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La Liga: All eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Sevilla challenge

Associated Press
Sep 14, 2012 at 09:29am IST

Gijon: Cristiano Ronaldo has little time to mope as Real Madrid deliver some group therapy to help him recover for a must-win match at Sevilla, with the Spanish champion needing to keep the pressure on leader Barcelona.

After helping Portugal to consecutive victories, Ronaldo quickly reaffirmed his commitment to Real 10 days after saying he was "feeling sad" there for professional reasons.

"My focus is solely on winning every game and every available trophy with the essential company of my teammates and all Madridistas," Ronaldo said in a statement on Wednesday, when he trained with his teammates and reportedly sat down with coach Jose Mourinho to discuss the situation.

All eyes on Ronaldo ahead of Sevilla challenge

It will be the Real striker's first match for the club since remarking that he is sad at Santiago Bernabeu. Meanwhile, Barca travel to Getafe.

"Everything has been exaggerated way too much," midfielder Xabi Alonso said on Thursday. "He's just the same as he was 10 days or two months ago. What we see in the dressing room is totally different from what is seen outside and he looks totally normal. He's relaxed, smiling like always."

Real will certainly hope Ronaldo is relaxed and not focused on contract squabbles as the team is already in a panic as it trails Barcelona by five points after just three games, and Sevilla have a victory and two draws to start the season.

Ronaldo's off-field difficulties remain the talking point of club football in Spain, which has allowed teammate Karim Benzema's poor start to the season to be ignored. The France striker has yet to score through five games, while fellow striker Gonzalo Higuain has been in great form with six goals this season including two with Argentina in World Cup qualifying.

Real's irregular start has worried Mourinho, even if his team has won seven straight matches against Sevilla. The pressure is on the Spanish champions to win a 10th Champions League trophy this season, with their first continental match coming on Tuesday against Manchester City.

"If I detect that someone doesn't understand this, as a coach I have means of preventing that," Mourinho said. "For example, if someone reserves themselves in league play with the Champions League in mind, then he may get a surprise and not play in the Champions League."

Barcelona will be without injured players Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez for Saturday's match at Getafe, but could welcome midfielder Thiago Alcantara back from an injury that had sidelined him since May. Defender Carles Puyol could also return with a specially designed facemask to protect his broken right cheek.

Cesc Fabregas has been experiencing similar difficulties to Ronaldo at Barcelona, with the Spain midfielder failing to secure much playing time this season.

"I just need to do what the coach asks of me and that doesn't mean scoring two goals in each game," Fabregas said on Thursday. "What I do want is to keep playing for Barcelona and working to my utmost."

Getafe have beaten Spain's big two clubs in their past visits to southern Madrid.

Atletico Madrid return to domestic play following their European Super Cup thrashing of Chelsea, with Radamel Falcao eclipsing Lionel Messi and Ronaldo as the league's leading scorer. Falcao has scored six in three games for Atletico — including a hat trick against Chelsea — and a pair in World Cup qualifying victories with Colombia.

Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente could play for the first time this season at Espanyol, who have lost their first three games to start the season. Llorente has been kept out of the lineup with his future uncertain until the passing of the transfer deadline, but he was also trying to overcome muscle problems to be fit for Sunday's game.

Coming off one of its most impressive seasons when it reached both the Europa League and Copa del Rey finals, the Basque club's new season has been mired in near folly since Javi Martinez's links and eventual move to Bayern Munich.

Martinez reportedly broke into Bilbao's grounds late Saturday to fetch his personal belongings left behind before his transfer, just adding more off-field distractions to a team that has looked distracted on it.

"He should know the effect of his actions," said forward Iker Muniain. "We've got more important things to worry about than that. I'm ready to take on the responsibility, there comes a moment when you've got to take the ball in those difficult moments. Not just me, there are others too and between us all we have to all move in the right direction."

In other fourth-round action, it's: Mallorca vs. Osasuna, Valencia vs. Celta Vigo, Malaga vs. Levante; Granada vs. Deportivo La Coruna; Real Sociedad vs. Zaragoza; and Valladolid vs. Real Betis.

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