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With possibilities for both teams to advance to the knockout stage, Ruud van Nistelrooy is expecting Real Madrid CF's UEFA Champions League Group C meeting with S.S. Lazio at the Santiago Bernabéu to mirror a final. A draw would be enough for the nine-time winners while their visitors from Italy need to win by two goals to keep destiny in their own hands.
Van Nistelrooy scored twice when these sides drew 2-2 in Rome on 3 October, and feels anything is possible when they renew ties on Tuesday. "It will be a very special game, much like a final," said the 31-year-old. "It will be one of those matches where anything can happen. We have to try to play as we always do, with a lot of confidence and above all with enthusiasm. We have a great opportunity to advance."
The former Manchester United FC forward drove in a long-range winner at Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday, his seventh league goal in 12 outings this season, to strengthen Madrid's position at the top of the Primera División and later limped off with what appeared to be a calf problem. "I'll train normally and will be ready," he said, before explaining why he did not celebrate his weekend strike. "When I scored I just stayed there, in the same position. I felt emotional as always. The same thing happened to me last year in Bilbao. To be honest, I just don't have a special celebration."
With 53 goals in 66 UEFA Champions League appearances, Van Nistelrooy will certainly have to be watched by the visiting defenders. "Lazio are a very physical side at the back, and up front they have a lot of quality with Goran Pandev and Tommaso Rocchi," the Dutch international said. "They are a strong team whose players play for each other. I remember in our last game against them, they had a few chances to win the match. There's no doubt we'll have to play well on Tuesday."
Asked what he thought about facing Lazio's 43-year-old goalkeeper Marco Ballotta, Van Nistelrooy responded: "I have a lot of respect for him. I'm sure I won't last to the same level when I'm 43. He's an example for everyone."
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