Last Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot to put Real Madrid up 2-0 against Celta Vigo. That put the Portuguese superstar's tally at 15 goals in 12 appearances on the season. This season, more than ever before, the 27 year-old winger has not just scored with regularity but he has also performed when the lights have been the brightest and his team has needed it most.
To start the season, Cristiano scored in both legs of the Spanish Super Cup, bringing home Real Madrid's first trophy of the 2012-13 campaign against Barcelona and a little man known as Lionel Messi. Then, Ronaldo got his first taste of Champions League action this season, scoring the late match-winner in a 3-2 comeback victory over Manchester City to cap off one of the most exciting group stage matches in recent memory.
Next, Ronaldo went on to score back-to-back hat tricks, the second coming in the Champions League at the home of Dutch champion Ajax, and he attempted a hat trick of hat tricks at the Camp Nou in a league match. He only scored twice against Messi and Barcelona, as the two best players in the world traded blows in a 2-2 draw, but that performance kept Real Madrid's flailing La Liga title hopes alive. It highlighted Real Madrid's dependence on Ronaldo this season.
Ronaldo has only failed to score three times this campaign. Real Madrid lost two of those games and drew the third, dropping a total of eight points in those three matches. So it's not surprising that Barcelona currently has an eight-point lead on Real Madrid in La Liga.
If Ronaldo doesn't score, Madrid doesn't win.
Entering Wednesday's Champions League group game against Borussia Dortmund, Ronaldo has scored in his last six matches for Real Madrid. Over that stretch, Ronaldo has 11 goals.
The AccuScore computer analyzed the Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid match to determine the odds of Ronaldo scoring. The computer used player and team statistics to play the match in a simulated environment 10,000 times. Not surprisingly, Ronaldo was calculated as the most likely scorer on Wednesday night with 57 percent of the simulations and averages of 0.82 goals on 4.66 shots and 1.33 shots on target per simulation. Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus (36 percent) and Robert Lewandowski (33 percent) were the next most likely scorers.
The computer also calculated Real Madrid to be a slight favorite despite playing in Dortmund's hostile Signal Iduna Park. Even in a team game involving 11 players on each side, Ronaldo gives Real Madrid the necessary edge in a difficult away match. To prove this point, the computer simulated the match with Kaka replacing Ronaldo in an otherwise unchanged lineup. Madrid promptly fell to slight underdog status. These results are not a knock on Kaka. Rather, they confirm the statistical importance of Ronaldo to Real Madrid.
Perhaps the computer's findings are best explained in non-mathematical terms.
Ronaldo is going to the home of the defending German champion, facing one of the most intimidating stands in Europe, and the eyes of the world and his opposition are squarely focused on his every move. With all the odds stacked against him, Cristiano Ronaldo is still more likely to score than not score, and thus, Real Madrid is more likely to win than lose.