Andy Brassell on European Football: Cristiano Ronaldo looks for lift-off

Cristiano Ronaldo will hope to step up his game in the Coppa Italia final, writes Andy Brassell, as the relegation struggle in the Bundesliga and the chase of the Champions League in Spain both heat up...

Ronaldo searching for form in Coppa final

After feeling as if we saw most of Cristiano Ronaldo's season pause routine via social media (the indoor workouts interrupted by his kids, the gradient sprints with his partner, the endless crunches), not to mention his workout at local club Nacional while at home in Madeira, we might have expected a little more in his first game back. Of all the players that might have actually benefitted from an unscheduled break in the season, Ronaldo would have been near the top of the list.
As the years have rolled by, there has been a science to making sure he peaks at the right time, carefully managed by Real Madrid and now Juventus in recent seasons. It seemed like it was paying off, with reports from Juve's training sessions suggesting a man possessed ready to go again. In the event, it was a flat display from the Portugal legend in the Coppa Italia semi second leg against Milan, capped with his first-half penalty hitting the post.
One would assume that he will be going all out for reparation in Wednesday's final against Napoli. There are few more dangerous things in football than Ronaldo with a point to prove. Factor in Gennaro Gattuso's team having had a day less rest - and having to hang on grimly against a dominant Inter in their semi return - and the case for Ronaldo finding an extra gear is strong.
Back Juventus to be winning at half-time & full-time at 3.20


Straight shootout between Werder and Fortuna

It's now that time of the season in Germany where teams at the bottom will be cocking an ear to events elsewhere, even if they insist that they aren't, and that was certainly the case on Saturday afternoon. Fortuna Düsseldorf were grinding their way to a positive result against Borussia Dortmund, before a last-gasp Erling Haaland goal snatched it away from them, with Werder Bremen's growing tally at Paderborn at the same time heaping further pressure on Uwe Rösler's team.
Werder's 5-1 win was crucial not just for confidence, nor for the scoring return of Niclas Füllkrug after a serious knee injury. It closed the goal difference gap with Fortuna to just one, with Saturday's results bringing Florian Kohfeldt's side now level on points with the current occupants of the relegation playoff spot.
It takes a bit of imagination to envisage Werder getting something out of a Bayern Munich side that are only one win away from securing the title on Tuesday and have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller returning - that's before we get to Werder's awful form in Bremen, where they are winless in the Bundesliga since early September - but if you're looking for a surprise, it could be on the other side of the fence. Leipzig have drawn four successive Bundesliga games at home (with at least three of those against weaker opposition) and Rösler's side have the doggedness to make their lives difficult on Wednesday.
Back Leipzig and Fortuna Düsseldorf to draw at 7.00

Getafe facing déjà vu

If Sevilla laid down a gauntlet to their Champions League chasing opposition with their excellent performance in the derby with Betis on Thursday night, their competitors were largely unable to respond. Atlético Madrid's draw at Athletic Bilbao might end up looking like a valuable point but Real Sociedad being held at home by Osasuna on Sunday night looked like a chance wasted.
Then there's Getafe. It was all going to plan for José Bordalás' side when David Timor gave them a first-half lead at Granada on Friday, but the concession of two cheap goals in the last 20 minutes sent them back to the outskirts of Madrid with nothing. Having narrowly missed out on Champions League football last term, they could do with nipping the negativity in the bud.
There's far less pressure on them than the rest of the pack, of course. Getafe are a smaller club with less expectations and getting a top four spot would simply be a massive bonus. They face a tricky task against Espanyol, who were aided by an early Fernando Pacheco red card for Alavés on Saturday, paving the way for a win which reignited their survival hopes. With confrontations with Atlético, Real Madrid Real Sociedad and Villarreal yet to come, Bordalás doesn't have too much room for manoeuvre.
Lay Getafe against Espanyol at 2.10

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