Cristiano Ronaldo has sounded out Real Madrid's bitter local rivals Atletico ahead of this weekend's Madrid derby, using his side's midweek demolition of Schalke as ammunition to back up his confidence leading up to the capital clash.
Los Blancos got their Champions League round-of-16 tie off to an explosive start, waltzing out of the Veltins-Arena's first leg on Wednesday evening with a 6-1 aggregate lead under their belts.
Speaking to Real's official website in the wake of that result, Ronaldo reflected on his recent three-game ban for violent conduct, warning Atletico that Real are in the mood:
What happened has happened. I am frustrated by it, because what I did didn't deserve a three game ban, but I am very happy to return and score twice. We are up for the derby, we are Real Madrid and we will give our best and try to win.
Ronaldo was full of praise for his teammates, who are playing under the pressure of trying to end Madrid's wait for their 10th Champions League crown:
We scored six fundamental goals and we are just one step away from the next stage and we are happy. In general the side were good, from Casillas and the defence to the midfield. Us forwards do our work of always trying to score goals.
I believe in myself and my ability and my teammates help me a lot and they give me the confidence to play at such a high level. I scored twice in the second half so I'm very happy.
Ronaldo's return to La Liga action couldn't be timed better. The forward was shown a straight red card for lashing out against a member of the opposition against Athletic Bilbao in February, and has since served his three-match domestic ban in full.
However, that hasn't affected his form in continental competition, which OptaJoe shows is still superlative:
15 - Since the start of 2012-13, Cristiano Ronaldo (15) has scored two more Champions League away goals than Barcelona (13). Solo.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 26, 2014
As things stand, Real are three points clear at the head of the Spanish top flight, closely followed by Atleti and Barcelona, level on points.
Ronaldo wasn't the only Real star who managed to record a brace against Schalke, with the six-goal flurry weighted between him, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who also accounted for five of the six assists between them.
Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for his summer acquisition in particular, also via the official Real Madrid website:
It could be Bale's best game of the season yet as he had more confidence and he attacked very well in deep areas.
It was a perfect game. We played very well, together and helping each other. The match was fantastic, everything went well. The three up top all scored and helped the side a lot. They are very dangerous in attack.
Squawka helped break down Bale's outing against Schalke in numbers:
Gareth Bale's night in numbers: 2 shots on target, 2 goals, 1 assist, 2/2 headed duels, 5/6 take ons. Simply superb. pic.twitter.com/YSabdHiDaC— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 26, 2014
The 6-1 lead puts Los Merengues in a controlling position for the return Champions League fixture next month, although the job isn't quite done yet in sealing a quarterfinal place.
That being said, all attention will shift back to the domestic forum in time for Sunday's clash, with the prospect of Real opening up a six-point gap at the La Liga summit.
As Ancelotti notes, it would be difficult to shake things up too drastically given how impressive his team were in their most recent outing, and Diego Simeone will be especially wary of the threat that Ronaldo and Bale pose given the strong vein of form that both stars are enjoying.