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Champions League news
Monday 10. December 2007 - 09:05

Real ready to show their teeth against Lazio

A perfect home record and a gritty win at the weekend make Real Madrid confident of wrapping up qualification for the knockout stage in their final Champions League Group C match against Lazio on Tuesday (2045 CET).

A draw at the Bernabeu is enough to ensure Real's progress into the last 16 for the 11th successive season, while it would take a defeat by two goals or more to put the nine-times champions out of the competition.

Real have won all their matches at the Bernabeu this season and have lost only once in their last 24 home games in the Champions League, a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in the first knockout round in February 2006.

The team's Achilles heel in recent seasons has been their defensive frailty and momentary lapses of concentration but Saturday's hard-nosed 1-0 victory at Athletic Bilbao provided further evidence that they are now more resilient.

Real matched a combative Bilbao throughout and put the Basque side to the sword with a superb strike from Ruud van Nistelrooy early in the second half.

"I was delighted with the attitude and fighting spirit showed by the team," said coach Bernd Schuster.

"There are two ways to win a game: by playing spectacularly and scoring loads of goals or through hard work and suffering and that's what we did tonight."

Midfielder Julio Baptista, who returned to the starting line-up after a fine display against Racing Santander, said the victory was the perfect preparation for the Lazio match.

"This win was absolutely vital so that we can face the final against Lazio with strength and optimism," the Br azilian told reporters.

Lazio have struggled in Serie A this season, although they gained a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Catania on Saturday thanks to goals by strikers Tommaso Rocchi and Goran Pandev.

Coach Delio Rossi admitted it was a tough ask to beat Real on their home ground but he remained positive.

"We'll need a miracle in Madrid, but I'm a believer," he told Mediaset television.

"We'll have to play better than we did against Catania. In Madrid we'll need something special," Rocchi told reporters. "But we'll be 11 against 11 and we have nothing to lose".

Br azilian defender Cribari is available after serving a one-match suspension but Swiss right back Valon Behrami is unlikely to travel to Madrid because of a leg-muscle problem.

Probable teams:

Real: 1- Iker Casillas, 4- Sergio Ramos, 5- Fabio Cannavaro, 3- Pepe, 12- Marcelo or 16- Gabriel Heinze, 23- Wesley Sneijder, 19- Julio Baptista or 6- Mahamadou Diarra, 14- Guti, 10- Robinho, 7-Raul, 17- Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Lazio: 32-Marco Ballotta, 6-Lionel Scaloni, 2-Guglielmo Stendardo, 25-Cribari, 8-Luciano Zauri, 26-Gaby Mudingayi, 24-Cristian Ledesma, 5-Massimo Mutarelli, 11-Stefano Mauri, 19-Goran Pandev, 18-Tommaso Rocchi.

Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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