Arsene Wenger: Barcelona and Real Madrid are favourites to win Champions League

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has dubbed Real Madrid and Barcelona as “super favourites” to win the Champions League.

The Frenchman does believe his Gunners side have the ability to win the trophy themselves but knows his team is no more than outsiders at the moment.

The current European champions Barca are three points behind Jose Mourinho’s Real domestically in La Liga, with the capital side also having a game in hand.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have already qualified from the Champions League group stage, and face Olympiakos in the final game on Tuesday night.

“At the moment I would say in Europe there are two super favourites – Barcelona and Real Madrid,” Wenger told his club’s official website.

“Behind them, everyone else can hope to win it and we will try to win.

“At the moment we are not one of the favourites but one advantage we have is that we have finished top of our group.

“From now it becomes a cup competition. The Champions League becomes different when you go in the last 16, it is more open. You need a bit of luck in the draw and you need to have your players available in the two games.” (goal.com)

Xabi Alonso: “We have made a step forward”

Xabi Alonso feels that Real Madrid have made a step forward this term and is eager to keep up their good run of form.

Madrid have impressed in the opening months of the 2011-12 campaign and currently sit atop the Primera Division table with 34 points from 13 games, three points ahead of Barcelona with a game in hand.

“I’m very happy because the team have taken a step forward. We are making progress and the team are playing very well. We don’t want to stop now because the season is far from over,” Alonso was quoted as saying on the club’s official website.

“We feel fine and we’re having a fantastic run. We’re earning very good results and also playing very well. We’re concerned about doing a good job. If we do, we’ll have a greater chance of winning our games.

Alonso is also fully aware that with more than half the campaign to go, there’s a lot of potential for slip-ups.

“The season is long and there will be room for many more thrills and some upsets, but we hope the latter are few.”

Ronaldo de Lima: “I hope Real Madrid will win La Liga & Champions League”

Former Real Madrid striker Ronaldo hopes that the Santiago Bernabeu side will win both La Liga and the Champions League in the 2011-12 campaign.

The Spanish giants currently sit top of the Primera Division table with 34 points from 13 games, while they qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League from Group D without dropping any points.

Ronaldo is hopeful they can keep up their good form, but declined to give his opinion on whether Jose Mourinho’s side have finally caught up to Barcelona.

“I can’t say whether Real Madrid and Barcelona are of the same level or whether Madrid play even better than Barca. I can only say that I hope Madrid win La Liga and the Champions League, and beat Barcelona as well,” Ronaldo said to AS.

“I try to follow La Liga as closely as possible. I didn’t have the chance to see the derby, but I know that Madrid won and are in great form. I think that they can achieve great things this season.”

Ronaldo wore the Real Madrid jersey from 2002 until 2006 and won one league title as well as the Intercontinental Cup and the Spanish Supercup during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu. (goal.com)

Iker Casillas: “Our 13 victory streak is spectacular”

Iker Casillas was paid tribute to before the derby kicked-off for earning his record 127th caps with the Spanish national team. The goalkeeper analysed the match for the media once it was over.

“The match wasn’t all good for us at the start. Atletico scored early on. They defended fiercely and it isn’t easy for us to play that way at the Bernabeu. Courtois’ red card was key because it forced them to make greater efforts and Di Maria’s goal made them advance their lines more.”

“We now only think about our match against Sporting Gijon. It’s been difficult for us to win at their stadium in the last few years and we should use this week, in which we’ll play no other games, to prepare well for it. Our 13 victory streak is spectacular and we must keep up the good work.” (realmadrid.com)

Mourinho: “We didn’t want a rough game!”

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has praised his side for managing to overcome city rivals Atletico Madrid in a professional manner, after they rallied from behind to earn a 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Adrian Lopez gave the visitors the lead after just 15 minutes but a double from Cristiano Ronaldo and further goals from Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain sealed the three points for Los Blancos against their nine-man opponents.

The 48-year-old says his team’s all-round display during the derby meeting could not be faulted and he was happy not to see his players react negatively towards Atletico’s rough challenges.

“My team wanted to win,” Mourinho told the club’s official website. “My men didn’t want to play an ugly or rough game. We wanted to win. We played to win and won, despite a little bruising.

“Luckily we had carbon fibre shin pads that work really well. We did our job. We played with discipline and only received one yellow card in the entire 90 minutes. We remained calm, concentrated and didn’t react to anything.”

Madrid were dealt with some good fortunate early on as Atleti goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was sent off for a challenge on Karim Benzema in the box, and Mourinho is of the opinion that the decision made by referee Mateu Lahoz was a correct call.

“The challenge on Benzema was worthy of a penalty and a red card. The goalkeeper had to decide either to tackle the player or concede an unstoppable goal,” he continued.

“I tell my keepers that I’d rather they concede a goal in these situations than give the opponent a penalty and therefore see a red card. Atletico’s goalkeeper decided to take a risk and the penalty was clear.”

Mourinho then concluded by emphasising the need for his side to continue with the status quo, as they go into next week’s clash with Sporting Gijon on the back of a 13-game winning run.

“My team always played well. It was ambitious and motivated. It was also emotionally controlled. We must now be patient and keep our vision. Our streak will eventually come to an end,” said the former Inter boss.

Real Madrid have opened up a six-point gap at the Primera Division summit, after Barcelona lost 1-0 to Getafe in Saturday’s late kick-off. (goal.com)