Can Real Madrid win the Champions League for a third season in a row?

Lisbon, Milan, Cardiff… Kiev? Real Madrid have won the Champions League three times in the past four seasons and in 2016-17 became the first team to retain the trophy since the competition changed format in 1992-93.

So can they do it again? Zinedine Zidane’s side start the defence of their title at home to APOEL on Wednesday night in a tough group that also features Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur.

Nevertheless, Los Blancos will be expected to come through the sector with few problems and they are favourites to go all the way once again after winning a Liga and Champions League double last season.

The one weakness in their tremendously strong squad is the lack of a striker to provide back-up to Karim Benzema, with both Alvaro Morata and Mariano sold in the summer and the France forward now injured.

Back-to-back draws against Valencia and Levante in the Primera Division have frustrated fans, but Cristiano Ronaldo is available on Wednesday after missing the last four fixtures due to a domestic ban and Madrid will be expected to brush aside APOEL.

Real won the very first five European Cups, between 1956 and 1960, with Ajax (1971-73) and Bayern Munich (1974-76) the only others to have triumphed three times in a row in Europe’s premier club competition.

In this era of superclubs, Madrid boast probably the best squad in the Champions League this time around (even without another striker signed in the summer) and they will have a great chance to be the first to win three straight titles in the modern era as they seek what would be a 13th European Cup crown.

In a competition that so often seems to bring out the best in them, don’t bet against it.

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