What: UEFA Champions League
Who: Real Madrid vs Ajax
When: Wednesday 15th August, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Three Times with Three Different Clubs?

Real Madrid enter this season’s Champions League determined to lift a cloud from over the club’s performance; it has been six years since Los Blancos advanced beyond the Round of 16. At first glance, Real have brought in just the right manager to aim for a record tenth European Cup. Jose Mourinho won the trophy last season with Inter, and, perhaps rightly, considers it his to defend. The Portuguese knows the value of solid home form. Indeed, it has been a feature at all of his clubs. To this end, Ajax must be disposed of quickly and impressively.

A word of warning was sounded by Mourinho though, who stated "Real Madrid and I know it’s hard to win the Champions League. Six or seven teams can win it." The former Chelsea coach also reminded the Real Madrid faithful that, "we are under construction", as the talk about the march to a tenth European Cup reached fever pitch. Surely anything other than a comprehensive victory over Ajax would be a disappointment, whether Mourinho’s side is in the process of being built or not.

Ready to Enjoy the Moment

Ajax have little doubt that they are up against it in their group, kept company as they are by AC Milan, Auxerre and Real Madrid. The days when the Dutch masters could hope to challenge for the trophy are but a distant memory and more achieveable objectives have to be set. Coach Martin Jol, who the Amsterdam side did well to keep hold of in the face of serious interest from English Premier League club Fulham, said that his player should "enjoy this bonus" of Champions League group stage football.

In many ways, it is mission accomplished for Ajax and progression would be all their bonuses come at once. Jol understands that the opportunity to play at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid is a good experience for his youngsters and equally is looking forward to the occasion himself. "For me, this is special", said the Dutchman. Fighting at the top of the Eredivisie, Jol’s Ajax are in good form, and perhaps it is because they feel they have little to lose that they will be a danger to Mourinho’s side.


Recent form

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 2-0 Penarol (24/08; Friendly)
Real Mallorca 0-0 Real Madrid (29/08; La Liga)
Real Madrid 1-0 Osasuna (11/09; La Liga)

Ajax 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv (25/08; Champions League Playoff)
De Graafschap 0-5 Ajax (29/08; Eredivisie)
Ajax 2-0 Willem II (11/09; Eredivisie)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Kaka; Raul Albiol; Fernando Gago; Mahamadou Diarra; Ezequiel Garay

Ajax: Luis Suarez (suspended)

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese wizard picked up a Champions League winners medal with Manchester United and expected to look forward to plenty more showpiece finals upon his arrival in Madrid. Things haven’t quite worked out that way though, but Ronaldo is in no doubt that Mourinho is the man to bring the good times back. Against Ajax, the 25-year-old will want to put down a marker.

Ajax – Gregory van der Wiel: The young full back is tipped as the next big thing at the Amsterdam ArenA and a duel with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu will be quite a test indeed. At 22 years old, and with international experience already, Van der Wiel will push on this season and can do his prospects for a summer move no harm at all by not only snuffing out any Real Madrid threat on his flank, but offering an attacking outlet too.

Match prediction

Real Madrid have not yet caught fire under Jose Mourinho and the Portuguese has warned that the ‘work in progress’ sign continues to hang above the entrance to the Bernabeu. Nevertheless, Mourinho’s teams do not disappoint at home and the absence of Luis Suarez is a big blow to Ajax. Expect a functional performance, with just a dash of flair, and a 2-0 Real Madrid win.