax administration accuses the Atletico striker of fraud totalling 1.1 million euros related to taxes related to his image rights in 2014,” daily newspaper El Mundo reported.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the tax office refused to comment. saying he could not comment on “specific taxpayer files”.

READ ALSO: Allegri Sticking With Juventus Despite Champions League Defeat

Two football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have already paid substantial fines in Spain for the same offence. A third star, Neymar, is reportedly being investigated in Spain over his taxes.

The tax office suspects the 30-year-old Costa “concealed income” from a sponsorship deal he signed with Adidas shortly before he joined Chelsea from Atletico in 2014. Costa, who has both Brazilian and Spanish citizenship, returned to Atletico in 2018.

Spanish public prosecutors must decide whether they will act on the tax office’s suspicions and file a lawsuit against Costa, El Mundo added.

The news comes a week after Costa was slapped with an eight-match ban by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for insulting and grabbing referee Gil Manzano during the first half of Atletico’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on April 6.

The ban means Costa will not play again this season as Atletico have been knocked out of the Copa del Rey as well as the Champions League.

He is just one of several famous footballers who have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities in recent years.

A Spanish court in January handed Portuguese striker Ronaldo a suspended two-year prison sentence for committing tax fraud when he was at Real Madrid.

The player, who joined Italian side Juventus last year, also agreed to pay 18.8 million euros in fines and back taxes to settle the case, according to judicial sources.

Barcelona’s  Messi paid a two-million-euro fine in 2016 in his own tax wrangle and received a 21-month jail term.

The prison sentence was later reduced to a further fine of 252,000 euros, equivalent to 400 euros per day of the original term.

AFP

Atletico To Appeal Costa’s Eight-Match Ban

Costa Returns To Training Ahead Of Atletico, Barcelona Clash
Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa/ AFP

 

Atletico Madrid have indicated they will appeal an eight-match suspension handed to Diego Costa by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Thursday.

Costa was sent off in the first half of Atletico’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Saturday for directing a crude insult towards referee Gil Manzano. Manzano also reported that Costa had “grabbed” him by the arms during the incident.

The lengthy ban means Costa will not play again this season as Atletico have seven games left in La Liga, having been knocked out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

READ ALSO: Costa Gets Eight-Match Ban For Insulting Referee

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo suggested on Thursday the club will appeal against the decision.

“It’s bad news,” Cerezo said on Thursday. “The natural thing is for us to appeal, to ask for leniency and see what happens.

“There are players who are very temperamental. Insults should never happen on the football field but there are times when they do happen.”

According to the match report submitted by Manzano, Costa insulted his mother in a foul-mouthed outburst before “grabbing me by the arms to prevent me showing cards to numbers 24 and 2 respectively”.

The RFEF ruled Costa should, therefore, be suspended for four matches for “clear insults and offensive expressions made by the player towards the referee” and another four, after “meeting the referee with mild violence, without aggressive spirit, but in a manner that is reflected in the act of grabbing”.

The statement added: “Consequently, it is appropriate to sanction the player with a four-game suspension referring to article 94 (insults, verbal offences and insulting attitudes) and four more referring to article 96 (light violence towards the officials), both from the Federation’s Disciplinary Code.”

Costa’s dismissal in the 28th minute at Camp Nou meant Atletico had to play for more than an hour with 10 men in a match coach Diego Simeone had said they had to win to keep their title hopes alive.

Instead, defeat leaves them 11 points adrift of Barca at the top of the table.

Costa has endured a difficult season, having scored only five goals in all competitions and missed almost two months at the start of the year due to a foot injury.

Atletico signed Alvaro Morata on loan from Chelsea in January and the 26-year-old is now likely to be given an extended run in the starting line-up.

Costa is no stranger to controversy. He moved to Atletico after falling out with Chelsea coach Antonio Conte in 2017, a dispute that saw the forward relocate to Brazil and refuse to play for his club.

He was also twice handed three-match suspensions by the Football Association in England, for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can in January 2015 and kicking Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista nine months later.

After Atletico’s loss to Barca, Simeone said: “I asked the referee and he told me Costa said something to him. Other players have said things and not been sent off but that does not justify what Costa did.”

AFP

Costa Gets Eight-Match Ban For Insulting Referee

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa (C R) talks with Spanish referee Gil Manzano prior to receiving a red card during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 6, 2019/ AFP

 

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa will miss the rest of the season after being handed an eight-match suspension by the Spanish Football Federation on Thursday.

Costa was sent off in the first half of Atletico’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Saturday for directing a crude insult towards referee Gil Manzano. Manzano also reported that Costa had “grabbed” him by the arms during the incident.

The lengthy ban means Costa will not play again this season as Atletico have seven games left in La Liga, having been knocked out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

According to the match report submitted by Manzano, Costa insulted his mother in a foul-mouthed outburst before “grabbing me by the arms to prevent me showing cards to numbers 24 and 2 respectively”.

The RFEF ruled Costa should, therefore, be suspended for four matches for “clear insults and offensive expressions made by the player towards the referee” and another four, after “meeting the referee with mild violence, without aggressive spirit, but in a manner that is reflected in the act of grabbing”.

The statement added: “Consequently, it is appropriate to sanction the player with a four-game suspension referring to article 94 (insults, verbal offenses and insulting attitudes) and four more referring to article 96 (light violence towards the officials), both from the Federation’s Disciplinary Code.”

Costa’s dismissal in the 28th minute at Camp Nou meant Atletico had to play for more than an hour with 10 men in a match coach Diego Simeone had said they had to win to keep their title hopes alive.

Instead, defeat leaves them 11 points adrift of Barca at the top of the table.

Costa has endured a difficult season, having scored only five goals in all competitions and missed almost two months at the start of the year due to a foot injury.

Atletico signed Alvaro Morata on loan from Chelsea in January and the 26-year-old is now likely to be given an extended run in the starting line-up.

Costa is no stranger to controversy. He moved to Atletico after falling out with Chelsea coach Antonio Conte in 2017, a dispute that saw the forward relocate to Brazil and refuse to play for his club.

He was also twice handed three-match suspensions by the Football Association in England, for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can in January 2015 and kicking Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista nine months later.

After Atletico’s loss to Barca, Simeone said: “I asked the referee and he told me Costa said something to him. Other players have said things and not been sent off but that does not justify what Costa did.”

Costa Returns To Training Ahead Of Atletico, Barcelona Clash

Costa Returns To Training Ahead Of Atletico, Barcelona Clash
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 03, 2018, Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa eyes the ball during the UEFA Champions League group A football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Club Brugge at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Striker Diego Costa returned to training on Tuesday but defender Diego Godin will miss Atletico Madrid’s top-of-the-table clash with Barcelona this weekend.

Former Chelsea forward Costa has been suffering from a foot injury which kept him out Spain’s recent fixtures against Croatia and Bosnia, but photos on the club’s website showed him training.

Uruguayan Godin has a problem with his thigh and the 124-time capped international missed his country’s friendlies against Brazil and France.

“I know what I have, I know myself, I know my body, it is a tear that will take a few weeks, 20 days or a month,” Godin told Marca.

Left-back Lucas Hernandez is fit for the fixture between table-topping Barca and third-placed Atletico but central defender Jose Maria Gimenez is a doubt to face the La Liga champions.

Coach Diego Simeone faces a selection headache at the heart of his defence with Montenegro’s Stefan Savic also out with a calf issue.

Simeone admitted he would have to call up Atletico B teenager Francisco Montero or move Saul Niguez from his usual position in central midfield.

“It is possible that Montero will play while there is also the chance that Saul will play at centre-half which he has done in several games,” the Argentinian boss said.

The Wanda Metropolitano’s pitch has been replaced in time for Saturday’s game.

After Atletico’s 1-1 draw at Monaco on November 11, Costa criticised the surface which was laid only last September.

“The pitch is shameful, it’s fatal,” Costa told El Mundo.

“Wanda’s turf is horrible, we can not have such a bad pitch,” he added.

AFP

Injury Rules Atletico’s Costa Out Of Barca Clash

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa eyes the ball during the UEFA Champions League group A football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Club Brugge at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on October 3, 2018. 
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa has been sidelined with a foot injury that could leave him in a race for full fitness ahead of a crucial league clash with Barcelona.

Costa hobbled off during a 3-2 league win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, which saw the capital side close to within a point of leaders Barcelona.

Atletico defender Diego Godin hit a brace in that win but has been sidelined after he, too, hobbled off before the end with a thigh injury that could rule him out for up to a month.

Now Costa has joined the Uruguayan on the sidelines after suffering “an injury to his foot,” according to a statement by Atletico on Tuesday.

“The striker will go through adapted training sessions and undergo physiotherapy and medical treatment,” it added, without giving a timeline for his return to competition.

Costa only returned to the competitive fold earlier this month following a two-week absence due to “muscle problems” but played only the first half against Bilbao after complaining of “pains”, according to Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

Simeone is also without the injured Thomas Lemar (thigh) and defenders Lucas Hernandez, Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic.

Atletico host Barcelona on November 24 following the break for international matches, then host Monaco four days later looking to book their ticket for the last 16 of the Champions League.

AFP

Costa Finally Making Himself At Home In Spain Set-Up

Costa Finally Making Himself At Home In Spain Set-Up
Spain’s forward Diego Costa (2R) celebrates a goal with teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Spain at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 15, 2018. Nelson Almeida / AFP

 

Diego Costa looked like a misfit at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, where Spain’s inability to accommodate the burly centre-forward contributed to their disastrous campaign.

But on Friday in Sochi, his physical presence and penalty-box prowess worked a treat for the Spanish as they ended a chaotic week with a thrilling 3-3 draw against Portugal, Costa scoring twice.

“Spain adapt to Diego Costa” was the headline in Spanish daily El Pais on Saturday, with new coach Fernando Hierro rewarded for his decision to select the Atletico Madrid man up front.

The Brazilian-born Costa twice replied to Cristiano Ronaldo goals to haul Spain back on level terms on a muggy evening by the Black Sea.

His first was classic Costa, as he left Pepe on the floor — with more than a hint of a foul — before bursting into the area and taking his time to pick his spot low in the bottom corner.

Costa’s second goal was a penalty-box effort at a set-piece before he was taken off for the closing stages, replaced by Iago Aspas.

Spain had edged in front by that point thanks to Nacho’s sweet strike but Costa could only watch from the bench as Ronaldo’s free-kick completed his hat-trick and ensured a share of the spoils.

Hierro’s decision to go with Costa in the starting line-up showed he was not departing from plans put in place by Julen Lopetegui prior to his shock sacking.

Lopetegui was sensationally dismissed just 48 hours before La Roja’s World Cup bow after the announcement of his appointment by Real Madrid for next season.

– Bruising –

Hierro could have opted to start Aspas, the Celta Vigo forward who netted the winner in Spain’s final warm-up match against Tunisia.

But he went with Costa, who provides the bruising element in the Spain side in front of the silky trio of Isco, David Silva and Andres Iniesta.

“We felt this was a game in which Diego could really help us,” said Hierro. “He did a great job wearing out the opposition centre-backs.”

Costa was a handful for Jose Fonte and for Pepe — another player born in the north-east of Brazil and now representing his adopted land.

Things did not click for Costa in 2014. He was hauled off in Spain’s first two matches in Brazil, defeats against the Netherlands and Chile that precipitated a painful group-stage exit for the then reigning world champions.

Vicente del Bosque did not take him to Euro 2016 but Lopetegui succeeded in finding a role for the former Chelsea man, who has now scored eight goals in his past 10 appearances for his country, going back to the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

According to Diego Torres in El Pais, Costa appears to have succeeded “against the will of a very influential group in the dressing room, and perhaps, against the nature of the footballers who have defined Spain’s style”.

The player himself appeared after the game, saying: “It is always important to score goals. Thanks to God I managed to but it was a shame because I thought we could have won.”

Costa appears certain to keep his place for Spain’s second Group B game against Iran in Kazan on Wednesday.

A win there will leave them on the brink of a place in the last 16, despite all the upheaval of the past week.

AFP

Costa Ends Europa League Dream For Wenger, Arsenal

Arsenal’s German defender Shkodran Mustafi (L) vies with Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa during the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal FC. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Diego Costa killed Arsene Wenger’s last hope of a glorious Arsenal farewell as his goal sent Atletico Madrid through to the Europa League final on Thursday. 

Wenger’s 250th European fixture with Arsenal also to proved to be his last, decided by a typically ruthless finish from Costa, who delivered the sort of barnstorming display defenders must have nightmares about.

Arsenal’s defence, fragile and nervous throughout, were particularly susceptible and this 1-0 defeat, 2-1 on aggregate, means Wenger’s final season in charge will end with his team missing out on Champions League qualification for a second year in a row.

For all his domestic achievements, Wenger will also depart without a European trophy to his name and it remains to be seen how sitting outside the continent’s premier tournament will affect Arsenal’s pursuit of a new coach, and players, this summer.

More immediately, there was the concerning sight of Laurent Koscielny being carried off on a stretcher in the 12th minute after the defender went down, with nobody near him, clutching his left Achilles.

Arsenal and France now face an anxious wait, with the start of the World Cup just over a month away.

Koscielny’s exit made a tough task all the more difficult for Arsenal, who were always going to be up against it at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Atletico have not lost in the league all season and not conceded a goal since January.

It was perhaps also telling that Costa’s physicality and Atletico’s defensive rigour ultimately proved decisive, two qualities Wenger’s Arsenal in recent years have so lacked.

Costa was hunting Arsenal’s back four from the outset as he wrestled past Koscielny, knocked over Nacho Monreal before firing wide with only David Ospina to beat.

Koscielny was substituted soon after, replaced by Calum Chambers, but Arsenal enjoyed one of their best spells midway through the half, dominating possession and reducing Atletico to a series of rushed clearances.

– Clinical Costa –

At the back, however, they were shaky, as Ospina had balls booted out of his grasp by his teammates on more than one occasion while their passing out of the back was too often careless.

By the end of the half, Atletico had regained the ascendancy and in injury-time, they struck. Granit Xhaka’s weak header put Arsenal on the back foot and Antoine Griezmann threaded through to Costa.

He held off Hector Bellerin with ease before coolly finishing past Ospina.

Arsenal came again after the interval. Aaron Ramsey bundled his way through but the ball would not fall for him six yards out while Mesut Ozil flashed too sumptuous deliveries across the face of goal.

Griezmann could have put the tie to bed after Costa had turned Shkodran Mustafi inside out but the defender recovered just in time to block.

A vintage Costa performance would not be complete without a scuffle and he provided it when Mustafi tried too enthusiastically to grab the ball off him for a free-kick.

Both players were booked and when Costa was substituted soon after, the striker was given a standing ovation.

Arsenal piled forward late on in search of an equaliser but in truth, their night ended without them really creating a clear-cut chance.

When the final whistle blew, Wenger marched straight down the tunnel as around him, Atletico’s celebrations began.

AFP

Atletico Beat Arsenal To Reach Europa League Final

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa applauds as he leaves the field during the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal FC in Madrid, Spain on May 3, 2018. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Diego Costa sent Atletico Madrid through to the Europa League final as the Spanish club won Thursday’s second leg 1-0 at home to clinch a 2-1 aggregate victory over Arsenal.

After a 1-1 draw a week ago in London, former Chelsea striker Costa grabbed the decisive goal just before half-time in Spain as Atletico reached a fifth European final in eight years.

Atletico players celebrate at the end of the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg football match against Arsenal in Madrid, Spain on May 3, 2018.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Arsenal’s defence, fragile and nervous throughout, were particularly susceptible and this 1-0 defeat, 2-1 on aggregate, means Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge will end with his team missing out on Champions League qualification for a second year in a row.

For all his domestic achievements, Wenger will also depart without a European trophy to his name and it remains to be seen how sitting outside the continent’s premier tournament will affect Arsenal’s pursuit of a new coach, and players, this summer.

More immediately, there was the concerning sight of Laurent Koscielny being carried off on a stretcher in the 12th minute after the defender went down, with nobody near him, clutching his left Achilles.

Arsenal and France now face an anxious wait, with the start of the World Cup just over a month away.

Koscielny’s exit made a tough task all the more difficult for Arsenal, who were always going to be up against it at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Atletico have not lost in the league all season and not conceded a goal since January.

It was perhaps also telling that Costa’s physicality and Atletico’s defensive rigour ultimately proved decisive, two qualities Wenger’s Arsenal in recent years have so lacked.

Costa was hunting Arsenal’s back four from the outset as he wrestled past Koscielny, knocked over Nacho Monreal before firing wide with only David Ospina to beat.

Koscielny was substituted soon after, replaced by Calum Chambers, but Arsenal enjoyed one of their best spells midway through the half, dominating possession and reducing Atletico to a series of rushed clearances.

AFP

Costa Back At Bernabeu For Atletico, Real Madrid Derby

Costa Back At Bernabeu For Atletico, Real Madrid Derby
Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa (L) jumps over Sporting’s Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg football match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on April 5, 2018. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Diego Costa will walk out for his seventh Madrid derby in La Liga on Sunday, four seasons since his last at the Santiago Bernabeu when he scored Atletico’s winner.

Gareth Bale was making his home debut for Real that day back in September 2013, in the same week that Spain requested approval to snatch Costa from the clutches of Brazil and call him up to the national squad.

As he celebrated, Real’s fans chanted “Costa — he is not Spanish”.

All the more striking then that Costa’s shot, guided past Diego Lopez and inside the far right-hand post, still remains his only goal against Real, and the 1-0 win his sole triumph against Atletico’s fiercest rivals.

In all competitions, his record heading into this weekend’s derby reads played nine, won one, scored one.

– Spearheading Spain attack –

If Costa is looking for positive omens, however, he might draw a parallel between his initiation with Spain in 2013 and the completion of his renaissance with the national team last week.

After spending the first five months of this season exiled by Chelsea, Costa is back in favour with Julen Lopetegui and back in form, for club and country.

His goal in Spain’s 6-1 win over Argentina has thrust him into pole position to start up front at this summer’s World Cup, while his opposites-attract partnership with Antoine Griezmann has been the driving force behind Atletico’s march into second place.

That position, however, is what is at stake this weekend, with both sides now too far adrift to catch runaway leaders Barcelona and neither in any danger of slipping out of the Champions League spots.

Atletico own the four-point advantage but Real have the momentum, having won 11 out of their last 12, a streak that includes two wins over Paris Saint-Germain and Tuesday’s thumping of Juventus.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the star in Turin, his spectacular bicycle kick continuing the Portuguese’s astonishing goal flurry this year. He has scored 23 times in 14 games, and at least once in all of his last nine.

Unlike Costa, Ronaldo is well-tuned to this fixture too. He has six goals in his last five meetings with Atletico.

Bale, meanwhile, was caught stoney-faced on the substitutes bench while the Juve fans stood to salute Ronaldo’s brilliance but the out-of-favour Welshman may be given a run-out this weekend.

Zinedine Zidane has been prepared to use Bale in the league, where it seems the issue of his defensive resilience is less pronounced.

Barcelona’s players will be able to watch the derby safe in the knowledge that any result strengthens their grip on the title.

The Catalans host 14th-placed Leganes on Saturday, already nine points ahead of Atletico and 13 in front of Real.

If they avoid defeat, Ernesto Valverde’s team will equal the Spanish record of 38 unbeaten league matches, set by Real Sociedad across two seasons in 1978/79 and 1979/80.

Lionel Messi is likely to play, having come through Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Roma unscathed after his niggling hamstring problem. Sergio Busquets, however, still felt pain at the Camp Nou from his previously broken toe and may be rested.

Elsewhere, the league’s four bottom sides go head-to-head as Levante, with a seven-point cushion over the relegation places, host 18th-placed Las Palmas. On Friday, Deportivo La Coruna are at home to already-doomed Malaga.

The race for Europa Legue qualification also continues on Saturday as Sevilla travel to Celta Vigo and Real Betis entertain Eibar. Villarreal face Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Deportivo La Coruna v Malaga (2100)

Saturday

Alaves v Getafe (1300), Celta Vigo v Sevilla (1615), Betis v Eibar (1830), Barcelona v Leganes (2045)

Sunday

Levante v Las Palmas (1200), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (1615), Real Sociedad v Girona (1830), Valencia v Espanyol (2045)

Monday

Villarreal v Athletic Bilbao

Costa Scores On Atletico Return in Cup Rout

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Diego Costa acknowledges supporters at the start of a training session at the Wanda Metropolitan Stadium in Madrid on December 31, 2017. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Diego Costa scored for Atletico Madrid just five minutes into his return as the club cruised to a 4-0 win at Lleida Esportiu in the Spanish Copa Del Rey on Wednesday.

Costa, who rejoined from Chelsea in September but could not play until the transfer window opened this month, came on as a 64th-minute substitute and swept home Atletico’s third in the 69th minute in the first leg of a last 16 tie.

The Spain international started the move that led to his goal, driving forward before moving the ball wide, allowing Juanfran to whip in a low cross that Costa clipped past Lleida keeper David Oliveros.

Costa appeared to have injured himself stretching to score the goal, but carried on and finished the game.

Two goals in four first half minutes from Diego Godin and Fernando Torres set Atletico up for the comfortable win away to third tier Lleida, with Godin heading home a drilled free-kick after 33 minutes and Torres doubling the lead soon after, just about staying onside to tap home Kevin Gameiro’s low cross.

Costa’s fellow sub Antoine Griezmann completed the rout in the final seconds, his deflected free-kick sailing past Oliveros giving Diego Simeone’s side a seemingly unassailable lead ahead of Tuesday’s second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid play their respective first leg clashes with Celta Vigo and second-tier Numancia on Wednesday, with Barca coach Ernesto Valverde set to rest Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who both returned late from holidays in South America, as well as captain Andres Iniesta.

AFP