Ronaldo targets Liverpool, and Raul’s record
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo needs one goal to match the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer when Real Madrid hosts Liverpool on Tuesday.
At the rate the forward is sweeping in goals, Ronaldo has a good chance to match and even break Raul Gonzalez’s mark of 71 goals in front of the same Santiago Bernabeu crowd that used to chant Raul’s name.
Madrid would qualify for the knockout rounds with a second straight win over Liverpool in Group B.
Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Barcelona, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and FC Porto can also advance from the group phase this week, leaving two games to spare.
Here are some things to know about round four of the Champions League group phase:
Ronaldo is doing his best to erase memories of Portugal’s poor showing at this year’s World Cup and boost his chances of winning a second consecutive Ballon d’Or.
Ronaldo has scored in 12 straight appearances in all competitions for Madrid. His goal on Saturday, which sparked a 4-0 rout at Granada on Saturday, made him the first Madrid player to score in eight consecutive Spanish league appearances.
He leads the Spanish league with 17 goals and has 22 overall for his club, including the one he scored last month to set Madrid on its way to a commanding 3-0 win at Liverpool.
Ronaldo will also have the extra motivation of not giving Lionel Messi the chance to reach Raul’s record first. Messi has 69 goals heading into Barcelona’s match at Ajax on Wednesday.
Liverpool was outclassed in the first meeting and will face an even tougher task with Madrid playing its best football since the arrival of coach Carlo Ancelotti last season.
“We are on a good run,” said former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa. “We have won 11 in a row and we want to make it 12 against Liverpool.”
The European champion has outscored opponents 46-7 during its winning streak and hasn’t lost at home in European competition since April 2011, winning 16 of 18 home matches. Also in Group B, Basel hosts Ludogorets.
Luis Suarez established his checkered reputation when playing for Ajax by scoring 81 goals from 2007-11 while also earning his first of three suspensions for biting an opponent.
Now, fresh off his ban for biting an Italian defender at the World Cup, Suarez returns to Ajax with his new club Barcelona struggling.
“I’m grateful to be able to go back, (Ajax) is a team that gave me a lot and helped me grow,” Suarez said after Barcelona was upset 1-0 at home by Celta Vigo on Saturday.
That was a second consecutive loss in the Spanish league with Suarez in the lineup, leaving first-year coach Luis Enrique under added pressure to win in Amsterdam. Also in Group F, PSG hosts APOEL.
While Chelsea and Arsenal could qualify with wins this week, it’s set to go right down to the wire for fellow Premier League team Manchester City.
City’s struggles in the Champions League have continued this season as it has picked up just two points from three games, although Bayern’s dominance of Group E leaves the English champions with a chance of qualifying as runner-up.
A home victory over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday is imperative, though, if City is to overhaul Roma, which is two points ahead in second but facing a daunting trip to Munich.
“We have nine points more to play for,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said, “and the game that will decide if we qualify for the next stage will be the game we have to play in Rome.”
Chelsea will advance from Group G if it beats Maribor away and Sporting Lisbon fails to defeat Schalke on Wednesday. An Arsenal win at home to Anderlecht on Tuesday will qualify Arsene Wenger’s team from Group D, providing Galatasaray doesn’t beat Dortmund.
Complacency appears to be the biggest danger facing Bayern as it coasts through the start of the season.
Unbeaten in the Bundesliga, the German powerhouse appears to have the domestic title sown up after just 10 games, while the Champions League has seemed even easier so far.
Bayern’s 7-1 thrashing of Roma last week was its biggest away victory in European competition, and the Italian side comes to Munich on Wednesday. Bayern can clinch qualification from Group E with another win.
“We have to keep trying to improve things and cannot let up,” Arjen Robben said after scoring the winner in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Dortmund. “We won 7-1 in Rome and have now beaten Dortmund. We’re on the right path but we shouldn’t think it all comes naturally.”
Dortmund is looking to the Champions League for relief after its worst start to a Bundesliga season left it languishing in the relegation zone.
Dortmund can ensure it advances from Group D with a victory at home over Galatasaray on Tuesday.
AP writers Steve Douglas in Manchester and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.