Barça hope Ronaldinho inspires return to form

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With successive defeats having cut their lead to six points, Barcelona are pleased to recall Ronaldinho, who missed both losses through suspension, along with Deco for tonight's home match with Real Betis. However, Lionel Messi and Ludovic Giuly are injured and Carles Puyol and Juliano Belletti doubtful.

Real Madrid, seven points adrift but with five straight league wins behind them, also have an eye on Europe as they approach this evening's match against Alaves.

They recall Raul three months after he suffered a serious knee injury but are likely to rest Cicinho, Jonathan Woodgate and Zinedine Zidane.

Second-placed Valencia, who are a point ahead of Real and without European distractions, travel to Real Sociedad tomorrow.

With the title seemingly destined for Juventus the attention in Italy is elsewhere with Roma's attempt to achieve 10 straight wins, equalling the league record, on centre stage tomorrow.

Victory over Empoli will draw Luciano Spalletti's team level with a mark last achieved by Bologna in 1963-64. It will also eradicate the spectre of last season when they went through four coaches and were drawn into a relegation fight. Spalletti's entertaining side have been transformed since the return of Brazilian winger Mancini, and the departure of the wayward Antonio Cassano.

The top three all play today. The runaway leaders, Juventus, visit Messina without David Trezeguet who sprained his ankle in training, Internazionale have a demanding trip to Livorno and Milan, with Andrei Shevchenko back from injury, host Cagliari.

In Belgium, a developing match-fixing scandal has prompted Anderlecht to sack two players who had admitted involvement while playing for Lierse last season. Marius Mitu and Laurent Delorge confessed to the club's general manager, Herman Van Holsbeeck, yesterday having been questioned by Belgium's public prosecutor on Thursday.

Lierse had already suspended two players and their goalkeeping coach. More players are likely to be implicated as the police investigation which opened in November, after reports of odd betting patterns on Belgian matches, develops.

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