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Rejigged Madrid still a handful for Ajax

José Mourinho is shuffling his pack as Real Madrid CF host AFC Ajax, with Frank de Boer urging his side to build on a weekend domestic success and claim a UEFA Europa League place.

José Mourinho has named much of his starting lineup for the Ajax game
José Mourinho has named much of his starting lineup for the Ajax game ©AFP/Getty Images

Real Madrid CF are certain of finishing second in UEFA Champions League Group D but José Mourinho has said he will still start with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema and go for a win against AFC Ajax. The match has real significance for the visitors as a victory would earn them a berth in the UEFA Europa League, and last weekend's win against PSV Eindhoven has given their coach, Ronald de Boer, reason to believe.

Madrid are through as runners-up, the 16th year in a row they have made it out of their group.

Ajax will qualify for the UEFA Europa League, whose final they host in May, if they win in Madrid or if Manchester City FC fail to gain victory at Borussia Dortmund. This is due to the Dutch side's head-to-head superiority over the English club.

Real Madrid
José Mourinho, coach
[Antonio] Adán, Nacho, Cristiano, Benzema, [Sami] Khedira and [Fábio] Coentrão will be in the starting lineup. [Sergio] Ramos and Xabi Alonso will not be because they have yellow cards and I want them to play in the first match of the next round. I think our qualification is a success in this group because a candidate to win the title will be out. Manchester City are a powerful team with great attacking skill and Borussia Dortmund are among the best in Europe.

We need to play every match with the same concentration and ambition because every match has the same meaning. We must play with the desire to win in our mind. I expect a good match with no pressure for Adán and Nacho and also for [Denis] Cheryshev, José Rodríguez and [Álvaro] Morata who will be on the bench waiting for a chance. Obviously, we will try to win. Ajax will be playing for a place in the UEFA Europa League and we will have to do our best.

Injuries are not helping us. We have lost some important players and we must to take advantage of the Christmas period to train well and get [Gonzalo] Higuaín, Marcelo and [Raúl] Albiol fit.

Weekend result
Saturday: Real Madrid 2-0 Club Atlético de Madrid (Ronaldo 16, Özil 66)
Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrão; Khedira, Alonso, Di María (Callejón 70), Özil (Modrić 88), Ronaldo; Benzema (José Rodríguez 90+2).

• Ronaldo ended a run of three games without a goal – the longest he has gone without registering this season – by striking direct from a free-kick as Los Merengues closed the gap on second-placed Atlético to five points. It was Ronaldo's eighth goal in as many Madrid derbies.

Team news
Álvaro Arbeloa is banned, while Marcelo (broken foot) and Higuaín (hamstring) are out with injuries. Michael Essien is undergoing treatment after suffering an allergic reaction to medication.

Frank de Boer, coach

It won't be a weak Real Madrid team even though some important players are not going to play. Xabi Alonso is a fantastic player and Iker Casillas is probably the best goalkeeper in the world, but the team have enough without them. Victory against PSV gave us strength. We proved we could beat a great opponent playing the way we want. Our feelings about this UEFA Champions League campaign are positive. We played badly against Real Madrid in Amsterdam but we did well in the rest of the matches.

We have a young team and for my players it's very important to play against European teams. There is a lot to learn. I won't care about what happens between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. They need to win and we need it too. I think we can carry on in the UEFA Europa League. We can show our potential against every team and beat anyone.

Weekend result
Saturday: Ajax 3-1 PSV Eindhoven (De Jong 29, Hoesen 72, Fischer 87; Lens 36)
Vermeer; Van Rhijn, Alderweireld (Veltman 76), Moisander, Blind; De Jong, Poulsen, Eriksen; Boerrigter (Sana 70), Hoesen (Schøne 80), Fischer.

• Daniel Hoesen struck his third goal in four games as Ajax beat a PSV side that began the day top of the table. It was their fourth successive Eredivisie win and took Ajax to within four points of the summit and new leaders FC Twente.

Team news
Toby Alderweireld is expected to recover from the bout of flu that curtailed his involvement on Saturday, but Ryan Babel (shoulder), Thulani Serero (groin), Davy Klaassen (groin) and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (shoulder) are all out.

Match fact
• Ajax have failed to win on any of their last six visits to Spain, losing five. Their last success was a 3-2 victory at Club Atlético de Madrid in the 1996/97 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, in which De Boer played and his brother Ronald scored.