Barely 24 hours remain before the UEFA Champions League final kicks off in Lisbon, Portugal – but we still don’t know whether two of its biggest stars will take the field. Both Cristiano Ronaldo, for Real Madrid, and Diego Costa, for Atlético, face a race against time to be fit for one of the year’s biggest events.
Last weekend, Carlo Ancelotti assured fans that Ronaldo would be fit to play a starring role in the Champions League final. The Real manager insisted keeping the forward out of the final match of the La Liga season was purely precautionary, and he’d certainly be playing in a match that mattered.
Yet Ronaldo’s first appearance at training occurred on Thursday, but, in another precautionary move, his role was limited. But despite the nagging issues, Real’s top scorer is expected to start on Saturday night.
It’s less clear whether Diego Costa will have any role for Atlético. The forward is included in Diego Simone’s 22-man-squad, but after being diagnosed with a hamstring tear, few people expected he’d see the field in Lisbon.
However, Atléti’s top scorer may be ready to play on Saturday. The club sent their star to Belgrade earlier in the week, to receive treatment involving ointment made of horse placenta. Skeptics can chuckle, but Diego Costa was back in training on Thursday.
Neutrals would, of course, love to see both play the majority of the Final. Worries remain, however, over the possibility of more significant injury occurring if they’re rushed back too quickly. And with the World Cup approaching quickly, both Spain and Portugal will be watching nervously, hoping they won’t need to make last-minute adjustments to their plans for Brazil.
The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
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The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.
Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.
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In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.
Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.
Cristiano Ronaldo has added another trophy to the collection, winning his fourth Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer for the 2014-15 season.
The award accounts for goals in league play only, which means the Champions League and domestic tournaments are not included. In La Liga, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 35 appearances.
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Ronaldo first won the award after the 2007-08 season with Manchester United, and has now added three more with Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2013-14, and 2014-15.
With his fourth win, Ronaldo moves ahead of Lionel Messi as the only player to win the award four times. Messi has won three, while eight players have won two.
Below is a post from Ronaldo’s Facebook page reflecting on the award:
What a special moment in my professional life!
Winning four Golden Boots is a privilege for me and I’ll keep challenging myself because I want to do better every time and I want to keep chasing for more records.
I have to thank everyone in Real Madrid that made this possible and we want to keep winning more titles and more trophies. Thank you everyone.
Ronaldo alone scored more goals in La Liga play last season than 14 clubs did, which shows how prolific his season was. The only player to score more than 48 league goals in a European season was Messi, who scored 50 in 2011-12.
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While it was a successful year for Ronaldo personally, it was a very disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, who fired manager Carlo Ancelotti after finishing the season without a trophy.