Ancelotti denies Paris Saint-Germain interest in Ronaldo

Carlo Ancelotti has stressed that Paris Saint-Germain are not interested in signing Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Italian coach recently praised the Portuguese ace and admitted he could see him playing well alongside PSG’s star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

However, the former AC Milan and Chelsea boss has slammed reports suggesting Ronaldo might soon be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu for the cash-rich Ligue 1 club.

“I can’t confirm what has been said in newspapers today,” Ancelotti told reporters on Saturday afternoon. “Do I want him to come at Paris? No.”

PSG have enjoyed an unbeaten start to their league season but suffered a setback in the Champions League when they lost to Porto in midweek.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, have won both their European clashes but are struggling in La Liga, lagging eight points behind Barcelona after just six games.

Mourinho: I have complete faith in my team


Jose Mourinho is confident that Real Madrid have what it takes to record a positive result in Sunday’s Primera Division match against Barcelona at Camp Nou.

The reigning champions have been in unimpressive form in La Liga in the opening weeks of the 2012-13 campaign, but Mourinho believes they are on the right path again.

“I have confidence in my players, I always do. When you are working well, you are always going to be more confident. I have complete faith in the team,” Mourinho stated at a press conference.

“Our recent improvement is down to the players. They have realised that it was crucial to change a few things. We always have to be focused. Now we’ve changed, things are easier once more.

“I am mainly concerned about putting in a good performance. We have made significant improvement and want to reach the same level again that helped us win the title.”

The flamboyant coach also had his say on the situation of Mesut Ozil, and was coy on whether the Germany international will feature from the start against Barcelona.

He added: “We should not make too much of it when a player starts from the bench. We have a lot of players and they can’t all play.

“I can’t say yet who will play against Barcelona out of Ozil, [Luka] Modric and Kaka.”

Sunday’s Clasico kicks off at 19:50CET.

'The Clasico is easy for a referee', says former official Iturralde Gonzalez


EXCLUSIVE
By Alberto Pinero | Goal.com Spain

The world will be watching. Barcelona against Real Madrid is one of those fixtures fans across the globe look out for; it is not only televised, but analysed and scrutinised. And if the referee gets it wrong, he’ll be criticised.

So what exactly can match official Carlos Delgado Ferreiro expect on Sunday? Goal.com consulted retired referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, a veteran of several Clasico clashes, to find out.

Iturralde, a colourful figure who enjoys rock music and works as a dentist, says Sunday’s official should enjoy the match above all, but believes the famous fixture represents a relatively simple task for the man in the middle, anyway.

“If I had to give a piece of advice to Delgado Ferreiro, I would tell him to enjoy the Clasico because it is one of those games that should be enjoyed,” the former official told Goal.com in an exclusive interview.

“There are more stars on the pitch than up in the sky! He will enjoy it a great deal; it’s one of those games with very few offsides for the assistants … in fact, it’s one of the easiest games to officiate at all!

“I was lucky enough to referee the best Real Madrid side in recent years, the Galacticos, and Guardiola’s Barcelona. I have been privileged to officiate two unique generations of footballers”

Former referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez

“There can be a lot of repercussions in the media. This country stops for the Clasico and there is a lot of pressure and tension, but refereeing it is very easy. It’s much harder to officiate at the end of the season when teams can go down – those are difficult games to take charge of. It’s just that they receive less media spotlight. But there are more nerves, there’s more tension.”

And the Basque-born ex-ref says Barca and Madrid do not make life more difficult for an official than other teams.

“They don’t make things more difficult. They know that if one of them doesn’t win the league one year, they can win it the next. The cycles here don’t last too long,” he explained.

Out of all the Madrid and Barca sides he has worked with, Irurralde picks out two teams above all others.

“I was lucky enough to referee the best Real Madrid side in recent years, the Galacticos, and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, with [Lionel] Messi, Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta” he said. “I have been privileged to officiate two unique generations of footballers.

“Cycles change, and I don’t understand those who say they like one team and not another – I am an Athletic [Bilbao] fan but I was almost drooling when I watched [Zinedine] Zidane or [Luis] Figo. I appreciate [good] football.”

Barca lead Real Madrid by eight points going into Sunday’s game, but Iturralde says it is still too early to determine which side will win La Liga this season.

“There’s a long way to go,” he explained. “But it clearly be Madrid or Barcelona. Atletico [Madrid] are close but there are lots of games and you need a really big squad. It would be great if there was a third team that could compete, or even a fourth, but at the moment fighting it out with Madrid and Barcelona for the title is very tough.”

And Iturralde, who presided over three Clasicos including Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s Madrid in November 2010, claims he misses the adrenaline of overseeing big games.

He added: “I live football with the same intensity but in a different way,” he revealed. “I have a dental laboratory, where I have always worked, but I miss football. It’s my passion and if I told you I didn’t miss it, I’d be lying.

“But more than the football, I miss the travelling and the moment when you step out on to the pitch, the tension in the stadiums. That’s what I miss most. Now I follow it as a fan – I don’t have those butterflies in my stomach that I had every weekend or the pains in my legs when I would go to sleep after the game. It’s different!”

If Real Madrid lose the Clasico, La Liga is over


ANALYSIS
By Alberto Pinero | Goal.com Spain

Real Madrid and Barcelona meet this Sunday in a Clasico which looks set to have big implications on the outcome of La Liga. Something which seemed impossible just a month and a half ago has become a reality now as eight points separate one side from the other.

If Barcelona collect the three points on Sunday, the Catalans will open up an 11-point advantage on Madrid – an abyss when one considers how the last few championships have been decided, with just a few points dividing the top two teams and usually right at the end of the competition.

Jose Mourinho has maintained since before the game against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend that the points difference does not concern him at this early stage, with much of the championship still to be disputed. The important thing, the Portuguese has said, is to recover the positive sensations within his team. However, he would perhaps do well to reconsider his priorities because if Madrid fall 11 points behind Barcelona, the capital club would be left needing a comeback of historical proportions.

Because no team in the history of La Liga has ever managed to come back from more than eight points behind to claim a championship. Eight points, in fact, is the biggest deficit overcome – by Valencia in 2003-04 – to win the Primera Division. Then, Rafael Benitez’s side hauled back Madrid themselves, in what was the beginning of the end of the Galactico era. Such a feat had not been achieved before, and has not been achieved since.

What Barca’s advantage will look like if they win on Sunday

Last season, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona found themselves 10 points adrift of Madrid in the 23rd round of La Liga and, despite reducing that gap to four at one stage, they were ultimately unable to turn it around. And in the end, Barca finished nine points adrift of Madrid as Mourinho’s men set a new points record by racking up 100 units – as well as 121 goals.

Madrid, then, clearly have a difficult task on their hands – although not an impossible one. In 2004, the Catalans made up an astonishing 18 points on Madrid in the second half of the campaign under Frank Rijkaard, but still lost out to Valencia overall. Back then, of course, La Liga was a much more evenly disputed competition, and no side has ever overcome a deficit of more than eight points to claim the title.

And with the way these two teams are dominating, it appears even more difficult now. So lose the Clasico on Sunday, and Madrid will likely lose La Liga, too.

Poll: Will Barcelona or Real Madrid win Sunday night's Clasico?


POLL

Barcelona and Real Madrid will battle for the third time this season on Sunday night, but it is the first Liga Clasico of the current campaign.

Jose Mourinho’s men conquered the Blaugrana over two legs in the Supercopa, with each side winning a game apiece but Los Blancos coming out on top overall to win the trophy.

Barcelona’s defence is weakened with Gerard Pique a major doubt and Carles Puyol ruled out after dislocating his elbow in their midweek Champions League win over Benfica.

As a result, expectations are higher than usual that attacking talent such as Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil can craft something on Catalunya turf.

The pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoulders will be as heavy as ever, especially having scored 12 goals already this season. The hosts’ very own superstar, Lionel Messi, has scored two less in the same time period but expectation will be just as great on the Ballon d’Or winner to perform.

Tito Vilanova will know his squad have the upper hand in La Liga heading into this Camp Nou clash – they sit eight points and five places ahead of the reigning champions with six games gone.

A defeat for the visitors on Sunday will extend the gap to double figures and, surely, leave Ronaldo and Co. needing a minor miracle to catch the 2010-11 Champions League winners.

A draw will not be what Madrid want either, with three points needed to reduce the deficit to five and keep the Santiago Bernabeu-based club with a realistic chance of retaining the Liga title.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Will Jose Mourinho’s men march to victory? Can Tito Vilanova’s team replicate their triumph in August at Camp Nou? Or will the millions watching from around the world witness the honours shared in the most anticipated match this weekend?

Let us know your opinion by voting in our poll, leaving a comment below, or getting in touch via Facebook and Twitter.