Ronaldo returns to Real squad to face Arsenal

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Ronaldo, the Real Madrid striker, has been recalled for tomorrow night's Champions' League match against Arsenal after being dropped against Atletico Madrid at the weekend.

The three-times winner of the World Player of the Year award has come under fire for failing to live up to his billing in recent matches. The Brazilian was also accused of putting his own interests before those of the team after making a thinly veiled threat on the eve of Real's 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal in the first leg.

The 29-year-old said he was reconsidering his future at the club because of the criticism he has received from Real Madrid fans. He was dropped after last week's 2-1 defeat at Real Mallorca and replaced by Antonio Cassano against Atletico. The Italy striker, who joined Real in January from Roma, scored Real's opening goal in their 2-1 victory at the Bernabeu - earning much praise from supporters and the media for his lively performance in attack.

Real's new president, Fernando Martin, who took charge of the club following the unexpected resignation of former president Florentino Perez last week, has pledged to take a hard line against the club's under-performing galacticos.

Ronaldo, who has played just one Champions' League match this season because of suspension and injury, scored a hat-trick for Real in their 4-3 defeat at Manchester United the last time he played for the club on English soil.

The playmaker Zinedine Zidane and the defender Ivan Helguera have also been included in the Real squad despite picking up minor knocks in the Atletico game.

The Arsenal midfielder Gilberto feels that the tight Highb

ury pitch could cramp Real's style. The Spaniards were well below par in the familiar surroundings of their superb home ground, which is one of the biggest in the European game. And a cold evening in north London at a compact stadium is hardly the ideal venue for Zidane and company to try to turn the tie around.

Gilberto feels that could yet prove to be a decisive factor. "Real's style might create some difficulties for them at Highbury," the Brazil international said. "They will not have a lot of space to play, let alone the fact we will be at home and with the crowd on our side. It is a great opportunity for Arsenal."

Despite being in the driving seat to reach the last eight, Gilberto insists overconfidence will not be allowed to creep into the Arsenal camp. "We have the same chances as the other 15 teams in this round," he said. "Our attitude will determine how far we can go, but it is a bit early to think that much ahead."

Arsenal head into the showpiece encounter on the back of a confidence-boosting 4-0 victory at Fulham last weekend, which hauled the Gunners back into contention for a top-four finish in the Premiership and with it another crack at élite European football next season.

Despite Arsenal's relative success in the Champions' League, it has still been a disappointing domestic season which has also seen them knocked out of both cup competitions.

Gilberto, 29, feels the different calibre of sides Arsenal that have faced in Europe is perhaps one of the reasons why they have raised their game to new levels.

"Both competitions should be tackled with the same spirit, but perhaps Arsenal play in Europe with more effort because we have never won the Champions' League," he reflected in an interview on www.uefa.com. "Tactically, you have got to be more aware, for the opponents tend to be harder and not as familiar as in the Premiership."

Arsenal's injury problems have seen the likes of youngsters Cesc Fabregas and recent signing Abou Diaby thrust into the spotlight, and Gilberto has been impressed how they have adapted so quickly, but knows they must still be protected.

"Fabregas is getting better every day, and Diaby is a strong player," the World Cup winner said. "But they all need more experience and mileage. We should not put too much pressure on them."

With the likes of David Beckham, Raul and Ronaldo in the side, there always remains the potential for Juan Ramon Lopez Caro's men to turn tomorrow night's tie on its head.

"They are intelligent players - not just Ronaldo but the whole team. We need to be aware of our jobs," Gilberto said.

Comments