Ronaldo-led Real eyeing La Liga record

Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired La Liga leaders Real Madrid will have Spain's 22-year goal-scoring record in their sights when they host relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

Real restored their four-point lead over Barcelona on Wednesday when Ronaldo netted his seventh treble of the campaign in a 4-1 rout of Atletico Madrid to become the first player to notch 40 goals in two consecutive seasons in Europe's top four leagues.

The Portuguese and his team-mates have amassed 104 goals in 32 La Liga games and three more would equal the record Real set in the 1989/90 season under Welsh coach John Toshack.

With six games left they are closing in on a first domestic league title in four years, although with Barca on a run of 10 straight wins and Real's trip to the Nou Camp looming on April 21 the destination of the crown is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Ronaldo's spectacular form - he has also provided 11 assists in the league - has been the principle reason Real are closer than ever to ending Barca's three-year grip on the title and he is brimming with confidence for the run-in.

"I always believe in myself, knowing that from one moment to the next I can do important things," said the former Manchester United forward who joined Real for a record fee in 2009.

"We are very confident and we have our fate in our own hands which is crucial for the final stages of the season," he told reporters.

Barca have their own record-breaker in World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who scored his 39th league goal of the campaign in Tuesday's 4-0 win at home to Getafe, his 61st in all competitions compared to 52 for Ronaldo.

Pep Guardiola's side visit fifth-placed Levante in Saturday's late kick-off and could find themselves seven points behind Real by then.

"We have to focus on what will be one of the toughest games we have left away from home," said Guardiola.

HOME ADVANTAGE

Barca have trimmed their deficit by six points in three weeks following the Madrid club's draws against Malaga, Villarreal and Valencia and probably have a slightly easier run-in as well as home advantage in the 'Clasico'.

If the two teams finish level on points the title will be decided on head-to-head record.

"From here on all the matches are like finals," said Barca forward Pedro who has recently rediscovered his scoring touch after returning from injury.

"We have managed our goal of cutting the gap but it's still going to be tough to knock off the points that divide us."

The race for places in next season's Champions League has intensified and ambitious Qatar-owned Malaga can climb above Valencia into third with a win at Villarreal later on Thursday.

On Sunday, Valencia visit Espanyol and Malaga host Real Sociedad.

At the other end of the table, Racing Santander are bottom on 25 points and travel to Villarreal on Sunday. Gijon and Real Zaragoza, who host Granada on Sunday, are level on 28 in the other two relegation spots.


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