Cristiano Ronaldo to start vs. U.S.

ByJeff Carlisle ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MANAUS, Brazil -- Cristiano Ronaldo will start against the U.S. on Sunday, but Portugal manager Paulo Bento said he might have to make as many as five changes to his starting lineup from the team that lost 4-0 to Germany.

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Portugal defender Pepe is suspended after being red carded in the opening match, and forward Hugo Almeida, defender Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Rui Patricio have all been ruled out through injury. But Bento added he might be forced to make another alteration to his lineup.

"At the moment, we have four players who will not be playing [on Sunday]," said Bento at his prematch news conference. "Secondly, there is a possibility of having another absence, and I'm talking about Bruno [Alves], who will not train today. We will only decide today if he will play."

Bento added that if Alves were unable to play, he would be replaced by Luis Neto. The Portugal boss also said he is certain about who else will be in the starting lineup.

"The players know who will be playing, they know what they have to do, and they know what the opponent does," Bento said.

One of those starters will be Ronaldo, who has been battling knee and thigh injuries for the last month, and whose physical condition has been the subject of much speculation. But teammate Raul Meireles indicated he expects to see the reigning Ballon d'Or winner by his side.

"Cristiano played the last game," Meireles said. "He trains every day with all of us. Cristiano is fit to play, that's all I can say."

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