Madrid:Real Madrid have been dreaming of winning this season's Champions League final at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium but first they need to get out of the group stage and there is still some work to be done going into Wednesday's home match against FC Zurich.
Real lie joint top of Group C alongside AC Milan but Marseille are just a point behind the duo meaning Real need to defeat bottom side Zurich to put one foot in the knockout phase of this season's competition.
Real have moved to the top of the Spanish league table with their best start since the 1991/92 season and have a vital match this Sunday in 'El Clasico' against Barcelona at Camp Nou but for now Europe is the focus.
"The Barcelona game is coming up but before that we have a key match against Zurich and if we win we can put one foot in the next stage of the Champions League," explained Dutchman Royston Drenthe.
Real have lost some of their aura at home in Europe in recent seasons losing 3-2 to AC Milan in this season's competition while Juventus and Liverpool both won at the Bernabeu last season.
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo is on the recovery road after ten games out with ankle trouble and coach Manuel Pellegrini must decide whether to risk the forward, who is the top-scorer in this season's Champions League with four goals, ahead of the Barcelona match or limit him to a brief run out against Zurich.
"We must go slowly as Cristiano (Ronaldo) has had many days without training," said former legendary Real striker Emilio Butragueno, now working behind the scenes at the club. "It's not enough that the ankle is good it must have the necessary reinforcement to compete.
"Cristiano Ronaldo is a great professional, he is a winner and has a commitment to the club and does everything possible to return, but when he returns he cannot have a relapse."
Despite the absence of Ronaldo, Real have won nine games in 11 games to top the league but coach Pellegrini has still not won over the unforgiving Real crowd who have not been enthralled by the pragmatic winning football which was again on show in Saturday's 1-0 win over Racing Santander.
"We have to improve the football we are playing," admitted Pellegrini. "It was difficult against Racing because we had a two-week break and were coming off the back of the Kings Cup defeat (to Alcorcon)."
Pellegrini has shown he is not afraid to make big decisions, leaving captain Raul - the club's all-time leading goalscorer - on the substitutes' bench for the last three league matches with Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema favoured in attack.
Raul, now 32, will hope to make an impact against Zurich to stake a claim for a place in the starting line-up against Barcelona.
Swiss side FC Zurich caused a few problems for Real in the away game and need to record a historic win in Madrid to have any chance of reaching the knockout phase as they are four points behind the leaders.