Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ronaldo and Kaka back to boost Real; Bale fit for Tottenham

(CNN) -- Real Madrid's hopes of European success were boosted on Monday with the news that Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka have been passed fit for Tuesday's first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against English club Tottenham.

Top scorer Ronaldo was in doubt for the match, Real's first in the last-eight stage since 2004, due to a recurring hamstring problem suffered before the international break.

The Portugal captain missed Saturday's 1-0 defeat by Sporting Gijon which ended Real coach Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home league record that started nine years ago when he was in charge at Porto.

However, he trained on Monday along with Brazilians Kaka and Marcelo, who were also named in the 19-man squad following their recovery from thigh and rib problems respectively.

Marvelous Mourinho record falls -- but will it ever be beaten?

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso returns after a domestic suspension and striker Gonzalo Higuain should make his second appearance after returning on Saturday as a substitute following back surgery, but France striker Karim Benzema is ruled out along with midfielders Fernando Gago and Pedro Leon.
I don't feel any pressure. No one expected us to be here at the start of the season and we have a big chance of winning
--Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp

* Real Madrid CF
* Tottenham Hotspur FC
* FC Internazionale Milano
* FC Schalke 04
* Champions League Football

"This is a match that a lot of people want to play in but are unable to," Mourinho told reporters on Monday. "It has been several years since Real Madrid have played in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

"The Champions League is the most important club competition in the world. Whoever plays it doesn't have to look far for motivation. All we must do is focus on this match."

Tottenham have also been hit by injuries, but former France international William Gallas may make a surprise return from a knee problem to boost a defensive line-up lacking club captain Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate, Younes Kaboul and Alan Hutton.

Mourinho loses long unbeaten record

Young Wales winger Gareth Bale is expected to return from a hamstring injury after training at the Bernabeu on Monday, and will give Spurs an attacking threat that was missing in the last-16 elimination of AC Milan.

"I was one of the first people to say that Gareth Bale would be an excellent player, and I said it when he still wasn't a familiar face in European football," Mourinho said.

"I know he is a great player, but he is young and has a lot of room for improvement. I think he will be the best of the best."

Tottenham reached the European Cup semifinals in 1962, but this is the first time that the London side have qualified for the tournament since it was revamped as the Champions League in 1992.

Coach Harry Redknapp said his team have every chance of reaching the last four.

"I don't feel any pressure. No one expected us to be here at the start of the season and we have a big chance of winning," he told reporters. "We are not just coming here to turn up. We want to keep progressing.

"The dream is still there for us, we have to make that dream come true. We want to go all the way if we can. We know how difficult it's going to be, but there is still a chance and we have to take it."

In Tuesday's other quarterfinal first-leg tie, Mourinho's former club Inter Milan continue their title defense against German club Schalke at the San Siro.

Schalke beat Inter on penalties in the 1997 UEFA Cup final at that venue, but go into the match with new coach Ralf Rangnick -- who failed to take the club past the group stage in 2005-06 in his first spell in charge.

Inter coach Leonardo has yet to win a Champions League match at home, and his side must bounce back from Saturday's demoralizing 3-0 defeat in the Milan derby which put a big dent in Inter's hopes of retaining the Serie A crown.

"The way we qualified has brought confidence, proving that we never give up," the Brazilian said of his team's elimination of Schalke's fellow Germans Bayern Munich in the previous round.

"That's what we want to keep doing -- it doesn't matter if we lost the derby on Saturday. I respect the criticism I have had since then but the first-minute goal made life complicated. We're obviously disappointed, but I'm sure my players will react. And, yes, I've never won a Champions League game at home (as a coach) but I'm not dwelling on it."

Schalke's last game against St. Pauli on Friday was called off after an assistant referee was hit by a full beer cup thrown from the crowd, but by that stage defender Christoph Metzelder had already broken his nose and Mario Gavranovic and Peer Kluge also picked up injuries.

Former AC Milan striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is ruled out along with Christoph Moritz and Christian Pander.

Inter striker Diego Milito, a two-goal hero in last year's final, returned from a two-month injury absence against AC Milan but the Argentine may again start on the bench.

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