Spanish trio hoping for favourable Champions League results

March 10th, 2009 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, March 10 (DPA) Spanish sides Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal are all travelling more in hope than expectation for this week’s second-leg matches of the Champions League last 16.
All three teams are in trouble after obtaining poor results in their home legs.

Real were beaten 1-0 by Liverpool, Atletico were held to a 2-2 draw by FC Porto, and Villarreal were held 1-1 by Panathinaikos.

On Saturday, Real were lucky to draw 1-1 at home to Atletico in a one-sided Madrid derby, a result which leaves them six points behind leaders Barcelona.

However, the nine-time European champions will go to Anfield for Tuesday’s showdown in an optimistic mood as they seek a first quarter-final place since 2004.

Portugal defender Pepe, who missed the derby draw through suspension, said: “Everything will be different in Anfield, because I do not believe that Liverpool will be so defensive as they were here.”

Pepe said that Liverpool “work hard collectively… All of them have quality, and here they did not miss (Steven) Gerrard. We will have to be very concentrated in order to win”.

Another player who missed the Madrid derby is Real striker Gonzalo Higuain, whom coach Juande Ramos wanted to rest before Liverpool.

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is, meanwhile, hopeful of recovering from an ankle injury to face Real, and there are hopes that full-back Alvaro Arbeloa will also be back after a hamstring problem.

Villarreal president Fernando Roig said: “I am convinced that we can beat Panathinaikos, although it will be a complicated game.”

On Wednesday, Atletico Madrid need to win away to Porto, never an easy task.

Coach Abel Resino has no injury worries at all, though he may bring Raul Garcia - who missed the derby through suspension - into midfield in place of young Ignacio Camacho.

The fit-again Luis Perea is also likely to return to the heart of defence, to the detriment of Pablo Ibanez.

Abel is sure to stand by South American strikers Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, even though the latter missed five clear chances against Real.

The fourth of the Spanish charge, league leaders Barcelona, will be at home to Olympique Lyon Wednesday after managing a 1-1 draw in Lyon, thanks to an equalizer from Thierry Henry.

They will be without captain Carles Puyol, out for three weeks after twisting an ankle in Saturday’s 2-0 win at home over Athletic Bilbao.

Their other injury victim is left-back Eric Abidal, which means that veteran Sylvinho will keep his place.

Coach Josep Guardiola will probably stick with the midfield and attack which did so well against Bilbao, leaving Africans Seydou Keita and Yaya Toure on the bench alongside Eidur Gudjohnsen and Bojan Krkic.

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