Preview: BBC fired up to maintain Real Madrid’s lead in La Liga
The BBC was on fire in midweek. Gareth Bale scored a goal and gave two assists in Wales’ 3-1 win over Iceland. Karim Benzema was on target in France’s morale-boosting 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. Elsewhere, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo netted a brace in a 5-1 rout of Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon. CR7 broke free of retired footballer Pauleta to become his nation’s all-time topscorer with 49 goals.
It’s all looking good for Real Madrid’s stellar forward line. In La Liga, Bale (10) tops Los Blancos’ assists chart whereas Benzema (15) and Ronaldo (23) have more goals between them than Barcelona’s top two highest goalscorers in the league, Sanchez (16) and Messi (15).
Preview: New faces will have to give it their all on Wednesday night
Portugal will welcome two new faces to the squad on Wednesday, with both looking to make a positive first impression. Sporting de Braga’s Rafa and Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro were called up for the first time, and they will want to give Paulo Bento a selection headache when it comes to making his final picks for the upcoming World Cup.
Rafa has performed well at the club level this season, despite having only scored three goals in 19 appearances. As for Ivan Cavaleiro, he enjoyed great success with Benfica B, but since breaking into the Lisbon side’s first team, his playing time has been inconsistent.
Preview: An uphill task for Spanish Cup champions Atletico
Almost there. Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane are about to experience their first ever Copa del Rey final as managers at Real Madrid. However, as much as upsets happen in football, the Spanish giants remain cautious ahead of Tuesday night’s encounter on the turf of their city rivals.
Atletico Madrid surprisingly conceded three goals without reply at the Santiago Bernabeu last week. This 3-0 first leg defeat requires Diego Simeone to be very smart this time round. What is worse for the Copa del Rey defending champions is that they will be without Diego Costa. The Brazilian-born striker picked up a booking and must now serve suspension.
Preview: Revenge mission – Ronaldo's Real to fail or succeed?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s name is making a lot of rounds in the media today – not only because he is celebrating his 29th birthday, but because the verdict following his dissmissal against Athletic Bilbao on Matchday 22 of La Liga has fallen. CR7 has been slapped with a three-match ban but it only applies in the league.
Coincidentally, Ronaldo’s penultimate sending off happened at the Santiago Bernabeu against Atletico Madrid; that was in the Copa del Rey final, last season. This Wednesday, the visitors and their traveling fans might do all they can to provoke Ronaldo in their favour. While the Ballon d’Or winner’s temper is set to be tested once more, his desire to make up for his moment of madness at San Mames could work out in Real Madrid’s favour.
Ahead of the decision by the Spanish FA, FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique gave his take on the situation, saying:
"Even on TV it looked dubious. I know Cristiano; he raised his hand, but it wasn't a big deal, it wasn't violent conduct."
Real Madrid sporting director Miguel Pardeza added more, during an interview with Canal Plus. He declared:
"It seemed simply unfair to me, if anyone deserved a red card, it was the one who started it off. Cristiano should have stayed on the pitch.
"It seems to me that Gurpegi is the first to put his hands on Cristiano's chest, and then tries to trick the referee as he exaggerates. We must have another look at the incident, calmly, and our legal department will decide whether to appeal or not."
Ronaldo, Messi or Ribery?
Millions of football fans worldwide, as well as a host of football personalities, had circled the 13 January 2014 date on their calendar. On the net, forums have cracked with fierce debates between fans. Now those debates will predictably continue – perhaps with even more pressure – after the ceremony.
However, moments before the name of the winner is announced on Monday night, silence and anxiety will surely prevail. Will Lionel Messi’s four-year rule come to an end? Will the football world reward silverware influence above individual performance by giving the prize to Ribery? Or will La Pulga add more lines to history with a fifth Ballon d’Or and leave Ronaldo waiting for his time to come again?
La Liga may host what undisputedly are two of the world’s best players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but one common remark one may hear about the Spanish league is its predictability.
It offers as good a chance of predicting who’ll win the title come May as easily as one can figure whether a Republican or Democrat will win the next United States presidential election.
“You have a 50-50 chance of picking La Liga’s winner”, is a common jest made on many football forums and inside pubs all around the world.
Indeed, such is Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance over the past few decades that it really has become a two-horse race, where the Blaugrana and Los Blancos are way ahead of everyone else, who’s left to fight for the scraps for third place and beyond.
Preview: Final hurdle of the year for title hunters Real
Cristiano Ronaldo served his second and final match ban in the Copa del Rey in midweek. The Portuguese winger, who opened the scoring with a header in the 2012/13 Spanish Cup final, was latter dismissed in the match. He was therefore suspended for two games and had to miss both legs against Olimpica de Xativa.
In his absence, Real Madrid were able to reach the Last 16 of the 2013/14 Copa del Rey. The team’s focus is now on improving in La Liga where they suffered a slip last weekend due to a 2-2 draw away to Osasuna. Los Blancos were forced to end Matchday 16 five points behind joint leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Ninth-placed Valencia will be keen to further embarrass Carlo Ancelotti and his players.
Preview: Ronaldo returns, København eye Europa League football
For the first time since inspiring Real Madrid to a 5-0 defeat away to Almeria in November, Cristiano Ronaldo will step on the pitch again. The Portuguese talisman had to be subbed off in that match due to a thigh injury. He has since been rested to recapture his fitness.
In the UEFA Champions League, Ronaldo has scored eight times. He shares this record of ‘most group stages goals’ with icons Hernan Crespo, Filippo Inzaghi and Ruud van Nistelrooy. He was joined by PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Matchday 5.
Preview: Another chance for Real to improve without Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo will not play, Ancelotti has confirmed. According to the Real Madrid manager, the Portuguese talisman has recovered from last weekend’s thigh injury against Almeria but remains uncomfortable. As a result, Angel Di Maria will be given a rare start in the starting XI. The Argentine winger is reportedly feeling ousted by impressive summer signing Gareth Bale.
In Ronaldo’s absence, Los Blancos will aim to build on the great performance they put in against Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League in midweek. Team effort, marked by the brilliance of Isco, Bale and Arbeloa, proved that Real Madrid have strength in depth and can cope without their number 7 superstar.
Lately, a certain Portuguese attacker's name comes to everyone's lips—with his rampant displays for club and country. Cristiano Ronaldo, that is. His perfectly executed hat-trick against the Blågult in Sweden on November 19, which followed his match winner in the first leg of this World Cup Qualifying Playoff tie, has got people touting Cristiano Ronaldo again for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or to be awarded in January.
But what about Lionel Messi, the reigning holder of this prize? Last season wasn’t his best by his lofty standards, with some as far as calling it a disappointment. Indeed, his individual achievements in 2011-2012 were outrageous and therefore hard to equal for any player, including Messi himself.
Preview: Sweden ready to leave it all on the pitch
Friday's match had very little Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, but it was the Portuguese captain that came out on top at the end of the 90 minutes. A diving header in the final seven minutes of the match gives the Lusitanos a slender lead, heading into Tuesday's second match.
In Sweden, the Portuguese will face a tough test, as Sweden will likely pile on the pressure, looking for a necessary goal. Knowing that they need to score, could give Paul Bento's side a good opportunity to hit the hosts on the counter-attack.
Preview: Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic will have to make the difference
Since the draw dictated Portugal and Sweden would go head-to-head to determine who would be in next year's World Cup, nearly all of the talk has been about Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On Friday, they will both get a chance to to prove their worth at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon.
The unfortunate part of this highly anticipated match is that one of the world's best players will have to miss out on the World Cup. Will it be Ronaldo or Ibra?
As two of the biggest football stars in the planet prepare to lead their respective nations in the World Cup playoff, it is definitely the time to take out the stats book and have a look at how Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic have terrorised opponents for club and country this year.
Breaking a 24-year record in the Championnat
Despite playing host to some of the most talented strikers in the continent, no French Ligue 1 player was able to break a record set by Olympique de Marseille legend Jean-Pierre Papin in the 1989/90 season.
It’s often said that criticism is the best motivator. In the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, it seems to have spurred him on to new heights that many had not even thought possible, despite his reputation as arguably one of the world’s finest footballers playing today.
The Portuguese attacker has scored 24 goals so far in all competitions and will certainly break the Champions League group stage record of eight goals set by trio Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Ingazhi, and Hernan Crespo. As a result, he’s passed perennial rival Lionel Messi’s previously established haul of 13 European strikes in a calendar year.
Given that he’s scored in every single Champions League game so far this season, it’s probably certain that he’ll add more to that tally before the group stages conclude in December.
The Players – Messi, Ribery, Ronaldo favourites
Bayern Munich’s treble success last season, as well as the team’s current great performances and results, have duly been rewarded. The German giants dominate the 23-man shortlist with as many as six players – four of which are homegrown talents. Arjen Robben (Netherlands) and Franck Ribery (France) complete Bayern’s bunch.
Barcelona, who were thrown out of the UEFA Champions League by Bayern on a 7-0 aggregate result, are the second most represented team in the freshly released FIFA Ballon d’Or awards list. 2013 Confederations Cup winner Neymar joins club icons Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.
It is interesting to know that the Catalans, who have been tagged as favourites ahead of Saturday’s clash, have not beaten Real Madrid in 429 days. Indeed, under Jose Mourinho, the gap between these two Spanish rivals greatly reduced. The last five results between the pair are as follows:
With another El Clasico upon us, we will take a look at some facts that stick out between Ronaldo and Messi. The two stars have made a significant impact on the El Clasico over the years, and the upcoming match will likely be no different.
From scoring goals to getting their teammates involved, their performances will always influence the final result.
1) Consistently Playing
It is not often that you see either player not finish any match, especially when it comes to El Clasico. For Lionel Messi, he has only not played the full 90 minutes against Real Madrid on one occasion. That match came in his first meeting with the Merengues during the 05/06 campaign, when he was subbed off in the 70th minute. The Blaugrana won that match 0-3.
Barca’s winless streak in El Clasico
As the calendar confirms it, Saturday will mark 429 days since the Blaugrana last defeated their eternal rivals, Los Blancos. One must roll back the time to August 23 last year to re-live Barca’s latest victory. It occurred in the first leg of the 2012 Supercopa de Espana at the Camp Nou with the hosts winning 3-2.
The game was marked with a terrible blunder by goalkeeper Victor Valdes which allowed Argentine winger Angel Di Maria to reduce Real Madrid’s deficit. That goal proved vital as the Spanish giants, then managed by Jose Mourinho, beat the Catalans 4-4 on aggregate thanks to the away goals rule to lift the Spanish Super Cup.
Will 26 October 2013 mark the end of Barcelona’s five-match winless streak against Real Madrid?
Diego Lopez vs Victor Valdes
While the forwards might get all the attention and the plaudits coming their way, the goalkeepers will have an equally important job on Saturday night. Both the men will be protecting their goal against some of the most accomplished players in the world of football and will definitely have to put up a special performance to help their team win.
Barcelona have conceded the lowest number of goals in La Liga and much of this is down to the brilliance of Victor Valdes who is set to bid farewell to the club at the end of the season.