Here, we can hear from a handful of players who have different roles in the group as the countdown to kick-off at the Bernabeu continues…
As a former La Liga player, what can we expect against Real Madrid?
“I’ve had the opportunity to play against Real Madrid many times and always it is lovely. It is very difficult because they have very good players and play the game very fast. We have to stay focused, you can miss nothing. If you miss one pass in the middle, for example, it is not like the other teams – they may do nothing, but Real Madrid, if you give them the opportunity, they kill you. We have to stay very focused and we have to be aggressive and positive.”
Thoughts on the game
“We have the opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the world. They are a very good team. We have the opportunity to demonstrate to all of the people that we are a good team and we want to arrive ready for action.”
On Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos
“He is amazing. His career… I think every year he is improving. He is doing amazing things with Real Madrid and in the final of the Champions League (in 2014), scoring in the last minute. I think it is unbelievable what he is doing. He is one of the best in history. It’s tough to play against him because he is strong, he has lots of experience and he has quality with the ball. As a defender, he is very complete.”
How do you feel going into the contest?
“It’s really exciting for us – it’s what the Champions League is all about. We want to test ourselves against the best teams in the world and there’s not many bigger and better than Real Madrid, having won it now for two seasons in a row. Everyone is excited for the challenge.”
What’s it like to test yourself in this situation?
“It’s another step for me individually and for the team. We’ve been on this natural progression over the last three years and this is another stepping stone in that and one we’re really excited about. We respect Real Madrid but at the same time we want to go there and try to win.”
Thoughts on the match
“I think it’ll be a great test for us all. Obviously they won the Champions League last season and these are the teams you want to play week in, week out. You want to be in the Champions League, you want to play against the best teams and individual players and we’ve got a great opportunity to go there and put on a show.”
On our current Champions League form
“It’s not all about Real Madrid, of course. We know how far we want to go in the competition. We’ve got two wins up to now and it’ll be no different tonight. We want to go there with the mindset that we go into every game with and try to get the three points. It will be a big three points if we do that.”
On Real Madrid’s attacking stars
“As I said, you want to play against the best players in the world and the Premier League is no different. They’ve got some world class players in the Premier League and whoever the manager picks at the Bernabeu we’ll encourage each other individually and as a team and try to spur the team on to win the game.”
How do you feel ahead of the game?
“I’m excited and we are all excited because we’re playing against the champions of the Champions League. It’s a big team and when you are a football player you are excited to play this kind of game. We go there without pressure, to try to play the game normally and hope we come back with some points from the Bernabeu.”
Can your experience of playing in a massive game like the Euro 2016 final for France help to set you up for this game?
“Yes, of course. A final is a massive game and then to play against Real Madrid away is maybe similar. We have a chance to play against some of the best players in the world but we will go there without pressure. It won’t be easy but we will go there, try to play, give our best on the pitch and hopefully come back with something.”
Have you spoken to any of the French players in Real’s squad?
“When I was in the national team I spoke with (Raphael) Varane about this game. To joke, I said to him if he can give me a penalty it would be good! He was laughing! When you play the game you forget about your friends and you are focused on your team. I don’t know if I will play or not but I will be prepared to give my best to help the team.”
Thoughts on the match
“It’s why you’re a professional footballer, for these kinds of games. On one hand, of course you respect them and I think it’s amazing if you play against these kinds of teams, but on the other hand it’s also a game we want to win. We have started well in the Champions League and it’s amazing for the fans and everyone. In the end, it’s about the result.”
What does the team need to do to get a result?
“Just play the way we can – and I think we have shown that in big games already. I don’t think that that will be a problem here. We are mature enough to do this in that way and to approach it like another big game. Obviously it is something different and new and with the right mentality I don’t think it will be a problem.”
How can the players prepare for a game of this magnitude from a mental point of view?
“With all respect to every opponent you play against, at the end of the day it’s the 11 who start on the pitch against the other 11, playing football. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the Bernabeu, Old Trafford or wherever so I think we need to approach it as being top of the group, together with them, and knowing that we want to go to the next round.”
What’s it like for you as a young player breaking through to go to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid?
“Brilliant. I’ve got to play and train as hard as I can and we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be an exciting game which everyone is looking forward to. We’ve got confidence going into it after winning our last few games so there’s no reason why we can’t go there, put on a good performance and do well.”