Defeated Madrid lacked know-how to fightback: Benitez

Rafael Benitez lamented his side’s inability to react after going behind for the first time this season as he suffered his first defeat as Madrid boss 3-2 at Sevilla on Sunday.

Defeat leaves Madrid trailing Barcelona by three points at the top of the table with the two set to face each other next time out at the Santiago Bernabeu on November 21.

Real had got off to a flying start in Seville as Sergio Ramos’s spectacular overhead kick fired the visitors into a deserved lead.

However, after Ramos had gone off with the recurrence of a shoulder problem, Madrid fell apart as Ciro Immobile levelled before the break.

Ever Banega and Fernando Llorente set the seal on a much needed win for Sevilla after their 3-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City in midweek before James Rodriguez pulled a goal back in stoppage time.

“I think we played very well for 30 minutes. We had a lot of control in every part of the game,” said Benitez.

“Then we allowed them to score from a set-piece and that conditioned the game.

“In the second-half we started well again, but from the second goal we started to commit errors and they took advantage of that to score the third goal.

“We scored again at the last minute but it wasn’t enough.”

When Banega finished off a brilliant team move also involving Immobile and Yevhen Konoplyanka on the hour mark it was the first time Madrid had even been behind in 15 games this season.

And Benitez criticised his side’s failure to respond when finally put in an adverse situation.

“We lacked know-how in managing the situation. It seemed a matter of time until the second goal in the first half hour.

“It wasn’t to be, they regained their confidence with the equaliser and then our errors allowed them to grew further into the game.

“We found it difficult to react. In the first-half we should have killed the game off and we didn’t.”

Ramos had to watch on in anguish as his side threw away the lead and could now be a doubt for the Barca clash after a disrupted two months since he first suffered a dislocated shoulder against Shakhtar Donetsk.

The defender admitted he is almost certain to miss Spain’s friendly matches against England and Belgium in the next week.

“First I have to recover. I hope to have a scan on Tuesday, but it will be difficult to go with the national team if I couldn’t continue today,” he told Canal Plus.

“The priority is to recover because it is another relapse. I have played four or five games with injections and this is the type of injury that if you are not careful can cause a lot more problems.”

The former Sevilla man insisted the Andalusians deserved credit for their second-half display, but recognised Madrid can’t afford many more slip-ups if they are to land just their second league title in eight years.

“It’s clear we didn’t play well in the second-half. This is one of the hardest places to come due to their fans and the quality of Sevilla. You also have to highlight how well Sevilla played as well as a bad match on our part.

“In the second-half they had control of possession and managed to take their chances.

“It is in games like this that you lose the league and we’ve lost three very important points. Now we have to turn the corner, the Clasico always carries a lot of expectations but above all it is an important game for us to win.”

Photo Credits : AFP

De Gea’s pop star girlfriend the driving force behind his potential move to Real

David De Gea’s pop star girlfriend Edurne Garcia is the driving force behind his proposed move to Real Madrid this summer, writes Tom Hopkinson in the Sunday People. The 24-year-old keeper has made no secret of his desire to return to his home city – but it seems his reasons are as much personal as professional.

Edurne Garcia

De Gea and Garcia, who is representing Spain in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, plan to marry next year and she is keen to remain in Spain to further her career. Madrid will offer United up to £20million, plus add-ons, to secure De Gea’s signature on a five-year deal.

Garcia hit the headlines earlier this year, when she professed Manchester was ‘uglier than the back of a fridge’. Pablo Motos, host of evening light entertainment show El Hormiguero, quizzed her about her trips to Manchester before asking her: “I’ve been told Manchester is uglier than the back of a fridge.”

Edurne Garcia

She replied: “It’s not very nice, that’s for sure. You have to hunt out specific places, the nicer places. “But even then Spain is nicer. The reason I like it is because David’s there. With him being there, everything looks wonderful.” De Gea will reportedly call a ‘family meeting’, including Garcia, to thrash out where he will be playing his football next season.

Suarez stunner hands Barca victory over Madrid

Barcelona moved four points clear at the top of La Liga as Luis Suarez’s brilliant individual effort handed them a 2-1 win over Real Madrid on Sunday.

Jeremy Mathieu headed Barca in front early on from Lionel Messi’s free-kick, but Cristiano Ronaldo hit back at his critics in recent weeks with a deserved equaliser before the break.

Suarez was to have the final say, though, as he registered his first goal in El Clasico by controlling Dani Alves’s long ball before turning to strike into the far corner.

A third defeat in four games for Madrid will see coach Carlo Ancelotti come under increasing pressure to hold onto his job, but it was Madrid who posed the greater danger early on.

Karim Benzema pulled a shot wide of the far post before his teasing cross was volleyed onto the bar at the back post by Ronaldo.

However, it was Barca who went in front on 18 minutes when Mathieu headed home Messi’s in-swinging free-kick from the left for his first league goal for the club.

Neymar should have doubled the hosts’ advantage on the half hour when he fired straight at Iker Casillas with the goal gaping after a mishit Suarez shot rolled across goal.

Seconds later Real were level thanks to a lovely move as Benzema backheeled Luka Modric’s pass into Ronaldo’s path and he poked the ball past Claudio Bravo on the stretch.

The visitors then went on to end the half the stronger as Gareth Bale had a goal ruled out for offside, whilst Bravo tipped a piledriver from Ronaldo over and Bale stabbed inches wide from the resulting corner.

Madrid also had the first opportunity of the second-half as lovely link-up play between Benzema and Ronaldo this time put the Frenchman through on goal, but Bravo did just enough to parry his shot to safety.

And they were again caught by a sucker punch when Alves’s ball over the top was brilliantly controlled and finished by Suarez on the turn.

Ronaldo, who had been booked in the first-half for diving, was then fortunate not to see red when he appeared to kick out after being fouled by Javier Mascherano.

The cautions continued to mount as 11 players were booked in all.

Neymar nearly made amends for his miss in the first period with an incredible run from inside hs own half past numerous Madrid players, but again his finishing was wayward as he blasted over.

Messi had been very quiet given his stunning performances of late, but he was inches away from sealing the points 17 minutes from time as his shot curled just wide.

Neymar then blazed wide again from a Messi pass as space began to open up for Barca.

Those wasted opportunities nearly came back to haunt the Catalans as Bravo had to produce a brilliant save to turn Benzema’s deflected effort behind for a corner.

Casillas kept Madrid in the game at the other end with a pair of fine saves to deny Jordi Alba and Messi, but it was to no avail as Barca racked up their 18th win in 19 games.

Photo Credits : AFP

Elimination unthinkable for out-of-form Madrid

European champions Real Madrid will expect to take another step closer to becoming the first team in 25 years to retain the Champions League when they host Schalke on Tuesday holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg of their last 16 tie.

Madrid have strung together 10 consecutive victories in Europe stretching back to their successful run to their 10th European Cup last season, but have found the going a lot tougher domestically in 2015.

Los Blancos surrendered their lead at the top of La Liga at the weekend as they were beaten 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao, whilst Barcelona thrashed Rayo Vallecano 6-1.

That was Madrid’s fourth defeat in 14 games this year with coach Carlo Ancelotti admitting he was at a loss to explain how his star-studded strike force of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale has so suddenly gone off the boil.

“It seems strange to say Madrid have a problem up front when we have scored so many goals throughout the season, but I think it is the truth,” said the Italian on Saturday.

However, captain Iker Casillas has insisted that they won’t suffer a hangover from their La Liga woes at the Bernabeu.

“This competition is different. For Madrid fans it means everything,” he told the club’s website.

Schalke were on the receiving end on Real’s run towards the title at the same stage of the competition last season in a 9-2 aggregate hammering.

And Casillas is adamant that Ancelotti’s men still have all the qualities required to go all the way once more.

“We know that it will be very difficult but we will fight to achieve it. We are ambitious and we have a mixture of youth and experience so why not?

“Last year we played against teams that had caused us problems in the past and we were capable to play good football and get to the final. We will give everything to get to Berlin.

“We have the team to do it and we hope to repeat the success of last year.”

Madrid will be boosted by the return of Luka Modric after over four months out with a torn thigh muscle.

Sergio Ramos also returned to training on Sunday after a month on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, but isn’t expected to be risked by Ancelotti with a potentially decisive La Liga clash with Barcelona just 10 days away.

Schalke, meanwhile, enjoyed a far more successful weekend as they registered a first win in five games with a 3-1 victory over Hoffenheim.

That result boosted the Royal Blues chances of a return to the Champions League next season, but left-back Christian Fuchs retains hope of a famous comeback at the Bernabeu.

“We travel now to Madrid in a positive frame of mind, no one will bet on us, so maybe there is a chance for us,” said the 28-year-old.

Photo Credits : AFP

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos ruled out for 5 weeks

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos will be out of action for five weeks, coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed on Friday.

Spain international Ramos, 28, suffered a torn hamstring in Wednesday’s 2-1 La Liga win over Sevilla and limped off after just nine minutes, replaced by Nacho.

“Sergio’s injury is a serious one. He’ll be out for five weeks,” Ancelotti said.

Ramos, who had already been ruled out of Saturday’s derby against Atletico, could also miss both legs of Champions League round of 16 against Schalke, on February 18 and March 10.

The centre-back’s absence is a major blow for Real, who already had to do without James Rodriguez (foot), Pepe (rib) or Luka Modric (thigh).

Against their Madrid rivals, Real are set to start with Raphael Varane, 21, and Nacho, 23, at the heart of the defence.

“I trust those two players. They are very good players. They are dedicated and willing to play. I am convinced they will do good things on Saturday”, Ancelotti said.

Real, currently top of the league with 54 points, face Atletico on Saturday for the 10th time in the past year in all competitions.

Photo Credits : AFP

Injured Rodriguez, Ramos out of Madrid derby

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed that James Rodriguez and Sergio Ramos will miss the Madrid derby against La Liga champions Atletico on Saturday after suffering injuries in his side’s 2-1 win over Sevilla on Wednesday.

Ramos limped off with a hamstring problem after only eight minutes, whilst Rodriguez suffered an injury in his right foot after opening the scoring.

Ancelotti is short of defensive options with Portuguese international centre-back Pepe also currently sidelined due to a rib injury.

However, the Italian insisted he is confident that youngsters Raphael Varane and Nacho can handle the challenge posed by Diego Simeone’s men.

“Sergio had a hamstring problem, we need to wait a few days to evaluate it. James had a problem in his right foot, I don’t know exactly what but it is sure that they won’t be available,” said Ancelotti.

“I have confidence in the others. Nacho and (Raphael) Varane did very well, I have a lot of confidence in them.

“What we lose above all is experience, but sometimes enthusiasm is a good thing. The two of them (Varane and Nacho) give me a lot of confidence. Ramos and Pepe are among the best defenders in the world, but I am not worried.”

Left-back Marcelo is also set to miss the game after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the second-half, but Ancelotti said the club will appeal that decision in the hope he will be cleared to play.

“We will appeal Marcelo’s yellow card because for me it wasn’t even a foul.”

Jese’s first La Liga goal since suffering a cruciate ligament injury last March put Madrid 2-0 up at half-time.

And they withstood a late Sevilla rally in the final 10 minutes after Iago Aspas had pulled a goal back.

Victory took the European champions four points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table and seven ahead of Atletico in third.

Despite their key absentees, Real will receive a massive boost with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo from a two-game ban.

“It is important to have Cristiano back. Without him we have won two games, but it is sure that he will help us in the derby.”

Real haven’t managed to beat Atletico in any of their five previous meetings this season and Ancelotti said that was greater motivation than the chance to all but end Los Rojiblancos title defence.

“I think it is important because the last games against Atletico weren’t good, so we have to change this bad run.

“It will be a very difficult game, but we want to do something different.

“The motivation is so big for this game being a Madrid derby we don’t need the motivation of leaving Atletico 10 points behind.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Ronaldo double takes Madrid four points clear

Cristiano Ronaldo rounded off a week where he was named world player of the year for the third time scoring a double as Real Madrid opened up a four-point lead at the top of La Liga with a 3-0 win away to Getafe on Sunday.

The visitors had to wait 63 minutes to make the breakthrough before he fired home Karim Benzema’s pass to set them on the road to victory.

Gareth Bale then doubled the visitors’ lead before Ronaldo rounded off the scoring with a trademark header from James Rodriguez’s cross.

Barcelona can cut Madrid’s lead back to a solitary point when they travel to Deportivo la Coruna later on Sunday.

Perhaps suffering from the after effects of their Copa del Rey elimination to Atletico Madrid in midweek Madrid started sluggishly, but were rarely threatened by a goal-shy Getafe.

The European champions finally started to get going after 20 minutes as Marcelo drove a fierce effort just over on his weaker right foot before Benzema was denied by Jordi Codina.

Isco then tested the Getafe ‘keeper with a piledriver from the edge of the box which Codina did well to turn over and Toni Kroos came even closer a minute before the break when he rattled the crossbar from long range.

Codina continued to frustrate Madrid at the start of the second period with good saves from Benzema and James Rodriguez.

However, his resistence was finally broken just before the hour mark with a brilliant team goal as Isco and Rodriguez combined to free Benzema and the Frenchman produced an exquisite piece of skill on the byline to cut the ball back for Ronaldo to slam home.

Just four minutes later it was 2-0 as this time Rodriguez was the provider with a fine low cross that Bale prodded past Codina with the outside of his left foot.

The winning margin could even have been greater for Ancelotti’s men as Ronaldo outfoxed Codina with a free-kick that whistled inches past the post with the ‘keeper beaten.

Ronaldo wasn’t to be denied his second of the afternoon 11 minutes from time, though, as another sumptuous cross from Rodriguez allowed the Portuguese to plant a firm header past the helpless Codina to register his 36th goal of the season.

Getafe failed to force Iker Casillas into a single save, but did come within inches of a consolation goal when Alvaro Vazquez fired against the post from Alex Felip’s low cross late on.

Photo Credits : AFP

Thousands usher in New Year in Madrid — a day early

Thousands of horn-tooting, hat-wearing revellers jammed Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square on Tuesday, braving freezing temperatures to ring in 2015 — a day early.

The crowd roared and jumped up and down as the clock in the 18th century Real Casa de Correos — the seat of the regional government of Madrid — struck midnight, even though the new year only starts 24 hours later.

Many followed a Spanish New Year’s custom and gobbled a grape on each of the 12 chimes at midnight for 12 months of good luck while others counted the clangs of the clock out loud.

Some used French fries or chocolate-covered peanuts instead of grapes.

City officials test the chimes the day before New Year’s Eve to make sure they are working properly and each year a growing sea of people come for the trial run to start celebrating early.

Many said they came to avoid the much larger crowd that turns out on New Year’s Eve for the countdown in the square, watched live by millions of people across Spain on television.

“Tomorrow it would be impossible to come down here — there would be too many people,” said Fatima Rodriguez de Ahumada, a 33-year-old secretary who came with her husband and sister.

“We are going to spend New Year’s Eve at home and we will watch it all on television. This way we get a taste of what it is like.”

Dozens of police frisked revellers as they entered the square and searched rucksacks to prevent glass bottles from being brought in while several ambulances stood by.

With the temperature falling to minus two degrees Celsius (28 Fahrenheit), groups of people — many wearing colourful wigs or oversize plastic glasses — huddled together to keep warm and ate snacks as they waited for the clock to strike midnight.

“This is mad, I can’t imagine this many people turning out for something like this in London. No way,” said Claire Brown, a 23-year-old student from Britain who was visiting a friend in Madrid for the holidays, as a young man set off a firecracker nearby.

A smaller crowd of several hundred people, including many couples with young children, turned out for an earlier test of the chimes held at noon on Tuesday.

Luis Suarez happy with Saturday’s ‘bittersweet’ Barcelona debut

Luis Suarez says it was a “big relief” to make his Barcelona debut in their 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid after sitting out a four-month ban for biting.

The 27-year-old, who signed from Liverpool in July for £75m, set up his new side’s goal before being substituted on 69 minutes.

“It was a big relief. I’m very happy with the minutes I had,” he said.

“I have a bittersweet sensation because of the result but this team has picked itself up before many times.”

Barcelona won their opening eight league games while Suarez served his suspension for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, but their defeat in El Clasico leaves them just one point ahead of Real at the top of the table.

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