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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Football

Casillas back as Real look for European response
AFP
Madrid, October 01, 2013
First Published: 16:59 IST(1/10/2013)
Last Updated: 17:04 IST(1/10/2013)

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas will make his first appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu in nearly nine months when Los Blancos host FC Copenhagen in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Casillas has lost his place in the side to Diego Lopez since breaking a bone in his hand in January, but coach Carlo Ancelotti has opted to play the Spanish number one in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

The 32-year-old has played just 15 minutes of competitive action so far this season after being forced off with a rib injury early in Madrid's 6-1 win away to Galatasaray on matchday one, but has recovered in time to take his place between the posts against the Danish champions.

Despite their incredible start to their European campaign, Madrid are under some pressure to bounce back from their 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

That result left Ancelotti's men five points behind Atletico and Barcelona in La Liga and the Italian's tactics and substitutions were heavily criticised after Real created little of note against their city rivals.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo defended his new boss afterwards and said the responsibility lies with the players to perform better.

"There are new players and new ideas, but the coach is doing a phenomenal job," he told reporters.

"He is a great person and a great coach. This doesn't have anything to do with him, the responsibility is ours.

"I don't think we are doing so badly, we have only lost one game, but hopefully we can improve."

Gareth Bale could also make his first start as a Real player at the Bernabeu after making his home debut as a second-half substitute against Atletico.

Another former Spurs player Luka Modric is expected to come back into the side after surprisingly being dropped from the start at the weekend, whilst 20-year-old striker Alvaro Morata may finally get his chance up front ahead of the off-colour Karim Benzema.

Copenhagen, meanwhile, also got their campaign off to a good start by holding Italian champions Juventus to a 1-1 draw at home two weeks ago.

However, veteran defender Olof Mellberg, who enjoyed two spells in Spain with Racing Santander and Villarreal, believes they will have to play even better to take anything from the game on Wednesday.

"I expect it will be an even more difficult game than the one we played against Juventus at home," he told Madrid sports daily AS.

"To obtain something positive we need to play extremely well, them to have a bad day and to have a bit of luck. We need everything to go our way to get a good result."


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