Where is Cristiano Ronaldo? Why Al Nassr star is missing AFC Champions League road match vs Istiklol

Al Nassr fans will surely notice the absence of their team’s biggest star for the AFC Champions League road match against Istiklol in early December.

The 38-year-old has had to manage his minutes this season, and while he remains a mammoth figure for the Saudi club, he has to pick his spots.

Today’s match on the road in continental competition presented a great chance to see Ronaldo recuperate from a recent knock and get ready for a number of highly important games to come.

The Sporting News explains why today’s game was the perfect opportunity to give the Portuguese star a much-needed few days off to rest and recover for the mountainous fight ahead in the Saudi Pro League title race.

MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo leads Saudi Pro League goal scorers but Aleksandar Mitrovic making a run

Why Cristiano Ronaldo is not playing vs Istiklol

Cristiano Ronaldo is carrying a neck injury that forced him off in the 0-0 draw with Persepolis in the AFC Champions League group stage back on November 27.

While the injury did not keep Ronaldo from starting and playing the full 90 minutes in the damaging 3-0 defeat to Al Hilal on December 1, it did see him take the field in black trainer’s tape on the left side of his neck, proving that the knock does still affect him somewhat.

With Al Nassr having already confirmed their place atop their AFC Champions League group, Ronaldo was rested for their previous away trip to Qatari club Al Duhail back on November 7, which Al Nassr won 3-2, and this long road trip to Tajikistan presented another chance for the aging star to secure some much-needed rest.

Between his neck injury, his advanced age, the long travel, and the match’s lack of competitive stakes, there was no reason for Ronaldo to make this trip to face Istiklol. He should be ready to suit up for the home league fixture against Al Riyadh on Friday, with a seven-point gap behind leaders Al Hilal to make up.

Cristiano Ronaldo minutes, stats for Al Nassr this season

Cristiano Ronaldo has played a heavy minutes load this season, especially for a player at 38 years old. Yet he remains a key figure for the club, and thus head coach Luis Castro has needed to deploy the Portuguese star at every possible turn, making chances to rest Ronaldo extremely valuable.

Ronaldo leads the Saudi Pro League in goalscoring with 15 goals through 14 matches, but he was blanked in the recent defeat to Al Hilal, as challenger Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice to close the gap between the two.

From a team perspective, Al Nassr sit second in the league table but must attempt to close the seven-point gap now opened between them and leaders Al Hilal after the recent loss. They have already secured qualification to the AFC Champions League knockout stages, which will begin in mid-February of 2024.

Cristiano Ronaldo stats for Al Nassr in 2023/24 season

Competition Matches Goals Assists Mins
Saudi Pro League 14 15 7 1,256
AFC Champions League 5 3 1 438
King’s Cup 1 0 0 120
TOTAL 20 18 8 1,814

Source

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