Sunday 25 February 2018

Real boost as Ronaldo back in training ahead of city showdown - but Barca close on title

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo Newsdesk

Real MADRID forward Cristiano Ronaldo returned to training after recovering from a hamstring injury and could be fit to face Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

Ronaldo has not featured since April 20, but could return for the second leg having missed last week's 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium.

"Every Champions League match feels like the first," Ronaldo said. "And Real Madrid's priority is to win.

"We know it will be a tough challenge, but everything is possible."

The 31-year-old trained with his team-mates during the first half of yesterday's session before working out on the pitch alone.

Striker Karim Benzema also continued his recovery from a hamstring injury and Alvaro Arbeloa - who has not played since early April - completed some running exercises.

La Liga leaders Barcelona moved closer to retaining their crown with a lacklustre 2-0 away win over 10-man Real Betis thanks to goals from Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid kept pace as substitute Antoine Griezmann fired them to a 1-0 home win over struggling Rayo Vallecano, while Real's Gareth Bale scored in a 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad that leaves them still a point behind.

Barca remain at the summit on 85 points, level with Atletico but having a superior head-to-head record, while Real are third with 84 points and two games of the season left.

Betis had centre-back Heiko Westermann sent off in the 35th minute for a second booking and Rakitic pounced on a defensive mishap to put Barca five minutes after the break.

Suarez then scored his 35th goal of the La Liga season to finish Betis off in the 81st minute, meaning Barca can guarantee a 24th league title with wins at home to Espanyol and away to Granada.

Meanwhile, Juventus refused to let up despite having already won Serie A and notched their 25th win in their last 26 league games by beating Carpi 2-0.

Brazilian midfielder Hernanes, with his first goal for the club, and Simone Zaza scored in each half to increase lowly Carpi's relegation worries.

Hernanes broke the deadlock three minutes before half-time with a low shot which beat goalkeeper Vid Belec at his near post. Substitute Zaza headed the second from Paul Pogba's cross with 10 minutes left.

Bayern Munich host Atletico in their second leg of the Champions League semi-final tomorrow having lost the first game 1-0 and the Bundesliga leaders were held to a 1-1 draw by Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, delaying their title celebrations.

Elsewhere, Ireland's Jack Byrne provided the silver lining in SC Cambuur's 6-2 defeat to PSV yesterday when he scored with a stunning long-range strike.

Irish Independent

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