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Cristiano Ronaldo returns for UCL, Marco Asensio misses out with pimple

Alejandro Moreno says Real Madrid have already put themselves in a difficult situation in the La Liga title race.
Real Madrid have scored in 71 straight matches in all competitions, but were held to a 1-1 draw against Levante.

Marco Asensio will miss Real Madrid's Champions League opener at home to Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday night due to an infected "pimple," but centre-back Raphael Varane returns from injury and Cristiano Ronaldo is available for his first competitive club game in a month.

After Asensio had missed training this week, coach Zinedine Zidane told a news conference that he had a "pimple... which stopped him pulling up his socks," with subsequent reports in the local press clarifying that the youngster had picked up an infection after shaving his legs.

Varane, 24, has recovered from an adductor muscle problem and is named in the squad for his first game since the Spanish Super Cup second leg against Barcelona on Aug. 16, while Ronaldo is to play first competitive club game since his sending off in the first leg three days earlier at the Camp Nou.

The news was confirmed in a club statement which confirmed that former youth-team centre-forward Borja Mayoral, 20, was included to cover the absence of Karim Benzema, who faces a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas also told the pregame news conference that it was always positive to be able to call on Ronaldo, currently four games into a five-match ban imposed for pushing the referee following his sending off in the Spanish Super Cup.

"For us it is always good to have the best player in the world on the pitch," Navas said. "He always brings so much for us. It is good for him to be able to play tomorrow, as he has been a few games without playing. And also for us as a team. When he is on the pitch, normally he scores many goals. All games are different, but the motivation and ambition he has will be important for the team."

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal in a friendly between Real Madrid and Fiorentina.
Cristiano Ronaldo will return to the Real Madrid team as they begin their Champions League defence.

Navas said the team had analysed what they could correct following their disappointing draws at home to Valencia and Levante in their first two home La Liga games of 2017-18.

"In Liga we have not been able to win our last two games," the Costa Rica international said. "This is a nice game, a different tournament. We know that the path to trophies is not easy. There are always things we can correct, we know that, after every game we look at what we did well and what we did not. We will keep playing in our style, go out to win each game, we are very sure about that."

Madrid, who have won the Champions League in three of the last four seasons, have won their first game in the competition in each of the last 10 seasons, with Ronaldo on the scoresheet in the last five openers.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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