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Isco to Barcelona? Impossible
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Isco to Barcelona? Impossible

There is alleged interest in the capture of Isco from Barcelona but Real Madrid will see to it that such a deal is an impossibility.

June 2018 is when the midfielder's contract ends and talks on extending it haven't been opened by the club yet.

It leaves a possibility for the Catalans to get their way although Los Blancos have said that they would not sell Isco to them in the short, medium or long term.

The most likely scenario concerning a new deal at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is that negotiations won't begin until after the start of next season.

That potentially hands Barcelona a lifeline though as, if they can persuade the player to run down the final year of his contract with Real, he'd then be free to move anywhere at the end of it.

Secondly, if the status quo were to remain the same in Madrid, Isco would endure a stop/start campaign leading into the World Cup which is hardly ideal, and would probably deprive him of the honour of representing La Roja.

Russia 2018 would be a great tournament with the team and Isco is very much to Julen Lopetegui's liking, so it's imperative that he gets regular matches under his belt beforehand.

Most of the contracts of Real players now have either an anti-Barcelona clause or give Los Blancos right of first refusal if the player should wish to leave the club that Real sell him to.

If a team buys a Real player, as happened with Angel Di Maria and Manchester United, and they then want to sell them on to Barcelona, the penalty for the selling club is so high that it's easier all round if they just sell to someone else.

Almost certainly a mission impossible.

Benzema's 0.80 shots per game

Luis Suarez, Florin Andone, Ruben Castro, Aritz Aduriz, Iago Aspas, Wiliam Jose, Gerard, Sandro, Gameiro...the list stretches to 16 strong players who've scored more times than Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, a player who has an extremely poor return in 2016/17 and managed just 0.80 shots per game.

In fact, his shot rate is only better than Valencia's Santi Mina, Granada's Kravets and Mahis at Leganes.

It's one of the worst moments Benzema has had as a Real Madrid player and his numbers are far from what is expected of him.

Above all, they are the worst numbers since he signed for the club in 2009.

Initially he suffered the typical problems of adaptation and had 0.96 shots on goal in all 27 games he took part in during 09/10.

Since then, he has always exceeded one shot per game and on some occasions, like last season, he stayed at 1.89 per game.

Hence, his failure this season is all the more striking.

With Cristiano Ronaldo now looking more of a centre forward than the Frenchman, it's forcing Benzema to play out wide, especially on the left.

Although the reality is that aggression in the area has never been his strong point, he prefers to assist his teammates from there.

It's quite remarkable that Gareth Bale, despite being injured for almost three months, has had 17 shots - five more than Benzema.

Currently, it's also the Frenchman's worst streak of the season.

He hasn't scored since playing Sevilla in the cup five games ago.

Since then, Sevilla, Malaga, Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo (twice) have been untroubled.

Clearly, he needs to find his scoring boots again because Real Madrid's success depends largely on it.

Luis Enrique: Barcelona players are both the most fouled and most punished

Ahead of his side's weekend clash against Athletic Club, Barcelona boss Luis Enrique had a few topics to discuss on Friday with Neymar's disciplinary record one of them.

The Asturian coach is aware that his players must be at their best to come through a tough challenge against Los Leones, but the conduct of his Brazilian star is being carefully watched.

"It is evidenced that my players have the most fouls made against them, and strangely they are one of the most-booked teams," Enrique explained to reporters.

"Firstly, there are campaigns to discredit my players, and then later some of the same media say that it is unfair.

"I can only praise my players because they have had to play during this season in situations where they have had to keep their heads brilliantly. I don't want to speak more on this topic [of refereeing], as it is best not to mess with something you cannot control."

Athletic Club have already faced Barcelona in the Copa del Rey this season, which points towards an interesting tactical battle this weekend between two teams who know each other well.

"It is difficult for us to surprise at the moment, as we are both looking for something in particular as two coaches," Luis Enrique went on.

"It is going to be a difficult game, like every match against Athletic Club, due to their idea of pressing high. From here, a lot of spaces can appear, but we have to be very switched on."

"If anyone wants to say that we aren't going to be champions, then think of the last two league campaigns where we have been. Until the very end, we will have the possibility of winning the title."

Conte calms Chelsea's Diego Costa and Fabregas over dinner

Chelsea's pursuit of the Premier League title has kicked up a gear with quickfire clashes against Liverpool and Arsenal, however coach Antonio Conte has taken the time to check in on the likes of Diego Costa before the Gunners come to West London.

The Italian has operated an open door policy with all his players, overseeing a completely fresh atmosphere around the club that has nonetheless been disrupted by a few issues that have cropped up among senior players.

Convening a dinner among his squad ahead of the weekend visit of Arsenal, Conte first addressed Cesc Fabregas, following the midfielder's complaints that he was starting too many games on the bench.

In reply, the Spaniard had Conte's worries over his physicality reiterated to him and it's an area that Fabregas recognises needs improvement, something he's endeavoured to provide since the coach's arrival.

Moving onto Diego Costa, the coach is seeking civility following their fallout over a move to China, and a truce has emerged between the pair until the summer at least.

However, the forward's long-term future certainly appears to be in the far-east or maybe even with Diego Simeone, at Atletico Madrid or elsewhere.

Dealing with these senior players has been a thorn in the side of many a Chelsea manager in recent years, although Conte seems to have gotten a grip by selling Branislav Ivanovic having failed to really use the Serbian.

What that means for John Terry remains to be seen, with the club captain rarely deployed in the first-team and subject to interest for a maiden move away from Stamford Bridge in January.

Mourinho wants Manchester United players to lift burden off Ibrahimovic

ose Mourinho wants to see more of his Manchester United players scoring goals to take some of the burden off striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the club pushes for a top-four finish.

"I have to agree with you that we don't score enough goals," the Portuguese manager told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to struggling Premier League champions Leicester City.

"Some of our players from these attacking creative positions they could, they should, score more goals."

Ibrahimovic has scored 19 goals for United in all competitions this season, and 14 in the league, with Juan Mata and Paul Pogba a long way behind the 35-year-old Swede with seven each.

United are unbeaten in 14 games in the top flight but have drawn their last three, with Wednesday's home match against relegation-threatened Hull City ending in a 0-0 draw.

That disappointing result left Mourinho's side sixth overall, 14 points behind leaders Chelsea, with more home draws to their credit than wins.

In Leicester, United come up against a side who have already shipped 38 goals -- two more than all of last season -- while struggling to score.

Mourinho, who led Chelsea to the league title in 2014-15 and then left when their form slumped the following year, said Leicester's woes came as no surprise.

"What Leicester did is one of the big things in the world of football. Total respect for what they did. Next season will be much better for them," he said.

"It will be a tough game for us but it will also be difficult for them."

United will be without injured centre back Phil Jones, who was substituted in the second half against Hull and has a bruised foot, for the match.

Painful Arsenal defeat still plays on Conte's mind

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has found it hard to forget his side's humiliating 3-0 defeat at Arsenal in September and urged his players to make amends when the London rivals meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The loss to Arsenal forced Conte to switch to a 3-4-3 formation which sparked Chelsea into life and the Premier League leaders won 15 of their next 17 league games to open up a nine-point gap at the top of the table.

"It seems a long time ago, it's important to remember the defeat against Arsenal. It was a bad defeat. In my mind it's present, always present. I hope in the mind of our players also," Conte told reporters on Friday.

"It will be very difficult. A lot of things have changed, but for sure we are a team, we want to have a good game."

Conte is taking nothing for granted despite several managers, including Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, saying Chelsea have one hand on the league trophy.

"Guardiola saying the title is Chelsea's to lose is a normal strategy by other coaches to try to apply pressure," Conte said.

Diego Costa reportedly had a row with the backroom staff and tried to force through a lucrative move to China in January but Conte is now convinced the striker has his mind only on Chelsea.

"Every week I have a lot of speculation about Diego. The most important thing is to be focused on this championship. We're in a good position," Conte said.

"Diego is important for us, he's happy to stay with us. The summer is far. It's important to stick to the present."

Guardiola: Ronaldinho told me he wanted to leave Barcelona

Speaking ahead of Manchester City's Premier League match against Swansea City on Sunday, Pep Guardiola has explained that Ronaldinho was certain in his desire to leave Barcelona when he began his management term.

Ronaldinho won two LaLiga titles and a Champions League medal during his time with the Catalans and the ex-midfielder recently admitted that Guardiola had asked him to stay when appointed as coach.

"He was a spectacular player," said the Manchester City boss to reporters.

"When I met him for the first time, we talked about whether he wanted to stay, but he told me that he intended to leave."

Manchester City newboy Gabriel Jesus has the makings to become a player as impactful as Ronaldinho, and Guardiola has been impressed with what he has seen so far.

"In the three games he has played he has shown us his intensity, his desire, his movements in the area," said Guardiola.

"I love the players who come down to defend and show a desire to recover the ball."

Following Claudio Bravo's somewhat hapless performances for the Citizens, Willy Caballero has been preferred to the Chilean in their last two fixtures, which isn't an issue for the boss.

"All good teams have two good goalies," said Guardiola. "I have not decided who will play on the weekend, I felt Willy should play the other day.

"Claudio understood this, he is very professional, one of his best qualities is his great mentality."

Swansea have picked up some recent form of late, and the City coach praised Paul Clement's tactical approach, but there are also question marks over whether striker Sergio Aguero will start the match.

"There is no doubt about the quality of Aguero, and how happy I am with him," explained Guardiola. "I have also been very impressed with Swansea, they are very organised.

"They leave no space in the middle of the field, and they have good players to counterattack."

There was also a statement on the form of revitalised midfielder Yaya Toure, who was cast aside in the early weeks of Guardiola's reign.

"He has a quality that is very difficult to find today: he loves football. In that sense, he plays football like it's for fun," said the Spaniard.

 
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