The Portugal international has criticised
his fellow players by claiming that the
team would be top of La Liga if they were
at the same level as him
Cristiano Ronaldo has slammed his Real
Madrid team-mates after Saturday’s derby
defeat to Atletico Madrid, claiming they
would be top of the table if others were on
the same level as him.
Antoine Griezmann’s second-half strike
sealed a 1-0 win for Atletico which has left
Zinedine Zidane’s side nine points behind
La Liga leaders Barcelona, who also have
a game in hand.
And in an explosive interview after the loss
at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo blamed
his team-mates for Madrid’s failing title
challenge and believes criticism directed at
his own performances is unfounded.
“If everyone was as good as me, maybe we
would be first,” said Ronaldo.
“I do not want to belittle anyone but when
they are not the best it is difficult to win. I
like to play with Karim, Bale and Marcelo.
“I do not mean that Jese, Lucas [Vazquez]
and [Mateo] Kovacic are not good, they
are very good, but to win a competition
you need the best and that has been our
main problem this year.
“I don’t know if it was poor preparation in
the first half of the season but we’re
having a lot of injuries and that hurts us.
“We had more chances and we deserved to
win but football is like that.
“From what the press says it seems like I
am doing sh*t but the numbers and
statistics do not lie. They are there.”
The European champions took the steam out of Arsenal in a performance more about efficiency than style, knocking out the Gunners late in the game thanks to their star strikeforce
Abracadabra: That is the word Luis Enrique used to describe how he motivates Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in the build-up to Barcelona’s Champions League last-16 tie against Arsenal. “That’s what I tell them and the magic sparks,” he said.
It took a moment of magic from Barca’s front three to break down Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, but this performance was about much more than wizardry.
Barca, playing their seventh game this month and their fourth in the past nine days, looked tired in the first half of this match. But they knew Arsenal would work extremely hard to press and contain, so they waited patiently and took the steam out of their opponents with two hammer blows late on.
There was a sense that Arsenal needed to take their chances in this one because Barca rarely fail to score. So when an early opportunity was cleared by some last-ditch defending and later, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved from Aaron Ramsey, Gunners fans surely feared the worst.
Right at the end of the first half, Luis Suarez (who hit a post later on) headed wide for Barca, while Neymar will feel he should have done better with only Petr Cech to beat in the second half. Luis Enrique’s men were creating chances, yet the pretty play from previous Barca visits here was conspicuous in its absence.
Not that it mattered. Barca were brilliant in the 2-2 draw at The Emirates under Pep Guardiola in 2010, somehow failing to win it despite a first-half masterclass overseen by the Catalan coach. They then lost 2-1 the following season in another game they should have won. They did, however, claim victory both times with resounding victories in the second legs at Camp Nou.
Pep’s Barca always sought perfection and often attained it. On occasions, though, Guardiola’s great team could have played percentages and ground out results instead. That is exactly what the current crop are doing under Luis Enrique.
“I liked everything I saw,” Luis Enrique said afterwards. “We are a team that play like nobody else against sides who leave no spaces at all. We dominate all facets of the play and that’s fantastic.”
And he added: “Everybody who understands football knows you need a first half like that to have a second half like the one we saw. If they get tired, you know there will be more space.”
That is exactly what happened and it was fitting that when the goal finally arrived, it was all about the MSN trio. Neymar picked up an Andres Iniesta clearance, played a one-two with Suarez and found Messi in the area. The Argentine attacker, who had never netted against Cech, paused for a second and then finished off the move like a true matador.
Arsenal could consider themselves a little unfortunate to be behind, but they must have known it was coming. They should have taken their chances and couldn’t – and the trident were waiting to produce their moment of magic.
It came after 71 minutes and with only seven remaining, Barca made it two. This time, Messi was brought down by subsitute Mathieu Flamini and coolly slotted home the spot-kick to make it 2-0. Game over.
When the Argentine attacker scored four against Arsenal at Camp Nou in 2010, Arsene Wenger famously described the forward as a “Playstation”. The fantasy from that display may have been missing on Tuesday, but Barca’s best player showed he can be efficient just like his team. And that’s what makes Barca, on course for a second straight treble, even better than they were back then.
In pure technical terms, the Blaugrana reached their zenith in the Guardiola era. Under Luis Enrique, however, they are ruthless and incredibly effective. And when all else fails, there is the game’s greatest forward line to win matches – just like the MSN did again on Tuesday.
The Frenchman compared his side’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona to the loss they suffered at the Emirates Stadium against Monaco last season at the same stage of the competition
Arsene Wenger accused his Arsenal players of naivety after they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday and suggested they had failed to learn from past mistakes.
Lionel Messi struck twice in the second half for the defending champions to secure a significant advantage going into the second leg at Camp Nou in a month’s time.
Arsenal had chances of their own to take the lead at the Emirates Stadium, however, and Wenger was left to rue the way his side were subsequently caught on the break.
“We were naive,” he told BT Sport. “Similar to Monaco [in last season’s last 16], when it looked like we could win this game we gave it away.
“That [second goal] makes it realistically very difficult, if not impossible [to come back]. We have to go there and fight.
“It is difficult because I thought in the last 20 minutes there would be room to score. We had the chances but didn’t score.
“They are lethal. One thing we couldn’t afford to give them was counter attacks because they are very dangerous. That’s exactly what we did. We pushed too far in their half and got caught. That’s down to their quality as well.
“It’s too easy to blame I think you have to respect the effort the players put in. What is frustrating is that it looked like they might tire.
“I knew in the last 20 minutes we would have a chance to win the game if we don’t make any mistakes and that’s the frustration of the night.”
Zinedine Zidane’s side were held to a 1-1
draw at Malaga on Sunday and are now
nine points behind Barcelona in the title
race, leaving the Primera Division out of
reach once again
Real Madrid can kiss goodbye to La Liga
for another year. Zinedine Zidane’s men
dropped two more points in the Primera
Division on Sunday and now need a
miracle to catch Barcelona. It isn’t going
Barca beat Las Palmas in a hard-fought
match on Saturday and after their 2-1 win
in Gran Canaria, goalscorer Luis Suarez
said: “These are the games that win you
And 24 hours on, those seemed like wise
words. While Barca came through their
tough test, Madrid flunked theirs with a
1-1 draw at Malaga. It was Zidane’s third
away match in La Liga, all in Andalucia,
and those have yielded one last-ditch win
(at Granada) and two ties (at Betis and
Malaga). Simply not good enough.
Madrid have not won La Liga since Jose
Mourinho’s second season in Spain in
2011-12. The Portuguese’s successor
Carlo Ancelotti then claimed four trophies
including the Champions League, yet failed
to bring back the Primera Division title to
the Santiago Bernabeu in his two
campaigns in charge and there will be no
championship this time around either.
The title triumph in 2011-12 is Madrid’s
only Liga win in the last eight years and in
that same period, Barca have claimed the
Primera Division no less than five times
(three under Pep Guardiola, one with Tito
Vilanova and another coached by Luis
Enrique). And the Catalans are well on
course for a sixth in the current campaign.
Barca lead Madrid by nine points and even
if Real were to draw level, it would be
insufficient unless they were able to thrash
the Blaugrana at Camp Nou in the Clasico
clash in April and overturn the goal
average from their 4-0 loss at home to the
Catalans in November.
With just 13 fixtures remaining, it is
mission impossible and Atletico are also
adrift after the weekend action. Diego
Simeone’s side were held at home by
Villarreal in a goalless game on Sunday
and are now eight points off the top.
Having lost both home and away to Luis
Enrique’s men, they too would need to
beat Barca’s points haul to claim La Liga.
It’s a tough ask to say the least.
For Madrid, it is yet another failure in a
desperately disappointing season. Thrown
out of the Copa del Rey for fielding the
suspended Denis Cheryshev against Cadiz,
Real parted company with Rafa Benitez in
January and Zidane claimed he would
fight for the two trophies on offer.
But several weeks later, only the
Champions League is realistically left and
the team’s troubles in La Liga over recent
seasons represent a sorry state of affairs
for the world’s richest club.
Against Malaga, Cristiano Ronaldo headed
the visitors into the lead and Madrid were
somewhat fortunate because he had been
in an offside position when the Toni Kroos
cross came in. And minutes later, the
Portuguese saw a penalty saved by Carlos
Kameni in a miss that proved to be costly
as Raul Albentosa levelled in the second
period and Real had no reply.
Asked afterwards if La Liga is lost for
Madrid, Zidane said: “Not at all. It will be
difficult because we dropped two points
but we will never give up. There are 39
points left. We had a difficult game and we
could even have lost. You (the journalists)
think La Liga is lost, but neither myself
nor the players think that.”
It was the right message, but surely not
even the most optimistic of fans really
believe this stuttering side can make up 10
points on Barca in the final 13 rounds of
the championship. There is just no way it
“We have to be positive because all of the
games we have played up until now have
been phenomenal,” Zidane added.
Whether fans and president Florentino
Perez will agree with that assessment is
unclear, but the truth is the Frenchman
has come in mid-season with limited
coaching experience to try and lift a team
already struggling under Benitez.
That was never ideal and the 43-year-old
needs to be given time to try and turn this
situation around. For now, however, it’s
the same old story for Real Madrid:
another season, another disappointment in
La Liga – and another reason for
Florentino to take a long, hard look at this
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