Ronaldo homes in on goal mark

Cristiano Ronaldo has eyes only for the ball during a training session ahead of Real Madrid's return leg against Juventus. Real, ahead by three away goals, are odds-on favourites to progress to the semi-finals with the Portuguese forward eyeing anoth
Cristiano Ronaldo has eyes only for the ball during a training session ahead of Real Madrid's return leg against Juventus. Real, ahead by three away goals, are odds-on favourites to progress to the semi-finals with the Portuguese forward eyeing another season atop the scoring charts.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Portuguese within reach of own top scoring record, as president Perez wants 5th Cup win

MADRID • Cristiano Ronaldo has already broken one record in this season's Champions League, but he can edge closer to beating a bigger milestone of his own against Juventus in today's quarter-final return leg.

Ronaldo's bicycle kick in Real's 3-0 first-leg victory last week meant he passed former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy's feat by scoring in 10 consecutive Champions League games.

The Portuguese now stands just three goals short of his best tally in a single European campaign, an achievement that would suggest the 33-year-old Ronaldo may be the finest version yet.

His 14 goals so far have come over nine matches with doubles against Apoel Nicosia, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

It means this is Ronaldo's third most prolific Champions League showing to date and, with the 12-time European champions almost certain to reach the semi-finals, he is unlikely to finish here.

When he posted 16 goals in the 2015-16 edition and his personal best of 17 in 2013-14 - the second-highest and highest-scoring Champions League campaigns of all time respectively - Real went on to lift the trophy on both occasions.

Another goal against Juventus will see Ronaldo take sole ownership of third and occupy the top-three slots for the most goals in a Champions League season.

"Cristiano is Cristiano, it's always been like that," Real coach Zinedine Zidane said after he opened the scoring against Atletico Madrid in the 1-1 draw on Sunday.

The fact that the forward went off early in the derby is a measure of how the Champions League is now all-encompassing for Real.

And Real president Florentino Perez has cranked up the pressure on the title-holders, saying the four Champions League trophies under his tenure is not enough for him as he wants to match the haul of six European Cups won by late president Santiago Bernabeu. The club's stadium is named after Bernabeu, who oversaw its construction.

"Bernabeu is our reference point and we want to follow his path. Fifa named us the best club of the 20th century in 2000 and now we are working hard to get the same recognition in the 21st," Perez told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday.

Perez first became president in 2000, with Real winning the Champions League under his leadership in 2002. He resumed the role in 2009 and has since won the trophy three more times, beating Atletico in 2014 and 2016, and Juventus last year. The Spaniard also said he would have no fear about meeting Barcelona in a "Clasico" final in Kiev on May 26.

"First, we need to get to the final. I imagine in the semis we'll have to play Bayern Munich, who we always seem to meet but, if we face Barca in the final, we should remember that we beat them twice in the Spanish Super Cup this season," he added.

Captain Sergio Ramos and injured defender Nacho Fernandez are out for Real, with the former suspended for the visit of Juventus. Reserve centre-back Jesus Vallejo is also a doubt for the game.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Ronaldo homes in on goal mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe