Ronaldo can pull forward

Cristiano Ronaldo (centre), in a team training session, erased all doubts about his form this season when he plundered five goals in a Spanish La Liga game against Espanyol on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo (centre), in a team training session, erased all doubts about his form this season when he plundered five goals in a Spanish La Liga game against Espanyol on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Prolific hitman has Raul's and Messi's records in sight as Real take on Shakhtar in Euro tie

MADRID • Cristiano Ronaldo will have more scoring records to eclipse when Real Madrid get their Champions League campaign under way at home to Shakhtar Donetsk today.

The Portuguese forward became the Spanish football club's all-time top scorer in La Liga on Saturday with five goals in a 6-0 rout of Espanyol to move ahead of club legends Raul Gonzalez and Alfredo di Stefano.

The reigning World Player of the Year is just five adrift of also surpassing Raul's record as Real's top scorer in all competitions, having played more than 400 games fewer than the Spaniard for the club.

Moreover, he has the chance to move ahead of Barcelona hotshot Lionel Messi as the top scorer in the Champions League with the world's best two players currently locked on 77 goals apiece.

The Espanyol rout means that Benitez's men have scored 11 times in their last two matches, dispelling pre-season fears that the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager would insist on a more defensive approach this season.

One of Benitez's biggest tasks when he was handed the job was to get the best out of Gareth Bale after a disappointing second season at the Bernabeu.

The Welshman has flourished in a more central role this season and was involved in five of Real's six goals at the weekend despite failing to get on the scoresheet himself.

"Now I feel involved in the play and I think that is showing in the games that I am able to assist and score goals," said Bale.

"We are working hard in training and on the pitch, and it's coming together. We just want to score as many goals as we can."

Another flood of goals could be on the cards at the Bernabeu against a Shakhtar side weakened by the ongoing unstable political situation in Ukraine.

Mircea Lucescu's side have played their home fixtures in Lviv, more than 965km from Donetsk for more than a season.

A run to the last 16 of last season's Champions League also provided a shop window for many of their best players to secure lucrative moves to top clubs around Europe.

Douglas Costa joined Bayern Munich while Luiz Adriano was snapped up by AC Milan.

However, despite the difficulties faced by Shakhtar, midfielder Viktor Kovalenko believes that they can cause a massive upset at the Bernabeu.

"I think it is interesting for any player to play against the stars of this level," he told the club's website. "Shakhtar now have a chance not only to play but even beat them.

"We will try to show our best, making every effort to achieve a victory in this match-up."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


REAL MADRID v SHAKHTAR DONETSK StarHub Ch203, tomorrow, 2.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Ronaldo can pull forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe