Gonzalo Higuaín received a standing ovation from the Bernabeu crowd on Saturday, his first appearance since surgery on a slipped disc suffered last November.
Although his comeback was tempered by a first home defeat of the season for Madrid, Higuaín insists he and his team-mates must quickly refocus ahead of the first-leg visit of Harry Redknapp’s Premier League side on Tuesday.
“Saturday’s result is now in the past and we must forget about it,” said Higuaín, scorer of two goals in the group stage. “We will be looking to play a great match and to win against Spurs while defending our result over there in the second leg. Being at this stage of the competition is a big responsibility – it’s an enormous challenge for everyone here – and my objective now is to help my team progress to the next round.”
With fellow forward Karim Benzema expected to miss Tuesday’s encounter with a thigh injury, José Mourinho may opt to start Higuaín alongside on-loan striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
“We played up front together the other day and it felt comfortable,” said Higuaín. “We adapted well to each other’s game and depending on what the team sheet will look like tomorrow, we will try to do so again.”
According to Mourinho, Higuaín’s return to fitness this season seemed highly improbable at one stage, yet the striker’s desire to feature in the UEFA Champions League once more this term provided extra motivation.
“It’s a pleasure to compete in the quarter-finals of this tournament and more so after the injury I suffered,” he said. “I tried really hard to make sure of my return before the end of the season even though I wasn’t sure I would be capable of it. Thank God I am back, though. It just proves that statistics are not always right. The coach, my team-mates and everyone else here is happy to see me helping out again.”