Real Madrid v Barcelona: Ronaldo trains alone ahead of El Clasico

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Cristiano Ronaldo trained alone on Thursday ahead of Real Madrid‘s clash against Barcelona this weekend, after sustaining a knock to his calf during the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

The Portugal star received rough treatment as he scored the winner in last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Brazilians Gremio in the final, but Ronaldo had insisted he would be fit for the visit of Barcelona.

“Cristiano Ronaldo trained alone out on the pitch, both with and without the ball,” Real wrote on their website, two days ahead of Saturday’s Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Following Real’s return to Spain, the five-time Ballon d’Or recipient had remained in the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday before finally lacing up his boots for an individual training session on Thursday.

Spanish sports daily As reported it was simply a “precaution” as Real look to trim the 11-point gap between themselves and leaders Barcelona, who are unbeaten in La Liga this season.

“He will play in the Clasico barring last-minute surprise,” the paper added.

Zinedine Zidane‘s Real, who also trail Atletico Madrid and Valencia, are fourth in the table and realistically must win this weekend to remain in the running for the Spanish title.​

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El Clasico kick-off time changes to catch Far East audience

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Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are big draws, but La Liga is chasing the Asian audience.

For the first time, Spanish football’s showpiece event, El Clasico between giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, has been scheduled for a lunchtime kick-off (1600 GST) on Saturday as La Liga seeks to capture Asia’s attention and its cash.

“We are keen to provide our fans in Asia the opportunity to watch Real Madrid and Barcelona face off at a time that is convenient to them,” La Liga‘s Chief Communications Officer Joris Evers told AFP.

With a potential television audience of 650 million people, according to La Liga, El Clasico is the most watched club match around the world thanks to its unique mixture of star protagonists and a fierce rivalry fostered over decades both on the field and off it by the distinct cultural differences between Catalonia and Madrid.

“It is the ideal shop window, the marquee match to show to people Spanish football,” Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, professor of economics at Barcelona University and an expert in Spanish football finances, said to AFP.

However, it is not just a boom in lucrative television rights that La Liga and its two biggest clubs are seeking with an early start this weekend, but a showcase for all of their lucrative sponsorship contracts.

Last year Barcelona signed a club record shirt sponsorship deal worth a minimum of $258 million over four years with Japanese online retailer Rakuten.

“They want to sell their products to international markets, above all in Asia,” added Gay de Liebana.

According to a study carried out by consumer analytics specialists Nielsen Sports, last season’s corresponding first La Liga Clasico of the season generated more than $42.5 million in media value for sponsors.

“The kick-off of the next El Clasico on December 23 is at 1300 Madrid time, 2000 in Shanghai, 1900 in Jakarta and 1730 in New Delhi,” continued Evers.

“These are all locations where we know there are many La Liga fans and where we will be hosting events to celebrate El Clasico.

“Additional events are being held in various locations around Asia. Through this and other initiatives we want to make existing fans even bigger La Liga supporters and, of course, we want to attract new supporters as well.”

Along with Messi, Ronaldo should help attract audiences all around the world.

Along with Messi, Ronaldo should help attract audiences all around the world.

LA LIGA LAGGING BEHIND

Such events are a sign of La Liga’s awareness of how the Spanish top flight lags behind England’s cash rich Premier League in the battle for Asian based fans.

The Premier League’s estimated $3.9 billion income from domestic and international TV rights a season dwarfs La Liga’s $1.9 billion revenue.

Moreover, whilst Asia is the Premier League’s biggest international market, it trails behind the Americas and the rest of Europe in La Liga’s rights deals.

“We have changed kick-off schedules so that they can be seen at reasonable times here in Asia and we will continue to take steps to ensure that this part of the world can enjoy La Liga as much as possible,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said at the opening of the league’s new Singapore office earlier this year, just one of a series of new La Liga bases across the world.

Tebas is acutely aware that Spain’s privileged position at the top of the European game is coming under threat from the Premier League’s economic power.

He has repeatedly warned the Premier League could become the NBA of European football, capable of poaching Barca and Madrid’s stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the same way Barca were powerless to stop Qatar-backed Paris Saint Germain paying a world record €222million for Neymar in August.

Madrid and Barca have combined to win the Champions League in seven of the past 12 years. However, for the first time ever England will have five of the last 16 of the competition in 2018.

However, Gay de Liebana believes La Liga’s focus shouldn’t rest solely on Asia, but take advantage of the cultural and linguistic advantages they have in Latin American markets, from where many of its current stars like Messi and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez hail.

“They have to gamble and look towards South and Latin America. They are emerging countries where there is a rising middle class and greater spending power,” he added.

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Ronaldo v Messi - Who is the bigger El Clasico star?

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The El Clasico is just around the corner and as it’s been for the better part of a decade, the build up to the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona features its obligatory narrative.

We’re talking about the Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi story line, of course.

The duo can’t help but be among the main protagonists of La Liga‘s and possibly club football’s most theatrical rivalry.

Here’s how their records in the derby compare.

GOAL-SCORING

When it comes to their form in front of goal, it’s difficult to choose between the two superstars with both scoring almost at will for so much of their careers.

Messi is well ahead in El Clasico goals though, with 24 to his name compared to Ronaldo’s 17. However, it’s worth noting that the current Ballon d’Or winner has played in only 28 editions of the derby while his Argentinian counterpart has featured in 36.

The Portuguese holds the record for scoring in the most consecutive El Clasicos with a run of six games.

Winner: TIE

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

SUCCESS

In the many heated encounters between the two Spanish juggernauts, Messi has been on the winning side more often than not. The Barcelona man has won 16 times, drawn eight matches and lost 12.

Meanwhile Ronaldo, who arrived in Spain during Barcelona’s golden era under Pep Guardiola, has had to endure more defeats. He’s been on the losing side 13 times, drawing six matches and winning eight.

Winner: MESSI

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

CREATOR

One of Ronaldo’s biggest critiques is his selfishness in front of goal. He’s desperate to get on the score sheet and sometimes, setting up a team mate in a better position doesn’t occur to him.

In El Clasicos though, it must be said that Real Madrid over the last 10 years have seen very little of the ball during their clashes with the Catalans and the plan quickly became to get Ronaldo on the end of the chances they were able to muster on the break. That definitely factors into things when you look at the Portuguese’s one assist in 28 games.

Messi on the other hand is renowned for his exceptional playmaking and so it’s no surprise that he has bagged 13 assists in El Clasicos, an all-time record.

Winner: MESSI

Lionel Messi (2ndR)

Lionel Messi (2ndR)

VERDICT

The debate over who is better between the two five-time Ballon d’Or winners will rumble on as it has for so long. However, when it comes to their performances in El Clasicos, Messi is the undisputed winner.

In Ronaldo’s defence, Madrid have been second best as a team to their La Liga rivals for much of the time he has spent at the club while Messi has flourished in the more dominant side over the last decade or so.

Messi 3-1 Ronaldo

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