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Something will have to give when Real Sociedad de Fútbol entertain Juventus FC in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.
The Italian champions have won their three Group D matches to date, while Real have a 100 per cent record in European competition at their Anoeta stadium, beginning in 1998.
Top spot at stake
So while Juventus travel to San Sebastian in the knowledge that victory will secure their place in the last 16, they are unlikely to have things all their own way against the Spanish league runners-up. Indeed, Real, who trail Juventus by three points going into the game, can leapfrog Marcello Lippi's men at the top of the group with a 2-0 or 3-1 win.
Must do better
However, the bottom line for the home side is that they have to improve on their 4-2 defeat by the Bianconeri on Matchday 3. Real were three goals down by half-time, with only an Igor Tudor own goal and a Javier De Pedro strike adding late gloss to the visitors' performance.
The result sparked criticism of coach Raynald Denoueix's selection policy, as both Nihat Kahveci and De Pedro were left on the bench until the second half. Even goalkeeper Sander Westerveld said: "
We can't win in Turin without our best players."
The Real deal
Since then Real have enjoyed mixed fortunes, with a win against CA Osasuna followed by a 4-0 reverse at Club Atlético de Madrid on Thursday, and Sunday's 3-3 draw with FC Barcelona. Still, the signs of progress are there. "The second half against Barcelona reminded me of the Real of last season," said Westerveld. "Now we have to concentrate on Juventus. We have to make the most of home advantage to get the win."
Happily for Denoueix, Real "have a complete squad". Significantly, the Frenchman added: "We have everyone prepared physically and mentally, and maybe that's due to the squad rotation we have been carrying out until now."
Boost to morale
Along with Turkish forward Nihat, Spanish international midfield player De Pedro is one of the players who should benefit from Denoueix's expected choice of a full-strength lineup. He argued that Real needed a good win to restore confidence levels. "If we beat Juventus, we'll have nine points as well as an important injection of morale," he said. "It is a vital game for us."
The hosts could be helped by the omission from the Juventus squad of six injured players - Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Enzo Maresca and Salvatore Fresi. But even from the Juve sick-bay, Del Piero was able to target the knockout phase. "On Wednesday, we have the opportunity to qualify for the next round and I hope the team can do well," he said.
Di Vaio threat
Those are anything but empty words given the Turin club's unbeaten record this term in both Serie A and the Champions League. Saturday's 1-1 draw at AC Milan kept Lippi's team top in Italy alongside the Rossoneri. And equally ominous for Real, Marco Di Vaio, the Spaniards' two-goal tormentor in Turin, was the Juventus goal hero with a late equaliser. "
The latest results have given us more strength to continue with our positive run," he said.
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