Ron '100%' fit to face City

Real boss Zidane confirms Ronaldo ready to play, City manager Pellegrini aims for goals

Cristiano Ronaldo (far left) training with his Real Madrid team-mates ahead of the Champions League semi-final, second-leg clash with Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu. The first leg ended in a 0-0 draw.
Cristiano Ronaldo (left) training with his Real Madrid team-mates ahead of the Champions League semi-final, second-leg clash with Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu. The first leg ended in a 0-0 draw.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Cristiano Ronaldo is "100 per cent fit" to take on Manchester City in the Champions League semi-final, second leg today.

That was the stark message issued yesterday by Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane about the feared football forward, who missed last week's 0-0 first-leg draw due to a thigh injury.

However, the Spanish giants will be missing two other key players in striker Karim Benzema and defensive midfielder Casemiro through injury.

"Cristiano is fine, he is 100 per cent, that is why he trained this week and will be there tomorrow," Zidane said. "Karim (hamstring problem) and Casemiro (hip injury) are another thing.

"In the scan Karim still has a problem and we don't want to risk him. The same with Casemiro."

Zidane also claimed Ronaldo was 100 per cent fit on the eve of the first leg, before the Portuguese was forced to miss out after feeling the recurrence of the muscle injury he picked up against Spanish rivals Villarreal two weeks ago.

However, having also sat out Real's Gareth Bale-inspired 1-0 win at Real Sociedad on Saturday, Zidane is confident Ronaldo will be ready for another famous European night at the Santiago Bernabeu after scoring a hat-trick to overturn a 0-2 first-leg deficit against Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals.

Indeed, Ronaldo could break his own record for goals in a Champions League campaign from two years ago of 17, having hit 16 in just 10 appearances this season.

It was the Portuguese who scored the winner when the sides met during the 2012-13 group stages.

Real won 3-2 on that occasion in September 2012, despite going behind twice, and a similar result would earn Zidane's side a place in the final following last week's stalemate at the Etihad.

"We need Cristiano at 100 per cent because he is a different player, as his numbers show," said Zidane. "I would have liked Karim to be fit too, but it is not to be."

In the absence of Benzema, Ronaldo is expected to play in a central striking role flanked by the in-form Bale and Lucas Vazquez.

The balance offered by Casemiro in recent months is a more difficult problem for Zidane to deal with as Toni Kroos is expected to play in a deeper midfield role with Isco coming into the side that started the first leg.

Zidane has inspired a huge turnaround in Real's fortunes since taking charge in January, winning 18 of his 23 games in charge to lead the side to a sixth consecutive semi-final and to within a point of La Liga leaders Barcelona with two games to play.

However, he admitted that it would now be considered a failure for Real not to reach their 14th European Cup final.

"We are in good form, but our idea is to try to be at our best tomorrow to get through the tie. It is very difficult, but it is a clear failure if we don't get through," he said.

City fielded a weakened side in the 4-2 drubbing at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday.

They will be without the injured David Silva and the ineligible Samir Nasri as they attempt to breach Real's defence at the Bernabeu, where the home side have kept a clean sheet in all their five Champions League games this season.

"We will not go to the Bernabeu trying for a goal-less draw. We will try to get high, press and score a goal because a draw will favour us if we score," said manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Asked about Real's home defensive record, the Chilean said: "Statistics are there to be broken and I also see Madrid playing more openly."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ron '100%' fit to face City'. Subscribe