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01-19-2018, 12:55 AM
MADRID, Spain -- No Cristiano Ronaldo? No problem. Real Madrids title ambitions continue to gain credence, with the Spanish giant showing no dip despite missing the Ballon dOr winner. Ronaldo has one more league game to serve from a three-match ban, and cannot return before next weeks Champions League game at Schalke. No matter, as Madrid stretched its unbeaten run to 25 games in all competitions with a comprehensive 3-0 victory at Getafe on Sunday. With and without Ronaldo, Madrid under coach Carlo Ancelotti has looked the more consistent, well-balanced team following a poor start to the campaign, with co-Spanish leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid enduring erratic runs of late. Gareth Bale has excelled when not nagged by injuries, while players like Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Jese Rodriguez have been standouts. "I think the key to our success is that the team is unified," fullback Dani Carvajal said on Monday. "Everyone is contributing to the smallest detail, whether they are playing little or a lot." Jese has scored in five of his last six games, and has been slotted instantly into the attack whenever Ronaldo or Bale have been out. Spanish media are already touting the Spain Under-21 standout for a place in world champion Spains squad despite the rich attacking talent that includes Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente, Diego Costa, and Fernando Torres. "Im not surprised by his play because hes playing great matches and scoring," Ancelotti said. "Weve already said a lot of good things about him, I just hope he keeps up like this." Ancelottis arrival has been a major boost for Madrid following the bitter exit of Jose Mourinho, who left following his worst season as a coach when the Portuguese manager had more success in creating divisions within his own club than his opponents schemes. Ancelotti has brought order to one of the worlds most expensive and talented stock of players and egos, perhaps better than any other Madrid coach since Vicente del Bosque. "No one gets upset with him, he is very transparent. Hes the same person you see at his news conferences," Carvajal said. "Hes maintained harmony inside the team, while keeping us all on our toes. He never tries to create problems." Ancelotti has stuck with goalkeeper Diego Lopez over Iker Casillas, who has assumed Champions League and Copa del Rey duties. That seems to have squashed the controversy as Madrid reached the domestic cup final without Casillas conceding a single goal. "Ive got two great goalkeepers, so I dont know if the situation is fair or not," the Italian coach said, "but its been a good means to motivating them both." While Ronaldo will miss Saturdays match against Elche, his teammates will be looking forward to his return regardless of their run. "Hes a player that should always be in the lineup," Lopez said. "Were lucky that we have other players who can step in but you always note the absence of a player of Cristianos quality." Blake Coleman Jersey (http://www.nhldevilshockeystore.com/blake-coleman-jersey/) . No, the San Antonio star didnt announce retirement plans during an off day at the NBA Finals on Wednesday. Jimmy Hayes Jersey (http://www.nhldevilshockeystore.com/jimmy-hayes-jersey/) . Founding members of the Genie Army, a group of Eugenie Bouchard supporters who cheered for the rising tennis star during the Australian Open in January, will be in the city for the Rogers Cup, beginning this weekend. http://www.nhldevilshockeystore.com/ken-daneyko-jersey/. In taking its goal tally to 99 in all competitions already this season, City delivered another demonstration of its lethal firepower at Etihad Stadium to set up a fourth-round match at home to another second-tier team -- Watford. 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"Every team has their cross to bear and ours is starting games," he said after practice Thursday afternoon. "Whether weve got to change the lineup to start the game or whatever, I dont know we have to see." "Thats been our problem and it just didnt start [in Sacramento Wednesday], its been going on for a while. Weve been able to dig out of it but you cant get hit like that and expect to bounce back that way every game, it just takes too much of a toll on your body." In many ways the Raptors have been defeating themselves. Over that three-game stretch they held opponents to 43 per cent shooting in the first quarter, an impressive mark, but the hustle stats tell a different story. Toronto was out-rebounded in the opening 12 minutes of each game and put both Portland and Sacramento on the line 12 times. "We addressed it, we talked about it," Casey said, citing his teams focus, toughness and attention to detail. If Casey does opt to shake up his starting lineup in Los Angles, even temporarily, the most likely casualty would be slumping California-native Amir Johnson. Johnson has been hampered by a sore right ankle after turning it late in last weeks win over Orlando. He has logged fewer than 20 minutes in just six games this season, yet three of those have come in the last four contests. The forward has been Torontos most reliable and valuable player over the last three years but its clear he hasnt been himself, even before his most recent injury.dddddddddddd After averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds on 63 per cent shooting in December, Johnsons production dropped last month, scoring 9.5 points and grabbing 6.0 rebounds a night. His 47 per cent field goal shooting in January was his lowest in a full month since March of 2011. As a team the Raptors surrendered 11 points more than they scored with Johnson on the floor in the month. Johnson, who routinely tops the team in the plus/minus stat, was the only Raptor (minimum 50 minutes) that was a net-minus in January, per NBA.com/stats. Mired in a similar slump, and with the team struggling late in November, Johnson was pulled from the starting lineup in favour of Tyler Hansbrough (Johnson told the Toronto Sun that he had requested a move to the bench). Johnson would go on to play his best basketball of the season over the following nine games, averaging 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds on 68 per cent shooting, and getting his starting job back after three games when Hansbrough went down with an ankle injury. Poised to make a run at the playoffs, the Raptors need Johnson, a nine-year veteran, healthy and focused late in the season. Another temporary demotion could be in the best interest of both the Raptors and their best defensive player. Although Hansbrough could be a candidate to replace him should a change be made, without disrupting the chemistry of the second unit, he has fallen out of Caseys regular rotation since returning from injury. Patrick Patterson would seem to be the most logical choice. Often the first player of Torontos bench, Patterson has been consistently effective since coming over in the trade from Sacramento in December. The forward has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 20 games, averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 52 per cent from the field and connecting on 17 of his 35 attempts from three-point range over that stretch. The Raptors have outscored opponents by 132 points when hes been on the floor during that span. 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