Juventus coach Marcello Lippi was desperately trying to talk up Real Madrid as favourites on the eve of their Champions League semi-final showdown in Turin today.
Real go into the game with a 2-1 advantage after last week’s first leg at the Bernabeu and because of that Lippi insists the newly-crowned Italian champions must be the underdogs.
He hopes that will play into his side’s hands, as he remembers well how his side were made favourites in the 1998 final but were then beaten 1-0 by Madrid.
“I think Real are favourites,” he said. “I say that because I hope the same thing that happened five years ago happens again tomorrow.”
Juve were beaten on that occasion by a Predrag Mijatovic goal and Lippi is desperate for his team to overturn the odds this time.
The teams look to be evenly matched for the encounter at the Delle Alpi but Real’s strategy will depend on how striker Ronaldo responds to treatment on his left calf.
Ronaldo opened the scoring in the first leg but then limped off in the 50th minute allowing Juve back into a game eventually settled by a contentious Roberto Carlos strike.
Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldo could only watch as Real drew 0-0 with Recreativo Huelva last weekend and with a 1-0 win good enough for Juve, coach Vicente del Bosque is keen to get him fit.
Ronaldo himself is optimistic and told the club’s official website, www.realmadrid.com: “I am well, I underwent some tests and the truth is that I feel very well. As time passes I feel more optimistic.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to play, but what I am certain about is that the team will go and give it everything.”
Del Bosque has employed completely different tactics in the games when he has been without his leading forward this season.
If Ronaldo does recover, Del Bosque will include him alongside Raul, in what is Madrid’s classic 4-2-3-1 formation with Flavio Conceicao replacing the injured Claude Makelele.
However, if he does not make it in time, Del Bosque will probably change his plans radically having practised with a five-man defence this week with Raul as the lone striker.
Victory for Juve would cap a fine week after confirming their domestic superiority by retaining the Scudetto last weekend.
David Trezeguet, who scored the vital away goal, will lead the line alongside captain Alessandro Del Piero with Marco Di Vaio again on the bench.
With experienced defenders Ciro Ferrara and Mark Iuliano under suspension, the defence will be composed of Lilian Thuram, Igor Tudor, Alessandro Birindelli and Paolo Montero.
Birindelli has recovered from an injured right ankle while Montero is returning from a one-match suspension.
Talismanic central midfield duo Edgar Davids and Alessio Tacchinardi are also back after missing the first leg due to suspension.
Gianluca Zambrotta and the in-form Pavel Nedved complete Juve’s four-man midfield with number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on duty.
The game will also see the return of Zinedine Zidane to his former Juve stamping ground for the first time since leaving for Madrid.
“I hope he gets applause and he is not booed,” said Lippi. “He is a great person.”