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Cristiano Ronaldo returns for Real Madrid vs APOEL but Marco Asensio misses out

Ronaldo is yet to play a game for Real Madrid since the Spanish Super Cup first-leg victory over Barcelona on 13 August

Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric, Keylor Navas and Borja Mayoral are back in the Real Madrid squad to face APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday night (13 September) after the five players missed the weekend’s draw with Levante.

However, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio will miss the Champions League opener due to injury and have been left out of Zinedine Zidane’s 19-man squad alongside Marcos Llorente, Jesus Vallejo and Achraf.

Ronaldo is yet to play a competitive games for Los Blancos in the 2017-2018 season after being handed a five-game ban for pushing the referee during the Spanish Super Cup first-leg victory over Barcelona on 13 August.

The reigning Ballon d’Or winner has been missed by Real with the club being held by Valencia and Levante in the last two La Liga games.

However, his ban doesn’t apply to European competition and Ronaldo will lead the Real attack against APOEL before serving the final game of his suspension in the upcoming trip to Real Sociedad on Sunday (17 October).

Varane, meanwhile, has also missed the last handful of games due to a muscle injury but is also back in the squad for the Champions League opener and should be ready to lead the back-line alongside Sergio Ramos.

Meanwhile, Modric and Navas are also expected to make Zidane’s starting line-up after both players were rested in the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Levante.

Academy striker Mayoral also returns to the Real squad to replace Benzema after the Frenchman suffered a hamstring injury at the weekend which is expected to keep him out of action for around one month.

Asensio will also miss the Champions League opener due to a minor fitness issue but the Spaniard should be back in time for the following La Liga trip to Sociedad.Llorente, who started against Levante, has also been rested by Zidane as Casemiro is expected to regain his place in the line-up after being on the bench against Levante.Meanwhile, centre-back Vallejo and right-back Achraf have also been left out of Zidane’s squad with the former having just recovered from an injury.Zidane hopes Real can put consecutive setbacks in La Liga behind them in order to start the defence of the Champions League title with a victory over APOEL.

Tottenham Hotspur host Borussia Dortmund in the other game of the Group H so beating the Cyprus side at the Santiago Bernabeu should be a must for Los Blancos to start the campaign on the right foot.

“We are happy to be back in this competition, we are the reigning champions. We are starting afresh and are raring to get started in this competition. We know this will be a difficult year, but we’re taking it in our stride. Preparing to win is what has set us up to aim for titles. We are going to come up against some fiercely determined competition along the way,” Zidane said in the press conference ahead of the Champions League opener.

“Here at Real Madrid there is always pressure but we are used to it. We are the favourites but there are other highly rated teams too. This is not going to change anytime soon, we know what we have to do to start this Champions league campaign off well. To win the competition we need to go out strong, starting with tomorrow’s game. That’s the only thing I’m interested in. They are an experienced side and if we let them play, they will really bring the game to us.”


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