Cristiano Ronaldo

AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Ronaldo brace leads Real comeback vs. PSG

Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in each half to lead Real Madrid to a 3-1 first leg win over visiting Paris Saint-Germain in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Marco Asensio had two assists in five minutes, on Ronaldo’s second and a Marcelo marker.

Adrien Rabiot scored for PSG to give Les Parisiens an early lead and an away goal, but Toni Kroos was dropped in the box to give Ronaldo his chance to level the score.

The second leg is March 6 at the Parc des Princes.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Zidane had Real Madrid pressing the ball from the opening kickoff, leading to a series of chances and high-volume challenges in the first five minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo whistled a shot wide of goal, Marquinhos made a timely intervention on Marcelo, and Toni Kroos had a penalty shout denied before PSG made its first attempt on goal through Yuri Berchiche.

Rabiot finished when fine work from Kylian Mbappe from the right bounded off a defender and into his path. His curled shot from 12 yards missed Nacho’s head and Keylor Navas’ left glove to make it 1-0.

Neymar then cued up Edinson Cavani in traffic, but his shot was deflected out for a corner.

Alphonse Areola made a tremendous save on Karim Benzema, but Kroos won a penalty in driving past Giovani Lo Celso. Ronaldo hammered his effort past Areola to make it 1-1 just before halftime.

Navas stopped Mbappe within minutes of the restart, with PSG aiming for a win with multiple away goals.

Both teams carried play at times in the second half, with goal mouth scrambles standing out in each box. Sergio Ramos made a pivotal block with his arm in the 74th minute. Could’ve been a penalty, not given.

Both Mbappe and Dani Alves couldn’t slide onto a Berchiche cross through the box in the 77th.

The breakthrough came courtesy of Marco Asensio’s cross, which was spilled by Areola onto the path of Ronaldo. The Portuguese megastar reacted to prod the ball in with his knee.

Navas stopped Mbappe to concede a corner in the 89th minute as PSG pushed for a second away goal, but it was Real who’d score again through a near identical Asensio cross from the left for Marcelo.

Time for Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo to swap?

Getty Images
1 Comment

Okay, so we’ve seen a mega swap deal in the Premier League in January with Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and who says it can’t happen between two megastars?

[ MORE: Tottenham come of age

Ahead of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg clash on Wednesday, reports continue to link Neymar with replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and the theme within all of them is clear: Real Madrid are incredibly confident of signing the Brazilian star this summer.

Could the duo swap places this summer? Think about it.

Not the craziest idea, but of course with Neymar 26 and Ronaldo 33 years old, you’d expect Ronaldo plus cash to be heading to PSG if Neymar, their $265 million prized signing from Barcelona last summer, is ever allowed to leave.

The crux of the reports regarding Neymar moving to Real point to his belief that he won’t win the Ballon d’Or if he remains at PSG. Neymar has been a star for PSG since his huge move from Barca, scoring 7  goals in 27 games and adding 14 assists in his first season in the French capital.

He is the main man, just as he wanted to be at Barcelona but found himself stuck behind Lionel Messi and even Luis Suarez. If he moved to Real in the summer, would he be the main man at the Santiago Bernabeu?

Ronaldo, who has been the main man for Real for the past decade after leading them to three European titles, has been linked with a move away from the Spanish capital multiple times over the past 12 months due to unhappiness. This season he’s scored 23 goals in 28 games in all competitions which is a little low by his own lofty standards and Real’s poor form has coincided with Ronaldo’s dip.

Rumblings continue that a summer of huge upheaval is planned at Real as Zinedine Zidane’s side falter in La Liga, despite winning the league last season and two-straight UCL titles. You get the sense this is the end of an era with not only Ronaldo discussed in potential outgoings but also Gareth Bale, Keylor Navas, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.

Are all of those deals lined up so Neymar can arrive and be the new star of the show?

Ronaldo heading back to Manchester United for the final years of his career has always seemed like the smart bet but given the success of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG at a similar stage of his career, perhaps Les Parisiens’ would be willing to do this deal considering the commercial income which would also arrive?

There’s also the problem regarding UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules as PSG have yet to officially sign Kylian Mbappe from Monaco for $220 million, but they will do in the summer when his season-long loan ends. Can they afford to have the world-record fee for Neymar and then the blockbuster deal for Neymar with regards to FFP? It’s clear that will cause problems.

It is also clear that Neymar isn’t fussed with rocking the boat and doing what he feels is best for his own personal career. Just 12 months after his huge move to PSG from Barca, we will see him make an even bigger move back to Spain to join Real Madrid?

Wednesday’s showdown in the Santiago Bernabeu will be about much more than Real Madrid vs. PSG. It will be a glimpse of the current (Ronaldo) and perhaps the future (Neymar) of the most successful team in European history.

La Liga & Serie A: Real goes four games unbeaten and more

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 5-2 Real Sociedad

Turmoil can be best-used to describe Zinedine Zidane’s season with Real Madrid, but the defending league and European champions look to be finding their form at the right time. Los Blancos extended their unbeaten streak to four matches on Saturday, behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick.

Lucas Vasquez handed the hosts the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first minute, while Toni Kroos made it 2-0 before halftime.

Ronaldo capped off his hat-trick with 10 minutes remaining in regulation from close range, bringing the Portuguese international up to 23 goals in all competitions this season.

Malaga 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico pulled to within six points of league leaders Barcelona on Saturday behind Antoine Griezmann’s first-minute strike. The Frenchman found himself in on goal just 40 seconds into the match, after Saul Niguez had his attempt deflected at the top of the box. Malaga remains in last place in La Liga on 13 points.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 1-2 Alaves
Leganes 0-1 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sevilla vs. Girona (6 a.m. ET)
Barcelona vs. Getafe (10:15 a.m. ET)
Celta Vigo vs. Espanyol (12:30 a.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Levante (2:45 p.m. ET)

Napoli 4-1 Lazio

A brilliant second-half turnaround handed Napoli a return to the summit of Serie A on Saturday, in what continues to be a back-and-forth battle with Juventus. A second-half own goal from Wallace gave Napoli the advantage, before Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens sealed the match for the hosts. Lazio went ahead inside three minutes when Stefan de Vrij finished off a Ciro Immobile cross from close range.

SPAL 0-4 AC Milan

Patrick Cutrone scored on both sides of halftime at the Paolo Mazza, while Lucas Biglia and Fabio Borini each added goals inside the final 15 minutes to cap off a dominating road victory for AC Milan. The Italian giants are seven points outside of the top four, while SPAL remains four points buried in the relegation zone.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Crotone 1-1 Atalanta

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Cagliari (6:30 a.m. ET)
Chievo vs. Genoa (9 a.m. ET)
Inter Milan vs. Bologna (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Hellas Verona (9 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Roma vs. Benevento (2:45 p.m. ET)

A look at Cristiano Ronaldo, now aged 33

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest players of all-time, is celebrating a birthday on Monday.

[ MORE: Breaking down Real’s woes ]

The Real Madrid and Portugal legend is now 33 years old, and has accomplished more than so many other players.

That’s easy to forget as his club suffers through one of its worst seasons of the century. Real Madrid has only finished outside of La Liga’s top two on four occasions since Y2K turned out to be a dud, but sits 19 points behind Barcelona after a weekend draw.

Ronaldo has 20 goals in 27 matches this year, but just eight of them have come in La Liga play. He’s added three assists, and it’s worth noting that Ronaldo picked up four of those goals in the two league matches prior to Saturday’s draw with Levante.

[ MORE: Kane on 100 PL goals ]

With a maximum of 24 matches remaining in Real’s campaigns — 17 league, seven Champions League — Ronaldo is on pace to miss reaching the 40-goal mark since 2010. Not a lot of players score 40 goals a season, so it’s not the end of the world, but this is Ronaldo we’re talking about: the five-time Ballon d’Or winner who can lead a team to three-straight Champions League titles for the first time since 1976.

What else does he have in his locker on his 33rd birthday?

— Four Champions League titles (three with Real, one for Man Utd)

— Five league titles (three Premier League, two La Liga)

— Five domestic cups (two Copa del Rey, two League Cup, one FA Cup)

— EURO 2016 winner

— Four European Golden shoes

— Eleven FIFA FIFPro World XI inclusions

— Best Portuguese athlete abroad, 2007-09, 2011-13, 2014-17

— Records for: most Ballon d’Or awards, most FIFPro World XI awards, most consecutive 50-goal seasons, most career goals in Europe’s Top Six leagues, most career goals in UEFA competitions, first to score 100 in the Champions League, and about 50 more.

— First player to score in every minute, 1-90, of a career.

— Only player to win the League title, Domestic Cup, Domestic Supercup, Champions League, Club World Cup, League Player of the Year, Golden Shoe and Ballon d’Or at two different clubs

Real Madrid’s historically-poor season is proving to be a club anomaly

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Leave a comment

By most standards, fourth-place in a major European league might be seen as a major victory for some clubs.

But then again, Real Madrid isn’t just another club.

[ MORE: Real drops points against Levante, Inter settles for draw ]

Zinedine Zidane and his side failed to pick up three points on Saturday against relegation-tested Levante, however, the Madridistas’ latest result isn’t so surprising given their up-and-down form in 2017/18.

Instead, it is more how the club got to this point that is so intriguing (or disturbing if you’re a supporter of the side).

18 points currently separates Real from league leaders and bitter rivals Barcelona with only 17 matches remaining in the La Liga season. While it’s not an insurmountable deficit (mathematically, at least), Zidane and his side will likely have to turn their attention elsewhere if they plan on winning anything significant this campaign.

So, let’s take a look at how this Madrid team stacks up with those of the past.

Since the 1976/77 season, Los Blancos have never finished outside of the top five in La Liga, and while fifth is likely as far as Real will fall this season, the club has made a living of boasting success both inside and outside domestic play.

Meanwhile, in each of the last 13 seasons, Real has only finished outside the top two in Spain’s first division on one occasion (2013/14). However, the club went on to win the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey titles during the campaign, which were surely seen as major achievements for the club.

This season is quite different though, particularly with Real boasting an older roster, and in particular, one that seems to be growing more and more discontented with each other.

Rumors have been dropped ablaze over recent weeks, with Cristiano Ronaldo at the forefront of a potential move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

While nothing substantial has come forth to this point, clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain remain linked with the Portuguese superstar, and a move away from the club would undoubtedly spell a new era in the Spanish capital.

Real has already crashed out of the Copa del Rey, with a stunningly poor effort against Leganes — who sits 12th place in La Liga — and is simply hanging on to its hopes of recapturing its form in the UCL when play resumes against a star-studded PSG side.

Zidane and his side have managed to win three of the last four UCL competitions, but with a stacked field remaining this year, including PSG, Barcelona and Manchester City, Real’s path to another title in the competition will be anything but simple.

It’s impossible to right off a side that boasts the talent that Real has, but this season is looking more like an anomaly in this club’s rich history — one that will almost certainly bring about sweeping changes at season’s end — or perhaps sooner.