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Arjen Robben insists thoughts of revenge will be far from his mind at the Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday when he and his Real Madrid CF colleagues attempt to build a healthy advantage in their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie with Liverpool FC.
The Dutch international winger knows all about Liverpool from his three-season stint with Chelsea FC. Twice Robben faced the Reds in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals and twice he tasted defeat, having his penalty saved by Pepe Reina during the shoot-out in 2006/07, two years after the initial loss. "As a football player, if you're that close to a Champions League final, it's very hard to accept," he said. "But that's life, that's football. You have to try to learn from it and win the competition next time around. I've also won things in my career; you always have happy and sad moments. I'm just looking forward to the game."
Having recovered from a hip strain, Robben should return to his now usual role on the right flank, but despite being touted by many as Madrid's most dangerous player, he will find a team that has thrived in his absence. Last week's 4-0 win at Real Sporting de Gijón was followed by Saturday's explosive 6-1 victory against Real Betis Balompié, with all six goals coming before Robben made his comeback at the start of the second half. "I don't see myself as the saviour of this team," explained the 25-year-old. "They scored ten goals in the last two games without me and there's a lot of quality and confidence. For me, it was just good to get back to playing again and now I'm ready."
The Betis result made it nine wins in succession for Juande Ramos and his charges – the club's best run since 1985/86 – and Robben credits the former Tottenham Hotspur FC manager with turning Madrid into a force to be feared again. "We've changed how we play a little," he said. "We now play with two wingers, whereas we only used to use one. Defensively, we're more organised as well." In personal terms, Robben also feels Ramos has made a positive impact since taking the reins in December: "The coach gives me a lot of freedom. He just wants me to play my game and I switch a lot with the players up front. He's given me confidence."
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