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.
Preview: La Decima hunters Real Madrid to reclaim the upper hand in Juventus rivalry?
The history linked to this fixture is so huge that one could write a book about it. But in the space of 90 minutes only this Wednesday, Los Blancos and the Bianconeri will be able to add many more pages to it. Between 1999 and 2001, current Juve manager Antonio Conte played under Carlo Ancelotti at the Turin-based club. Now, the latter is the head coach of Real Madrid and his task is to deliver La Decima come May 2014.
So far, so good for the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League. They have netted a record 10 goals in only two matches – 50 per cent of those coming from the tournament’s leading goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Preview: Portugal up against all odds to take the top spot in their group
When Portugal drew at home against Northern Ireland, fans were far from happy with the team's performance. Looking at how much talent they have on paper, in comparison to that of Northern Ireland, it was confusing to figure out how that result even happened, especially at home.
An away match against Israel also looked like a good opportunity for Paulo Bento's side to grab three points, but had Fabio Coentrão not scored a stoppage time goal, the Portuguese would have been in serious trouble.
Preview: Lusitanos still hope to claim the top spot in Group F
Portugal and Israel go into Fridays match looking for the full three points, but for Israel, the victory is a must. With only 12 points from eight matches, Eli Guttman's squad could see their World Cup hopes come to an end with anything other than a victory at the Estádio Alvalade.
The Portuguese are currently second in the group, one point back of Russia, but if they look to earn themselves a direct qualification, they will need to do their job first.
Two home matches to finish off their qualification stage should give Portugal a good shot at six points. But knowing how inconsistent Paulo Bento's squad can be at times, the visitors will know that anything is possible on Friday.
Preview: One of the best Madrid derby games in the making
Since joining Atleti in January 2012, coach Simeone has guided his side to glory in the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Cup. What better way for the Rojiblanco’s former player and current manager to celebrate his 200th game than through the Madrid Derby?
Atletico Madrid look confident and rightfully so, after achieving three important things. Firstly, they put an end to their dreadful record against Real Madrid back on May 17 to eventually win the Copa del Rey. Secondly, they did so at the Santiago Bernabeu in a game where prolific goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo saw red. Thirdly, just like last season, they seat above their rich neighbours in La Liga.
Both Real Madrid and Manchester United made some managerial changes this summer, with Carlo Ancelotti taking over from Jose Mourinho and David Moyes filling the huge shoes left behind by the departing Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ancelotti is no stranger…
Preview: Gala to expose Real Madrid’s defence and claim another home win?
Five months and a few days after clashing in the quarter-finals of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League, Galatasaray and Real Madrid will meet again. What happened the last time Los Blancos played in Istanbul was breath-taking. Despite being 3-0 down from the first leg, hosts Galatasaray put up a strong fight in the return leg and nearly made Real Madrid pay for being complacent.
Emmanuel Eboue, Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba scored wonder goals and would have pushed the game into extra-time if it wasn’t for Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroic performance on the night. The Portuguese star netted a brace to fire Real Madrid in the semis but Galatasaray – with that 3-2 win – bowed out of the competition with their heads held high.
The 28-year-old has officially quashed rumors of a move back to Manchester, where he made waves with the Red Devils for six years scoring an impressive 118 goals and winning everything the world of football had on offer.
His delayed contract extension had put many clubs on the alert - especially his former employees who were desperate to have their star man back at the Theatre of Dreams. But Cristiano has insisted that a move to Manchester United or anywhere else for that matter was never on his mind.
"I will be honest with you. Everyone knows I was in Manchester for six years, they gave me many things, and I don't forget that," the 28 year old told reporters.
Preview: Portuguese and Brazilian fans will fill Gillete Stadium to see their idols
When you hear of a meeting between Portugal and Brazil, you would instantly think of a battle between two football superstars. Whether you are a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, or both, they have both earned their spot at the top of world football's list of great stars.
On Tuesday night, both countries will meet at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Ma. Due to the large amount of Portuguese and Brazilian fans living in the surrounding areas, this match is expected to have a near full to capacity attendance.
One frustration for Portugal fans will be the exclusion of Ronaldo from the team due to injury, after the Real Madrid star netted a hattrick against Northern Ireland on Friday.