Individual awards mean something to Cristiano Ronaldo, especially when he keeps missing out on them. So while Real Madrid are still formally on the chase after the La Liga leaders, Cristiano Ronaldo himself remains in the hunt for the Pichichi, the scoring trophy for Spain’s top scorer, hoping that a late season surge while Lionel Messi remains benched and rested helps him narrow the gap.
Like Barcelona, Real Madrid are mostly focused on the Champions League at this stage of the season. But… with Atletico Madrid breathing down their necks, they can’t afford to enter league garbage time as well, currently holding a three point lead over their derby rivals with seven matches left to play. They traveled to Bilbao with a full lineup, or close to it barring injuries and restrictions, and were once again lifted by some tremendous and clinical finishing from their star player.
Cristiano Ronaldo opened with a free kick, probably the best of his collection this season, in a stadium that no longer makes his name one long cursing chant, as it was last season many a time. Ronaldo made it an even more resounding win by rising up to connect with a set piece, once again showing his complete athletic and physical superiority over certain players, reaching 31 league goals in 30 matches, before Gonzalo Higuain finished the job with a superb strike from a not-so-easy angle.
Beyond the scoring prowess of Ronaldo, there’s a chance to believe Sergio Ramos will be the starting right back for Real when they play Dortmund. Alvaro Arbeloa has shown more than once he is often the weak link not just in Real Madrid’s defense but in their whole way of attacking, simply being less talented than the rest, often exposed in his tendency to make foolish decisions with the ball or without it. Ramos might not love playing as a full back anymore, but he does better than most, even without the passion for it.
Another interesting issue heading into the Champions League clash in 10 days will be Mourinho’s starting left back – Marcelo, obviously for attacking purposes, or Fabio Coentrao, who is a lot more tactical and physical when he wears the Real Madrid white than he is when he plays for the national side. Looking back at the two meeting between Real and Dortmund this season, Mourinho’s thinking about how to not expose himself to counter attacks, while giving Cristiano Ronaldo as much freedom as possible to concentrate solely on the scoring aspect of his game.