Ronny set to warm Barca's bench for 'el clasico'

December 22, 2007

Barcelona's Brazilian talisman Ronaldinho is set to start on the bench for tomorrow night's super-charged 'clasico' with bitter rivals Real Madrid.

The Catalan giants will be without the injured Lionel Messi for the top-of-the-table showdown, and coach Frank Rijkaard also looks set to leave out Ronaldinho on the bench after the pair exchanged strong words in training yesterday.

If the Brazilian is indeed left out, Rijkaard will hand a starting berth in the game known in Spain as 'el clasico' to young Mexico forward Giovani Dos Santos, who impressed as a substitute in last week's 3-0 win at Valencia.

As well as Ronaldinho, Deco also looks set to start on the bench, but Thierry Henry returns from injury and could play.

Edmilson and Oleguer remain sidelined and will not feature.

Despite the absence of Messi, who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last season to rescue a point for the Catalans, Xavi insists Barcelona must win tomorrow.

'It will be a very even match. Maybe we are playing better than them, but they will come here knowing they have a four point advantage over us and the winter break is approaching. We need the victory more than them and we are only thinking about winning,' he told El Mundo Deportivo.

The veteran midfielder also hopes the crowd get behind Barcelona and make their presence felt in the derby.

'The crowd have an influence in all games, they are always 100% behind us and much more so in the derbies. That puts more pressure on the opponent and gives us added motivation. Knowing the public are so involved brings out the best in us,' he said.

Barcelona have struggled on the road this season, but have won all of their eight league matches at the Nou Camp this term.

Despite leading the Primera Liga and producing two five-goal performances on the road (at Villarreal and Valencia), Real Madrid have looked vulnerable on their travels this term.

Bernd Schuster's side lost to Espanyol on their last visit to Barcelona in October and were also defeated at Sevilla in early last month.

Schuster welcomes back Guti after the homegrown midfielder shook off an ankle injury picked up in training yesterday.

'Guti is fine and perfect to play. There were some small doubts, but he has trained perfectly and is in good condition,' Schuster said.

The German coach also hinted that the player, who set up all three of Real's goals in the enthralling 3-3 draw at the Nou Camp last season, will start tomorrow after being left out of the last three Primera Liga matches.

'As a coach, I prefer Guti (to Ronaldinho) and I believe these kind of players should be on the pitch,' he said.

Schuster revealed he has watched a video of last season's epic encounter and played down Guti's role in the draw, perhaps to motivate his temperamental number 14.

He said: 'I remember that game and I saw it again not long ago. It was the best game Real Madrid have played in the Nou Camp (in the last few years) and Guti wasn't that decisive.

'I thought the team were perfect in what was a complicated moment, but it had been many years since Real Madrid played so well at the Nou Camp.'

Schuster rested nine of his first-team against Alicante in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, but welcomes back all of those players tomorrow.

Holland winger Arjen Robben, who was handed a rare start that night, is also named in the squad to face Barcelona and will start on the bench.