Xabi Alonso rejects 'underdog' tag ahead of Bayern tie

The midfielder believes his side are equal to the Bundesliga champions and is confident they can advance to the final

Xabi Alonso has rejected any suggestion that Real Madrid are underdogs ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga champions will start the game as favourites, but the Spain international believes his side are at least equal to Pep Guardiola’s side and more than capable of advancing to the final.

“I don’t consider Real as the underdogs,” Alonso told Marca. “Bayern is a great rival and we, like them, are having a great season.

“I don’t think either team is the favourite and I don’t think it’s in our interest to think ourselves one way or the other.

“However, now, after three years getting to the semis, in our fourth year, we want to go a step further and reach the final.

“Our motivation is absolute and we are fully focused on what we have to do.”

The midfielder also highlighted the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Real Madrid side, but acknowledged the 29-year-old will only play if he is fully fit.

“He [Cristiano Ronaldo] gives us raw power and potential to create chances and score goals,” Alonso added.

“He is fundamental to us and when he’s there, we take full advantage of our opportunities, however, he will only play if he is 100% fit.”

The midfielder also praised Gareth Bale for a great start to his Real Madrid career.

“We hope Gareth Bale continues as he is. He is showing a lot of great things in his first year at Real Madrid.”

The Spaniard believes home advantage could prove the difference in Wednesday’s match and has admitted that support from the Santiago Bernabeu faithful is sure to give the team a lift.

“On the pitch we have to show our eagerness and spirit. All support from the stands is a plus for us.

“Against Dortmund, going down to the stadium in the bus and seeing so many fans was very important to us and gave us a lift.”

Ancelotti wary of risking Ronaldo against Bayern

The Italian says the 29-year-old will have a fitness test on Wednesday to determine whether he can start but has backed Isco to step up should he be fit only for the bench

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti says he will not take any risks over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness as he battles to be ready to face Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Portugal star returned to training on Monday after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in the quarter-final meeting with Borussia Dortmund.

Ancelotti says he is happy with how the 29-year-old has progressed in training but is adamant he will not risk the attacker if he is not 100 per cent ready to return to action.

“Cristiano has trained well. We will make a decision after another test tomorrow. He will play if he is totally fit,” he told a press conference.

“Ronaldo will not play if there is any risk. We have another decisive game next Tuesday [in the second leg].”

The Italian believes having Ronaldo as an option from the substitutes bench could prove to be extremely useful for Madrid on Wednesday and has backed Isco to step up and replace the Portugal captain in the starting XI.

“Replacing a player with Cristiano is not easy because everyone has done a fantastic job. Isco proved he could be important,” he said.

“Cristiano’s presence will give us more options on the bench.”

Ancelotti added that the Copa del Rey triumph over Barcelona will give his players confidence heading into the tie but he has stressed winning a 10th European title is not “an obsession” for the club.

“We played with 11 players against Barcelona and were compact and solid. It will be the same tomorrow,” he continued. “We have the same confidence as before, but our play has improved with time.

“We are in the semi-finals and we want to win the title more than anyone else. It’s not an obsession, it’s motivation. We have a lot of desire and are excited to do our best tomorrow.

“Failure is a bad word, but I can’t say reaching semi-finals is success. The first objective is to play the final.”

Pep Guardiola has never lost a match as coach at Santiago Bernabeu, but while he is full of respect for his opposite number, Ancelotti has warned that the Spaniard will not be the decisive factor in the last-four tie.

“I have a lot of respect for Pep. He has done a good job. We have to be focused tomorrow because they are a tough team. [But] semi-finals are won by players, not coaches,” he added.

“We will face a very strong team. They won the league a month ago. It’s normal that we are not considered as favourites.

“We don’t think about [Frank] Ribery; we are focused on the whole team. He is a great player but we think about his team.”

Alonso: We must be perfect to beat Bayern

The Spain international has stressed that there are no favourites at this stage of the tournament and says it will be important to have Cristiano Ronaldo fit

Xabi Alonso says Real Madrid must be “perfect” to beat Bayern Munich – but insists neither side should be considered favourites.

Pep Guardiola’s side head into the clash having been odds-on to defend their Champions League crown throughout the tournament, but Alonso is confident his side have what it takes to avenge their last-four defeat in 2012 to the German champions.

“We haven’t thought about what happened two years ago because the circumstances were different. We have to play a perfect match. We have to know how to defend and to attack well when we have the ball,” he told a press conference.

“Bayern are a great rival but we are going through a good moment and nobody is the favourite. We’ve made it into the semi-finals in each of the last three years and now we want to take the next step.”

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to training at the start of this week after recovering from a hamstring problem and Alonso is hopeful the Portugal star will be ready to play.

“Ronaldo will play if he is 100 per cent fit. The coach, the staff and the player himself will decide. He is important for us,” he said.

“Ronaldo can create and score goals. We use him whenever he is available.”

Alonso also praised the performances of Gareth Bale during his first season with the club, stressing that the squad had been thrilled with his efforts even before his stunning winning goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

“Irrespective of the goal, Gareth Bale has been very valuable for us and we’re very happy with him, especially since it is his first season,” said Alonso.

Bayern are no longer favourites, says Robben

The Netherlands international believes Real Madrid boast “the best players” and are the most dangerous opponents left in the Champions League

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben says his side can no longer be considered favourites to win the Champions League as they prepare to face Real Madrid.

The reigning European champions have been odds-on to become the first team to defend the trophy in the modern era throughout the tournament so far, but Robben believes such expectation counts for nothing against a side he believes are the most dangerous in the competition.

“They have the best players,” Robben told Kicker. “If you have a 10 minute period where you switch off, you can suddenly concede three goals. There’ll be a lot demanded of us.

“We are no longer favourites. Of course we want to win the Champions League again, but we’re in the semi final – and anything can happen.

“Real are the most dangerous opponent we could have faced.”

Wednesday’s match at Santiago Bernabeu kicks off at 20:45CET.

Bale back in full training ahead of Bayern clash

The Wales star missed Monday’s session due to illness but was able to work as normal with the Real Madrid squad as they prepare to take on Pep Guardiola’s side

Real Madrid attacker Gareth Bale returned to full training on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League semi-final first-leg with Bayern Munich.

The former Tottenham star was forced to sit out a routine practice session on Monday after suffering from flu-like symptoms, throwing his participation in Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu into doubt.

However, the club have confirmed he was able to train as normal early on Tuesday and will be available for selection to coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The news comes as a major boost to Madrid, who also welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos to training on Monday after they recovered from hamstring and neck injuries respectively.

Defender Alvaro Arbeloa and forward Jese Rodriguez remain the only injury absentees for Wednesday’s encounter.