Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to make history by landing a fourth Champions League title this season but is unsure where his Real Madrid rank among the favourites to win the competition.
The experienced Italian coach is level with Liverpool great Bob Paisley and former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane with three triumphs in the competition previously known as the European Cup.
Ancelotti famously ended Madrid’s 12-year wait for ‘La Decima’ – a 10th European crown – when beating Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the 2013-14 final in Lisbon.
Los Blancos went on to win the competition in three successive seasons under Zidane, during which time Ancelotti was boss of Bayern Munich and Napoli, before a spell with Everton.
Back at the Santiago Bernabeu since June, Ancelotti is out to become the most successful ever coach in the continental competition, having also twice gone all the way with Milan.
“It’s a great motivation,” he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday’s opening group game against Inter.
“But the biggest motivation of all is to come back and win with Real Madrid. The joy is to go to Valdebebas every day to coach the team.
“For me this competition is special. I also won it as a player and I have excellent memories, especially winning Madrid’s 10th. It is a fresh and special memory.”
Ancelotti’s 76 per cent win rate across his 25 Champions League games with Madrid is the best of any coach at a single club to have managed at least 20 matches.
He will be looking to build on that return on Wednesday when Madrid travel to San Siro for their much-anticipated Group D opener with Italian champions Inter.
Los Blancos will fancy their chances of advancing from a group that also contains Shakhtar Donetsk and debutants Sheriff Tiraspol, but trickier tests would then lie in wait.
Paris Saint-Germain are the trophy favourites of many after adding Lionel Messi to their ranks, while Bayern Munich and England’s four-strong contingent are also much-fancied.
“It’s hard to say whether we can be considered among the favourites,” Ancelotti said when asked where his side currently rank among Europe’s elite clubs.
“What I can say is that Madrid will be competitive all the way. To say whether we’re favourites is too difficult. We’ll just try to fight for everything.”
Madrid have won only one of their previous eight away games against Inter in European competition, though that victory came in last season’s group stage.
Both teams have a new head coach in the dugout 10 months on from that previous encounter, with Simone Inzaghi replacing Antonio Conte at Inter ahead of this season.
Inter dropped their first points of the season on Sunday with a 2-2 draw against Sampdoria, while Madrid saw off Celta Vigo 5-2 to make it three wins from four this term.
“Inter are doing well so far,” Ancelotti said. “We did well in our last game against Celta, but tomorrow will be another story. It’s a competition that gives Madrid great sensations.
“We know it will be complicated. Inter have a new coach but the structure is the same. We’ll try to control the game and play to our best.
“They have lost important players but have also signed some important players. They are a team that play good football. It will be an open and competitive match.”
Ancelotti also confirmed that full-back Marcelo will play no part against Inter because of an injury, while Gareth Bale also remains absent.