Real Madrid coach is upbeat about his team’s chances
Real Madrid are in perfect shape to deal a blow to compatriot Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool side in the Champions League on Wednesday, coach Juande Ramos said.
Ramos was halfway through his disappointing spell at Tottenham Hotspur the last time he took on the Liverpool boss on the final day of the 2007-08 Premier League season when Spurs lost 2-0 at White Hart Lane.
Now, Benitez brings his side to the Bernabeu for the last-16, first leg to face a Real side on a run of nine Primera Liga wins in a row while Liverpool’s domestic title challenge faded further on Sunday with another disappointing draw.
Ramos noted in an interview with Monday’s Marca newspaper that the two clubs’ fortunes have been reversed since December’s draw for the knockout phase.
“Back then Liverpool were leading the standings and playing at an extremely high level but now they have lost the top spot and their form has dropped off a little,” Ramos said.
“With Real Madrid it’s the opposite. We have retrenched and are in perfect shape for this knockout tie.”
Real have scored 22 goals in those nine victories, including Saturday’s 6-1 hammering of Real Betis, and conceded just two and Ramos said the players are raring to go.
“The team is massively fired up and the players are chomping at the bit for the match to come around,” he told Marca. “We have been working for a little more than two months to get the team in shape. “The players have improved a great deal and their physical and mental state is perfect.”
Who’ll conquer the Bridge?
Guus Hiddink gets the chance to measure himself against one of his most popular predecessors as Chelsea coach when his new team takes on Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Claudio Ranieri failed to win a trophy in his four-year stint with the club and was ridiculed as The Tinkerman by the British press for constantly switching his lineup, but his humility amid adversity endeared him to fans, who protested his firing in 2004.
It could be a strange evening for Hiddink, who has benefited from a comparison with the ultimately unloved Luiz Felipe Scolari, as some of his longer-serving players look forward to seeing Ranieri on his first return to Stamford Bridge.
Ranieri signed Lampard in 2001 for what was widely seen as an exorbitant 11 million pounds, but the England midfielder has gone on to become one of the club's all-time greats.