By Andy Hall in Madrid
Carlos Queiroz is confident his Real Madrid CF team can clinch first place in UEFA Champions League Group F - despite choosing to rest key pair Raúl González and Iván Helguera for the Tuesday's deciding game against FC Porto.
The Madrid coach explained that Raúl and Helguera had both had minor injuries - with the latter also recovering from a bout of flu - and that, with the Spanish champions needing only a draw to win the group, neither would be risked at the Santiago Bernabéu.
"The club's medical staff have decided that Raúl and Helguera should be omitted from the squad," said Queiroz, who has named a 20-man party for the meeting with the Portuguese champions and 2003 UEFA Cup winners.
The Porto fixture is the third big match in a week for Madrid, who have beaten Club Atlético de Madrid and FC Barcelona in the Primera División in recent days. Queiroz is therefore expected to rest a number of established players and give a first-team outing to promising youngsters Jordi López, Álvaro Mejia and José Manuel Jurado. Yet he emphasised that he still expected to collect three points.
"Both teams want to win and I'm sure we are in for a competitive match of great quality," said the trainer. "We can't take decisions in a Champions League game that don't show respect for the fans, for football and for the prestige of the club.
When the ball starts rolling you always want to win."
England captain David Beckham is a yellow card away from missing Madrid's next match, but Queiroz refused to be drawn on whether that would affect his team selection. "It's a situation we have to consider very carefully," he said. "It is something we have to think about but he is experienced and knows how to protect himself. He has to play the next games."
Porto coach José Mourinho is also expected to field a changed side - Ricardo Fernandes and Ricardo Costa are in line to replace suspended duo Jorge Costa and Maniche, while Nuno Valente is out with a knee problem - but he echoed his opposite number in insisting it would not affect their search for a victory.
"There will be absentees but those picked to play are from Porto's first-team squad, they are geared up and ready to put in a serious performance," said Mourinho, whose team are three points behind their hosts in the group. "
We have come to win."
Best in the world
Mourinho confessed his admiration for Porto's opponents, saying: "Playing against teams like Madrid or [AC] Milan is always difficult because they have the best players in the world. They are very strong teams who tend to be more motivated in European competition."
Despite the formidable task facing his depleted team, Mourinho also believed his side were capable of springing a surprise. "Madrid are not invincible," he pointed out. "They have lost against Sevilla [FC] and Valencia [CF], and drawn against [FK] Partizan and [CA] Osasuna. But when they are in the mood there is not much anyone can do."
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