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16 Dec 2005 10:26
Real Madrid have their first match back in their Santiago Bernabeu stadium since Juan Ramon Lopez Caro took over as the Spanish giants’ latest coach two weeks ago when Osasuna visit on Sunday.
Normally, the arrival of Osasuna would cause few tremors but with Real in turmoil and the visitors second in the table, behind Barcelona only on goal difference, the match has a different complexion this season.
“It’s been my dream to lead the team in the Bernabeu,” said Lopez Caro.
“Osasuna have been working hard and are going through an exceptional period but my team is also doing well and I think we are going to get three points,” added the new coach with optimism.
Real are third with 28 points from 15 games but lie six points behind the leading pair.
Lopez Caro has indicated that he will change around the Real formation from that employed by his predecessor Wanderley Luxemburgo.
One of the expected moves is that England captain David Beckham is likely to be asked to patrol the right flank rather than operate in the middle of the field like he did under Luxemburgo.
“Osasuna are playing very well but our team showed what they were capable of against Malaga last Sunday,” said Beckham, who returns to the Real line-up after a one match suspension which saw him sit out the 2-0 win at Malaga.
With Beckham back, Uruguayan international Pablo Garcia is expected to be on the bench against his old club, where he played three years before joining Real last summer.
Another issue for Lopez Caro is whether Zinedine Zidane will be fit to play.
The three-times world player of the year has not trained this week due to continued ankle problems and even if he is ready to roll for Real, he may be named among the substitutes.
“With me, there’s nobody who is untouchable,” warned Lopez Caro.
“Not Beckham, not Zidane, nobody has an automatic right to a place, I’ve made that clear. Places have to be won by working hard during the week,” he added.
Osasuna know that Real will be coming at them full throttle in a bid to put the recent bad times behind them.
“Real will be out to kill us,” joked Osasuna’s Cameroon international striker Pierre Webo.
“But we are not going to cringe in front of them.
It’s going to be a big battle added Webo, who revealed he has been getting hints on how to beat Real in front of their own fans from his friend and compatriot Samuel Eto’o.
Barcelona’s Eto’o, the Spanish first division’s top scorer with 13 goals, found the net once and ran rings around the Real defenders several other times in the Catalan club’s 3-0 defeat of Real Madrid in the Bernabeu last month.
The reigning African footballer of the year will be hoping to put on a similar display at struggling Cadiz on Saturday, in order to ensure that Barca stay on top of the Spanish first division.
The big doubt for Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard is over the health of Ronaldinho, who has been suffering from flu this week.
Ronaldinho has not trained since Tuesday but Rijkaard said the inspirational Brazilian, who has score 11 league goals this season, would still travel to Cadiz.
In case the world player of the year is still under the weather, former European Golden Boot winner Henrik Larsson is expected to get his second La Liga start of the season.
Better news for Barca was that right back Belletti was passed fit on Thursday after receiving a heavy knock in their 2-1 win at Sevilla last Sunday.
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