El Centrocampista

Prolific Ronaldo continues to shine despite unconvincing display from the champions

Reuters/Susanna Vera

‘An evening at the office’ was how AS described it, and despite Celta’s very best efforts, there was a familiar sense of inevitability about the champions’ routine 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

As if the newly promoted side did not have enough with which to contend, Gonzalo Higuain’s eleventh minute opener was meant to be a cross (he admitted as much afterwards), and Cristiano Ronaldo’s second half penalty was an additional buffer which los merengues never really looked like needing.

A rather dull ninety minutes meant that much of the debate after the game centred on Jose Mourinho’s team selection and tactics, and whether a similar line-up would be deployed this Wednesday in the Westfalenstadion. To a certain extent his hands were tied by injuries to key players, and it was for exactly this kind of situation that the versatile Michael Essien was signed in the summer.

The Ghanaian produced a typically solid display at left back, with both Coentrao and Marcelo sidelined, and on the other flank Sergio Ramos filled in for Arbeloa in the right back berth which is rather more familiar to him. Given that none of the trio of full backs will be fit for the trip to Germany, and that young left back Nacho was not risked even in this less high-profile fixture, it seems likely that the back four will be unchanged.

However, it was the midfield trio of Ozil, Kaka and Modric who were at the heart of the majority of the discussions, with most observers feeling that it was not a success. Again Mourinho was not helped by the absence of Sami Khedira, who will surely start in Dortmund, but the fact that Kaka was replaced at the interval by Di Maria suggests that he was similarly unconvinced by the experiment.

The trio seemed all too often to be trying to occupy the same spaces, and the arrival of the Argentinian in the second period gave Madrid some much needed width. He was perhaps overused in the first half of last season, and was thus out injured when it mattered most as the Champions League reached its climax. Mourinho is determined to ensure that history does not repeat itself in this campaign.

No such breaks are afforded to Ronaldo, who was in the starting eleven for the 50th game in a row on Saturday, and duly notched his 15th goal of the season. His relentless march up the Madrid scoring charts continues, with his 121st league goal taking him to within two of the legendary Emilio Butragueño, and he now has 161 goals in 156 games since leaving Manchester United in the summer of 2009.

With the German champions seemingly in disarray after a derby defeat on Saturday which leaves them twelve points behind Bayern Munich after only eight games, few would bet against him adding to the four goals which he has already scored in his first two Champions League encounters in this campaign.

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