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Real Madrid v Ajax: Preview
Published : 15 Sep 2010 14:03:37
The holy grail of winning a record 10th European Cup title begins anew for Real Madrid on Tuesday night when the underachieving Spanish giants welcome Ajax to the Bernabeu in their opening Group G game.
Madrid have conquered Europe more times than any other side but their last success came in 2002 and they have barely made a splash in this competition since then.Last season was especially disappointing as, after spending over 250million euros on new talent in the summer, they missed out on a dream final at their Bernabeu home after being dumped out at the last-16 stage for the sixth successive year, French side Lyon their tormentors on that occasion.
Madrid have once again splashed the cash on reinforcements this summer, with perhaps the most significant one coming in the dugout with the hugely successful Jose Mourinho taking charge of the underperforming Spanish giants.Mourinho became only the third coach to win the competition with two different teams after leading Inter Milan to glory last season and Madrid are looking to him not only to end the club's poor Champions League form, but also end a two-year barren spell without a trophy.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who was part of Madrid's huge summer outlay 12 months ago when he joined for a world-record £80million from Manchester United, is optimistic his fellow Portuguese can bring the glory days back to the capital club.
"I have the feeling that we are going to win something this year. I don't want to go two seasons without achieving anything, because I have ambition. We are going to improve," Ronaldo said.
Whether that anticipated success comes in the Champions League remains to be seen, but that is a competition Madrid are desperate to do well in after years of mediocrity.Ronaldo added: "Every year there is talk about the Champions League. We must have ambition to win it, but we shouldn't put ourselves under pressure. At times it's not possible to win every title.
"We need to take it step by step, think only about the group phase. The team is in construction and the coach is new."
Ajax will be doing their best to ensure Madrid do not get off to a winning start, however.With four European Cup titles to their name, the Dutch side also have an impressive record in the competition but they have not featured since the 2005/06 season.
The bad news for coach Martin Jol and his team is that they will not be able to call on the prolific Luis Suarez for Tuesday's match.The Uruguay international has scored 80 goals in 100 Eredivisie appearances, including both strikes in Saturday's 2-0 win over Willem II, but he will be suspended for the trip to the Spanish capital, along with defender Jan Vertonghen.
"It hurts a lot not to be able to play in the Bernabeu. I found out that the first game was there and I couldn't believe it. It's incredibly bad luck," he said in Marca.
"I will save the goals for the return game in Amsterdam."
Ajax, who have won four of their previous six meetings with Madrid and only lost once, go into the match in second spot in the Eredivisie standings having picked up 13 points from five games.On top of that they have also played four Champions League qualifying games, meaning they are battle-hardened compared to Madrid, who have played just two Primera Division games - winning one and drawing one.
Mourinho said following Saturday's 1-0 home win over Osasuna, which saw the Bernabeu fans far from impressed with their side's performance in the first half: "Ajax have already played four matches in the Champions League and 10 official games and they will be in a position that we aren't.
"But we are favourites and we have to win because it's important to start the Champions League well."