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Friday May 19 2017
One more step

Zidane’s rotation policy is paying dividends for the Real Madrid squad, but especially Cristiano Ronaldo, explains Luke Taylor.

Real Madrid took one huge step towards winning their first La Liga title since 2012 on Wednesday as they defeated Celta Vigo 1-4 at Balaidos. The victory means that if they avoid defeat at Malaga on Sunday, Zinedine Zidane will achieve something where too many of his predecessors have failed recently in being crowned champions of Spain.

One major reason why Los Blancos have been able to fend off Barcelona this season has been their Coach’s rotation policy; for a while now, Madrid have effectively fielded what has become known as their ‘A’ team or their ‘B’ team, depending on the opponent or the competition. When you have strength in depth that runs as deep as this squad’s does, this seems like quite an easy decision to make, and no player has benefited from that more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

On Wednesday evening it was the Portuguese’s two goals that propelled Madrid into the lead, allowing his team to settle into the game and take all three points, even if Celta got back into it with a deflected John Guidetti strike. The first was a crisp strike from just outside the box, he finished an Isco-led counter-attack for the second and he would have completed his hat-trick had he not tried to be clever with a one-on-one with Sergio Alvarez. Whether it will be enough to earn Madrid the title remains to be seen but you can find out all the football betting tips and predictions for Spanish Leagues.

That is now 13 goals in his last eight games in all competitions, but Ronaldo hadn’t played in a domestic away game since mid-March before Wednesday. For the first time since he became a regular at Manchester United, the 32-year-old is being used sparingly. Kudos must go to Zidane, who has somehow managed to persuade the record-breaking, ultra-competitive winner that is Ronaldo to only play in the games he is needed, and the result has been phenomenal.

In the Champions League, the Euro 2016 winner has scored eight goals in the quarter-finals and last four, and his two goals against Celta only serve to show that as opposed to previous seasons, Ronaldo is still fresh in the latter, most important stages of the season. In a game as tight as the Champions League final against Juventus will be, his current form could be the deciding factor.

First, though, Los Blancos face the issue of avoiding defeat against one of the in-form teams of La Liga in Malaga. Ronaldo spoke after Wednesday’s game about the game and the form he finds himself in.

“We know that Malaga are strong at home, but we have to go there and win,” he said. “Our objective is always to win, we know they’re a good team, but we’re Real Madrid, we’re the best and we want to be champions. Zidane? He always wins in the end and he’s managed us very well. We also have a very good and young squad. I’m feeling well, everything will be decided this weekend and I’m doing well, scoring goals and helping the team.”

The way in which Zidane has managed his star player has been very impressive, and who knows how long Ronaldo could continue at this level with this type of game-management?

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