As Barcelona looms, Madrid may ease off in Europe

BY foxsports • April 12, 2011

With two key meetings against their fiercest rivals already on the horizon, Real Madrid's players could be forgiven if they are not entirely focused against Tottenham on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

But after winning last week's first leg 4-0, it's unlikely to matter too much.

Even if Madrid coach Jose Mourinho rests key players in preparation for Saturday's Spanish league match against Barcelona - and the Copa del Rey final four days later against the same opponent - Tottenham looks to be fighting for pride instead of a realistic chance of progress.

But Mourinho's assistant, Aitor Karanka, said Tottenham's performance in Saturday's 3-2 Premier League win over Stoke showed Madrid had to be on guard.

''Tottenham scored three goals in half an hour, so it's going to be complicated,'' Karanka said.

But Spurs' weakness in the Champions League has not been scoring goals; it has been keeping them out at the other end. Madrid was the second side after Inter Milan to score four goals in a game against Tottenham, while unheralded Swiss side Young Boys managed three in the first 28 minutes of the teams' qualifying playoff.

Ominously for Tottenham, Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have overcome recent injuries and scored in Saturday's 3-0 Spanish league win at Athletic Bilbao to take his season tally to 39 goals.

France striker Karim Benzema has returned to training and could be available after missing three games to a leg injury, while Brazil playmaker Kaka said he is beginning to return to form after scoring two penalties against Bilbao.

''I feel I owe a debt to Madrid,'' Kaka said. ''It leaves me feeling a little upset that I haven't had the chance to meet those expectations that followed me here.''

Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero should play since he is suspended for Saturday's game at the Santiago Bernabeu, which will be the first of four in 18 days against Barcelona if both Spanish sides advance in the Champions League.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is trying to lift morale while juggling the demands of mounting an unlikely comeback and challenging for fourth place in the Premier League.

''It was just a one-off night in Madrid,'' Redknapp said. ''It was a game you have to forget about.''

An early red card to striker Peter Crouch in Spain was a mitigating factor but it could be tough for players to forget a match in which they were so comprehensively outclassed.

''You can't take on Real Madrid, one of the great teams of world football, with 10 men,'' Redknapp said. ''Eventually they will open you up and that's what happened.''

Even if Tottenham can keep all 11 players on the field this time around, its spectacularly eventful debut season in the Champions League looks almost over.

Midfielder Tom Huddlestone made his comeback from a five-month absence with an ankle injury against Stoke and could play, while Crouch's suspension means Roman Pavlyuchenko could lead the home attack at White Hart Lane.