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Real Madrid CF and AFC Ajax renew acquaintances in the UEFA Champions League group stage for a third successive season, with Merengues coach José Mourinho expecting a very different proposition from the team beaten 4-0 in Amsterdam in 2010/11 and 3-0 last year. The Portuguese's Ajax counterpart Frank de Boer is hoping collective will can drag his side past the Spanish champions.
Coach Frank de Boer
. Last year, as now, we had a good team and we had opportunities at the Bernabéu and here. If we play as a team we can make it difficult for any opponent.
You always hope that you progress through the years and this is the third successive season we have met Madrid – let's hope that this time we can get on the right side of the scoreline
I'm convinced that the Champions League is very important for Madrid. Last year they won the Liga title and this time they want to win the Champions League. Top players are always at their best when they are needed most, and Madrid have a lot of them. That said, I think this is a good time for Ajax to face Real Madrid as they have had difficulties in recent matches.
We have to be very careful when in possession. Against Twente [on Saturday] we handled it well but Madrid are even more effective on the break – as we saw last year in Madrid with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Saturday: Ajax 1–0 FC Twente (Eriksen 68)
Vermeer; Van Rhijn, Alderweireld, Moisander, Blind; De Jong, Poulsen, Eriksen; Sana, Babel (Sporkslede 87), Boerrigter (Sulejmani 78).
• Champions Ajax are 21 matches unbeaten in the Eredivisie – winning 18 and losing three – since a 2-0 defeat by FC Utrecht on 5 February. Twente had not previously dropped a point this season.
Miralem Sulejmani tore a right ankle ligament during training on Sunday and was subsequently ruled out for several weeks. Thulani Serero is not expected to return until next year because of a groin problem, with Nicolai Boilesen (hamstring), Eyong Enoh (knee) and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (shoulder) also long-term absentees.
Coach José Mourinho
I think Ajax will present us with a completely different match compared with earlier seasons. They have worked with Frank [de Boer] for another season and they are now more used to the level of the Champions League. I think they can sometimes lose some of the Ajax qualities that can make them compete at another level. [Christian] Poulsen, for example, isn't really a player for the Ajax philosophy, but he fits into what Frank is trying to do in the Champions League.
I prefer to look at Ajax as a team, they're much more important as a team than as individuals. We will try to be prepared to face their team. They know they're in the group considered by everyone as the toughest one because you have four champions from four football countries, which is unique.
I think there's enough motivation and if you ask my players I'm sure they will all say they are looking forward to playing this match.
I have the ambition to win – it has always been like that in my career and always will be. I will prepare as always – as if it is my last match.
Sunday: Madrid 5-1 RC Deportivo La Coruña (Ronaldo 23pen 44 84pen, Di María 38, Pepe 66; Riki 16)
Casillas; Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Khedira, Modrić (Alonso 58); Di María, Özil (Kaká 46), Cristiano Ronaldo; Higuaín (Benzema 65).
• Karim Benzema made his 100th Liga appearance for Madrid, while Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally to five goals in his last three games.
Michael Essien returns to the squad after missing out on Sunday with a foot injury sustained in a friendly against CD Millonarios last week.
Under Mourinho, the Merengues have an away record of W7 D4 L1 in the UEFA Champions League. Madrid's record on Dutch soil is W4 D4 L4.
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