FC Zurich were handed a dream opening fixture in their Champions League group-stage debut when big-spending Real Madrid were drawn to kick off the Group C campaign.
Zurich coach Bernard Challandes acknowledged that there is a temptation that some of his players may be overawed by the prospect of facing the likes of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul.
“I know that last season some of my players talked to the Milan players at half-time to arrange to get their shirts at the end of the game,” said Challandes. “I can’t blame a player for wanting Raul or Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt; that shows that he has a good attitude towards football.
“It’s fantastic to be here, we want to enjoy it, but that cannot be enough. We also want to put on a show, be proud and fight like mad; we want to be able to say that we deserve to be here. Michel Platini was right to give smaller teams a chance to play in the Champions League and if we are to justify that decision, we must do something special.
Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, who relegated world record signing, Cristiano Ronaldo, to the bench for Saturday’s visit to Espanyol, says that he has no first choice starting eleven.
“There is no regular team in my view,” said the former Villarreal coach. “I have 23 players who must play regularly, and I ask the maximum of each of them. It’s important to keep everyone motivated, to leave no one behind.
“The UEFA Champions League attracts a lot of interest and we’ll do our best to perform well. This year the final is in Madrid. It is of course a big responsibility for us, and we do want to win the trophy at home.
“It will be hard, we have many good opponents, but we will do our best. We have respect for the others. I have seen three or four Zürich games; they are a team that tries to play attacking football. They are a big team, with good strikers; tomorrow they will play with their qualities and we will do the same.
Pellegrini will be looking to improve on the club’s poor record in European in recent years. Although they have progressed from the group stages in each of the past 13 seasons, they have been eliminated in the first knockout round for five successive seasons.