Cristiano Ronaldo to Play Schalke and Affirm Thirst for UCL Top-Scorer Title

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 17, 2014

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga, Spain, Saturday March 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor)
Daniel Tejedor/Associated Press

Real Madrid hold a 6-1 aggregate lead going into the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Schalke thanks to a demolition job at the Veltins-Arena in February.

Los Blancos' fearsome attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all grabbed two goals each on a historic night for the club and the tie is as good as done as far as most fans are concerned.

According to ESPN's Dermot Corrigan, however, Carlo Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference on Monday that Ronaldo will start the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, bucking the trend of recent management techniques which usually involve resting key players for dead-rubber games.

CR7 will have affirmed his wish to play the game before Ancelotti gave the okay and the Portuguese will line up alongside Alvaro Morata—the Daily Mail reports that he's an Arsenal target this summer—and Jese in a front three.

There will likely be a start for other fringe players such as Isco, Asier Illarramendi and Alvaro Arbeloa too.

It can mean only one thing: Ronaldo is keen to extend his lead at the top of the Champions League scoring charts, with the European Golden Shoe firmly in his sights for 2014.

The Portuguese has won it twice before—once in 2008 with Manchester United and again in 2011 with Real Madrid—and seems eager to draw level with Lionel Messi by securing a hat-trick of awards.

The competition.
The competition.Thibault Camus/Associated Press

He's on 11 goals for the season, with closest contender Zlatan Ibrahimovic breathing down his neck with 10. Messi has eight and Diego Costa seven, so unless Barcelona shock the world, Ronaldo is in a one vs. one with the Swede—much like he was several weeks ago as Portugal beat Sweden for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Ibrahimovic drew a frustrating blank in his second leg against Bayer Leverkusen, chipping a neat shot onto the top of the bar and firing wide on several other occasions.

His irritations were matched by fellow striker Edinson Cavani, who squandered chance after chance in what quickly became the Bernd Leno show.

One ahead and with a game in hand, CR7 has the perfect chance to extend that gap and go two or three ahead. To strikers and natural goalscorers, these mini-competitions are just as important as their own team's achievements.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Johnson suggested that, at 32 years of age, it's now or never for Zlatan to achieve his first coveted Champions League win. He'll be going all out to ensure Paris Saint-Germain contend in the Final, which gives Ronaldo valuable competition.

Thought we were done with CR7 vs. Zlatan following Portugal's beating of Sweden in November? They're just getting ready for Round 2!