Real out to prove they can manage without Ronaldo
Real Madrid will be out to prove they are
capable of winning games without the help of leading striker Ronaldo
when they host Olympiakos Piraeus in the Champions League at the
Bernabeu on Wednesday.
The Brazilian scored two of his side's goals in their 3-0 win over
Alaves at the weekend, but will miss the match against the Greek
champions because he is serving the second match of a two-match ban
given to him following his sending off against Juventus last season.
Real made a shaky start to the present campaign, slumping to three
successive defeats including a 3-0 trouncing by Olympique Lyon in their
opening match in Group F, but a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in midweek
and their victory at Alaves makes them confident they have turned the
"Talking about a crisis after just three games was madness," fullback
Michel Salgado said after the Alaves game.
"Our attitude is good, we are more compact and are beginning to play
more like we did last season when we controlled games and did a lot of
damage on the break."
But the team continues to be overly dependent on the finishing power of
Ronaldo, affectionately known as "el gordo" (fatty) by his team mates.
"El gordo walks around for 70 minutes, but he gets one chance and puts
it away - he always makes the difference," said midfielder Pablo Garcia.
In Ronaldo's absence, his fellow countryman Robinho, who started the
Alaves match on the bench, is set to partner Raul in attack.
With Zinedine Zidane still in the final phase of recovery from a thigh
injury, Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo faces a quandary over selection
In the Lyon defeat he took the more conservative option of playing
Garcia and Thomas Gravesen in midfield, but the recent fine form of the
more creative Guti could lead him to change his tactics.
At the back Jonathan Woodgate missed the Alaves match through suspension
after his calamatous debut against Bilbao in which he scored an own goal
and then got sent off.
The England centre-back is available for Wednesday's match, but will
have his work cut out if he is to displace Ivan Helguera and Sergio
Ramos from the starting line up after they helped Real keep a first
clean sheet of the season against the Basques.
Opponents Olympiakos lead the Greek championship with a 100 percent
record but although they have been unstoppable in domestic competition,
like Real they got off to a poor start in Europe with a surprise 3-1
home defeat against Rosenburg.
Coach Trond Sollied has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with his
side's form even though they extended their winning run to four matches
with a 2-0 win over Akratitos at the weekend.
"If we play against Real the way we did against Akratitos we should stay
at home," the Norwegian said after the game.