Ronaldo enjoyed a longer vacation than his Real Madridteammates to fully recover from Portugal’s participation in the Confederations Cup in June. He missed his club’s preseason tour, including a friendly against Barcelona in Miami that the Catalan club won 3-2.
Ronaldo returned to training at the start of August, but he only played the final 10 minutes of Madrid’s 2-1 win over former club Manchester United in the European Super Cup on Tuesday.
That means Ronaldo should be back in Madrid’s starting lineup on Sunday, when it visits Barcelona’s Camp Nou in the opening leg of the Spanish Super Cup. The second leg will be at the Santiago Bernabeu on August 16.
One of the keys to Madrid’s Champions League and Spanish league titles last season was the decision by coach Zinedine Zidane to limit Ronaldo’s minutes during the long campaign.
By giving him some games off, the 32-year-old Ronaldo arrived in peak form to the final stretch and led Madrid to the double. Ronaldo scored twice in the 4-1 win over Juventus in the European Cup final and netted in the final round of the Spanish league to secure the title by beating Malaga 2-0.
Madrid now takes aim at a second trophy to kick off the new campaign before starting its defense of the Spanish league crown the following weekend.
“What we want to do is to keep this winning streak alive,” Zidane said after Madrid beat United. “This is going to be a difficult year because already on Sunday we have a complicated match.”
Madrid will be without midfielder Luka Modric, who will serve a one-game suspension dating back to the 2014 Spanish Super Cup.
Barcelona, which is in the Super Cup as the reigning Copa del Rey winner, will play its second match since the stunning departure of Neymar after Paris Saint-Germain paid a record 222 million euros ($262 million) to trigger the release clause in his contract.
Barcelona played its first match without Neymar on Monday in a friendly against Brazilian side Chapecoense. That match, however, was more about paying homage to the victims of the plane crash that decimated Chapecoense last year than warming up for Madrid.
The only relevance that Barcelona’s easy 5-0 win over Chapecoense could have was the good performance by Gerard Deulofeu, who filled in for Neymar. Deulofeu now has a chance to earn his place in Barcelona’s starting 11 under new coach Ernesto Valverde.
With Neymar gone, Barcelona will look to Lionel Messi to repeat his outstanding performance from the last competitive “clasico” played against Madrid in April. Barcelona couldn’t count on a suspended Neymar for that match, but Messi scored twice, including a dramatic last-gasp goal, to seal a memorable 3-2 win.
Valverde replaced manager Luis Enrique this summer after four noteworthy seasons in charge of Athletic Bilbao. The former Barcelona player will now coach his first competitive match for the club against its fiercest rival.
“I think we have had a good preseason, but the real thing begins Sunday,” Valverde said this week. “It’s an important title and I think that we are prepared.”