Cristiano Ronaldo Will Snap Early La Liga Goal Drought Against Athletic Bilbao
It's not often Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't find the back of the net over the course of a two La Liga games. In his four-year career at the Bernabeu, CR7 has 146 La Liga goals in just 135 career appearances, good for a little better than a one goal-per-game ratio.
In Real Madrid's Sunday clash with Athletic Bilbao, Ronaldo will look to make the goose egg currently next to his goal tally a distant memory before the new work week begins.
Three straight La Liga games without a goal? Forget about it.
Ronaldo has had an interesting offseason. Between being linked with previous club Manchester United in transfer rumours and dealing with his contract situation as Madrid tries to lock him up for the long haul, the Portuguese star has remained busy despite spending time away from his club.
A four-match stint (in which he scored three goals) for Portugal kept his legs fresh, and Ronaldo most recently starred for Madrid in their International Champions Cup appearance—he scored three goals and had two assists in three matches to help Los Blancos capture the inaugural trophy.
Although it's an admitted overreaction to prioritize Ronaldo's goal total at this point in the season, it would be quite shocking if Bilbao didn't bring out the best in the 28-year-old's game.
That being said, Ronaldo looked out of sync against Granada. There's always going to be distractions when you're a professional athlete with Ronaldo's popularity, but one such distraction might be the mental culprit in the star striker's early dry spell.
That distraction is Tottenham winger Gareth Bale.
Bale is on the cusp of sealing a move to the Bernabeu before the Sept. 2 deadline has come and gone. According to the Herald Sun, via AS, Los Blancos are close to a £78 million move to bring Bale to Spain before the transfer window closes.
Although originally rumoured to cost more than the record £80 million Madrid paid Manchester United for Ronaldo in 2009, Los Blancos have reportedly convinced Spurs to take less than that to secure the deal in time.
Could Ronaldo be to blame?
According to Pete Jenson of Daily Mail, the reason Madrid are focused on lowering their offer for Bale has to do with Ronaldo's happiness. Per the report, the lowered offer would keep Ronaldo's "top dog" status as the world's costliest player in tact and play to his ego as one of the world's best players.
If you believe this tweet from Deadline Day, which features an assertion from Sky Sports' Scott Minto, then Bale's proposed move could be an early excuse for why he hasn't recorded a goal in either of the club's first two matches:
Even though Bale's move looks to be just short of official, sweet relief from any grief looms in the form of Athletic Bilbao.
Simply put, Ronaldo shines against Los Leones.
Real Madrid's Twitter account posted this Ronaldo stat in anticipation for their upcoming match:
According to WeAreMadrid10 on Twitter, Ronaldo will draw level with three other Madrid legends for the most goals against Bilbao if he finds the back of the net on Sunday:
FACT! If Cristiano Ronaldo scores tomorrow vs. Bilbao, he will draw level with Sanchez, Puskas, & Raul for top RM scorers vs. Bilbao. (11)— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) August 31, 2013
With Madrid focused on besting Barcelona for top La Liga honors this year and making a splash in the Champions League to boot, Ronaldo will be expected to continue to put goals on the scoreboard whether or not he is flanked by Bale.
How many goals will Ronaldo score this year?
Sunday could be Ronaldo's final chance to prove to his bosses that Madrid doesn't need another big name to perform at the highest level this year. That decision has already been made, but if Madrid made a lower offer to Tottenham to appease CR7, he won't be bothered in putting that pressure on his shoulders.
In big moments over the past few years, Ronaldo seems to deliver the goods. The third match of Los Blancos La Liga season wouldn't typically qualify as a big moment, but with Bale seemingly en route, the complex of the club could change forever on Monday.
Given his past success against Bilbao and Madrid's early struggles in scoring goals so far, expect Ronaldo to find the twine on Sunday. Little doubt he's in for another big season, and a goal against a lesser opponent would do wonders in making that assumption come true.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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