APOEL Nicosia 6-0 Real Madrid: match report
Real Madrid blitzed APOEL Nicosia over six minutes at the end of the first half to leave a massive chasm on the scoresheet that APOEL were never going to close.
Luka Modric opened the scoring for the away side with a lovely volley from outside the penalty area after a lively start from APOEL. They were pressing high up the field and it took Zidane's side the best part of 10 minutes to get a feel for the game.
Once that first goal went in, however, Real Madrid were not for turning back. Karim Benzema curled home a lovely effort on 39 minutes as APOEL's defense went missing and Nacho poked home their third on 41 with the home side's back line out of position yet again at a corner.
Their trouble was compounded when Benzema scored a fourth after a razor sharp counter-attack on the stroke of half-time. It didn't get any easier for APOEL as Ronaldo headed home a lovely, lofted cross into the box by Marcelo and the Portuguese made it six with his second on 54 minutes after another mix-up at the back by the Greeks.
Ronaldo and Benzema will be delighted to get a brace apiece having struggled in front of goal of late and Zidane got the chance to rest Isco and Casemiro while also giving minutes to the likes of Ceballos, Theo Hernandez and Lucas Vazquez. It was a much needed tonic for a Real Madrid side short on luck of late as they regroup for Málaga at the weekend.
APOEL vs Real Madrid live stream online: as it happened
APOEL vs Real Madrid: Champions League preview
Reigning champions Real Madrid travel to the GSP Stadium in Cyprus to play APOEL, where Zinedine Zidane’s side can seal their qualification for the knock-out stages of the Champions League with victory and could go through with a draw if Borussia Dortmund fail to beat Group H leaders Tottenham at the Westfalenstadion.
The Cypriot champions came through the qualifying rounds the hard way and required extra time to see off Romanian outfit Viitorul Constanta to reach the group stages but have been a surprise package in the tournament proper and are in with a chance of snatching the Europa League spot from Dortmund in arguably the trickiest Champions League round robin of 2017-18.
Successive 1-1 draws against the Bundesliga giants were somewhat unexpected and have left the 1996-97 champions and 2012-13 runners-up on the verge of elimination.
APOEL boss Georgios Donis has a few injury problems going into the game, chief among them first-choice keeper Boy Waterman, midfielder Fucundo Bertoglio - who holds the distinction of a single cap and two goals for Argentina - and Bulgaria international defender Zhivko Milanov.
Zinedine Zidane’s side may have fallen 10 points behind Barcelona and six adrift of Valencia in the league but remain on track in Europe despite a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham in the last round of fixtures.
The Real boss has avoided any defeatist talk about his side’s Liga position after the weekend’s draw against Atlético but the Frenchman did note that Madrid are not scoring goals as freely as he would like. In the Champions League at least Cristiano Ronaldo has been knocking them in and is the competition’s top scorer with six, one ahead of Spurs striker Harry Kane, and he was on target with a brace in the reverse fixture.
Usually, a game against opposition as modest as APOEL would lead many to lean towards a feast of net-rippling but the Cypriot side showed against Dortmund that they know how to defend. Madrid can expect Donis’ side to sit back and look to hit on the counter-attack, a tactic that may frustrate Zidane’s side if they don’t get on the score sheet early. That will leave Isco to play the role of lock-picker and he is likely to play behind Ronaldo and Karim Benzema with Zidane’s preferred midfield three of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in support.
The Real boss will be without captain Sergio Ramos after the defender suffered a fractured nose in the Madrid derby and Gareth Bale, who is absent with a muscle problem. First choice keeper Keylor Navas also did not make the squad as he continues his recovery from an adductor issue while Mateo Kovacic, also nearing a first-team return after a knee injury, was also omitted. Under-19s keeper Moha once again makes the squad as deputy to Kiko Casilla.
APOEL vs Real Madrid live online: possible line-ups
APOEL: Nauzet; Roberto Lago, Rueda, Carlao, Vouros; Nuno Morais, Vinicius, Sallai; Zahid, Poté, De Camargo.
Real Madrid: Casilla; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo.
APOEL vs Real Madrid live online: selected betting odds
Real Madrid are overwhelming favourites in the GSP Stadium at 1/6 while the hosts are chalked up at 16/1 to pull off a surprise. A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick is priced at 5/1 and the Portuguese is at 4/11 to score at any time.