Cristiano Ronaldo is set to return to action for Real Madrid as they host APOEL Nicosia at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Real Madrid begin the defence of the Champions League crown on Wednesday, when they host Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia at the Bernabeu in a Group H match. Here’s the all-important team news for Los Blancos ahead of the third meeting between the two sides.
Zinedine Zidane will be without the services of two of his key first-team players when APOEL pay a visit to them on Wednesday. Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio are the major absentees from the Frenchman’s matchday squad.
Benzema is expected to be sidelined for at least a month, as per various reports, due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the league match against Levante on Saturday. Asensio, on the other hand, is unavailable due to an unspecified problem, but is likely to return on the weekend.
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The likes of Keylor Navas and Raphael Varane, though, are in contention after being named in the matchday squad for Wednesday. Navas is back after missing the match against Levante due to a lack of match fitness, while Varane is available for the first time since Gameweek 1 in La Liga, having recovered from an abductor injury.
Giving the team news update in his pre-match press conference, Zidane said that he is pleased with the progress of Varane before claiming that Asensio is still some way off regaining fitness. He said, “Varane is doing well, has recovered and is back with us. Marco is more or less there. He still has a little way to go.”
The major news surrounds the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is set to start his first game of the season, having been sidelined from domestic action due to a five-game ban. While he is yet to serve the last of his suspension, the ban is only applicable for domestic competitions, meaning he is available for selection in Europe.
Speaking on Ronaldo’s return, Zidane said, “He is doing well, focussed. He is happy because he will soon be doing what he loves again: playing football. We are happy for him. He is doing well both physically and mentally. He will play tomorrow but will still be serving his ban on Sunday. I hope that will be the last game he misses this season.”
Meanwhile, APOEL boss George Donis will be without three of his key first-team players, with Georgios Efrem, Facundo Bertoglio and Zhivko Milanov are unavailable due to their respective injuries. The Cypriots are meeting Real Madrid for the first time since their remarkable 2011-12 campaign, but will be hoping for a better showing this time around.