THE holy grail of winning a record 10th European Cup title begins anew for Real Madrid tonight when the underachieving Spanish giants welcome Ajax to the Bernabeu in their opening Group G game.
Last season was especially disappointing for Real as, after spending over €250 million on new talent in the summer, they missed out on a dream final at their Bernabeu home after being dumped out at the last-16 stage by Lyon.
Madrid have once again splashed the cash on reinforcements this summer, with perhaps the most significant one coming with the hugely successful Jose Mourinho taking charge.
Cristiano Ronaldo is optimistic his fellow Portuguese can bring the glory days back. “I have the feeling that we are going to win something this year. We are going to improve,” Ronaldo said.
The bad news for Ajax coach Martin Jol and his team is that they will not be able to call on the prolific Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez for tonight’s match.
AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri is looking forward to making his Champions League coaching debut against Auxerre in Group G tonight.
“It will be very emotional for me,” said Allegri. “This is my first time. The draw has placed us in a group with top European clubs and it will be a challenge from the start.”
Allegri will hope his side’s European prospects will be boosted by recent signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Barcelona, although the Swede missed a penalty in the defeat at Cesena.
In Arsenal’s Group H, Partizan Belgrade will be looking to avoid a repeat of last season’s heavy defeat at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk when they kick off their Champions League campaign at the Donbass Arena in the Ukraine.
In Group E, Bayern Munich goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt admits he has still not got over losing the Champions League final to Inter Milan in May as the Bavarians host Roma. “It is meant to be forgotten about, but we still get annoyed about it,” he admitted.
Elsewhere in Group E, Cluj face Basle.
In Chelsea’s Group F, Marseille host Spartak Moscow.
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