Danger man to get a warm welcome

Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo hamming it up for the TV cameras after his penalty gave Real Madrid a 2-0 lead against Atletico on Saturday. His hat-trick brought his derby tally to 18 goals.
Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo hamming it up for the TV cameras after his penalty gave Real Madrid a 2-0 lead against Atletico on Saturday. His hat-trick brought his derby tally to 18 goals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • Cristiano Ronaldo will return to the Estadio Jose Alvalade - home of Sporting Lisbon - to a warm reception in the Champions League today, even though local fans know that the Real Madrid forward is the biggest threat to their team.

Sporting coach Jorge Jesus has also not been coy on his admiration for the Portuguese ace ahead of the Group F clash.

"Ronaldo was born to score goals. He is the striker who scores the most goals in the world. He is talented and when you play against someone like that, anything can happen," he said in an interview published by Spanish newspaper Marca yesterday.

However, Jesus believes that it is possible to stop Ronaldo and warned that Real should not underestimate his team.

"Of course we can prepare for such a duel. If we do not want a player to have too much space, we have to do it collectively as a team.

"We've already met (when Real beat Sporting 2-1 in September) and maybe now it's easier for them to realise we are not the team who should be underestimated."

The 62-year-old added that he would relish the opportunity to work with Ronaldo one day.

"Any coach would want to train someone like Cristiano. I never worked with him and I would be very happy, of course," he said, when asked about the possibility of Ronaldo playing for Sporting again.

"I think Cristiano has great passion and it would not be strange if he played until he was 40."

Ronaldo is set to face an emotional homecoming - his second time since he left the club in 2003.

The Real star scored on his first return to Lisbon for Manchester United in a 1-0 Champions League win back in September 2007.

"It's always special to be back," the 31-year-old said.

"I remember going back to Old Trafford two or three years ago and now I'm going back to Sporting Lisbon... the team who created me from 11 to 18 years old.

"It is always a pleasure to be back and see my old stadium and my old friends. It was great memories and it will be amazing, but of course I have to defend my colours and I want to win the game. We need to win, too."

Real are second in the group after four games on eight points, five ahead of third-placed Sporting. A win will put the Spanish club through to the last 16.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'Danger man to get a warm welcome'. Print Edition | Subscribe