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Since 1st March, 1999
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Juventus buttoned-up to spoil Real’s march to 13th final
- Champions League semi-finals, second leg
- I had a test today (Tuesday) and the truth is I feel very well... with every hour I’m more optimistic and I now believe I’ll be able to play: Ronaldo

Milan: Real Madrid striker Raul, top scorer in the history of the Champions League, returns for the defending champions in their semi-final second leg tie with Juventus in Turin on Wednesday.

Raul, who could be partnered by Ronaldo if the Brazilian recovers from a calf injury in time, will be looking to put nine times European champions Real into a record 13th final.

But despite their 2-1 advantage from the first leg, the Spaniards will face a tough challenge from the Italian champions. Even without their main striker, who was recovering from an appendix operation, Real looked dangerous in attack in Madrid last week.

Defender Michel Salgado believes the return of Raul, who has scored a record number of 43 goals in the Champions League, is vital to the team.

“If Raul wasn’t to play we would be missing the soul of the team,” he told Radio Marca, “He is the player who really strikes fear into our opponents and the one who produces the goods when it counts.”

Real will be without French midfielder Claude Makelele who picked up a thigh injury in the disappointing 0-0 draw with Recreativo Huelva on Saturday that cost Real top spot in the Spanish league.

Injury scares over midfielders Luis Figo and former Juve favourite Zinedine Zidane have eased and Vicente del Bosque still has plenty of options as he juggles his midfield in the absence of the hard working Makelele.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo believes he will be fit enough to play a part in Wednesday’s match. The Brazilian was included in the squad on Monday, however, and he is now much more optimistic about his chances of making the game.

“I’m well,” Ronaldo said on his personal website on Tuesday. “I had a test today and the truth is I feel very well. “With every hour I’m more optimistic and I now believe I’ll be able to play. I’m eager to help the team in a game like this.”

Meanwhile, Real defender Francisco Pavon has said the Spanish side will not be content with defending their 2-1 lead on Wednesday.

“Whatever system we decide to use we will be going all out to win in Turin,” he told a news conference on Monday. “This team never steps onto the pitch to sit back and wait to see what happens.”

Juve coach Marcello Lippi’s choices are also eased by the return of a trio of key players who missed the first leg through suspension.

Midfielders Alessio Tacchinardi and Edgar Davids are available again and both are expected to start as the Turin side look to reduce Real’s productive service to Raul.

Just as importantly, tough Uruguayan defender Paolo Montero is also back from suspension although he is robbed of his regular partner, the experienced Ciro Ferrara who is suspended.

Ferrara, who picked up the seventh Italian title of his career on Saturday as Juve retained the ‘scudetto’ with a 2-2 draw against Perugia on Saturday will be replaced in the heart of defence by either right-back Lilian Thuram, who has played centrally on scores of occasions for France, or by Croatian utility man Igor Tudor.

Mark Iuliano, whose first leg tackle resulted in Ronaldo’s injury, misses the game through suspension.

Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved said he is ready to play through the pain barrier to fire Juventus into the final.

Nedved, nicknamed ‘The Cannon’ because of his powerful shot, is a closely marked man and has the bruises to prove it. But the elf-like 30-year-old is determined to grin and bear it for the final push. “Perhaps I need a little rest as I’ve taken plenty of knocks this season but there’s too much at stake,” said the former Lazio player, one of the favourites for the European Footballer of the Year award.

Nedved admitted Juventus don’t have the flair of Real, but said his team possess many other qualities.

“We don’t always play pretty football like they do, we have our own characteristics that are equally effective,” he said.

“Collectively we are strong and when some players are not 100 per cent the others will raise their game to compensate, so the team is always on top.”

Having picked up an away goal in the first leg, a 1-0 win would be enough for Juve to secure a place in the final in Manchester on May 28. Lippi has warned against such thinking.

“We know we can score against Real but we need to be very careful not to concede a goal because then we will need to score three,” he said.

Teams (probable)

Juventus: 1-Gianluigi Buffon; 21-Lilian Thuram, 5-Igor Tudor (or 7-Gianluca Pessotto), 4-Paolo Montero, 19-Gianluca Zambrotta; 16-Mauro Camoranesi, 3-Alessio Tacchinardi, 26-Edgar Davids, 11-Pavel Nedved; 10-Alessandro Del Piero, 17-David Trezeguet.

Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 2-Michel Salgado, 4-Fernando Hierro, 6-Ivan Helguera, 22-Francisco Pavon, 3-Roberto Carlos; 10-Luis Figo, 16-Flavio Conceicao, 5-Zinedine Zidane; 14-Guti or 11-Ronaldo, 7-Raul.

Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland).

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