Real Madrid missing key players for Cup clasico

Updated 29 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 semifinal 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 semifinal 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 think 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 quarterfinals last year.
In the other semifinal, 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.


Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

Updated 26 min 20 sec ago
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Praise from Sachin Tendulkar rubberstamps elevation of Rashid Khan to superstar status

  • Afghan smashes four sixes and two fours off ten balls
  • Leggie then snares wickets of Uthappa, Lynn and Russell,

A couple of days before what was effectively an Indian Premier League (IPL) semifinal against a Kolkata Knight Riders side backed by over 60,000 raucous fans, Rashid Khan told Michael Clarke, former captain of Australia, that he wanted to be known as an all-rounder.
When he came into bat on Friday night, the Hyderabad innings was going nowhere — 134 for 6, with just 13 balls remaining. Off the ten that he faced, Rashid smashed four sixes and two fours to finish with 34 as an under-par score became a competitive one.
In the defense of that total, Kane Williamson opted not to bowl Rashid in the Power Play. By the time he came on, Kolkata had raced to 67 from six overs. His first over went for just three, and gave his teammates time to breathe.
By the end of the night, he had the vital wickets of Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn and Andre Russell, a run-out and two catches as Kolkata, who needed 82 from 60 balls at one stage, fell 13 short. Afterwards, as the praise rained down, he didn’t forget to dedicate his man of the match award to those in his home town who were killed by a bomb blast at a cricket match a few days earlier.
“Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar. “Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
It’s not even been three years since Rashid, who only turns 20 in October, made his debut for Afghanistan. He has already harvested 100 ODI wickets in just 42 innings, and has been the scourge of batsmen in Twenty20 leagues as far apart as Australia, the Caribbean and India.
His IPL numbers are outstanding. Last season, his first in the league, he took 17 wickets and was one of only two bowlers at the top of the charts to concede less than 7 an over. This year, his 21 wickets are second only to Andrew Tye (24), while his economy rate is the best of anyone in the top-10 wicket-takers’ list.
In the age of ultra-slow-mo video and extensive data crunching, Rashid’s bowling remains a mystery to many. He can not only rip his leg-breaks and googlies, but he bowls them at such a pace that playing him off the pitch is fraught with risk. In a league as frenetic as the IPL, where consistency is the biggest challenge for bowlers, this was the sixth time that Rashid had taken at least two wickets this season.
In every respect, Rashid is the first global superstar from an emerging cricket nation. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, his Hyderabad teammate, helped put Afghan cricket on the map, but it’s Rashid’s skill that has been instrumental in their acceptance at the top table.
By the time Sri Lanka got Test status in 1982, Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias were widely recognized as world-class batsmen. Zimbabwe’s promotion up the ranks was largely due to the all-round prowess of Duncan Fletcher at the World Cup in 1983 and a marvellous innings from Dave Houghton four years later. But none of them had millions watching their every move.
Rashid’s success will also inspire young men like Sandeep Lamichhane, who made a tremendous impact in the latter part of the season with Delhi Daredevils. Another gifted leggie with a beautiful action, Lamichhane knows that such displays can put Nepal cricket under the spotlight as he and the national team seek to mimic Afghanistan’s progress.
For a long time, Indian cricket board officials scoffed at the notion of players from such countries playing in the IPL. Now, after a season in which Rashid, Lamichhane and Mujeeb Zadran, the 17-year-old prodigy from Afghanistan, have all starred, it’s only a matter of time before the franchises spread their scouting nets even wider.
For Rashid, there’s the small matter of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test as well, a fortnight after the end of the IPL. India will be without Virat Kohli, and it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be dishing out a square turner to greet the new boys. Rashid’s prowess should see to that.