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Real Madrid to face Belarus minnows in Champions League

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 Sep 2008

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Real Madrid will face Belarus minnows BATE Borisov on Wednesday in their Champions League opener after losing their first league match and struggling to etch out a win against newly promoted Numancia over the weekend.

Real’s German coach Bernd Schuster, under pressure to improve on last season when his side was ousted from the European tournament by Roma in the last 16, said Sunday’s 4-3 home victory over Numancia had revealed weaknesses that needed to be avoided against BATE.

“There is no doubt about it. I’m concerned about the goals that we concede from dead balls,” he said.

“If that match can be a banana skin then we need to go carefully and handle the game better when we’re ahead. Our problem has been not knowing how to manage the tempo of the game,” he added.

Numancia shocked the reigning Spanish champions by taking the lead twice.

Juan Carlos Moreno and Jose Barkero twice put the visitors ahead only for first Guti and then Gonzalo Higuain to draw Real Madrid back level.

Another goal from Rafael van der Vaart and an own goal from Domingo Cisma made it 4-2 to Madrid at half time with Moreno scoring his second of the match with half an hour remaining.

It was a first win of the campaign for Real following their 2-1 loss at Deportivo La Coruna two weeks ago.

BATE had to work their way through all three qualifying rounds but Schuster urged caution.

“In theory they are the easiest opponent but we have to tread carefully,” he said.

Defender Sergio Ramos was rested for the match against Numancia because he aggravated an injury while playing for Spain last week and is uncertain for the match against BATE.

The record nine-time European Champions have not advanced past the last 16 in the Champions League since 2004. The team has not won the tournament since 2002.

Real’s first tough Champions League challenge will come on September 30 when they travel to Russia to face UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg.

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