Oltra: Ronaldo remains major threat
Deportivo La Coruna coach Jose Luis Oltra does not believe Cristiano Ronaldo's recent 'sadness' has affected his performances, and is worried the Real Madrid attacker could hurt his team in Sunday's La Liga clash at the Bernabeu.
Oltra told Spanish newspaper AS on Friday that Ronaldo, who has six goals in eight games for his club this season, was not playing like someone burdened by the emotional problems he revealed after not celebrating his brace against Granada earlier this month.
"I look at his statistics, his games, and I do not see any sadness," Oltra said. "That he did not celebrate a goal, that he is sad, I must respect that because I do not know his motives. If he had not said anything we would not have noticed from his performances."
And Oltra is wary that Deportivo's midfield and defence will need to be very careful not to get caught on the break against Madrid's abundance of attacking talent.
"How do you stop Cristiano on the counter-attack?," he said. "If you sit very deep they cannot counter, but then you give up other things. We must try and not lose the ball often, get back quickly, cover and help each other. You need to find a balance."
The Deportivo boss is also focusing on trying to shut down Xabi Alonso deep in midfield, in order to stop Los Blancos' counter-attacks.
"He is a very important man for Madrid and the Spanish national team," Oltra said. "He launches many counters, and begins the attack from his position. But there is lots more to Madrid. You stop him, and then they have [Angel] Di Maria, [Gonzalo] Higuain, [Karim] Benzema, Cristiano, [Mesut] Ozil, [Luka] Modric."
Sunday evening's game is particularly important for Madrid as they have already slipped eight points behind Barcelona in the title race. Jose Mourinho's side have not actually playing that badly, Oltra argued, but had faced tough opponents so far.
"They are coming off a start where they have lost points, but Getafe beat Barcelona last season, and we have just suffered against Sevilla," he said. "What has happened is Barca have won all their games. Madrid cannot slip up any more, but their own particular battle is of no interest to us."
The Galicians have had a solid start to their new season on their return to the top flight, but suffered their first defeat last time out, going down 2-0 to Sevilla at home. Oltra said the Bernabeu was a difficult place to bounce-back at.
"To go to the Bernabeu is always a challenge," he said. "Madrid have played 18 games at home without losing and Mourinho's teams are always very strong at home. It is not the place to go to try and bounce-back from a defeat, but we are going to fight for the win."
The former Tenerife and Almeria coach, who lead Deportivo to the Spanish Segunda Division title last season, said he had a lot of time for Mourinho as a coach.
"Mou has won a lot and he is very good," he said. "He has won leagues in Portugal, England, Italy, Spain... His teams are intense, he manages the group well and he has a defined model."