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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Football

Ronaldo fit for final, doubts remain over Pepe, Benzema
AFP
Lisbon, May 24, 2014
First Published: 13:29 IST(24/5/2014)
Last Updated: 13:34 IST(24/5/2014)

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted Cristiano Ronaldo will start the Champions League final on his return to Lisbon on Saturday, but has worries over the fitness of Karim Benzema and Pepe.

Ronaldo has been plagued by muscular injuries over the past few weeks, but the World Player of the Year returned to training earlier in the week and will be joined by Gareth Bale in the Real attack.

However, it is unclear whether the world's two most expensive players will be joined up front by Benzema as he and Pepe hadn't trained at all this week until taking part in a light session with their teammates on Friday evening.

"Cristiano is fine and has no problem," said Ancelotti.

"We have to check situation with Pepe and Karim because they have not trained this week and after training we have to take the decision for tomorrow."

Real are looking to end a 12-year wait for their 10th European Cup and haven't even made it to the final since they last won the competition in 2002.

However, despite losing out on La Liga to Atletico, they justified their tag as favourites for the competition by destroying holders Bayern Munich 5-0 in the semi-finals.

Ancelotti could become the first man to win the competition three times as a coach in the Champions League era with victory at the Estadio da Luz and the Italian is looking for a repeat of the performance against Bayern.

"I am calm. In these games you don't have to work so hard in the preparation because the players are already so motivated. You just have to keep them calm and give them very clear instructions for the game.

"I would love to see a repeat of the game against Bayern. If we play like that again we will have a great chance of winning."

One of the heroes from the last time Real won the Champions League was captain Iker Casillas as he came on as a substitute to make a number of key saves late on to deny Bayer Leverkusen.

Victory at Hampden Park in Glasgow against the Germans sealed a second Champions League triumph in three years for the then 20-year-old Casillas and he admits winning the trophy for a third time after such a long wait would be extra special.

"There are times when you don't realise what you have achieved," said the Spanish captain.

"This time we have reached the final after 12 years and therefore we value it a lot. Behind everything there is a lot of work. The team has known how to win and overcome disappointments. We deserve to be in the final."

Defender Sergio Ramos was one of the heroes of the triumph over Bayern as he scored twice early on at the Allianz Arena to seal Real's place in the final.

Ramos has won every major trophy on offer at club and international level bar the Champions League and is desperate to add European football's biggest prize to his honours list.

"After so many years the reward is to enjoy moments like this. At times football doesn't allow you to enjoy the moment, but this is like a dream. We have worked so hard to get here and we need to bear that in mind tomorrow.

"We will give everything we have to bring the Champions League home."


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