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Hengbart and Auxerre relishing the challenge

Realistic after learning "big lessons" from AJ Auxerre's Matchday 1 defeat by AC Milan, defender Cédric Hengbart remains defiant ahead of the visit of Real Madrid CF on Tuesday.

Cédric Hengbart in action against Ronaldinho on Matchday 1
Cédric Hengbart in action against Ronaldinho on Matchday 1 ©Getty Images

Defeated 2-0 by AC Milan on UEFA Champions League Matchday 1, and hosting Real Madrid CF on Tuesday, AJ Auxerre could scarcely have had a trickier start in Group G. Defender Cédric Hengbart, though, is not feeling sorry for himself.

Having scored a dramatic last-minute goal to secure third place for Auxerre in Ligue 1 last season, Hengbart was also on the mark in the French club's play-off victory over FC Zenit St. Petersburg. Now pitted against Milan, Madrid and AFC Ajax, the 30-year-old right-back is determined to make the most of Auxerre's return to Europe's premier club competition.

UEFA.com: What does it mean to have reached the UEFA Champions League?

Cédric Hengbart: It's fantastic, a reward for all our hard work last season. To have qualified and to have scored in that game [against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard] is a big source of pride for the city, my family, and everyone who supports us.

UEFA.com: What did you think when you saw the group stage draw?

Hengbart: It's the best challenge we could have had. Obviously we are the small club surrounded by big ones; it's the best draw for us in terms of the prestige of each team. They are from three excellent leagues and their styles of play are completely different.

UEFA.com: How do you stop Cristiano Ronaldo?

Hengbart: In the matches to come we need to tighten up our marking and be even more careful at particular moments in the game. As soon as we got tired [against Milan], that was when they hurt us.

UEFA.com: What else did you learn from San Siro?

Hengbart: Some big lessons. We saw that with the big teams, even if they're not having a great day, they can score at any moment. It's the same with the big players. [Zlatan] Ibrahimović wasn't that great but he was there when he needed to be, so you can never switch off.

UEFA.com: You also saw that you need to take your chances ...

Hengbart: We know against teams like that you're not going to get many, so the ones you do get, you certainly need to put them away. Unfortunately we missed some in the first half in Milan, and in the second half we lost the match.

UEFA.com: What was it like to play at San Siro?

Hengbart: We always enjoy playing in big stadiums like that, especially as we're not used to it. We usually play in French stadiums, and it's true our own stadium isn't huge either – San Siro is four times as big. The crowd is massive, there's a great atmosphere, so we really loved playing there.

UEFA.com: How do you feel about the prospect of playing at the Santiago Bernabéu and the Amsterdam ArenA?

Hengbart: We can't wait. It's going to be great to play in different stadiums at big European clubs. The Bernabéu is just as huge [as San Siro] in terms of the atmosphere and the stadium. We're looking forward to it, but first we need to try and do well against Real at home.

UEFA.com: How does your coach, Jean Fernandez, prepare you for the UEFA Champions League?

Hengbart: We have to make the most of it and not have any regrets – to live the matches to the full, and if we lose as we did at Milan it's not a disaster, we'll learn. We're here to give a good impression of the club, and of France.

UEFA.com: Can you still qualify?

Hengbart: We need to keep respecting the opposition and learning from our mistakes. We need to try to catch fire, starting against Real. We know Ajax are our main rivals for third place, but we'll try for second place or even first – anything's possible. We could also finish fourth and not qualify for anything, so we'll take it one game at a time and try to give a good impression of how we play football.  We know we're capable of going to the big stadiums and pulling something off, so we'll see what happens.