Real Madrid to face FC Barcelona

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The hype surrounding Sunday's Primera Liga match between arch-rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid has reached fever pitch.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Santiago Bernabeu.:

It's one of the biggest fixtures in Spain's domestic soccer league - the clash between arch-rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu. As pundits, fans and the media scrutinise the match, both teams have had to announce injuries to key players. For Real Madrid, Brazilian international Ronaldo has been forced out of the clash with a niggling thigh strain suffered two weeks ago during the the 3-0 defeat by Osasuna. Argentine midfielder Santiago Solari is likely to come into the Madrid side, with Raul Gonzalez adopting Ronaldo's role. Ronaldo, who played for Barcelona in the 1996-97 season, scored the winning goal when the Spanish giants met in December to earn Madrid its first league win at the Camp Nou stadium in 20 years. And the loss must concern teammates especially against an improved Barcelona squad. Significant threat Goalkeeper Iker Castillas emphasised during a news conference on Saturday that Barcelona are a significant threat to Madrid's title chances. "In the last few months,They (Barcelona's team) have changed a lot. Now they are showing on the pitch that they are in a good form in the League. At this moment, their main target is to win the League because they are out of UEFA and Spanish Kings Cup. They are behind us and Valencia but they still have a chance to win the League. The three teams are fighting for the League," he said. With Madrid lying in second place behind leaders Valencia and seven points clear of third-place Barcelona, Sunday's match could have a large bearing on the title race. "Well, there were games that we lost even though we played a lot of quality ... On the pitch you don't know what is going to happen. We Know that we must win all of our last games, with or without quality. Our main target is to win the League and If we want to be the champions we have to win all the games," added Iker. Injury problems It's not just Real who are undergoing last-minute squad reshuffles: Barcelona too have been struck with a last minute injury. In-form winger Luis Garcia will also miss the match because of a groin strain which is likely to rule him out of Spain's friendly against Italy next week. He his likely to be replaced by former Real Madrid player Luis Enrique. Head coach Frank Rijkaard believes however that despite the pressure and the sub situations, his team is physiologically strong enough to withstand the cauldron of the Bernabeu and win. "My feelings are more or less the same as any for other game but I can sense the tensions in the press and I can sense the importance of this game to both Madrid and Barcelona so it's something special you have to admit that. But I think the preparation is the same because it depends on 90 minutes and a good game, com panionship, and after the ninety minutes we shall see," said Rijkaard. Rijkard admits that with so few match remaining in the league, every point counts, and three points on Sunday will help their title dreams. Madrid are lying in second place behind leader Valencia and seven points clear of third-place Barcelona.

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