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Madrid hopes rest on Raúl

Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 13.20CET
Real Madrid CF coach Carlos Queiroz believes Raúl González can fill the void left by Ronaldo's absence.

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Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 13.20CET

Madrid hopes rest on Raúl

Real Madrid CF coach Carlos Queiroz believes Raúl González can fill the void left by Ronaldo's absence.

By Andy Hall in Madrid

Real Madrid CF coach Carlos Queiroz believes talismanic captain Raúl González can fill the gap left by the injured Ronaldo in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League first knockout round second-leg match against FC Bayern München.

Brazilian absentees
The Spanish champions hold a slight edge in the tie following a 1-1 draw in Munich a fortnight ago, but their hopes of claiming a tenth European Champion Clubs' Cup have been hit by the absence of two Brazilian internationals. Leading scorer Ronaldo is out after tearing a hamstring in Saturday's Primera División draw at Real Racing Club Santander, while left-back Roberto Carlos - who scored Madrid's equaliser in Germany - has been suspended for improper conduct during the first leg.

'Still a threat'
Queiroz, however, is unfazed by this, as he exclusively told "With Raúl we are just as dangerous. We will remain true to our attacking style but the concept will be different and the likes of [Luís] Figo, [Zinedine] Zidane, [Santiago] Solari and [David] Beckham will need to show other skills. Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos are important for us and it is a shame for football that they won't be playing, but we have a great team who have never based their ideas around two players alone."

Pavón problem
In addition, the Madrid coach will only discover on Wednesday morning whether central defender Francisco Pavón has recovered from flu in time to play. Should he be unavailable, 22-year-old Álvaro Mejía will take his place.

New role
In attack, Raúl will probably be supported by Solari, and the No7 is relishing the chance to step into Ronaldo's shoes. "Without him, I will have to play in a more forward role," Raúl said. "It's a position where I feel very comfortable - I enjoy being close to the opposition goal."

Under pressure
Ottmar Hitzfeld insists the pressure will be on the home side to qualify for the quarter-finals. "We are aiming to qualify but we are not the favourites," said the Bayern coach. "That is why it would be sensational to eliminate Madrid at their own ground."

Familiar foe
Dutch forward Roy Makaay, who knows Madrid better than most from his time at RC Deportivo La Coruña, is a key element in Hitzfeld's plans, but agrees with his coach that the German champions are second favourites. "The pressure is definitely on Madrid," said Makaay, who put Bayern in front in Munich. "They are the favourites and are hoping to collect three trophies this year.

Formidable task
"We know we have to score and that is not going to be easy. Madrid are particularly strong when playing at home. They are unbeaten at the Santiago Bernabéu in the league this season, which proves what a fortress it is."

Defensive doubts
The visitors have injury worries of their own, with French international left-back Bixente Lizarazu struggling with a thigh injury. Moreover, Lizarazu's compatriot Willy Sagnol is a serious doubt after breaking his arm in Saturday's win at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and will only know on the day of the game whether he will be fit to play.

'Classic encounter'
With the two European giants, who have collected a combined 13 titles in the competition, facing off, the sell-out crowd in Madrid is guaranteed a fascinating spectacle. Queiroz agreed, finishing his interview with by saying: "Bayern have a great team with strong, quality players and great physical strength. But we are ready for them. It's going to be classic encounter."

Last updated: 23/03/04 23.02CET