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Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford, last chance for Lopetegui


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Updated  23/10/18  
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BERLIN: Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford once again when Juventus travel to Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday while his other ex-club Real Madrid are struggling badly with coach Julen Lopetegui fighting for survival before Viktoria Plzen’s visit.
Ronaldo made his name in Manchester, scoring 118 goals, winning three Premier League titles and the first of his five Champions Leagues before a then world record move to Real in 2009.
On Saturday, he scored against Genoa in Serie A to become the first player to net 400 goals across Europe’s top five leagues.
Tuesday is Ronaldo’s second trip back to United, the first being with Real in 2012-13, and Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny knows it will be another special occasion for the Portugal star.
“We all know how important things he has done there, but he is now a Juventus player and we are also really appreciating what he is doing here,” Szczesny said. “It will be a great Champions League night, United are strong, and like us they will also try to win.”
Juve hope finally to lift the trophy again after losing finals in 2015 and 2017, and Ronaldo’s arrival from Real is a clear signal of intent.
The Italians top Group ‘H’ with a maximum six points from United who have four. Both sides played to draws on the weekend, with Juve surprisingly held 1-1 by Genoa and United conceding a stoppage-time equaliser at Chelsea.
“We need to focus on and we need to win because it is important to win our home games in the Champions League,” United’s Luke Shaw told club TV.
The two sides have not met since 2003, with United winning the last three of their 12 games overall.
The Chelsea draw further eased the pressure on coach Jose Mourinho, and the French world champion Paul Pogba will want to show his class against the side he played for between 2012 and 2016 before returning to Old Trafford.
Young Boys host goal-shy Valencia in the other group game. Valencia haven’t managed to score more than one goal in a match since September 2.
Real players may have offered a show of public support to Lopetegui but fail to win at home against Plzen in Group ‘G’ and their words will mean very little.
“Julen has the backing of the entire team,” captain Sergio Ramos said after Real’s 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday, their fourth defeat in five games and third in a row.
The former Spain coach, who took over after Zinedine Zidane’s surprise resignation, is on shaky ground. Lopetegui’s team lost 1-0 at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League before two humbling defeats to modest La Liga teams Alaves and Levante.
Even a win over Plzen may not save Lopetegui with Real facing an always demanding visit to Barcelona’s Camp Nou on Sunday.
Lopetegui said on Monday he will fight to turn Real’s stuttering season around but could not guarantee he will be in charge for the Clasico.
“We’re going to fight to turn this situation around. We know it’s not the best but we’ve got time in which we can turn it round and we’ll fight, starting with tomorrow’s game,” said Lopetegui.
Asked if he knew that he would be in the dug-out when Real visit Camp Nou this weekend, Lopetegui said: “I’m here now, that’s all I can say. I am the coach at this moment. If you ask me what is going to happen in a month or a year, I can’t tell you. We’re focused on the present.”
With most of the attention on Real, CSKA will hope to build on its win over the defending champions by beating AS Roma away on Tuesday.
In Group ‘E’, Bayern Munich are targeting another win at AEK Athens after finally ending a four-game winless streak at VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.
Tensions at the Bavarian powerhouse was evident with club bosses blasting the media on Friday for unfavorable coverage during their uncharacteristic slump, but the mood is better now ahead of the visit to Athens on Tuesday.
“That felt like a liberation,” said centre-back Mats Hummels after the 3-1 win at Wolfsburg.
The Greek champions are looking for its first points after losing both of their opening games to Ajax and Benfica.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac will take encouragement from the fact the club has never lost in nine games against a Greek club.
Ajax host Benfica in Amsterdam, where the home side will hope to build on its fine performance from their 1-1 draw in Munich.
Shakhtar Donetsk ended Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 win when they met in the Champions League last year. This time round, Shakhtar welcome City on an 11-game unbeaten run of their own, though most of that was against relatively weak opposition.
City, beaten 2-1 at home by Olympique Lyonnais in their first group game, will be wary of another slip despite a confidence-boosting 5-0 win over Burnley on Saturday.
Group ‘F’ leaders Lyon visit Hoffenheim with forward Memphis Depay hitting form again at the right time. Depay impressed for the Netherlands’ during the international break and ended his 10-game scoring drought for Lyon on Friday.


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