BARCELONA (Reuters) - A Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid can set a new Spanish record of 19 straight victories when they take on Ludogorets Razgrad on Tuesday with first place in Champions League Group B already assured.
The phenomenal Portuguese notched up his 200th league goal with a record 23rd La Liga hat-trick as Real beat Celta Vigo 3-0 on Saturday to match the 18 consecutive wins registered by Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona between October 2005 and January 2006.
Ronaldo has 23 league goals so far with a further four in the Champions League and now has Bulgarian bottom side Ludogorets in his sights.
“Each week he does something better and his professionalism is incredible,” Ronaldo’s team mate Pepe told Spanish reporters.
”Everyone can see what he is doing in each game to help Madrid and his commitment as a footballer. We are very happy to be on the pitch with him as we can enjoy it a lot.
“If he had also scored with his attempted overhead kick, I think the stadium would have exploded but for me the most important thing is the work he puts in.”
Full-back Marcelo believes it is crucial that the team keeps its feet on the ground and does not get carried away with their ongoing success.
“The record (of wins) is very important but we need to keep working, fighting and winning,” he told reporters.
“We are where we are through battling and team mates helping each other. Everyone has a lot of motivation and the substitutes are also playing their part when they come on.”
The pressure is off Real against Ludogorets as they have a nine-point lead over second place Basel with just a game to play but injuries are starting to mount, with James Rodriguez joining Luka Modric and Sami Khedira in the treatment room.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti, though, remains upbeat.
“I don’t see any physical worries for the team,” he told a news conference after the Celta win.
“In the first half we played with more intensity and after the break we were able to control the match.”
Ludogorets face an ominous task to beat Real but three points would see them claim third place in the group and qualify for a Europa League slot.
A draw would also be enough if Liverpool lose at home to Basel.
Editing by John O'Brien