By Claire Nash
A siege mentality is driving Real Madrid CF on as they continue to fight their way out of a corner. Roberto Carlos believes the 'Galácticos' have already passed a test of character by putting together a five-game unbeaten run.
Results have been solid rather than spectacular, but the Brazilian superstar insists his side are laying foundations for success at home and in the UEFA Champions League. He told uefa.com: "Everyone can see we are playing a lot better now and our matches are much better to watch. The results are not the best as we must score more goals but I'm sure they will come soon and then we should be able to handle our opponents much more effectively."
The dark days of September - when 'player power' was said to be behind José Antonio Camacho's departure - appear to have passed thanks to more convincing form both at home and in Europe, where wins against FC Dynamo Kyiv (1-0) and AS Roma (4-2) followed the 3-0 defeat at Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
'We'll fight for it'
But there is still considerable work for Mariano García Remón's side to do if they want to win their tenth European Champion Clubs' Cup. "If we beat Dynamo Kyiv, it will be a great step towards qualification," said Roberto Carlos. "But the most important game will be against Leverkusen at the Bernabéu. We have to get something positive in the Ukraine and then follow up against Leverkusen.
We want to win the trophy for the tenth time and we'll fight for it."
The Brazilian full-back continued: "We are playing to our strengths of attacking football and the supporters appreciate that. We are very strong going forward but our defence is stronger. The balance is good right now. When José Antonio Camacho left the team it was a difficult moment for all of us. The fans believed the players were guilty and it was hard to play well with the pressure of angry supporters on our backs."
One of the most influential figures in Madrid's resurgence has been England striker Michael Owen. The former Liverpool FC star has been dubbed the 'Golden Boy' after notching four goals in four games and Roberto Carlos said: 'His goal against Valencia [CF] in the Primera División was fantastic - the goal of a Golden Ball-winning player. He knows perfectly well his own value and his qualities and if he knows this, then he will be a success."
There was widespread speculation Owen would return to Liverpool next summer after struggling to secure a regular starting slot. But he has benefited from a rejigged Madrid lineup - in part due to David Beckham's injury-forced absence from midfield - and has now stolen his England team-mate's nickname as well. Owen, Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo and Ronaldo are described as 'the golden balls' as all have won either the Ballon d'Or trophy or the World Footballer of the Year awards, or both.
"I have always said that if a player is at Madrid, it is because he is the best," Roberto Carlos explained. "
Michael is young and he has all the ingredients for success here. People were expecting him to be a success immediately but you can't ask for success in two months when you are settling in a different country. Michael is only human but he has adapted quickly, as his goals have shown."
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