Real Madrid are hoping Cristiano Ronaldo can end a lean period in front of goal as they attempt to keep their noses in front of a tight five-way race atop La Liga at Alaves on Saturday.
Madrid bounced back from a four-game draw streak in style by scoring 20 goals in winning their last four outings to move back top of the table and take big strides towards progress in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
However, Ronaldo has scored just one of those 20 and his return of four goals from nine appearances is by a distance his worst strike rate at this stage of the campaign since joining Madrid seven years ago.
Ronaldo was even whistled by Real’s demanding fanbase at the Santiago Bernabeu during last weekend’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.
“I would prefer him to score two or three goals in every match, but I am not worried because I know it will pass,” said Real boss Zinedine Zidane.
Alvaro Morata came off the bench to grab a late winner against Athletic and also struck twice in a 7-1 mauling of Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday to move ahead of Ronaldo with six goals this season.
Yet, despite still being frozen out Zidane’s preferred starting line-up by Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Morata insists the Portuguese should be cut some slack.
“When one is used to scoring nearly 70 goals a season they are like goal addicts,” said Morata.
“For us he is still the most important player in the team and we hope he scores lots of goals, but he is not a machine.
“He is human, although it seems like he comes from a different planet, and he has the right to miss.”
Zidane is expected to resort to the side that started against Bilbao as Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Marcelo, Mateo Kovacic and Raphael Varane were all rested in midweek.
Alaves have only won twice in their first nine games on their return to the top flight for the first time in a decade.
Yet former Valencia and Liverpool defender Mauricio Pellegrino’s men have already proved they are more than capable of causing an upset as they shocked Barcelona at the Camp Nou last month.
Sporting Gijon v Sevilla (1100), Alaves v Real Madrid (1415), Atletico Madrid v Malaga (1630), Barcelona v Granada (1845)
Eibar v Villarreal (1100), Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna (1515), Real Betis v Espanyol (1730), Las Palmas v Celta Vigo (1945)
Deportivo la Coruna v Valencia (1945)