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Champions League Week 1: Real Madrid vs APOEL Lineups, Preview & Prediction

The back-to-back champions begin their title defence in Group H against the Cypriot champions on Wednesday.


19:45 KO (BST); Wednesday 13th September; Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Spain)

Zinedine Zidane will look for his side to cruise through to a comfortable win against APOEL on Wednesday after dropping points at home in their last two league games against Valencia and Levante, respectively.

The two sides have met in the champions league before, back in 2012 in the quarter-finals when Madrid ended the Cypriots’ dream European campaign 8-2 on aggregate.

These are a must-win three points for Los Blancos because the quality of the other two teams will make this a competitive group, as Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham await later on in the campaign.

For APOEL, they will be happy just to be in the Champions League group stages again after missing out over the last two seasons. 

They had a decent showing in the Europa League last season, reaching the Round of 16 after defeating Athletic Bilbao in the Round of 32. Now back with Europe’s top teams, APOEL will hope for the return of the good times of the 2011/12 season by causing a few upsets in a very difficult group starting with the champions Real Madrid.

Last Time Out

Real Madrid 1-1 Levante [La Liga]

Real were looking to rebound from dropping two points at home against Valencia, where they needed individual brilliance from Marco Asensio to save them a point, to keep pace with Barcelona early on in the league table.

That didn’t happen as Real Madrid’s were flat all game long, especially in the attack.

They conceded first off a long throw-in by Lopez who got it to Ivi in the box, who poked the ball in the net.

Lucas Vazquez levelled for Madrid later in the first half with a tap-in from a Sergio Ramos header. 

The biggest disappointment, not including the result, was the hamstring injury suffered by Karim Benzema in the second half that will rule him out of action for about four to six weeks.

Nea Salamis 1-4 APOEL [Cypriot First Division]

The defending champions of Cyprus finally got their domestic league campaign underway on Saturday after getting their matches from the first two matchdays postponed due to their participation in the Champions League play-off round.

They started off on the wrong note when Boy Waterman, the goalkeeper, failed to control the ball from a simple pass from his defender and it went to Damahou who slotted the ball into the goal.

APOEL turned it up a notch and controlled the game and eventually outclassed Nea Salamis with four unanswered goals.

The equalizer by 20-year-old Hungarian Roland Sallai stood out among the goals with crisp one-two passing that culminated with Sallai beautifully hitting the ball into the inside of the roof of the net.

Real Madrid Lineup

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Real Madrid will be delighted to have Cristiano Ronaldo back in the lineup to help their woes in front of goal as of late. The Portuguese superstar is still serving a domestic five-match ban for his antics in the first-leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

Ronaldo is exactly who Zidane needs in his team, especially after losing Benzema to injury. Nacho will fill in for Raphaël Varane who is still not 100% fit.

APOEL Lineup

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APOEL will go into this match with their strongest possible lineup, similar to what got them past Slavia Prague in the play-off round.

Ebecilio and Aloneftis were lively on the wings this past weekend in the league with their 4-1 win.

Key Battle: Cristiano Ronaldo vs  Boy Waterman

This battle is more about how Waterman will handle Ronaldo's strikes and play in front of goal. He has been reliable for APOEL in the past, but this past weekend he showed nerves and rust in what was otherwise a very comfortable win. 

Despite it being only one play, Waterman's mistake against Nea Salamis early on will give APOEL fans nightmares that the same will happen against the European champions, but with much more ruthlessness. Ronaldo does not care about the opposition, he wants to make a splash in the Champions League opener to get on the highlight reel once again.

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He'll be itching to get back on the field for Real Madrid, with his league suspension preventing him from getting off the mark, and they need him for goals before there is unrest at the Bernabeu. He'll want to increase his Champions League record of 106 goals in the competition.

That is not good news for Waterman, who'll try to keep chances and goals to a minimum, knowing he will concede goals for sure.  

Talking Points

Goals needed as Ronaldo returns

Real Madrid's talisman will most likely be paired up front with Gareth Bale due to Benzema's injury against Levante. He will roam all over, but will be the centre-forward replacement and will be put out to restore confidence in Zinedine Zidane's side.

Against Levante, Real let so many chances go and now when the talk was that Real Madrid could cope without Ronaldo just fine, the goals dry up and the team and Zidane himself realised what they were missing.

Ramos' suspension and Varane's muscular problems have pushed Casemiro back into the centre-back role and Isco back in a more defensive midfield role as Modric took control of central midfield. This may have been a cause of their attacking problems because Isco was being pushed back instead of his free-roaming position behind the strikers and in front of the midfield.

Zidane will put him back in that position as Ramos returns and Casemiro goes back into centre midfield.

APOEL's rust

The Cypriot champions have not played many competitive games so far due to the league's postponement of their opening two league matches in order to give priority to their Champions League play-off hopes.

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That may not be the best recipe to face Real Madrid because they will punish teams for any little mistake, like Waterman's at the weekend.

APOEL's players are all fit, but playing a weak team in the Cypriot league over the weekend and a second-leg Champions League play-off tie against Slavia Prague three weeks ago may not be the best preparation. 

PREDICTION: Real Madrid 4-0 APOEL

A thrashing seems like the only reasonable outcome in this game. Real Madrid will release all their anger and frustration from their last few disappointing results on APOEL. 

History shows that Madrid hardly get upset at home against any team, let alone minnows, so there is no reason to believe they will not thrash the Cypriots.

Ronaldo and company will temporarily put to rest questions about whether the team can still succeed with a strong showing on Wednesday night.

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Daniel Inga

Daniel is currently a journalism student at California State University, Fullerton. He has a great passion for football and follows the European game intensely. He also has interest in football in North America, specifically MLS and Liga MX. He is always willing to learn about football from other distant parts of the world as well. He enjoys playing "pickup soccer" anywhere near his home in Southern California. You can follow him on twitter at @daniel_inga93

Champions League Week 1: Real Madrid vs APOEL Lineups, Preview & Prediction

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