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Real suffering Ronaldo-dependency in their pursuit of silverware
Mark Elkington in Madrid on Real’s over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo
Jose Mourinho´s chances of repeating last season´s treble winning campaign with Inter Milan at Real Madrid depend, in part, on him breaking the side´s reliance on the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 26-year-old Portugal forward has netted an impressive 34 goals in all competitions this season, 24 of those coming in La Liga, but it´s when he doesn´t score that the problems arise.
Ronaldo has run into a barren patch of late, only scoring twice in Real´s last seven league matches, both in the 4-1 home win over Real Sociedad.
They have dropped seven points in that time, in the 1-1 draw at Almeria, a 1-0 defeat at Osasuna and last Saturday´s 0-0 draw at Deportivo Coruna.
Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain is still their second highest scorer in La Liga with seven goals, and he last played in November before being sidelined with a back injury.
Karim Benzema has upped his workrate but the France striker only has three league goals to his name. January loan-signing Emmanuel Adebayor, who is still settling in to the side, has scored just the once.
Among the attacking midfielders in the side, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil have 5 each while Kaka, who has just returned from a long-term knee injury, continues to disappoint but has scored twice.
The other main obstacle to Mourinho´s push for silverware is, of course, Barcelona, and it could be easy to accuse them of “Messi-dependence”.
The World Player of the Year has scored 42 goals in all competitions (including a hat-trick in the season-opening Spanish Super Cup) and is La Liga´s top scorer with 26.
The difference is that Barca have ample backup in the goal-scoring department.
Spain striker David Villa is the league´s third-highest marksman with 17 and his international team mate Pedro is fifth with 13.
The trio alone has scored more goals than any other team in La Liga, including their arch-rivals Real, with 56 between them in only 25 matches.
Real trail Barca by seven points with 13 games left to play, face them in the King´s Cup final in April and could potentially meet them in the latter stages of the Champions League.
By knocking out Barca in next week’s last-16, second leg, Arsenal could yet give Mourinho a helping hand in Europe, but only if he can guide Real Madrid into the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.
However, on the home front, he has to find a way to unleash Real´s attacking potential and hope Ronaldo does not suffer any kind of injury.
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PHOTO: Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho reacts during Saturday’s match against Deportivo Coruna at the Riazor stadium in La Coruna, February 26, 2011. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal.