La Liga Clubs Learn Their Copa del Rey Fate as Round of 32 Draw Made

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were among the 20 La Liga teams drawn into the Copa del Rey round of 32, each being paired with lower league opposition as per seeding rules.

Holders Barcelona have been handed a tie against Cultural Leonesa from Segunda Division B, the third tier of Spanish football. The team from Leon in north west Spain were beaten 13-2 on aggregate by Real in this round of the competition in 2016/17.

Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 32

This year, Real have been drawn against Melilla, another team from Segunda Division B. The away leg of the tie will require an overseas trip as the city of Melilla is located in Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa, sharing a land border with Morocco.

Atletico have been paired with the lowest ranked team left in the competition, Sant Andreu. The club resides in the Barcelona district of the same name and was the only side in the draw from Spain’s Tercera Division, the fourth tier on the league ladder.

Other notable ties include Champions League club Valencia against third tier Ebro, and all-La Liga clashes between Athletic Bilbao and Huesca, and Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad.

The full draw for the 2018/19 Copa del Rey Round of 32 appears below:

Cultural Leonesa vs Barcelona

Ebro vs Valencia

Sant Andreu vs Atletico Madrid

Melilla vs Real Madrid

Villanovense vs Sevilla

Racing Santander vs Real Betis

Almeria vs Villarreal

Real Mallorca vs Real Valladolid

Cadiz vs Espanyol

Sporting Gijon vs Eibar

Lugo vs Levante

Cordoba vs Getafe

Athletic Bilbao vs Huesca

Deportivo Alaves vs Girona

Leganes vs Rayo Vallecano

Celta Vigo vs Real Sociedad

Let’

N’Golo Kante in Line for New Chelsea Deal as Report Claims Only 2 Clubs Could Tempt Him to Leave

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante is reportedly in line for a bumper new contract at Stamford Bridge and would apparently only consider leaving the club if Real Madrid or Barcelona call.

The French World Cup winner was heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain during the summer, only to show little interest in walking away from Chelsea.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH64-FRA-CRO

With his current contract due to expire in 2021, French media outlet Le 10 Sport speaks of an impending offer to extend his deal to 2023 with a ‘clear salary increase’.

Kante has thrived at Chelsea over the last two seasons since bursting onto the scene as a Premier League winner with Leicester and the report claims that he never wished to leave during the summer – with there being only two clubs in the world that could tempt him to reconsider.

They are Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. Whether either would be interested in making an offer could depend on how the next few months pan out.

Real star Luka Modric has recently been linked with Inter for the second time since summer and his departure would leave Los Blancos with a hole to fill in midfield. Yet Kante, who is similar to existing Bernabeu destroyer Casemiro, isn’t really the right player for that role.

Southampton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

His energy could certainly benefit Barcelona, although with eyes on strengthening in defence, as well as on Paul Pogba and now also a potential return for Neymar, there is unlikely to be the money available that would allow the club to buy Kante as well.

Let’

Real Madrid vs Levante Preview: How to Watch, Recent Form, Team News, Key Battle & More

​On Saturday, Real Madrid host Levante in La Liga as Los Blancos look to get back on track after a run of poor results.

Julen Lopetegui’s side sit fourth in the league and will expect to return to winning ways after failing to win all of their last four games in all competitions. 

Eleventh placed Levante, meanwhile, will hope to capitalise on Madrid’s recent run of poor form.

FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA-REAL MADRID

The preview for the match can be found below.

When? Saturday 20 October​ @ 12.00PM (BST)
Where? ​Santiago Bernabeu
How Can I Watch It? Eleven Sports

Recent Form

​Real Madrid, much like ​Barcelona, are going through an unprecedented run of poor form leading into this fixture. Before their much needed international break, Madrid had failed to win – or even score – in four games. 

These fixtures included a 3-0 away drubbing from Valencia, a draw at home with close rivals ​Atletico Madrid, a Champions League defeat by CSKA Moscow, and then a last gasp 1-0 loss to Alaves. 

Deportivo Alaves v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander

Madrid’s last goal came from Marco Asensio in a 1-0 win over Espanyol back on 22 September. Goals were always going to be a tricky to come by when Cristiano Ronaldo left for ​Juventus in the summer, and it seems that the players he left behind in the Spanish capital aren’t quite ready to step forward out of his colossal shadow just yet. 

Levante come into this game in much higher spirits than Real. Sitting 11th in the league, the side from Valencia have won each of their last two La Liga fixtures. 

They beat Getafe 1-0 away from home and the week before they managed a 2-1 victory over Alaves. They’ve looked steady this season and might be quietly confident of adding to Real’s recent woes. 

Levante UD v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga


Key Battle

Luka Modric vs José Campaña

Croatian midfield master Modric has had a wonderful past few years. He came into the 2018/19 season off the back of winning the Champions League with Real and leading his national team to a World Cup final.

Rightly named in the best player in Russia in the summer, Modric might even been given the game’s greatest individual prize this year, with many tipping him to pip former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona rival Lionel Messi to the coveted Ballon d’Or.

But it’s smaller league ties such as these where Madrid will need Modric’s focus if they want to return to winning ways. Having yet to score this season and only registering one assist, it’s fair to say Modric has a slight World Cup hangover, but that’s not to say he’s been particularly poor by any stretch of the imagination – at times he has still dictated games for Los Blancos.

Pre-Season Friendly'SC Heerenveen v Levante UD'

Having featured in all eight of Levante’s league matches this season, José Campaña is a crucial member of Paco López’s midfield. The former Crystal Palace man will have to work hard to pressure Modric in possession and stop the Croatian finding his rhythm. 

Ironically, back in 2012, current Real manager Julen Lopetegui won the UEFA European Under-19 Championship with Campaña as his captain.


Team News

Real Madrid are set to be boosted by the return of Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo – all said to be ready and fit to come into the starting lineup this weekend. But Dani Carvajal is still injured.

Deportivo Alaves v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander

Levante will be unable to use loanee Borja Mayoral as Real are his parent club. On top of this, Armando Sadiku, Coke, and Nikola Vukcevic are all expected to miss the game with injuries.


Predicted Lineups

Real Madrid: Courtois; Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Odriozola; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Isco, Benzema, Bale.

Levante: Olazabal; Cabaco, Postigo, Pier; Jason, Bardhi, Campaña, Toño; Morales, Boateng, Rochina.


Prediction

Madrid have a lot of class returning from injury issues but those players need to step up immediately. They need goals and they need points. 

But perhaps more so than the players, the manager seriously needs a win. Lopetegui will be desperate to ease the pressure on his job.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ALAVES-REAL MADRID

Levante, on the other hand, come into this game with none of that pressure. If they lose, it won’t change much in terms of their season. They might just come away with something from the Bernabeu.

Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Levante

Let’

Michael Laudrup Reportedly Eyeing Real Madrid Managerial Role Following Los Blancos’ Slump in Form

Michael Laudrup has reportedly offered his services to Real Madrid ​in the event that the Spanish giants choose to part ways with current boss Julen Lopetegui.

Lopetegui’s stint as Madrid boss got off to a rocky start after he was sacked from the Spanish national team on the eve of the World Cup. 

FBL-QATAR-EMIR-CUP-RAYYAN-SADD

The Spaniard revealed he had agreed a deal to take on the managerial role at the Bernabeu after the tournament. Things haven’t improved since the season started either, with Los Blancos languishing in fourth in La Liga having scored just 12 times in eight games.

It’s this poor start to the season – and a 409 minute goal draught – that’s cranked up the press on Lopetegui and kick started talk that the Spaniard could be sacked if results don’t improve.

According to Telemadrid (via AS), former Swansea and Getafe boss Michael Laudrup has thrown his hat in the ring to replace Lopetegui by getting in touch with Real and informing them that he would be available.

Athletic Club v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

While it’s unclear whether Real are planning on sacking Lopetegui, one thing is obvious – the Spaniard must find a way to solve Real’s issues in front of goal. Should Real’s struggles continue then the club from the capital may have no other choice than to look for a new boss.

Let’

Chelsea to Offer Eden Hazard New Mega Contract to End Speculation of Real Madrid Move

​Chelsea look set to offer Eden Hazard a huge new contract in an attempt to fend off interest from Real Madrid, with sources suggesting that contract negotiations could be started in the coming weeks. The Belgian has been vocal about his desire to eventually join Real Madrid, but he appears to be happy in west London for the time being. 

After an impressive World Cup campaign, Hazard has started the season in scintillating form under new boss Maurizio Sarri – topping the Premier League scoring chart with seven goals. 

Chairman Bruce Buck has hinted that ​Chelsea could pull out all the stops in order to keep their prized asset, as reported by ​The Sun. 

“Every Chelsea fan in London and around the world loves ​Eden Hazard, and he’s not only a great footballer but I think he’s a wonderful lad,” said Buck, who was speaking at a Financial Times future of football event. 

“We want him to stay and we will do what we have to do to entice him to stay. Let’s see how it goes between now and the end of the season.” 

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League

Hazard himself recently stated that ​a move to Madrid in the January tran​sfer window is “not possible”. The Belgian midfielder added that he has too much respect for Chelsea and does not want to leave the club on bad terms.

It remains to be seen whether Chelsea’s new offer will be enough to dissuade Hazard from his goal of joining ​Los Blancos, but fans will undoubtedly expect the clubs’ management to whatever it takes to keep their star at Stamford Bridge.

Let’

Gonzalo Higuain Compares Milan & Madrid Derbies While Revealing He Was Forced Out of Juventus

​Gonzalo Higuain has opened up on his move from Juventus to AC Milan in the summer, claiming that the Serie A champions ‘kicked him out’ to make room for superstar signing Cristiano Ronaldo. 

The Argentine striker, who made the loan move to AC Milan this summer, claims he didn’t want to leave Juve after two successful seasons, but had an idea he was on the way out as soon as the 2017/18 campaign was brought to a close.

“From the day of the Coppa Italia final I had an idea that something had broken,” Higuain told Gazzetta dello Sport, via ​Football Italia.

AC Milan v Chievo Verona - Serie A

“And then they took Ronaldo. The decision to leave wasn’t mine, I gave everything for Juventus and won a lot of trophies.

“Then Cristiano arrived and the club wanted to make a leap in quality. They told me I couldn’t stay, and that they were trying to find a solution. The best solution was Milan.”

Higuain moved on an initial season long loan, with an option to buy for €36m, and has so far hit the ground running, scoring six goals in seven appearances. 

He will be hoping to carry his impressive form into his first Milan derby this weekend – a fixture he compared to the illustrious Madrid derby he played in for ​Real

“All derbies have a special flavour,” Higuain added. “It’ll be the same this time, and because it’s my first for Milan it’ll be nice to play in it. We’re waiting with tranquility, concentration and the desire to do well.

“The fact that San Siro will be almost totally on their side will be extra motivation for us. This is a passionate derby, it’s like the one in Madrid.”

Let’

Barcelona Defender Samuel Umtiti Set to Miss Pivotal Clashes With Inter and Real Madrid

​​Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti is set to miss out on a number of pivotal fixtures coming up in the calendar, after failing to recover from the knee issues that have plagued him since the World Cup.

The Frenchman has been absent from the Blaugrana’s last three matchday squads, as well as his country’s for their Nations League clashes, and could be out for another month. 

As reported by ​Marca, the 24-year-old was examined by doctors this morning at the Sant Joan Despi Hospital, and they confirmed he would be ineligible for ​Barca’s games against Sevilla, ​Inter and the Classico against ​Real Madrid. 

FC Barcelona v Girona - La Liga Santander

More worrying, though, is the nature of the issue. The Cameroon-born French international has been suffering from chondropathy – a condition in the cartilage – intermittently since the World Cup, and was even hampered by it in Russia. 

With such a sensitive injury, the club are in no mind to rush the defender back to the starting XI, and are persisting with a non-invasive, ultrasound approach to the treatment. The doctors admitted that there had been promising signs of recovery in recent days, but that a specific return date could not be set as of yet. 

CD Leganes v FC Barcelona - La Liga

While his return could come in the middle of November, there is some concern that, should this relatively conservative treatment process fail to relieve the problem, then an arthroscopy

operation would be needed. 

This would sideline Umtiti until the start of 2019, and even then, such a procedure wouldn’t guarantee the re-emergence of the injury further down the line.

Let’

Why Raheem Sterling Needs to Ignore Real Madrid Interest & Commit Future to Man City

Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling is rumoured to be the subject of growing interest from reigning European champions Real Madrid. The latest gossip claims Los Blancos had officials in attendance this week as Sterling scored twice for England against Spain in the UEFA Nations League, and are continuing to keep an eye on the 23-year-old.

Sterling has just 18 months left on his current City contract – which is due to expire in June 2020 – with talks so far failing to yield an agreement that satisfies both player and club.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-FULHAM

In September, The Guardian spoke of an ‘impasse’ in the negotiations. That report claimed that Sterling is seeking a significant raise on his current wages to ‘at least’ £220,000-per-week, a figure that would reportedly make him one of City’s top earners.

The situation is a delicate one for City. If they are unable to convince Sterling to sign a new contract in the coming weeks or months, they will almost certainly have to listen to offers for him at the end of the season to ensure that his value doesn’t continue to drop and potentially risk losing him as a free agent.

That scenario is supposedly the opportunity that Real are waiting for. And should it come to pass, City will likely not be short of other offers for a player who scored 23 goals last season.

The reality is, the figure (between £170,000 £180,000-per week according to differing reports) that Sterling currently earns is a very handsome wage, even by Premier League standards. The player and his advisers may well feel his contributions means he ought to be among the very top earners, but he cannot be far from it and is on incredible money as it is.

And what does he stand to gain if he leaves to join Real Madrid? The status and the acclaim of joining arguably the most revered club in history, certainly. But his immediate career trajectory promises to better if he commits to City and stays at the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling has been a different player since Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester. From a supremely talented but infuriatingly inconsistent prospect, the England international has come on leaps and bounds under Guardiola’s guidance, particularly last season when things just seemed to click for him.

He finally found his feet in front of goal after a former reputation for squandering chances and at one point last was the key reason City were so far ahead in the title race. By the end of November last season, Sterling had scored three late winners and one late equaliser in Premier League games that were directly responsible for giving City seven extra points. At that time they held an eight point lead over Manchester United, which would have otherwise been just one.

Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League

Sterling is still very young at the age of 23 and leaving Guardiola’s side to go to Madrid would be a significant risk. It would have been a different story had this been the Real of a year or two years ago, at their pomp and complete with Cristiano Ronaldo. But this Real is entering a period of transition. The old guard are…well, old, while the new guard are not yet in place, with new coach Julen Lopetegui not getting the results he would have hoped for so far.

Sterling could be part of that rebuilding process, but when he is already a key part of a team on the up with genuine Champions League winning ambitions of their own, why risk leaving? Moving abroad for English players is never easy, but to a team in transition combined with the intense pressure and Bernabeu goldfish bowl, now really isn’t the time.

Sterling has started seven of City’s eight Premier League games this season, as well as both games in the Champions League. He’s scored four league goals and provided two further assists, with only two of his domestic appearances not featuring a direct hand in a goal.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-BRIGHTON

What’s more, City are very keen to keep such an important player, as Guardiola explained last month: “It’s well-known we’re delighted with him and would like him to continue. My club knows my opinion and we share that. After that it is the club and the agent.”

Let’

Sergio Ramos Tweets Video in Response to ‘Stamp’ Claims on England’s Raheem Sterling

Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos has responded to claims that he ‘stamped’ on England forward Raheem Sterling during the UEFA Nations League clash between the two countries this week, a game that the Three Lions surprisingly won 3-2.

The incident went unnoticed by the officials during the game, but social media users quickly vilified Ramos, accusing the defender of deliberately ‘stamping’ on England’s star while he was on the floor in the penalty area.

Spain v England - UEFA Nations League A

The 32-year-old was already a divisive figure in England as many Liverpool fans believed he deliberately sought to injure Mohamed Salah during the Champions League final in May.

But Ramos has now hit back at his critics, posting a video on Twitter that appears to exonerate him of any wrongdoing, along with the caption ‘Nothing else to say.’

It was the long shot that appeared to show a ‘stamp’. But the close up footage from a different angle posted by Ramos shows Sterling already clutching his leg before the Spaniard approached him and offered no evidence of a stamp or any other obviously deliberate violent conduct.

@SergioRamos

The only ‘contact’ between the players was a slight clip of the boots as Ramos skipped over his already stricken opponent, who scored twice on the night.

Sterling netted England’s first and third goals to help put the visitors 3-0 up at half-time in Seville, his first two international goals for three long years. Paco Alcacer pulled one back for Spain, while Ramos himself made it 3-2 in the eight minute of stoppage time.

Let’

Sky Sports Pundit Tony Cascarino Urges Harry Kane to Quit Spurs & Join Real Madrid

​Sky Sports pundit Tony Cascarino believes Harry Kane should quit Tottenham and join Real Madrid in order to maximise his career potential.

The 25-year-old has become a key figure for both club and country, winning two Premier League Golden Boots during his time at Spurs, as well as a World Cup Golden Boot after his six goals helped England finish fourth in Russia this summer.

FBL-EUR-C1-TOTTENHAM-BARCELONA

Despite individual success for ​Kane, he is yet to win any silverware for Spurs, which is why ex-forward Cascarino believes the time is right for the striker to make a move to ​Real Madrid and become their main threat in front of goal. 

Speaking to ​The Times, he said: “It would make sense for Real to move for Kane, who is 25 and has five or six years on most of the other quality centre forwards around Europe, there is a void at Real for an established, world-class centre forward who can give them several goal-filled years and Kane is that man. 

“He has a remarkable goalscoring record but Kane has not actually won anything yet, so, unless things change dramatically at Tottenham this season, there has to be a second part of his career, which is to join one of the big clubs in world football, such as Real.”

Kane has been repeatedly linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu in recent seasons, although ​he rubbished talk of a potential move following England’s impressive 3-2 win against Spain. 

The ​Tottenham front man has started the season well, scoring six goals for Maurcio Pochettino’s side in ten games. 

Let’