By Iain Rogers
Cristiano Ronaldo can overtake Raul as Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer when Granada visit the Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday and the Portugal captain will have needed fewer than half as many matches to do it.
Former Spain striker Raul, now with New York Cosmos, netted 323 goals in 741 appearances for the world’s richest club, while Ronaldo’s hat-trick in Tuesday’s 4-0 Champions League victory at home to Shakhtar Donetsk took his tally to a jaw-dropping 321 in just 304 matches.
The 30-year-old FIFA Ballon d’Or holder’s treble at the Bernabeu came hot on the heels of his five-goal haul at Espanyol last weekend and Real have rattled in 15 goals without reply in their last three outings.
“I know Cristiano Ronaldo’s value and performance level,” Real coach Rafa Benitez told a news conference after the Shakhtar game. “He is the best in the world and is showing that in games and every training session.”
Ronaldo hit five goals in a match for the first time when Real hammered Granada 9-1 at the Bernabeu last season and Granada midfielder Ruben Rochina is expecting another rough ride despite Benitez missing several regulars due to injury.
James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos are all unavailable but Rochina said the depth of Real’s squad means the trio will not be missed too much.
“We know they are one of the best teams in the world and if one player is not there then there will be another who will also perform well,” he told Spanish radio on Wednesday.
Champions Barcelona, who host Levante on Sunday, could be without Rafinha for the rest of the season after the Brazil midfielder damaged a cruciate ligament in his right knee in Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw at AS Roma.
The younger brother of Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha will undergo surgery in the next few days, Barca said on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es) on Thursday.
He had only been on the pitch a few minutes when he was injured by a robust tackle from Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
Atletico Madrid visit Eibar and Valencia host promoted Real Betis on Saturday and Sevilla host Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Atletico and Sevilla enjoyed convincing Champions League wins on Tuesday, while Valencia’s return to Europe’s elite club competition after a two-year absence was spoiled when they lost 3-2 at home to Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday.