Mourinho, Kaka miss Madrid Champions League start

Real Madrid will begin its quest for a 10th European Cup without

Kaka and coach Jose Mourinho against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday in

the Spanish club’s opening group stage match of the Champions

League.

Kaka will not make the trip to Zagreb because of a reported heel

injury, while Mourinho serves the second of a three-match ban

resulting from an outburst during the ill-tempered semifinal series

against Barcelona last season.

Kaka came on as a substitute in Madrid’s 4-2 win over Getafe on

Saturday and has struggled to dislodge Mesut Oezil from the

starting 11 this season. Midfielders Lassana Diarra and Sami

Khedira are both included in the 21-man squad.

Madrid’s excellent start to the season makes it the favorite to

win Group D, which also includes Lyon and Ajax.

While Madrid has won Europe’s top club competition a record nine

times, its last victory came from Zinedine Zidane’s memorable goal

in 2002.

Mourinho guided Madrid to the semifinals last season and has

promised further success in his second year in charge – a Champions

League or Spanish league trophy is the minimum expected after a

Copa del Rey victory in his debut season.

”He, like all of us, want more this season. We want to take it

up a level,” said Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who marks 12

years in the first team this week. ”He’s given us more character

and made us more ambitious. It’s always good to have a coach with

character and with ambition to work hard because that feeds hunger

into the changing room.”

Khedira will return for the first time since last month’s

Spanish Supercopa, while midfielder Esteban Granero also returned

from injury on Saturday. Midfielders Hamit Altintop (back) and Nuri

Sahin (knee) remain sidelined.

Dinamo will be playing in Europe’s elite competition for the

first time since 1999. Former Dinamo and Real Madrid striker Davor

Suker expects midfielder Milan Badelj to lead the attack for an

ambitious Croatian side.

”They are very capable of scoring goals,” Suker said. ”It’s a

young team that fears no rival and wants to demonstrate its

quality, and they deserve to be in Europe after 12 years out of the

Champions League.”

Ajax coach Frank de Boer conceded that Madrid is likely to win

the group, saying his team was fighting for second place and

advancement.

Ajax, which is undefeated and leads the Dutch league, has no

major injuries to worry about, so De Boer said the team will stick

with its usual fluent passing style in an attempt to neutralize the

threat from Lyon.

”The first match is crucial. We can take a big step toward

progressing, preferably in the Champions League,” De Boer said.

”We are going to play to our strengths. There’s no point in

changing our style.”

Lyon, meanwhile, beat Dijon 2-1 Saturday to stay unbeaten in the

French league.

The French side will be without center back Cris (hamstring) and

striker Lisandro Lopez (ankle), while playmaker Yoann Gourcuff has

yet to play due to a bothersome ankle injury.