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Real Madrid will begin the defence of their Champions League crown as they host Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

Zinedine Zidane’s side, who won their 11th European Cup last season by beating city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in the final, are aiming to become the first team to defend the title for more than a quarter of a century.

For Cristiano Ronaldo, it will be an emotional reunion with the club where he started his career, and he is relishing the prospect.

“It’s a special match, it’s a special team,” he told uefa.com. “To play Sporting again is a privilege for me.

“I wanted to draw Sporting again because I think they have a good team, they have a good coach (Jorge Jesus) and it will be another special moment in my life.

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Team news

Ronaldo will play the full 90 minutes against his boyhood club as he steps up his return from injury in the Champions League.

The Portuguese star’s first appearance since injuring his knee in the Euro 2016 final was curtailed with his 65th minute substitution despite opening the scoring in Real Madrid’s 5-2 win against Osasuna on Saturday.

“I am always thinking about the 60 days he was out, which is a lot for a player,” said Zidane. “He is ready and we’ll take things bit-by-bit. If you ask Cristiano he wants to play the 90 minutes.”

Karim Benzema also made his return as a substitute at the weekend and could feature again against Sporting, while the likes of Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro could all return to the starting line-up.

Ronaldo is likely to come up against several of his Euro 2016 team-mates, with fellow Portuguese internationals Rui Patricio and William Carvalho among those set to start for Sporting Lisbon.

Joel Campbell, who marked his Sporting debut with a goal on Saturday, could also feature while Lazar Markovic is in line to make his first start after coming off the bench in the 3-0 win over Moreirense.

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Opta stats

Real Madrid and Sporting are facing each other in the group stages of the Champions League for the second time after 2000/01. Both teams drew in Lisbon (2-2) before Real won 4-0 at home.

Real Madrid are looking to become the first team since AC Milan to win back-to-back European Cup/Champions League titles. The Rossoneri did it in 1989 and 1990.

Real Madrid are playing in the Champions League for the 20th consecutive season, the longest current run. They have always made it out of the Champions League group stages.

Real Madrid have failed to score only once in their last 44 Champions League group games (Paris SG 0-0 Real Madrid, October 2015).

Toni Kroos has completed the most passes in each of the last three Champions League seasons.

Sporting have made it to the knockout stages of the Champions League only once in their previous six campaigns. It was in 2008/09.

Sporting have lost five of their last eight Champions League games (W2 D1). The Lisbon side has conceded 24 goals in those eight games, an average of three per outing.

Sporting’s last four Champions League games have produced 21 goals, that’s an average of 5.25 per game.

Clinton’s prediction – 4-1, Real Madrid to win

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Culled from Skysports

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