Football: Ronaldo not the top worry for Real

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The Independent Online
REAL MADRID's Raul has warned his side not to pay too much respect to the Internzaionale striker Ronaldo in tonight's opening Group C Champions' League encounter.

The European Cup holders could not have been handed a more difficult start to the defence of their crown as they travel to Seville for a "home" tie with the Italian giants. But Raul is convinced that worrying too much about the Brazilian star would be the biggest mistake his side could make.

"Inter are a lot more than just Ronaldo," he cautioned. "Inter have quality players, and in better form than Ronaldo, with the likes of Ivan Zamorano and Nicola Ventola. We need to look out for them."

Ronaldo, who missed Inter's 2-2 away draw with Cagliari in their Serie A opener on Sunday, will be making his debut in the Champions' League. "Games like this really get you going, they are the very salt of sport and I always want to win them," he said.

Ronaldo will be partnered by Zamorano, the Chilean centre-forward, with Roberto Baggio, Inter's biggest summer signing, just behind the two front men.

Inter will be without two first-choice defenders in the Nigerian Taribo West and Francesco Colonesse, who are both suspended.

The Real Madrid coach Guus Hiddink has named all available 21 players in his party, including the Croatian World Cup pair Davor Suker and Robert Jarni.

Suker has still not recovered from a knee injury sustained in a pre-season friendly and is definitely ruled out, but Jarni could make the bench if he passes a late fitness test.

Real have been forced to travel to Seville because of a one-match home ban following crowd problems at last year's semi-final against Borussia Dortmund.

Hiddink is almost certain to stick with the side that beat Real Valladolid on Saturday, with no place for Christian Karembeu, the Frenchman who scored a remarkable double last season with European and World Cup winner's medals.

Athletic Bilbao are braced for a physical battle in their first-ever Champions' League game against Rosenborg Trondheim of Norway.

Athletic's defender Aitor Larrazabal has promised the players will keep their heads and use home advantage to get their Group B campaign off to a winning start.

"We know their game is based on the physical strength of their players and that they play a direct game, with a lot of high, long balls from defence," Larrazabal said.

"They are also strong down the wings and they always look to put over an early cross. But we'll play quick balls to feet and pressure their defence. They'll be uncomfortable against that sort of play."

Larrazabal is relieved to be playing the opening game at home and believes a full house at the San Mames stadium will roar on the side to victory.

"Subconsciously, when you play at home you're more animated, stronger because of the support of the public," he added. "To play at San Mames is a big factor in our favour.

"We can beat anyone here, as long as we're at 100 per cent physically and mentally."

Larrazabal and his fellow defender Mikel Lasa have recovered from injuries, while Julen Guerrero - rested for Saturday's 2-0 win over Racing Santander - is set to return.

That leaves Athletic at full strength for the game against a Rosenborg side chasing silverware in three domestic competitions as well as the Champions' League.

Jahn Ivar Jakobsen, the Norwegian club's captain, admits that the four- way quest for success is taking its toll but insists his side are relishing the challenge.

"This is going to be like sweating blood, but fun," Jakobsen said.

Rosenborg have been boosted by the return to form of the midfielder Roar Strand, who scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Moss.

The Brazilian international Doriva, who appeared as a substitute during the World Cup, will make his European debut for Porto in midfield against Olympiakos Piraeus in Lisbon.