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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Real Madrid v Barcelona: Cristiano Ronaldo targets Clasico victory to keep La Liga title hopes 'alive'

Spanish champions return to domestic duties after successfully retaining the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in two games in the Fifa Club World Cup, including the only goal of the final against Gremio. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in two games in the Fifa Club World Cup, including the only goal of the final against Gremio. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Real Madrid need to beat Barcelona in Saturday's Clasico to keep their Primera Liga title hopes alive, insists Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Madrid edged out Barca to the title last season but a disappointing start to this campaign means they trail their fierce rivals by 11 points, albeit having played a game less.

Madrid's slow start to the season was partly influenced by Ronaldo, who scored just one goal in his first eight league games.

However, he has hit form at the right time, scoring eight goals in his last seven matches across all competitions, including the winner in the Fifa Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Saturday as Madrid defeated South American champions Gremio to retain the title.

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The next assignment for Ronaldo and Madrid is Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Saturday in the first Primera Liga Clasico of the season, and Ronaldo is under no illusions about its importance to his club's title ambitions.

"I hope we win that game so that the league is still alive for Real Madrid," Ronaldo said. "I'm having a great season. I talk on the pitch, I try to give my best so people enjoy my football."

If Madrid’s form is improving ahead of the Clasico, Barcelona’s has remained consistently impressive all season. The Catalans are unbeaten in their 16 Primera Liga games so far, winning 13, to hold a six point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid and enter the derby following an emphatic 4-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

Even more encouragingly for Barca is the timely return to goal-scoring form of centre forward Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has only scored nine Primera Liga goals this season, but has netted four in his past four games, including a double against Deportivo. He should have had a hat-trick on Sunday when his goal-line rabona shot appeared to cross the line but was not awarded.

"The rabona goal was clear,” Suarez said. “It went in. I saw it clearly because I was right there."

With Messi misfiring against Deportivo, hitting the woodwork three times and missing a penalty, Suarez has come into form at the right time.

Like Ronaldo, Suarez understands the importance Saturday’s Clasico could play in the destiny of the Primera Liga title, but has warned against disregarding the other contenders.

"It would give us a boost in the competition, although there are other rivals like Atletico and Valencia," he said.

Barca are facing a shortage of attacking options for the Clasico, with striker Paco Alcacer set to be sidelined for three weeks with the leg injury he sustained against Deportivo.

Gerard Deulofeu, Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha Alcantara and Samuel Umtiti are all expected to be unavailable to Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde.