"We need the perfect game"
A handshake here, a heartfelt greeting there: Xabi Alonso knows Madrid, the Bernabeu and many of the Real Madrid staff members like the back of his hand. "It's of course something special to come back to Madrid," said the Basque native inside the belly of the imposing football temple in the heart of the Spanish capital. "This was my home for five years, and I really enjoyed it."
Alonso also wants to enjoy the match this evening (20:45CEST, live vis our ticker and web radio). The Spaniard returns to the Bernabeu as a player for the final time with FC Bayern, and Alonso has big plans. "We have an objective: To put in a great performance against a super team," stated the experienced midfielder as he promised his teammates a hotly-contested evening. "The result from the first leg isn't ideal but we want to fight. We'll try everything."
Even if Xabi knows some of the Real players well, he doesn't need to give his teammates any tips." That's not necessary. They know Real Madrid just as well as I do," admitted Alonso, who in any case wants to focus on his own side's strengths instead of concerning himself too much with the opponents. "We have to be brave, give our best and mobilise all our strength," demanded the 35-year-old. "There's everything to play for. We have 90 minutes and I hope we can win at the end of it."
"Zinedine can call me"
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti is also returning to his old stomping ground. He spent two years in Madrid, where he won the Champions League with Los Blancos in 2014. "I don't know how I'll feel but I have great memories that I'll never forget," said the Italian the day before the game. On the day of the game, however, it's all about the here and now for Ancelotti. "We want to win, and we need to have the perfect game for that."
When asked, who might replace the injured Gareth Bale in the Real Madrid team, Ancelotti replied, "Zinedine Zidane hasn't told me." The Italian did grin, and also knows that Real have "a lot of very good players who could replace him." Perhaps James Rodriguez, one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup with Colombia, or maybe even Isco, who is "a great player who is well loved by everyone in Madrid." Ancelotti clearly has respect for the rising start of Spanish football.
As to whether Ancelotti would start with him, the Italian laughed mischievously, "Zinedine can call me and then I can give him a tip." However, at the end of the day only one thing matters: "We have to focus on our own team." The countdown is on...