While the Spanish press approached Real Madrid’s trip to Anfield with slight trepidation owing to the European champions’ past failings against Liverpool, the return Champions League match tonight has been met with a more relaxed approach and a focus on Cristiano Ronaldo’s chance to join or surpass Raúl as the competition’s all-time leading scorer.
The former Madrid man, who recently signed for the New York Cosmos, has scored 71 times in the competition and the club’s current talisman trails by just a goal going into tonight’s match at the Santiago Bernabéu. The Portuguese, and indeed Lionel Messi who is one further back on 69, will both pass the former Spain international but the race is on to see who can do it first. With Barcelona not in action until Wednesday night against Ajax, Ronaldo has the first opportunity.
“Cristiano: Objective Raúl” was the front-page headline on Spanish sports newspaper AS on Wednesday. “Cristiano targets Liverpool and the record” it continues inside. Raúl reached his target in 142 games for Madrid and Schalke, but Ronaldo is set to break it having featured in just 106 matches going into tonight’s game. Messi’s statistics read even better with the Argentine scoring 69 in 89 matches.
‘AS’ go on to highlight the fact the former Manchester United man is in the form of his life having scored in his last 12 matches, and with Liverpool not being as strong as they were in 2009, when they left the Spanish capital with a 1-0 victory, he has every chance to break yet another record tonight. Ronaldo would already have been level at the top had his goal in a qualifying match in 2005 have counted towards the tally, as pointed out by the newspaper. “What does not fall into account is the goal that he scored for United against Hungarian side Debrecan in a qualifying game in 2005-06,” said Juanma Trueba. “UEFA do not count goals before the draw for the group stage is made.”
“A sea of red in Madrid”, said ‘AS’ on the travelling Liverpool support tonight. The Anfield club have sold 4,000 tickets officially but the newspaper says another 1,000 are expected without tickets.
“Fans without tickets will head to the British pubs in the centre of the capital,” the article continued. “The fans remember the city after their last visit in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League against Atlético (1-0).”
In ‘Marca’ the focus is also on the goalscoring record, with a picture of Ronaldo hugging Raúl during a testimonial match for the Madrid legend last year. “One goal away from the legend” was the headline on the lead story and the front page added “he is just one goal away from the Madrid legend and a place in history as the competition’s leading scorer”.
The popular sports paper also focused on the good relationship between the former Manchester United man and his manager Carlo Ancelotti.
“More the coach” was a headline, complemented by the Italian hugging his star man after the 3-1 victory over Barcelona just over a week ago. The article, by Jose Felix Diaz, also reports Ronaldo invited Ancelotti to dinner at his house such is the strong bond between the pair.
‘Marca’ also focuses on Iker Casillas and the fact that tonight’s match will see him move as outright leader in the all-time appearances in the Champions League. The Madrid captain played for the 143rd time at Anfield, equalling Barcelona midfielder Xavi, and he will exceed that tonight. His countryman could, of course, level things up on Wednesday night in Barcelona’s match in Amsterdam.
“Mister Champions League” led the story, with the sub-heading that “Casillas returns tonight to become, on his own, the player with the most appearances in the in the history of the Champions League”.
Complementing the story are three pictures of the goalkeeper lifting the three Champions League trophies he has won, last season in Lisbon, in the 2002 triumph in Glasgow and his first, in 2000, against Valencia in Paris.
‘El Pais’ also praises Casillas ahead of tonight’s match, saying he has made a marked improvement since his insecurities at the start of the season. “Casillas returns to the Bernabéu another time to deliver for the cause”. The statistics box says he has successfully saved 24 of the 26 attempts that have been fired at him since Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Villarreal in September.
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