By Andy Hall in Madrid
The return of Ronaldo and a desire to end talk of a crisis at the Santiago Bernabéu should combine to reinvigorate Real Madrid CF for the visit of AS Monaco FC on Wednesday. "It has been a black week," said coach Carlos Queiroz, "but we haven't lost the virtues or strength of character that makes this club."
"It is not normal for Madrid to lose two matches in a week," continued Queiroz, reflecting on last Wednesday's 3-2 Copa del Rey final defeat by Real Zaragoza and Saturday's 4-2 reverse at Athletic Club Bilbao - a loss which shaved their lead at the Primera División summit to a single point. "Our pride has been hurt but we want to make this week a white one."
The sight of Ronaldo's name on the team-sheet should help, although he may be lacking sharpness after a fortnight out with a hamstring tear. "I would prefer to start the match because coming on for the second half makes it harder to adapt to the rhythm of the game," said the Brazilian, who refuted claims that Madrid have become too dependent on his goals. "Look at the club's history and all the trophies won without me," reasoned Ronaldo.
Raúl González scored twice at the weekend and is a certain starter, but Madrid are again without the suspended Roberto Carlos. "The natural decision is to stick to the defence which played against [FC] Bayern München," Queiroz told uefa.com, meaning Raúl Bravo will fill in for the rampaging Brazilian as he did against Bayern in the previous round, a 2-1 aggregate triumph.
Monaco may not have won on Spanish soil in five previous attempts, but they proved their class earlier in the competition by putting eight past Madrid's domestic rivals RC Deportivo La Coruña. "
We are conscious that we will be facing a disciplined rival, very organised and with very good individual players. They have done well to reach this stage of the tournament and should be respected," was Queiroz's verdict.
Monaco knocked out FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the previous round on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate draw. The French side's captain, Ludovic Giuly, missed both legs with a foot injury but is back in the fold and should feature, as should Lucas Bernardi despite taking a blow to the throat against FC Sochaux Montbéliard on Saturday - a 1-1 draw which meant Monaco relinquished the Ligue 1 leadership to Olympique Lyonnais after previously being as much as ten points clear.
The result will hinge on our attitude to the game and the weapons we have available," said Monaco coach Didier Deschamps. One of those weapons will be Fernando Morientes, on loan from Madrid and a scorer in the club's 2000 Champions League final victory against Valencia CF. The Spain striker said: "We have been pitted against a great rival and we must keep a cool head."
Deschamps reserved his final words for his former France sparring partner Zinedine Zidane - the man who settled the tie against Bayern with the sole goal of the second leg. Deschamps said: "If he's on form then he will inspire whichever team he plays for, but if he has problems Madrid will too. We have come here to do well and the thought of losing has not even entered our heads."
The following players will miss the second leg if booked: David Beckham (Madrid); Lucas Bernardi (Monaco).
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