By Marcus Christenson
Even though he played in the final of the 1996 UEFA European Championship, Juventus FC midfield player Pavel Nedved has described Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final return against Real Madrid FC as "the most important game" of his life.
Desperate for Manchester
The Turin side came away with a respectable 2-1 defeat from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabéu last week and Nedved is now desperate for his team to eliminate the holders to reach the final in Manchester on 28 May. Nedved said: "It is a dream of mine to win the Champions League and we are really close now. We could go through with a 1-0 win but it doesn't feel like a 1-0 game to me. I think there will be more goals and more chances than there were in the first leg."
In Zidane's footsteps
For Nedved, the double-header against Madrid is of enormous magnitude. The Czech international arrived in Turin in the summer of 2001, replacing a certain Zinedine Zidane, who will line up for the Merengues at the Delle Alpi. Nedved has had to fight hard to win over the hearts of the Bianconeri fans - 'More hair, less talent,' was the supporters' initial verdict when Nedved arrived from S.S. Lazio two years ago - but the playmaker has proved that he has other qualities that make him just as important for the team.
On the eve of the game, however, the 30-year-old chose not to compare himself to Zidane, but to praise the virtues of the Frenchman. He said: "I have always said that Zizou is from another planet and he represents everything that is beautiful about football."
Nedved, who scored in the away leg as Juventus eliminated FC Barcelona in the quarter-finals, will start the game against Madrid behind strikers David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero. "I normally start from the centre and then go left or right, wherever my instinct takes me," he said. "I have never beaten Real before and I hope that it will happen on Wednesday night. They are a great side but we are not afraid of them.
In football you can't be afraid of anyone."
Juventus won their 27th league title last weekend and can now concentrate fully on their European adventure. Madrid, meanwhile, have fallen to third in the Primera División and are without Claude Makelele and possibly Ronaldo for the game. Nedved, though, refuses to read too deeply into Madrid's pre-match injury worries. "You never know who is going to play until the teams line up and I don't know whether Real will spring one or two surprises on us," he said. "In the end it doesn't matter, however, as they have such a big squad with so many good players."
'Pain no problem'
Nedved, meanwhile, has got problems of his own after taking a knock on his right knee against AC Perugia. Although he only played for half an hour, there is simply no way the man the Juve fans call 'Braveheart' will miss out on Wednesday night. He added: "I have felt some pain but it is not a big problem. And when there is a game like the one against Real you can easily forget about things like that."
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