Borussia Dortmund a good test for Real Madrid - Toni Kroos
Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos said that Tuesday's Champions League Group F game at Borussia Dortmund will be a good test and way to judge how the competition holders are set for this new season.
Madrid are unbeaten so far in 2016-17 -- but have drawn their two most recent games at home to Villarreal and away at Las Palmas to see their lead cut in La Liga.
Zinedine Zidane's side were also 1-0 down in their opening UCL game at home to Sporting Lisbon -- only to come back to win 2-1 with two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata.
Ahead of their highest profile game of the season so far, the Germany international told the pre-game news conference that Madrid were well prepared for the test against a quality team like Dortmund at their noisy Westfalenstadion ground.
"For us this is a good test," Kroos said. "A game like this in Dortmund, in this stadium, with this atmosphere, against a quality opponent. We can see where we are, and what we can do this season. We are coming in in very good form."
Thomas Tuchel's all-action Dortmund team were an impressive side, Kroos said, while adding that his Madrid team would also look to try and dominate possession of the ball.
"Dortmund are a good team for me, with an excellent coach and a clear gameplan," he said. "We must have a response -- to play our own game. I am sure that Dortmund will be very aggressive, playing at home.
"That is their style of play. Both teams will want possession of the ball, I hope we have it, and we get a good result."
With holding midfielder Casemiro injured, Kroos admitted his positioning on the pitch changed, but he maintained that generally the job was the same.
"Casemiro is a fundamental part of this team, he protects us a lot, something we did not have before," he said. "That was seen in the games he played last season. He is injured now.
"But it does not matter much to me. Whether I play five or 10 metres forward or back does not change my way of playing, to be on the ball a lot.
"We try and fill the spaces in front of the defence where [Casemiro] was. In the last two games, especially against Las Palmas, we did that very well."
Much of the build-up to the game in Spain has focused on Cristiano Ronaldo's angry reaction to being substituted against Las Palmas last weekend, something played down by Zidane at the coach's news conference.
Kroos also said that the incident had been blown out of proportion, while pointing out that no player can expect to be at their best for 60 games a season.
"Cristiano is very good, it is something normal," he said. "There are always [media] stories which exaggerate the reality. It is impossible to play 60 games all season and be in good form all the time.
"The coach decides who plays, and if someone should come off with 15 minutes left. [Ronaldo] is just the same, within the group, and ready to play tomorrow."
Madrid have never won in five competitive visits to Dortmund, and also slipped up at times in recent years against other Bundesliga sides, but Kroos reminded those present that his team had generally come good when it mattered.
"We have lost against Schalke, last season against Wolfsburg, and in the end [both years] we won the Champions League," he said.
"Madrid have won against Dortmund, lost games too, it is always very difficult. The players have changed but the style is the same.
"In Spain, people know that Dortmund are the second-best team in Germany. We have been warned. Madrid have not had much success here before, hopefully tomorrow we will have better fortune."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan