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Soccer-Ronaldo returns as Madrid aim to pressure leaders Barcelona
September 18, 2017 / 12:04 PM / a month ago

Soccer-Ronaldo returns as Madrid aim to pressure leaders Barcelona

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo will return to action against Real Betis on Wednesday after serving a five-match suspension, as the champions look to keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Barcelona.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Barcelona v Real Madrid Spanish Super Cup First Leg - Barcelona, Spain - August 13, 2017 Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo speaks with referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea after being shown a red card after receiving a second yellow card for simulation REUTERS/Juan Medina

Ronaldo was sent off during the Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona on Aug. 13 and banned for five matches after pushing the referee, meaning he is yet to feature in the league this season.

The Portuguese hitman struck twice in his only appearance since the incident, a comfortable 3-0 win over Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League last Wednesday.

Youngster Borja Mayoral and Gareth Bale struck for a weakened Madrid on Sunday as they beat Real Sociedad 3-1, but as well as Ronaldo, Marcelo and Toni Kroos are expected to return after suspension and injury respectively.

Despite the impressive display against a previously unbeaten Real Sociedad, Ronaldo’s return will be vital for Madrid as they look to take advantage of a soft fixture schedule over the next two months to push rivals Barcelona.

The Catalans, who face Eibar on Tuesday, sit top of the table and are four points ahead of Madrid, in fourth place.

Barcelona were rocked by Ousmane Dembele’s injury during their 2-1 win at Getafe on Saturday, with the French winger set to miss around four months with a ruptured hamstring.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Barcelona v Real Madrid Spanish Super Cup First Leg - Barcelona, Spain - August 13, 2017 Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is shown a red card by referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea after receiving a second yellow card for simulation REUTERS/Juan Medina

Madrid’s home clash with Betis marks the start of a run of league fixtures which, on paper, they should win, including home games against Espanyol, Eibar and Las Palmas.

“If we carry on like this we can do a lot of damage,” said Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after his side’s win in the Basque Country.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Barcelona v Real Madrid Spanish Super Cup First Leg - Barcelona, Spain - August 13, 2017 Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo walks off dejected past coach Zinedine Zidane after being sent off REUTERS/Juan Medina

“We’re back on track but we’ve got to keep going because there’s another game on Wednesday.”

Mid-table Betis have not beaten Madrid in the league at the Bernabeu in 19 years and only five times in 51 attempts.

If they are to defeat them on Wednesday, they will need experienced winger Joaquin, 36, and summer signing Andres Guardado, 30, to continue their excellent form.

“They are like kids in a school yard, they give it back to the guy that gives it back to them,” Betis coach Quique Setien said of the midfielders.

“(Guardado) is a footballer I can’t describe, extraordinary. He has enormous quality and an enormous work rate. Just like Joaquin, they are reference points for the team.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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