MADRID — One title defence has begun shakily for Real Madrid. Two won’t be tolerated.

While Cristiano Ronaldo has been suspended for pushing a referee, Madrid has made a relatively poor start to retaining the Spanish league title, lying four points behind Barcelona after three rounds.

Ronaldo is still suspended for one more La Liga match, but he’s cleared to play in Europe, and will feature in their Champions League opener on Wednesday against APOEL of Cyprus.

“Cristiano is well and focused,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday. “He is a leader and always wants to win. The other players feed off of him.”

Ronaldo’s absence probably would not have been felt so much a year ago, when Madrid had not only forwards Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, but also Alvaro Morata and Mariano Diaz backing up.

But in the off-season Morata was lost to Chelsea, where he has three goals already, and Diaz transferred to Lyon. To cover for their departures, Madrid promoted 20-year-old Borja Mayoral from the youth squads.

“Maybe you can say that we are missing a 9,” …read more


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