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Ronaldo may return for United in Champions League

Darren Ennis | September 15, 2008 13:03 IST

Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo [Images] may return after injury for Manchester United [Images] when the English champions begin their Champions League defence in their opening Group E encounter against Villarreal on Wednesday.

"Ronaldo is training now, he's with the first team. He's come on leaps and bounds and I may take him with us tomorrow, who knows?" manager Alex Ferguson told United's website (www.manutd.com) on Sunday.

United, aiming to become the first club to win consecutive Champions League titles since the elite competition was reformed in 1992, will be without the suspended Paul Scholes and midfielder Michael Carrick, who injured his ankle on Saturday.

In the other Group E match on Wednesday, Scottish champions Celtic are favourites to win their opening home match against Danish Champions League debutants AaB Aalborg.

Liverpool will hope to capitalise on their first league win over United under coach Rafa Benitez when they travel to Olympique Marseille on Tuesday.

"Now we will go to Marseille in a good frame of mind. That was our best performance of the season and we now feel we can go into a Champions League in good heart and spirit," Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez told reporters after Saturday's 2-1 win.

The 2005 Champions League winners have fitness concerns over captain Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.

Gerrard came off the bench on Saturday after a groin operation while Spanish international Torres stayed on the bench after suffering a hamstring injury at the end of last month. Argentina midfielder Mascherano limped off with a calf problem.

Former champions Marseille met Liverpool in the group stage last season, winning 1-0 at Anfield before being thrashed 4-0 at home. Also in Group D, Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven host Athletico Madrid.

CHELSEA RETURN

Chelsea, beaten by United on penalties in this year's Champions League final in Moscow [Images], have a home tie against Girondins Bordeaux and will be buoyed by the return of midfielder Michael Ballack [Images].

"He will play on Tuesday but I do not know whether it will be for 45 minutes, 60 or 70," Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari [Images] said after Saturday's 3-1 win over Manchester City.

The return of the German captain, who has not played since Aug. 24 and missed the start of his country's World Cup qualifying campaign, is a welcome boost for the Londoners who must navigate Group A without injured midfielder Michael Essien.

England's [Images] remaining representatives Arsenal [Images] launch their Group G assault away to Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday with Porto at home to Fenerbahce in the same group.

Barcelona were dealt a blow ahead of their Group C opener at home to Portugal's Sporting on Tuesday when Aleksander Hleb was ruled out for three weeks after spraining his left ankle in his side's 1-1 draw against Racing Santander.

Nine-times champions Real Madrid [Images] have no major injuries ahead of their Group H opener against Belarussian debutants BATE Borisov on Wednesday after scraping a 4-3 win over Numancia.

Italian champions Inter Milan prepared for their Group B trip to Greece's Panathinaikos with a 2-1 win over Catania, while fellow Italians Fiorentina were beaten 2-1 by Napoli ahead of their Group F match at French champions Olympique Lyon.

Werder Bremen are at home to Cypriot first-timers Anorthosis Famagusta elsewhere in Group B, while Bayern Munich -- returning to the competition after last year's absence -- travel to 1986 winners Steaua Bucharest in Wednesday's other Group F game.


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