Football

Ramos denies fallout with Ronaldo

Real captain denies accusing Ronaldo of being lazy

ROUND OF 16, 2ND

LEGNAPOLI v REAL MADRID

(Tomorrow, 3.45am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 202)

  • Real lead 3-1 from first leg

Cristiano Ronaldo is the "only player who does not have to run".

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was quoted in Spanish media lambasting his teammate's lackadaisical attitude following the 3-3 draw with Las Palmas last week, which left the door open for Barcelona to nab top spot in La Liga.

Ramos' outburst led to claims in the Spanish press of a rift in the Real camp and a heated dressing room discussion.

Ahead of the Champions League last-16, second-leg clash against Napoli tomorrow morning (Singapore time), the 30-year-old has denied falling out with Ronaldo and labelled reports suggesting otherwise as "false".

Ramos insisted that there is still a sense of togetherness among the Los Blancos.

"Whenever there are delicate moments at Real Madrid because of results, meetings are held," he said.

"What's come out in the news is false... I never said Cristiano doesn't have to run.

"When things don't go as we'd like, we get together, but that's what happens in all the best families."

Real returned to winning ways last weekend with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Eibar, but will face a much tougher challenge against Napoli tomorrow morning.

Bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, Serie A's highest-scoring side have enough talent to cause an upset against defending champions Real, who are looking to reach the last eight for the seventh season running.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, a former bank officer who did not play professionally, has moulded the likes of Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne into the most entertaining side in Italy's top flight.

STAY FOCUSED

But they will need to stay focused and avoid distractions if they are to have any chance of clawing back a two-goal deficit.

Too often, Napoli seem to get distracted - both on and off the field. The latest episode began when their flamboyant club president Aurelio De Laurentiis publicly criticised the team after their 3-1 defeat in the first leg at the Bernabeu three weeks ago.

Not for the first time, he imposed a media blackout on both the coach and players, who have refused to give interviews since.

Italian media reported that Sarri had already clashed with De Laurentiis after a 1-1 draw against Palermo at the end of January.

Napoli are also prone to losses of concentration on the pitch.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini is among those who have suggested that Napoli need to keep their focus if they want to beat Real.

"At the end of the day, all this controversy just drains their energy," he said.

"As a good Italian, I hope that Napoli don't waste too much energy, as I'd love them to beat Real Madrid." - WIRE SERVICES

cristiano ronaldoSergio RamosREAL MADRID