Cristiano Ronaldo’s not golden, says Xavi

Simon Foster 24/12/2014
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Striking out: Barcelona's Xavi (r) was third in the Ballon d’Or voting three times.

Barcelona midfielder Xavi has questioned whether Cristiano Ron­aldo deserves to win the Ballon d’Or and wouldn’t even place the Portu­guese in his top three.

– #360Awards: VOTE for your star sportsmen, sportswomen and teams of 2014

– #Quiz360: Wednesday’s teasers – WIN dinner for 2 at Media Rotana

Ronaldo is expected to claim his third Ballon d’Or next month after a calendar year in which he scored 61 goals in 60 games for club and country and lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid having ended the competition as its top goalscorer.

However, the one blot on the for­ward’s copybook is his disappoint­ing tournament in Brazil in which Portugal crashed out at the group stage with Ronaldo struggling in South America with a knee injury.

The other two names on the shortlist, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer, both enjoyed fine World Cups with the latter triumphing in the final and being named best goalkeeper while the Argentine for­ward scored four goals in winning the Golden Ball.

In an interview with Spanish daily Sport, Xavi said: “He didn’t do much in the World Cup, and in a World Cup year, the season is defined by that. I would have Leo, second Philipp Lahm, and third Javier Mascherano.”

The future of Messi at Barcelona has also generated a considerable amount of intrigue with the for­ward said to be unsettled.

However, Xavi added: “He is hap­pier than ever. He’s the best player in the world and we have to live with this kind of news. But I see him happy and content.”

Most popular

Related Sections

Pablo Zabaleta claims Manchester City are once again full of condfidence

Andy Hampson 24/12/2014
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Chasing Chelsea down: Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta.

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is confident the champi­ons can keep the pressure right on Chelsea this Christmas.

– #360Awards: VOTE for your star sportsmen, sportswomen and teams of 2014

– #Quiz360: Wednesday’s teasers – WIN dinner for 2 at Media Rotana

Chelsea top the Premier League heading into the festive programme but with City right on their tail.

The Londoners, who held a nine-point advantage over City at one stage last month, are now just three points clear after their chief rivals hit form.

City have won their last eight games in all competitions – one short of a club record – and confi­dence is soaring with the indiffer­ent results of October and Novem­ber now firmly in the past.

Zabaleta said: “That (run) shows the spirit that this team has at the moment. When you think of two months ago, when we were not playing our best football, we kept working hard and I think at the moment the confidence is back and we are playing much better football.

“I think that, at Christmas, spirit is always crucial to try and win all the games, because it can make a big difference. It is especially the case for the top squads and the players that can rotate, because it will be very hard to play on the 26th and the 28th within 48 hours.

“We are looking to win those games. Even if Chelsea are win­ning games and looking solid, it is normal to have some point of the season where you can lose points. Belief is what you need to keep going until the end.”

City’s victory over Crystal Palace last Saturday took them level with Chelsea at the top but Jose Mour­inho’s men responded by winning at Stoke on Monday.

Attention now switches to Friday as City travel to West Brom while Chelsea host West Ham. On Decem­ber 28, City are at home to Burnley while Chelsea visit Southampton. It promises to be a tight battle between the two leading clubs and Zabaleta never had any doubt that City would pull themselves back into contention.

Prior to the November interna­tional break, City won just once in six games and questions were start­ing to be asked of the team’s dura­bility and manager Manuel Pel­legrini’s suitability.

Zabaleta, 29, said: “We know that we have enough talent in the team.

“We probably had to improve our performances collectively. In the way that we want the team to play, we were probably lacking intensity and concentration in some of the games. It cost us a few points.

“Now we are a solid team. At the beginning of the season, it was hard for some of the players because we probably didn’t have enough rest and it wasn’t a very long pre-season. It was a bit hard at the beginning with the fitness but now I think everyone is much better.”

Most popular

Related Sections

#360stats: Pick of the facts and figures ahead of the Premier League games

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Young gun: 18 year-old Jose Pozo, City’s youngest player this season, was born one month and 15 days after Frank Lampard made his Premier League debut for West Ham (31st January 1996).

Ahead of every round of Premier League games, Sport360 – with some help from our friends at Opta Stats – will provide the pick of the facts and figures. Here are this week's highlights:

– #Quiz360: WIN dinner for 2 at Channels, Media Rotana, Dubai

– #360Awards: VOTE for your sportsmen, sportswomen & teams of 2014

– #360transfers: 10 players who could leave the EPL in January

Friday December 26 (Boxing Day)

Chelsea v West Ham United

  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last nine Barclays Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W5 D4).
  • Chelsea’s last five Boxing Day matches have seen a total of just six goals scored, since their famous 4-4 draw with Aston Villa in 2007.
  • Sam Allardyce has managed just two wins in 21 Premier League games against Chelsea (W2 D6 L13.
  • Allardyce has no wins against Jose Mourinho in the competition (D3 L5), but his three draws have all come in away games (in four visits to Stamford Bridge).
  • Chelsea have won 12 and lost just one of the last 16 Premier League games against the Hammers (D3).
  • The Hammers have failed to score in four of the last five Premier League games against Chelsea.
  • Jose Mourinho has a record of five wins and no defeats in six Premier League matches as a coach against West Ham.

Burnley v Liverpool

Mario Balotelli has picked up just one card fewer (19 - 16Y 3R) than he has scored goals (20) in his Premier League career.

  • Burnley have failed to score in their last four league games against the Reds and in five of the last six matches in all competitions.
  • The Reds had lost just two of the 17 Barclays Premier League matches on Boxing Day prior to Rodgers’ arrival (W10 D5 L2).
  • Liverpool won both Premier League games against Burnley 4-0 in the Clarets only season in the Premier League.
  • The Reds are in their lowest position on Xmas Day since the inaugural Premier League season (1992-93), when they were 10th – the same as they are now. 
  • The woodwork at Turf Moor has been struck 10 times this season; more often than any other Premier League ground this season.
  • Since the beginning of last season Brendan Rodgers’ side have hit the frame of the goal 31 times; more than any other team in the top-flight.

Crystal Palace v Southampton

  • Crystal Palace have lost just one of five Premier League games on Boxing Day (W2 D2 L1) including a 1-1 draw with Southampton at Selhurst Park in 1997.
  • Southampton have lost just one of their last six Barclays Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W2 D3 L1).
  • Saints have won the last five league games against Crystal Palace without the Eagles finding the net.
  • Crystal Palace have never beaten Southampton in the Premier League (W0 D4 L6).
  • Neil Warnock’s side have averaged just 35.6% possession in Premier League matches so far this season; a low in the division. Only once (53.5% v Sunderland on 3rd Nov) have Palace enjoyed over 50% possession in a single match in 2014-15.
  • This match will be Southampton’s 600th game in the Premier League. They have played 1,509 top-flight league games in total.
  • Just one of Graziano Pelle’s eight league goals this season has come away from St. Mary’s Stadium. However it did come in London (versus West Ham in August).
  • The Eagles have won none of their three previous Premier League matches on a Friday (D2 L1).

Yannick Bolasie (131) is one of three players to have attempted over 100 dribbles in the Premier League this season (along with Eden Hazard and Raheem Sterling).

Everton v Stoke City

  • Everton have lost just one of their last seven Barclays Premier League matches played on Boxing Day (W3 D3).
  • Stoke have scored just 10 goals in 12 Premier League games against Everton and just three in six games at Goodison Park.
  • Everton have lost just two of the 12 Barclays Premier League meetings with Stoke City (W5 D5 L2).
  • Mark Hughes has won just two of his 16 Premier League games as a coach against his former club Everton (W2 D8 L6).
  • Everton have committed just 161 fouls so far this season; fewer than any other side in the Barclays Premier League.
  • By contrast, Stoke City have made 217 fouls with only Crystal Palace and Leicester City (both 226) above them.
  • The Toffees have won their last three Premier League matches on a Friday, scoring eight and conceding just two.
  • Gareth Barry (53) has played in more 0-0 draws than any other outfield player in Premier League history. David James (56) is the only player to be involved in more.

Roberto Martinez has never been on the losing side as a coach against Stoke City (W3 D7 L0).

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur

  • Leicester have won just one of their eight Premier League Boxing Day matches, losing five.
  • Tottenham Hotspur are unbeaten in their last nine Barclays Premier League matches on Boxing Day, winning six.
  • Leicester have failed to win any of their last 14 PL games in December (D6 L8), last winning in 2001 v Aston Villa.
  • There have been 28 goals scored in the last six meetings between Leicester and Spurs in all competitions.
  • In the last four meetings between these two sides the team scoring first has failed to go and win (D1 L3).
  • Spurs’ league games this season have produced 19 goals in total in the opening 30 minutes; a league high.
  • The Foxes last won a league match 97 days ago (counting from 21st September until 26th December). Since that victory, Tottenham have claimed 20 points compared to Leicester’s two (both from 12 games).

Hugo Lloris has faced a league-high five penalties so far this season, with three being scored against him.

Manchester United v Newcastle United

  • Manchester United have lost just one of 20 Barclays Premier League games they have played on Boxing Day (W17 D2 L1).
  • Newcastle have been away from home in nine of their last 11 Boxing Day PL matches and have lost six and won just one of those nine games.
  • The Red Devils have won 17 of the last 18, been victorious in the last 10 in a row and won the last 10 on Boxing Day at Old Trafford.
  • Newcastle have not won consecutive games in all competitions against the Red Devils at Old Trafford since March 1935.
  • After scoring nine goals in his first 10 Premier League games for Man Utd against Newcastle, Wayne Rooney has failed to net in the last five against the Magpies.
  • Robin van Persie has scored six goals and assisted three more in his last eight Premier League starts against Newcastle.
  • Manchester United have won 49 league games on December 26th; no side in English league history has reached 50.

Jonny Evans has found the net three times in his last three appearances in this fixture, two at the right end and one own goal.

Sunderland v Hull City

  • Sunderland have lost just one of their last six Barclays Premier League Boxing Day fixtures (W2 D3 L1).
  • Hull City have lost their two previous Boxing Day PL games (1-5 to Man City and 2-3 to Man Utd).
  • There have been just eight goals scored in the Black Cats’ last six Boxing Day games in the Premier League.
  • Current Hull boss Steve Bruce was manager of Sunderland between June 2009 and November 2011 winning 28% of his 89 Premier League games in charge.
  • There have been six red cards in six Premier League meetings between these two sides, including five in the last three games alone.
  • Sunderland won the first four Premier League matches with Hull City but have lost the last two.  
  • Steve Bruce was the winning manager in the last four, twice for Sunderland the last two times as Hull coach.
  • Costel Pantilimon has tasted defeat in only two of his 15 Premier League appearances (for Sunderland and Man City).
  • Of goalkeepers to have played seven or more games this season, the Romanian stopper has the best save percentage (82.1%).

Swansea City v Aston Villa

American goalkeeper Brad Guzan has played 99 Premier League matches for Aston Villa.

  • Swansea have won neither of their two previous Boxing Day fixtures in the Premier League (D1 L1).
  • Aston Villa have won just one of their last 13 Barclays Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W1 D4 L8) and have failed to score in the last three.
  • Aston Villa have won just one of the six Premier League meetings with Swansea (W1 D3 L2).
  • Christian Benteke has scored in both of his Premier League appearances against Swansea.
  • No team has scored the opening goal on more occasions this season in the Premier League than Swansea City (12). However, they have lost 33% of those games (4). 
  • Wilfried Bony remains the Premier League’s top scorer in 2014 (20); two ahead of Sergio Aguero who is unlikely to play again this calendar year (18).
  • Paul Lambert’s side are the only club yet to net after the 76th minute this season in the Premier League.
  • As a result, the Villains have dropped a league high eight points because of goals scored in the final 15 minutes of matches.

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City

  • West Bromwich Albion have won just one of their eight Barclays Premier league games played on Boxing Day (W1 D2 L5), but are unbeaten in their last three.
  • Manchester City have won five and lost just one of their last seven Boxing Day fixtures.
  • Man City have won eight and lost none of their last nine Premier League matches against West Brom (D1).
  • Former Man City defender Joleon Lescott has scored in two of his last three Premier League matches against the Citizens. 
  • Edin Dzeko has scored three goals in his last four Premier League games against West Brom, including two match-winning goals.
  • Manchester City have won the last 18 Premier League matches that Yaya Toure has scored in.
  • West Brom have won just four home league games in 2014. Hull (3) are the only ever-present Premier League team to have won fewer in this period.
  • Fernandinho has never played in a 0-0 draw in the Premier League (47 games). Radhi Jaidi (61) is the only player to have played in more without ever being part of a stalemate.
  • Craig Dawson (2) is the only WBA player other than leading scorer Saido Berahino (7) to have netted more than once in the Premier League this season. Seven players have scored once.
  • 18 year-old Jose Pozo, City’s youngest player this season, was born one month and 15 days after Frank Lampard made his Premier League debut for West Ham (31st January 1996).

Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers

Charlie Austin is the top scoring English player in the Premier League this season (11). Only five English players scored 11+ PL goals in 2013-14.

  • Arsenal have only ever lost one Barclays Premier League match on Boxing Day (W11 D5 L1).
  • QPR have won none of their three Premier League games played on Boxing Day (W0 D1 L2).
  • Arsenal have scored exactly one goal in eight of their last nine Premier League games against QPR, with the exception being the 3-0 win on Boxing Day 1995.
  • Queens Park Rangers have failed to score in five of their six Premier League visits to Arsenal, the exception being a 3-1 win in December 1994, famous for John Jensen scoring his only goal in an Arsenal shirt.
  • Harry Redknapp has only lost five of the last 18 Premier League games as an opposition coach against Arsenal (W3 D10 L5).
  • QPR have lost five successive Premier League London derbies and are winless in their last seven (L5 D2).
  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League London derbies at the Emirates Stadium (W8 D3 L0).

All statistics and facts are brought to you by Opta Sports.

Most popular

Related Sections