Real Madrid turn attention to domestic duties

  • Other Sport
  • Saturday, 01 Mar 2003

MADRID: Having acquired a lifeline in their bid to retain the Champions League, Real Madrid now switch their sights to domestic matters and a win at Alaves today is vital if they are to keep up the pressure on league leaders Real Sociedad.  

The 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, thanks to an injury time equaliser from second-half substitute Javier Portillo, settled nerves and now means qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals is entirely in their own hands.  

On the home front though Madrid must rely on their Basque rivals slipping up if their hopes of ending the season as Spanish champions are to reach fruition although Vicente Del Bosque knows that a victory at Alaves could induce a fit of the jitters at Sociedad.  

With Raul Gonzalez doubtful due to a badly bruised foot, Del Bosque may decide to give Tuesday's hero Portillo just his second league start.  

However Portillo is not getting too excited about the prospect of lining up alongside Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and the rest of Real's stellar cast.  

“I think I've got my feet on the ground. I'm only 20 years old and I've still got a lot to learn. I'm just grateful to the coach for whatever minutes he wants to give me,” Portillo said on Thursday.  

One man definitely missing on Saturday is French international midfielder Claude Makelele. Jose Maria 'Guti' Gutierrez is his likely replacement.  

Luis Figo will also face a late fitness test after straining a muscle in his right leg against the Germans.  

Alaves remain optimistic that they can thwart Madrid despite the 6-0 thrashing they suffered at Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.  

“I don't think we need luck to beat Real Madrid. All we need is to concentrate more and play without committing too many errors,” said Alaves' Ivan Tomic on Thursday.  

An absentee for the home side will be the suspended Luis Helguera, depriving the encounter of a fraternal clash with his brother and Real Madrid defender Ivan.  

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