With Lionel Messi out injured, Thierry Henry doubtful and Ronaldinho off-form, FC Barcelona are looking to Samuel Eto'o to inspire them against Real Madrid CF.
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With Lionel Messi out injured, Thierry Henry doubtful and Ronaldinho struggling for form, FC Barcelona are looking to Samuel Eto'o to inspire them to victory in Sunday's 'clásico' at home to Real Madrid CF.
The Cameroon striker has made an impressive return to action after more than three months on the sidelines with a serious thigh injury, scoring in his second game against VfB Stuttgart in the UEFA Champions League a week ago and then two more in the 3-0 defeat of Valencia CF last Saturday. But it is not only his finishing, but also his pace, unselfish running and enthusiasm that has revitalised Barcelona, who hope to close the gap on Madrid to one point. "Even though he has just come back from injury he is in great shape and he knows exactly how he should play," said Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard. "The way he pressures really helps the team and he also adds that extra bit of class with his goals."
An ex-Real Madrid player, Eto'o has a brilliant record against his former club, scoring seven goals against them while at RCD Mallorca and another three since joining Barcelona, who have only two home league defeats in the last 24 years against their arch-rivals. But of their last six visits Madrid have lost only once and it was only Messi's added-time equaliser, completing a hat-trick, that denied them victory in a 3-3 thriller back in March.
Madrid coach Bernd Schuster, who as a player made the rare move between the two clubs, was in charge at Getafe CF last season, and although a memorable Messi goal condemned them to a 5-2 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg defeat in April, they famously won the return 4-0. Schuster rested several key players for the 1-1 midweek cup draw against third division Alicante CF, and as he aims for a seven-point winter break lead said: "Some players who played in the Copa will play on Sunday, just as some who stayed in Madrid will not start at Camp Nou."