Sporting a smart Real Madrid CF tracksuit, Juande Ramos took his second news conference in the space of three hours as he turned his attention to winning his first match at the helm against FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
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Sporting a smart Real Madrid CF tracksuit, Juande Ramos took his second news conference in the space of three hours with his new team and insisted: "Winning a UEFA Champions League game is something very prestigious and I want the entire squad focused on our tie against [FC] Zenit St. Petersburg."
No sooner had Ramos replaced Bernd Schuster as Madrid coach on Tuesday afternoon, than he was turning his attention to his first match in charge. Despite back-to-back defeats by Juventus, the Spanish titleholders secured their passage to the first knockout round with a victory at FC BATE Borisov on Matchday 5 – and they could still finish top of Group H should they beat the UEFA Cup holders and Juventus fall at home to BATE. It is a long shot, but one which Ramos will be telling his new charges is achievable if they can put Sunday's painful 4-3 Liga loss to Sevilla FC behind them.
"We'll be working on the mental side of things," Ramos explained. "The players need to know they have to remain calm and commit themselves to what they know – which is how to play football. A Champions League game is always important, even if you know you've already qualified. We want to do well, we want to try to win this competition. We need a good performance and a positive result, although we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us."
Full treatment room
Ramos said he will be seeking the advice of those already at the Santiago Bernabéu when selecting his first team and is conscious of the injury problems plaguing the squad. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mahamadou Diarra are out for the season with knee injuries while Pepe, Miguel Torres, Gabriel Heinze, Wesley Sneijder and Rubén de la Red are also unavailable. "Although I've just arrived, I know this team perfectly well," the former Tottenham Hotspur FC and Sevilla coach said. "The system I will use against Zenit depends on who I have available. It seems probable that one or two of our younger players will take part." Asked how he felt wearing his new colours, the 54-year-old joked: "I've put on my tracksuit for training but, because all this has happened so quickly, I haven't even had time to look at myself in the mirror."
Appearing slightly bemused by the maelstrom he and his players walked into when they arrived in the Spanish capital, Zenit coach Dick Advocaat focused on the fact his side will be playing their last match in the UEFA Champions League this season before joining the UEFA Cup as third-place finishers in the group. "It's our final game of the season and an opportunity for our players to show what they can do against a top European team," he said. "I'm expecting an exciting game. You have to be realistic – Juventus and Madrid are experienced campaigners in this competition. In our matches against them, you could see the difference in front of goal. I was happy that we played good football in the tournament but unfortunately good football doesn't always bring you points."