Cristiano Ronaldo: The huge task facing Newcastle United duo Federico Fernandez and Jacob Murphy as ex-Real Madrid and Juventus superstar prepares for Manchester United debut
Manchester United are Newcastle United’s next opponents and Steve Bruce’s men will have to find a way of keeping a certain Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.
Reports today have suggested that the Portuguese superstar may have to wait for his first start back at Manchester United, however, it is likely that the four-time Ballon D’Or winner will play a part in Saturday’s game.
It has been over a decade since Cristiano Ronaldo last played Premier League football, so what can Newcastle United expect when they come up against him on Saturday?
Well, unlike when he burst onto the scene as a tricky winger, Ronaldo is now very much a centre-forward and the spearhead of his side.
According to data collected from Wyscout, while playing as a striker, since 2015 Ronaldo averages exactly one goal or assist per game and has an xG (expected goals) output of 0.77.
This means that, according to the data, for every 100 games Ronaldo plays as a striker, it is expected that he will score 77 goals - a phenomenal return.
Wyscout also highlights the areas of the pitch he likes to operate in.
This tends to be either in the penalty area or out on the left where he can isolate defenders one against one.
This movement will mean that players like Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial get even more freedom in the final-third.
Assuming Federico Fernandez and Jacob Murphy play on the right of the Newcastle defence, they are likely to be the men tasked with stopping Ronaldo dictating the game.
Furthermore, they will also have to be very wary of Ronaldo’s prowess in the air.
As illustrated by his brace against the Republic of Ireland last week, Ronaldo can be deadly in the air and by making those out-to-in runs from the left, he’s often a nightmare for defenders to pick-up in the box.
The unenviable job of stopping the former-Juventus man in the air will likely be given to Fernandez, but he will certainly need the support of his partners in defence.
How you stop Ronaldo has been a question that has had the world’s best footballing brains puzzled for almost two decades now.
What is certain however, is that Fernandez and Murphy are probably going to have their work cut out on Saturday afternoon.