Athletic Bilbao forward Raul Garcia scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Madrid to knock the holders out of the Spanish Super Cup and set up a final against Barcelona.
Garcia, who was sent off during a 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid last month, made the most of two glaring errors from Real’s Lucas Vazquez to net twice in the first half before Karim Benzema pulled one back 17 minutes from time.
Athletic Bilbao meet Barcelona on Sunday in Seville in a repeat of the 2015 final, which Barca won 5-1 on aggregate. This year’s Super Cup was moved to southern Spain after the coronavirus pandemic stopped it from being held in Saudi Arabia for a second straight season.
Athletic Bilbao reach the final after being boosted by the arrival of coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who was hired less than two weeks ago to try to halt the team’s struggles. It was only his second match in charge of the club, coming after a 3-2 home loss to Barcelona in La Liga last week.
Garcia got Athletic off to an ideal start when he pounced on indecision in the Real defence to latch on to a through ball and slot into the net in the 18th minute after right-back Vazquez had given the ball away.
Garcia doubled the lead by sending Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, after Vazquez had hauled down Inigo Martinez.
Iker Muniain should have added a third early in the second half but missed the target with a free header and Marco Asensio hit the woodwork twice before Benzema pulled Real back into contention. The Frenchman’s strike had initially been ruled offside but was awarded after a VAR review.
Benzema put the ball in the net again and was again given offside but this time the VAR ruled against him.
Real probed for an equaliser deep into six minutes of added time and Athletic faced an agonising wait for a VAR check to be completed on a potential Real penalty but they were spared and wildly celebrated the win.
The city of Madrid is currently a zombie town, and that’s not just down to a global pandemic. Spain has been buried in recent days by the country’s worst snowstorm for the past 60 years.
The adverse weather conditions claimed Atletico Madrid’s La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao with roads in and out of the Spanish capital blocked due to Storm Filomena.
For Zinedine Zidane, it has been another unwanted obstacle. He and his Real Madrid staff were made to wait for hours at Barajas Airport before being allowed to fly ahead of their game of Osasuna last weekend.
His players subsequently froze as Madrid missed the chance to go top of La Liga following an uninspiring 0-0 draw at El Sadar in Pamplona.
The result highlighted once more the need for Real to strengthen their attacking options if they are to claw in their cross-city rivals Atletico, who remain top by a point but with three games in hand. Moussa Dembele’s imminent arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano only heightens the need for reinforcements.
Karim Benzema has 12 goals for the season in all competitions, but besides the Frenchman there is no other member of the squad that has at least five goals to his name so far this term.
Zidane complained after the clash with Osasuna went ahead, but he knows that is not sustainable if Real are to defend their title.
“We’ve handled it badly, but we did what we could on this pitch,” he said. “It wasn’t a football match. It should have been suspended. The conditions weren’t right for a match. I’m repeating myself, but that’s how it is.”
Benzema has now gone three games without scoring, and the stalemate demonstrated how Real still struggle to break down sides content to sit back with a low block.
So will Zidane be able to strengthen this month?
Kylian Mbappe, with 12 goals in 14 Ligue 1 matches this season for Paris Saint-Germain, has been Real’s long-term target for some time.
Sky Sports understands that Liverpool are not currently trying to sign the forward, but Real will have to generate funds this year in order to prise the forward away from the Parc des Princes.
On Tuesday, Spanish publication Diario AS ran the headline ‘Formula Mbappe’, claiming Madrid are working on an economic plan to sign Mbappe in 2021.
One reported option would be to raise between £90m and £135m by selling squad players alongside an expected £720m in revenue when fans are permitted to return to the Santiago Bernabeu later this year.
The club’s president, Florentino Perez, has had close contact with PSG’s Qatari owners but shifting out the deadwood could prove the biggest stumbling block given the wages of the players in question.
Gareth Bale, Isco, Dani Ceballos, Luka Jovic, Marcelo and Brahim Diaz are said to be the six surplus to requirements, and Real are keen to sell in order to pave the way for the PSG striker’s arrival should the French giants demand a likely fee in the region of £200m.
But Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero doubts whether Real will be able to generate the necessary funds, and the noises coming from Spain following Tuesday’s striking AS headline is that Barcelona are more likely to swoop.
“There is no specific mention of Real Madrid so maybe the formula in fact involves Barça,” Montero told Sky Sports. “I don’t think Real are going to sell six players.”
Montero confirmed to Sky Sports this week that the club are yet to finalise talks with Sergio Ramos over a new contract, despite the defender being offered a two-year deal on reduced wages as a result of the economic climate. Ramos is on £312,000 a week, the third-highest earner at the club behind Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard.
Mbappe’s current deal expires in 2022 and Real will be able to pay the player’s annual salary of £19m, the report claims. But the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino is likely to complicate any such move away given Mbappe will be central to his own vision at his new club.
Pochettino confirmed that Mbappe is in “perfect condition” to face Marseille in the Trophee des Champions on Wednesday, and the Argentine admitted he is becoming accustomed to the constant speculation surrounding the star striker.
When asked about the Real link, he said: “When you are in Paris, the rumours are always amazing. We’re connected with many different names. It happened with me at Tottenham, at Southampton and at Espanyol. Of course, here is no different. For sure, now is a moment to talk and people are talking about rumours.
“We will be having internal discussions with the club and with [sporting director] Leonardo, and the club will communicate with you as soon as anything happens. But I can’t be focused on this.”
But is the formula for such a high-profile transfer ever clear-cut?
In spite of their perceived state of privileged seclusion at a time where financial constraints are being felt across the globe, PSG are not awash with cash. Indeed, the French champions are in need of balancing the books more than most elite clubs.
Moise Kean’s loan move from Everton has so far exceeded expectations, and Carlo Ancelotti says the club are willing to talk with PSG about Kean’s future.
French football expert Jonathan Johnson told Sky Sports on Tuesday that Pochettino will sit down with Leonardo in the very near future to look at potential incomings this month, but the prospect of Mbappe being sold to facilitate making Kean’s switch permanent is still far from being on the table.
Pochettino has already said of the World Cup winner: “Big players like Kylian can play in different spaces. You may see him more at one time on the left, on the right or as the second striker but the most important thing is how he feels on the pitch and how we can profit the most from his set of skills.
“It’s about putting him in the best position to show all of his qualities. Like Neymar, he is a top player and our aim is to put both of them in the best position to create situations where they can be decisive.”
Following the weekend’s 3-0 win over Brest, Pochettino added: “Mbappe is a special player. He came back in good shape after the break, with a very good state of mind. He is the top scorer in the championship. We hope that he will have fun and find the performances of which he is capable.”
Mbappe only has one-and-a-half years left on his current contract and the outside chance he could quit Ligue 1 and walk away for free in 18 months is a daunting prospect for the PSG hierarchy.
View from France: ‘PSG confident on Mbappe stay’
Speaking on a recent Transfer Talk podcast, French football expert Julien Laurens outlined the complexities of any such transfer taking place this coming year.
“There’s no way Mbappe or Neymar could leave this month but the big priority is extending their deals, which expire in 2022,” Laurens told Sky Sports.
“It’s a big challenge – the club doesn’t want to let them go on a free in the summer of 2022; if they still only have one year left on their deal this summer, the price will be much lower.
“The club are quite confident – at least that’s what they’re saying – that both want to stay. If they renew their deals, even if they want to leave in 2022, the money will be better for the club.
“There is clarity now with the new manager so that should help but it will be very interesting to follow. Especially for Mbappe, if Liverpool and Real Madrid could make a deal for him, though I’m not sure they could right now – we’re talking 200m, 250m euros.
“What chance of Messi? I think they will try to find a way of doing it. It would be incredible but putting the numbers together, to me it seems impossible with FFP, with the pandemic, with the wage bill. They could be paying 150m a year just in wages. Pochettino slightly opened the door by saying the big players are welcome but I don’t think it’s financially realistic.”
Zidane will for now remain a long-term admirer and watchful observer of Mbappe, but the hope is that with supporters returning through the gates once the Covid-19 pandemic eases, the club will be ready to strike.
Transfer Talk Podcast: Inside Poch’s PSG plan
Pete Graves and Dharmesh Sheth are joined by ESPN football expert Julien Laurens to discuss the job facing Mauricio Pochettino at PSG and what that could mean for the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe as well as the likelihood of a move for Barcelona‘s Lionel Messi.
Frank Lampard‘s future at Chelsea is under scrutiny following a poor run of form, the panel assess whether the Blues need to once again back their boss in the transfer market or start looking for a replacement.
Is this the window Mesut Ozil finally leaves Arsenal? The panel touch upon that and if Lyon‘s Houssem Aouar is the long-term replacement for the German.
Plus there’s news from Manchester United, Manchester City, West Ham, Leicester and much more, including Pete’s final thought, this week on free agent Diego Costa.
Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports
The winter transfer window is open until Monday February 1 at 11pm.
Follow all the news and analysis on Sky Sports News and across Sky Sports‘ digital platforms, including our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.
Atletico Madrid’s LaLiga clash with Athletic Bilbao was called off on Saturday after a snowstorm caused severe disruption in Spain.
Storm Filomena blanketed parts of the country in heavy snow, as Madrid – one of the worst affected areas – could see up to an exceptional eight inches of snow throughout the day.
The Athletic Bilbao squad boarded a private plane on Friday night ahead of the league encounter at the Stadio Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, but as they approached the Spanish capital they were refused permission to land at Barajas airport and were diverted back to their origin.
A LaLiga statement read: “Given the exceptional situation caused by the storm across a large part of the Iberian peninsula, causing the closure of Madrid Barajas airport throughout the day, and the impossibility of having the pitch in optimal playing conditions, LaLiga, after contacting both clubs, have asked the Professional Competition Committee first thing this morning to postpone the match between Club Atletico de Madrid – Athletic Club initially scheduled for Saturday (16:15 CET) at the Wanda Metropolitano.”
Real Madrid players and staff were also affected by the adverse weather on their journey to Pamplona on Friday as they get set to face Osasuna on Saturday.
At one stage it appeared the flight would not be able to take off and the Real travelling party was made to wait for almost four hours before being given permission to leave Barajas airport, which was closed on Saturday.
However, Zinedine Zidane’s men were able to take part in a training session in the snow which included a snowball fight.
Real’s players appeared in a cheery mood after their session. Atletico were unable to train.
Madrid’s third club side, Rayo Vallecano, were forced to abandon their journey to Miranda de Ebro for their Segunda Division clash against Mirandes.
? Hola @CDMirandes vamos para allá. Por nosotros no va a ser pero esto está complicado ?????? Que lleguéis sanos todos los que tenéis que estar hoy en las carreteras. pic.twitter.com/7vPpcOjAcw
— Rayo Vallecano (@RayoVallecano) January 8, 2021
Their club bus was forced to stop as roads were closed on Friday evening, but a viral clip shows their players helping to free cars that had been stuck in the snow on the motorway.
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema will face trial for his alleged involvement in blackmailing former France team-mate Matthieu Valbuena in a sex tape scandal, the Versailles prosecutors office has said.
The striker is suspected of having pressured his former team-mate to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video in which Valbuena featured.
The 33-year-old Benzema will stand trial on the charge of conspiracy to attempt blackmail. Four other people will also stand trial.
Benzema denies any wrongdoing.
He has not played for France since the affair came to light.
It happened while both players were in the France squad for the 2014 World Cup.
Real Madrid moved top of La Liga after a 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo with Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio on the scoresheet.
Los Blancos made the most of city rivals Atletico not playing until Sunday as they moved a point clear, albeit having played three matches more.
Vazquez headed Real in front after just five minutes following a cross from Asensio.
Real doubled their lead in the 54th minute through a swift counter-attack as Vazquez’s pass was slotted in by Asensio.
Sevilla had goalkeeper Bono to thank after they earned a 1-1 draw away to local rivals Real Betis on Saturday but the point was not enough to prevent them dropping out of the top four in La Liga.
Sevilla are now fifth in the standings on 27 points after Villarreal took their place in fourth on 29 following a 2-1 win at home to Levante earlier on, thanks to goals from Fernando Nino and Gerard Moreno. Betis are ninth on 20 points.
Bono saved a penalty from French forward Nabil Fekir in the 75th minute to keep his side level after a penalty from Sergio Canales had cancelled out a strike from Suso in the 48th minute.
The derby was in danger of being postponed after four Betis players, including captain Joaquin, tested positive for Covid-19 but the match went ahead after the rest of the squad returned negative tests.
Betis were also missing key players Carvalho and Marc Bartra through injury but Manuel Pellegrini’s side dominated the first half.
They could not, however, make their early pressure count and Canales and Fekir both failed to hit the target with clear chances.
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui had started without Ivan Rakitic and striker Youssef En-Nesyri and turned to both players at the start of the second half.
The double change had an immediate impact as Moroccan forward En-Nesyri raced towards a loose ball after good pressing from Lucas Ocampos and sent it into the path of Suso, who slotted into the near bottom corner with one touch.
Betis soon had a chance to respond when Diego Carlos fouled Loren Moron and Canales sent Bono the wrong way to equalise.
Fekir then won a penalty when he was fouled by Marcos Acuna but this time Bono guessed the right way and made the save.
“I feel like we have let two points escape today. We should have taken the lead in the first half after our excellent performance and we feel more pain for missing the penalty,” said Betis’ Loren.
Lopetegui added: “We were too focused on the referee and at times we looked like our heads weren’t in the game but picking up a point at this ground is always positive, even though we came here to win.”
Bundesliga: Frankfurt fight back, Schalke lose again
Bayer Leverkusen missed the chance to go top of the Bundesliga when Eintracht Frankfurt came back from a goal down to win 2-1 with an Amin Younes strike and an Edmond Tapsoba own goal on Saturday as the league returned after a brief Christmas break.
Nadiem Amiri had given visitors Leverkusen the lead with an outrageous piece of individual skill, taking a touch to control the ball before deftly back-heeling it between the legs of ‘keeper Kevin Trapp in the ninth minute.
Younes fired Frankfurt level in the 22nd minute and they took the lead nine minutes into the second half when Japanese midfielder Daichi Kamada rifled the ball into the box and Tapsoba turned it into his own net.
The defeat leaves Leverkusen on 28 points after 14 games, two behind leaders Bayern Munich, who have played one game less and take on second-from-bottom Mainz on Sunday. Frankfurt move up to eighth on 20 points.
Bottom side Schalke 04 are one game away from equalling Tasmania Berlin’s long-standing Bundesliga record of 31 matches without a win after falling to a 3-0 defeat at Hertha Berlin on Christian Gross’ debut as head coach.
Gross was appointed on December 27, to become Schalke’s fourth manager of the season, but he could not make an instant impact as Hertha’s Matteo Guendouzi curled home a finish in the first half before Jhon Cordoba and Krzysztof Piatek struck after the break.
Schalke have now gone 351 days and 30 games without a league victory and, if they fail to beat Hoffenheim next Saturday, they will match the league record set in 1965-66.
Union Berlin kept themselves in the top four when Taiwo Awoniyi scored one goal and made the other in a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen, who had a goal on the stroke of half-time ruled out by the video assistant referee for offside.
Freiburg netted three first-half goals as they climbed into the top half of the table with a convincing 3-1 win over Hoffenheim, and Augsburg edged out FC Cologne with an Iago goal making the difference in a 1-0 away victory.
A goal by Breel Embolo in the 58th minute gave Borussia Monchengladbach a 1-0 win away to Arminia Bielefeld in a game they dominated in terms of goalscoring chances without being able to add to their tally.
RB Leipzig climbed to the top of the Bundesliga after Dani Olmo’s second-half strike earned them a 1-0 victory at VfB Stuttgart.
Bayer Leverkusen dropped to third following a 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt as action resumed in the league following a brief Christmas break.
Emil Forsberg was denied from the penalty spot by a superb Gregor Kobel save midway through the first half, but Leipzig broke through in the 67th minute when Angelino’s deflected cross fell to Olmo at the back post and he tucked in a cushioned volley.
Leipzig are on 31 points after 14 games, one ahead of Bayern Munich, who face second-from-bottom Mainz on Sunday, and three clear of third-placed Leverkusen.