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Higuain: We must be on our toes

Gonzalo Higuain says a strong home performance by Real Madrid in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Manchester United at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu will be vital to his side's hopes of progression.

• Real blog: All eyes on United
• United blog: Los Blancos await

Higuain says the hosts are looking to seize control of the tie - without conceding any away goals - ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford on March 5.

"Our goal is to win and it will be even better if we do not concede any goals," Higuain told Madrid's own club website. "We know that an away goal can really influence things."

Higuain, who faces a battle with France international Karim Benzema for a starting spot, said Madrid's experience of these type of big games and danger on the counter-attack could swing things their way.

"I have been here for years now and been lucky enough to play in a lot of games like this," he said. "The truth is that you feel a lot of things. The first is to try to win to make the team and the fans happy. Manchester have a good squad, but we can do a lot of damage with individual talent and counter-attacks."

The Argentine forward said nobody in Madrid was underestimating the size of the task they faced, given the current Premier League leaders' own Champions League pedigree.

"Manchester United is a fairly solid team," he said. "They always make it to the knockout rounds in Europe. We are going to have to be on our toes. I hope that the game's key player comes from our squad. This would mean that we did things right and that we can have a successful second leg."

Jose Mourinho's side have struggled at times this season, with even their own coach questioning their motivation to follow last season's La Liga title with more silverware this season, but Higuain said he and his team-mates would not lack for motivation on Wednesday.

"There is no question that we are going to give it our all," he said. "We also want our fans to get behind us. The team always tries to do its best, sometimes it goes well and sometimes it does not."

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