Ronaldo faces late fitness test as Real Madrid hope to go top in Spain for first time this season

Jon Culley
Saturday 15 February 2003 01:00
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Victory at Osasuna tomorrow could see Real Madrid go top of the Spanish First Division for the first time this season. Real Sociedad still head La Liga with 44 points but Madrid are now breathing down their necks, just two points behind after a run of 15 matches without defeat.

If the Basques drop points at Real Betis it would open the door to Madrid, although Ronaldo faces a late fitness test on a bruised calf and the captain Fernando Hierro will be absent after injuring his knee in last Saturday's 4-1 thrashing of Real Betis. Late last season Osasuna beat Madrid 3-1, effectively ending their title ambitions, but their top scorer Gerardo Rivero is suspended.

Real Sociedad will be without the winger Javi De Pedro, who has been banned for two games for stamping on Athletic Bilbao's Javi Gonzalez. De Pedro complained that he had been punished while Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane had not been despite being caught on television twice recently committing similar offences.

In Italy's Serie A, Milan will attempt to beat their title rivals Lazio at San Siro tomorrow. Unbeaten at home this season, Milan have slipped back with successive 1-0 away defeats.

The leaders Internazionale, three points ahead of Juventus and Milan, travel to Chievo today boosted by Gabriel Batistuta's successful appeal against a two-match ban for elbowing. His availability balances doubts over their leading scorer, Christian Vieiri, who injured a knee last Sunday.

Matthias Sammer has told his Borussia Dortmund players to keep their heads as the German title race intensifies. The Bundesliga champions, eight points behind the leaders Bayern Munich after defeat to VfB Stuttgart last weekend, could make up ground at home to Bochum if Bayern slip up at sixth-placed 1860 Munich.

In the French Cup, the amateurs Schiltigheim hope to add to the scalps of top-flight Troyes and Second Division Beauvais when they meet Second Division Toulouse.

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