Beckham-deprived Real still bullish

A David Beckham-deprived Real Madrid travel to Monaco on Tuesday for their Champions League quarterfinal second leg confident of completing the job they started at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago.

Real are firmly in the driving seat after overcoming Didier Deschamps’s side 4-2 in Madrid.

”The object is to get into the semifinals, and we’ll do everything possible to get there,” said Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

”We know they are not going to throw in the towel and if they score quickly, that makes life complicated for us but the key is stopping them scoring.

”And if we can do that then it won’t be complicated.”

Fernando Morientes, on loan from Real to Monaco and on target in the first leg, is a close friend of Casillas who shrugged: ”I’m indifferent if Morientes puts three goals past me, as long as we score three and then go through!”

With Beckham banned after picking up a yellow card in the first leg, Real manager Carlos Queiroz will have to juggle his options in midfield.

He can count on Ivan Helguera, back after a groin strain, and he could also call on Guti and either Borja Fernandez or Argentinian Santiago Solari.

The nine-time European champions welcome back Roberto Carlos after a two-match suspension. And the Brazilian World Cup winner could be a real menace as his left foot was red-hot on Saturday in Real’s 2-1 league win over Albacete.

A minor question mark hangs over the participation of Luis Figo after the Portugal captain emerged from the Albacete encounter with a bruised foot, but the latest reports suggest he should be fit to play.

French first-division leaders Monaco struggled against lowly Ajaccio at the weekend, prompting Casillas to remark: ”They drew 3-3 in their league game and that should give us a good deal of confidence.”

Yet the hosts can take heart from the fact that the last time a Spanish team — Deportivo la Coruna — visited their Louis II stadium they were trounced 8-3.

Monaco, aiming for their third semifinal appearance in the past decade, will take on the Spanish giants without Lucas Bernardi, who is suspended, and Sebastien Squillaci.

The central defender is out for a month with a torn hamstring suffered shortly after his return after a five-week layoff for an identical problem.

Squillaci played a key role for both sides in the first leg. He opened the scoring for Monaco only to then cancel out his good work when putting the ball into the back of his own net minutes later.

Greek midfielder Akis Zikos is also on the sidelines.

Morientes, who turns 27 on Monday, approaches the tie in terrific form after scoring for Spain in last week’s 2-0 friendly win over Denmark. His 82nd-minute header in the first leg left him poised as equal top scorer in Europe’s premier club competition this season.

He was rested at the weekend in preparation for Tuesday.

The winner of Tuesday’s clash faces either Arsenal, managed by former Monaco boss Arsene Wenger, or Chelsea, with Casillas predicting Real can come away just one match away from the final.

”If we play more or less as we did against Bayern away from home [in the last round] then I think we’ll go through.”

The bookmakers agree with Real priced up at 5-2 second favourites behind holders AC Milan — Monaco are 100-1 outsiders. — Sapa-AFP

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