Live Commentary: Real Madrid vs. APOEL

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Good evening and welcome to Sports Mole's live commentary of the Champions League clash between Real Madrid and APOEL from the Bernabeu.

European champions Real Madrid have made an indifferent start to the 2017-18 La Liga season, but will be confident of starting their Group H campaign with a win here.

APOEL booked their spot in the group stages of the competition for the fourth time by clinching a fifth successive Cypriot league title last season, and will be looking to pull off a shock in the Spanish capital tonight.

Follow our live minute-by-minute live commentary of the action below.


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7.35pmThis will be the fourth time that APOEL have competed in the group stage of the Champions League, and their best showing, as mentioned, was the quarter-finals during the 2011-12 campaign. Worryingly, APOEL have lost on seven of their last eight visits to Spain, although they did manage to pick up a point in a goalless draw with Atletico Madrid during the 2009-10 competition.

7.32pmAs for APOEL, the Cypriot giants opened their 2017-18 league season with a 4-1 win at Nea Salamis on Saturday. Indeed, their first two league matches of the new campaign were postponed in order to fully concentrate on the Champions League. They had to come through the qualifying rounds to book a spot in the group stage – beating F91 Dudelange and FC Viitorul of Luxembourg and Romania respectively, before overcoming Czech outfit Slavia Praha 2-0 on aggregate in the playoff round.

7.28pm

7.25pmThere is some pressure on Real Madrid tonight considering their two previous results at the Bernabeu, however, and the fact that their next Champions League game is away to Dortmund means that this is a very important match. The last thing that Los Blancos need is to drop points tonight and already be under a little bit of pressure in Germany on September 26.

7.22pmReal Madrid, who have not lost a home Champions League group game since October 2009, have also won all six of their previous meetings with Cypriot clubs – scoring 34 times in the process and conceding just three. What's more, the Spanish giants have won 31 of their last 36 home Champions League matches, which is an indication of the task facing APOEL in tonight's match.

7.18pmIn 21 previous participations in the Champions League, Real Madrid have never failed to progress from the initial group stage. Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur make up a very interesting group, and although Zidane's side are the firm favourites to top the section, they will have to play well to finish ahead of Dortmund and Tottenham, who meet at Wembley tonight.

7.15pm

7.12pmLos Blancos became the first team in the modern era to successfully defend the Champions League when they recorded a 4-1 win over Juventus in Cardiff at the start of June. Champions in three of the last four campaigns, Real Madrid have not lost a home group game in almost eight years, and will be extremely confident of starting their campaign with all three points tonight.

7.08pmIndeed, a 2-2 draw with Valencia before the international break was followed by a 1-1 draw against Levante on Saturday afternoon, which has left the Spanish champions four points behind the leaders Barcelona, albeit at a very early stage of the season. Real Madrid have a tough trip to high-flying Real Sociedad in the league this weekend, but tonight is all about the Champions League.

7.05pmSo there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff on this extremely warm evening at the Bernabeu. I shall speak about the away side a little bit later, but let's start with Real Madrid. It would be fair to say that it has been a frustrating couple of weeks at the Bernabeu, with Zidane's side dropping four points in their last two home league fixtures.

Luka Modric in action during the La Liga game between Barcelona and Real Madrid on December 3, 2016© SilverHub


7.02pmAs for APOEL, former Celta Vigo full-back Roberto Lago is included, while Belgian forward Igor de Camargo will lead the line for a team that will start in a 4-5-1 formation at the Bernabeu. Lago is one of two Spaniards in the APOEL XI as Jesus Rueda, formerly of Real Valladolid, is also selected.

6.58pmCristiano Ronaldo is available for Real Madrid for the first time since receiving a red card in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on August 13, and the Portuguese, as expected, starts tonight. Keylor Navas, Casemiro, Gareth Bale, Isco and Mateo Kovacic also all come into the team following the home draw with Levante at the weekend, but Marco Asensio misses out with an injected "pimple", while Karim Benzema is on the sidelines with a hamstring problem. Toni Kroos drops to the bench tonight.

6.55pmTEAMS!

REAL: Navas; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kovacic, Modric; Isco, Ronaldo, Bale

APOEL: Waterman; Vouros, Rueda, Carlao, Lago; Sallai, Morais, Ebecilio, Vinicius, Aloneftis; De Camargo


6.52pmRight, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from the Spanish capital. Has Zidane rung the changes following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Levante? What about APOEL - any shocks? Let's run through the two XIs that will start this Group H fixture in Spain...

Cristiano Ronaldo in action during the Supercopa de Espana first-leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid on August 13, 2017© Offside


6.49pmThese two teams actually met in the quarter-finals of the 2011-12 Champions League, and Real Madrid ran out 8-2 winners on aggregate to steam into the semi-finals. A 3-0 victory in Nicosia saw Los Blancos take a big lead in the tie, before winning 5-2 in Madrid one week later. Can APOEL pull off a major shock against the European champions tonight? Stay tuned right here to find out.

6.46pmEvening all! Sports Mole's live Champions League coverage continues from the Bernabeu as the reigning European champions Real Madrid open their Group H campaign at home to Cypriot side APOEL. It should be a routine win for the hosts tonight, but Zinedine Zidane's side will enter this match off the back of successive La Liga draws at the Bernabeu. Stay tuned for the action!