There is no stopping Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had his struggles in the first few months of the campaign, particularly in La Liga, but he has been on fire since the turn of the year and that form continued against Girona.
The Portuguese opened the scoring for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday and, after Cristhian Stuani had levelled for the promoted side (who had shocked Los Blancos with a 2-1 win in the return fixture), he added three more in a spectacular second half.
His hat-trick goal, for Madrid’s fourth of the evening, was his 50th career treble for club and country, and his fourth of the night was his 21st goal in this calendar year alone.
Ronaldo had finished the first half of La Liga with only four goals to his name, but after these four in one match he now has 22 in the Primera Division and 37 in all competitions in the current campaign.
Madrid fans will wish he had started scoring like this earlier on the season. Because although Ronaldo netted nine times in the group stages of the Champions League, his drought in La Liga was one of the reasons Real fell off the pace and now see themselves 15 points behind Barcelona.
But it is not just Ronaldo. Many members of this squad have played themselves into form in recent weeks and the increased intensity needed to beat Paris Saint-Germain over two legs in the Champions League has undoubtedly helped.
Marcelo and Karim Benzema, in particular, are in much better shape now than they were earlier on in the campaign and both of those players are very important to Madrid’s attack.
The French forward has not been a prolific scorer this term, with only eight goals in 33 appearances in 2017-18, but he remains the perfect foil for Ronaldo, an unselfish strike partner happy to lay off the final ball for his insatiable team-mate.
The Frenchman’s form has helped the Portuguese, but so too has the formation change. This 4-4-2 is different to the one Madrid were using earlier in the season with Isco and there is no doubt that Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez have had a big impact on the team over recent weeks.
The two Spain midfielders came off the bench to swing the balance of power in Madrid’s favour against PSG in the sides’ first meeting at the Bernabeu and were both in the team that won at the Parc des Princes to seal a 5-2 aggregate win.
Asensio and Lucas started again on Sunday as Gareth Bale was left out of the starting line-up (although he later came on and scored) and after a shaky first 45 minutes, the wingers’ tireless running helped create openings for Real Madrid and also Ronaldo.
After stubbornly refusing to change his team selection for so long, Zidane looks to have found the right formula for Los Blancos now and Ronaldo is reaping the rewards with goals galore. With Juventus ahead in the last eight of the Champions League, it is a good omen.