Ronaldo looks to end struggles
The Spanish league is off to a tight race atop the standings, with five teams separated by only three points. Yet, most of the talk entering the weekend was about whether Cristiano Ronaldo will end his scoring slump.
Real Madrid lead the league ahead of their match at Alaves today but not thanks to Ronaldo's recent performances. The forward is enduring his worst start to a season since joining Madrid in 2009, having scored only four goals in nine matches.
"When you're used to scoring almost 70 goals a season, it's almost like an addiction for goals," Madrid reserve forward Alvaro Morata said. "For us, he is the most important player in the team, and I hope that he scores lots of goals, but he is not a machine. He is a human being. Even if he comes from another planet and is different, he also has the right to miss."
Ronaldo also scored five goals in two games with Portugal, against Andorra and the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying, but that's no reprieve to the demanding Madrid fans.
Jeered by crowd
He was jeered by the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium after another disappointing performance in a 2-1 win against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Ronaldo has scored only two goals in the Spanish league - in a 5-2 win against Osasuna in September and a 6-1 rout at Real Betis two weeks ago. He also scored two goals in the Champions League, one in a 2-2 draw at Borussia Dortmund and one in a 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon, when his free-kick goal started a late rally.
The 31-year-old was among the Madrid players rested in the team's 7-1 win over Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. He is set to return to the line-up today when Zidane's team tries to defend its Spanish league lead against promoted Alaves.
Sevilla, one point behind Madrid, plays at Sporting Gijon also today, while third-place Barcelona hosts last-place Granada.
Fourth-place Villarreal plays at Eibar on Sunday, and fifth-place AtlÈtico Madrid, which led the league entering the last round, hosts M·laga on Saturday.