The race to the Champions League final at the Bernabeu begins
Manuel Pellegrini promised rotations and he stuck to his word. With a long season in store, the Real Madrid coach knows rest is his best ally if the team is to reach the last few months with plenty of energy left in its legs. There has been plenty of speculation as to whether Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Lass, who were reserves against Espanyol, will get the start. But Pellegrini has plenty of options available to choose from, and no matter who is on the pitch, success is all but guaranteed. He who is likely to start is Pepe, who will play his first official match in five months with Albiol still hampered by ankle trouble.
FC Zurich are unfamiliar with the new format of the UEFA Champions League, and there is no better way to debut than against the most successful side in European Cup history. The match has drawn so much attention that tickets sold out in 39 minutes. For coach Bernard Challandes, it is crucial that his team doesn’t abandon its offensive and daring football led by Johan Vonlanten. The current Swiss champions already has nine matches under its belt, four of which have resulted in victory, three in draws and two in defeat.
Tueday’s match will be Real Madrid’s 19th against a Swiss team in European competiton. The first took place in 1955 against Servette in what was then known as the European Cup. Nine years later, they faced the same opponent they play tonight and won both matches. Other Swiss opponents, whether it be in European Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup or Champions League action, have included FC Basel, Grasshopper-Club, Young Boys and Lugano. Of the 18 previous matches against Super League teams, Real Madrid have won 14, lost four, scored 44 goals and conceded 11.