Real Madrid 2-1 Cadiz: Kroos shines as Los Blancos close gap on leaders Barca

By Sports Desk November 10, 2022

Toni Kroos scored a superb volley and assisted another goal as Real Madrid moved within two points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona by beating Cadiz 2-1 in their final match before the World Cup break.

Carlo Ancelotti's side suffered their first loss of the top-flight season at Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but returned to winning ways with a much-improved showing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Eder Militao opened the scoring with a first-half header from Kroos' cross on Thursday, marking the centre-back's second goal in as many league games.

Kroos' emphatic second-half strike meant Lucas Perez's late goal proved irrelevant as Madrid closed the gap on Barca.

Alfonso Espino offered Madrid an early scare as his long-range strike clipped the top of the crossbar, before Federico Valverde fired narrowly wide at the other end.

A frenetic first half continued with tempers flaring for both sides before Militao headed Toni Kroos' left-wing cross into the bottom-right corner five minutes before half-time.

Thibaut Courtois thwarted Ruben Sobrino from a rare Cadiz chance after the interval, before Kroos powered into the bottom-left corner stylishly from the edge of the area. 

Luka Modric inexplicably missed an open goal to add a late third and was punished as Perez pounced on a spilled Courtois save, though Madrid held on for victory.

What does it mean? Los Blancos back on track

Madrid were a shadow of their usual high standards in their last two league outings and faced a three-match winless LaLiga run for the first time in two years – under Zinedine Zidane.

However, Ancelotti's side bounced back to record just their second victory in five league games against Cadiz, who have won just three of their 38 top-flight visits to Madrid (D5 L30).

With the World Cup now taking centre stage, Ancelotti will be delighted to head into the break with victory before Madrid reconvene in their seemingly two-horse race for the LaLiga title with Barca.

Kroos control

Kroos will be an integral figure for Germany in their bid to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in the Middle East and the veteran midfielder offered a timely reminder of his qualities with his second-half strike.

The 32-year-old appeared to be everywhere for Madrid, assisting Militao's header with one of his game-high four chances created, as well as regaining possession eight times – another game-leading figure.

Gonzalez struggles again

Cadiz coach Sergio Gonzalez must be pondering what he must do to taste victory against Madrid.

He has gone 11 games without defeating Los Blancos in LaLiga (D2 L9), more than against any other team in the competition.

What's next?

Madrid are not in action until visiting Real Valladolid on December 31 after the World Cup in Qatar, while Cadiz travel to Real Union Club on Sunday in the Copa del Rey first round.

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  • Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup? Can anyone loosen Europe's hold on the Club World Cup?

    The Club World Cup begins on Wednesday as seven teams compete to become world champions.

    Representatives from each confederation will take part over 11 days in Morocco, with Real Madrid favourites to end up lifting the trophy.

    That is not to disrespect any of the other participants, but Europe's stranglehold on the competition simply cannot be denied.

    Although South American teams won the first three editions in its current format, the only occasion in the last 15 where the Champions League winners have not triumphed was in 2012 when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in the final, the last time Europe's best did not succeed.

    With four-time Club World Cup winners Madrid present, can anyone realistically stop Carlo Ancelotti's men? Stats Perform has taken a look at the other participants.

    CONMEBOL – Flamengo

    It would be fair to assume that, as the only other confederation to claim the prize, the South American representatives will always be seen as the biggest challengers to Europe.

    Flamengo have participated in the Club World Cup before, having reached the final in 2019 only to lose 1-0 to Liverpool after extra time.

    The Mengao have faced some recent upheaval with head coach Dorival Junior leaving despite winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, just the third time they had prevailed in South America's premier competition.

    Former Fenerbahce and Corinthians boss Vitor Pereira arrived in December and will be relying on star striker Gabriel Barbosa to fire his team to glory, as the ex-Inter man did when he scored the only goal of the Libertadores final against Athletico Paranaense in October.

    Despite promising young midfielder Joao Gomes leaving for Premier League side Wolves, Pereira will hope his new team can at least make their way to the February 11 final when they face either hosts Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal in the final four.

    CONCACAF – Seattle Sounders

    The Sounders are carrying the hopes not only of Seattle but of MLS as a whole. Due to a series of CONCACAF Champions League heartbreaks for American and Canadian clubs prior to Seattle's triumph last May, the league has had a long, long wait for representation on the world stage.

    It is fitting then that the Sounders should be the team to do it, having broken so many barriers since arriving in MLS in 2009, selling out stadiums, enjoying instant success and signing big-name stars from European clubs.

    Although the 2022 season saw the Sounders' ever-present record in the MLS playoffs ended, that was no reflection of the quality of this squad; injuries badly hampered Brian Schmetzer's side after their early-season focus on that successful Champions League campaign.

    Joao Paulo is back fit again, Raul Ruidiaz provides a goal threat, Jordan Morris' pace causes problems for any defence, and captain Nicolas Lodeiro – a veteran of two World Cups – knits it all together.

    The Sounders – and those watching back home – will be desperate to get through the second round and have a crack at heavyweights Madrid.

    CAF – Wydad Casablanca

    Otherwise known as Wydad AC, the Moroccans would have sealed their place regardless of being hosts after lifting the CAF Champions League in May.

    Under the guidance of Walid Regragui before he left to lead the Morocco national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Zouhair El Moutaraji's two goals in the final against Al Ahly brought Wydad their third Champions League title.

    Their record in this competition is less impressive, with their only previous involvement coming in 2017 when they were beaten by Mexico's Pachuca in the second round, before going down 3-2 to Japan's Urawa Reds in the fifth-place playoff.

    Former Racing Santander and Birmingham City player Mehdi Nafti took over from Regragui after leaving LaLiga side Levante late last year, and Regragui thinks they can improve on their 2017 showing at least.

    "I think the trap game is Al Hilal [second round]. If they manage to pass Al Hilal, they can go to the final against Real Madrid. Everything is possible," the Morocco coach told FIFA.com.

    AFC – Al Hilal

    The four-time AFC Champions League winners will compete with Wydad in the second round, with the winner going on to face Flamengo in the final four.

    Ramon Diaz returned for a second spell in charge, and like several other head coaches at the Club World Cup, was not actually the one who lifted the trophy that got his team here in the first place.

    Former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim was in charge when Al Hilal beat Korea's Pohang Steelers in November 2021, before leaving by mutual consent to be replaced by Diaz.

    Diaz is unsurprisingly the only former Oxford United manager at the Club World Cup, but the 63-year-old has plenty of talent to call upon in his quest for glory in Morocco.

    Odion Ighalo and Luciano Vietto will be accompanied by a number of players from Saudi Arabia's impressive World Cup campaign, with Al Hilal looking to improve on their last CWC campaign when they were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Al Ahly in the third-place playoff in 2022.

    CAF – Al Ahly

    Al Ahly are also back again, somewhat fortuitously as they inherit Wydad's assigned host spot following the Moroccans beating them in the CAF Champions League final.

    This will be the Egyptian side's eighth appearance at the Club World Cup, with their most impressive previous campaign seeing them finish third after beating Brazilian's Palmeiras on penalties in 2021.

    Head coach Marcel Koller also played no part in his team's qualification for this competition, with the former Austria boss only arriving in September.

    With a number of Egypt's national team players to call on, they will be hoping to repeat their previous meeting with Auckland City in the first round when they beat the New Zealanders 2-0 in 2006. 

    OFC – Auckland City

    This will be the 10th appearance for the Navy Blues, but they are back again after their 3-0 win against Tahiti's Venus in the 2022 OFC Champions League final.

    That was overseen by head coach Albert Riera, not to be confused with the former Liverpool and Galatasaray winger, who took charge in December 2021.

    Riera will be hoping to at least match his team's best ever performance at the CWC, when they came third in 2014 after winning on penalties against Mexico's Cruz Azul. 

    It would take a momentous effort for anyone to stop Madrid, who somehow overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool on their way to Europe's Champions League title last season.

    Never say never, though.

  • Rumour Has It: Arsenal make late push for midfield reinforcements including Jorginho, Tielemans Rumour Has It: Arsenal make late push for midfield reinforcements including Jorginho, Tielemans

    Arsenal are still desperate to add a new face in central midfield and will reportedly make late runs at Chelsea's Jorginho and Leicester City's Youri Tielemans before the transfer deadline.

    Tielemans is one of Leicester's top talents, appearing in all 20 of their Premier League games this season while contributing three goals and an assist from his 18 starts.

    Jorginho is in his fifth season at Stamford Bridge and remains an integral part of Chelsea's squad, making 15 league starts this season, including wearing the captain's armband in their two most recent fixtures.

    However, both players are in the final six months of their contracts and are set to become available via free transfers at the end of the campaign, and their clubs may be willing to accept a significantly reduced figure for highly valuable assets.

     

    TOP STORY – GUNNERS GUNNING FOR MIDFIELD ACTION AT THE DEADLINE

    According to Football London, Arsenal's pursuit of 21-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion standout Moises Caicedo appears to have been unsuccessful, and they now view Jorginho as an acceptable alternative.

    The report states Chelsea are willing to let the Italy international leave, indicating he will become expendable if the impending arrival of Benfica's Enzo Fernandez comes to fruition.

    Football London also adds Arsenal will make another push at both Caicedo and Real Sociedad's Martin Zubimendi, but they are considered unlikely options.

    Meanwhile, 90min claims Leicester would be more open to allowing Tielemans to leave if they were not locked in a relegation battle, but as it stands they would need a "huge" bid to prioritise a transfer fee over their Premier League survival.

     

    ROUND-UP

    – Calciomercato is reporting Leeds United will try to secure Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo after he snubbed Bournemouth, but Roma are unlikely to accept unless the full transfer fee is paid up front.

    – According to L'Equipe, Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a loan move for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech, who would prefer a loan to France instead of a fellow Premier League side.

    – Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has rejected a loan approach from Inter and will instead opt to fight for his place, although he will re-evaluate his future at the end of the season, per the Daily Star.

    – El Nacional is reporting Liverpool will make a run at signing Chelsea's N'Golo Kante when his contract expires after the season.

    – According to Football Insider, Southampton have agreed to meet the £26.2million (€30m) release clause for 22-year-old Braga forward Vitinha.

  • Lillard carries the Trail Blazers yet again as he builds under-the-radar MVP case Lillard carries the Trail Blazers yet again as he builds under-the-radar MVP case

    Damian Lillard's red-hot scoring form continued on Monday as he posted his eighth 40-point game of the season.

    Lillard was the star of the show in the Portland Trail Blazers' 129-125 home win against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 42 points on 10-of-21 shooting after finishing a perfect 17-of-17 from the free throw line. Only Joel Embiid (nine), Giannis Antetokounmpo (10) and Luka Doncic (11) have scored 40 more often this season.

    He outdueled Dejounte Murray of the Hawks, who was terrific in his own right, collecting a career-high 40 points (13-of-26 shooting), eight rebounds and seven assists.

    Having already claimed the record as the Trail Blazers' all-time leading scorer earlier this season, Lillard is showing no signs of slowing down, and is on pace for arguably the best statistical season of his career.

    He is averaging a career-high 30.4 points per game, while also tying his career-best field goal percentage of 46.3. Lillard has never averaged more than the 4.1 three-pointers he is making each game, while he is also on track for his fourth season with at least seven assists per game, and his fourth season shooting at least 90 per cent from the line.

    He started the season in fine fashion as he posted back-to-back 41 point games in the opening week, but after his scoring average dipped to 22.3 in November, Lillard has hit a rich vein of form since the beginning of the new year.

    The six-time All-NBA selection is averaging 34.5 points per game in January – trailing only Philadelphia 76ers powerhouse Embiid with 34.9 – and nobody in the league is averaging better than Lillard's 38.8 points across their past 10 contests.

    Portland are 19-19 in the 38 games their star point guard has suited up for this season, and are 5-7 without him, but that does not accurately portray how valuable Lillard is for his franchise.

    Lillard's overall plus/minus this season of plus 129 is the best figure on the team, while Josh Hart (plus 110) is the only other player with a mark better than Jusuf Nurkic's plus 52.

    His impact on the Trail Blazers' offense is massive, as the team boasts an offensive rating of 118.7 while he is on the floor, but it drops to 112.4 when he is on the bench or not available. For reference, that 118.7 mark is higher than the league-leading Denver Nuggets (117.4), while 112.4 would tie them with the 23rd-ranked Los Angeles Clippers.

    Lillard will likely not receive any MVP consideration unless the Blazers make a late push into the Western Conference's top-six, but since the calendar flipped over to 2023 there has arguably not been a better player in the sport.

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