The Real Madrid Captain put rivalry asides as he said he considered the Barcelona left-back as one of the World’s best defenders.

Although Jordi Alba and Luis Enrique worked together at Barcelona, the 29-year-old has been overlooked by the new Spanish manager.

Alba’s continuous omission from the team remains a shock to Ramos, as he said the former Valencia player was a top-notch defender.

The Spanish national team captain said, as quoted by AS, “Myself and Jordi Alba have played many years together, he is one of the best in the world, as shown by his performances and statistics.

“But then the coach is the one doing the line-up.

“For our {the players} part, he will always be received.”

 

 

Published in International Watch

Real look Predictable under Lopetegui so far and, Despite long-term Preaching, Patience Hardly Lasts in the Capital: UEFA Champions League; Matchday Two

It’s important to keep things in perspective and not go overboard. Real knew what they were getting into when they appointed Julen Lopetegui, and there have been more than a couple of signs that when his system is well ingrained into Los Blancos, they may well look a cut above the rest. But so far, they’re still facing teething problems under their new boss, and following defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, have failed to score in three successive games- the first time that happened in over a decade-, an aberration by their standards.

Lopetegui, though, is keen to dispel talk of under-performance, preaching calm. ‘Ten days ago we beat Roma and weren’t so invincible’, he said post-CSKA. ‘Now, we are not so bad’. The manager’s words do possess some form of truth, but here’s some more actuality: at a club like Real Madrid, tags like ‘weren’t so invincible’ and ‘not so bad’ are almost unacceptable. Perhaps the biggest problem with Real so far isn’t that they are unconvincing or haven’t scored in three straight games, but that Real look predictable.

Real have been many things in the past; a slapdash side with very little long-term view; a well-oiled counter-attacking machine; a street-wise side with an iron will to win, among others. But never have the European champions looked predictable. Perhaps it’s due to fatigue suffered by a few players (read: Luka Modric), the arrival of a new manager that requires acclimatisation, or complacency, but there’s been very little urgency in Real’s games. The passing game will take some getting used to, and is showing signs of progress, but Real haven’t quite displayed those passing methods in really breaking down a side, they’ve never really applied any kind of earnestness in the final third with their passing game.

Then there’s the personnel being set up so far. It’s been a pattern of Los Blancos this term, when chasing a game or needing a goal, the option is to bring on Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz- if they’re not already on the pitch. There’s little dynamism in the substitutions, little potential of game-changing alterations. Perhaps this is where Real missed a trick by not quite acquiring a marquee-like player after Cristiano Ronaldo, for a side that was always going to need time to fully blossom this season, having a game-changer or proven match-winner to get you past those inevitable games where you’ll lack conviction is quite an enviable feat.

In the defeat in Moscow, Real’s numbers read: 26 shots, four on target, 72% possession, 712 passes, with a 91% completion. Possession, not penetration. And the ratio of shots on target to shots show that Real are neither creating many chances, nor are they taking the little ones created. They dominated CSKA, but lacked penetration. They were just about the better team against Atletico Madrid in the derby last weekend, but it was all a bit dreary. They had possession in Seville, three days before the Atletico game, yet looked incompetent of creating anything in a 3-0 defeat.

Lopetegui said post-match that he has no doubt the goals will come, as will the wins, and he’s not wrong. But perhaps what the manager should worry about is the air of predictability when Real take to the pitch these days. If that continues, then the fear-factor dissipates, and, for all the prospects of this new Real project, that would be unacceptable.

This is still the third month of the season, so once more, it’s key to note the importance of not going overboard. There have been more than a few promising signs, and even the most infallible sides go through blips. But the problem is, Real Madrid are never like most sides.

Messi Masterpiece at Wembley

Only a minute had gone at Wembley when Lionel Messi got a pass, turned, looked up, saw Jordi Alba, and proceeded to find him with an elegant. How long did it take you to read that previous sentence? Yet Messi did all that almost at once. Two goals, many dribbles, passes, side-stepping, and the fact that he hit the same base of the post twice in three minutes with virtually the same run, almost like he took back us in time with the second effort. He’s still better at playing football than we’ll ever be at describing him play football.

Partenopei Get Going at Last

Napoli did everything right at Red Star Belgrade, except score, as the game in Serbia ended goalless. A similar theme was showing on Matchday Two, as they outplayed Liverpool, making the reds look remarkably prosaic, but couldn’t score. But salvation came in the final minute of normal time, when Lorenzo Insigne slid in Jose Callejon’s cross, to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side a win that takes them top. There’s still much time for twists and turns in Group C, but the team considered by many to be the third-best placed to qualify from this group lead the way with a third of its games played.

Elsewhere

  • At some point, Red Star goalkeeper Milan Borjan had to raise a smile, and that facial expression that asked the question ‘what else could I do’. The goalie had just been beaten by a Neymar free-kick for the second time, as the Serbians conceded six at Paris St. Germain. At least they can take solace in the fact Marko Marin got them a goal of their own, and that but for Borjan, PSG would have surely hit double figures.
  • In other circumstances, it would have been a case of Lyon’s stark inconsistency, beating Manchester City yet trailing at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. But two goals in two minutes erased a two-goal deficit, and suddenly a case of how Les Gones showed resolve to come back from the dead. Most importantly, they’re still top of Group F.
  • In this week’s Anti-Mourinho development, aren’t we glad to report that Manchester United looked tepid in a goalless draw at home to Valencia.
  • Another game, another defeat for Monaco. Leonardo Jardim has so far this season tried a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, as well as a 3-4-3, all yielding little joy. Worrying times for Les Monegasques.

Results

PSV 1-2 Inter

Bayern Munich 1-1 Ajax

Lokomotiv Moscow 0-1 Schalke

Roma 5-0 Plzen

Hoffenheim 1-2 Manchester City

Juventus 3-0 Young Boys

CSKA 1-0 Real Madrid

Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona

Galatasaray 0-1 Porto

Napoli 1-0 Liverpool

Manchester United 0-0 Valencia

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Club Brugge

Lyon 2-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

PSG 6-1 Red Star Belgrade

AEK Athens 2-3 Benfica

Published in International Watch

Florentino Perez pays tribute to his Madrid's former manager and forward

The Los Blancos President has said the duo of Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact at the club would never be forgotten.

Zidane, who guided to three straight Champions League successes stepped down from his managerial position days after winning his third Champions League.

Ronaldo, on the other hand, moved to Italian giants Juventus in July in a deal said to be around €112m in July.

Speaking at an assembly meeting of members on Sunday, Perez, as quoted by Marca said: “Cristiano is one of the key figures as he is the top scorer in history of the club and worthy successor to Si Stefano.

“He is stand-out figure and his legend will be told from generation to generation. An example for everyone who wears this shirt. Thank you Cristiano.

“Zidane is another of our all-time references. As coach, he has entered history as one of the greatest at Real Madrid.

“He is one of our biggest legends and he along with Cristiano know that this will always be his home.”

 

Published in International Watch

Die Mester. Die Besten. Les Grandes Equipes. The Chammmmmpppiiiiooooonnssssss!!!

Unless you know your onions in Moddingway, that anthem will be nowhere to be found in Pro Evolution Soccer for a while, as the Konami-powered video game’s rights over Europe’s top club competition expired. That means, and this is no longer news, EA Sports FIFA is the new home of the UEFA Champions League for gamers, with its power duo of Derek Rae and Lee Dixon.

That acquisition has been one for which FIFA fans have thirsted, and finally their cravings are about to be satisfied. For the real-life Ol’ big ears, though, perhaps no other fans, and club, have hankered more than Juventus’ in recent years. It’s been 22 years since the Bianconeri were crowned European champions, a period that has spanned six Doctor Who’s, seven James Bond films, six Nigerian presidents/heads of state, and for the Old Lady themselves, five European final heartaches.

The past four seasons have seen different Champions League stories for Max Allegri’s side; brave defeat to Barcelona in the final in 2015, throwing away a two-goal lead before losing in extra-time to Bayern Munich in the last 16 in 2016, that hapless defeat in the final in Cardiff to Real Madrid in 2017, and that brave, yet ultimately futile, comeback against Real again in the quarter-finals last April. Juve have developed of coming close to glory, but seeing it all end in tears, five times they’ve gotten to within one game of the crown triumphing in 1996, five times they’ve ultimately failed, watching as Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid again walk off into the sunset with their desired trophy.

This season, they intend to go again, the feeling of what might have been and the burning of injustice- justified or not- from last season, is just about more than enough motivation. Juve have a few things others don’t possess, experience, a manager with tactical nous, a reputable defence and squad depth; but perhaps their biggest weapon is that which no one else possesses: Cristiano Ronaldo.

For all their defensive nous, their experience and power of organisation, Juve never quite had an answer when it came to facing Ronaldo. The Portuguese skipper scored 10 times for Real Madrid in seven games against the Italian champions, even in the semi-final in 2015 when Juve saw off Real, they couldn’t keep Ronaldo quiet. Ronaldo has arguably been the most key factor in Real’s four Champions League triumphs in the past five years, and his move to Turin may well place the two-time European champions in pole position in their quest for a third crown.

But it would be perilous to overlook Real Madrid themselves. Real may have lost Zinedine Zidane as well as Ronaldo, but still have everyone else of their European-conquering side. The brand of football is changing under Julen Lopetegui, and positives are showing from it, yet Los Blancos’ street-wise ability is also likely to be a key factor in the latter stages, as it’s been in the previous seasons.

Real’s Liga rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona also have sights set on the trophy as well. Barcelona have suffered three successive quarter-final exits, almost a cause for alarm by their standards, so there’s at least a minimum target for them, making the last four, but Lionel Messi and co. will have their sights well set on a fifth Champions League title. Atletico, meanwhile, won’t want for motivation, with the final taking place on their turf, and, despite last season’s early exit, are always a tough nut to crack.

Last season’s finalists Liverpool will also feel they can go one better this term. Jurgen Klopp’s side re-ignited their lust for European nights last term, with a raucous Anfield crowd almost willing them past opponents, and with a deeper squad, a sturdier defence and a more assured goalkeeper, will fear no one. The Reds saw off Manchester City in the quarter-finals last term, who themselves were tipped by many to be European champions last campaign. It’s hardly any different this season, with the odds putting Pep Guardiola’s team as favourites in 2018/19, but in competitions like this, where progress and elimination could boil down to one moment or one bad day at the office, the Premier League champions’ fluid football may not be enough.

City’s neighbours, Manchester United, are just about the least fancied of the teams here, but Jose Mourinho has a habit of putting his teams as underdogs and triumphing in adversity, so they just might well be in the perfect position, while Tottenham look formidable on their day, but last season’s loss in the second round to Juventus is probably proof of how much they still have to learn in Europe.

Speaking of learning in Europe, French champions Paris St. Germain have always seemed to fall short in this competition, never going past the quarter-finals, with successive last 16 exits just about confirming Unai Emery’s exit. Thomas Tuchel is the new manager at the helm, who might not have much experience in Europe, but is likely to foster much of a team than a mash up of stars, coupled with the fact a few players have scores to settle in Europe.

The league seems a given for PSG, and Europe is where scrutiny of their season lies, and the same applies for German champions Bayern Munich. Die Roten have a new gaffer in charge in Niko Kovac, following the re-retirement of Jupp Heynckes, and are overwhelming favourites for a seventh successive Bundesliga title, which means their success is likely to be measured by what they do in the Champions League. Bayern have fallen at the semi-final stage in four of the last five seasons, all against Spanish opposition, so how much will play on their minds remains to be seen.

This time last season, Real Madrid looked to be a cut above everyone else, as the Los Blancos were heavily to retain their European crown. They didn’t look as imperious as many predicted but ended up with another Champions League title anyway, confirming their continental doggedness and will to win, which marks them out from many others. ‘The Champions League releases special powers’ Toni Kroos said, but not many are quite as special as Ronaldo, and it remains to be seen how significant his departure will be.

Real are starting to look a better team, but no longer have that born match-winner that can get them over the line, especially when things are not quite going well. Messi has said the European champions are weaker without Ronaldo, and he’s likely to be right. In the absence of a standout big dog, this campaign has the look of being anybody’s year.

**It’ll probably be Real Madrid’s year.

Fixtures

Barcelona v PSV; Inter v Tottenham; Club Brugge v Dortmund; Monaco v Atletico Madrid; Red Star Belgrade v Napoli; Schalke v Porto; Galatasaray v Lokomotiv Moscow; Liverpool v PSG; Ajax v AEK Athens; Benfica v Bayern Munich; Shakhtar Donetsk v Hoffenheim; BSC Young Boys v Manchester United; Real Madrid v Roma; Viktoria Plzen v CSKA Moscow; Valencia v Juventus; Manchester City v Lyon

Published in International Watch

Messi- Real Madrid less good without Ronaldo

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 12:41

Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi says the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid means the European champions are no longer as good as they were.

Messi and Ronaldo dominated the headlines in their nine years together in La Liga, before the Portuguese captain left the Bernabeu for Juventus this summer. And Messi believes that move means Real are not the force they once were, and that Barcelona can take advantage of that. But the Argentine was also quick to point out that Ronaldo's move to Juventus makes the Italian champions favourites for this season's UEFA Champions League.

'Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and they have a great squad', Messi told Catalunya Radio, 'but it's evident that the absence of Ronaldo makes them less good and makes Juventus clear favourites to win the Champions League'.

Messi also admitted to being taken aback by Ronaldo's departure. 'It surprised me', said the Los Cules skipper. 'I didn't imagine him leaving Madrid or joining Juventus. There were a lot of teams that wanted him. It surprised me, but he has gone to a very good team'.

Messi also expressed his delight at Barcelona being able to add to their squad in the summer. Ernesto Valverde's signed Clement Lenglet, Arturo Vidal, Malcom and Arthur in the off-season, adding depth to their side as they aim to retain their league title and triumph in Europe as well.

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have begun the new La Liga season with three wins from three.

 

 

Published in International Watch

There were tears of joy on the face of an Atleti fan midway through the first half of extra time in Tallinn, Los Colcheronos had taken a 3-2 lead over Real Madrid, and were on course to finally get the better of their city rivals in Europe. The side that has denied so much in the continent, the side responsible for their anguish in four of the past five Champions League campaigns, were finally going to be on the losing side.

Perhaps this was Atletico's best chance yet to get one over the European champions on the continental front, this was a Real side that was going to have teething problems, Cristiano Ronaldo had gone, as had Zinedine Zidane. New manager Julen Lopetegui was only 50 seconds into his competitive bow when his side fell behind, Diego Costa getting the better of Raphael Varane, then getting past Sergio Ramos, before rifling a shot past Keylor Navas from a seemingly impossible angle.

The difference in Real's brand of football was palpable here, a style of passing from the back, which is always going to take some getting used to, there were shows of sloppiness on the ball at the back, while at the other end there was little penetration, for all their possession, the only time Jan Oblak was tested in the Atletico goal was with a Marco Asensio flick from a Marcelo cross. But after 27 minutes, 170 passes and 66% of possession, Real had their equaliser, Gareth Bale bursting past Lucas Hernandez on the right, before his cross was met by the head of Karim Benzema, who had peeled away from Stefan Savic, and into the net. Suddenly Los Blancos had a bit of verve in them, Asensio curled a shot just wide. But that was about that in terms of chances in the first 45 minutes, Real seemingly too focused on getting to grips with their new system to put Atletico on the back foot, while Atletico themselves were content enough with the scoreline to add any urgency, and halftime came with the scores level.

The second period was unlikely to replicate the first's fast start, rather continuing in the same vein as the first ended. But 15 minutes in, Real would get a penalty, Juanfran guilty of a rather needless handball from a corner. With Ronaldo having moved on, Ramos stepped up, and made no mistake from 12 yards. Real were in front, normalcy between these two on the European front had resumed. But not quite this time.

Atletico had assistant manager German Burgos leading proceedings in the dugout, with Diego Someone serving the third of his four-game ban, and, whether it was the decision of the former or the latter, withdrew Antoine Griezmann in favour of Angel Correa, and it was Correa who would play a part in the Europa League winners restoring parity with 11 minutes left.

With Marcelo intent on making sure a Real clearance didn't go out of play for a throw, Juanfran picked up the pieces and played in Correa, who had time to sort his feet out, and his cross across the face of goal was turned into an open net by Costa.

Again, the game hit a standstill, chances non-existent, Marcelo had a chance to grab a winner, but scuffed his attempt, and extra-time would come.

Real had been showing signs of frailty at the back with their passing, and midway through the first 15 minutes, Varane would be caught in possession, Thomas Partey found Saul, whose first-time finish was beyond the reach of Navas.

Cue the tears of joy, and moments later, Real were exposed at the back again, and they were punished once more, Koke this time with the finish.

The celebrations were in full flow now, Atletico had victory in their sights. And this time, try as they may, Real wouldn't take it away from them. Luka Modric tested Oblak with a shot, but Real hardly threatened. Finally El Pupas wouldn't be denied.

Published in International Watch

Sergio Ramos takes swipes at Liverpool manager

The Real Madrid captain has told Jurgen Klopp to take due to a charge of his business, so as to be a top coach.

Sergio Ramos has said Klopp persistence criticisms of him over his challenge on Salah was to distract people from the fact that the Liverpool manager had lost many finals.

Ramos and Klopp turned enemy aftermath of the last Champions League finals, where the Spaniard dislocated Liverpool’s talisman Mohammed Salah’s shoulder.

It later emerged from video replays that the defender also hit goalkeeper Loris Karius with the post.

With the game ending 3-1 in favour of Real Madrid, Klopp, since then, had attacked the defender a couple of times – and at a press conference last week, the German said he would rather be a bad loser than win in Ramos’ fashion.

And ahead of Real Madrid’s UEFA Super Cup clash against Atletico Madrid in Estonia, the defender, at a press conference had some strong words for the former Borussia manager, who had lost six out of seven finals.

“I’m not going to talk any more about this issue, because there was too much coverage already, ”Ramos said. “You can respect the opinions of each person, but I already gave my opinion.”

“But again I did not want to grab (Mohammed Salah’s) arm. In fact, he grabbed me first.

“I think it was something that happened during the game, and I never intended to injure any fellow footballer.”

The Real Madrid captain said further: “Maybe he (Klopp) wants to justify himself after losing the final because it was not the first final he lost.

“He should take care of his own business and leave alone players like us, who have a lot of experience and showed a high level for such a long time. Let’s see if he can say the same as a coach. In fact, I have voted for him (as one of the best coaches).

“I did not take care much his opinions. He was one of the best coaches of the season, and I voted for him. Maybe that will keep him quite a little bit.”

 

Published in International Watch

Chelsea have made Jordan Pickford an alternative should Thibaut Courtois join Real Madrid.

Reports in England have it that talks between Chelsea and Courtois over a new deal has broken down, as the Belgian international is ready to run down his remaining one year contract at Stamford Bridge.

With a move to Santiago Bernabeu on the desk for the shot stopper, Chelsea, according to Sky news have identified Everton and England number one Jordan Pickford as a possible replacement for Courtois.

Pickford, who only signed for Everton last season, in a deal worth around £30m was phenomenon for England en-route to their fourth place finished at the World Cup.

Skysports reported, that though, Everton and Chelsea have not yet opened any formal discussion over Pickford, the Toffees are likely to rebuff any approach for their man.

 

Chelsea are reported to have identified the likes of Jack Butland, Kasper Schmeichel, Peter Cech and Gianluigi Donnarumma as other possible replacements. 

Published in Transfer Rumors

Hernadez sets to leave Madrid.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 11:50

Theo Hernandez appears to be on his way out of Real Madrid with the club likely to retain a buy-back option.

The 20-year-old fullback is looking to have more playing time in order to reach his potential and continue the upward curve, having exploded on the scene at Alaves. 

Real broke their pact not to sign Atletico players to bring in Theo but he failed to convince last season.

Still for Real it is important for them to have the clause that would allow them to bring him back.

If he leaves then at the moment Lopetegui only has Marcelo at left back but Nacho has shown that he is also comfortable there.

 

(Marca)

 

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

Luka Modric has been pivotal for the Croatia in their run to the final of the World Cup.

The Real Madrid midfielder has scored two goals in the World Cup so far, and has won the man of the match on three different occasions.

Modric, former teammate at Real Madrid, Kaka said the 31-year-old midfielder made football looked so easy.

The duo played together for Real Madrid in 2012 before Kaka rejoined former side AC Milan in 2013.

Kaka, who believed football was not easy playing said Modric “shows us it’s easy to play.”

The Brazilian midfielder was quoted by AS to have said, “Luka Modric shows us that it’s easy to play. Believe me it’s really really hard to play football.

“To play the World Cup it’s even harder. And he plays like it’s normal. It’s like a dance for him.

And now he’s this amazing player at a high level. Four Champions League, a World Cup final and being the captain of his team.

“So it’s really nice and he deserves that because he’s a nice guy, always humble, so congratulation to Modric.

Published in International Watch

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