Cristiano Ronaldo prepares for an emotional return as Real Madrid travel to Sporting CP on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Emotions will be high for Real Madrid’s all-time highest scorer on Tuesday, but the three-time Balon d’Or winner will know they need to get the job done as the place at the top of their Champions League group is not yet secured, with Borussia Dortmund having a two point advantage after four games played.
The Portuguese club were extremely unlucky to not return home from the Bernabeu stadium with the three points the last time these two teams met, after the Los Blancos scored twice in quick succession right at the death to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
Team news and tactics
It has been an underwhelming start to the season for the Portuguese giants, with leaders Benfica already having a five point lead over the Lisbon based club in a league where the margin for error is very less.
There was always very little chance of qualification for Sporting CP when their group contained European giants like Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, but they are still well-placed to secure a Europa League spot. A positive result on Tuesday, however unlikely, may just ensure that.
The back five consisting of Rui Patricio (goalkeeper), João Pereira (right-back), Sebastián Coates (centre-back), Rúben Semedo (centre-back) and Marvin Zeegelaar (left-back) will have the daunting task of preventing the Spanish giants from finding the back of the net on Tuesday.
They will have the support of tough-tackling midfielder William Carvalho, who will be screening the back-line alongside Adrien Silva.
The highly-rated Gelson Martins should start on the right with Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell featuring on the opposite flank, after his heroics against Arouca just before the international break.
Bryan Ruiz and Bas Dost should be spearheading the home side’s attack against Real Madrid.
Probable starting XI (4-4-2): Patricio; Pereira, Semedo, Coates, Zeegelaar; Martins, Carvalho, Silva, Campbell; Ruiz, Dost.
The Los Blancos certainly won’t be short of confidence coming into this game, having extended their unbeaten run to 24 matches after handing a 3-0 drubbing to cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid last Saturday.
However, Zinedine Zidane has plenty of causalities in terms of injuries to consider about for the game on Tuesday, with Pepe (hamstring), Alvaro Morata (hamstring) and Toni Kroos (foot) ruled out of the match while the status of Sergio Ramos and Casemiro remains doubtful.
Zidane’s preferred playing system has been 4-3-3, and it should continue to remain the same for their visit to Lisbon.
Keylor Navas will continue to be the goalkeeper, with Dani Carvajal and Marceloa as the two full-backs tasked to maraud forward at every given opportunity. Nacho will be teamed-up with Raphael Varane at the heart of defense.
Zidane’s fielded a midfield of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Isco on Saturday, and the pairing did work wonders for the team. There’s good possibility that the trio will start again in the same roles on Tuesday.
Karim Benzema took part from the bench against Atletico Madrid, but should be fit to start against Sporting CP and complete the BBC front-line with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo on either side of the French striker.
Probable starting XI (4-3-3): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Kovacic, Modric, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
- Real Madrid are undefeated in their last 8 matches (UEFA Champions League).
- Real Madrid have won their last 3 matches against Sporting in all competitions.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in each of his three Champions League appearances against his ex-team Sporting Portugal (2007/08 group stages with Manchester United, 2016/17 group stages with Real Madrid).
- Real Madrid have won none of their last four away games in the Champions League (D3 L1),
- None of Sporting’s last 10 home games in the Champions League has ended in a draw (W6 L4).
- Real Madrid have never failed to score against Portuguese opposition, in all competitions (20 games).
Prediction: Sporting CP 0-3 Real Madrid
The visitors are carrying good momentum going into the match while the home side have somewhat contrasting form, having won only two of their last six matches.
On paper, it does look like there’s no-match between the two sides, with the Spanish giants having way too much firepower in their ranks. Though, Sporting CP were very close to causing a famous upset at Bernabeu, they would have to come-up with something really specially to get a positive result on Tuesday.
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