Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti fears his team risks conceding "five or six" goals against nine-time winner Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday if the French club hasn’t fixed its defensive problems.
Having already lost its opening Group G match 2-0 at AC Milan, Auxerre can hardly afford another defeat.
Hovering just above the relegation zone in the French league and without a win this season, Auxerre threw away a two-goal lead against Nancy on Saturday to draw 2-2 after poor errors at the back.
Pedretti warned that a repeat performance could have even heavier consequences against Madrid’s star-studded attack.
"If we make those kind of mistakes against Real Madrid, it’s not two goals we’ll be conceding, but five or six," Pedretti said. "Now it’s time to stop talking and to start playing."
Madrid beat Ajax 2-0 in its opening Champions League game under coach Jose Mourinho, but the team drew 0-0 at Levante at the weekend to sit third in the Spanish league.
Madrid was held scoreless by Levante despite forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema all playing, and defender Alvaro Arbeloa said the team is still taking time to get used to Mourinho’s methods.
"We have a new coach, which requires going through an adjustment period," Arbeloa said. "Playing for Real Madrid is one of the most demanding jobs there is. I am convinced we will score a lot of goals."
However, Arbeloa is wary of facing a team with a lot to prove. Auxerre is known for its attractive passing game and created several clear scoring chances in its loss to Milan.
"Tuesday’s match is going to be very difficult. Auxerre aren’t doing that well in Ligue 1 right now, but the fact that they are playing Real Madrid will motivate them," he said.
Mourinho is likely to stick to the same team that struggled to break down Levante, although he expects far better finishing.
"We have the balance and we have the ability to create chances," Mourinho said.
The focus will again be on Ronaldo, who has scored only one goal in six games this season – and that was from the penalty spot. The Portugal forward’s growing frustration has been evident in recent matches, notably when he did not congratulate Benzema after he had scored a fine goal against Espanyol last week.
Ronaldo has scored once from open play in the last 14 games for club and country, an alarmingly low ratio for a player who has managed to score 75 league goals over the previous three seasons.
"I am not a coach that will get upset with a player for missing a goal," Mourinho said. "I prefer to provide confidence and calmness."
Mourinho may decide to give Benzema only his second start of the season, having dropped him for the Ajax game. He has been impressed with Benzema’s attitude in training and with the France forward’s determination to become a Madrid regular.
Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez will be without striker Anthony Le Tallec, so Poland striker Irineusz Jelen and Kenya forward Dennis Oliech – who scored twice on Saturday – are likely to lead the attack.
But Fernandez is clearly more concerned with shoring things up at the other end.
"I am (worried) by the way we are conceding goals at the moment," he said. "After what I have seen, I can say I am worried, frustrated, annoyed and even angry. This lack of confidence, of aggression, bothers me."