‘Nothing Is Impossible’, Says Neymar After PSG Lose To Real

Neymar insisted that Paris Saint-Germain can still qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals despite losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.

He was in the Barcelona side that lost 4-0 away to PSG in the first leg of the last 16 last season, before a stunning 6-1 victory in the return.

On PSG’s chances of beating Real in the return leg on March 6, he said: “I think it is difficult, but nothing is impossible. Last year I was in a much worse situation and we managed to get through. I hope we will be able to play better.”

AFP

Ronaldo Inspires 3-1 Comeback Victory Over  PSG

Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace was an inspiration that stunned PSG in the Madrid’s comeback victory. The most anticipated Champions League game of the night  ended 3-1.

Ronaldo recorded  his 100th Champions League goal for title-holders Real after he scored from the penalty spot late in the first half to cancel out Adrien Rabiot’s opener for the French side at the Santiago Bernabeu, skillfully set up by Neymar.

The Portuguese star from close range found the back of the net again with seven minutes left before Marcelo sealed up the game with what could turn out to be a decisive first-leg lead ahead of the return in Paris on March 6 and sent nearly 80,000 home fans into raptures.

The late collapse for PSG brings back echoes of the way they fell apart to lose 6-1 in Barcelona on their way to a humiliating exit at the same stage of the competition last season.

Neymar, in Barcelona’s ranks then, could not make the difference for PSG, who now have a huge job on their hands to turn the tie around.

Having looked set to come away with a precious draw, the defeat piles the pressure on coach Unai Emery, but for Real the outcome is an enormous boost for their boss Zinedine Zidane.

Under pressure himself with Real flagging domestically, he needed this win, and will earn praise for his substitutions, with Marco Asensio coming off the bench to set up each of the two late goals.

That was after Zidane had taken a risk by leaving out Gareth Bale, a key element in the side that has won three of the last four Champions Leagues. The Welshman’s place in the line-up was taken by Isco.

Emery went even further, dropping his captain Thiago Silva to make way for 22-year-old Presnel Kimpembe in the centre of the PSG defence.

Real supporters chose an image of a famous fan in Rafael Nadal to adorn a display unfurled at the south end of the ground as the sides came out, hoping their team could draw inspiration from someone who has conquered Paris 10 times as French Open champion.

The hosts started well too, while Neymar struggled, slipping when one pass was aimed towards him, complaining as a Luka Modric challenge sent him to the floor and picking up a yellow card for a foul on Nacho.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, saw Alphonse Areola make a fine save from his net-bound shot after he had been released by Marcelo, and not long after that, in the 33rd minute, PSG scored.

Neymar could claim an assist, although it didn’t look like the Brazilian meant to help Kylian Mbappe’s low ball across the box from the right into the path of Rabiot, who swept home unmarked.

PSG had a precious away goal, but they could not hold their lead until the break as Giovani Lo Celso gave away a penalty for a foul on Toni Kroos.

Areola, having just made a superb save from Karim Benzema, could do nothing to keep out Ronaldo’s spot-kick.

The visitors had chances to go ahead again in the second half, Keylor Navas saving well from Mbappe and Sergio Ramos blocking bravely from Rabiot.

Emery then surprisingly took off Edinson Cavani and replaced him with Thomas Meunier, a right-back. But it was Zidane’s decision to send on Asensio that proved crucial.

In the space of three late minutes, Asensio saw one cross palmed out by Areola and then rebound into the net off Ronaldo’s thigh, before another assist was finished off by Marcelo, potentially finishing the tie in the process.

Champions League: Real Madrid’s Season To be Determined by PSG’s Tie – Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that Real Madrid’s season is now effectively all about their loud Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain as the Spanish giants tare struggling in the LaLiga.

“The tie…is one that could define the whole season,” the Portuguese forward stated on the Real’s website after picking up a prize for best player in the world last season.

“We’re going to come up against a great team with excellent players, whom we respect a lot’’.

“But we’ve already shown that we have a very strong, united and experienced group in this competition.”

Real host PSG at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in the first leg of their last-16 tie, with the return set for March 6 in the French capital.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have won the Champions League in each of the last two seasons, and it is eight years since Real were eliminated at this stage.

Madrid are currently fourth in La Liga, 17 points behind leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand.

That is despite a big 5-2 win over Real Sociedad at the weekend, a game in which Ronaldo scored a hat-trick.

Champions League: PSG Tie Set To Define Real Madrid Season – Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that Real Madrid’s season is now effectively all about their looming Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain as the Spanish giants trail off the pace in La Liga.

“The tie…is one that could define the whole season,” the Portuguese forward told Real’s website after picking up a prize for best player in the world last season from the website Goal.com.

“We’re going to come up against a great team with excellent players, whom we respect a lot.

“But we’ve already shown that we have a very strong, united and experienced group in this competition.”

Real host PSG at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in the first leg of their last-16 tie, with the return set for March 6 in the French capital.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have won the Champions League in each of the last two seasons, and it is eight years since Real were eliminated at this stage.

Madrid are currently fourth in La Liga, 17 points behind leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand.

That is despite a big 5-2 win over Real Sociedad at the weekend, a game in which Ronaldo scored a hat-trick.

AFP

Champions League: Ronaldo Is Not Finished, PSG Will Pay Particular Attention To Him – Mbappe

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has endured a less than stellar season but Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe has dismissed suggestions the Portugal captain is on the decline.

Speaking after his side’s 4-1 Coupe de France win over Sochaux Tuesday, Mbappe played down claims the 33-year-old’s best was behind him.

“Ronaldo is not on the decline. If he is on the decline, there are many more players on the decline then,” he said.

“He is a great player. But we hope he will remain quiet against us. We will prepare for the game by paying attention to all their strengths. And he is one of their strengths in the team.”

Ronaldo has been below his usual incredible level this season, including scoring just eight goals in 17 LaLiga games but the Portuguese star has netted nine in six Champions League outings heading into his team’s last-16 first leg against PSG.

The first leg of the tie will be played in Madrid February 14.

Real Madrid Without Ronaldo Unimaginable – Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Wednesday dismissed media speculation linking superstar Cristiano Ronaldo with a move away from the Bernabeu.

“I can’t imagine a Madrid without Cristiano,” said the Frenchman, a World Cup winner as a player.

“He’s in his club. Everyone, the club, the fans, want him.

“We know what can be said outside but within, what Cristiano must do is just think about playing as he has been doing, and that’s what I want, to talk only about his attitude and what he can bring us.”

With the January transfer window open, speculation has been rife over a possible exit for Ronaldo from the Spanish capital, with former club Manchester United a rumoured eventual destination.

Some have been trying to read an intent to leave into his attitude but Zidane insists Ronaldo has only one focus.

“I speak with Cristiano about the pitch and when he comes here he only talks about the pitch and that’s best for everyone,” added the coach who has led Real to back-to-back Champions League victories as well as last season’s La Liga title.

Real, though, have struggled this season and are down in fourth in La Liga following Saturday’s shock 1-0 defeat at home to Villarreal.

That left them a mammoth 19 points behind eternal rivals Barcelona. They have a Spanish Cup clash against Leganes on Thursday and having finished second in their Champions League group to Tottenham and with a last 16 clash against Paris Saint-Germain to come, the domestic cup looks their likeliest route to silverware this season.

“It’s not a final but we know that every match we have now is hugely important,” added Zidane.

AFP

Neymar May Make £357m Move To Real Madrif

Neymar could be set to smash his own world-record transfer fee and make a sensational move to Real Madrid.

The former Barcelona star became the most expensive footballer in history when he moved to PSG for £198million in August.

But after less than six months in France, it appears the Brazilian is already eyeing his next big transfer, according to reports in Spain.

Marca’s front page yesterday claims the 25-year-old is the Galactico ‘most craved’ at the Spanish giants, but would cost an eye-watering £357m.

Neymar is believed to want the move, the Brazilian’s camp giving signals of his desire to play at the Bernabeu one day despite his Barcelona background.

The Spanish newspaper claims the Galactico policy is one they are keen to revive, having not made such a purchase since the acquisition of James Rodriguez in 2014.

With Real trailing Barcelona by 16 points in La Liga, club president Florentino Perez is keen to make a statement in the transfer market.

Marca claim that Madrid have also considered other options, including Harry Kane, Eden Hazard and Timo Werner, but have made Neymar the priority.

They are determined not to go behind the backs of PSG, and will not pursue a move without the prior knowledge of the Parisian club.

Barcelona blow away Madrid in El Clasico

Barcelona opened up  a huge 14-point lead over Real Madrid,  the European and world champions after beating them 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal made sure that Madrid will no longer be contesting for the title this season.

In a recurring theme of this season Madrid were made to pay for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema missing first-half chances as Barca took control after half-time.

Suarez rounded off a flowing counter-attack to open the scoring before Messi blasted home a penalty after Madrid defender Dani Carvajal was sent-off for punching the ball off the goal line.

And Messi was the creator as Vidal rubbed salt into Real’s wounds deep into stoppage time.

Victory extends Barca’s unbeaten run to 25 games in all competitions as they moved nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid and exacted revenge for a 5-1 thrashing on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup at the hands of Real in August.

Madrid do still have a game in hand over Barca to marginally reduce the gap at the top, but their efforts in the new year are now likely to be more focused on becoming the first side to win three consecutive Champions League titles in over 40 years.

Barcelona players: after the victory in Madrid

Despite the clash between the Spanish capital’s and Catalonia’s two giants taking place just two days after three parties favouring independence for the prosperous region from Spain retained an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament, there was little attention paid to politics inside the ground once the action got underway.

Madrid fans unfurled a huge banner proclaiming it to be a “white Christmas” after they claimed a club record five trophies in 2017.

However, it is Barca who will enjoy the upcoming winter break more after a second-half display which showed the turning of the tide their way since August has been no fluke.

It could have been very different for the hosts if Cristiano Ronaldo had buried a huge opportunity when he completely mis-kicked just 10 minutes in.

NAN

Politically Divided Spain United By El Clasico Rivalry

Often symbolised as pitting the pride of Catalonia against Spain’s capital, the ‘El Clasico’ between Barcelona and Real Madrid is a match laced with political and social as much as sporting tension.

Even more so this week when the sides face off in Madrid on Saturday lunchtime just over 36 hours after polls will close in local elections in Catalonia that were called over the crisis caused by the region’s drive for independence.

“They have a very strong ideological connection,” political scientist Pablo Simon told AFP.

“On the one side are Real Madrid, who normally can be said to have a more conservative and nationalist fan base.”

By contrast, Simon cites Barca’s ‘more than a club’ motto as being rooted in a sense of Catalan identity.

The sights and sounds of their Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu stadiums reflect that difference.

In Barcelona, Catalan flags, including the independence-supporting Estelada, are commonly flown, while the crowd at Europe’s biggest stadium chant in favour of independence in the 17th minute of each match to mark the fall of Catalonia in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

At the Bernabeu, Spain flags are splattered across the stadium, while cries of “Viva Espana” rang around on October 1 in the hours following a violent crackdown by Spanish police forces on a referendum on independence called by separatists in Catalonia.

However, for all their differences, El Clasico and particularly the fear of losing the matchup should Catalonia gain independence, unites both sets of fans.

“It is the derby of Spain and it feels like it is impossible to be neutral,” Sid Lowe, a Spanish football journalist and author of the book “Fear and Loathing in La Liga” on the rivalry, told AFP.

“It is a unifying event. No-one wants to lose this game, even in the event of Catalan independence.”

AFP

La Liga Chases Asian Cash With Early Clasico Kick-Off

For the first time, Spanish football’s showpiece event, El Clasico between giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, has been scheduled for a lunchtime kick-off (1200GMT) on Saturday as La Liga seeks to capture Asia’s attention and its cash.

“We are keen to provide our fans in Asia the opportunity to watch Real Madrid and Barcelona face off at a time that is convenient to them,” La Liga’s Chief Communications Officer Joris Evers told AFP.

With a potential television audience of 650 million people, according to La Liga, El Clasico is the most watched club match around the world thanks to its unique mixture of star protagonists and a fierce rivalry fostered over decades both on the field and off it by the distinct cultural differences between Catalonia and Madrid.

“It is the ideal shop window, the marquee match to show to people Spanish football,” Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, professor of economics at Barcelona University and an expert in Spanish football finances, said to AFP.

However, it is not just a boom in lucrative television rights that La Liga and its two biggest clubs are seeking with an early start this weekend, but a showcase for all of their lucrative sponsorship contracts.

Last year Barcelona signed a club record shirt sponsorship deal worth a minimum of 220 million euros ($258 million) over four years with Japanese online retailer Rakuten.

“They want to sell their products to international markets, above all in Asia,” added Gay de Liebana.

According to a study carried out by consumer analytics specialists Nielsen Sports, last season’s corresponding first La Liga Clasico of the season generated more than $42.5 million in media value for sponsors.

“The kick-off of the next El Clasico on December 23 is at 1300 Madrid time, 2000 in Shanghai, 1900 in Jakarta and 1730 in New Delhi,” continued Evers.

“These are all locations where we know there are many La Liga fans and where we will be hosting events to celebrate El Clasico.

“Additional events are being held in various locations around Asia. Through this and other initiatives we want to make existing fans even bigger La Liga supporters and, of course, we want to attract new supporters as well.”

AFP

Real Madrid Seek Redemption Against Las Palmas

Real Madrid are in the middle of their worst run of results under Zinedine Zidane but have an ideal opportunity to rise from their slump when they host relegation-fighting Las Palmas in La Liga on Sunday.

Real endured successive defeats for the first time since Zidane took charge in January 2016 when they were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday after a dismal defeat at Girona, but their problems pale in comparison to those of their next opponents.

The Canary Island club had Madrid on the ropes in their last visit to the Bernabeu, a thrilling 3-3 draw, but have endured a torrid third campaign in the top flight and are currently 18th in the standings with eight defeats from their 10 games.

The resignation of inexperienced coach Manolo Marquez has not made things any easier for the struggling team, who have lost all four league games under successor Pako Ayesteran, shipping 15 goals in the process.

The team was booed off the pitch by a sparse crowd after their 3-1 home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna last week and in another setback have lost leading striker Jonathan Viera to a hamstring injury.

Their visit should be the perfect tonic for a Madrid side who have looked a shadow of the team that conquered all last season and which made such a convincing start to this campaign by outclassing Barcelona and Manchester United in the Spanish and European Super Cups.

Talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has managed only one goal in the league this season, but perhaps more worrying for Zidane is the team’s apparent lack of fighting spirit, which helped Madrid come back so often in 2016-17.

Real are third in the Liga standings and eight points behind leaders Barcelona. They have never won the league after falling that far adrift of the pacesetters.

Ronaldo said after the defeat to Tottenham that Real was missing the experience of departed players Pepe, James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata, although he believes they will soon reverse their current drop in form.

“We admit that we aren’t playing well but things change. I’m sure we won’t be like this for much longer, football allows you to be described as brilliant one day and awful the next, and we need to stay positive,” the Portuguese striker told reporters.

Barcelona, who host fifth-placed Sevilla at the Nou Camp on Saturday, have won nine and drawn one in La Liga this season but also had a disappointing week in the Champions League.

They were held to a goalless draw at Olympiakos where they lost Sergi Roberto and Andre Gomes for around a month to injury, leaving them short in midfield, with captain Andres Iniesta also out.

Valencia, who are also unbeaten and four points behind Barca in second spot, host Leganes, while Deportivo La Coruna welcome Atletico Madrid, who are looking to rebound after their woeful Champions League draw with Qarabag which left them on the verge of elimination.

 

 

Source: Super Sport