Real Madrid's prolific trio of
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain are likely
to sweep aside APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League on
Wednesday, needing one goal to reach the 100 mark between them
Jose Mourinho's men had no time for sympathy as they won
their quarter-final first leg 3-0 in Cyprus last week, all but
securing a semi-final place and ending tiny APOEL's valiant
first foray into Europe's elite club competition.
The Cypriots failed to muster a shot on Iker Casillas's goal
in front of their own fans, and will face an onslaught from
three strikers in rampant form at the Bernabeu.
Portugal's former World Player of the Year Ronaldo has
amassed 47 goals in all competitions this year, and scored two
and set up two more as Real routed Osasuna 5-1 in La Liga last
French international Benzema opened the scoring in Pamplona
with a sumptuous volley reminiscent of Marco van Basten's famous
effort for Netherlands in the Euro 1988 final, and took his
tally for the season to 28.
Argentina's Higuain bagged two and took his season total to
24 as leaders Real closed on the league title, six points ahead
of Barcelona with eight games left to play and having scored 100
goals in their 30 matches.
Mourinho will have one eye on Sunday's league clash against
third-placed Valencia and will probably use the occasion to
rotate his squad.
APOEL will want to bow out of the Champions League with
their heads held high, and will take some comfort from having
held the Spaniards at bay for more than 70 minutes in the first
They received a boost to morale with a 2-1 victory over
bitter rivals Omonia Nicosia on Saturday, which left them second
in the domestic league behind AEL Limassol.
"It is a very important win for us at a crucial stage of the
league," APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said.
"We still have a long way to go, but I am pleased that my
players responded the way they should. We had a tough week and
we have another one ahead of us."
Jovanovic will have Sunday's game for the play-offs against
Anorthosis Famagusta on his mind, but is likely to give his
regulars the opportunity to play in what will probably be their
final match in Europe this season.
Defender Marcelo Oliveira, whose early exit from last
Wednesday's game was a major setback, will be sidelined for
several weeks after tests showed ruptured knee ligaments.
Ivan Trickovski will also miss the game after breaking his
arm during the first leg.
Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 3-Pepe,
4-Sergio Ramos, 12-Marcelo; 5-Nuri Sahin, 6-Sami Khedira,
10-Mesut Ozil; 7-Cristiano Ronaldo, 9-Karim Benzema, 20-Gonzalo
APOEL: 22-Dionisis Chiotis; 7-Savvas Poursaitides,
98-Boaventura, 3-Paulo Jorge, 29-Nectarios Alexandrou, 23 Helio
Pinto, 26-Nuno Morais, 10-Constantinos Charalambides, 8-Ailton
Almeida, 21-Gustavo Manduca, 31-Helder Sousa.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).
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