Can Cristiano Ronaldo return to his best against Atletico?
La Liga returns this weekend after the international break. And Saturday evening sees Real Madrid face Atletico Madrid in a huge derby.
Both sides have been below par so far this season. They sit in third and fourth place on 23 points, with Real ahead on goal difference. Barcelona are already eight points above them at the top of the table.
One of the reasons the champions have struggled is Cristiano Ronaldo’s poor form.
The 32-year-old normally guarantees goals. However, he’s only scored once in La Liga this term.
He’s still taking plenty of shots – only Lionel Messi has taken more (69) than him so far (47). But he’s not hitting the back of the net with them.
It’s Ronaldo’s worst start to a league campaign since 2005/06 at Manchester United. Can he start to turn things around against Atletico?
Diego Simeone’s side might not be at their best, but they’re still very solid defensively. They have the second-best defensive record in the division after conceding just six goals so far.
It won’t be easy for Ronaldo to break them down. But he tends to shine in the big games. He scored two hat-tricks against Atletico last season, including one in the Champions League semi-finals.
Zinedine Zidane is also likely to be without Isco, who suffered an injury on international duty.
Zidane has tended to set up in a 4-4-2 diamond system this season to accommodate Isco in the number 10 role. Ronaldo has been moved up front as a result, where he has less space to work with than out wide on the left.
In the playmaker’s absence, the Madrid boss could revert to a 4-3-3. That would see Ronaldo return to his usual left-wing position.
Wherever the star forward does play, he’s likely to be raring to go. He was left out of the Portugal squad to rest and attend the birth of his child.
Ronaldo is 16/5 favourite to be First Goalscorer at the Metropolitano. You wouldn’t bet against him rediscovering his shooting boots on Saturday evening.
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