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Real Madrid CF may have already qualified for the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League but defender Christoph Metzelder believes there is still much to play for when the Spanish champions host FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
Just hours before the German international took his seat in front of the press to discuss Wednesday's final Group H fixture at the Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid had sacked coach Bernd Schuster and hired Juande Ramos. The epitome of calm amid the ensuing media frenzy, Metzelder said that the onus was now on him and his team-mates to change the club's on-field fortunes. "Despite this change, the players are obliged to improve as quickly as possible; it's up to us now. This is a game in which we can lift ourselves. We want to show the fans we have much more quality than we have been showing lately."
'Chance to bounce back'
An opportunity to qualify as group winners still exists for the nine-time European champions should they defeat Zenit and leaders Juventus fall to FC BATE Borisov in the section's other game and Metzelder – who will be hoping to make his 17th appearance in the competition – noted other motivating factors for a squad in need of a restorative result ahead of Saturday's visit to arch-rivals FC Barcelona. "It's obvious we're not playing for our lives in the group but we have to respect this competition, it's the Champions League," said the 28-year-old. "We are professional footballers playing for Real Madrid and we need to react as soon as possible. It's a chance to bounce back [after successive Liga losses to Getafe CF and Sevilla FC] and to please our supporters. This is our objective."
The former BV Borussia Dortmund defender made just two Liga appearances this season under Schuster and hopes that the change of coach could help him regain a place in the team. "For me, it's a very important moment to show my qualities and to try to impress the new manager. For the players who normally don't play or who haven't played recently this is a great opportunity. We've had many injuries to key players this season and perhaps because of that we don't have the rhythm we are used to."
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