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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Zidane bemoans Real Madrid's lack of strikers but delighted to welcome back Ronaldo

Benzema's injury and Morata's departure to Chelsea means the reigning European and Spanish champions are thin on centre-forward options. 

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has underlined the importance of welcoming back Cristiano Ronaldo for the holders' Uefa Champions League opener against APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday.

Ronaldo, 32, has been suspended for Madrid's last four games after pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup and has been badly missed as the Primera Liga champions have been held at home by Valencia and Levante in their last two outings.

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"He doesn't just bring goals," Zidane said on Tuesday. "He is an important player in the squad, he is a leader. He always wants to win and he transmits that to the rest. Every time he is with us, I as a coach and the rest of the players are happy."

Ronaldo's absence has been felt even more acutely due to Madrid's surprising shortage of striking options. Madrid failed to replace Alvaro Morata following his £70 million (Dh340.75m) switch to Chelsea as they missed out to Paris Saint-Germain for French teenager Kylian Mbappe.

Mariano Diaz has also enjoyed a stunning start in France after being allowed to leave for Lyon.

And with Karim Benzema sidelined for a month, 20-year-old Borja Mayoral is the only natural centre-forward available to Zidane.

"When you look at the players we had like Morata and Mariano and you look now and there is only Mayoral, you could think we lack a No 9," Zidane said. "I would have liked Morata to stay, but you have to understand that he wanted to leave to play more and we respect that."

Zidane will also be able to recall Keylor Navas, Raphael Varane, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Isco and Gareth Bale after they were all rested from the start against Levante at the weekend.

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