Sergio Ramos looks ahead to Real Madrid CF's quarter-final against Club Atlético de Madrid and marvels at how the UEFA Champions League "turns you into a different player".
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With Real Madrid CF taking on Club Atlético de Madrid in the quarter-finals – a repeat of last season's UEFA Champions League decider – defender Sergio Ramos, 29, told UEFA.com about his expectations for the tie and what it means to play in the world's top club competition.
UEFA.com: Madrid are up against Atlético again in the quarter-finals. What was the squad's reaction when they found out the draw?
Ramos: To be honest, we weren't upset, but we weren't jumping for joy either. If you want to be champions, you have to beat the best teams, and Atlético are right up there. They've got this far on merit and ultimately it's the luck of the draw. Anyway, to be honest, whoever we're drawn against, we have to be ready and remember that they've got this far on merit. All we can think about is winning the tie and getting through to the next round, because we're very close to another final.
UEFA.com: What sort of tie do you expect it to be?
Ramos: I expect something very similar to what we've experienced throughout this campaign and the last two years. They're a very competitive, very hard-working team, who know how to compete and how to be strong together. Ultimately that's what's allowed Atlético Madrid to make a leap forward from a couple of years ago to now. In that respect, it's going to be a very tough tie against opponents who are going to make it very difficult for us. We're going to try to perform to the best of our ability, to be effective in front of goal, to make the most of our chances and to make as few mistakes as possible, because the margin for error in matches like this is minimal.
UEFA.com: What could be the key factor for Real Madrid if you are to retain the UEFA Champions League title?
Ramos: It may sound strange, but it's clear in our minds that we have to take it one match at a time, and so every match that we play is like a final. That's the only way you can set about breaking records and achieving your targets. We're not thinking about the semi-finals or the final when we're only in the quarter-finals and we're second in the league. So in that sense all we can do is try to win every match we've got left this season and think about trying to score the second goal before we've got the first. We have to take it one step at a time, which ultimately, in my view, is the key to success.
UEFA.com: You have played 78 UEFA Champions League games. Why is the competition so important to you?
Sergio Ramos: I don't think it's important just for me – it is for every player. The Champions League is an added source of motivation because of its media coverage all over the world. It turns you into a different player. You come up against the top teams in Europe and at the end of the day, that's what separates you from being a normal player or a top player. It's in those games when you see each footballer's true personality and it's where you see the most valuable players of them all.