Schumacher and Alonso prepare for crucial battle

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The Independent Online

While Michael Schumacher is urging his fans to wave their flags this weekend and help him to "turn the world championship red," Fernando Alonso aims to celebrate his 25th birthday tomorrow by trouncing the German on his home track.

Schumacher's two recent victories have reduced the Spaniard's points advantage to 17, and Schumacher is acutely aware that he still has a mountain to climb to achieve an eighth world title. Both his Ferrari and Alonso's Renault seem ultra- reliable, and with only two points difference between first and second place the scoring system clearly favours Alonso. Schumacher, however, is a master of psychological warfare.

"Our competitive spirit has been reawakened and we want the title," he said yesterday. "Things can change quickly in Formula One and even a big lead can suddenly vanish. We are all focused on our objective - to put pressure on our adversaries, make up ground and win again."

Alonso, apparently unfazed after two defeats, responded: "I am feeling very optimistic. We had a strong first half of the season, and the key thing now is to keep going and finalise the job... A win in Germany could be worth more than 10 points because of the psychological aspect. I try to win all the races - but it would mean a lot to take the victory here."

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