Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired La
Liga leaders Real Madrid will have Spain's 22-year goal-scoring
record in their sights when they host relegation-threatened
Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
Real restored their four-point lead over Barcelona on
Wednesday when Ronaldo netted his seventh treble of the campaign
in a 4-1 rout of Atletico Madrid to become the first player to
notch 40 goals in two consecutive seasons in Europe's top four
The Portuguese and his team-mates have amassed 104 goals in
32 La Liga games and three more would equal the record Real set
in the 1989/90 season under Welsh coach John Toshack.
With six games left they are closing in on a first domestic
league title in four years, although with Barca on a run of 10
straight wins and Real's trip to the Nou Camp looming on April
21 the destination of the crown is by no means a foregone
Ronaldo's spectacular form - he has also provided 11 assists
in the league - has been the principle reason Real are closer
than ever to ending Barca's three-year grip on the title and he
is brimming with confidence for the run-in.
"I always believe in myself, knowing that from one moment to
the next I can do important things," said the former Manchester
United forward who joined Real for a record fee in 2009.
"We are very confident and we have our fate in our own hands
which is crucial for the final stages of the season," he told
Barca have their own record-breaker in World Player of the
Year Lionel Messi, who scored his 39th league goal of the
campaign in Tuesday's 4-0 win at home to Getafe, his 61st in all
competitions compared to 52 for Ronaldo.
Pep Guardiola's side visit fifth-placed Levante in
Saturday's late kick-off and could find themselves seven
points behind Real by then.
"We have to focus on what will be one of the toughest games
we have left away from home," said Guardiola.
Barca have trimmed their deficit by six points in three
weeks following the Madrid club's draws against Malaga,
Villarreal and Valencia and probably have a slightly easier
run-in as well as home advantage in the 'Clasico'.
If the two teams finish level on points the title will be
decided on head-to-head record.
"From here on all the matches are like finals," said Barca
forward Pedro who has recently rediscovered his scoring touch
after returning from injury.
"We have managed our goal of cutting the gap but it's still
going to be tough to knock off the points that divide us."
The race for places in next season's Champions League has
intensified and ambitious Qatar-owned Malaga can climb above
Valencia into third with a win at Villarreal later on Thursday.
On Sunday, Valencia visit Espanyol and Malaga host
At the other end of the table, Racing Santander are bottom
on 25 points and travel to Villarreal on Sunday. Gijon
and Real Zaragoza, who host Granada on Sunday, are level
on 28 in the other two relegation spots.
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