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Real begin defence, Leicester make bow

Paris, Tuesday @PeopleSports11

As Real Madrid begin their defence of the trophy and Leicester City make their debut in the competition, here is a look at Wednesday’s Champions League action Real Madrid vs Sporting Real begin their quest to become the first club to retain the trophy in the Champions League era with an intriguing home tie against Cristiano Ronaldo’s first club.

Ronaldo’s winning penalty in the final shoot-out against Atletico Madrid clinched Real a record 11th title last season. The Portuguese star made a goalscoring return in his first appearance since limping off in the Euro 2016 final 1-0 win over France in Saturday’s 5-2 defeat of Osasuna.

Ronaldo’s boyhood club turn up at the Santiago Bernabeu in good shape after a 3-0 win over Moreirense at the weekend maintained their perfect start to the Portuguese season.

Tottenham vs Monaco

The match will be played at Wembley, which the visitors may appreciate due to the fact they were thrashed 4-1 in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season. Spurs are playing at England’s national stadium while they build a new stadium next to their current home.

Wembley hosted the finals of the competition in both 2011 and 2013. The hosts made an ultimately failed bid for the Premier League title last year with a thrilling young side led by England internationals Harry Kane and Dele Ali.

Their highly-rated Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino is regalvanising the side who won 4-0 away at Stoke City at the weekend. But Kane believes a strong English core that includes internationals Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Alli and himself, can help them instantly settle in the venue where they play for their country.

“If there are 85-90,000 Tottenham fans in there it’s only going to make you play better. A lot of us have played there already, so it feels like even more of a home. Everyone knows how iconic Wembley is, but that’s what we’ve got to be careful of,” Kane said.

Monaco go into the tie in buoyant mood as goals from Djibril Sidibe, Adama Traore, Fabinho and Kamil Glik powered them to a 4-1 win at Lille on Saturday. They travel to London as French table-toppers after spending the summer beefing up their defence and cutting off dead wood.

Juventus vs Sevilla

Two-time European champions Juventus, the most-fancied Italian side in Europe this season, meet Sevilla for a second straight year in the group stage. Last season Juventus won 2-0 at home and Sevilla won 1-0 in Spain.

The Italians warmed up with new signing Gonzalo Higuain scoring twice in a 3-1 Serie A win over Sassuolo in Turin at the weekend and are riding a 17-match unbeaten home run in UEFA competition going back to April 2013.

“This is the kind of Juventus side we need for the Champions League, but we have our feet firmly on the ground,” said Higuain after his goal-scoring debut. The Turin side were eliminated in the round of 16 last season by Bayern Munich.

Sevilla won the Europa League for a third consecutive time after their group-stage exit and are also coming off a 2-1 Liga win at home against Las Palmas.

Club Brugge vs Leicester

After their fairytale Premier League title triumph last season, Leicester begin their maiden Champions League voyage with the short trip to Belgium to face Club Brugge at the Jan Breydelstadion.

This will be the Foxes’ first European game since a 3-1 defeat to Red Star Belgrade condemned them to a first-round exit in the UEFA Cup in September 2000.

However, for their manager Claudio Ranieri this is the start of a sixth Champions League campaign with a sixth different club. Leicester come into the game on the back of a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool, but Michel Preud’homme’s side also lost at the weekend, going down 1-0 at Waasland-Beveren on Friday.

L.Warsaw vs Dortmund

Dortmund, returning after a one-year absence, edged Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals three years ago en route to the final which they lost to Bayern Munich. The 1997 champions are in Warsaw to take on the first side from Poland in the competition in 20 years.

The sides’ only previous meeting was a 2012 friendly when Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski—the Poland striker—scored the only goal. Polish champions Legia, who came through the qualifiers, are appearing in the competition for the first time since 1995/96, when they reached the quarter-finals. -AFP

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