Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in La Liga on the weekend. Image courtesy of au.eurosport.com
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo faces his former club for the first time since his £80 million move in 2009 when Manchester United travel to the Bernabeu to face the Spanish heavyweights in the UEFA Champions League on Thursday morning (AEST).
Portuguese ace Ronaldo goes into this fixture full of confidence after bagging his 20th hat-trick for Real in his side’s 4-1 La Liga win over Sevilla FC on the weekend. Those goals took his tally to 182 in just 179 appearances since commanding a world record transfer fee over three years ago. His Portugal teammate Pepe should be fit to play after coming off the bench against Sevilla after a month out, but goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas is still sidelined with a fractured hand. Angel Di Maria has been ruled out of both legs, but coach Jose Mourinho could have Xabi Alonso available after the midfielder returned to training this week.
For the visitors, both Phil Jones and Jonny Evans limped off in Manchester United’s 2-0 League win over Everton on Sunday and will be monitored in the leadup to the match. Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick could return after sitting out the match against the Toffees, with the former set to partner Nemanja Vidic at the back. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will lead the line as the Red Devils bid for just their third win from 14 Champions League games in Spain.
Real finished second in Group D during the group stage, winning two of three home matches including a 3-2 victory over Premier League champion Manchester City in gameweek one. United finished at the top of Group H and performed relatively well away from Old Trafford but has a poor record at the Bernabeu. They have conceded three goals in all but one of their four Champions League matches at the ground. When the clubs last met in the knockout stages, Real were 3-1 victors in the opening leg and went on to win the tie 6-5.
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