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The European Champions begin their Champions League journey in search of a monumental era-defining third triumph in a row.
Zidane and his men are about to embark on one of the most significant Champions League campaigns in the history of the competition and European football generally. The gravity of accomplishing what Real Madrid are setting out to do is not quite comprehensible — it is beyond the known possibilities of arguably the most prestigious club competition in the world to have one team reign supreme, uninterrupted, for three years.
The ability for any club to win the Champions League twice in a row had long been written off by statistics that showed how staggeringly difficult it was to do. Real Madrid being the first team to do it in the history of the 26-season old competition supported that belief. Completing a three-peat is uncharted territory in an even greater sense because no team has come as close as Real Madrid are at this moment. Every step forward in this season’s Champions League will represent moving an inch closer to the realisation of one of football’s most unimaginable feats.
The first obstacle in Real Madrid’s path are the 2016-17 Champions of the Cyta Championship in Cyprus. APOEL entered the group stages via the qualifying rounds where they bested F91 Dudelange, Viitorul Constanța, and eventually Slavia Prague in the play-off round. This will not be the first encounter between the Spanish and Cypriot Champions — they were drawn against each other in the 2011-12 Champions League quarter-finals which Real Madrid convincingly won 8-2 on aggregate.
The team will buoyed by Ronaldo’s appearance following his absence in the last three games as he serves a 4-match domestic ban. Varane will also be rejoining the squad after recovering from his injury. All told, Zidane will have everyone named on his CL roster but Benzema at his disposal as he looks to kick off the CL campaign on a positive note.
Time: 20:45 CET, 02:45pm EST, 11:45am Pacific.
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain.