Real stars play down Cup chances

Kaka and Ronaldo try to keep supporters' Champions League hopes in perspective
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The Independent Football

Recent Champions League winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka have sought to temper the growing anticipation that this is going to be Real Madrid's year in Europe as their side prepare to host Marseilles tonight.

Madrid have failed to get beyond the first knockout stage of the Champions League in any of the last five seasons, but few believe it will be a similar story this time around following a record-breaking summer spending spree and a flying start to the new campaign.

Buoyed by the arrival of superstars such as Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso, Madrid have won all six of their competitive games so far, scoring 21 goals and conceding just four in the process.

That has increased expectations that Madrid can seriously challenge last season's treble winners and bitter rivals Barcelona this term, and it is the Champions League that is attracting most interest.

Madrid have long been hunting for a record 10th European Cup crown, and with this year's final being held at their Bernabeu home, that quest has taken on extra significance.

However, speaking ahead of the new-look Madrid's first European home match of the season, Kaka has attempted to inject some realism into the situation, saying: "It's not easy to win the European Cup, everyone is talking about it a lot and it seems as though Real Madrid are already in the final – the team still has to grow and improve on many things.

"We are thinking about winning and making history with Real Madrid, but we have to have a little calm," added the Brazilian, who won the competition with Milan in 2007.

Ronaldo, who also has a Champions League winner's medal after helping Manchester United to glory in 2008, echoed those thoughts, adding on his club's website: "The fans are understandably excited about this new project but, as Kaka has said, we have to take it step by step, thinking about things game by game.

"The Champions League is a very difficult competition. We want to win it, but success doesn't happen overnight."

Madrid, who yesterday announced the renewal of their sponsorship deal with betting firm bwin, which has been extended until 2013, will be looking to make it two wins out of two in Group C having beaten FC Zurich 5-2 away in their opening match.

France midfielder Lassana Diarra, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Christoph Metzelder and Alvaro Arbeloa all miss out for Manuel Pellegrini's side as a result of injuries.

The Spanish giants could come up against a couple of familiar faces in the Marseilles squad, with Real old boys Fernando Morientes and Gabriel Heinze both now at the French club and included in Didier Deschamps' 20-man travelling squad.

Spaniard Morientes won three Champions League medals in eight years at Madrid, while Argentine Heinze spent two years at the Bernabeu before moving to Marseilles this summer.

Morientes told the French club's website: "This will be a special moment, very special. I'm going to play against Real Madrid, a club where I spent nine years, but I prepared like any other match. To get motivated against teams like Real or Milan is easy."

Marseilles lost their opening Group C match 2-1 at home to Milan but Morientes believes a win at the Bernabeu is possible if they can hit Madrid on the break.

He said: "I think their weakness is, especially at home, when they attack, because they attack with four or five players and it is precisely then that the opposing team can find the space to score. I think we can hurt them like that. This will be terribly difficult, but I have complete confidence in what we can do."