Can Cristiano Ronaldo revive Serie A? — Four things to look out for in Europe this weekend

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Ronaldo's move to Juve has got people talking about Serie A once again. (AFP)
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Updated 17 August 2018
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Can Cristiano Ronaldo revive Serie A? — Four things to look out for in Europe this weekend

  • Serie A has been in the doldrums fro over a decade, will Ronaldo's move change that?
  • Lionel Messi is new Barcelona skipper, can he lead them to Champions League glory?

LONDON: The Premier League got underway last week and now the rest of Europe is hot on its heels. Here are four things to look out for across the continent as La Liga and Serie A return…

CAN RONALDO SAVE SERIE A?

Back in the 1980s and 1990s there was only one league to play in, the Italian top-flight. All the best players played there and it was considered as tough an environment to thrive in as any. For the past 15 years the opposite has generally been true. Serie A has become a faded relic which rarely hints at its past glory, a division where Fabio Borini finds a starting spot for the team and in the position that Marco van Basten made his own. In the month since Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus people have started talking about the division positively once again. It seems harsh to expect one man to save a league but a lot is expected of the Portuguese star.

All eyes will be on Ronaldo this Saturday when the Old Lady face Chievo in their season-opener and the Portuguese's debut. 

 


NEW ERA FOR BARCA

Andres Iniesta’s departure has left a huge hole for the Catalans to fill. His captain's armband has been taken by Lionel Messi, not a bad replacement, but there is still a sense of a changing of the guard at the Nou Camp. Barca nearly went a whole season unbeaten last campaign, and did the domestic double at the same time. So it seems strange that there are question marks over Ernesto Valverde’s side. Ultimately, it is how the side does in the Champions League that will determine whether the season is a success or not, but the Catalans need to get off to a strong start in La Liga to perhaps settle some nerves.

Lionel Messi and his Barca team will have to learn to live without Andres Iniesta this season with their talisman now playing in Japan. 

 


ACTION FOR ARSENAL

It is not the end of the world to lose to Manchester City, as the Gunners did on the opening day of the Premier League last week. But the manner in which they lost understandably caused some worry about just how much of a rebuilding job new boss Unai Emery has to undertake. It does not get any easier for the Spaniard and his team as this weekend Arsenal are set to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It goes without saying that two defeats from two is not the ideal way to start a reign so it will be interesting to see how the north Londoners tackle the match against their city rivals. Emery has insisted they will not change their passing style for a more cautious approach, but such was their abject display last week that that could well lead to another defeat and the season’s first “crisis.”

The 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester CIty was not an ideal way to start the season for Arsenal. They face Chelsea on Saturday knowing an improved performance in the very least they have to put on. 

 


CAN ANYONE STOP JUVE?

The Old Lady has won seven consecutive Serie A titles. With the addition of Ronaldo surely an eighth awaits — all rather dull, isn’t it. But Inter Milan, with guaranteed Champions League income, have strengthened signing Stefan de Vrij and Radja Nainggolan, among others, and have managed to keep Croatia star Ivan Perisic. Napoli, now under Carlo Ancelotti have proved to be Juve’s main challengers the past few seasons and have no reason to believe they cannot do so again. Add in the improving Roma and AC Milan and the arguments for a compelling title chase are there. It will, however, be tough to topple Juventus.

Inter Milan may have only just scraped into the Champions League last season but they could well provide the big challenge to Juve this time around, not least if they can capture the signing of Croatia star, Luka Modric. 


Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

Updated 16 November 2018
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Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

  • Riyad Mahrez signed for City in a $76.6 million move
  • All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a record-breaking side

MANCHESTER: It took eight games for Riyad Mahrez to show why Manchester City paid a club record £60 million ($76.6 million) for his services.
All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a side that broke records on the way to claiming the Premier League title last season.
The Algerian winger came off the bench just past the hour mark against Cardiff two months ago and slid home his first City goal from close range before curling in a second with a fine left-foot finish.
The brace provided lift-off for the 27-year-old and his confident displays since have quickly dispelled any doubts that he would struggle to adapt to a system under Guardiola that demands commitment as well as class.
For Mahrez, he has been working to fulfil this footballing dream ever since he was a youngster practicing his skills on the streets of Paris suburb Sarcelles, encouraged by his late father Ahmed.
“I’m proud,” he says of an inspiring journey that began professionally in the French Second Division with Quimper in 2009, then at Le Havre a year later, before joining Leicester City for just £400,000 in 2014.
“It’s not easy to arrive here (at City), to come to a club like this. You need to work very hard to get here and when you do it’s not the final thing.
“You still need to work even more, to perform, to be humble, and to try to go higher. Of course, I want to do even better.
“I didn’t feel any pressure when I came because of the price, I don’t think about this stuff.
“I’m feeling good now at City, playing good at the moment and we are winning games. But it’s not finished yet and we need to keep going. The season is very long and we all have to keep going like this.”
While Mahrez has already won the league title with Leicester during a fairytale 2015-16 season that also saw him crowned the PFA Player of the Year, he remains ambitious and convinced he can still improve.
A yardstick has perhaps been set by Liverpool’s Egyptian frontman Mohamed Salah, who took his game to another level with 44 goals last season, winning the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards and named third in the 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player.
“Salah had a very good season. And we have a good team, we can score a lot of goals and I hope to do more, like he has done,” Mahrez told Arab News exclusively.
“But the most important thing is that we keep on winning as a team, and I’m going to try to help the team to do this, to score goals, make assists.”
The performances of Mahrez, who has claimed four more goals since the Cardiff match, and eight-goal Salah on Merseyside could well be integral to how their clubs eventually fare in this campaign.
Both teams are unbeaten in the league after 12 games with City two points clear of Liverpool, a lead confirmed by the impressive 3-1 win over neighbors United in the recent Manchester derby.
But Mahrez knows the mesmerising manner in which they have roared to the top will mean nothing if they are not there next May.
“The derby was special, a good atmosphere, a good win, I’m very happy,” he said after his first experience of the rivalry.
“But it’s not that because we beat United we are going to win the league. You can’t think like that, there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep focus.
“We have a good team, we are playing well. We just need to keep working hard for each other and we know we are going to be there at the end of the season. That’s the target.
“I won the title with Leicester, but I came here to win more trophies.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to win this or that, but of course this is a club that wants to win trophies. Win the Premier League, I don’t know. Win the Champions League, I don’t know.
“But we are going to make everything we can to try to do that. That’s the challenge for us.”