Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo faces an emotional reunion with boyhood club Sporting Lisbon when his side begin the defence of their Champions League crown on Wednesday.
Ronaldo, who scored the decisive penalty in the shootout win over Atletico Madrid in last season’s final, returned to club football following an injury layoff when he scored in the 5-2 thrashing of Osasuna on Saturday.
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 moved from his family home in Madeira to Sporting’s academy at the age of 12 and 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 www.uefa.com. “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.”
No team has 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, were capable of bucking the trend.
“It’s a great challenge and I think at Real we have a chance to win it again,” he added. “We know it’s a very difficult competition…but 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.
Karim Benzema is likely to return to the starting line-up for the first time this campaign after struggling with a hip problem but midfielder Isco, defender Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Keylor Navas are injured.
Sporting are top of the 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.