Friday, September 18, 2009

"This is a large and solid squad"

Iker Casillas believes the team is having a great start to the campaign.

There's been much talk about Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick goals. Is it true that the ball used in the Champions League helps players achieve such effects?
New balls tend to hurt a goalkeeper's game because they're made to help players score. This new ball complicates things for keepers, but that isn't a bad thing. People normally don't care unless goals like those scored against Zurich happen. Anyway, I don't think people should look for excuses.

Does Cristiano Ronaldo hit the ball hard?

He has a different way of hitting the ball. He hits it with the instep and, if he does so hard and the ball has an effect on it, he can really complicate things for a goalie. From the outset it looks like the goalkeeper makes a mistake, but hitting the ball like that can be very problematic for him. 

How are you all preparing for the match against Xerez?
The same as for any other game. We want to take the three points at stake. This weekend will be complicated for us because we'll face Xerez at home and Villarreal away. These two games will be followed by a home match against Tenerife. Both the latter and Xerez have just been promoted and could make trouble for us. We must take both games very seriously.

You are still conceding goals in set pieces...

We've conceded a goal from a free-kick, one from a corner kick and another from a penalty. It may look disastrous, but we've only played three official games and it's still too soon to draw conclusions. We'll work on it, but we'll also end up conceding other kinds of goals. 

Is Cristiano Ronaldo as good at serving free-kicks as Roberto Carlos was?
He is very good and a leading figure at it, just like Roberto Carlos is. Kaka also scored from free-kicks at Milan. The important thing is to know that a player like Cristiano can also be dangerous in set pieces. 

This is your tenth year on the squad. Is this the best group of players the team has ever had?
This is obviously a great team. Great teams need big results. If we earn these, we may be able to win titles at the end of the campaign. We had stars such as Ronaldo, Beckham and Zidane seven years ago. We won the Champions League because we were a strong side. We have great players now too. Everyone seems to be delighted with Real Would it be a failure not to reach the Champions League final this year?
That's a hard question. We feel more pressure than the rest because the final will be held here, but we can't afford to obsess about it. We have to perform well in the group stages. It's been five years since we last reached farther than the Last 16.

Is Xabi Alonso essential?
It isn't normal to concede two goals in one minute. Xabi is important, but so are the other 24 men on the squad. This is a large and solid squad. Guti, Gago or Diarra will take his place if he can't play.

Is Barcelona the reference team after winning the three titles last year?

We shouldn’t make comparisons with Barcelona. They did an amazing campaign winning the three titles and playing good football. But we must take things easy, do what we’ve got to do and take one step at a time. Our start to the season has been as good as it gets.

What’s it like to thrash your opponents in the Champions League debut?
It feels good. Zurich aren’t as strong as Milan or Olympique Marseille, but it’s positive to start with a victory. We’ll fight for a place in the next round with the two latter teams.

Last year Real Madrid didn’t score many goals but didn’t concede many either. It looks like the opposite happens this season.
Shutouts make things easier, but it’s more important to start the season with a winning run. We must improve in some areas despite our good results.

How’s the response of the fans being?
The clearest examples happened during the presentations, where fans showed their excitement. The Club has done a phenomenal job signing the best players in Europe and also some of the best Spanish players. That renews the excitement of the fans, more so after Barcelona’s success. We’ll try to bring joy to our fans this season.

Pellegrini has started the rotations. Do players like that system?
I believe rotations are positive. The past campaigns have been very long ones, first with the Euro, then the Confederations Cup and this year the World Cup. That makes it necessary to plan rotations during the season. It will depend on the shape of each player, but everyone will have their chances.

What did you think about the referee in Zurich?
English referees tend to be more indulging, but after the game we discussed that we were booked six times, while the opponent just received two. It’s less relevant because we won, but we ask for more care in those plays because there is much at stake.

You wouldn’t have liked to be in Zurich’s goalkeeper shoes, would you?
Luckily, Cristiano Ronaldo is on our side now. Goalkeepers have to pay special attention when someone kicks the ball so hard.

Unlike Barcelona, you managed to pull a victory in the Champions League debut. Did you expect it?
Barcelona is in the same shape as last season. A draw against Internazionale seemed plausible because it was an away game. They had chances to score, they have had a good start to the season and they will fight for every title once more. We must counterbalance them because they led every competition last year.

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