The answer, according to Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez, is Cristiano Ronaldo. With Madrid and Barcelona both battling injuries and trailing Villarreal at the top of the Spanish league, Benitez is counting on the Portugal forward to start the title charge on Saturday against Levante.
”He is my only unquestionable player,” Benitez said. ”When people ask me if Cristiano is the best player I have trained, I will say yes.”
Barcelona, which lost to Sevilla in its last league match, is in fourth place with 15 points, the same as Madrid and Celta Vigo. But the defending champions are still without the injured Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta for the match against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
”No one can replace Messi and there’s no point trying to think that someone can fill Leo’s place,” Barcelona striker Luis Suarez said.
Villarreal will stay in first place if it beats Celta on Sunday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s Spanish league matches:
Madrid has its own injury worries.
While Benitez hopes defender Sergio Ramos will return from a shoulder injury, he will be without midfielder Luka Modric and striker Karim Benzema – who has scored more league goals this season than Ronaldo.
”We do great work preventing injuries, but we also have to play twice a week with great intensity,” Benitez said. ”We have a lot of international matches.”
Besides worrying about the tactics on the field, Benitez is also dealing with a spat between two of his best players.
In a reference to Ronaldo, the agent for Gareth Bale said his client did not want ”to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller.”
”As coaches, we have to control a squad of professionals, but not what their agents might say,” Benitez said. ”I speak to the football players and when a conflict might arise, it gets solved.”
Fresh off an impressive performance for Spain’s national team, Manuel ”Nolito” Agudo will be looking to help Celta take over first place in the league.
Agudo has scored five league goals this season, the same as Ronaldo.
If Celta beats Villarreal, the team could end up in first place if Real Madrid and Barcelona fail to win.