Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Real upbeat for Barca clash

DPA , MADRID

Last weekend most Real Madrid fans were dreading Sunday's showdown with rampant Barcelona.

Real crashed away to Getafe last Saturday without having a single shot on goal -- provoking rumors about the resignation of coach Fabio Capello.

Barca, in contrast, pulled ahead at the top of La Liga on Sunday by beating Sevilla 3-1.

But what a difference a few days can make in football.

On Tuesday, Real came back to life with a handsome 4-1 romp away to Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League. Just 24 hours later Barca went down 1-0 away to Chelsea, their first defeat in the elite event since being beaten 4-2 by Chelsea in March last year.

"We know they are still a very good team," said Real defender Ivan Helguera of Barcelona, "but at least we have improved this week."

Helguera, 31, is delighted to be back in the side after appearing to be heading for the exit door in August.

Another player pleased to be first choice is Brazilian winger Robinho.

"I am delighted that Capello now seems to have faith in me and I hope he sees me in a better condition day by day," he said.

Real will probably be without Ronaldo, unless the Spanish federation cancels out one of the two yellow cards he picked up against Getafe.

But that doesn't not worry Real fans overmuch, since both Robinho and Ruud Van Nistelrooy are firing on all cylinders.

Real are currently fifth, five points behind leaders Barca. Anything less than victory on Sunday will put the pressure right back on Capello.

Barca cruised to a 3-0 win in the Bernabeu last season, but will need to be much sharper than against Chelsea to repeat the trick.

They will sorely miss long-term injury victim Samuel Eto'o, who usually scores against his old club Real. Coach Frank Rijkaard has to decide between Eidur Gudjohnsen and Javier Saviola to replace Eto'o.

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