Ron ready for his 'Special moment'

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, 31, training with midfielder Mateo Kovacic ahead of their Champions League opener against Sporting Lisbon. The Portugal captain scored in victories over Sporting while he was with Manchester United. He joined the Por
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, 31, training with midfielder Mateo Kovacic ahead of their Champions League opener against Sporting Lisbon. The Portugal captain scored in victories over Sporting while he was with Manchester United. He joined the Portuguese club's academy when he was 12. PHOTO: REUTERS

Fit-again Portuguese looking forward to returning to Sporting Lisbon with Madrid

MADRID • Cristiano Ronaldo faces an emotional reunion with boyhood club Sporting Lisbon when Real Madrid begin the defence of their Champions League crown today.

The forward, who scored the decisive penalty in the shootout win over Atletico Madrid in last season's final, returned to club football on Saturday following an injury lay-off and scored in the 5-2 thrashing of Osasuna.

The Portugal captain netted in a 1-0 win and a 2-1 triumph over Sporting while he was with Manchester United, but has yet to face them in a Real shirt.

Ronaldo, 31, moved from his family home in Madeira to Sporting's academy at the age of 12. He spent one season in the first team, scoring five times in 30 appearances in all competitions before joining United in 2003.

"It's a special match, it's a special team," he told the Uefa website. "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."

Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho has said that he wants Ronaldo to end his playing career back with the Portuguese club.

He added: "It's going to be special to come up against him just as it's going to be special for him.

"We are playing against our boy and he is playing against the team where he formed himself as a player.

"It's going to be beautiful."

No team have retained the Champions League title since the competition was revamped in 1992 but Ronaldo said Real, who have been kings of Europe a record 11 times, are capable of bucking the trend.

"It's a great challenge and I think at Real we have a chance to win it again," he said.

"We think positive, that it's possible to win it again."

Ronaldo played 65 minutes against Osasuna, his first appearance since injuring his knee in Portugal's Euro 2016 final win over France in July, and is expected to start against Sporting.

Striker Karim Benzema is likely to return to the starting line-up for the first time this campaign after struggling with a hip problem. However, midfielder Isco, defender Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Keylor Navas are injured.

Sporting are top of Portugal's Primeira Liga after winning their fourth consecutive game of the season on Saturday, easing to a 3-0 victory over Moreirense.

Left-back Jefferson, nursing a hamstring problem, is their only injury concern.

REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Ron ready for his 'Special moment''. Print Edition | Subscribe