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Tuesday, Jul 07th

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Defending champions Real Madrid will be favourites to go through when they defend a 3-1 Champions League pre-quarterfinal first leg lead in the away match against Italian football club Napoli here on Tuesday.

Zinedine Zidane-coached Real arrives in Italy on the back of a morale boosting 4-1 La Liga win away to Eibar on Saturday in which the coach was able to rest key footballers.

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Real Madrid came close to suffering one of the most humbling defeats of the Zinedine Zidane era, but Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to help the La Liga powerhouse salvage a 3-3 draw against Las Palmas.

Los Blancos appeared to be headed for an easy victory at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday when they got a goal in just the eighth minute from Isco. But Las Palmas answered two minutes later with a powerful right-footed strike by midfielder Tana and kept the hosts off the scoreboard for the rest of the first half.

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Real Madrid had to dig deep to come up with its 3-2 road win over Villarreal, battling back from a two-goal disadvantage during the second period.

After a first period and early in the second, when Villarreal was clearly dominant, racking up two goals and holding Madrid scoreless, Zinedine Zidane's boys upped the intensity in the last half hour of play before 21,400 spectators at the Ceramica Stadium to find the twine three times, enabling them to remain at the top of Spain's La Liga.

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Real Madrid on Friday announced that defender Rafael Varane is suffering from a hamstring injury.

The French defender was injured on Wednesday in the postponed La Liga match against Valencia at the Mestalla, where Los Blancos lost 1-2, reports Efe.

After undergoing a MRI on Friday to assess his condition, Varane was diagnosed with "a grade 2 muscle strain in his left hamstring", Real Madrid said.

The defender will be off the field for between three to four weeks to recover and miss the second leg of Champions League's last 16 against Napoli on March 7, as well as La Liga games against Villarreal, Las Palmas and Real Betis.


Atletico Madrid will host Barcelona on Sunday in a decisive match of La Liga to define the top places at the table. Both teams will seek to diminish the difference in points to pursue La Liga leader Real Madrid, which recently lost the postponed match against Valencia.

Atletico defeated Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League match, with an impressive performance thanks to French forward Kevin Gameiro.

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Riding on a couple of early strikes in the first 10 minutes, Spanish football giants Valencia eked out a 2-1 victory over mighty Real Madrid, who missed a chance to consolidate their hold on first place in La Liga.

The early lead for the hosts conditioned the course of Wednesday's match, with Valencia practically ceding possession to Los Blancos and relying on compact defending to preserve the advantage. Simone Zaza scored for Valencia in the fifth minute and Orellana connected just four minutes later in front of 45,000 fans at the Mestalla.

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Real Madrid will play one of the two games they currently have in hand over their rivals for the La Liga football title when they travel to play Valencia away in the Mestalla Stadium on Wednesday.

Madrid will travel with a one-point lead over FC Barcelona and on the back of a comfortable 2-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday afternoon in which coach Zinedine Zidane was able to rest players such as Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos.

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