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

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. 


New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

Updated 12 December 2019

New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

ALKHOBAR: The new Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, will take place at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday with a timed super special stage of 4.32 km. 

Ahead of a field of 51 cars, nine NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and one truck will be two further days of competitive action through the deserts of the Eastern Province and 474.86 competitive kilometers in a compact route of 746.58 km. 

 Several international drivers, most notably Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach, Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Czech Miroslav Zapletal will use the opportunity to finalize their preparations for January’s Dakar Rally.

In contrast, the massive Saudi contingent is spread across several categories and sporting disciplines, and the series finale will decide the outcome of the drivers’ championship and the winner of the quad section.

 Saudi Arabia’s leading drivers, Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota Hilux) and Yasir Seaidan (X-raid Buggy), have fought a fascinating tussle for supremacy in the new series.

 Seaidan won the Aseer Rally opener and finished behind his rival at the Qassim Rally, the AlUla-Neom event and the Riyadh Rally. 

 The pair are now separated by just three points, heading into the showdown on Half Moon Bay.

An outright victory would give either driver the title, with 25 points awarded to the winner, 18 for second place and 15 for third. The two drivers, however, face strong opposition from a plethora of Saudi rivals. 

 ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari is a distant third in the series in his Nissan Navara, and can confirm that position by staying ahead of Mutair Al-Shammeri, Khalid Al-Feraihi and Faris Al-Shammeri. 

 Salman Al-Shammeri has already clinched the T2 title by scoring maximum points in the category for series production cross-country vehicles in three of the four rallies. His closest challenger is Yousef Al-Suwaidi, winner of the T2 in the Qassim Rally.

 Saleh Al-Saif confirmed success in the T3 before the recent event in Riyadh, and tackled that rally in the NUTV class, while Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb have cruised to the T4 title in a Mercedes truck. 

Yousef Al-Dhaif has an unassailable lead over Fahad Al-Naim and Khalil and Majid Al-Tuwaijri in the NUTV Championship, but the latter trio will be battling to finish as runners-up in the popular category. Motorcycle honors have already gone to Mishal Alghuneim with Abdullah Al-Helal finishing the series in second place, but a host of riders still have a shot at claiming third overall.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi won the quad section at the Qassim and AlUla-Neom rallies, but a retirement in Riyadh has left the door open for Riyadh Al-Oraifan to snatch the title in the Eastern Province. He trails his fellow Yamaha rider by 21 points, with 25 available for the outright win.

 Several riders can still finish third, but Abdul Aziz Al-Shayban heads into the ceremonial start on Half Moon Bay leading Riyadh event-winner Sufiyan Al-Omar by six points. 

The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab. 

 The new Baja runs with the support of the SAMF, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia Outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

 The event is being considered as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.