Cristiano Ronaldo Doubts Real Madrid's La Liga Title Hopes Before Atletico Derby

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2016

MALAGA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF drinks from a bottle prior to start the La Liga match between Malaga CF and Real Madrid CF at La Rosaleda Stadium on February 21, 2016 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo believes his team's chances of winning the Primera Division title are a “long shot” ahead of Saturday's derby match against Atletico Madrid.

Los Blancos chase La Liga leaders Barcelona by nine points and need a minor miracle to catch the in-form Catalans in the standings. Per Marca, Ronaldo urged his team-mates to keep fighting, even if their hopes are slim.

He said:

It's an important game, at home, in front of our fans and against a tough side who defend well. It's a game that we have to win. We know that the title is a long shot but we have to fight until the end. I hope it's a great game on Saturday and Real Madrid get to win it.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo kneels on the field during the Spanish league football match Malaga CF vs Real Madrid CF at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga on February 21, 2016. / AFP / JORGE GUERRERO        (Photo credit should read JORG

Real and Atletico, Barcelona's two realistic title rivals, both dropped points in Week 25, allowing the Blaugrana to increase their lead in the table. The Spanish media blasted the two teams from the capital in response, with most of the criticism reserved for Los Blancos.

Per Marca's Javier Estepa, history suggests their title bid is over:

Zinedine Zidane's men practically bowed out of the title race after failing to get the better of Malaga at La Rosaleda. Although Zidane and players like Sergio Ramos insisted that they will keep fighting until winning the league is mathematically impossible, history is not on Real Madrid's side. No one has ever made up a nine-point deficit at the top of the table with 13 rounds of games to go.

If Barcelona beat Sevilla in Week 26―and most pundits expect them to―the derby will effectively result in their Liga lead increasing even more on at least one of the teams from the capital.

Atletico's Filipe Luis told Sport his side has already given up on the league: “We have said goodbye to La Liga. Barca are ahead of everyone and our objective has never been [to win the league], but to qualify for the [UEFA] Champions League.”

Ronaldo isn't willing to do that just yet, but most pundits seem to agree with Luis. Sky Sports' Guillem Balague buried Real's bid after the 1-1 draw against Malaga:

So did Madrid-based daily AS:

Barcelona have a handful of difficult tasks left on the schedule, starting with Sunday's tricky match against Sevilla, the UEFA Europa League holders and their opponents for the final of the Copa del Rey.

It's a match they could lose, opening the door for an unlikely comeback, and it would be up to Ronaldo and his Real team-mates to get the job done at home and see off rivals Atletico. The Rojiblancos haven't looked their best of late, but neither have Real, whose defence remains a work in progress.