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Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo. (Antonio Calanni/AP)
MONACO — Missing out on the Champions League title in his first season at Juventus still pains Cristiano Ronaldo.
Had it not been for the quarterfinal loss to Ajax last season, Ronaldo might not have been leaving Thursday’s UEFA group stage draw and awards ceremony empty-handed. So the three-time UEFA player of the year has a renewed hunger heading into the group stage, where Juventus was paired with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.
It is a swift reunion with Atletico after their round-of-16 meeting last season, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-leg hat trick overturned a 2-0 deficit to send the Italian champions through before they fell to Ajax.
“It’s the hardest competition there is to win,” said Ronaldo, who lifted the European Cup once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid. “I’m really up for it.”
But as Ronaldo observed: “The favourite doesn’t always win. Look at Barcelona letting in four at Anfield. Everyone thought we would beat Ajax and we didn’t. The same happened to Madrid.”
Ajax’s astonishing run to the semifinals saw the Dutch side
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