And we meet again…
Real Madrid will face AC Milan yet again in this year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League Group Stages after it was decided at Monaco gala earlier today. The other two teams in the group would be AJ Auxerre from France and AFC Ajax from The Netherlands of course. Real have thus been pitted into what can be called the Group of Death considering the result of the rest of the draw.
Ironical or not ironical, it had to be FC Internazionale Milano’s Brazilian defender Maicon who picked the lot containing Real Madrid. The Right Back who won the Champions League with the Nerazzuri last season under Real’s current coach, Jose Mourinho had been linked with us throughout the summer but the move collapsed due to more than one reason. The player was awarded UEFA’s Club Defender of the Year award for his stellar performances for Inter last season.
Real’s Champions League campaign under Mourinho begins at home against Ajax on the 15th of next month and ends again at home against Auxerre in the first week of December with the Milan games falling right in between just like last season.
Our record against our opponents is nothing to be proud of either. Milan beat us 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu last season, drawing 1-1 in the return fixture at San Siro, but much has changed since then, with both sides going into the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League campaign led by new coaches. The two teams will of course be wary of each other, yet Ajax and Auxerre will pose just as big a concern, with the Amsterdam side having won their last four games against us and lost just once.
Speaking after the draw, sporting director Emilio Butragueño said that the third and fourth teams in our group will be complicated, but that he believes that the will pull through. He said:
Our bad luck came from the third and fourth pots. The fact that we drew Milan doesn’t worry me as we knew we were going to get a difficult or very difficult team from the top seeds. What I don’t like at all in there is Auxerre: they were the trickiest team from pot four.
And it is not a surprise that he picked the French team as the trickiest of the four. Ajax and Milan are threats, no doubts, but the mere fact that Real have to play in France itself makes the group tough for them considering their poor history on French soil.
On the other hand, Milan definitely would be our toughest rivals in the group considering the fact that they are not the same ‘old’ side that they were last season, but have made a few good signings during the summer and are probably on the verge of taking back Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Spain back to Italy. Their new manager, Massimiliano Allegri, well known in Italy, is an unknown commodity in the Champions league. Speaking to the press after the clash, he admitted that this was definitely at least one of the Groups of Death, saying:
Our group is the toughest one, along with Inter’s. We are both up against strong opponents. Playing against Real Madrid is something special for us and inspiring for sure. San Siro and the Santiago Bernabéu will be full for those games and we’ll witness an extraordinary show in both stadiums.
This would be the ideal opportunity for Real to break their Champions League jinx and prove their critics wrong. Like every other season this Champions League campaign too begins with a lot of hope and belief along with the dream that this will be the year in which we will lift the tenth. But then again, its again a new manager and a new team and the settling allowance factor starts creeping in with the only difference is that this new manager is better known as The Special One and is well known for producing when needed.
Para Siempre Blanco!