Ramos upbeat ahead of Liverpool visit

MADRID - Real Madrid are in perfect shape to deal a blow to compatriot Rafael Benitez's Liverpool side in the Champions League on Wednesday, coach Juande Ramos said.

Ramos was halfway through his disappointing spell at Tottenham Hotspur the last time he took on the Liverpool boss on the final day of the 2007-08 Premier League season when Spurs lost 2-0 at White Hart Lane.

Now, Benitez brings his side to the Bernabeu for the last-16, first leg to face a Real side on a run of nine Primera Liga wins in a row while Liverpool's domestic title challenge faded further on Sunday with another disappointing draw.

Ramos noted in an interview with Monday's Marca newspaper that the two clubs' fortunes have been reversed since December's draw for the knockout phase.

"Back then Liverpool were leading the standings and playing at an extremely high level but now they have lost the top spot and their form has dropped off a little," Ramos said.

"With Real Madrid it's the opposite. We have retrenched and are in perfect shape for this knockout tie."

Real have scored 22 goals in those nine victories, including Saturday's 6-1 hammering of Real Betis, and conceded just two and Ramos said the players are raring to go.

"The team is massively fired up and the players are chomping at the bit for the match to come around," he told Marca.

"We have been working for a little more than two months to get the team in shape.

"The players have improved a great deal and their physical and mental state is perfect."


Liverpool's 1-1 result against Manchester City on Sunday, their sixth draw at Anfield in the league this season, left them seven points adrift of leaders Manchester United.

They were given a lift on Monday when Benitez named captain Steven Gerrard in his squad for Wednesday's match after he missed almost three weeks with a hamstring injury.

Benitez said Gerrard had not trained at full capacity and the midfielder seems likely to face a late fitness test.

"He was okay in training this morning," the manager said on the club's website (www.liverpoolfc.tv). "It was a special training session so we were not testing him one hundred percent, but he trained okay so we will see."

Ramos said he was sure Gerrard would play.

"Right from when the injury happened and they said he would be out for three weeks I interpreted it as a strategy to make us feel more confident," he told Marca. "But at no time did I think he wouldn't play."

Probable teams:

Real: 1-Iker Casillas; 4-Sergio Ramos, 3-Pepe, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 16-Gabriel Heinze; 11-Arjen Robben, 8-Fernando Gago, 6-Lassana Diarra, 10-Wesley Sneijder; 7-Raul, 20-Gonzalo Higuain

Liverpool: 25-Pepe Reina; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 23-Jamie Carragher, 37-Martin Skrtel, 2-Andrea Dossena; 20-Javier Mascherano, 14-Xabi Alonso, 11-Albert Riera; 8-Steven Gerrard, 18-Dirk Kuyt; 9-Fernando Torres

Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)