Shevchenko ruled out as Van Nistelrooy returns

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The Independent Football

Andrei Shevchenko will miss Milan's Champions' League game against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday after fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket in the first half of Saturday night's 1-0 win over Cagliari.

Milan replaced Juventus at the top of Serie A after an injury-time goal by their Brazilian winger Serginho, but the gloss was taken off the victory when Shevchenko clashed heads with a Cagliari defender going for a ball in the area. The Ukrainian striker was taken to hospital, where he spent the night, and is due to be operated on today.

Milan expect the European Footballer of the Year to be out for at least 12 days, and his coach, Carlo Ancelotti, said: "He is not going to be available and it is a disappointment, but we have to find the strength in order to look ahead despite such a big absence for us."

To make matters worse for Ancelotti, his United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, said that Ruud van Nistelrooy will take some part in Wednesday's game. The Dutch striker has been out since November with an Achilles tendon problem, but Ferguson said: "Ruud will certainly be involved but clearly I have some big decisions to make. We may be putting him in cold, but he has been great in training and every time he plays in a European game, you just know he is going to score."

Chelsea's Champions' League opponents, Barcelona, stretched their lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to seven points with a 2-0 win over Mallorca at the Nou Camp. Their coach, Frank Rijkaard, fielded a full-strength side despite the proximity of the Chelsea game.

Deco warmed up for Wednesday's showdown with his former Porto mentor Jose Mourinho, by scoring both goals. The Brazilian-born Portuguese international put Barça in front after 16 minutes with an angled shot from the edge of the area and made it 2-0 early in the second half when he slotted the ball home under the goalkeeper Miguel Moya.

Real Madrid's luck finally ran out on Saturday night when Athletic Bilbao ended their seven-match winning streak by inflicting a comprehensive 2-0 defeat at the Bernabeu. The title now seems to be beyond their reach. Second-half goals from Asier Del Horno and Andoni Iriola gave Bilbao victory.

Ronaldo was dropped after his late appearances at training following his engagement party excesses, while Raul and Zinedine Zidane joined him on the bench. That gave Michael Owen a rare start, but the England striker must be bemoaning the fact that every time he is rewarded with a place he is left without the support of some of the team's key playmakers.

Instead, he formed a makeshift partnership with Guti, moved forward from midfield. Although he was Real's most dangerous player, the fact that the former Liverpool man failed to add to his eight goals for the season will only make it more likely that he will return to his usual role of supersub on Tuesday against Juventus.

It was an uncomfortable night, too, for David Beckham, who was moved off the right flank to partner Thomas Gravesen in the middle. The England captain had given some impressive performances on the wing recently, but he was less effective on his return to a more central role.

The night ended on a brighter note after his wife, Victoria, gave birth to their third son, Cruz, in a Madrid clinic after the match. With another mouth to feed, yesterday's report that Beckham is to sign a new contract worth £135,000 a week, would, if true, be timely.

In Germany, the Bundesliga the leaders, Bayern Munich, warmed up for tomorrow's visit of Arsenal by inflicting more misery on Borussia Dortmund. They beat the financially stricken side 5-0, their Dutch striker Roy Makaay leading the line with a hat-trick. Hasan Salihamidzic and Claudio Pizarro also made the scoresheet for Bayern, who were 4-0 up after 34 minutes as Dortmund crumbled.

Third-placed Werder Bremen saw off Hanover 4-1 while the Bulgarian international striker Dimitar Berbatov scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen, who visit Liverpool in the Champions' League tomorrow, moved up to fourth place with a 4-2 victory at Nuremberg.

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