Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to play the full 90 minutes in the Champions League opener against Sporting Portugal after the Portuguese international already returned to action in the weekend 5-2 victory over Osasuna following a two-month spell on the side-lines.
James Rodriguez, Marcelo and Casemiro are also back available for the European encounter after being rested on weekend following their international commitment. Yet, Keylor Navas and Fabio Coentrao remain on the side-lines while Isco, Nacho, Marco Asensio and Mariano failed to make the 19-mand squad due to technical reasons.
"We're happy to be starting the Champions League. We know the importance of the competition, the players are prepared and that's good. We have all the players practically ready. We're only without Coentrão and Keylor who are both training almost normally but they just need a bit more time," Zidane said in the press conference ahead of the game.
Ronaldo missed the start of the season after he suffered a knee strain during Portugal's victory over France in the Euro 2016 final on 10 July. The former Manchester United took advantage of the recent international break to step up his recovery, and proved his fitness in the weekend win over Osasuna by playing 66 minutes before being replaced by Karim Benzema. Yet, the Portuguese only took six minutes to score the opener to help Real Madrid to secure a comfortable 5-2 victory to move to the top of the La Liga table following the defeats of Barcelona and Las Palmas.
Zidane has tried to go slowly with Ronaldo's return to action but believes that he is now set to play the whole game against Sporting.
"He's ready to play and the idea is that he'll play the 90 minutes," Zidane confirmed when asked about Ronaldo's fitness. "But anything can happen in a game. I always think about the 60 days that he's been out. That's a lot of time for a player. I speak with Cristiano about other things, not how many minutes he´ll play. He always wants to play 90 minutes.
"I'm sure it's a special moment for Cristiano. Sporting is his club, he grew up there so it's to be expected. I know that Cristiano is very professional and when he's on the field he'll give everything. When the referee blows his whistle he'll be focused as always".
James, Marcelo and Casemiro are also ready to feature in the Champions League opener after the South Americans were rested on weekend. Isco was also expected to comeback after the Spaniard returned to the training sessions earlier this week following a spell on the side-lines. However, Zidane has been forced to leave the Spanish midfielder, Nacho, Asensio and Mariano out of his 19-man squad along long-term absentees Navas and Coentrao.
The competition for places is bigger than ever at the Santiago Bernabeu and Zidane has admitted that making the lists have become into a selection headache for him.
"It's my job, my responsibility, but it's the worst thing about being a coach, leaving four players out when they do the same as the rest every day and they want to play. The players know and what everyone wants to win things. We're going to try by doing things like this," the Real Madrid boss claimed.
"The players understand, although it's not easy. I had a coach some time ago, I'm not going to say his name, he thought that he had enough with eleven. He only played someone else when one of the eleven was out. I don't think like that in any way. For me the most important thing is the group, taking in to account the competitions that we have and that we're going to play every three days. The players understand. I'm not going to lie to them, there'll always be players who play more minutes."