In Tuesday’s 6-0 victory over APOEL, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a further two goals to take his tally in the competition for the season to eight. He stands alone as the Champions League’s top scorer for the current season, ahead of Harry Kane, yet he still has scored just the one LaLiga goal.
His early season suspension didn’t help him in terms of losing rhythm and allowing Lionel Messi to accelerate ahead in the goal-scoring charts, however after failing to score in his last four LaLiga matches there are serious concerns at Valdebebas over their talisman.
Real Madrid sit 10 points behind league leaders Barcelona and a title challenge looks beyond them, certainly history suggests this will be the case, however a run of poor results have been characterised by an inability to find the net as regularly as in previous seasons, a lot of this is related to Ronaldo’s struggles.
In the calendar year of 2017 the Portuguese forward has only scored 16 LaLiga goals, in the Champions League he has scored 18 over the same period.
If Los Blancos are to mount a serious challenge to the Blaugrana’s lead then they will need Ronaldo to translate this European form to domestic matches.
After having been so productive for so long, it is bizarre to see Ronaldo struggling. He is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or, yet he seems to lack confidence on the pitch.
In Saturday’s Madrid derby draw, he had two chances just before the end of the match, both of which rather similar. The ball was passed through to the former Manchester United forward inside the penalty area and the opportunity for a shot on goal appeared clear.
Unfortunately on both occasions, Ronaldo took a poor first touch and it allowed a defender to get back into a position to block the eventual shot, the killer instinct that had characterised Ronaldo’s career was not evident in those moments.
Obviously it is still there, his Champions League form proves that, yet it is a mystery why he simply isn’t scoring in domestic matches.
He is having the chances, Los Blancos are still very creative, yet he simply can’t find the back of the net.
Much is made of his apparent unhappiness at the club and he made this clear following the match in Cyprus with a minor rant at the gathered media in the mixed zone.
“I will say one thing and then you all write something different, so why would I speak to you?” he intimated.
Real Madrid are relaxed about keeping Ronaldo at the club, there aren’t forthcoming offers and his contract is set to run until June 2021. It is unlikely that he will leave, however as long as his form isn’t up to scratch there is a problem.
Gareth Bale’s continued fitness problems combined with Karim Benzema’s own fluctuating form have seen the defending champions slip. All these factors have shown an overreliance on the Portuguese veteran and for the first time in his storied Estadio Santiago Bernabeu career, he isn’t delivering.
Zinedine Zidane isn’t working with the same deck of cards as he was last season, the departures of Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez were expected, yet few could have envisaged what an impact they would have.
Morata’s presence allowed Ronaldo to be rested in a number of games. He was micromanaged and kept fresh for the business end of the campaign. Zidane can’t use Mayoral in the same way, as such there is more responsibility on the experienced first-teamers and with them all in poor form at the same time, it is unsurprising that the team are suffering.
Malaga are the visitors to the Spanish capital on Saturday and it is a fixture that Los Blancos should win comfortably, the timing of the match is also important as Barcelona faced second placed Valencia on Sunday evening.
If Ernesto Valverde’s side are to drop points then Real Madrid have to take advantage. Malaga’s defence has been notoriously porous this season; they are the perfect opponent for Ronaldo to be given that extra yard of space needed to find the net once more.
You get the feeling that once he scores in LaLiga once again, the goals will then flow as they have in Europe. Those in power at Valdebebas are hoping that this is the case and Saturday’s match could see the iconic forward return to form and kick-start his team’s domestic season.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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