December 18, 2018

Gareth Bale dropped to Real Madrid bench

11 February 2018, 06:55 | Anna Jefferson

Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino clinging on to pole position for summer move

Barcelona to challenge Real Madrid for Salah

Jesus Vallejo, Dani Ceballos and Luca Zidane are all out, but neither plays a big role within the first team.

The defensive lapses that allowed the visitors to pull two goals back late on will be a concern for Zidane, but Ronaldo's return to form is a huge boost.

The 25-year-old is enjoying a solid campaign having scored 5 goals and provided a further 4 assists in 18 league games despite Madrid enduring a hard season that sees them trail Barcelona by 19 points.

After his arrival from Malaga in 2013, Isco has brought in new revelations by becoming Zidane's first choice for orchestrating Real Madrid's attack in the Spanish league. But the 47-year-old does not want to take over at Stamford Bridge until the summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Real Sociedad to warm up for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Paris St-Germain.

Former Madrid midfielder Illarramendi got his name on the scoresheet but accepted Sociedad faced a tough task after Vazquez opened the scoring 49 seconds into the match. "I want Isco [in my team] and I want him to spend his whole life here", Zidane said in a statement.

"Against them we play for our season, (here) we could have continued to press but we couldn't keep up that rhythm for 90 minutes".

Their star-studded forward line featuring Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani is probably the best in Europe this season and Madrid will need their own trident - Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo - back at their best if they are to advance to the quarter-finals.

Real Madrid are a different beast in the European Cup and so too is Cristiano Ronaldo.

"We started very strongly, taking advantage of our opponent being off balance and we could score a goal which put us ahead", Atletico coach Diego Simeone told reporters.

"We know the reality we have".

"We know it'll be tough but we're not anxious".

Between them, Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani have scored 48 league goals this term - and some of their interplay has been spectacular.

Meanwhile Real Madrid had a less enjoyable time last week as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Levante with Giampaolo Pazzini netting in the last minute.

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