Real Madrid to face Juventus

Real Madrid are anxious to avoid the mistake they made in their previous UEFA Champions League meeting with Juventus.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:50 IST
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Real Madrid are anxious to avoid the mistake they made in their previous UEFA Champions League meeting with Juventus when the two heavyweights go head-to-head again at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Tuesday. Real's hopes of winning a 10th European crown ended two seasons ago when the Italians scored a crucial away goal as they went down two-one in the first leg of a semi-final in Madrid and then finished off the job with an efficient three-one win in Turin. After a miserable start to the season, a seven-match winning streak in the league under new coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has gone a long way to restoring Real's shattered morale. Winning streak Before their 2-0 home defeat by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Saturday, Madrid had won seven La Liga games under new coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, a club record, but Bilbao had left Madrid seven points behind leaders Barcelona. Ronaldo, who was only a substitute against Bilbao, said he was fully focused on Tuesday's tie against Juventus and has not been distracted by the attention generated by his engagement celebrations. The 28-year-old hit the headlines last week when he threw a lavish Valentine's Day party at a secluded French chateau to mark his engagement to Brazilian model Daniella Cicarelli. He returned from the celebrations with an injury to his big toe and arrived late for training two days in succession. "I think it's a very important game. I've gone three or four games without scoring. I'm very keen to score and find a goal. I like this kind of game and it's the sort of game people like. And we need to show what we are capable of at the moment. We hope to be able to leave here with a good result because the return match is going to be more difficult," said Ronaldo. Test of strength The Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has turned the club's fortunes around since his arrival, but this will be his greatest test to date. "I think it's a very important game. We have 180 minutes to qualify for the next round. We're going to have to play very strong. We are going to have to be very concentrated and prepared. As Ronaldo said, this is the most important game so far this year," said Luxemburgo. Juve's season appears to have been a mirror-image of Real's. The Italians, who are managed by former Real boss Fabio Capello, looked bullet-proof at the start of the campaign, but have suffered a worrying dip in form this month that has seen them fritter away an eight-point lead at the top of the table. A dull 0-0 draw at lowly Messina on Saturday opened the door to title rivals AC Milan to now lead the standings on goal difference. But Cappello is focusing on Europe and not domestic matters. "I think that Madrid has some great players that at any moment can change the game and win. This is the difficulty to play against Real Madrid. We have some ideas but I'm not going to tell you," said Capello. Juventus striker down Cappello's confidence will have been dented, however, after the team's striker David Trezeguet was forced to withdraw from the 20-man squad after succumbing to 'flu. His probable replacement, Alessandro Del Piero, gave a lively performance against Messina, but is a shadow of the player who played such a decisive role the last time Juve met Real. Pavel Nedved, is also expected to figure in the game, though what kind of form he is in remains uncertain. The former European Player of the Year has not played a competitive match since suffering a knee injury against Brescia on January 23. Tuesday's match is a rerun of the 1998 Champions League final, only this time Zinedine Zidane is lining up for Madrid and not Juve. Madrid won that game 1-0 thanks to a goal by Pedrag Mijatovic. (AP)