This wasn't in the script for Cristiano Ronaldo. A reoccurrence of the thigh injury that forced him out of the Copa del Rey final victory over Barcelona saw Ronaldo limp out of Real Madrid's catastrophic 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid, after only nine minutes.
Although Los Merengues claim the move was precautionary, a full reoccurrence of the injury would see Ronaldo struggling to regain fitness for the Champions League final, against cross-town neighbours Atlético Madrid on May 24.
The loss of Ronaldo saw Sergio Ramos step up to free-kick duties, and the Spaniard duly converted a first-half free-kick from twenty-five yards out. However, Madrid were unable to hold on, conceding in the eighty-fifth minute when Osorio headed home a corner. The draw means that Madrid will be knocked out of the title race if Atlético beat Málaga this weekend.
Ronaldo's injury could well have permutations for the Champions League final. If, as Madrid say, the substitution was precautionary, Ronaldo will likely be rested for the final two matches of Madrid's La Liga season, robbing him of match sharpness for the final.
The possibility that Ronaldo's injury is worse than Madrid are letting on would be a major blow for Real's chances in the final. Not only does the Portuguese forward offer an outstanding goal-threat, boasting a record of sixty-five goals in all competitions, he also increases the confidence of his team-mates.
With Real already missing the suspended Xabi Alonso, the heartbeat of the side, the removal of Ronaldo would provide a significant advantage to Atlético. With Gareth Bale also absent from the Valladolid game with an unspecified injury, the timing couldn't be worse for Carlo Ancelotti.
Real Madrid have proved devastating on the counter-attack this season, blowing teams away with their pacy forward trio, but with Bale and Ronaldo currently battling injuries, Ancelotti will be concerned that Angel Di Maria is the only player with searing pace currently fit.
With the possibility of winning La Liga all but over, the Champions League final has taken on added importance. It would be a travesty for Ronaldo to be ruled out of the showpiece European final, but with seventeen days to go to the final, Real supporters must be having doubts about the talisman's fitness.
Diego Simeone and Atlético Madrid couldn't wish for a better pre-match boost than an injury to Ronaldo. The race is on, but at what cost will Ronaldo be fit for the final?
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