Football

De Gea talk doused

Benitez puts transfer speculation to one side ahead of Betis clash

REAL MADRID v REAL BETIS (Tomorrow, 4.30am)

Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez insists his focus is on the home match against promoted Real Betis and not on the transfer market.

The Spanish press continue to speculate on the possible arrival of Manchester United keeper David de Gea to the Santiago Bernabeu.

De Gea has been strongly linked with a move to Real in recent months and the transfer deadline is
fast-approaching.

But Benitez, whose side were held to a goalless draw at promoted Sporting Gijon last week, said: ''We have a game against Betis, which is the most important thing.

''I'm focused on that and I want things to go well for us. I'm not monitoring the market.

''We have a very good team right now, with players that can adapt to different positions.

''We are not looking at the market for anything special as we have a very balanced group.''

Benitez expects another difficult challenge against a Betis side who have returned to La Liga just one year after being relegated.

''I expect a similar game to that of Sporting,'' he said. ''Betis have returned to the Primera Division and are really motivated.''

French forward Karim Benzema is expected to return to action having recovered from a thigh injury that
saw him sit out his team's League opener.

''After three weeks working individually, Karim does not have the playing time of his team-mates,'' said Benitez. ''He can feature, but I don't know for how many minutes.''

STRONG

The 10-time European champions head into this weekend knowing they will start their Champions League campaign at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on September 15.

Los Blancos have also been paired with French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Swedish giants Malmo.

''They are strong teams and we will try to qualify,'' Real star Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted. ''The Champions League is a trophy we want to win.'' Real again expect big things from Ronaldo, La Liga's top scorer last season with 48 goals.

Ronaldo has failed to find the back of the net in Real's recent games, but Real Betis coach Pepe Mel has laughed off suggestions that Ronaldo or Real have problems up front.

''That is the joke of the summer,'' said Mel. ''Cristiano at the end of last season had scored more goals than Betis and 13 other teams combined.

'' Betis held Villarreal to a 1-1 draw in Seville in their first game back in the top flight.

Betis' Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart could face his former club. Van der Vaart, who signed for Betis this summer, had two seasons at Real before joining Tottenham in 2010.


We are not looking at the market for anything special as we have a very balanced group.

— Real manager Rafa Benitez


OTHER FIXTURES

Tomorrow:

  • Real Sociedad v Sporting
  • Celta Vigo v Rayo Vallecano

Monday:

  • Eibar v Athletic Bilbao
  • Valencia v Deportivo
  • Sevilla vAtletico Madrid
  • Las Palmas v Levante
  • Getafe v Granada

Neymar poised for first season outing

BARCELONA v MALAGA (Tomorrow, 2.30am)

Barcelona will be bolstered by the return of Brazilian forward Neymar for the home match against Malaga.

Neymar missed Barc a's European Super Cup final as well as the Spanish Super Cup and last weekend's 1-0 triumph at Athletic Bilbao after being sidelined with mumps.

However, the 23-year-old, who scored 29 goals and set up seven more to help Barca win the Primera Division, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble last season, is fit to play.

''Neymar has a special physique,'' said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. ''He gets in shape really fast. That opens the door for him to have the possibility of playing this weekend.

'' Barca will begin their Champions League title defence at Luis Enrique's former club Roma next month. The defending European champions will also take on Bayer Leverkusen and BATE in Group E.

''To return to the Stadio Olimpico will be special,'' said Enrique. ''We have a difficult group and Roma will be our biggest rival.''

Enrique also expects a tough match against Malaga, who held Sevilla to a goalless draw in their Primera Division opener.

''It's going to be a difficult match,'' he said. ''It's an attractive challenge for us. Last year we weren't able to beat them and we expect a big test.''

Barca are still without defender Gerard Pique, who will serve his second of a four-match ban. Lionel Messi, meanwhile, will lead Barca's attack alongside Luis Suarez after he was voted as Europe's best footballer by UEFA in midweek.

Malaga did not concede a goal against Barca last season In La Liga, but club coach Javi Gracia knows his team are in for a challenge at the Nou Camp.

''The past is the past,'' he said. ''The fact is that we will need to bring out the very best of us to get a positive result.''

Roque Santa Cruz, who re-joined Malaga on loan th is week after leaving the club in January for Mexican side Cruz Azul, could feature.

 

david de geaREAL MADRIDUncategorisedRafa BenitezManchester United