Cristiano Ronaldo ready for emotional return to Manchester United in Champions League

The Portuguese star made his name at Old Trafford during a goal and title laden six-year spell. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Cristiano Ronaldo ready for emotional return to Manchester United in Champions League

  • Ronaldo returns to former home but backs new side Juve to do the damage at Old Trafford.
  • Portuguese will want focus to be on the football after rape allegations levelled at the former Real Madrid man.

MANCHESTER: Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo is ready for an emotional return to his former club Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday but believes the Italian side can win by executing their gameplan.
Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford for the first time since 2013 when his goal for Real Madrid sent the Spaniards through to the Champions League quarter-finals at United’s expense.
“Emotional? I can remember what it was like when I was at Manchester,” the Portuguese said.
“I won lots of trophies here. I remember the support as well, the support was fantastic.”
Ronaldo lifted three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups plus the first of his five Champions League crowns during six years at United and expects a tough game against Jose Mourinho’s team despite their recent struggles.
United are 10th in the Premier League after a sluggish start to the season and second in Champions League Group H, two points behind Juve after a win and a draw in their first two matches.
“It will be a difficult game. Manchester have a good team, they play at home,” Ronaldo said. “It will be tough for us, but we have our weapons. We have a chance, I know if we play the way the coach wants, we have a good chance to win the game.”
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, whose team are four points clear atop Serie A after eight wins and a draw, said they would have to match United’s physicality and revealed he would play with a back four to give the side more stability.
“It will be a physical game, we will have to approach it with great concentration, manage the ball and set up well on a technical level to avoid one of the greatest dangers that they can bring us, namely high balls,” Allegri said.
The Italians will be without their Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic due to an ankle injury, while their Germany midfielder Emre Can will miss the match because of a thyroid problem.
“I’m sorry there’s no Mandzukic, though it is not anything serious with him. I’d already thought about playing with others in attack,” Allegri added. “We’ll probably play with a back four because in midfield we’ll have to numerically match them.”


High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

Updated 16 January 2019
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High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

  • Green Falcons on a high as they aim to top group with victory over Qataris.
  • Winner of Group E will face Iraq in second round.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia only have one thing on their minds — lifting the trophy on Feb. 1 in Abu Dhabi.
The Green Falcons face Qatar in the UAE capital today with both sides having already confirmed their places in the second round. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s players have been impressive so far thanks to a 4-0 victory against North Korea, followed by a relatively simple 2-0 win over Lebanon.
That fine form has Fahad Al-Muwallad dreaming of the Green Falcons going all the way.
“As a player I have followed many matches in this Asian Cup and all the teams have ambitions to reach the final and win the title. We promise that within our team that our ambition is the highest among all,” the forward said.
“We only play to win the title, nothing less, regardless of who we play.”
Having started so well such confidence is understandable, not least because in their last tournament, the World Cup, the team lost 5-0 and 1-0 — to Russia and Uruguay, respectively — in their opening two clashes.
Added to that is the fact that of the favorites only Iran appeared to be on top of their game, while the likes of South Korea and Japan looked to be stuck in second gear.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is looking for victory over Qatar in a build to maintain the momentum the Green Falcons have built up during wins over North Korea and Lebanon. (AFP)


But anyone thinking Saudi Arabia are getting ahead of themselves have been told to think again. While the Green Falcons are confident and seeking to ramp up their title challenge in the knockout stages, they are aware they must win today to top Group E.
“Our qualification does not mean that we will underestimate the importance of tomorrow’s match,” Al-Muwallad said.
“We will try to play every game as hard as we can.”
That is the message being delivered by Pizzi. Having seen his team get off to such a great, positive start, the manager is keen not to lose any momentum ahead of the second round.
“What matters in such tournaments is achieving good results, which we were able to do in the first two matches against Lebanon and North Korea,” he said.
“We hope to fulfill the aspirations of Saudi football fans who watch each and every match, and we intend to play with the same importance.”
Should the Green Falcons continue their good form and beat Qatar — who have looked equally as impressive in their 2-0 win over Lebanon and 6-0 hammering of North Korea — they will top the group and face Iraq next Tuesday.
“Qatar is a team with many qualities and they have good strikers. However, we are also doing well collectively and I have full confidence that my players can get the three points,” the former Spain international said.
“We will try to do our best to win (against Qatar), even if we have qualified to the knockout rounds, our strategy to win the game will not change.”
Pizzi’s opposite number Felix Sanchez was equally adamant that his side would not play for a draw — their better goal difference would secure them top spot, however — and would aim for a win.
“We are doing exactly the same as we have for the other games, but we know it is a match which will decide top spot,” the Spaniard said.
“We will plan well, as we did for the other matches. The focus now is on Saudi Arabia and we must plan for a good game.”