Real favorites for Euro title hat-trick

Sports | 13 Sep 2017

Such is Real Madrid's confidence in creating more Champions League history that while others have spent hundreds of millions trying to catch up, the back-to- back European champions were happy to cash in.

Real made a profit of over 75 million euros (HK$699.23 million) in the transfer market thanks to the departures of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Danilo. Yet they remain very much the side to beat as the Champions League returns.

"We are the champions so everyone faces us with extra motivation," warned former Real striker Emilio Butragueno, now the club's director of institutional relations.

Madrid coped with that challenge admirably last season, dismissing Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus in the latter stages.

Their quest to become the first side since Bayern in the mid-70s to win three in a row starts with a more modest test in the form of APOEL Nicosia at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow (HK time). Tougher tasks lie in wait in the form of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham in Group H.

Dortmund even beat Madrid to top spot in the group stage last season, but Real have mastered the art of saving their best for the knockout stages.

"We have a stupendous squad but this is a competition that takes you to the limit in all aspects," said Butragueno. "You can have a big squad with all the resources, but when the moment of truth arrives you need to not have injuries, for your players to be in optimum form and have luck. There are so many factors."

Real will be bolstered by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is serving a five-game domestic ban.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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