Tuesday's Bet of the Day: Back Ronaldo to lead the way in a high-scoring encounter

Cristiano ronaldo celebrates the winning of spanish supercup

Cristiano ronaldo celebrates the winning of spanish supercup

After conquering England for the first time since 1968 last season, Manchester City can now their sights on European glory this campaign.

The prestigious names of the opposition awaiting them in Group D exemplify the type of dynasty that Roberto Mancini can only aspire to at this stage, with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund Real Madrid boasting 14 European titles between them.

Nine of these titles belong to Real Madrid, who will be looking to put a shaky start to their domestic season behind them with a victory over the expensively-assembled English champions this evening.

Jose Mourinho’s men have lost three of their last five games in Spain, but are still 4/6 (1.67) favourites to get back to winning ways in this match.

The visitors looked slightly overawed at times during last season’s debut Champions League campaign, particularly in away ties against Bayern Munich and Napoli, but you can back them at 9/2 (5.50) to dispel those memories with a famous win at Santiago Bernabeu.

City have had to settle for a draw in both of their domestic away matches this season, and they would surely be happy to pick up a point in this game, at odds of 13/5 (3.60).

Despite their reputations for being slightly conservative coaches, both Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini have seen their sides looking uncharacteristically lax defensively so far this season.

The two teams have one clean sheet in 10 games between them, while Manchester City’s five matches have featured a particularly surprising 20 goals.

With so much attacking talent on display, a bet on both teams to score must be a sure thing against two shaky defences, at odds of 8/13 (1.62).

With the game finely poised, Paddy Power’s offer to refund losing first-goalscorer bets should the game result in a draw seems too good to miss.

Obviously, the smart money must go on the man who scored 10 goals in 10 Champions League games last season; Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite concerns over his current state of mind, the man from Madeira has already bagged four goals in five games this season, and cannot be ignored at 16/5 (4.20) to open the scoring tonight.

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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.

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Love him or lose him: Real Madrid must keep Cristiano Ronaldo happy or say goodbye to their Decima dream

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

The stage was set. Cristiano Ronaldo rode back into town after the international break and his sadness was apparently a thing of the past. The Portuguese quickly released a statement in which he reaffirmed his commitment to the Real Madrid cause and all appeared well.

Ronaldo had hit hat-tracks in his last two league games away to Sevilla and happy or otherwise, Jose Mourinho backed his man to return to form. “If he can play as he knows how, it doesn’t matter if he’s sad,” the coach considered.

But he couldn’t – and it did matter.

Cristiano cut a frustrated figure in Seville. After coming close with a free kick and another long-range effort early on, there was more melodrama than magic from the Portuguese. Pain and suffering etched on his face, he looked like a man with the world against him on Saturday and it showed as almost everything he tried failed miserably. In fact, the performance seemed to sum up his state of mind and, worse still, it’s now affecting his team-mates, too.

Already eight points adrift of Barcelona in La Liga, Madrid may already be outsiders for the title as early as September. Something simply has to give.

During the international break, much was written about Cristiano, his future and even possible replacements for the Portuguese. One of those was Atletico’s in-form striker Radamel Falcao who, according to his father, had dreamed of playing for Real as a youngster. Add the Colombian into the mix and you would have quite possibly the world’s greatest club side, but take out Ronaldo and this Madrid model fails to make sense.

It is thanks to Ronaldo that Madrid can compete with Barcelona – and Lionel Messi – at all. With him in the side, Mourinho’s men have denied the Catalans three titles over the last two calendar years. But all of that would have been impossible without the world’s most expensive player.

Ronaldo headed the winner as Madrid beat Barca in the Copa del Rey final of 2010-11, scored 46 times and made many more as Mourinho’s men captured La Liga last term, while he hit a goal in each leg as LosBlancos claimed the Supercopa at the end of August. Without him, Madrid would surely still be living in Barcelona’s significant shadow.

The simple solution to his pains would seemingly be to offer Ronaldo a new contract. After all, having played a pivotal part in the side’s successes and netting an incredible 150 goals in as many appearances, Cristiano is a finer footballer now than he was when he first arrived at the Bernabeu in 2009. Thus, even though he already earns an impressive €10m after tax, it is form on the field and the market that determine a player’s value and by that rationale, Ronaldo deserves a rise.

However, it is not as simple as that. In order to give the player an extra €5m free of tax, Madrid would be forced to fork out an annual €31m. That’s because Ronaldo, under contract until 2015, currently benefits from the so-called ‘Beckham Law’, which was still in force when the Portuguese arrived in 2009. It’s not now, though, and any new deal will see Madrid made to pay a much higher tax rate.

In any case, Cristiano claims his despair and despondency have nothing to do with wishes for a new and improved contract.

“I would like to reaffirm, without being concerned about contracts, that my focus is solely on winning every game and every available trophy with the essential company of my team-mates and all Madridistas,” he revealed in a recent statement.

In actual fact, Ronaldo lacks love, not money.

The Portuguese sees Messi pampered and protected at Barcelona, but fails to receive the same support at Madrid. Everyone at Camp Nou, be it players, coaches or senior directives, takes the time to laud Leo and his exceptional exploits on the pitch, while he is always touted as the worthy winner for the Ballon d’Or and praised profusely by the Catalan press.

I would like to reaffirm, without being concerned about contracts, that my focus is solely on winning every game and every available trophy [at Madrid]

Cristiano Ronaldo before the game against Sevilla

Ronaldo has it harder in the capital. Closely scrutinised and often criticised by the Madrid media, Cristiano feels he could do with more support from within the club, particularly in the lead-up to the Ballon d’Or award later this year. Unlike Messi at Barca, the Portuguese is under enormous pressure and believes his achievements have failed to receive real respect or recognition. In short, he isn’t feeling the love.

Mourinho, meanwhile, has said he expects a different Madrid on Tuesday against Manchester City in the Champions League, having claimed he was left with “no team” on Saturday. He will no doubt expect a different Ronaldo, too, but problems don’t just go away on their own and his side must act to ensure their prized performer has everything he needs to thrive at the Bernabeu, including public support and, perhaps, more money too. He is worth it.

Because if Cristiano leaves, there is nobody of his quality out there to replace him. Lose Ronaldo and the club’s Decima dreams will die with his departure, at least for a few more years, and without his brilliant compatriot, it is difficult to imagine Mourinho sticking around too long, either. Now that really would be sad for Real Madrid.

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Khedira: Manchester City game the perfect opportunity for Real Madrid to get back on track

Sami Khedira - Real Madrid

Sami Khedira – Real Madrid

Sami Khedira sees Tuesday’s Champions League match with Manchester City as the perfect opportunity for Real Madrid to return to winning ways after their poor start to the new season.

The Primera Division holders have won only one of their opening four league games, and are already lagging behind leaders Barcelona by eight points.

Khedira is not too worried just yet, though, and is hopeful that Madrid will find their rhythm once more against the Premier League champions.

“It’s only normal that you lack a bit of confidence after a disappointing start to the season. Nevertheless, Tuesday’s game against Manchester City is the perfect opportunity to get back on track,” Khedira told reporters.

Jose Mourinho heavily criticised his team in the aftermath of their 1-0 defeat to Sevilla at the weekend, and the midfielder feels the Madrid coach was within his right sto do so, even though he disagrees with the Portuguese’s comment that they are not yet a team.

“I think we’re a team,” he added. “The coach has the responsibility, and we have the responsibility to play well. We have to play better to give the best of ourselves.

“The coach is right and we played a very poor game. He has every right to say what he wants before public opinion.”

Madrid’s match with City at the Santiago Bernabeu kicks off at 20:45CET.

Champions League flop Mancini has point to prove against old rival Mourinho

Sergio Agüero - Roberto Mancini

Sergio Agüero y Roberto Mancini / Getty

By Greg Stobart

When Roberto Mancini glances across from his position on the touchline at the Santiago Bernabeu tonight, the Manchester City manager will see a stark reminder of why he must put his Champions League hoodoo behind him.

As City embark on their European quest in the ‘group of champions’, Mancini comes up against Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, the man who replaced him at Inter and subsequently delivered the ultimate prize for the Italian club.

Having met City’s primary targets in the last two seasons – first finishing in the top four and then winning the Premier League – the next stage in the Abu Dhabi project is to conquer Europe and ultimately, the world.

While Mourinho is considered the Champions League king, having led Porto to glory in 2004 and Inter in 2010, Mancini’s record in Europe’s elite competition is beyond poor.


2002-03: UEFA CUP

The Italian now has a point to prove, not least after City failed to qualify for the knockout stages in their debut season in the competition last year, despite finishing with a respectable 10 points.

This year, City are drawn in Champions League Group D alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in a group that Mancini will know represents an equally difficult passage to advance past the first stage.

It starts at the home of the Spanish champions, in front of more than 80,000 supporters, but taking something from the game would represent the perfect start to the campaign for both City and Mancini.

Mancini has been in bullish mood ahead of the clash, insisting City will become European champions at some point given the ambition of the club and the huge investment by owner Sheikh Mansour.

“I am sure we will arrive to win this trophy in the future,” Mancini said. “I do not know when, but I am sure because we are working for this. If we want to improve every year it is possible.”

The 47-year-old must match his employers’ expectations by taking City to at least the second round – and he can hardly argue that he does not have the tools in a squad that includes the likes of David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.

But failure in Europe really is an albatross around his neck. At Inter, he was criticised for his overly cautious approach in the competition as he only guided the team to one knockout victory, against holders Porto in 2005, during which time the furthest he managed to take the club was to the quarter-finals.

After winning three successive Serie A titles in a row, it was failure in Europe that cost Mancini his job at San Siro in 2008. And, as if to highlight Mancini’s inadequacy in Europe, Mourinho steered Inter to Champions League glory two years later.

If the finale to the Premier League last season had panned out differently, it might have also contributed to his departure from City. When rivals Manchester United took an eight-point lead at the summit of the table in January, questions were being asked of Mancini from Abu Dhabi.

Thanks to Aguero’s strike in the final minute of the season, City won the title – their first since 1968 – and Mancini was rewarded with a handsome five-year contract, ending any uncertainty over his future.

Yet he will have been made well aware of what he must achieve and – just like at Inter – Mourinho is the man often considered to be lurking in the shadows should the time come when the City hierarchy decide to make a change.

The Portuguese has admirers within the Etihad Stadium and has shown in the past that he can build on Mancini’s good work and deliver the greatest prize in European football.

If City fail to remain in the Champions League beyond Christmas once again, those doubts over Mancini could re-emerge. Tonight, under the floodlights in the Spanish capital, they could go a long way to making sure that does not happen.

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David Silva – the Manchester City Galactico that got away

By Jonathan Birchall

As records were reached at Old Trafford on Saturday, along came another reminder that Manchester, soon enough, will need a new magician.

With another goal and spellbinding performance against Wigan to mark his 700th appearance for Manchester United, Paul Scholes, aged 37, continued to stand time still. But less than three years from 40 and with one retirement party already down, it’s not far from catching him.

Yet five miles from Old Trafford, just beyond the other end of Mancunian Way, David Silva, as silent and deadly, has made Manchester his stage. The man known as Merlin is the city’s new otherworldly apprentice.

At the Etihad Stadium they simply dare not lose the Spaniard. After a summer of talks in Barcelona and Manchester between Silva’s camp and City, the Premier League champions announced a £200,000-a-week deal on Monday that will see him join the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez on the top rung of earners at the club.

The reported interest in Silva from Real Madrid this summer will have no doubt helped the Spaniard’s negotiating position when trying to raise his £140,000-a-week deal that expires in 2014, but the 26-year-old from a fishing town in Gran Canaria is happy to stay a million miles away from what he knows. His best years will be spent in Manchester.



After all, Madrid’s interest in the midfielder, along with rivals Barcelona, has been long-standing. Targeted by both Spanish giants when he was put up for sale by the financially crumbling Valencia in 2010, Silva left for the Premier League. City, he said, pushed harder than anyone else for his signature.

The charm offensive from Roberto Mancini worked then and continues to do so. The Italian, wary of keeping the quiet, family-orientated Silva content off the pitch, sanctions the midfielder time away to return to his native Spain where the girlfriend he has known since the age of four still studies. On it, Silva has free rein, and to devastating effect.

With 31 assists in his first two seasons at Eastlands, the former Valencia man has become one of the defining faces of the new City, winning the club’s Player’s Player of the Year award last term, when the 44-year wait for a title ended on the blue half of Manchester.

The defining performance for City was arguably Silva’s finest, as he and his team-mates embarrassed United at Old Trafford with a 6-1 win to shift the sands of power in Manchester. His through ball to Edin Dzeko for City’s final goal was, even United fans would admit, Scholes-esque. There’s no higher compliment to be paid in the Theatre of Dreams.

But the temptation of Madrid or Catalunya will have been strong for Silva, a man who keeps himself to himself away from the Etihad. Like Scholes, the Cheshire-based Spaniard is rarely seen in Manchester.

His friends in the squad are the Spanish speakers at City, namely Pablo Zabaleta, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, while the arrival of Javi Garcia, who he played with at youth level in Spain, will provide extra incentive to stick around.

But avoiding attention in a city where he is revered by those in blue and red isn’t the only challenge for Silva to overcome. The midfieler, who wears strapping on both ankles to protect himself from the kicks, trips and clips of Premier League defenders, has been forced to increase his strength by Mancini.

Tuesday’s trip to Madrid will, tauntingly, provide Silva the chance to prove to the Bernabeu outfit what might have been. That City announced his new half-a-decade deal in the Spanish capital had a hint of political posturing.

City are really here and have the players to make a mark on Europe’s elite after turning the Premier League’s status quo on its head last term.

And Silva will be central to that, even if like his Manchester United counterpart, he goes about it quietly.

Luis Figo, one of the 33 to have played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid during his career, summed up Scholes best: “On the pitch you can’t catch him. Off the pitch he disappears.”

The same can typically be said of Silva. The Galactico that got away.

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