Ramos relishing Barca test

NEW Real Madrid boss Juande Ramos says his side have nothing to fear in tomorrow’s highly-anticipated clash against Barcelona at the Nou Camp (9pm, live on Sky Sports).

Ramos took over from Bernd Schuster after the German coach was sacked on Tuesday. Following his side’s 4-3 defeat at home to Sevilla on Sunday, Schuster had claimed that the champions would not be able to beat Barcelona.

That negative statement appeared to be the last straw for the Madrid board and the German was soon relieved of his duties, despite having brought two titles to the club last season.

The club wasted no time in appointing Ramos — who was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur — until the end of the season.

Having led his new side to an impressive 3-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday, Ramos was in a positive mood ahead of tonight’s derby match.

“In this type of games there is no clear favourite,” he said. “The team is in good shape and we are convinced we can win the match.”

Madrid lie fifth in La Liga, nine points behind Barcelona. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mahamadou Diarra, Ruben De La Red, Gabriel Heinze, Pepe and Miguel Torres are all out for Real.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola warned his players that Madrid’s long list of casualties may make the champions even more dangerous.

“They are Real Madrid players and in that sense, it’s a team like Barca; a team in which there are no second-rate players.”

Barcelona lost the corresponding fixture 1-0 last season and were thrashed 4-1 when the two teams met at the Bernabeu, a game in which the Catalans were forced to welcome Madrid onto the pitch with a guard of honour as Schuster’s side had just been crowned champions.

And Thierry Henry is bent on revenge: “I don’t care if Madrid are in crisis, if they have been losing or if they have a lot of injured players. In last season’s game we had our own problems but nobody cried for Barca and now we are not going to cry for Madrid.”

Andres Iniesta could make a surprise return for Barca while up front, Samuel Eto’o returns from suspension and looks set to start.

That means Henry — who scored a hat-trick in last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Valencia — will revert to left side of the team’s three-pronged attack, with Lionel Messi on the right.

* Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson has been linked with Madrid. Ramos is known to be a big fan of the 21-year-old, who he tried to sign when at Spurs.

Today: Valencia v Espanyol, Barcelona v Real Madrid. Tomorrow: Getafe v Real Mallorca, Recreativo Huelva v Osasuna, Valladolid v Deportivo La Coruna, Malaga v Numancia, America v Racing Santander, Athletic Bilbao v Sporting Gijon, Sevilla v Villarreal, Atletico Madrid v Real Betis.

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