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Nov 8, 2012

Ronaldo set to take striking role

Cristiano Ronaldo could be pressed into service an emergency centre-forward for Real Madrid for Sunday's La Liga trip to Levante, as first choice strikers Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain recover from muscle injuries picked up this week.

• Blog: Possible No.9s to ease crisis

Higuain suffered a thigh muscle problem early and was withdrawn at half-time in Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League Group D draw with Borussia Dortmund at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, while Benzema hurt an adductor muscle in training the day before that game. Both were expected to continue with their individual recovery programmes on Thursday as Madrid returned to training, behind closed doors, at their Valdebebas facility.

Barring an unexpectedly quick recovery from Higuain or Benzema - Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said after the Dortmund game that he thought neither would be available - winger Jose Callejon should come into the starting line-up for Sunday's game. Callejon impressed with his energy and strong running when he replaced Higuain against Dortmund, but is less suited to a central role than Ronaldo. Youth product Alvaro Morata, 20, is another option, but will likely be on the bench.

Ronaldo has played as a central striker before, but not always enjoyed the experience. Mourinho tried him there in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona in April 2011; a game the Catalans won 2-0 after Pepe was controversially sent off for a challenge on Dani Alves.

The Portuguese attacker told reporters in the mixed zone after that game that he had not been comfortable playing that position, saying: "I do not like playing there, but I must adapt to whatever they ask of me."

Another change in Real's starting line-up for the clash at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, where Mourinho's side lost 1-0 last season, could see utility man Fabio Coentrao return as he came through training after almost two months out with a groin injury.

Given Madrid's defensive struggles against the Bundesliga champions, Coentrao could well come into Real's starting line-up at left-back, allowing Alvaro Arbeloa to move to his more favoured right-sided defensive position and Sergio Ramos to return to centre-half alongside Pepe.

More positive news for Madrid fans is that Levante's players will have much less time to recover from their knocks, as Juan Ignacio Martinez's side are in Europa League action away at FC Twente on Thursday evening.

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