Cristiano Ronaldo may be the red-hot favorite to take home the Ballon d’Or following the release of the nominations this week, but not all is well with the Portuguese star heading into Real Madrid’s La Liga clash at Alaves on Saturday. Indeed, he has scored just two goals in his first six La Liga outings this season, his worst start to a season since he moved to the Bernabeu for a then-world-record transfer fee in 2009.
Emphasizing the sky-high expectations on both him and his club, the three-time world player of the year was the target of boos from the Bernabeu crowd as Real Madrid were earning a 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao last week that saw the club go back to the top of La Liga. And Ronaldo’s manager Zinedine Zidane has revealed that the top scorer in Real Madrid’s history is “angry” over his recent lack of goals.
“I don't think he's anxious but he is perhaps angry, he wants to score goals and that's normal,” Zidane said in his press conference ahead of the match with Alaves. “Cristiano Ronaldo is unique because of what he is doing. He has set his standards so high that if he doesn't score it is a problem. But these are things that he has to live with, he is phenomenal.”
Ronaldo, though, is not the only member of Real Madrid’s famed front three struggling. Indeed, with Gareth Bale having scored just three goals in 11 appearances in all competitions this campaign and Karim Benzema netting four in 10, questions have been raised about whether the BBC trident should be broken up.
“There are no injustices,” Zidane responded when asked about his selection of the trio. “I'm responsible for my decisions. I want what is best for my team.”
Without Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo in the team, Real Madrid beat Spanish third-tier side Leonesa 7-1 in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. And both Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata scored twice in the game to press their case for inclusion. Zidane’s options will continue to be limited on Saturday with Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and Casemiro all still ruled out through injury.
With just a one-point gap at the top of the table and only three points separating the top five, Madrid can ill afford to drop points at newly promoted Alaves. Back in La Liga for the first time in 11 years, Alaves made a solid start, going undefeated in its first four matches. But the team, coached by former Argentina international Mauricio Pellegrino, has now lost three of its last five games to slip within two points of the relegation zone.
Still, with Alaves unbeaten at its Mendizorroza stadium, Zidane is anticipating a tricky contest.
“I'm expecting a difficult, complicated game,” he added. “They are unbeaten at home and doing really well. We know how difficult the game will be and what we have to do is recognize how difficult it will be. If we bear that in mind and give the required level of concentration, as we have been doing recently, then things will be different. That is our thinking in preparation for the game.”
Prediction: Alaves has conceded just two goals in its four home matches this season, but it has not yet faced any team possessing the quality of Real Madrid. Even if Real Madrid has not properly clicked for much of this season and Ronaldo has not been at his best, Zidane’s men should have enough to ease to victory.
Predicted Score: Alaves 0-2 Real Madrid
Kickoff Time: Saturday, 10:15 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: beIN Sports
Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect