Ronaldo set to face Bilbao

Friday 16th November 2012 12:26

Cristiano Ronaldo: Sustained an eye injury last weekend

Cristiano Ronaldo: Sustained an eye injury last weekend

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Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be fit to face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday although fresh reports in Spain have cast doubt on his long-term future at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese superstar sustained a nasty eye injury in last weekend's feisty win at Levante after a clash with David Navarro and, after coming off at half-time, subsequently had six stitches inserted in a wound over his left eye.

He had to pull out of his country's international friendly in Gabon in midweek but trained as normal in Madrid yesterday and seems certain to start at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

The fall-out from the Levante clash has, however, seen fresh reports of Ronaldo's discontent in the Spanish capital.

The former Manchester United man admitted to feeling "sad" for "professional" reasons in September after choosing not to celebrate his goals against Granada and prominent Spanish newspaper AS this morning claimed Ronaldo was again unhappy.

The source of his displeasure is reportedly a lack of support from the club following the clash at Estadio Ciudad de Valencia.

Although Navarro's challenge appeared to be accidental, it is thought Ronaldo wanted Madrid to publicly condemn the former Valencia defender.

Instead they released a statement defending centre-half Pepe after he had been accused of goading the Levante players after the 2-1 win.

Ronaldo has already scored 19 goals in all competitions this season and whatever his mindset he remains Madrid's main attacking threat and Athletic will have to be on their guard.

The Basque side have a dismal record at the Bernabeu, losing 12 of their last 13 league visits with the last three ending 4-1, 4-1 and 5-1.

Athletic have bounced back from a poor start to win their last two league outings - against Granada and Sevilla - but their next two away games are to Madrid and Barcelona.

"They are two challenges," defensive midfielder Ander Iturraspe told AS.

"We know how hard it is to win at those stadiums. The first is at the Bernabeu where our recent experiences have not been good.

"We have gone to attack and been thrashed.

"It is mandatory to be strong defensively."

Iturraspe pinpointed Ronaldo as the man the visitors have to watch but also highlighted other dangers lurking within the Madrid squad.

"Cristiano is the most decisive player," he added. "But (Angel) Di Maria is great with the ball. And (Mesut) Ozil can put a pass where no one expects it.

"He seems slow but has a great change of pace."

Athletic boss Marcelo Bielsa will be forced into a reshuffle with Ander Herrera and Oscar De Marcos suspended.

Madrid have climbed to third after winning their last four matches but still trail leaders Barcelona by eight points and are five behind city rivals Atletico.

Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has fitness worries over Sami Khedira and Karim Benzema.

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