Madrid hosts CL opener against Ajax
Jose Mourinho's pledge to bring a record 10th European Cup to Real Madrid receives it first test Wednesday when the Spanish club faces Ajax in the group stage of the Champions League.
Mourinho is looking to win European club football's top prize with a third different team after guiding Inter Milan to victory last season and winning the title with FC Porto in 2004.
While Mourinho has bemoaned a lack of training time with his players due to international breaks, Madrid showed it is coming together in Saturday's 1-0 win over Osasuna in the Spanish league.
Still, Mourinho is anxious ahead of the match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
"I am not at all relaxed because it is the Champions League and Ajax have already played four matches in the competition and 10 official games in total," said Mourinho, who has vowed to bring Madrid its first Champions League title since 2002. "They should be somewhat more fit that us."
Ajax is unbeaten in five Dutch league games this season and is second to leader PSV Eindhoven on goal difference.
"We are the favorite and we must win because it is crucial to get off to a good start in the Champions League," the Portuguese coach said. "Ajax's style of play is different to that of Osasuna, so it should be quite a different match. They have some very talented players."
One of those players, striker Luis Suarez, is missing to suspension after picking up a yellow card in Ajax's last match against Dynamo Kiev.
"He's an immensely talented player," Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas said of Suarez. "His absence is important and we should take advantage of it."
Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen is also suspended for Ajax.
Casillas has yet to be tested in two league matches as Madrid's defense has held both Mallorca and Osasuna to no direct scoring chances. Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho have anchored the Madrid backline perfectly so far with fellow center backs Raul Albiol and Ezequiel Garay out injured.
Madrid will also have to face seven-time champion AC Milan and French club Auxerre also in Group G.
"I have a special feeling about this season," Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said. "(But) we don't need to put any pressure on ourselves. Let's just focus on the group stage and then see what comes next."