Spanish league returns with all eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo
MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo will attract most of the attention this weekend when teams return their focus to the Spanish league.
Real Madrid will host Granada on Saturday with Ronaldo having scored eight goals in his last two matches, including a hat trick against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday that made him the all-time top scorer in the European competition.
He had netted five in Madrid’s 6-0 rout of Espanyol in another impressive performance last weekend, making him the team’s leading scorer in the Spanish league.
Fans now are wondering what will happen next when Ronaldo steps onto the field.
There are good chances of another impressive performance by the star striker this weekend, as Granada has the second-worst defense in the Spanish league with seven goals conceded in three matches.
Only Espanyol conceded more, nine, and that’s thanks mostly to the big loss to Madrid last weekend. Granada twice conceded three goals already, in a 3-1 loss to Eibar in its opener and in a 3-1 defeat to Villarreal at home last Sunday.
Madrid has outscored its opponents 15-0 so far this season, and its defense has also impressed early on. For the first time it hasn’t conceded a goal in its first four matches.
Madrid is second in the league standings with seven points, two behind rival Barcelona.
Here are other things to look for in the Spanish league this weekend:
Madrid won’t be at full strength against Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu. Defender Sergio Ramos and striker Gareth Bale are set to miss the game because of injuries sustained in the Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
Ramos dislocated his left shoulder after a hard foul in the second half, and Bale had to leave the game before halftime because of a right calf injury.
Defender Raphael Varane also received a knock on his ankle, but the club was yet to disclose details about the extent of the injury.
KEEPING THE LEAD
Defending champion Barcelona will host Levante on Sunday to try to defend its early lead atop the standings.
Barcelona is the only team to start the season with three straight victories and it has a chance to win its fourth against a team that is near the bottom of the standings with only two points.
Coach Luis Enrique is also dealing with injuries in his squad, however. Brazilian right back Daniel Alves and Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo remain sidelined because of muscle ailments, and the club announced Thursday that midfielder Rafinha has a torn knee ligament, which means he will likely miss most of the season.
Striker Luiz Suarez is the only player who has started in all of Barcelona’s seven matches this season. He played in his 50th game with Barcelona on Wednesday, when it drew Roma 1-1 in Rome in the group stage of the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid is coming off a convincing 2-0 win at Galatasaray in the Champions League and is hoping to keep the momentum going to rebound from a disappointing 2-1 league loss at home to Barcelona last weekend.
Contrary to Real Madrid and Barcelona, though, Atletico will have its full squad available for Saturday’s match at modest Eibar, which surprisingly sits fifth in the standings after three matches.
Atletico is sixth with six points, one less than Eibar and three less than Barcelona.
In addition to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Eibar, the other teams with a chance to take the lead after the fourth round are Celta Vigo and Villarreal, which have seven points each and sit in third and fourth place, respectively.
Both teams play on Sunday, with Celta traveling to face winless Sevilla and Villarreal hosting Athletic Bilbao.
The round begins Friday with Getafe hosting Malaga.
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