Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose withdrew from the squad to face Espanyol on Wednesday amid speculation he is close to joining Tottenham.
Willian Jose has been key to la Real’s strong first half of the season in La Liga but asked the club to be removed from the squad to face Espanyol in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.
“Last minute change to the squad: Lobete (number 35) comes in instead of Willian Jose. The forward has asked the club to be left out until his situation is clarified,” read a message posted on Real Sociedad’s official Twitter account.
AS and Marca had both reported on Wednesday afternoon that only the final details of the transfer were still to be agreed between the Spanish side and Spurs.
The 28-year-old’s contract, which he signed in 2018, contains a 70-million euro release clause but it is unlikely Tottenham would pay the full amount.
Willian Jose has scored eight goals in 22 games this season. The Brazilian would be tasked with filling the void at Spurs left by the injured Harry Kane.
Barcelona gave Real Madrid the chance to go top of La Liga ahead of Wednesday’s Clasico at Camp Nou as they were held to a 2-2 draw by high-flying Real Sociedad on Saturday.
A mistake by Barca’s usually excellent goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen gifted la Real an equaliser in a thrilling contest at Anoeta between two of the division’s most attacking teams.
Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez looked to have turned the game around after Mikel Oyarzabal scored an early penalty but Real Sociedad claimed a deserved point as Ter Stegen parried into the path of Alexander Isak.
Madrid will pull two points clear at the top of the table if they win away at in-form Valencia on Sunday, which could prove a significant psychological boost ahead of their crunch meeting with Barcelona in midweek.
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, move to within three points of Sevilla in third and showed why many have them circled as genuine challengers for Champions League qualification this season.
Barca may have had one eye on their next encounter, particularly given renewed fears of unrest around the Clasico, which had to be postponed in October due to Catalan independence protests.
Yet Real Sociedad were excellent value for their point, with Martin Odegaard, the Norwegian playmaker on loan from Real Madrid, delivering a majestic display to help his parent club’s title bid.
Barcelona were on the ropes for much of the first half an hour as Real Sociedad moved the ball quickly through the lines, with Odegaard the orchestrator.
Odegaard gave Sergio Busquets a torrid time and too often Barca were opened up through the middle. On one occasion, Nacho Monreal might have shot but chose to cross, forcing Gerard Pique into a last-ditch clearance.
The home goal though came from a corner as Busquets was spotted tugging Diego Llorente’s shirt. The offence seemed minor but referee Javier Alberola had a clear view. Oyarzabal made no mistake from the spot.
Barcelona were yet to create a genuine chance but in the 38th minute they were level as Suarez freed Griezmann, who drew the goalkeeper before scooping his finish brilliantly into the net.
The visitors improved after half-time and were ahead within four minutes of the restart. Busquets clipped a ball over the top of Llorente, who stepped up at the wrong time, allowing Lionel Messi to skip free. He generously sidefooted left to Suarez, who had an open goal.
Pique almost made it 3-1 but his header was cleared off the line by Mikel Merino. Instead Real Sociedad levelled. Monreal’s cross caused panic and Ter Stegen parried the ball straight to Isak, who had a simple finish five yards out.
Both teams pushed tentatively for a winner, perhaps wary of each other’s threat on the break.
Pique was adamant he deserved a penalty in injury-time as he and Llorente were both guilty of pulling each other’s shirt at the back post.
Real Madrid may not even challenge for the title let alone win it as a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday left them even further adrift in La Liga.
Barcelona, already seven points clear, could extend the gap over their fiercest rivals to 10 by beating Getafe later, while Atletico Madrid and Sevilla gained on the European champions too, despite playing out a 1-1 draw against each other.
Antoine Griezmann’s stunning free-kick earned Atletico a point at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Madrid were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Lucas Vazquez was shown a second yellow card but by then they already trailed to Willian Jose’s early penalty.
Ruben Pardo wrapped up a brilliant victory for La Real, who had won this fixture only once in their last 22 attempts.
This was their first victory at the Santiago Bernabeu since 2004 and then Madrid fired coach Carlos Queiroz a day later.
Santiago Solari is not there yet, even if he was asked afterwards if he deserved to keep his job. “We fight to win the next game,” he said.
The honeymoon period Solari enjoyed in November though after replacing Julen Lopetegui is well and truly over.
This loss, coming after the draw away to Villarreal on Wednesday, means Madrid sit fifth, outside even the Champions League places.
“Everything went against us today,” Solari said. “We did everything we could but the ball just would not go in.”
A stoney-faced Florentino Perez was among the 53,412 watching on, the club’s second-lowest attendance of the season. “We will try to get them back,” Solari said, before making a swift exit.
Barcelona have won seven out of the last 10 La Liga titles and if they are to slip up in 2019, Atletico or Sevilla would seem the ones now able to take advantage.
Gareth Bale was missing with a calf injury but it was the 18-year-old Vinicius Junior that came in, not Isco, who is yet to start a league game under Solari.
La Real’s penalty was awarded after 75 seconds and converted after 150. Mikel Merino ghosted past Sergio Ramos and inside Marcelo.
Casemiro tried to cover but bundled Merino to the ground. Willian Jose went high and down the middle.
Griezmann on target
Madrid poured forward, only to spurn a handful of chances before the break. Karim Benzema had the best of them, lashing wide with only Geronimo Rulli to beat.
Rulli was not needed then but he would be, many times. He denied Vinicius, Benzema and Luka Modric in quick succession. Ramos wanted a penalty for a push in his back but the appeal was desperate.
Vazquez clipped the post with a looping cross but that was not enough to hush the angry whistles at the end of the half.
The second period was frantic, with chances at both ends. Vinicius and Raphael Varane, twice, failed to find a gap in a goalmouth scramble, while Vinicius played a neat one-two with Benzema but his shot sailed inches wide.
La Real could have sealed it as Mikel Oyarzabal fired over from close range and the weaving Januzaj twice went close.
Isco replaced Casemiro in the 57th minute and in the 61st Vazquez was sent off. A rash sliding challenge had earned him a yellow card towards the end of the first half and even if the chip at Merino’s heels seemed harmless, he was foolish to take the risk.
Down to 10, Madrid still pushed and had a more convincing penalty appeal when Vinicius tumbled over the arm of Rulli. Referee Jose Munuera stood firm.
Januzaj should have wrapped it up when his shot was saved by the legs of Thibaut Courtois but Pardo did, heading in a cross from Willian Jose, who could have made it three in injury time.
Defeat made Griezmann’s free-kick seem all the more valuable as the Frenchman’s fifth goal in as many games earned Atletico a point away to Sevilla.
Sevilla would have leapfrogged Atletico into second with a win and took the lead when Wissam Ben Yedder fired home on the turn.
Griezmann, however, intervened, whipping a superb shot across the rooted Jan Oblak and into the top right-hand corner.
Defenders Diego Godin and Filipe Luis scored as Atletico Madrid bounced back from their midweek thrashing by Borussia Dortmund with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad to move top of La Liga on Saturday ahead of the season’s first Clasico.
Despite a stuttering start to the campaign, the poor form of both Barcelona and Real Madrid have allowed Diego Simeone’s side to drag themselves to the summit after a seven-game unbeaten run in the league.
Wednesday’s 4-0 thumping at Signal Iduna Park was the heaviest defeat of Simeone’s seven years in charge, but Atletico put in a commanding display at the Wanda Metropolitano.
“I was convinced that they would respond in the best way,” Simeone told Movistar. “Today was 90 minutes that showed good togetherness and creates enthusiasm and calmness.”
The 2014 Spanish champions lead second-placed Barcelona by one point, with Real four further adrift, with the two giants to face off at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
After a frustrating first 44 minutes which saw Ruben Pardo twice go close for the visitors, Godin struck on the stroke of half-time, latching onto a loose ball to sweep home his first league goal since March 2017.
Atletico dominated after the restart and left-back Luis put the game to bed on the hour mark with a brilliant curling effort after cutting inside onto his less-favoured right foot.
Elsewhere, Valencia were held to their 10th draw of the season and fifth in a row with a goalless stalemate at Athletic Bilbao.
Marcelino’s men, who finished fourth last term to qualify for the Champions League, are now just three points above the relegation zone despite having only lost one of their 10 top-flight matches so far.
Spain striker Iago Aspas scored a hat-trick as Celta Vigo thrashed Eibar 4-0 to move into the top half of the table, while Levante clinched a fourth successive league victory by beating Leganes 2-0.
Lopetegui dodges questions on future
Earlier on Saturday, Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui evaded questions regarding his future at the club after the European champions’ woeful recent spell.
An unconvincing 2-1 midweek win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League did little to lift the pressure on his shoulders after a run of five games without a win, and he is widely believed to be on borrowed time just four months after taking over from Zinedine Zidane.
“I hope to still be breathing. I don’t think I am going to die,” the 52-year-old Lopetegui replied at a press conference on Saturday to a question about what the future holds for him after Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou.
“Everyone is 100 percent full of energy and my energies are 100 percent focused on helping the team.”
It will be the first Clasico since 2007 to feature neither Lionel Messi, who is injured, or Cristiano Ronaldo, with Sergio Ramos the only survivor 11 years on in either side from that game.
“The Clasico existed before that. The Clasico has always been the Clasico, and there were even flying piglets,” said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde, with a reference to a meeting of the sides in 2002, when Barcelona fans threw a pig’s head at Luis Figo, their former idol who had crossed the divide to join Real in 2000.
A brace from late substitute Juanmi sealed a precious 3-0 win for Real Sociedad on Thursday to virtually end Atletico Madrid’s fading hopes of challenging for the Spanish league title.
With a 12-point deficit to Barcelona, Atletico were already facing an uphill task to overhaul the runaway La Liga leaders.
Now with only five games remaining, Diego Simeone’s men would be forgiven for focusing their remaining efforts on making sure they finish second ahead of Real Madrid — now just three points adrift — and their bid to win the Europa League.
Atletico face Arsenal in the semi-finals of Europe’s second-tier competition next week.
Simeone warned on Tuesday his side would have to start improving if they were to stop star striker Antoine Griezmann from being lured to a rival club. Barcelona and England’s Premier League are, according to reports, his favoured destinations.
And after this performance, the Argentine should have even more reason for concern.
Although well clear of the relegtion zone, this match was a matter of pride for Sociedad — and the hosts made it show on their way to handing Atletico only their fourth league defeat of the campaign.
Livelier from the outset, Sociedad took a 27th-minute lead when Willian Jose pounced on a delivery from Belgian Adnan Januzaj to beat Jan Oblak down low.
Two minutes later Griezmann produced his first real threat, but the French forward’s left-footed effort from inside the area sailed high and wide.
The hosts responded well, Aritz Elustondo, and Sergio Canales, twice, testing Oblak’s reflexes before the half-time interval.
Simeone replaced Angel Correa with veteran Fernando Torres for the second half, but the former Liverpool striker failed to conjur up the magic.
Sociedad continued to press and, as a consequence, earned the lion’s share of chances in a dominant second half.
Raul Navas saw a header go just wide on the hour from a Canales cross while minutes later Oblak got down smart with his body to block a shot from Januzaj.
A Torres header sailed wide on 65 minutes and another header from Sime Vrsaljko moments later was also off target.
Juanmi replaced Mikel Oyarzabal on 71 minutes and sent the Anoeta stadium into raptures less than eight minutes later when he ran on to Jose’s ball to beat Oblak.
With no wind left in their sails, Atletico were cast adrift in added-on time when Juanmi beat the offside trap and ran on to a through ball to beat the onrushing Oblak with a delightful chip from eight yards out.
Representatives of the governments of Nigeria and Spain witnessed the landmark signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a five-year technical and commercial partnership between the League Management Company of Nigeria (LMC) and the Spanish League Board (LFP).
Chairman of the LMC, Shehu Dikko, singed for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) while the President of LaLiga, Javier Tebas signed for the Spanish League, with Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, and the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Alfonso Barnuevo Sebastian de Erice, counter- signing as witnesses for their respective national leagues.
A New Page In History
Highlighting the long standing sporting relationship between the two leagues was the presence of some former Nigerian international players who at some stages in the past played for La Liga clubs – Victor Ikpeba, who played for Real Betis, Mutui Adepoju, who played for Racing Santander and Real Sociedad, Gbenga Okunowo and Haruna Babangida, both of whom played for Barcelona clubs.
While Dalung described the relationship as “a new page in the history of football administration in Nigeria, Banuevo offered assurances that the partnership would produce “a win-win outcome” for both Nigeria and Spain.
For Dikko, the LMC chairman, the NPFL and La Liga partnership marks the beginning of “a journey through a new road hitherto not travelled in an effort to deliver on our mandate to improve the quality and fortunes of the football league in Nigeria along international best practices.”
“We are pleased to be leading reforms and to achieve that, we decided to align with global best practices by emulating those doing things well and right. We have a lot to learn and benefit from the La Liga and we believe that the La Liga also has some things to learn from us,” Dikko said.
The partnership agreement, which will run for five years will in the first instance focus on key areas of capacity development, training for coaches and club administrators; inter club exchanges and commercial activities including joint marketing.
“There is a fight for the heart and pocket of Nigerians to love and buy into our domestic football league and La Liga is ready to work with us on that.
“Stakeholders are already getting interested, as they have seen one of the best leagues in the world associating with us.
“This will help us move forward and many more good things will follow. We shall move from this point to a point where we will in turn begin to support other leagues in Africa,” the LMC Chairman stated.
Tebas said that the La Liga will through the partnership provide assistance to the NPFL in the areas of training of Coaches, club administrators and exchange of playing tours by La Liga and NPFL Clubs.
“For us at La Liga, if through this partnership, the NPFL is developed, it is of benefit for La Liga,” declared the Spanish League President.
He said: “We would also be assisting Nigerian players where possible to get chances to play for La Liga Clubs”.
Ambassador Barnuevo, who had earlier received officials of the LMC and the La Liga on Monday and further graced the signing ceremony, said he was pleased to witness the epoch making event.
“I know how Nigerians love football and I can tell you that in this relationship, Nigeria and Spain will win. We already have strong social and economic relations and this MOU will further strengthen our sporting ties. We take this relationship serious because the La Liga is one of the most important companies in Spain.”
Nigeria’s Youth and Sports Minister, who had also received officials of both leagues in his office on Monday, also expressed delight at the consummation of the agreement and gave assurances that the partnership would unbundle and open up platforms for the exchange of ideas to engage young Nigerians.
“It will transcend beyond football to other areas and while we shall be relying on the expertise of the La Liga to improve our league, we also have something to offer which will benefit La Liga.”
The signing of the partnership, he said, was ” a mark of confidence and trust in Nigeria football and we look forward to more robust engagement in future”.
Barcelona aim to catch Atletico in La Liga when they play Sevilla on Sunday, February 9, as they are three points behind the leaders.
Coach Gerardo Martino sees the match as key.
“This is probably one of the most important away matches we have got left. They are a very intense team, they have worked hard and they are strong. It was very difficult to win in the first game. They are strong at home, their strategy is good. So this match is key,” he told reporters at a news conference on Saturday, January 8.
Atletico Madrid took advantage of Barcelona’s loss at home to Valencia last week to go top of La Liga with a 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad as Real Madrid also drew 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao.
The “Colchoneros” are now on top with 57 points, a number that could increase on Saturday when they play Almeria, and Barcelona and Real Madrid are behind with 54.
But Spain’s two biggest clubs are on course for a Copa del Rey final showdown after recording convincing home wins in their semi-final first legs on Wednesday, February 5.
Real thumped holders Atletico Madrid 3-0 at the Bernabeu, gaining a measure of revenge for the 2-1 defeat in last year’s final at the same stadium, while Barca beat 10-man Real Sociedad 2-0 at the Nou Camp.
Asked whether the coming ten days are key for Barca’s future in both national and international tournaments, Martino said:
“Regarding the Copa del Rey – yes. We are 90 minutes away from a final. Regarding the Champions League also, yes. We are starting the part where one of us goes one and the other one doesn’t. But regarding La Liga, I think there is still a long way to go.”
Barca play Real Sociedad in the cup second leg on Tuesday, February 11 and Manchester City in the Champions League last 16 on February 18.
“I don’t want to talk about extremely dramatic circumstances or extremely positive circumstances. What we have to do is focus on our side and get strong, knowing there are going to be a lot of comments regarding our performance after each match.” the Argentine added.
Obafemi ‘Obagoal’ Martins came into his new Spanish side Levante in style as he showed why he is worth being bought as the out of favour Nigerian striker scored the winning goal on his debut for the La Liga club against another Spanish side Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Before he finally recorded a goal, the former Rubin Kazan hit-man’s effort was disallowed in the 64th minute as it was faulted as an offside.
Martins who came in as a substitute in the 46th minute and was on with much aggression standing a threat to defenders till the 87th minute when he finally sealed the victory for Levante after he received a brilliant pass from Ballesteros.
After the game Obagoal as he is fondly called back home said he couldn’t ask for a better debut than what happened in the game today.