Champions League

Real, Spurs to risk players?

2011-04-04 16:22
Cristiano Ronaldo (File)
Madrid - Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur must decide whether to risk key players battling injuries when they meet on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.

Only three days after Madrid lost their perfect home record, coach Jose Mourinho said he may play forward Cristiano Ronaldo, whose nagging thigh injury left the Portugal forward out of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Sporting Gijon.

"If Cristiano plays, it is because he and I risk it," Mourinho said.

Striker Karim Benzema is unlikely to return from a leg injury, so Mourinho may also test Marcelo's health after the Brazil fullback missed Saturday's match with an upper body injury.

With Madrid's domestic title hopes fading, they may need Ronaldo in the lineup to focus on winning the European Cup for a record 10th time. Madrid now trail Spanish league leaders Barcelona by eight points.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has his own injury worries with Gareth Bale recovering from a hamstring injury.

The London club has only two fully fit central defenders in Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong, with Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Younes Kaboul out and William Gallas a game-time decision because of a knee injury. Midfielder Steven Pienaar is also out with a groin injury.

Bale is having a breakout season for Tottenham but has made only three brief appearances since the end of January.

"We sincerely believe that we can get past both legs," the Wales international said in an interview in Monday's AS newspaper. "We know how to win. Madrid play on the counter and the forward three have a lot of quality. Mourinho's got them well organised, and Xabi Alonso always knows what the match needs.

"(But) a tie in the first leg would be fine."

Madrid had won all 22 games before its first loss in the Spanish capital since last April. Mourinho's run of nine years without a home loss - which includes the Portuguese coach's spells at FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan - was also halted after 150 games.

With Benzema missing, Emmanuel Adebayor is set to start again while Gonzalo Higuain is available off the bench after returning from a back injury.

Redknapp has relied on Peter Crouch, who scored the lone goal to get the Premier League club past AC Milan in the round of 16, in attack for Champions League games, while Netherlands playmaker Rafael van der Vaart is also set to start in his first return to the Bernabeu after being sold by Madrid last year.

Tottenham are also coming off their own domestic stumbles as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Wigan on Saturday.

"Of course it will be a tough game against Real Madrid," Redknapp said. "We will have to play better than we did at Wigan if we are going to get the result we need there. It was one of those days."

Bale has little doubt he will line up against Ronaldo.

"I will ask for Ronaldo's shirt," Bale said. "He's actually a player I have always focused on - he's a reference point. We're similar kinds of players, in terms of physical power and pace. I see him do things and I like to try and repeat them."

Madrid, playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 after beating Lyon in the previous round, won its only previous encounter with Tottenham in the 1984-85 Uefa Cup quarterfinals.



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