Hotshots in form ahead of Clasico

MADRID • Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo were heavily criticised during the opening phase of the season, but the two forwards have hit their strides ahead of Saturday's El Clasico showdown between the two heavyweight clubs.

Ronaldo rifled in the only goal against Brazilian side Gremio to help Real lift the Club World Cup on Saturday, while Luis Suarez struck twice as Barcelona thumped Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 on Sunday, stretching their lead at the top of the LaLiga table.

When the bitter rivals meet at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona will be looking to increase their 11-point lead on fourth-placed Real, who have played one match less.

Real's disappointing start to the league season was in part due to Ronaldo's poor form, although he has now turned a corner.

He scored just one goal in his first eight league games, but has hit form at the right time, scoring eight in his last seven matches across all competitions.

"Cristiano is Cristiano and you must never doubt him," said defender Raphael Varane after the Club World Cup triumph in Abu Dhabi.

Ronaldo, who turns 33 in February, insisted he is responding to criticism over his performances and he is desperate to catch Barcelona at the top of the table.

"I hope we win that game so that the league is still alive for Real," said Ronaldo. "I talk on the pitch, I try to give my best so people enjoy my football."

Unbeaten in LaLiga and the Champions League, Barca made light work of Deportivo in one of their best performances of the season.

"It (win over Real) would give us a boost in the competition, although there are other rivals like Atletico (Madrid) and Valencia," said Suarez, who, like Ronaldo, is only thinking about a Clasico victory.

After a lean spell with two goals in eight games at the start of the season, he now has six in his last seven and has come into form at the right time.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Hotshots in form ahead of Clasico'. Print Edition | Subscribe