AS Monaco FC's on-loan striker Fernando Morientes will be on familiar territory against Real Madrid CF.
By Adrian Clarke
AS Monaco FC striker Fernando Morientes will be on familiar territory at the Santiago Bernabéu tonight.
On loan from Real Madrid CF, the Spanish international has thrived in helping his current team to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and now has the chance to eliminate the club he left last summer. Initially, he was reluctant to face Madrid but his mood is now different.
"Some months ago I would not have imagined Monaco getting to this stage of the Champions League and I actually told the coach that if we had to play Real Madrid then I would not like to play," Morientes told uefa.com. "But now that the time has arrived, the situation feels different. I think I have to play because of the Monaco supporters, the president and Didier Deschamps. They have had a lot of trust in me and I want to thank them for their support.”
Morientes, who turns 28 the day before the second leg in a fortnight’s time, added: "I cannot cheat on Monaco and I am sure that my friends in Madrid will understand that. The Madrid fans know my situation and I believe that they will still support me. It will be a strange experience for me, especially having to change in the visitors’ dressing room at the Bernabéu. I do not think I have ever been inside there!"
Having scored five goals in just seven Champions League appearances for Monaco this season, Morientes presents a major danger to Madrid's hopes of progression. His second-half strike at FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the last round provided the away goal that took Monaco through and Morientes admits he would be just as pleased if he scored another at the Bernabéu.
'Ready to celebrate'
"If I score I do not think the fans will say anything bad to me," he said. "But I also have to warn them that if I do score against Madrid I will celebrate it. It is going to be a special game for me, but also a hard one because I will play against friends, family, team-mates and supporters. But I also know that I am now playing for a different shirt and I have to give my best for them."
'New lease of life'
Certainly, his position is transformed from last season when he found his place alongside Raúl González in the Madrid attack taken by new arrival Ronaldo. "I suffered a lot at Madrid last year," Morientes says. "But now I am an important player in this team it has given me a new lease of life. I think that one year in France is like three at Real Madrid because I have played so many more games."
Still, he retains his links with the Spanish champions. "I have spoken with a lot of the Madrid players about this game, and mostly with my best friend Raúl," he said. "After the draw I called him immediately because we had talked about the possibility beforehand. We knew it would happen. We agreed that we were now rivals and he was joking about how I couldn't score against them."
However, no matter who progresses in the tie, Morientes expects to be back alongside Raúl and co in the summer. "Whatever happens I think I will be back at Real Madrid next season." he revealed. "It will be almost impossible to stay at Monaco for financial reasons. That will be decided later, but for now I only want to win for Monaco against Madrid."