Downbeat Real chase 10th European title

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Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Real Madrid's reign as the world's top soccer club could be over on Wednesday. Right now, it's no longer the top team in Spain. Despite a 2-1 first leg lead over newly crowned Italian champion Juventus, the Spanish soccer giant has suddenly hit the wall in its domestic title race and is no longer the leader in La Liga. After a 5-1 beating at home by Mallorca a week ago, Madrid drew 0-0 at Recreativo de Huelva on Saturday and that allowed Deportivo de La Coruna to take over at the top with Real Sociedad then pushing it down to third. By contrast, Juve has received the confidence boost by winning the Serie A title for the second year in a row. Whoever wins Wednesday's showdown at the Delle Alpi Stadium in Turin faces the winner of Tuesday's Milan derby. After last week's disappointing 0-0 draw at San Siro when AC Milan was the home team, Inter has home advantage in the stadium they share as they chase a place in the May 28 final at Old Trafford. By scoring a quarterfinal victory over Manchester United, which then went on to win the English title for the eighth time in 11 seasons, star studded defending champion Madrid looked in a great position to go on to win its 10th Champions Cup title. But it managed only a 2-1 victory over Juventus in the first leg of the semifinal, losing star striker Ronaldo through injury early in the second half. With Raul Gonzalez already ruled out, Madrid then lost Luis Figo and Zidane Zidane for Saturday's game against Recreativo. Zidane strained his back while lifting his child and Luis Figo has a right thigh injury. To make things worse, French midfielder Claude Makelele sustained a left thigh strain against Recreativo. Alfonso del Corral, Real Madrid's doctor, said that "it was almost impossible that Ronaldo and Makelele would recover in time for Turin, "although Raul, Figo and Zidane "could play as long as nothing odd happens". (AP)

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