GIJON, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has little time to mope as Real Madrid delivers some group therapy to help him recover for a must-win match at Sevilla, with the Spanish champion needing to keep the pressure on leader Barcelona.
After helping Portugal to consecutive victories, Ronaldo quickly reaffirmed his commitment to Madrid 10 days after saying he was "feeling sad" there for professional reasons.
"My focus is solely on winning every game and every available trophy with the essential company of my teammates and all Madridistas," Ronaldo said in a statement on Wednesday, when he trained with his teammates and reportedly sat down with coach Jose Mourinho to discuss the situation.
"Everything has been exaggerated way too much," midfielder Xabi Alonso said on Thursday. "He's just the same as he was 10 days or two months ago. What we see in the dressing room is totally different from what is seen outside and he looks totally normal. He's relaxed, smiling like always."
Madrid will certainly hope Ronaldo is relaxed and not focused on contract squabbles as the team is already in a panic as it trails Barcelona by five points after just three games, and Sevilla has a victory and two draws to start the season.
Ronaldo's off-field difficulties remain the talking point of club football in Spain, which has allowed teammate Karim Benzema's poor start to the season to be ignored. The France striker has yet to score through five games, while fellow striker Gonzalo Higuain has been in great form with six goals this season including two with Argentina in World Cup qualifying.
Madrid's irregular start has worried Mourinho, even if his team has won seven straight matches against Sevilla. The pressure is on the Spanish champions to win a 10th Champions League trophy this season, with their first continental match coming on Tuesday against Manchester City.
"If I detect that someone doesn't understand this, as a coach I have means of preventing that," Mourinho said. "For example, if someone reserves themselves in league play with the Champions League in mind, then he may get a surprise and not play in the Champions League."
Barcelona will be without injured players Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez for Saturday's match at Getafe, but could welcome midfielder Thiago Alcantara back from an injury that had sidelined him since May. Defender Carles Puyol could also return with a specially designed facemask to protect his broken right cheek.