Carlo Ancelotti says Cristiano Ronaldo's injury problems are in the past after seeing his Portuguese talisman score a record-breaking 24th hat-trick for Real Madrid in the stunning 8-2 win at Deportivo on Saturday.
Ronaldo, linked with a return to Manchester United in recent weeks, limped through the latter stages of last season as well as Portugal's World Cup campaign with a string of niggling injuries and was handed a two-week break this month in a bid to finally return to full fitness.
Despite Madrid falling to a shock 4-2 defeat at Real Sociedad in his absence, that fortnight without competitive action seems to have done the 29-year-old the world of good with five goals and one assist in the three games since his return.
Reports in Spain also suggest Costa Rica World Cup star Keylor Navas is set to make his competitive debut in place of Iker Casillas. Ancelotti promised changes for the match and the Italian sees tonight as a chance to give his summer signing a first outing since his arrival from Levante.
"Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't need a rest," said Ancelotti ahead of the visit of Elche to the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night. "He is in a good condition physically and mentally. We need him, he's at the top of his game." The match comes in the middle of a run which sees Madrid play seven matches in three weeks in all competitions.
Ancelotti said he would make some changes given the run of games but Ronaldo will not be one of them. The Ballon d'Or holder opened the scoring at the Riazor, a stadium he had previously not scored at, with a superb header before going on to take his tally to eight goals for the season in all competitions.
Gareth Bale also scored a brace in Galicia, while Karim Benzema answered his critics with an impressive performance despite again failing to get on the scoresheet. Madrid's front three showcased their attacking threat in a result that was Madrid's highest-ever scoring win away from home in the league.
"Cristiano has to have the freedom to do whatever he wants," Ancelotti said on Ronaldo playing with more freedom in his side's attack. "The change of position between the front is good". That lethal attack didn't let up when Javier Hernandez was introduced, scoring his first goals since arriving in the Spanish capital on a season-long loan from Manchester United.
Ronaldo was the star of the show with his treble seeing him overtake club legend Ferenc Puskas with the number of hat-tricks scored for the Spanish giants. The Ballon d'Or holder has hit trebles in 22 appearances and has also scored four goals on two occasions. He is closing on more goalscoring records this term, including being the top scorer in Champions League history. Raul leads the way with 71 but Ronaldo is closing in on 68 and expected to overtake the former Madrid man this campaign.
Madrid could be without Champions League final hero Sergio Ramos for the visit of Elche. The former Sevilla defender played the full 90 minutes against Depor at the weekend but a foot injury forced him to miss training on Monday. Pepe will also still be missing, meaning Frenchman Raphael Varane is set to continue at centre-back and fellow youngster Nacho could also be handed a rare start if Ramos is not passed fit.
"Pepe still has the same problems," said Ancelotti. "Ramos has problems in the foot but they are not too bad. I'll make rotations."
The Italian was asked about handing Hernandez a first start since his loan move from Old Trafford but the Madrid boss remained tight-lipped on his starting line-up. He brought Benzema off after just an hour at Depor, hinting that he was saving the Frenchman for Tuesday's match.
Madrid have responded from rare back-to-back league defeats by scoring 13 goals in their last two matches. a 5-1 triumph over Basel last week saw them begin their defence of the Champions League in emphatic fashion. Elche visit the Bernabeu on the back of a home loss to Eibar and knowing that Madrid's biggest-ever league win came against them in February 1960 when Los Blancos triumphed 11-2.
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