Is Zidane running a risk returning to Real without Ronaldo?

By SportsMax Zone March 11, 2019

Zinedine Zidane has returned to Real Madrid in place of Santiago Solari. But the Los Blancos he returns to has no Cristiano Ronaldo. Will that be a hindrance to his success?

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  • Willian: I wanted to take penalty but Barkley felt confident Willian: I wanted to take penalty but Barkley felt confident

    Willian has confirmed he asked to take the crucial penalty which Ross Barkley failed to convert in Chelsea's Champions League loss to Valencia on Tuesday.

    England international Barkley skimmed his attempt off the top of the crossbar in the 87th minute of the Premier League side's 1-0 home loss.

    The midfielder had been introduced from the bench seven minutes earlier and only settled over the spot-kick following a debate with starters Willian and Jorginho.

    Blues boss Frank Lampard later revealed Barkley to be the designated penalty taker but experienced winger Willian had hoped to be entrusted with the chance.

    "He was confident about taking it and I asked to take it too," Willian said.

    "But he was confident. He ended up missing it. That could happen to me or any other player, like Jorginho who also takes the penalties.

    "It is important he keeps his head up. When you win, you win together and when you lose, you lose together too."

    Barkley's miss and Rodrigo Moreno's earlier goal for Valencia contributed to a difficult night for Chelsea, who lost Mason Mount to a leg injury.

    The result left Lampard's men with work to do ahead of next month's trip to Ligue 1 side Lille, who were 3-0 losers to Ajax in Group H's other game.

    "We expected a positive result," Willian said.

    "We expected to start at home with a victory, but unfortunately we lost it. We have five games left to qualify. I think we have a chance, of course.

    "We have to improve and we have to keep our heads up and keep working. We have everything in front of us."

  • Sterling can succeed Messi as world's best player, says Xavi Sterling can succeed Messi as world's best player, says Xavi

    Barcelona great Xavi believes Raheem Sterling is on course to emerge as the world's best player when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave centre stage.

    Manchester City star Sterling has started the new season in scintillating fashion, scoring eight times for club and country.

    His goal return and overall effectiveness has markedly improved with Pep Guardiola's guidance and the 24-year-old is now one of the first players chosen for the Premier League champions.

    Sterling won Europe's Golden Boy award in 2014 - given to the continent's brightest young talent - and Xavi thinks the England international is on course to replace Messi and Ronaldo at the front of the queue for further honours.

    Xavi told The Mirror: "Messi is the best ever for me, and even though they're both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes.

    "You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah and of course Sterling. I look at the moment and Sterling is winning that race.

    "He's always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.

    "I know how Pep works - he would have worked closely with him since his arrival - where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on.

    "We're now seeing the results of that. He's still young and can be the world's best."

    Barca captain Messi, 32, and Juventus forward Ronaldo, 34, have dominated the game's top awards for the past decade, winning the Ballon d'Or five times apiece since 2008.

  • Atletico braced for Ronaldo meeting, PSG out to continue home form - Champions League in Opta numbers Atletico braced for Ronaldo meeting, PSG out to continue home form - Champions League in Opta numbers

    Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid begin their respective Champions League campaigns with huge tests against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in the pick of Wednesday's action.

    Atletico will be smarting from last season's 3-2 aggregate defeat to Juve in the round of 16, when Cristiano Ronaldo – a consistent nemesis of theirs during his time in LaLiga – netted a hat-trick in a 3-0 second-leg win to see the Old Lady into the quarter-finals.

    Madrid get started away to PSG, who will be aiming to continue their fine run at home in the group stage despite being without Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

    Last term's beaten finalists Tottenham, Premier League champions Manchester City and German giants Bayern Munich are also in action.

    Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Wednesday's contests.

    Club Brugge v Galatasaray

    4 - After losing their first two matches in the 2018-19 Champions League, Club Brugge remained undefeated in their final four (W1 D3) – should they avoid a loss in this match, it will be the best unbeaten run by a Belgian side in the competition took on its current format in 1992.

    12 - Galatasaray's new striker Radamel Falcao has scored 12 goals in the Champions League, just one goal off the record by a Colombian player in the competition: Jackson Martinez with 13.

     

    Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid

    21- PSG are unbeaten in 21 Champions League home games in the group stage (W15 D6), not losing since December 2004 against CSKA Moscow (1-3). 

    1.97 - Real Madrid have averaged the most goals per game (2.13) in Champions League history. PSG are third on 1.97, with Barcelona the only club separating them in the rankings (2.02).

    Olympiacos v Tottenham

    8 - Olympiacos are winless in eight Champions League matches (D1 L7) since a 2-1 win against Dinamo Zagreb in November 2015. It is their joint-longest winless run in the competition alongside a streak that ended in October 2003.

    50 - Mauricio Pochettino's will oversee his 50th European game as manager of Spurs on Wednesday. Only Bill Nicholson (55) has presided over more for the club.

     

    Bayern Munich v Red Star Belgrade

    36 - Robert Lewandowski has scored 36 goals in just 52 Champions League appearances for Bayern – only Thomas Muller has scored more for the club in the competition (42 goals in 105 games).

    17 -  Red Star conceded more goals in the group stage of the 2018-19 Champions League than any other team (17).

    Dinamo Zagreb v Atalanta

    11 - Dinamo Zagreb have lost their last 11 consecutive Champions League matches, their joint-worst run in the competition. Only Anderlecht have lost 12 successive matches in Europe's elite competition, that run coming between December 2003 and November 2005.

    3 - Just three of the nine Italian clubs to have participated in the Champions League before Atalanta have won their opening match in the competition: AC Milan in 1992, Juventus in 1995 and Udinese in 2005.

     

    Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City

    79 - Excluding own goals, 79 of Shakhtar's 124 Champions League goals have been scored by Brazilians (64 per cent) – only Barcelona (85) have seen more goals scored by Brazilians than Shakhtar, while Braga (11-12 – 92%) are the only team to have had a higher proportion of goals scored by players from Brazil.

    124 - Gabriel Jesus scored a hat-trick for City in their last meeting against Shakhtar in November last year, inspiring a 6-0 win. Of the 73 Brazilians to have scored four or more goals in the Champions League, Jesus has the best minutes-per-goal (124) ratio.

    Atletico Madrid v Juventus

    54 - Atletico will be competing in their first Champions League season without Antoine Griezmann since 2013-14. He scored or assisted 54 per cent of their goals in the competitions (19 goals, 7 assists) between September 2015 and March 2019 before leaving this year for Barcelona.

    25 - Juventus star Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in his career against Atletico, having tormented them regularly in derbies with Madrid and netted a hat-trick last term for the Bianconeri. Only against Sevilla (27) has he scored more in all competitions.

     

    Bayer Leverkusen v Lokomotiv Moscow

    0 - Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz has yet to win a Champions League game as a manager (D2 L4, with Dortmund). Each of Leverkusen's past four managers have failed to win their first Champions League match in charge.

    7 - Lokomotiv forward Jefferson Farfan will be looking to score in his seventh different Champions League campaign (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2018-19). The only Peruvian to have scored in more seasons is Claudio Pizarro (eight).

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