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Oct 14, 2008

Q&A with Arjen Robben

Real Madrid's Arjen Robben is enjoying his second season at the Bernabeu. Here, he talks to Lucy Turner about the Spanish giants' hopes for the season and what it's like being part of a large group of Dutchmen at the Spanish champions. So it's your second season at Real Madrid and fully adapted in the team, with a league title in your pocket, what more could you ask for in your first season?

Well, more titles really. You always play to win titles when you're at a club like Madrid and I don't think this season will be any different. We want to win again like the season before and our hopes are also set on the Champions League.

I think Real Madrid has made it quite clear that after winning two successive championships, the Champions League is the most desired objective this season.

Yes, because it's a special one here at Madrid because the club has won the title nine times and they want to win it a tenth, so hopefully we can win that this season. It would be the first for me. I hope to be here a long time so I hope I can have some good moments at Real Madrid.

Two matches and two victories in the Champions League so far and the next one against possibly the toughest rival in Group H.

We have to play Juve, first away and then at home, but we have had a good start to the competition, especially the second game against Zenit because it was a very tough rival.

We managed to get the three points there which were very important and now we have to play Juve back to back. We hope to get two good results against them and hopefully reach the second round.

What do you expect from your next rival Juventus? They had probably more problems than expected against BATE this week.

Yes, but playing away from home is always very difficult. I don't know what the circumstances were over there because I didn't see any pictures of the match, but unexpectedly they had a difficult game.

We have heard Schuster and player Sergio Ramos talk of possible rivals in the Champions League final. Do you think it wise to talk about reaching the final at this stage of the competition? Obviously, confidence is a bonus.

I think more than talking about the final, I think it's because our target is to reach the final, but it's not that we think that we will reach the final for certain because the Champions League at the moment is very, very tough with so many good teams, quality teams, and we know it's going to be very difficult to reach that final. However, I think it always has to be an objective to reach it.

Rafa Van Der Vaart has definitely started off well, top scorer, and a good addition to the team.

Definitely! Of course, I have known him for a long time, a friend of mine and I've know him since the youth teams at the national team. He's a very good player, a great addition to the squad and he's proved that already in the season, that he can be an important player for us.

Now there are five Dutchmen in the team, something we were used to seeing traditionally at FC Barcelona, replacing the Brazilian contingent.

I don't know if it's really like that, it could be a coincidence as well. But at the moment it's curious to see that there are five Dutch players here; they're all good quality players you know: I think Ruud [Van Nistelrooy], well, you don't need to speak about him, and then Wesley [Sneijder] and Rafael [Van der Vaart] have done well as well, especially in the national team at Euro 2008. Wesley is still young and one of the biggest talents in Europe at the moment so...I think they're all good players.

Talking of Barça, this season do you think it's something of an advantage or a disadvantage playing against the same teams as Barcelona the following match day?

I don't know really, it's a funny one! Every time we meet a team Barcelona has played against the weekend before, but I don't know. For me it makes no difference; every match is just another game and I don't think it has any influence on us.

After the 6-1 win of Barcelona over Atlético Madrid, they will want to hit back in the derby against Real Madrid.

I don't think so. It's just another game, especially now with the international break. I think it's just another game and Atlético won't look back on Barcelona and getting their revenge on us. I don't think it's like that, for me it's just a normal situation.

Which are the main rivals in the league for Madrid?

Villarreal, Atlético, Valencia, Sevilla. At the moment all the big teams are in the top six on the table so it's going to be very difficult to win the title again but of course we will do everything we can to try to win the championship for the third successive season.

A lot has been said about Madrid needing more signings, not needing any. Will the team be affected by the lack of new arrivals?

I don't think so. At the moment we're doing quite well. Of course it was a shame we didn't win our last game against Espanyol, but apart from that I think we're doing quite well. We're proving we have a lot of quality in the team and we have a great squad. Looking back to the Premier League, do you also think it's the best league in Europe at the moment? It's definitely where the money is.

Well, from my point of view, I've always said Spain and England have the strongest leagues in Europe at the moment. I think, looking back at last season, England has proven that maybe they are one little step ahead of the Spanish league simply because last year there were three English teams in the Champions League semi-finals.

The English teams are doing really well and we see them as one of our biggest rivals on our way to the final of the competition.

Do you share the idea that at the moment the Premier League is a threat to Spanish clubs when it comes to signings? Obviously Robinho is a good example.

No, I don't think so. I think every player is an individual case. Here at Madrid we have so many players that have been at the club for a long time like Raúl or Casillas or Guti. These players have been at the club for, I don't know, some 13 or 14 years. So I think it's a personal decision where to play.

But then clubs like West Ham are suffering a financial crisis, could that affect Spanish teams in the future?

It's always football but I think it's such a big industry and also a huge entertainment because it's the most popular sport in the world. I think the situation at clubs like West Ham will be solved and there will be solutions for problems like that.

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