Ronaldo rounds off perfect week as Madrid pile pressure on Barca

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Zinedine Zidane's side move seven clear provisionally ahead of the Catalans' tough trip to Anoeta on Sunday. And after that comes the Clasico next weekend...


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Normal service resumed for Cristiano Ronaldo. After something of a drought in front of goal earlier this season, the Portuguese has hit five in a wonderful week for Real Madrid. And, after the 2-1 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday, the pressure is now on Barcelona.

Ronaldo double sends Madrid seven clear

This was not Madrid at their finest. On a cold and rainy afternoon at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos were in front within five minutes as Ronaldo converted from the penalty spot and then put them two up shortly afterwards when he headed home a Nacho cross.

Prior to last Sunday's derby away to Atletico, Ronaldo had hit five goals in eight Liga appearances this term, but he now has 10 from 10, while he is also now just one away from 500 strikes in his club career with Sporting CP, Manchester United and Real.

Back to normal for Ronaldo, then, and even though Madrid made hard work of this match, conceding after 35 minutes and later giving away a penalty that was missed by Sporting's Duje Cop, they held on for a win which sees Los Blancos clear by seven points provisionally from Barca ahead of the Catalans' tough trip to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Barca have not won at Anoeta in La Liga since 2007, but Luis Enrique's side will want to change that sorry statistic on Sunday as they aim to keep ground with Madrid before next weekend's Clasico clash at Camp Nou.

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But, even if Barca beat Real Sociedad on Sunday and also win the Clasico next Saturday, Madrid will still be in front of their fierce rivals by a point. And it could be a lot more than that.

Unbeaten in 31 games now stretching back to the 2-0 loss away to Wolfsburg last April, Madrid have coped without injuries to 16 first-team players at different times in 2016-17 and the latest of those was Gareth Bale, who will be sidelined for up to three months after injuring his ankle in Lisbon on Tuesday.

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In the Welshman's absence, Zinedine Zidane started with Lucas Vazquez, James Rodriguez and Ronaldo behind Karim Benzema as Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic operated in front of the defence. It was perhaps a game too many in a tough week for some of those players, while the Colombian midfielder failed to take his chance with the Clasico coming up.

"I am only happy with the three points," Zidane said afterwards. "We didn't do what we hoped and we had a lot of difficulties."

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But Ronaldo's double means he has well and truly put his early-season struggles in front of goal behind him. With the Clasico on the horizon, the 31-year-old is back to his old self in front of goal with five in a week and he will be eager to score his 500th at Camp Nou next Saturday.

For Barca, though, the visit of Real must take a back seat for now. First, Luis Enrique's side need to end their hoodoo at Anoeta and make sure they are still in touch at the top of the table for the meeting with Madrid on December 3. The pressure is on.

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