Four things to look out for: Have Real Madrid found a new star? Can Bayern Munich get a much-needed boost?

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Vinicius Junior has already got fans hoping he is Real's new Ronaldo. (AFP)
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Updated 08 February 2019

Four things to look out for: Have Real Madrid found a new star? Can Bayern Munich get a much-needed boost?

  • Vinicius has already made a name for himself at the Bernabeu.
  • Juventus looking for a boost after recent stumbles.

LONDON: With the second round of the Champions League just around the corner, now is the time for leading teams to rest key men or put in a five-star performance, or, in an ideal world, both. Here are four things to look out for
this weekend.

IS VINICIUS JUNIOR THE NEW RONALDO?

When Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid last summer, Gareth Bale was supposed to be the one to step into the Portuguese’s big boots and drive the Bernabeu boys to more glory. But while the Welshman has failed to excite this season, Real fans have not been left without a hero to worship. Step forward an 18-year-old Brazilian. Vinicius Junior arrived in the Spanish capital in July 2018 and has been one of the few positives for Real in a season that has seen Julen Lopetegui sacked and Real trail bitter rivals Barcelona by eight points in La Liga. Vinicius has started in Real’s past five matches and looked every inch the main man. This season he has scored four goals and drawn comparisons with another young talent, Kylian Mbappe. He will surely start ahead of Bale for today’s clash against City rivals Atletico, and if he can put in another good 90 minutes and help Real leapfrog their neighbors into second place, the hype surrounding him will only increase.

WHICH CITY AND CHELSEA WILL TURN UP ON SUNDAY?

Much depends on this mouth-watering clash for both sides. City, having returned back to the top of the table midweek, will be keen to maintain their title challenge, knowing Liverpool could go three points clear against Bournemouth today. Chelsea are a hugely erratic side under Maurizio Sarri. They have been spectacularly bad in their past two away matches — at Arsenal and Bournemouth — but with Eden Hazard still pulling the strings and Gonzalo Higuain looking like he could be the man to solve the side’s striker problem, they can never be ruled out. The Blues beat City 2-0 in December. That may be only two months ago, but eight weeks is an age in football.

BAYERN NEED A BOOST

Usually a home match for Bayern in the Bundesliga is nothing more strenuous than a stroll in Munich’s famous Englische Garten park, such is the predictability with which they win the title. This season, thankfully for all those who do not support FC Hollywood, is a different matter. They face Schalke today on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. The only thing worse than the result was the performance — Bayern were torn apart on the break and looked anything but the dominant force of old. A result against Schalke is essential not only to keep pace with Borussia Dortmund, who are seven points clear of Bayern at the top of the table, but also as a morale boost ahead of a daunting away leg at Liverpool in the Champions League in a week’s time.

CAN JUVENTUS FIND TOP GEAR?

The Old Lady may be nine points clear at top of the Serie A table, but there is a sense that the Turin club are far from their best at just the point when they face the Champions League knockout stages. Juventus may have dropped only six points in 22 games, but they have conceded six goals in the past two matches. The first was a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia and the second a 3-3 draw against Parma in the league — a match that saw them lose a two-goal lead. It is the first time during Massimiliano Allegri’s reign that Juventus have conceded six goals in the space of two matches. The club’s president, Andrea Agnelli, wants his side to win all titles they are contesting. On the evidence of 2019 so far, he is going to end up very disappointed.

 


Juventus beat Napoli to win Italian Super Cup

Updated 21 January 2021

Juventus beat Napoli to win Italian Super Cup

REGGIO EMILIA, Italy: Andrea Pirlo won his first trophy as a coach on Wednesday as Juventus beat Napoli 2-0 in the Italian Super Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo blasted in his 20th goal of the season following a corner on 64 minutes in Reggio Emilia, before Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne missed a penalty and Alvaro Morata added a second deep into injury time.
Pirlo, 41, clinched his first silverware five months after taking over at his former club where he won four league titles.
“Winning a first title (as a coach) is a great joy, different from that felt as a player, it’s even more beautiful,” said Pirlo, who lifted the trophy three times as a player with Juventus and AC Milan.
Juventus won the annual trophy, played between the league champions and Italian Cup holders, for the ninth time, having finished runners-up last year to Lazio.
“This trophy is very important because it can give us confidence for the rest of our season,” said Ronaldo.

Juventus' forward Cristiano Ronaldo (3rdR) shoots to score past Napoli's goalkeeper David Ospina (front) during the Supercoppa Italiana football match between Juventus and Napoli on Jan. 20, 2021 in Reggio Emilia. AFP / Miguel MEDINA 

Juventus sit fifth in the league, 10 points behind leaders AC Milan, after losing 2-0 to second-placed Inter Milan last weekend.
“The Scudetto is possible, Milan and Inter are very strong, but there are still a lot of games to be played and we can still do it,” added Ronaldo.
It was the first meeting between Pirlo and Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso, who won the 2006 World Cup together and spent a decade as AC Milan teammates, winning two Serie A titles and two Champions League crowns together.
They have not faced off this season after Napoli refused to travel to Turin for their October league match because of coronavirus cases — a fixture which has still to be played.
“I’m sorry for Gennaro Gattuso, but we wanted to react after the defeat against Inter Milan,” said Pirlo.
“We bet a lot on the pride of the players, we wanted to show that we were a team.”
Juventus received a boost hours before kick-off with Juan Cuadrado recovering from coronavirus and starting for the first time in two weeks.
Napoli had the best chance of the first half in the Mapei Stadium, with Juve keeper Wojciech Szczsesny demonstrating quick reflexes to save Hirving Lozano’s diving header just before the half-hour mark.
Federico Bernardeschi came off the bench after the break in place of Federico Chiesa and immediately had an impact.
Juventus piled on the pressure after an hour when Ronaldo was sent through on goal and defender Kostas Manolas almost deflected the ball into his own net.
But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner made the most of the resulting corner, with the ball bouncing off Tiemoue Bakayoko and into the path of the unmarked Portuguese forward to fire in his 20th goal of the season.
Napoli had a chance to equalize from the spot after Weston McKennie fouled Dries Mertens, but Insigne wasted the opportunity by dragging a woeful effort wide.
Szczsesny pulled off another late save before a last-gasp Morata goal sealed victory.
“We all lost together, not because of Lorenzo’s penalty. Let’s move on,” said Gattuso, 43, whose side beat Juventus in last season’s Italian Cup.
“In the first half there was a bit of fear. I don’t remember Juve’s serious chances today.
“We could have done better, but the match is very similar to the one seven months ago. In fact, we suffered more seven months ago than today.”