When these teams met in the Bernabeu, Sporting appeared set for an incredible beginning to their Champions League campaign as they headed into the final minutes up 1-0. Goals by Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata after the 89th minute instead gave Real smash-and-grab victory. Now, a win would guarantee Real’s spot in the knockout rounds and eliminate Sporting. Last time out, Los Blancos could only manage a draw behind closed doors in Poland against Legia Warsaw, while Sporting fell 1-0 in a match controlled by Borussia Dortmund. However, Real are in fine form after a 3-0 win the Madrid Derby as Ronaldo scored a hat-trick. He’ll relish a chance to return to his first club and likewise steal the headlines. Opposite him, Bas Dost is coming off a brace in his last Primeira Liga match and will need to be equally as influential to keep Sporting’s Champions League hopes alive.
Sporting snatched away manager Jorge Jesus, regarded as the best in Portugal, from crosstown rivals Benfica, last year, but one season wasn’t enough for him to end their 14 season title drought. In the Champions League, they didn’t make it past the play-off round, so the group stage this year is an improvement, despite being drawn into a group with giants Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Algerian striker Islam Slimani left for Leicester after scoring 27 goals last season, so it may be Joel Campbell - on loan from Arsenal - who could step up. He’ll be backed by a strong Portuguese midfield including William Carvalho and Adrien Silva.
The record-holding 11 time winners will defend their current trophy without the usual summertime Galactico business. But, when your squad includes the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema, finally finding consistency is a positive. We have yet to see Zinedine Zidane take a full season at the helm with all the pressure the toughest gig in management provides - how he responds to turbulent times will determine the length of his tenure. The expectations for this squad are the same as every season: win every trophy they compete for. With their aforementioned attacking prowess bolstered by a reliable defense, they could do just that.
The Euro 2016 winner was linked to top EPL clubs over the summer, but stayed put and will be crucial in breaking up attacks in midfield.
The accurate passer is Sporting's captain and has been with the club since 2007.