Ronaldo: Real peaking at the perfect moment

Eurozone

Cristiano Ronaldo believes Real Madrid have timed their form and fitness perfectly to be in prime condition for the biggest four games of their season, starting tonight at the Santiago Bernabeu, against Barcelona.

After missing three weeks with a thigh strain, Ronaldo made a scoring return last week in the league against Athletic Bilbao and then pounced for his 40th goal of the season at White Hart Lane in midweek.

The former Manchester United forward said: "I'm happy that we play them four times – you want these big games as often as possible. We are peaking at just the right time of the season. We have fresh players coming back and the squad is ready for this."

The match sees Ronaldo try to break his duck against Barcelona after three matches for Manchester United and three for Real Madrid without scoring.

The contest also gives Lionel Messi a tenth opportunity to score against a Jose Mourinho defence – he has played nine matches against Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid while Mourinho has been in charge, and never got his name on the scoresheet.

The two players top this season's scoring charts in Spain and both Ronaldo, with 28 goals, and Messi, with 29, have the opportunity to break the all-time goal record for one season of 38 currently held by Athletic Bilbao's Telmo Zarra and Real Madrid's Hugo Sanchez.

"They are both exceptional players," said Real director-general Jorge Valdano. "They are both something out of the ordinary, but I think that we have more as a team when Ronaldo is not playing than Barcelona do when they are without Messi."

For coach Mourinho it will be his 50th game in charge at Madrid tonight, and it is his most important yet. Real trail Barcelona by eight points and must win if they are to maintain any hope of winning the league with eight games left.

Defeat would be the club's worst-ever run against its greatest rival. Barcelona have won the last five clasicos all under Pep Guardiola. Madrid and Barcelona are playing for all three titles in just 18 days and Ronaldo believes it is unthinkable that he goes another season without a trophy after last year's failure.

He said: "I can't even think about Real Madrid going two or three years winning nothing. This is one of the biggest clubs – if not the biggest – in the world. We won nothing last year but we have to achieve something this year and the next. We have a fantastic coach and a fantastic team."

As well as bringing together two of the top four sides in Europe, the run of four games pits together the two richest clubs in the world. Real Madrid have topped Deloitte's Football Money League for the last six years with revenues of €439m (£390m). Barcelona come in second with €398m (£355m), ahead of Manchester United in third with €350m (£310m). Where the two Spanish sides differ is in money spent on assembling their squads. Deloitte have Barça's mainly home-grown squad costing €175m (£155m) compared with Madrid's €475m (£420m) roster.

Mourinho, meanwhile, caused a press walkout last night by first refusing to give the traditional pre-match press conference, and then by sitting through it without saying a word. Spanish journalists complained at his refusal to attend, then when told he would attend but not speak they walked out, leaving non-Spanish journalists to question his No 2, Aitor Karanka, while Mourinho sat tight-lipped alongside.

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