Real Madrid didn't even need to play their 19th LaLiga fixture of the season to secure their "winter champions" position, their 2-1 victory over Malaga giving them a four-point lead over second-placed Sevilla, who play Sunday morning.

Zinedine Zidane's men began the league season with four wins on the trot, but a trio of draws began to set off some alarm bells in Chamartin. However, an eight-match domestic winning streak and a draw at the Camp Nou set up a nice lead atop the table, that was trimmed by three points as a result of last week's defeat away at Sevilla.

The victory over Malaga gives Los Blancos a haul of 43 points, with Sevilla sitting at 39 and Barcelona 38. Both sides play their 19th fixture of the season Sunday, but Madrid are guaranteed to remain atop the tree despite having played a game less. The game in hand, a fixture away at Valencia, was postponed due to the capital club's participation in the FIFA Club World Cup.

There's cause for caution however - the last time Madrid led after the first cycle of fixtures was during the 2014/15 season under Carlo Ancelotti, when the team went from a record run to completely falling apart and handing the title to Barcelona.

However, Los Blancos' most recent league crown, which came in 2011-12 with Jose Mourinho on the bench, was also preceded by first-round leadership.

Zidane: The players and coaches need more love from the Real Madrid fans

Real Madrid's 2-1 victory over Malaga was overshadowed by injuries to key starters Luka Modric and Marcelo, and Zinedine Zidane was happy to vent his frustration in his post-match comments about that and a lack of affection towards certain other stars despite picking up the points.

Coach and Real fans alike backed Sergio Ramos after the tension that brewed between the player and Sevilla supporters during the two teams' recent triple-header, and the club captain repaid the faith shown in him by bagging an impressive first-half brace.

Malaga would equalise through a Juanpi effort in the 63rd minute, but Los Blancos were able to hold on for the victory.

"I'm f***ing p*ssed off with all the injuries, we have another must-win game on Wednesday and plenty of games to come and we'll be needing every player," Zidane said in his press conference.

"Luka [Modric] has an issue. We don't know the exact problem yet but we hope it is not serious, we'll see tomorrow after the scan."

The discussion quickly shifted to the forward line, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema both drawing boos from sections of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu faithful.

"Karim [Benzema] and Cristiano [Ronaldo] might not have scored in recent games, but I'm not worried," the 44-year-old said. "Our fans are always very demanding, but sometimes the players and coaches need more affection. When we have difficulties, we need the fans to be calm and support the team.

"It's not the form of the attackers which worries me at the moment, it's the injuries."

Madrid's starting line-up featured in-form utility defender Nacho Fernandez at right-back in place of the under-pressure Danilo, but the coach claimed the Brazilian wasn't left out due to poor form.

"Danilo had a fitness issue and he couldn't play. [Fabio] Coentrao has a problem too and Real Madrid Castilla players aren't available this weekend, else I would have thrown in one of the youngsters," Zidane said.

Following Marcelo's knock, hardworking right-winger Lucas Vazquez was positioned at right-back.

"Lucas [Vazquez] did perfect but I don't like playing him there. He's not a full-back, but he did a great job despite being out of position," he added.

Thankfully for Zidane, his star goalscoring defender delivered the goods in attack.

"We know what Sergio [Ramos] gives us from set-pieces. He was phenomenal today with the two goals," Zidane said.

The coach concluded by echoing goalkeeper Keylor Navas' comments about the importance of Real's 'winter champions' tag, or lack thereof.

"I'd like to congratulate everyone on that, but the fact that we're winter champions doesn't mean a thing," he concluded.

Guardiola slams BBC for refereeing questions

Manchester City threw away a two-goal lead at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening but it was talk of refereeing decisions that irked Pep Guardiola after the game.

Having seen Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling clash in the Spurs area, the Catalan was in no mood to focus on that single issue when interviewed by one of the main television broadcasters.

"The first question is about the referee? This is the BBC, you are prestigious, you should talk about the football not the referee," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

"OK. We played good, it was an outstanding performance but it's a pity what happened. We created more chances, conceded few but were not able to win, and again right decisions were against.

"Of course you have to score goals but we had so many chances and were not able. Everton shoot four times, four goals, [Spurs] shoot two times, two goals. It is impossible to create something like this."

Despite his perceived lack of good fortune, Guardiola remained staunch that his methodology will eventually pay dividends in the Premier League.

"All you can do is create and play better and better but it is the same the whole season," he insisted. "We keep going and I am, we are upset, sad at what happened but I am so proud about what we did and the players don't deserve that again.

"I like to play good football. Leroy [Sane] was amazing today. Tomorrow we will be happier but today we are sad, because we played good."

Luis Enrique: “No one is like Iniesta, that's the problem”

"I've been really happy with our performances after the winter break. Hopefully we can keep it up," the Barça coach said.

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique spoke in a press conference ahead of his side's visit to Eibar on Sunday evening (20:45 CET).

Which player in your squad is most like Iniesta?

"No one. Neither from the squad nor in world football. That's the problem. I have good players in that position but nobody is like Iniesta."

Iniesta's injuries

 "He's played six games because as soon as I can rest him I try to do it. He'll be back soon. We do that with Andrés and the other players. Football is a contact sport and sometimes injuries are part of it".


“I'm expecting a side that is going to put us under pressure, which is what Mendilibar has said ”.

Current form

"I've been really happy with our performances after the winter break. Hopefully we can keep it up".

A winning dynamic

"We've been looking to find a certain dynamic for a while, and hopefully it will enable us to put pressure on the teams above us".

Will you have to win at the Bernabéu to win the league?

"We have a game tomorrow... Do you mean that we'll be champions if we lose the other 18 games and win at the Bernabéu? I don't think so". 

Tévez: "I can't see Messi at any other club that isn't Barcelona"

"I think Leo has something special going on with Barcelona - he was practically born there - it's his club, his home", said the Shanghai Shenhua striker.

Match made in heaven

Carlos Tévezsays his compatriot Leo Messi and Fútbol Club Barcelona, were made for each other and he should follow his heart in contract negotiations.

"I think Leo has something special going on with Barcelona - he was practically born there - it's his club, his home. Whether he renews or not, I don't think it's a question of money for him - I think it's more about what his heart tells him he should do", said the striker who was officially unveiled at Shanghai Shenhua and presented with the No.32 shirt. "I think it would be very difficult for Messi to leave Barcelona", he said.

New Bernabeu plan includes hotel with views of the pitch

A hotel and an small mall will be a part of the new mega-Bernabeu stadium plans that are set to be completed by 2020, having recently been given the green light to go ahead with their plans.

The feasibility of the hotel had been in question, but the decision has gone forward as planned, with some rooms even having views of the field of play.

The new stadium will include the latest in world technology, not least 360 degree security entrances to make life easier when entering and leaving the stadium during matches.

Nonetheless, the hotel itself won't have too many rooms, as that would make construction too difficult and would be hard to combine with the rest of the stadium's new features.

Real Madrid have chosen the 2020/21 season as the deadline to make such changes, always in close dialogue with the Madrid city counsel.

All environmental requirements have been met, and the noise from the stadium will be reduced considerably for neighbors, who will also see a new plaza open up because of a change in the design of the open areas near the stadium itself.

The total cost is said to be around 400 million euros and the stadium is expected to have a sponsorship name added on to the end of it to help finance the changes.

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