Sergio Ramos is under no illusions about the difficulty facing his side as they prepare for their UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against an FC Bayern München team he regards as "world class". The Real Madrid CF defender urged the Merengues not to lose focus, saying: "We must remember what we are playing for tomorrow."
With Madrid still in the running for two major trophies this term, much of the talk in Spain of late has been focused on José Mourinho's side's weekend encounter with FC Barcelona – a fixture that could go a long way to determing the destination of the Liga title. Yet speaking in Monday's press conference in Munich, Ramos was quick to remind journalists of the importance of the last-four meeting with Bayern.
"We must remember what we are playing for tomorrow," said the 26-year-old. "
We must not think about Barcelona or the Spanish title. We are playing in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern München. We are playing against a world-class team here."
Though Madrid have claimed the European Champion Clubs' Cup a record nine times, the furthest Ramos' participation extends to is this stage last season. On that occasion the Whites' colours were lowered by Barça, so the Spain defender is in no mood to allow anything to detract him from helping his side edge closer to a possible tenth European crown.
"We have a lot of respect for Bayern but our objective is to reach the final," said Ramos. "It will be a difficult game tomorrow, but there are no easy games these days – especially not in a Champions League semi-final. We will have to be very focused. They have a lot of quality in their team with players like [Arjen] Robben or [Mario] Gomez who can make the difference."
In addition to Bayern's expensive signings, Ramos also recognises that the Bundesliga giants have a healthy quota of prodigious youngsters coming through their ranks, players who are having an effect on both the domestic and international stage. "Bayern have been doing a great job with their youth academy for decades now," he said. "They have a very strong influence not only on German football and the Bundesliga, but also on the German national team."
Madrid, however, also have players of influence and a coach whose pedigree in the competition is second only to legendary Liverpool FC manager Bob Paisley. Indeed, the Portuguese tactician is looking to become the first trainer to win the competition with three different clubs. "Mourinho is a top coach," added Ramos.
"We're happy to have him at Madrid. He has done so many new things; he has changed a lot of things. Every player in the team has become better over the last two years. Our daily work with him is very good and I am hopeful of a good result tomorrow, so we can fly back to Madrid with a good feeling."
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