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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports


Real ready to dispatch Spurs and take on Barca

Posted: 11 Apr 2011 08:12 PM PDT

Victor and vanquished: Jose Mourinho (right) with Harry Redknapp at the first leg at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, April 5, 2011. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 12 — Real Madrid should complete the formality of eliminating Tottenham Hotspur from the Champions League tomorrow to set up a probable semi-final against arch-rivals Barcelona.

Real travel to White Hart Lane brimming with confidence after demolishing Spurs 4-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final last week, while Barca go to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine 5-1 up.

Barring the most unlikely of events, Real and Barca will meet each other in European competition for the first time since 2002.

Real coach Jose Mourinho, publicly at least, has paid Spurs and English football the greatest respect by saying only an English team could overturn a four-goal deficit.

If that is true, then that club are Spurs, who have dazzled in their debut season in the Champions League with some stunning fightbacks and rekindled a flickering light from the past.

After Manchester United, Spurs were English football's trailblazers in Europe in the early 1960s when they became the first British side to win a European trophy, beating Atletico Madrid 5-1 in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1963.

A year earlier Spurs reached the semi-finals of the European Cup when their manager Bill Nicholson, paying his respects to the all-conquering Real team of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, decided his team should change to an all-white kit for European games.

Real, some years later, became the first away team in 24 years ever to win a European tie at White Hart Lane when they beat holders Spurs 1-0 in the Uefa Cup in 1985 — and are easily equipped to score another win tomorrow.

However, although Spurs are almost certain to go out, they will not go down without showing the spirit that has been a feature of their Champions League adventure, which ended almost before it started back in August.

Spurs were 3-0 down after 28 minutes of the first leg of their qualifying playoff against Young Boys in Berne before losing 3-2 and then qualifying for the group stage with a 4-0 win in the second leg in London.

In the group stage, they were losing 4-0 at halftime to holders Inter Milan before a Gareth Bale hat-trick in the second half pulled the score back to 4-3. Spurs then beat Inter 3-1 in the return in London.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: "It has been a great experience so far and I am sure it will be a great experience on Wednesday. We will give it our best shot and see what happens."

They will have to do that without striker Peter Crouch, sent off last week, while Real Madrid will be without the suspended Pepe.

Mourinho, though, can also call on Karim Benzema in attack after his recovery from an injury he suffered playing for France, and he could replace Emmanuel Adebayor, whose two headers last week set Real on their way to their emphatic win.

Possible teams:

Tottenham Hotspur: 1-Heurelho Gomes; 32-Benoit Assou-Ekotto, 4-Younes Kaboul, 20-Michael Dawson, 22-Vedran Corluka; 3-Gareth Bale, 14-Luka Modric, 8-Jermaine Jenas, 11-Rafael van der Vaart; 18-Jermain Defoe, 9-Roman Pavlyuchenko 

Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 4-Sergio Ramos, 18-Raul Albiol, 2-Ricardo Carvalho, 12-Marcelo; 14-Xabi Alonso, 24-Sami Khedira; 22-Angel Di Maria, 23-Mesut Ozil, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 9-Karim Benzema

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy) — Reuters

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Ancelotti: Chelsea win more important than Torres goal

Posted: 11 Apr 2011 07:17 PM PDT

Carlo Ancelotti relaxed at the lion's den in Old Trafford. — Reuters pic

MANCHESTER, April 12 — Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti will throw "something special" at Manchester United in their Champions League quarter-final today, and said a win was more important than a first goal for Fernando Torres.

Spain striker Torres is still waiting to find the net since his record £50 million (RM247 million) move in January. and while a goal from him would be welcome as Chelsea travel to Old Trafford with a 1-0 first-leg deficit, it is far from essential.

"I am not interested in a goal for Fernando, I am interested that Chelsea can win this game," Ancelotti said at a news conference yesterday, his shrugs hinting he was getting weary of the never-ending questions about the former Liverpool player.

"If Fernando scores it is good for him and it is good for Chelsea but if another (player) scores it doesn't matter — it is important to win.

"He doesn't have pressure from us because our aim is that he can play for the squad. I never ask any of my strikers to score a goal," added Ancelotti.

The Italian said Torres would definitely play, but would not be drawn on whether he would start before offering a small clue as to what might help the striker break his duck.

"Yossi (Benayoun) knows Fernando very well, he knows his movement . . . he has an advantage to play with Fernando," said Ancelotti, referring to the Chelsea midfielder who used to play alongside Torres at Liverpool.

Benayoun's introduction off the bench in Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win over Wigan Athletic coincided with several clear-cut chances for Torres although he missed them all as he provided more unpleasant reading for himself in the newspapers.

Ancelotti pressure

The notion that Ancelotti was also under pressure, knowing that previous Chelsea managers who have not brought home the coveted European Cup have been given their marching orders, was met with an even bigger shrug than the Torres debate.

"I'm not afraid, not worried about this," said Ancelotti, who has a year left on his contract. "A lot of time I played this kind of game, with this pressure — it's not pressure, it's excitement.

"My future is already decided. I don't have a problem about this game. When I have a contract everything is OK."

Piece of paper or not, his job would be infinitely more secure if Chelsea, the last team to win at Old Trafford, could repeat the feat they managed a year ago.

A passage into the semi-finals will depend partly on them being able to restrict United striker Wayne Rooney, who Ancelotti described as the "most dangerous player in the squad".

"We have to pay attention to his position and performance. But we don't change our shape, our mentality, our philosophy to control Rooney. We must play our football," he said.

"We will try to do something special."

He declined to elaborate, chuckling that it would not be a surprise today if he showed his hand ahead of the game, but added that making up for the 2008 defeat on penalties by United in the Champions League final gave his players extra incentive.

"That memory could be a good motivation for everyone," said Ancelotti. "Obviously the key is very simple, if you play better than Manchester United you can win." — Reuters

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