Champions League

HeReal Madrid vs APOEL: Looking for No.13

Everything revolves around the number 13 now for Real Madri d.

It is 13 games which separate them from winning the 13th Champions League crown of their history.

They have barely digested the glory that came with their terrific win over Juventus in Cardiff in early June, but this is a club and fanbase which always wants more and they’re already dreaming of the exotic trip to Kiev.

The staff are well aware that the team are going through an historic run of form and success, similar to that which the team enjoyed in the second half of the 1950s.

That kind of domination started in Lisbon in 2014 and has continued through to Cardiff in 2017 – but they don’t want it to stop there.

Zinedine Zidane’s side come into their first game in this year’s competition with some doubts surrounding them, coming off the back of successive LaLiga draws.

It is true that Los Blancos had more than enough chances to turn both of those draws into wins but they lacked that killer touch.

That can’t and won’t be the case on Wednesday night as Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the big stage where he has so often shone.

He is the top scorer in the history of the Champions League, asserting that dominance in the final of last year’s tournament against Juventus.

Without him, the attacking power of the side has been diminished in their games against Valencia and Levante but he returns to the field similar to a caged animal.

He feels that he has been the victim of a disproportionate sanction and the game against APOEL gives him the perfect chance to vent his frustration.

Madrid are out to end their stuttering Estadio Santiago Bernabeu form and the group’s fourth seeds give them the ideal opportunity to do just that.

APOEL are, on paper, the weakest team in a group which also includes Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur and for all concerned, they will be viewing games against them as six points.

However, experience does bring a note of caution in these kind of games as it wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last in which there has been a Cinderella story in this competition in terms of a shock result and the memory of Legia will be fresh with Los Blancos.

Despite Real’s recent run of draws, Zizou will continue with the rotation policy which brought him so much glory last season.

After making several changes against Levante, it is time for the A team to return, albeit with some minor tweaks, because they have a difficult game at the Estadio Anoeta against Real Sociedad to think about and, for the moment, there is no margin for error.

Yes, it may be Europe but at the Bernabeu nobody thinks of any more setbacks and the champions are obliged to start their defence with a big showing.

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