After 2 losses, Madrid reeling before trip to Barcelona

Ferland Mendy in action against Shakhtar Donetsk’s Manor Solomon as Real Madrid coachZinedine Zidane looks on during their match on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 October 2020

After 2 losses, Madrid reeling before trip to Barcelona

BARCELON, Spain: After being humbled by a recently promoted club and a Ukrainian side playing with reserves, Real Madrid face  a trip to Camp Nou.

Barcelona host  Madrid on Saturday in the first clasico under new coach Ronald Koeman. And even though Barcelona are undergoing a rebuilding process after they ended last season without a trophy, Madrid come  to the clash with even more doubts.

Madrid have been outplayed at home by the modest Cadiz and a Shakhtar Donetsk that was without several starters due to a coronavirus outbreak among the squad.

In both losses, Madrid were sluggish and disorganized in defense, leaving opponents time and space to successfully launch counterattacks. Barcelona’s attack of Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho and the young legs of Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincao and Ousmane Dembele will have taken notice.

Madrid were stunned 1-0 last Saturday by a Cadiz packed with several players who spent their careers in the second division until last month. During that loss, coach Zinedine Zidane said he would not have been surprised if Madrid had gone into halftime down by two or three goals.

That is exactly what happened on Wednesday when Shakhtar won 3-2 in their Champions League opener after a Madrid backline fell apart without Sergio Ramos, who was resting after hurting his left knee against Cadiz.

Madrid hope  to have their  captain back against Barcelona.

Zidane has tried to absorb the blame for the embarrassing defeats.

“I’m responsible. As the first half was negative for my side, it means I did something wrong,” Zidane said after the loss to Shakhtar.

“I feel for the players because they have helped me win a lot of things. It was a bad game and they don’t deserve it. But that’s football. You have to keep going and think that if today is gray, tomorrow will be sunny.”

But his squad is under pressure, both veterans and newcomers.

Against Shakhtar, Raphael Varane should have been its defensive leader with Ramos out. But Varane showed the same fragile defending that was behind his two errors that led to goals in Madrid’s exit to Manchester City in the Champions League in August.

Caught behind a Shakhtar player, Varane’s lunge to poke away the ball put it into his own net, making it 2-0.

Marcelo and Eder Militao were unable to stop goals from Tetê in the 29th minute and Manor Solomon in the 42nd.

Down 3-0 at halftime, Luka Modric and Vinícius Júnior pulled two goals back, but with half an hour remaining the team could not culminate the comeback.

“When we don’t play well under pressure, everyone suffers. We found it difficult at the back,” Varane said. “It’s a difficult time for the team, but we’ve got a very important game (Barcelona) and we’re focused on winning.”


Doctors warn over Delhi’s ‘suicidal’ half-marathon

Updated 11 min 21 sec ago

Doctors warn over Delhi’s ‘suicidal’ half-marathon

  • Organizers say the “highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones” have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
  • Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix

NEW DELHI: Top doctors have warned elite runners are taking a major health risk by competing in Sunday’s New Delhi half-marathon in the midst of a major coronavirus outbreak and soaring air pollution.
Women’s marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei from Kenya and Ethiopia’s two-time men’s winner Andamlak Belihu are among the 49 elite athletes running the 21-kilometer (13.1 mile) race, while thousands of amateurs are taking part virtually.
Organizers say the “highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones” have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
But with New Delhi recording more than 500,000 virus cases, and air quality in the world’s most polluted capital hovering between ‘unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’, health experts said the athletes should think twice.
“It will be suicidal for runners to run the race this time. We have such high levels of pollution, we have the risk of coronavirus,” Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, told AFP.
“With the presence of this twin threat if people are still running despite knowing everything, well, I have no words to express my anguish.”
“Whether you are an international elite runner or you are a small boy from a village, the damaging potential of a damaging agent remains the same,” said the doctor.
Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country’s top research body, told AFP that “in an ideal situation” the race should not be run.
“Because of high levels of air pollution, exercising outside in this weather sometimes can lead to aggravation of underlying lung problems,” he said.
“Even if you are an elite runner the air pollution would still affect your lung.”
Normally thousands of amateurs would also take part, but because of the coronavirus they have been told to run their chosen route between Wednesday and Sunday and chart their time on an app.
Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix.
This year, the Indian capital is also a major concern in the battle against the coronavirus. India is the world’s second worst-hit country behind the United States, with about 9.3 million cases.
The city is considering imposing a night-time curfew because of the rising number of cases, according to media reports.
Kosgei, who is visiting India for the first time, acknowledged her concerns about traveling for the race.
“We have definitely been affected by Covid-19. I had to convince my parents and family back home to allow me to visit Delhi for the half-marathon,” she said.
“The virus has affected most of the sporting events. But it is important for us to take care of ourselves.”
As in other countries, nearly all sport in India has been canceled.
After repeated delays, the Indian Premier League cricket went ahead in the United Arab Emirates and the Indian Super League football is being held in a bio-secure “bubble” in Goa.