Madrid aiming to steal top spot

Real Madrid CF have qualified for the last 16 but would dearly love to gain some revenge on Juventus and finish as Group H winners, although to do that they must beat FC Zenit St. Petersburg and hope the Italian side lose.

Madrid can give themselves a chance of gaining top spot with another win over Zenit
Madrid can give themselves a chance of gaining top spot with another win over Zenit ©Getty Images

A home game with FC Zenit St. Petersburg, already certain of finishing third in Group H, gives Real Madrid CF the chance to win the section. To do that they must win their final fixture – and first under new coach Juande Ramos – and hope Juventus lose at home to FC BATE Borisov.

• Madrid appointed former Sevilla FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC coach Ramos after parting company with Bernd Schuster on the eve of the game. The 54-year-old Ramos has agreed to take charge until the end of the season.

• After successive defeats by Juventus, Madrid were glad to return to a winning mode in Minsk on Matchday 5 when Raúl González struck the only goal of the game against BATE. It put them on nine points, two behind Juve. Three of those points came in the first fixture between these sides. It was an enthralling affair, an own goal by Tomáš Hubočan putting Madrid ahead and after Danny had levelled, the three-time UEFA Champions League winners got their noses in front again as Ruud van Nistelrooy took advantage of more defensive uncertainty. The 2-1 victory followed a 2-0 win on Matchday 1 with Sergio Ramos and Van Nistelrooy on the scoresheet in Madrid to defeat BATE.

• The home and away fixtures with Juventus proved hugely disappointing for the Spanish champions. Alessandro Del Piero shot the home side ahead in Turin and Amauri made it 2-0. Van Nistelrooy's 66th-minute header cut the arrears but it ended 2-1. Madrid's hopes of gaining revenge on home soil foundered at the hands of Del Piero once again, the Juve captain scoring a superb goal in each half.

• Zenit drew 0-0 against Juventus last time out to leave them winless from their three home games. They dominated possession for long periods yet it was their resolute Italian visitors, already guaranteed a place in the next phase, who passed up the best opportunities, hitting the woodwork twice in the first half. Nevertheless, Madrid's win the same night guaranteed a third-place finish for Zenit and the chance to retain their UEFA Cup trophy.

• They had gained their debut victory in the UEFA Champions League on Matchday 4 when Pavel Pogrebnyak's first-half strike silenced the Dinamo Stadium and set up Zenit's 2-0 victory away to BATE. Sébastien Puygrenier was sent off midway through the second half but Dick Advocaat's team stayed in charge and Danny scored the second goal four minutes into stoppage time.

• It had proved more difficult for Zenit in the home game with BATE two weeks previously, though, and the Russian side looked to be heading for defeat after substitute Pavel Nekhaychik scored on 52 minutes. The hosts, who had earlier struck the frame of the goal twice and squandered a host of other chances, finally drew level ten minutes from time when Fatih Tekke evaded the offside trap to fire past Sergei Veremko.

• They had begun their debut campaign impressively away to Juventus and only looked under threat from set-pieces. That ultimately led to their defeat, though, Del Piero scoring from a direct free-kick with 14 minutes remaining.

• Los Merengues have generally had things their own way at home to Russian visitors in competitive fixtures. Their last meeting, against FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the 2002/03 second group stage, ended 2-2 but they had won six of the previous seven matches. Their only defeat came in the 1990/91 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final at home to FC Spartak Moskva.

• Zenit overcame Spanish opponents on their way to last season's success in the UEFA Cup, defeating Villarreal CF on away goals in the Round of 32. Although they went down 2-1 away, it had been preceded by a 1-0 victory in the home leg. Their first ever visit to Spain also ended in a 2-1 defeat, against RC Celta de Vigo in the 2000 UEFA Intertoto Cup final matches. The home leg was drawn 2-2 to end the Russian team's hope of a UEFA Cup place. Their only other trip to face Spanish opponents ended in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of eventual competition winners Sevilla FC in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup quarter-final.

• Russia played Spain twice at UEFA EURO 2008™ with the second match a semi-final meeting. On that day, Zenit players Andrei Arshavin, Konstantin Zyryanov and Aleksandr Anyukov turned out for Russia while Madrid's Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos started for eventual competition winners Spain.

• The draw for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round will take place at 12.00CET on Friday 19 December at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Group winners will be paired against runners-up from different sections with the second-placed teams playing the first leg at home. Clubs from the same associations cannot be drawn together.

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