Real Madrid have suffered opening-night defeats in this competition in three of the last four seasons, yet should a loss tonight against BATE Borisov would represent among the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament.
Speaking on the eve of the Group H fixture, coach Bernd Schuster said: “It is of vital importance that we win and we cannot afford any slip-ups. Our intentions are clear – the three points on offer must be ours and we have to take them by whatever means possible. We’ve done our homework on BATE in order not to suffer any surprises on the night.”
“We have to be more focused and aggressive in trying to deal with dead-ball situations,” warned Schuster after seeing his side concede three goals to Numanci at the weekend. “A lot of sides we play against try to exploit this, because maybe they don’t have the quality to beat us in another way. We may see something similar on Wednesday because BATE are a team who are strong at set-pieces.”
Defensive security should be helped by the return from injury of Sergio Ramos, but Wesley Sneijder is still recovering from a knee injury while Pepe and Rubén de la Red are suspended.
“Motivating the players to compete in the Champions League is not a problem because it is an event that motivates everybody – it is a beautiful competition,” added the German. “We are among the four representatives of Spanish football and I think all of us are going to do well, though I feel we’ll go the furthest.”
Meanwhile, visiting coach Viktor Goncharenko spoke of the pleasure he and his players felt at competing among the élite for the first time.
“It’s the biggest achievement of our lives,” he said. “It’s incredible to be in this group. It is not only in Borisov where the atmosphere is being felt but in all of Belarus. We can feel the hopes and expectations of the population and it is a privilege to have the support of the whole country.”
“Madrid have a great team who control the ball all over the pitch,” he added. “All of their attackers are brilliant: Higuaín, van Nistelrooy, Robben. They have a lot of players at a much higher level than ours.”
BATE will be without suspended strikers Gennadi Bliznyuk and Vitali Rodionov.