Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Spanish giants gear up for big clash at Camp Nou


FC Barcelona and Real Madrid hope to restore their wounded pride today in the standout fixture of the Spanish league season.

Each powerhouse would welcome a victory over its biggest rival to soothe disappointment at being eliminated this week in the Champions League's second round.

Barcelona, a point behind Sevilla in second place, have made positive noises since losing the chance to retain their European title on Tuesday with an away-goals defeat by Liverpool.

"Fortunately, Real Madrid is now coming," Barcelona sports director Aitor Begiristain said. "It's important to beat Real Madrid, because they are a title rival and because we want to bring some cheer to our supporters."

Fourth-place Madrid, who also went out on away goals at Bayern Munich on Wednesday, have taken their elimination harder, with sports director Predrag Mijatovic hinting that coach Fabio Capello might not even be in charge for the big match.

"It's obvious that coaches depend on results," Mijatovic was quoted as saying by sports daily AS on Thursday.

If Capello is still in his job today, a further defeat at Camp Nou will probably spell the end of his eight-month tenure.

The Italian's hopes of survival are boosted by Madrid's form on the road this season. With eight wins from their 13 matches, it is the league's best.

However, with 10 wins and two draws from their 12 games this season, defending champion's Barcelona boast the league's top home record.

Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez says home advantage makes Barcelona the favorites.

"The crowd helps a lot," Raul told Madrid's Web site. "But we are capable of getting three points. A win is vital for us to get back into the title race."

Madrid will be without David Beckham, who strained knee ligaments in last weekend's draw with Getafe and misses the chance to face Barcelona for the final time before he leaves for the Los Angeles Galaxy in August.

Forward Jose Antonio Reyes, and defenders Fabio Cannavaro and Roberto Carlos, are also sidelined, while Sergio Ramos, Miguel Torres and Mahamadou Diarra are all doubtful.

Barcelona could be without their top scorer this season, Ronaldinho, who hasn't trained since picking up a right thigh strain against Liverpool.

The hosts will lack suspended forward Ludovic Giuly and defender Gianluca Zambrotta.

Sevilla lead the league with 50 points, Barcelona are second with 49, and Madrid are fourth with 44.

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