Toby Alderweireld says Tottenham must avoid putting Real Madrid on a pedestal ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League showdown, reminding his team-mates they already face some of the world’s best teams in the Premier League.
The Belgian defender was part of the Ajax sides that lost at the Bernabeu in three consecutive seasons between 2010 and 2012, but he was then a member of the Atletico Madrid squad that triumphed 1-0 away against Madrid in 2013 en route to winning La Liga.
Real have won the European title in each of the last two seasons, and 12 times in total. But as Spurs head to Spain, Alderweireld feels it is important not to be overawed by Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos, or the surroundings, and lose a mental battle before the match has even begun.
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“[At Atletico] there was belief to hurt them, and we have belief as well,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for them of course but respect doesn’t mean take your foot off. Just go for it, win your battles and anything can happen.
“We have to be confident. There’s always a chance to win there, to keep possession and to hurt them as well.
“The Bernabeu is a big stadium but if you play in the Premier League you play against the best teams in the world. At Ajax you play in the Dutch league and it’s a little bit different.
“You see in the Champions League this season [the English teams] have been getting good results. Of course Barcelona and Real Madrid are up there – every year they are in the final of the Champions League. It’s difficult to compare, but it’s up to us to give them a good match now.
“In the Premier League you are marking the best in the world and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, I think, is the best in the world. We’re up for it. That’s why you want to play football, in the Premier League and Champions League – to play against players like him.
“You have to have respect, but we have to respect our history as well. We have a good team and we can beat them. It’s not arrogance, it’s just confidence in our own game. We know they are a very good side but we have to try to play our game there. Then we have most chance to get a good result.
“We don’t have to be too dramatic about it. If we win we don’t have to think we’re the best in the world. If we lose, you know, it’s just a game. We’ll try to get a good result because our aim is to get into the next round of the Champions League, of course.”
Tottenham head to Madrid on a five-match winning run in all competitions, having most recently secured a 1-0 home win over Bournemouth in the league on Saturday.
The Lilywhites laboured in the first half, only forcing one save from Cherries goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, but Christian Eriksen’s 47th-minute strike secured Spurs’ first top-flight victory at Wembley – their home for the season.
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“After the internationals it’s always a difficult period because the first training session with everybody was actually on Friday,” said Alderweireld. “It was difficult to play against 11 men behind the ball but I think we defended well, got some chances and the win was deserved.
“Bournemouth have some quality as well. If you force too many things you get some bad passes and they can counter-attack. It was a thing to put quality in and maybe try to get the tempo a little bit higher [after the first half]. It’s difficult but the second half was better.
“Before the internationals we had a good spirit and we just want to keep on going. We had a good thing with the rest of the teams losing some points on Saturday. I think it was a good win for us.”
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