Cristiano Ronaldo returns as Real Madrid take on APOEL Nicosia

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) heads the ball as goalkeeper Keylor Navas looks on during a training session yesterday. Pic/AFP
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) heads the ball as goalkeeper Keylor Navas looks on during a training session yesterday. Pic/AFP

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has underlined the importance of welcoming back World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo for the holders Champions League opener against APOEL Nicosia tonight.

Ronaldo has been suspended for Real's last four games after pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup and has been badly missed as the European champions have been held at home by Valencia and Levante in their last two outings.

"He doesn't just bring goals," said Zidane yesterday. "He is an important player in the squad, he is a leader. He always wants to win and he transmits that to the rest. Every time he is with us, I as a coach and the rest of the players are happy."

Ronaldo's absence has been felt even more acutely due to Madrid's shortage of striking options. Real failed to replace Alvaro Morata following his switch to Chelsea during the summer transfer window as they missed out to Paris Saint-Germain for French wonder kid Kylian Mbappe.


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