MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo has another chance to move ahead of Raul as Real Madrid’s top goalscorer of all time on enemy territory as Los Blancos make the daunting trip to take on Athletic Bilbao tomorrow. Ronaldo is just two goals off matching Raul’s record mark of 323, but was surprisingly unable to add to his tally as Madrid struggled past Granada 1-0 at the weekend. Madrid escaped with all three points on Saturday thanks to a string of saves from Keylor Navas as he stretched his unbeaten streak to five games.
The Costa Rica international is now within 10 minutes of breaking Iker Casillas’s club record for the longest start to a campaign without conceding a goal. “Things are going well. I am happy that people value my work and it is an honour to be at this club,” he told the club’s website. “As a kid I dreamed of being here and it fills me with satisfaction to be part of Real Madrid’s history. The hard work has paid off and this is the way that will take us towards winning big things.” Madrid will again be without Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Danilo through injury, whilst Sergio Ramos is a major doubt due to a dislocated shoulder.
Athletic have proven their ability to perform on the big occasion as they beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate to win the Spanish Super Cup at the start of the campaign and also beat Madrid at home last season. However, they have taken just three points from their opening four league games as a side shorn of the rested Raul Garcia and Aritz Aduriz were beaten 3-1 by Villarreal on Sunday. “We haven’t started well. Three points in the league isn’t enough and it is the league that tells you whether you are playing well or not,” said Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde.
“I know what is coming now, but we need to win.” League leaders Barca also face a tough task to maintain their perfect start to the campaign when they travel to unbeaten Celta Vigo tomorrow. Barca will be back close to full strength as Gerard Pique is available for the first time in La Liga this season after serving a four-game ban, whilst Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez will return after being rested for Sunday’s 4-1 win over Levante.
However, they will face a Celta side full of confidence after a 2-1 win away at Sevilla moved them up to fourth. “They are one of the most enjoyable teams to watch not just in Spain but in Europe,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique about his old side. “If you like football, you should watch Celta. It doesn’t matter who they play against, they play their game with attacking players and an offensive mentality.” Atletico Madrid could move to the top of the table for 24 hours at least when they host Getafe in a Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon today.
Los Rojiblancos showed their strength in depth as Fernando Torres and Angel Correa came off the bench to hand them a 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday. However, despite their impressive close season in the transfer market, defender Jose Maria Gimenez has insisted it is being the best of the rest outside Barca and Real that remains their priority. “We are going for third place and if during the season we can challenge then we don’t have to lie about it. We need to compete like we did in the year we won the league.” David Moyes also faces a crucial match that could define his future at Real Sociedad when the Basques travel to Granada today. Sociedad have taken just two points from their opening four games with discontent towards the former Manchester United manager heightened by Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Espanyol. -AFP