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3PEAT READY: Madrid in good shape to start UCL defence with a bang


Real Madrid suffered a poor start to their campaign to defend their La Liga title.

They defeated Deportivo La Coruna in their opener, but got held in consecutive games to fall seventh in the table, four points below co-leaders Barcelona and Real Sociedad.

The Blancos are without talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who is serving a four-game ban for pushing a referee in their thrashing of Barca in the Supercopa match before La Liga even went underway. Real are not as imaginative and as crisp in attack as usual, and not as attentive in defense. The boss Zinedine Zidane, praised to high heavens for leading the Blancos to two straight Champions League crowns, has been criticized for not foreseeing the holes in his squad this year.

But, it is early in the season, and the world should prepare to see a different kind of Real Madrid as the two-time defending Champions League winners take the field to open their bid for a historic third straight triumph in Europe’s most prized competition.

Zidane’s men were favoured with quite a manageable draw, as they were only clustered with English runners-up Tottenham, Bundesliga third-placers Borussia Dortmund and Cyprus champions APOEL, all of which they have defeated in the last five years.

And, Ronaldo’s ban only applies to domestic fixtures, meaning he is available to wreak havoc on opponents from beyond the Spanish borders.

First to taste the ever-hungry Ronaldo and the rest of Real Madrid are APOEL, the Cyprus champions, as the pair meets at Santiago Bernabeu in Group H of the Champions League.

Nextbet heavily favours the holders in this game, with a home win in 1×2 offered at 1.06, while a draw is priced at 10.65 and an upset by the visitors backed at 21.59.

Nicer prices are offered in the handicaps, where a -3.5 handicap against the Blancos is offered at 2.25, and a +3 handicap for APOEL will pay 1.97.

Aside from Ronaldo, first choice defenders like Captain Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are also expected to be tapped by Zidane, and Marcelo is expected to be placed back to his comfort zone as a left back.

APOEL might even be shorthanded, since midfielders George Efrem and Facundo Bertoglio and defender Zhivko Milanov may sit out the match.

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