Real keen to start Champions League season with a win
Nine-time champion Real Madrid was knocked out by eventual runner-up Arsenal in last season's second stage.Updated: Sep 12, 2006 10:45 IST
Last year, Real Madrid started its Champions League campaign with a 3-0 loss to French club Lyon. The two sides meet again Wednesday in the competition's opening round. Nine-time champion Real Madrid was knocked out by eventual runner-up Arsenal in last season's second stage. Lyon also was eliminated in round two, by PSV Eindhoven.
Madrid now has Arsenal midfielder Jose Antonio Reyes on its squad, and he made his debut on Sunday in a 4-1 win over Levante _ a match in which new striker Ruud van Nistelrooy scored a hat trick. "We play our first Champions League match on Wednesday, and ... (Levante) served as a confidence boost heading into that game," van Nistelrooy said. "It is a very important match for us." They were van Nistelrooy's first goals for the club since moving from Manchester United in the offseason. Madrid will be without Michel Salgado and Ronaldo for the Lyon match because of knee injuries.
Madrid appointed Fabio Capello as coach in a bid to win its first silverware since 2003. Capello, who won the league with Madrid in 1997, has strengthened the team with the acquisitions of Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson from Juventus, and Lyon's Mahamadou Diarra. Capello wants greater concentration on Wednesday after complaining his side slacked off after going up 2-0 up over Levante. "We didn't react to the ball and we didn't make long passes or feed the attack," Capello said. "We need to be faster and open up the field more."
Lyon, the five-time defending champion in the French league, warmed up for the Madrid match with a 2-0 win over Troyes. Arsenal also plays on Wednesday, traveling to Hamburg. The Gunners have had their worst start ever in the English Premier League, drawing two and losing one.
"We need to believe in ourselves," Arsenal midfielder Gilberto said. "We have a great team and want to turn the situation around. It is not a situation we are comfortable with because we are used to winning games, to be going for the title."
Also Wednesday, Manchester United hosts Scotland's Celtic, which will be a special match for managers Alex Ferguson and Gordon Strachan.
Ferguson coached Strachan at Scottish club Aberdeen _ when it won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983 _ and later at Manchester United.
United welcomes back Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, who have served three-match domestic bans, but is without Cristiano Ronaldo, who is suspended.
Ferguson isn't keen on the "Battle of Britain" tag, or reminders that he played for Celtic's crosstown rival Rangers. "I have to get rid of the Celtic-United, Scotland-England thing," Ferguson said. "If we go down that road, it'll make it harder for ourselves. I'm going to rely on the quality and experience we've got in European games, particularly at Old Trafford."
In other matches, it's Dynamo Kiev vs. Steaua Bucharest, Copenhagen vs. Benfica, Porto vs. CSKA Moscow and Anderlecht vs. Lille.
Six-time champion AC Milan opens with a visit from Greek club AEK Athens. The Champions League is one competition where Milan starts on a level playing field _ the club was docked eight points at the start of the Serie A season as punishment in the match-fixing scandal.
Filippo Inzaghi and new signing Ricardo Oliveira scored for Milan in a 2-1 win over Lazio on Sunday. Milan midfielder Serginho hopes the win augured well for Wednesday.
"AEK are a proud team and they are coming to Milan hoping to win," Serginho said. "We must face this game with our abilities and be confident of our strength."
First Published: Sep 12, 2006 10:45 IST