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By Rafa García
FC Lokomotiv Moskva will be looking to emulate AC Milan when they travel to the Santiago Bernabéu tonight to face UEFA Champions League holders Real Madrid CF.
Del Bosque 'worried'
But while Milan overcame Madrid 1-0 in their Group C opener two weeks ago at the San Siro, Lokomotiv know that beating them at the Bernabéu will be another matter entirely. Nevertheless, it is a measure of the uncertainty surrounding the so-called Casa Blanca (or 'white house') this season that coach Vicente Del Bosque has admitted he is "worried" about facing the new Russian champions.
This team is strong, and very dangerous on the counterattack," said the man who has led Madrid to two of their nine European crowns. "Lokomotiv eliminated good teams in the first group stage, so we must be careful and aware that we are playing against a very competitive rival."
Back on track
One plus for Del Bosque is that although Madrid have fallen short of their own high standards this term, they do at least approach the tie in decent form. Last Tuesday they secured a third European/South American Cup by beating Club Olimpia of Paraguay 2-0, and on Sunday they crushed RCD Mallorca 5-1 in the Primera División - results which have banished some of the self-doubt engendered by a shocking run of one win in ten games.
Lokomotiv, who began the second group stage with a 2-1 home defeat by BV Borussia Dortmund, are certainly well prepared for Wednesday's game, having spent ten days training in Marbella. A 2-0 friendly victory over FC Dynamo Kyiv has also left Lokomotiv coach Yuri Semin confident that his side can gain something from their Spanish sojourn.
No comfort in history
History does not provide any comforting precedents for the Russians, who have lost on their three previous trips to Spain without scoring, including a 4-0 reverse against Madrid last season. However, the team news is more positive, with the visitors at full strength save for the absence of banned defender Dmitri Sennikov.
Madrid centre-back Iván Helguera is also missing through suspension and, despite registering against Olimpia last week, forward Guti is expected to be on the bench with Ronaldo, who has scored three goals in two games, starting up front. "Ronaldo is in good shape and I must take advantage of the opportunities I get," Guti admitted. "
I must fight for my place."
The loss to Milan has put pressure on Madrid to get off the mark, and Del Bosque is aware that another slip could mean the unthinkable and leave his side's quarter-final prospects at risk. "We have to obtain the three points," he said. "Our supporters will help us to win. This is a very important match."
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