Ronaldo set to take aim at Copa del Rey cannon-fodder

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Having spent the last two years building up Cristiano Ronaldo into some untouchable God-like figure, the Madrid press have changed tack this week, unleashing a rather brutal two days of knocking the Barça-bottler down to size. AS gave the fallen hero the hardest kick in the goolies, publishing a photograph that appears to have the Portuguese bowing down before Leo Messi.

However the period of mourning has been well and truly ended with Ronaldo being built back up again as the King of the World. Marca report that a glum, intense Cristiano was training more or less on his own on Monday, with Tuesday’s headline digging into the Madrid man’s psyche to discover “anger and pride.”

“Cristiano feels wounded and in debt to Madridismo,” claims the paper. Whether or not Ronaldo has spent the last few days tossing and turning in bed with voices screaming “Failure! Loser! Don’t worry it happens to everyone!” will go unanswered, but that’s certainly the case with LLL.

With near perfect timing, Ronaldo has his favourite dish being served up on Tuesday night to help the forward regain his scoring appetite - helpless cannon fodder who will put up minimal resistance. But rather than being of the Osasuna variety, Real Madrid’s next opponents are set to be even more accommodating when it comes to helping Ronaldo boost his scoring stats - a side from the third tier of Spanish football, no less.

The team in question are Ponferradina, a club lying in second place in the second group of Spain’s ‘Segunda B’ - rather like England’s League One, but nothing like it at the same time. The match up near León is the start of Real Madrid’s defence of the Copa del Rey and follows the usual format of the competition: adjust the draw so that the biggest teams play the smallest over two legs, with the first one always being away from home to give the minnows the tiniest chance possible of creating an upset. “To reappear in an uncomfortable setting of the first match of the cup is a sign of the bravery of Cristiano Ronaldo,” oozed an admiring Marca.

José Mourinho is set to play Ronaldo along with some other big guns like Kaká and Gonzalo Higuaín. Speaking ahead of a match the Madrid manager claims to be a dangerous one, Mourinho revealed some exciting news to the club’s fans who may have been fooled by all the league tables that had been published since Saturday’s defeat. “We are leaders,” he claimed, despite the annoying fact they are not and will only be so if they pick up at least a draw at Sevilla on Saturday.

The Copa del Rey is so useless as a competition that not even Ponferradina are taking it remotely seriously, knowing it is utterly rigged against them. “Our league is Saturday’s,” claimed manager, Claudio Barragán. “On Tuesday, it’s a party to enjoy, it’s for everyone.”

It’s a party to be enjoyed by the well-healed especially, it seems, with Ponferradina having charged its own season ticket holders an extra €35 to watch the game with the cheapest tickets left for the ordinary José costing €100.

Atlético Madrid have already played their first leg of the cup against Albacete - losing, of course - and so have Barça, who are now poncing about in Japan at the World Club Championships and having their photo taken on public transport as if it’s some kind of thrilling, exciting event - the footballer’s equivalent to normal folk visiting the Grand Canyon or perhaps meeting David Hasselhoff.

That leaves a bunch of other big sides playing small-fries on Tuesday night and a gaggle of all Primera clashes to be played in front of 500 fans - that’s certainly the case with Getafe who take on Málaga at 21.00 at night and will do so next week in Andalusia in front of a crowd which could even stretch to four figures.