Real Madrid missing key players for Cup clasico

Updated 28 January 2013
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Real Madrid missing key players for Cup clasico

MADRID: Real Madrid’s resilience will be tested to the full when they host holders Barcelona in a King’s Cup semi-final first leg without a number of their most influential players on Wednesday.
With the defense of their La Liga title in tatters, as they trail leaders Barca by 15 points, coach Jose Mourinho has targeted the Cup and the Champions League as the club’s priorities.
However, the Cup semi-final arrives with the side hampered by injuries and suspensions.
Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas has been ruled out for up to three months after needing surgery on a fractured bone in his hand, and defender Pepe has yet to return after ankle surgery.
Defenders Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao, and winger Angel Di Maria, are all suspended for the first leg at the Bernabeu (2000 GMT).
“It’s a really important game, a tough game,” Real’s leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo said after scoring a hat-trick in their 4-0 thrashing of Getafe on Sunday.
“We’re playing at home, which is a great opportunity to be successful. We’ll be missing a number of players, key players, who are very important for this squad, but that’s not an excuse.
“We have to play well because Barca are an amazing team.”
Aside from their missing players it has been a turbulent few days for the 2011 Cup winners after a report in Marca sports daily said that captains Casillas and Ramos had threatened to leave unless Mourinho was dismissed.
Real president Florentino Perez made the unusual move of calling a news conference to deny the story, accusing the newspaper of lying.
The shock of losing Casillas at a critical stage of the campaign prompted the club to react swiftly and sign a replacement goalkeeper, Diego Lopez from Sevilla, though it will probably be reserve Antonio Adan who keeps his place on Wednesday.
Real have had the edge over Barca in direct meetings this term.
They beat them on the away goals rule in the season-opening Spanish Super Cup after drawing 4-4, and they grabbed a 2-2 draw in La Liga at the Nou Camp.
Ronaldo has got the measure of their defense and scored seven goals in the last six clasicos, and his rivalry with the man who again beat him to the World Player of the Year title, Lionel Messi, will continue to take center stage.
After Ronaldo took his tally in La Liga to 21 goals with a hat-trick on Sunday, Messi went one better in a later game bagging four in a 5-1 rout of Osasuna to move on to 33.
“I don’t thing Messi needs Cristiano to motivate himself, he has an unquenchable ambition,” Barca’s assistant coach Jordi Roura told a news conference.
Barca beat Real 4-3 on aggregate to knock them out of the Cup in the quarter-finals last year.
In the other semi-final, La Liga’s second-placed side Atletico Madrid host Sevilla at the Calderon on Thursday (2100) hoping to have leading scorer Radamel Falcao back from injury.
Atletico, who were surprise 3-0 losers at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, lost 2-0 to Sevilla in the 2010 Cup final.


What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.