Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says that Cristiano Ronaldo is capable of producing even more following his winning of the Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo is set to take to the field for the first time since being declared the world’s best player of 2013 when Madrid take a 2-0 lead into the second of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie at Osasuna on Wednesday. Ancelotti has heaped further praise on the Portugal star, while also believing that he can still get better.
"Cristiano hasn't surprised me with his quality and his ability to score a lot of goals, but he has surprised me a little with his professionalism on and off the pitch,” he said, according to Marca. “He is exemplary, due to his fair play -- he doesn't protest. Football needs players like this, and players like Messi, Ribery, Pirlo, Thiago Silva... They give football a good image."
"Cristiano has managed very well this year. Winning the Ballon d'Or gives him a great deal of motivation, and trying to retain the prize next year will continue to drive him on. I don't think it is a burden. It's true that he now has a greater responsibility, and for his teammates that play with him. We can now ask for more from Cristiano because he has the Ballon d'Or, although that's not easy to do with him. Scoring more than 69 goals in a season is not easy, but I have the courage to ask him for more.”
Ronaldo will be eager to be involved from the start in Pamplona, despite Madrid holding a first-leg advantage. Indeed, had it not been for some uncharacteristically poor finishing rom Ronaldo last week, Madrid would have had a more comfortable score-line to take to a venue where they have one just once in their last five visits and had to come back from two goals down to salvage a draw just last month. Ancelotti is certainly keen for his side to take nothing for granted.
“The team is focused and motivated,” he said. Everyone knows how difficult it is to play against Osasuna in Pamplona. They made life difficult for us there. It’ll be an intense game and they’ll do everything they can to win the tie. We have to put our first-leg advantage out of our minds and look to get the first goal as early as possible.”
Still, Ancelotti is set to make changes to the side that won 1-0 at Espanyol on Friday to close the gap at the top of La Liga to just three points. Luka Modric is being rested, while Marcelo is out with a slight injury. Jese, after his goal in the first leg, is expected to return, while there are also likely to be places for Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Coentrao and Iker Casillas, who will continue to be deployed in the cup competitions.
Osasuna come into the match having won back-to-back La Liga matches for the first time this season, either side of their first-leg defeat to Madrid. Coach Javi Garcia has doubts over the fitness of Sisi, Emiliano Armenteros, Nino and Manuel Onwu. Javier Acuna could make his full debut, having come on as a substitute in a 2-1 victory over Real Betis on Sunday following his loan move form Watford.
Where to watch: The second leg of the Copa del Rey last-16 tie will kick off at 3.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports En Espanol, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.