Falcao on fire again as Llorente stays out of favour – How the Premier League's transfer targets fared last week

ANALYSIS
By Chris Davie

The transfer window will open in just over two months and Premier League clubs are already being linked with a host of stars across Europe.

Radamel Falcao continued his fine scoring form on Sunday, while Gary Hooper keeps showing the sharpness in front of goal which has resulted him being linked with a move to Liverpool in the next window. Elsewhere, Arsenal target Adrian struggled to shine, while Fernando Llorente still appears to be out in the cold at Athletic Bilbao.

Goal.com brings you both the best and the worst individual displays from throughout last week as we track those who could be moving to the English shores during January.

Radamel Falcao maintained his fine scoring run into his seventh game as he secured a late winner in Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad. His superb free kick in the 90th minute took his tally in La Liga to nine goals in seven games, while Manchester City chief scout Carlo Cancellieri admitted the Colombian is the only forward who could improve the Premier League champions’ attack.

Reported Manchester United target Kevin Strootman inspired PSV in their 3-2 comeback victory over Willem II on Saturday. After PSV headed into the break two goals down, the 22-year-old Netherlands international netted twice before Tim Matavz grabbed the winner nine minutes from time.

Gary Hooper, who is believed to be on Liverpool’s radar, opened the scoring for Celtic in their 5-0 rout over St Mirren on Saturday. Reported Manchester United target Victor Wanyama also netted two stunning efforts in the first half.

Daniele De Rossi is being tracked by Manchester City, according to reports, and the Italian midfielder gave a composed and assured performance in midfield during Roma’s 4-2 victory at Genoa on Sunday evening.

Isco is reportedly being eyed by several Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham and the midfielder scored Malaga’s equaliser in their 2-1 victory over Valladolid on Saturday afternoon.

Liverpool want to sign Lewis Holtby on a free transfer next summer and the 22-year-old assisted Marco Hoger’s strike in Schalke’s 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Robert Lewandowski was on target for the Bundesliga champions in their second league defeat of the season.

Fernando Llorente continued his prickly relationship with Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa at the weekend after the striker was left on the bench during the club’s 3-2 defeat to Valencia. Llorente’s rival and recent replacement in attack, Aritz Aduriz, netted twice for Bilbao.

Arsenal target Adrian featured alongside Falcao in Atletico Madrid’s victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday but the Spaniard struggled to influence as was replaced shortly before the end of the game.

Burak Yilmaz continues to attract glances from England after his fine season last term, but he failed to find the net and was subbed at half-time during Galatasaray’s 3-3 draw against Genclerbirligi. The Turkish striker has five goals in seven league games this season.

Loic Remy was linked with moves to both Chelsea and Tottenham but the forward couldn’t impose himself after coming on as a first-half substitute for Andre-Pierre Gignac as Marseille lost 1-0 to Troyes.

Liverpool and Manchester United are reportedly monitoring Angelo Ogbonna but the Italian defender missed Torino’s 0-0 draw with Palermo through injury.

Stevan Jovetic was paired in attack with Luca Toni for Fiorentina’s clash with Chievo but the 22-year-old, who has caught the attention of Manchester City, struggled to influence in the 1-1 draw between the two sides.

Alan Dzagoev, who is still on Tottenham’s radar according to reports in Russia, missed CSKA’s 2-0 victory over Rubin Kazan because he’s serving a five-match suspension for punching Luke Wilshere during his side’s derby against Dinamo Moscow on September 30.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa missed Montpellier’s 2-1 defeat at Rennes as he’s also serving a five-game ban for elbowing St Etienne’s Romain Hamouma.

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Zidane: I have no problem with Mourinho

Zinedine Zidane has insisted that he does not have any problems with Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, before adding that he has learned a lot from the Portuguese trainer.

A number of recent reports suggested that Zidane had left Madrid after falling out with Mourinho, but the former France international has made it clear there is no truth in the reports saying the duo have a troublesome relationship.

“I do not have a problem with Mourinho. On the contrary, I have learned a lot from him,” Zidane was quoted as saying by Sport365.

“It is my passion to stand on the pitch on a daily basis. That’s why I opted to return to France to form myself as a coach.”

Zidane, 40, made over 200 official appearances for Real Madrid between 2001 and 2006.

Karanka praises Real Madrid's defensive solidarity against Celta Vigo

Aitor Karanka - Real Madrid

Goal.com / Shinichiro Ema

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka has pointed out the fundamental role his defenders played during Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Celta, especially given the enforced absence of key members at the back.

Midfielder Michael Essien and youngster Raphael Varane impressed against the Primera Liga minnows, and drew praise from Jose Mourinho’s backroom team.

“The back four played very well. Celta only had one header at the end of the match,” Karanka declared to reporters after the match.

“Ramos knew his position, Varane fulfilled his role and Pepe played like he always does.

“We signed Essien because he is a player that the manager knows very well, and because of the various positions he can play in, which he fulfilled well tonight too.

“Today was an important match after the international break and the response of the team as a whole is what we expected.”

Meanwhile, there is likely to be further speculation about the future of Brazilian playmaker Kaka after the 30-year-old was hauled off at half-time during the game.

However, Karanka played down any talk of the former AC Milan midfielder not being favoured, claiming his switch at the break was purely down to technical reasons.

“The substitution was due to a decision to employ a more standard system with [Angel] Di Maria and [Mesut] Ozil,” he explained.

Ramos: Madrid should have scored more goals

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos believes that with a little more luck his team could have recorded a scoreline reflective of their superiority, following their 2-0 victory at home against Celta Vigo.

Goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo in either half proved enough for the Spanish champions to overcome the Primera Division minnows, but Jose Mourinho’s men were guilty of a degree of profligacy in a game they could have won more comfortably.

“This result could have been better if we had more luck,” admitted Ramos to reporters after the match. “We ought to forget about it however, because the job has already been done.

“The league is still very long. No one can mathematically win the title at this point, and anything can still happen.”

Madrid fielded a defensive back-line in which Michael Essien was fielded as an unorthodox full-back, but Ramos believes the rearguard performed to the same degree of aplomb that supporters had grown accustomed to.

“Essien and I have played at the top level for a very long time, and so are equally at ease on the flanks. Injuries have made us adapt, and confidence is very high in the squad.”

Celta boss Paco Herrera was left with no doubt to his host’s pedigree on the night, conceding that his team were fighting a losing battle from the start.

“We couldn’t string together passes in the first 30 minutes. We had no options. They were just better than us,” recalled the 58-year-old.

The Bernabeu outfit’s latest victory lifts them to fourth place in the Primera Liga, just five points behind early leaders Barcelona.

Real Madrid 2-0 Celta Vigo: Higuain & Ronaldo clinch straightforward win

A goal each from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real Madrid a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo in the Spanish Primera Division on Saturday evening.

It was by no means a vintage performance from Los Blancos, but a dominance of the ball throughout the match enabled the Argentine and Portuguese attackers to net in what was a largely forgettable encounter at Santiago Bernabeu.

Jose Mourinho’s men controlled the play in the opening stages of the match, but although plenty of possession was held in the midfield area, there was a lack of goalmouth action to get the Santiago Bernabeu faithful off their seats.

However, their dominance of the ball paid off in the 11th minute in fortuitous circumstances. Higuain found space on the left-hand side and attempted to get the ball into the box, but his attempted cross floated over the head of Celta goalkeeper Javi Varas, who appeared to be fooled by the flight of the ball.

The hosts continued their patient build up play for the first quarter of the match, and should have doubled their advantage in the  minute when Higuain found himself on the wing again to dink a cross into the centre for Ronaldo, but the Portuguese powered his header over the bar from just outside the six yard box.

Celta began to grow more into the match as the second half went on, and Iago Aspas looked the most likely to grab a goal back for the visitors. The 25-year old had a couple of decent strikes at goal from the edge of the box, with one attempt forcing Iker Casillas into a smart save in 26th minute

Madrid’s play in the first 20 minutes of the second period was lacklustre to say the least, with passes going astray too often and Ronaldo in particular guilty of languishing in possession too often when the ball was in the final third.

Despite playing within themselves, the home side were gifted an opportunity to double their lead in the 67th minute when Gustavo Cabral got the wrong side of Mesut Ozil inside the area and brought the German to the floor with a push to the back. A penalty kick was awarded and Ronaldo stepped up confidently to dispatch into the bottom left corner.

Having withdrawn Kaka at half-time for Angel Di Mara, Jose Mourinho flexed his squad muscles further with just under 20 minutes to go when he introduced Jose Callejon in place of Ozil, and the substitute almost made an immediate impact when he latched on to a Higuain pass down the inside right channel only to see his shot flash by the left-hand post.

The 25-year old was impressive after coming on, and had another opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet in the 78th minute when he drifted beyond the Celta defence and took down Sergio Ramos’ pass over the top before turning swiftly and lashing a strike at goal, but his attempt was stopped by the legs of Javi Varas.

Real Madrid now move within five points of league leaders Barcelona, with the Catalan side facing Deportivo on Saturday evening. Celta Vigo remain in the bottom half of the table with nine points taken from eight matches.