Real Madrid need happy Cristiano Ronaldo return in Seville as Barcelona face tough test at Getafe

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Cristiano Ronaldo returns. Possibly not since his debut in 2009 or in the Clasico clashes against Barcelona has there been such elevated expectation surrounding the performance of the Portuguese in a Real Madrid shirt. He was sad, now he is back on board, and reportedly happy again. Madrid will hope he is ready, too.

They need him now, as much as before – perhaps more than ever. Cristiano is the cornerstone of this Madrid model, and without him it could crumble. The Copa del Rey in 2010-11; La Liga last year; this term’s Spanish Supercopa – none of it would have been possible without him. Madrid are no one-man team, but much like Barcelona are a shadow of themselves when Lionel Messi is missing, Real rely on Ronaldo.

Before linking up with Portugal for the World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, the 27-year-old dropped a bombshell. After netting twice against Granada in a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu and refusing to celebrate his goals, he told a mystified Madrid media that he was unhappy – and that the club knew why.

The timing was terrible. An international break followed and a torrid 10 days passed before Ronaldo’s return on Wednesday. He has since met with Mourinho, his team-mates and club president Florentino Perez. And so far, so good. All, apparently, is well. The player has reportedly requested more support from the club in the media – much like Messi receives at Barca.

Now he will have to do his talking on the pitch. Madrid meet Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday and all eyes will be on Cristiano. How will he play? Will he play well? Will he score? And if he does, will he celebrate the goals?

At his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho claimed he can stomach sadness for Cristiano, providing the player’s performances do not dip. “If he is sad but plays as he can do, then that’s fine by me,” the coach quipped.

That is unlikely to be true, however. Mourinho knows full well that a prosperous player is likely to be a happy one and he will be doing everything he needs to behind the scenes to ensure his star man is fit, focused and feliz.

Mourinho was more concerned by his side’s stuttering start to La Liga. Yes, they have claimed the Spanish Supercopa by beating Barca, but four points from nine in the Primera Division is well below what is expected – and Real are already five behind the Catalans.

So the Portuguese will look to his compatriot on Saturday to produce something spectacular in Seville, where he has scored seven in his two league games under Mourinho. In 2010-11, Ronaldo racked up four in a 6-2 win, before adding three more in an identical scoreline last term. More of the same will leave Madridistas merry and the Cristiano crisis will be averted – at least for now.

Barca, meanwhile, pit their wits against a Getafe side who beat them last season and who have already defeated Madrid in the current campaign. Coach Tito Vilanova is without Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta after both were injured on international duty, while Jordi Alba is ill. Messi, who has played every single minute for the Catalans in 2012-13, may be rested, too, after playing twice for Argentina in this week’s World Cup qualifiers.

It is only round four of La Liga, but already it looks like Satuday’s clashes could be key as the competition continues. And, as usual, Ronaldo and Messi are at the forefront. Especially the Portuguese.

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Sevilla – Real Madrid Betting Preview: Back Alvaro Negredo to continue his fine scoring form

As had been noted on countless previous occasions, football is indeed a “funny old game”. Two seasons ago Real Madrid visited the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and defeated Sevilla 6-2 thanks to four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Last season, Los Blancos returned to the same stadium, and while the weather was notably cooler with it being December not May, the result was exactly the same with Jose Mourinho’s men winning once more 6-2.

A repeat of that scoreline is offered at 200/1 (201.00) by , and while stranger things have happened, a slightly more sedate affair looks on the cards on Saturday evening.

Madrid’s start to the league season has been poor, not only their results which have seen them play out a draw, a defeat and a victory in their opening three games of the season, but their lack of intensity while in possession.

The exception of course being during their Supercopa triumph over Barcelona, although after an international break and with a huge Champions League tie against Manchester City on the horizon, expect Mourinho to make a few changes to his starting 11.

A win for the champions is offered at 61/100 (1.61) while Sevilla who remain unbeaten this season are available at 4/1 (5.00).

Instead of venturing into the outright market the smart money will be on goal scorers and one player from each team stands out beyond all others. Gonzalo Higuain has made his best scoring start to a season for Madrid, notching six goals in seven matches for club and country.

He is offered at 91/100 (1.91) to score at any time which looks like great value if he plays. But having featured in both of Argentina’s recent World Cup qualifiers, Jose Mourinho may opt to rest him.

Instead invest in Alvaro Negredo finding the net for Sevilla offered at 2/1 (3.00). The former Madrid man is in fine form with two goals already this season, and three in his last three games against his old club.

Madrid meanwhile have conceded in seven of their last eight away games in the league, and Negredo is more than capable of causing them problems.

The price of 7/1 (8.00) on him opening the scoring also looks generous for an in-form striker playing at home and is perfect for a small value bet.

New customers who use their £25 sign up bonus on Phil’s value bet could win £175

Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

Sergio Ramos: Real Madrid have to keep improving in order to win titles

Sergio Ramos has stressed that Real Madrid cannot afford to rest on their laurels after last season’s La Liga success and he is adamant that they have to keep improving in order to win more silverware.

The defender feels that Los Blancos would normally be the favourites to win the league title as reigning champions, but is aware that they have to respect every opponent and work hard in order to replicate last year’s results.
“We have to do things at least just as well [as last season], continue to respect our rivals just as we always have and have to keep improving in order to go on winning titles,” Ramos was quoted as saying by

“Normally we would be the favourites to win La Liga as reigning champions, but that doesn’t mean anything. You can’t live off the past in football, you have to prove yourself everyday.

“It’s true that last year we accomplished figures that are practically unbeatable and it was an extraordinary year. It was a well-deserved title for our team and now it’s time to defend it.”

Madrid take on Sevilla on Saturday evening.

Vilanova: Messi could feature despite international involvement

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova says he will gauge Lionel Messi’s fitness before Saturday’s clash with Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

The Argentine star played a full 90 minutes in his country’s World Cup qualifier with Peru on Wednesday, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

“I talked to him and he said he has recovered well. I’ll talk to him again before the game. It depends how he feels. Then I’ll decide what to do,” the 42-year-old was quoted as saying by Marca.

“There’s nothing we can do. We’ve got great players who get called up to their national sides. If we win our games no one will speak about the issue.”

The Blaugrana coach went on to say that he is not thinking about his side’s five-point advantage over Real Madrid in the Liga title race after the champions suffered a disappointing start to the season.

“I’m only concerned about what we do. We’re on nine points. There are so many points left to play for and the gap is too small to be looking over your shoulder.

“The aim is to win every game. We don’t think too far ahead. There is no point. Getafe is a difficult ground to go to.”

Vilanova also insisted that he would not rush back Spain international David Villa, who is still returning to full match fitness after having broken his leg in December, before he hits his physical peak.

“He’s ready to play. He might be able to start a game soon, but we’re not going to rush things,” said the Barca trainer.

Mourinho: If Ronaldo is sad but plays like he does, that's perfect for me

Jose Mourinho - Real Madrid / Shinichiro Ema

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has shrugged off concerns about Cristiano Ronaldo’s sadness, so long as he continues to perform to a high standard on the field.

After los Blancos’ 3-0 over Granada nearly two weeks ago, the former Manchester United forward told reporters he had not celebrated properly after his goals because he was sad for professional reasons.

During the international break that followed the Portugal star insisted it was not money-related, but Mourinho is not bothered about the speculation if his form remains high.

“If Ronaldo is sad and plays like he plays, perfect for me,” the ex-Chelsea coach told reporters on Friday afternoon. “I’ll say the same thing: I coach football and my responsibility is our results.

“I have responsibility for the performance of my players. And if something goes wrong, you kill me.

“Ronaldo trains 100 per cent, sometimes he does it good or not, but he’s a team player, always disciplined in training – he’s exemplary.

“I don’t have to worry with things that are superficial and not fundamental.”

Mourinho accepted that, as head coach at the Santiago Bernabeu, he must take responsibility for negative results, but insists his No.7’s performances are down to the individual.

“My responsibilities in Ronaldo’s case? I have only a few responsibilities, in the positive performance of the players,” he two-time Champions League winning coach continued.

“As Cristiano is playing well for so many years, the credit is his. I’m just a football coach, with increased responsibility, but nothing more.”

The former Inter boss refused to criticise the Portugal international star for going public about his discontent, and he says he is more concerned with getting Madrid’s league form back on track after beating Barcelona over two legs in the Super Cup.

“It didn’t bother me that Ronaldo came out to mixed zone to expose his personal sadness,” Mourinho added.

“I have ambitions at level of the game and results. Last year we got high on both aspects. And this is what I want this season.

“The match against Barcelona has offset my disappointment in the league, but the Super Cup is history, and is also the least important trophy and we must move on.”

More to follow …