Real Madrid CF's Raúl González is expecting a "fiesta of football" when his side take on Juventus in an eagerly anticipated rematch of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final. "It should be a great spectacle," he added.
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Real Madrid CF striker Raúl González is expecting a "fiesta of football" when his side take on Juventus in an eagerly anticipated rematch of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final.
Juventus supporters may have been starved of UEFA Champions League football for the last two seasons, but their team will take centre stage in Europe again on Tuesday when they face the nine-time champions as two heavyweights collide in Group H. "This is always a huge match," said Raúl. "It's the Champions League, so it's a special occasion anyway, but Juventus are one of the most important clubs in Europe, if not the world. They have a rich history and, whether we play in Madrid or here at the Olimpico, Juve against Real is always a fiesta of football. It should be a great spectacle, with them looking to keep their group hopes alive and us aiming to consolidate our lead in the group."
For Raúl, the fixture is given added spice by the chance to renew acquaintances with Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero, the only other survivor from the 1998 final still with their respective team. Ten years on from the Merengues' 1-0 victory in Amsterdam, Raúl has collected two more winners' medals and amassed a record 61 goals in the competition, 19 more than the 33-year-old Del Piero who is the fifth-highest scorer in UEFA Champions League history. "It's an honour to play a game of this calibre here in Turin and I'm really looking forward to it," Raúl, 31, said. "I'm also looking forward to facing Alessandro Del Piero because he's a player I admire greatly. He has had a long and distinguished career at the same club and also for his country, just like me. He has scored lots of important goals and has been a great example."
While Madrid are enjoying an eight-match unbeaten run, an out-of-sorts Juve have not won in five games. The Italian side, however, can boast a strong record against Madrid in recent years – they eliminated them in the first knockout round when the teams last met in 2004/05, after beating them in the semi-finals in 2002/03. Indeed, the Spanish titleholders have not prevailed in Turin for 46 years, yet with confidence high following Saturday's derby triumph at Club Atlético de Madrid, Raúl believes their time has come.
"Juventus are not going through their best spell so hopefully we can turn that to our advantage," he said. "But we know we'll have to give our very best to get anything here. Juve always manage to get the result when it counts, but we know we can come away with three points. We played really well against Atlético and also in the win at Zenit St. Petersburg [on Matchday 2]. We are top of the group with two victories and feel we can carry on this momentum here in Italy."