Ronaldo first to lose place

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The Independent Online

The wind of change blowing through Real Madrid became a gale yesterday as Ronaldo was dropped from the squad for today's derby against Atletico Madrid. The Brazilian striker, a key plank of the galactico policy of former president Florentino Perez, was left out for "tactical reasons", according to coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro but few believe that.

Last week Ronaldo hinted at leaving because of criticism from fans who have never taken to his lackadaisical approach. This week new president Fernando Martin said he would weed out lazy players.

Either Raul or Antonio Cassano, who himself arrived at Real overweight from Roma, will start. The decision will please supporters who this week voted Ronaldo among 10 players they wanted to be sold - a list which included Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos but not David Beckham.

Another La Liga absentee is Barcelona's Lionel Messi but he genuinely has been rested ahead of the Champions' League tie with Chelsea. Leaders Barcelona are at home to Deportivo La Coruna tonight while Valencia, eight points adrift, go to Malaga tomorrow.

In Serie A, Milan host Empoli today, and leaders Juventus go to Sampdoria. The main match though is in the capital tomorrow as Roma, in fourth, seek a 12th successive win at home, to third-placed Internazionale.

In Germany, Hamburg will hope to rekindle their title challenge with their first victory away to Bayern Munich for 24 years. Hamburg have slipped to third, 11 points behind Bayern. Werder Bremen, who split the pair, are at Leverkusen.

French leaders Lyon hope to put last week's shock 4-1 defeat to Rennes behind them at Ajaccio. Bordeaux, who are now just six points behind, visit lowly Sochaux.

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