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Cristiano Ronaldo: An all-too-familiar nemesis for Atletico Madrid

When he hears the music of the Champions League, he is transformed. There is no other way to understand Cristiano Ronaldo's dreamlike performances in this tournament, but on Wednesday Atletico Madrid will be looking to stop a recurring nightmare.

The Portuguese forward is having a turbulent season on his return to Manchester United. His numbers are disappointing by his own sky-high standards: just nine goals in 22 Premier League games. In the Champions League, however, he is the same Ronaldo as always: six goals in only five games.

"He has hurt us a lot," Atleti forward Angel Correa told MARCA as Los Colchoneros prepare to meet again the only player to have eliminated Diego Simeone's Los Colchoneros in the Champions League between 2014 and 2019.

With the exception of the 2017/18 group stage, the only time Atleti have failed to navigate their way into the knockout stages under the Argentinian, the common denominator in their eventual exits was always that their opponent had Cristiano Ronaldo.

Two finals... two hat-tricks

Undoubtedly, two matches that will never be forgotten by Atleti for all the wrong reasons are the Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016. In the first one, Cristiano was not at his best but he put the icing on the cake for Real Madrid from the penalty spot in extra time. Then, in 2016, he scored the winning penalty in a shootout that saw Jan Oblak fail to stop any of Los Blancos' five attempts.

As well as the two finals, there were also two decisive hat-tricks. The first came at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the 2017/18 semi-finals. The second was for Juventus in the last 16 in 2019, while he was also part of the Real Madrid team that knocked Atleti out in the 2014/15 quarter-finals.

All the goalscoring records

To understand what the Champions League is for Cristiano Ronaldo, you only have to look at his records in the tournament: nobody has scored more goals (140), played more games (181), surpassed his top goalscoring mark in a single tournament (17 in 2013/14), played more games or scored more goals in the knockout stages (98 and 67). He is also the only player to score in three finals and in 11 consecutive games.

He is looking to equal Gento

Cristiano Ronaldo reached five Champions League trophies in 2018. He was playing for Real Madrid at the time, but he left that same summer for Juventus to seek a sixth conquest that only the late Paco Gento managed to achieve.

His competitive edge, especially in this tournament, makes him particularly dangerous for an Atletico who have suffered so many times at his hands. They will also surely pay special attention to a player who excels just where they are struggling the most right now: in the air.

Reception at the Wanda Metropolitano

On his last visit to Atleti in the knockout rounds, Cristiano had a run-in with the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano crowd, who gave a hostile welcome to their perennial enemy, although he'd have his revenge in Turin. His five-fingered gesture - an allusion to his Champions League titles - wasn't well received by the Rojiblanco faithful and they likely won't have forgotten it either.

Ronaldo returns to the Wanda wearing a different shirt, but he is the same nightmare that has tormented Atleti so many times before. Can they finally break the pattern?

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