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.


Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.