Gareth Bale's goal burden

2015-02-03 13:43
Bale and Ronaldo (Supplied)
Bale and Ronaldo (Supplied)

Barcelona - Cristiano Ronaldo will again watch from the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium sideline as Real Madrid puts its Spanish league lead to the test against Sevilla on Wednesday.

The midweek match was postponed from December because of Madrid's participation in the Club World Cup, which it won to polish off a 2014 that included its 10th European Cup.

Ronaldo, the league's leading scorer, completes his two-game ban for kicking an opponent at Cordoba two rounds ago.

Gareth Bale bailed Ronaldo out by scoring a late penalty to snatch Madrid a victory at Cordoba, and he will be expected to lead Carlos Ancelotti's attack.

Bale's first goal at the Bernabeu came against Sevilla last season, when the Wales winger netted twice to open a 7-3 thrashing by the hosts.

He has since added another 16 goals at Madrid's home ground. But more will be expected of the player who cost a record 100-million-euros transfer after his sub-par showing last weekend, when Karim Benzema picked up the slack with two goals to beat Real Sociedad 4-1.

Bale is earning a reputation at Madrid for both scoring great goals and for not sharing the ball when teammates may be better positioned. Ancelotti has defended him as "working for the team."

After finishing 2014 on a Spanish record 22-win streak, Madrid has won only four of its last seven games in all competitions.

It holds a one-point lead over Barcelona and needs to avoid a stumble against Sevilla, which has risen above Valencia into fourth place and the last Champions League spot.

Madrid, however, has been unstoppable at home in league play since its last home loss in the league to Atletico Madrid in September, winning seven straight games by the combined score of 28-4.

The league's only undefeated home side, Sevilla, has also fared well on the road with five wins in nine outings.

The match promises scoring, going by last season's 10-goal spectacle.

Madrid leads the competition with 68 goals scored, doubling Sevilla's 34.

But coach Unai Emery has built Sevilla to attack as well. Led by striker Carlos Bacca, the league's fourth leading scorer with 12, it also features young playmakers Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu, both on loan from Barcelona, and forwards Victor "Vitolo" Machin and Iago Aspas.

Madrid will be the more rested side after Sevilla also played in the Copa del Rey last Thursday, when it bowed out to Espanyol 3-2 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win.

Ancelotti may also rotate his starting 11 with the Spanish capital derby at defending champion Atletico looming on Saturday.

Beside Ronaldo, Madrid will still be without defender Pepe and midfielder Luca Modric due to injury.


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