Esteban Granero called on his Real Madrid CF team-mates to "defend the club's colours" as, with top spot in Group G already assured, José Mourinho's side welcome AJ Auxerre.
Article top media content
Esteban Granero insists any suggestion Real Madrid CF may be lacking motivation going into their final UEFA Champions League group encounter against AJ Auxerre was "incomprehensible".
The nine-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winners welcome Jean Fernandez's side to the Santiago Bernabéu with a place in the tournament's knockout stages for a 14th consecutive season as Group G winners assured. However, determined to maintain their unbeaten run in the competition this term, Granero called on his team-mates to "defend the club's colours" against opponents chasing a UEFA Europa League spot.
"We may have already qualified but we want to win this game; we must be ready," the 23-year-old said. "We're representing Real Madrid in European competition which should be more than enough motivation for any player here. These are prestigious fixtures and we will have thousands of fans to answer to on the night."
Injuries will force Madrid into several changes, including a possible start for Karim Benzema up front. Despite being low on confidence, the French international forward scored the opening goal in the 4-0 victory at AFC Ajax a fortnight ago and, according to Granero, he will be keen to impress once more.
"I wouldn't say [Benzema] is losing patience but it does seem that every game is like a final exam for him these days," the former Getafe CF player said. "Because of his qualities as a player and as a person we will not stop supporting him; we all know he wants a chance to repeat his feats in Amsterdam."
Confidence was also an issue when Madrid's 26-game unbeaten run ended with an emphatic 5-0 defeat away to FC Barcelona last Monday but according to Granero, José Mourinho's men are regaining form. "After that defeat we started back at zero in terms of morale but we responded well with a win against Valencia last weekend and we want to continue on that road [against Auxerre]."
The French side have ambitions of their own, however: if they better Ajax's result at AC Milan they will take third place. "We will try to enjoy the occasion but we are not here as tourists," said midfielder Benoît Pedretti. "There's no comparison between the teams but we have strong players and if the talent is there it can make all the difference."