Ronaldinho: Barca can catch Real Madrid after Xavi restored hope

By Sports Desk April 10, 2022

Ronaldinho believes Barcelona can chase down LaLiga leaders Real Madrid after his former Blaugrana team-mate Xavi restored "hope" at the club.

Barca have surged up the table after appointing Xavi as boss last November, climbing from ninth to third following a 14-game unbeaten run in the Spanish top flight, including a 4-0 Clasico thumping of Madrid,

That undefeated streak is the longest ongoing run in Europe's top-five leagues, and Barca have won six LaLiga matches in a row, keeping a clean sheet in the past three games.

Barca's next task will be a trip to Levante on Sunday as the Catalan club search for four straight wins in the competition without conceding for the first time since December 2018.

And Ronaldinho, who played with Xavi during his five-year spell at Barca between 2003 and 2008, believes the former midfielder has brought the faith back for the Blaugrana supporters.

"I have returned to take a good look at Barça with Xavi, who has returned and has brought us hope," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"As my friend and former team-mate that he is, this excites people and me too. When he played, he already had a vision of the game as a coach. 

"He guided the game and I see it very well because he makes us want to watch Barca games again."

Barca evoked memories of the 2003-04 season, when they defeated Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu before making a late title charge, by demolishing Carlo Ancelotti's side on the road last month.

Xavi's team would move 12 points behind Madrid with victory at Levante, while still having a game in hand, and Ronaldinho says they can win the title.

"[The 2003-04 season win at Madrid] was a very nice comeback that we have had in our time and it can happen again," he added. 

"As I said, we are excited that Barca will play well again and I think anything is possible."

Pressed on whether Barca could complete the unthinkable turnaround to steal the LaLiga title from Madrid, the Brazil great responded: "I hope so and as a fan I am hoping that things go well and I think there can be."

While uncertainty remains where the LaLiga title will be heading when the season concludes, one thing is for sure; Ronaldinho has no intentions of entering management or coaching any time soon.

"The truth is that I have never seen myself this way, it may be that in the future I will, when I have more patience," he said when asked if he would join Xavi as his assistant. 

"It's difficult when you leave football and you have a way of looking at it, wanting others to do things that are very difficult for them to do. So, I still have no patience."

Related items

  • Poland 1-3 Austria: Baumgartner and Arnautovic get Rangnick's men up and running Poland 1-3 Austria: Baumgartner and Arnautovic get Rangnick's men up and running

    Austria got off the mark at Euro 2024 with a 3-1 victory over Poland, with second-half goals from Christoph Baumgartner and Marko Arnautovic deciding an entertaining contest.

    Austria flew out of the traps in Berlin as Poland struggled to get an early foothold, and Ralf Rangnick's team led within nine minutes. Phillipp Mwene delivered a pinpoint cross from the left, and Gernot Trauner powered his header home at the near post.

    Poland should have levelled within nine further minutes, only for Nicola Zalewski to lift a wild effort over the crossbar. However, they did get their equaliser on the half-hour mark.

    A fortunate deflection off Trauner saw the ball fall to Krzysztof Piatek, who kept his composure to slot into the bottom-right corner and reward Poland's improvement.

    Having missed last week's defeat to the Netherlands with a thigh injury, Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski was introduced from the bench on the hour mark, but it was Austria who regained the lead seven minutes later through Baumgartner.

    Arnautovic dummied Alexander Prass' ball infield, allowing Baumgartner to send Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way with a composed finish from the edge of the box.

    Arnautovic then made the points safe from the penalty spot with 12 minutes remaining, converting into the bottom-right corner after Marcel Sabitzer had raced clear and been felled by Szczesny.

    Austria should have had a fourth late on as Konrad Laimer shot across the face of goal after rounding Szczesny, but their victory means avoiding defeat against the Netherlands next Tuesday would likely send them through to the last 16.

    Data Debrief: Arnautovic on the spot

    At the age of 35 years and 63 days, Arnautovic became the third-oldest player to score a penalty at the Euros, after Ivica Vastic (38 years, 257 days) and Cristiano Ronaldo (three penalties scored at the age of 36).

    A surprise inclusion after being benched for Austria's 1-0 loss to France, the Inter man led the line impressively, winning seven of his nine total duels and drawing three fouls.

  • Garwin Tulloch, USG on board as Portmore United announce new leadership, board of directors Garwin Tulloch, USG on board as Portmore United announce new leadership, board of directors

    Many-time Jamaica Premier League (JPL) champions Portmore United have added United Sports Group (USG) and Garwin Tulloch to its ownership group, as the club continues to chart a course towards reclaiming its glory days at the pinnacle of the nation’s top-flight league.

    USG is a consortium comprising Tina Matalon, Ryan Reid, Khary Robinson, Duncan Stewart and Jackie Lechler, all prominent and successful Jamaican business leaders across various sectors, while Tulloch is a director of Kemtek Development & Construction Company Limited.

    Kemtek, a family business, and one of Jamaica’s leading home construction companies, boasts major investments in the development of commercial and residential properties across various Jamaican communities including the sprawling metropolitan Portmore community.

    For Portmore United, the addition of these new investors will strengthen the operational and financial capacity of the club, which is one of Jamaica’s marquee clubs and the most successful in the JPL, having won seven titles –the first two as Hazard United in 1993 and 2003.

    The JPL has increased in popularity over the years and even more so in the post pandemic period, under the Chris Williams-led Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL).  During this time, the PFJL has seen tremendous growth in the League’s commercial viability and the economic prospects of the Clubs.

    This expansion of an increasingly sophisticated investor pool facilitates the collective vision of the PFJL and the JPL clubs, which is to enhance the financial and operational capacity of the Clubs. The path to achieve that includes leveraging existing revenue streams like sponsorships, player sales, broadcasting, digital media, merchandizing and increased gate receipts, through additional investments in infrastructure, something that USG’s Khary Robinson is pleased to be a part of.

    “United Sports Group believes that this strategic investment will further empower Portmore United Football Club to achieve even greater football success and become a catalyst for positive community development. Our leadership group is committed to delivering the time, strategic support and capital to enable the PUFC brand to maximize its potential in the sporting industry commercial space,” Robinson said.

    Tulloch echoed similar sentiments.

    “Football has remained one of my great passions and the desire to give back to the community through the sport has always been a driving force for me personally. My association with the JPL through Kemtek sponsorship of the League, led me to an association with the principals of Portmore United Football Club,” Tulloch shared.

    “From the onset I was impressed with the vision and professionalism across the organization and the decision to invest was a no brainer for me. It is an association that I’m confident will yield great benefits to the various stakeholders of the Club,” he added.

    Consequent on the additional ownership compliment, Portmore United’s new Board of Directors, will see Tulloch serving as chairman, with Garfield Sinclair, Peter Baker, Khary Robinson, Clinton Brooks and Garth Pearce, the memebers.

  • Switzerland v Germany: Nagelsmann sets sight on top spot in Group A Switzerland v Germany: Nagelsmann sets sight on top spot in Group A

    Julian Nagelsmann wants his Germany team to stay perfect as they aim to top Group A at Euro 2024.

    The hosts secured qualification for the last 16 by dispatching Hungary 2-0 last time out, following on from their 5-1 demolition of Scotland.

    Their final group match sees them take on Switzerland, who are two points behind in second place, meaning a defeat for Germany on Sunday would see the Swiss top the group.

    That is a scenario that Nagelsmann is desperate to avoid, as he confirmed there will be few changes to his line-up, despite Germany's progress having been assured.

    "Top spot is important. We want to win all our matches," Nagelsmann said.

    "I do think it is important to have as many players from the starting 11 on the pitch so that we stay in the rhythm.

    "Do not expect to have seven changes to the team. I can rule that out now."

    Germany's match with the Swiss will take place in Frankfurt, where England and Denmark played on Thursday, with both sides struggling with how the pitch chopped up.

    Deniz Undav, however, says teams simply have to adapt to the surfaces.

    "There a still a few days left, so maybe the pitch will improve until then," said the forward.

    "But you have to be able to adapt to the conditions. We want to win on Sunday. So, whether we play on grass or stones, we have to win."

    Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, meanwhile, knows his team must expect the sternest of challenges.

    "We know we are now up against a team that is of a different calibre with their super attack and the euphoria [as hosts]," he said.

    "But we are going into the game with confidence and look forward to it. Obviously, we want to trouble the Germans."

    Opta's supercomputer makes Germany favourites to win the group, with a 77% likelihood the hosts finish top.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Switzerland - Xherdan Shaqiri

    Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in more major international tournaments than Switzerland forward Shaqiri, who has now netted at each of the last six such tournaments since and including the 2014 World Cup.

    In fact, Shaqiri is the only European player to have scored at the last six major tournaments.

    Germany - Jamal Musiala

    Musiala is aiming to become the first Germany player to score in each of his nation's opening three games at a major tournament since Miroslav Klose at the 2002 World Cup, and the first ever to do so at the European Championship.

    Aged 21 years and 118 days when this game is played, he would be the second-youngest player ever to do so for any nation, behind only Peru's Teofilo Cubillas (21y 94d) at the 1970 World Cup.  

    MATCH PREDICTION: GERMANY WIN

    This will be Switzerland and Germany's first encounter at a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup; West Germany beat Switzerland 5-0 in the group stages. They also met in the 1938 and 1962 World Cups.

    Germany have won each of their last three games at major international tournaments by 2+ goals (4-2 v Costa Rica, 5-1 v Scotland, 2-0 v Hungary) with the Netherlands at the 1974 World Cup the last nation to record four such victories in a row.

    They are aiming to become the third host nation to win all three of their group stage games at a single edition of the European Championship after the Netherlands in 2000 and France in 1984.

    Meanwhile, they would be the first host team to do so at a major international tournament since the Germans themselves at the 2006 World Cup (Excluding Euro 2020 - 11 host nations).

    However, Switzerland are unbeaten in their last three matches against Germany (W1 D2), with those three matches producing 16 goals, an average of 5.3 per game. The Swiss had lost 16 of their previous 18 matches against the Germans (D2), so they should certainly not be discounted.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Switzerland - 23.5%

    Germany - 52.3%

    Draw - 24.2%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.