Real Madrid are in confident mood ahead of ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League first knockout round first leg with Liverpool, according to the home team’s coach Juande Ramos.
The clubs share 14 European Champion Clubs’ Cups between them as well as 49 domestic titles, and there has been much talk of mutual respect in the build-up to the game. alk of mutual respect has been staple fare, but Madrid look to have momentum on their s
“I wouldn’t say we’re euphoric but we’re optimistic because things have been going well,” said Ramos. “Maybe some fans are euphoric but the attitude of the players is perfect.”
In turmoil when the draw was made on 19 December, Madrid now believe they can rein in Liga leaders Barcelona having already reduced the gap from 12 points to seven. The Spanish titleholders are desperate for their first Champions League quarter-final appearance since 2004.
“That’s important for the club,” explained Ramos. “It’s going to be very close, between two sides at a similar level. It will be decided by the small details and it’s not going to be easy given we face a historic team like Liverpool.”
Ramos warned Liverpool they can expect a warm reception in the sPanish capital.
“The Bernabéu has no reason to envy Anfield for atmosphere,” he said. “We need the fans to help us get going and we know they’ll be there.”
In-form winger Arjen Robben should be available after recovering from a hip injury and Ramos can similarly call upon fit-again midfielders Guti and Wesley Sneijder, with the latter competing with Marcelo for a place on the left.
For Liverpool, Steven Gerrard’s hamstring injury continues to provide the major selection concern.
“We’ll decide after training, but the important thing is whether he can give us anything on the pitch,” said manager Rafael Benítez.
Should Gerrard play, it would prove a huge boost to a team struggling for inspiration. Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Manchester City was the club’s eighth in 13 Premier League outings and left them seven points behind Manchester United.
Despite that form, Liverpool will be looking to match the outcome of their only other competitive meeting with Madrid – the 1981 European Cup final in Paris.
“You’re talking about two of the biggest sides in Europe with lots of Champions Leagues between them,” explained Benítez. “Big teams with big players.”
Having spent a lengthy period as a player and coach in Madrid’s youth and reserve set-up, the 48-year-old is well placed to make that judgement.
“I have good memories here,” he added.