Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

UEFA Champs League
Preview: Real v Juventus

Old Lady's Galactico date

Real Madrid and Juventus will both be aiming to put behind them this weekend's domestic disappointments with stirring performances in their Champions League first leg clash on Tuesday.

Real lost for the first time since former Brazil boss Wanderley Luxemburgo took over at the helm of the Spanish giants in December, going down 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Juventus did slightly better with a 0-0 draw at Messina but dropping two points has allowed Milan to pull level with La Signora Vecchia - Juve's nickname is The Old Lady - at the top of Serie A.

Luxemburgo put the beating by the Basques behind him on Sunday but warned the Real not to take their eye off the ball ahead of the Italian side's visit, a replay of the 1998 Champions League final which Madrid won 1-0.

"The Champions League is a completely different competition. The players know that their involvement in it can end after just 180 minutes," said Luxemburgo.

"I expect everyone to be fully focused on the game and not thinking back to Saturday."

Most of those likely to be involved expect the encounter to be a special night, befitting the tradition and history of the two sides.

"There are few teams that can compare with Madrid. This game could easily have been a final," said Juve striker and Italian international Alessandro Del Piero.

"A game against Madrid is always going to be an irresistible sporting attraction, especially since the last few years have seen Real acquire such a selection of global stars.

"As for Juve, OK we have lost a couple of recent games in Serie A but mentally we are in excellent shape," added Del Piero.

Juve's brains may be in good order but there are some question marks over a few legs.

They could be without their inspirational Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved, who has not played since injuring his left knee on January 23, although he will travel to Madrid.

Nedved has been training apart from his team-mates in a desperate bid to be fit to face Real but Juventus coach Fabio Capello will not know until Tuesday whether Nedved will win his race against time.

"We have players other than Pavel but, if he can't play, you are always going to miss someone like him," admitted Capello.

"He is dynamic, aggressive and can also change the rhythm of the game in a moment," added Capello, who knows his next opponents very well having guided them to the 1997 Spanish league title.

Capello will definitely be without his French striker David Trezeguet, who is suffering from flu.

Michel Salgado is Real's main injury worry, the right back having received a bad knock on his left thigh against Athletic, and Alvaro Arbolea could start his first Champions League game.

Inevitably, the visit of Juventus will bring back many memories for Real's three-times World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane spent five years at Juventus between 1996 and 2001 but his frustration at their inability to lift European club football's top prize was instrumental in him moving to the Spanish capital for what is still a world record tranfer fee of 75.1 million euros.

"I've still got many friends in Turin, and not just people involved in the football club. They include a baker, a few taxi drivers, even my old hairdresser. Everybody has been on the phone asking for tickets," said Zidane.

"I'd love to score a goal against Juve but not for any other reason than it will put Madrid one step closer to winning the Champions League.

"I had a great time at Juventus however it's simple, Madrid have to beat Juventus if they are to progress. I don't think the Juve fans are going to blame me for trying to play at my best against them."

Tuesday's matches of Champions League, Last 16, first leg:
Bayern Munich v Arsenal, Liverpool v Bayer Leverkusen, PSV Eindhoven v Monaco, Real Madrid v Juventus