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Michel Salgado: Real need Club World Cup boost before Clasico vs. Barcelona

Michel Salgado backs Real Madrid to get the job done at the Club World Cup and be ready to face Barcelona.

Ex-Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado says that winning this week's Club World Cup could be just the boost the team needs ahead of the following weekend's must-win La Liga clasico at the Bernabeu.

Before flying out to Abu Dhabi for the CWC on Sunday morning, Madrid eased to a 5-0 La Liga win at home to Sevilla, with coach Zinedine Zidane afterwards saying his team were getting back to their best goalscoring form. However the defending La Liga champions remain eight points adrift of current leaders...

Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi on target as Barcelona pads La Liga lead

Steve Nicol praises Luis Suarez for facing his poor run of form head-on and getting rewarded for it in Barcelona's win over Villarreal.
Lionel Messi tied Gerd Muller for most goals for one club in the top five European leagues with his 525th in Barca's 2-0 win over 10-man Villarreal.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi broke down a stubborn Villarreal to send Barcelona five points clear at the top of La Liga despite an under-par display in a 2-0 victory at Estadio de la Ceramica. Only after the hosts had midfielder Daniel Raba sent off for an ugly tackle on Sergio Busquets on the hour mark did the Catalans start creating the chances they needed to win the game.

Positives

Another clean sheet and a solid defensive performance, despite the absences of Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano,...

Saul Niguez and Jan Oblak impress as Atletico keep away streak alive

Saul Niguez found the back of the net for the second match in a row.
Saul Niguez found the back of the net for the second match in a row for surging Atletico.

Atletico Madrid did what they do best and dogged out a 1-0 win away to Real Betis on Sunday afternoon.

Saul's close-range effort on the half hour was enough to seal this for Los Rojiblancos, who are now unbeaten away from home in La Liga for 19 games -- dating back 12 months as they continue to keep the pressure on Barcelona at the top of the table.

They needed a Jan Oblak special to keep the scores level late on, however apart from the Slovenian's effort the result was rarely in doubt, despite...

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde facing awkward return to Villarreal

ESPN FC's Craig Burley sifts through the latest rumours surrounding Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Raheem Sterling and more.
Paco Alcacer and a Jeremy Mathieu own goal were the goals behind Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Sporting CP.
Alejandro Moreno explains how Samuel Umtiti's absence could impact a Barcelona side that failed to see off Celta Vigo at home.

Above each entrance gate at Espanyol's Cornella-El Prat home, there's a name of a club legend. The name above gate 89 is Ernesto Valverde. It remains there, despite the fact that Valverde, Espanyol's coach between 2006 and 2008, was appointed at rivals Barcelona this summer. It's a clear sign of the respect Valverde has, not just at Espanyol, but universally. Wherever he's worked, he's been loved. Well, nearly everywhere.

Already this season, Valverde has been warmly welcomed "home" in Athens and...

 By Rob Train

Zidane and Real will need goals vs. Sevilla to offset a depleted backline

The FC panel preview Real Madrid's weekend clash against Sevilla, making note of the many players absent in their back line.

Real Madrid host Sevilla at the Bernabeu on Saturday in the knowledge that this could prove to be another pivotal weekend in their pursuit of a successful fightback in their title defence.

Barcelona travel to the Estadio de la Ceramica to play Villarreal on Sunday, where a positive result is far from assured for the Liga leaders, and Zinedine Zidane will be only too aware that the added pressure of a reduced deficit at the top must be applied a day earlier.

Historically, Sevilla fare pretty well...

 By Sid Lowe

Real Betis coach Quique Setien: 'I understand football through the ball'

Setien played for four clubs over a 20-year career, becoming a manager in 2001.
Setien played for four clubs over a 20-year career, becoming a manager in 2001.

Betis manager Quique Setien is a Bruce Springsteen fan but once described himself as a "rolling stone" who loves chess and insists that its lessons can be applied to football. A technical, creative player from Santander who was at Atletico Madrid under legendary president and crook Jesus Gil, and under more managers than he can remember, he sits at a desk trying to list them all but soon admits defeat.

Setien was on the Spain bench at the 1986 World Cup, always lamented not getting the chance...