Cristiano Ronaldo's Most 'Charitable' Opponents in La Liga

Thomas HallettCorrespondent IIDecember 11, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo's Most 'Charitable' Opponents in La Liga

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    There are no easy games for Real Madrid or Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga, but such is the Portuguese's talent, he can at times make football a glorious art form without breaking a sweat.

    And that's what football needs: it needs deities that inspire and conquer a generation. Ronaldo needs rivalries to keep the fire fuelled, and while there is a genius based in Barcelona, it doesn't take away from the phenomenal abilities of Real Madrid's No. 7.

    This isn't a swipe at the quality in La Liga or a device to prove that there are only two good teams in Spain—a nonsense argument that is completely without weight.

    But it's a further examination of what makes Ronaldo one half of a duo that is light years removed from the seemingly ordinary talents in Europe and around the world.

Sevilla

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    The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is no easy place to go to, as Real Madrid will attest following their Week 4 trip to Sevilla.

    On that day, it was Piotr Trochowski who hammered home the winner past Iker Casillas, leaving Real Madrid struggling to find a way to build on their solitary win at that point.

    But the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan proved to be a good hunting ground for Ronaldo last season, as the forward produced an outstanding performance with a hat-trick.

    The context of that game was far more impressive. Only the league game prior had Ronaldo been heavily criticised for his lack of show in the Clasico against Barcelona.

    Ronaldo, however, wasn't having any of it, as he rolled up his sleeves and played a leading role in the dismantling of Sevilla.

    The Portuguese flyer wasn't done with that game either. The return match at the Bernabeu saw another impressive performance from Ronaldo, in which he bagged the opening goal of a 3-0 win.

    The highlight of Ronaldo's clashes with Sevilla certainly came in the 2010/11 season, where another imperious performance saw the forward drive four goals past the home side in Seville, resulting in another 6-2 victory.

    Sevilla were one of the more standout Spanish teams during the last decade, winning back-to-back UEFA Cups and the Copa Del Rey twice, as well as helping to raise the profile of players like Dani Alves and producing Sergio Ramos.

    But on more than one occasion, Ronaldo shone brightest against one of La Liga's more impressive sides.

Rayo Vallecano

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's performances against Rayo Vallecano should perhaps be best remembered for that back-heel goal at the Vallecas to secure a 1-0 win last season.

    Certainly, pulling off fantastic performances against the bigger sides in La Liga is what helps to separate Ronaldo and Real Madrid from the rest. But against lowly sides such as the smallest Madrid-based team in the league, you want and need the finest players in the world to bring their A-game.

    Travelling to Rayo has always been a scrappy affair for Real, and their 2-0 win earlier this season was certainly a reminder of how frustrating Rayo can be.

    But last season's game at the Bernabeu saw another hat-trick and another leading performance from Ronaldo. Easy pickings certainly, but you need the best players performing in the big games as well as the relatively low-key matches.

Atletico Madrid

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    With Real Madrid struggling for form and immediately following another loss in Seville, this time to Real Betis, Ronaldo once again shone brightest in the most recent Madrid derby.

    The talk was of a new power rising in Madrid, and what an exciting prospect to have twin powers in the capital in the form of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

    Further talk was of Diego Simeone's team racing ahead of their city rivals to draw swords against Barcelona for this season's league title. Glorious Madrid, exciting Spain.

    But Ronaldo should be heavily praised—and he was—for a standout performance against the threat of Atletico.

    Yes, the game may have been too big for Atletico, but Real Madrid's players weren't to know that. They remained wholly sluggish and uninspired, offering their opponents plenty of avenues to goal in the early going.

    The swing in fortunes and a change of the tide, however, came with Ronaldo and another devastating goal from a set piece.

    Maybe he should relinquish his stranglehold over free-kick duty. Or maybe he's just toying with us, making us think he has little to offer in the way of set pieces from within range. Iker Casillas' expression following told the whole story.

    And it was a similar story last season as well. Diego Simeone had recently taken the reins at struggling Atletico and wanted a battle with Real.

    Ronaldo had two goals in the previous meeting at the Bernebeu, which Real won 4-1. The second meeting of the season in April saw the Portuguese forward go one better. The result remained the same but Ronaldo had three of the four goals, of which two were absolutely irresistible.

Barcelona

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    Right off the bat, it has to be addressed that Barcelona are not considered an "easy" opponent and certainly not in the same vein as the other teams mentioned. But it is necessary to point out how far Cristiano Ronaldo has come in the Clasico games.

    If the overriding theme here is good performances and consistent goals, then matches against Barcelona have to be spoken about in the same breath.

    With the approaching Ballon d'Or award, this is one of the key battles that Ronaldo will be assessed to determine if he is the candidate worthy of breaking up Lionel Messi's dominance at the top.

    And shouldn't we reel off the better statistics Ronaldo has over Messi in the most recent Clasicos?

    If we're taking all six games played between the two teams in 2012, Ronaldo has scored seven goals to Messi's four.

    By no means an easy opponent, but Ronaldo has since dispelled the myth that he is not a big-game player and that he very much can rise to the occasion in the way Messi does.

    The defining moment, however, should be that goal at the Camp Nou to seal a 2-1 win and subsequently the league title. It appeared to be an announcement more than anything, but it was surely just another reminder of Ronaldo's quality and worth in high-pressure games.