Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo must set the tone early for his club on Tuesday against Borussia Dortmund if Los Blancos hope to overcome their mighty deficit and advance to the UEFA Champions League final.
So, how does Ronaldo go about setting the tone at Bernabeu?
The key is to play physically from start to finish, anticipating contact on each and every play and delivering contact on each and every challenge. Down 4-1 on aggregate, there's not much else Ronaldo and Co. can do.
If Ronaldo is ready for Dortmund's physical defending on Tuesday, then he'll be a threat to score the three goals his side needs to advance. After all, he's netted 12 in 11 UEFA Champions League appearances this season. A hat trick at home definitely isn't out of the question.
If Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski can score four goals in less than an one hour of play, then a world-class talent like Ronaldo can certainly put in three goals over 90-plus minutes.
Keep in mind that Ronaldo has scored at least three goals in three matches for Real since the start of the year, and five times since the start of the season. Dortmund has been stout defensively thus far, but is far from impenetrable in front of goal.
It all depends on whether Ronaldo has adjusted to Dortmund's physical play and decides to play with his own edge. Clearly, the 28-year-old forward has little room for error in Tuesday's second leg. Every dribble, pass and shot must be made with a purpose.
More importantly, Ronaldo must challenge when he is without the ball, sending a vital message to the visitors and his teammates that he won't be rattled.
If Real can net an early goal, gain some quick confidence and put some doubt in the minds of Dortmund's players, it's not impossible for Jose Mourinho's club to pull off a comeback in front of its home crowd.
It all starts with Ronaldo, though. If he can come out and set the tone from the opening kickoff, the other 10 men on the pitch for Real will be forced to follow his lead, playing the sort of physical, foul-filled match required to defeat a German side like Dortmund.
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