Real Madrid CF's poor form so far this season makes it hard to imagine them as genuine contenders to win a record tenth European crown this year - but striker Fernando Morientes believes their undoubted individual class will shine through in the end.
The beleaguered Spanish giants tackle Group B leaders FC Dynamo Kyiv at the Santiago Bernabéu tonight in desperate need of a win to generate some momentum in Europe, but Morientes claims it is far too early to write off Madrid's UEFA Champions League challenge.
"Dynamo have won their first two matches but I don't think they are the strongest team in Group B," he told uefa.com. "There are a lot of matches left to play and only at the end will we know who is really the strongest. If we are talking about players, you have to say that Real Madrid are the best in this group.
"We have scored only five goals in our last seven league games and that is not normal for Madrid," Morientes continued. "But we have too much quality in our squad for that type of record to continue. Perhaps above all else, our luck needs to change.
We work our hardest in every game to win and to play great football but so far it has not gone to plan. I don't know why."
In contrast to Madrid's mixed fortunes, Dynamo have made an impressive start to their Champions League challenge. Two late goals from Florin Cernat gave the Ukrainian side a superb 4-2 win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 2, which was the perfect follow-up to their well-documented award of a 3-0 forfeit victory against AS Roma.
The confidence that has been built up by Jozsef Sabo's side is a concern for Madrid, according to Morientes. "They are particularly dangerous at this moment because they come to Spain full of confidence after two good wins," he admitted. "As a squad, their belief will have grown from the start they have made. Also, like all the eastern European teams, Dynamo are strong and very good at fighting to win each match."
Morientes has failed to start a single game for Madrid this season, despite the 28-year-old Spanish international ending last season as the Champions League's top scorer while on loan at beaten finalists AS Monaco FC. But, despite the arrival of Michael Owen to add further competition, the forward is happy to fight for his place.
"At the moment I am suffering because I am not being picked to play but I believe it will only be a temporary setback," he said. "I came back from my loan at Monaco prepared to accept the good and the bad, so I am not complaining too much. I returned to play once again for Real Madrid and I know it will happen. Of course, I would prefer to be starting every match but I think that my work ethic and my ability will ensure that I get plenty of opportunities this season.
"I am not thinking about going out on loan again," he added. "Last year was a successful time for me but I have enough faith and trust in my own ability to know that I can help Real Madrid achieve things this season. It's an important year for me and I see it being at this club."
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