Ronaldo eyes Real Madrid 100-goal mark
Cristiano Ronaldo hit form with a hat-trick as Real Madrid tore apart Malaga 4-0 at the weekend and now he has his sights set on breaking the 100-goal mark for the Spanish giants against Villarreal on Wednesday.
While his fellow strikers were scoring freely with Gonzalo Higuain having hit three consecutive hat-tricks - including one for Argentina - going into the Malaga game, Ronaldo had been going through a dry patch.
His last goal in the league came almost a month ago against Rayo Vallecano but his three on Saturday put him joint top scorer on 10 goals with his rival at Barcelona, Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo hit a 15-minute hat-trick during the first half and could have had another goal but saw a free-kick come back off the woodwork. "I am very happy with the three goals but obviously the key was the victory," said the Portuguese star, who now has 98 Real Madrid goals.
"Some days you give assists and others you score, that is how a team works so I wasn't worried during the period when I wasn't finding the back of the net. It was a great game from us and I think it was one of our best. It will be great to reach 100 goals this season but the team is what is important and now we have another important game against Villarreal."
It was a disappointing weekend for Messi who missed a late penalty as Barcelona could only draw 0-0 with Sevilla to surrender top spot to Real who were, in turn, displaced by humble Levante. Messi has had an excellent start to the season and coach Pep Guardiola even joked last week after the UEFA Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen that the news was that the little Argentine master did not score.
Messi needs to bounce back at Granada and Guardiola is confident that the miss will not affect him. "He is very strong mentally. After the wait of several minutes before he was able to take the penalty he hit it calmly and it was saved but another day he will score," he said.
"Only the greats have the courage to take them. He has given a lot of pleasure to the fans, he has done a lot of great things and people realise that."
Levante, who narrowly escaped relegation last season, lead the way in Spain, a point ahead of Real and two in front of Barcelona. The Valencia club, who operate on a shoestring budget, face Real Sociedad in their midweek fixture.
Sevilla will be without striker Frederic Kanoute against Racing Santander but Alvaro Negredo is set to be fit to join the attack. Kanoute was sent off against Barcelona for grabbing Cesc Fabregas around the neck.
Valencia travel to Zaragoza with fans angry with the players' attitude after just one win in seven games, while Malaga look to bounce back from their Real trouncing at Rayo Vallecano.
Real Betis aim to end their four-match losing streak against Espanyol who are level with them on 12 points.
Atletico Madrid face a much-improved Athletic Bilbao side who were denied their third consecutive win by a late Valencia goal at the weekend.
Mallorca entertain Sporting Gijon who won their first game of the season against Granada, and Osasuna travel to Getafe.