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Lazio's Rocchi risks missing Real Madrid

ROME, Oct 2 (Reuters) Lazio striker Tommaso Rocchi is a major doubt for tomorrow's Champions League Group C clash against Real Madrid after twisting his ankle badly in league action at the weekend.

His absence would be a big blow to the Serie A side's hopes of handing the Spanish champions their first defeat at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

The forward, who has three Italy caps, was Lazio's top scorer last season with 16 league goals and he struck twice in the 3-1 qualifying victory at Dinamo Bucharest that put them through to the group stage.

Nigeria's Stephen Makinwa, who was disappointing in Lazio's 1-1 draw at Reggina on Sunday, is expected to take Rocchi's place alongside gifted Macedonia striker Goran Pandev.

Lazio are also without defender Sebastiano Siviglia, who fractured three fingers in training last week.

Coach Delio Rossi may revert to the experience of 43-year-old goalkeeper Marco Ballotta, the oldest footballer to have played in the Champions League group stage, after fielding 21-year-old Uruguayan Fernando Muslera in recent Serie A games.

LAZIO'S FORM So far, Lazio have failed to repeat the impressive form they showed last season, when they overcame budget constraints to book a place in the Champions League qualifiers by finishing third in Serie A.

They drew 1-1 at Olympiakos in last month's opener and are 12th in Serie A after picking up just one league win.

Real Madrid are top of the Primera Liga and of Group C after their 2-1 win over Werder Bremen, but their sparkling early season form has disappeared.

Bernd Schuster's rotations have disrupted the side and they have been unable to dominate possession against technically inferior though highly-committed teams.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was rested during Sunday's lucky 1-0 victory against winless Getafe, but the Dutch striker is expected to return to join Raul in attack in Italy.

Defender Fabio Cannavaro suffered a knock at Getafe but should be available, while centre-backs Pepe and Christoph Metzelder continue to be sidelined with injury.

Brazil forward Robinho has been left out of Real's squad with a bruised ankle.

Probable teams: Lazio: 32-Marco Ballotta; 85-Valon Behrami, 25-Cribari, 2-Guglielmo Stendardo, 8-Luciano Zauri; 26-Gaby Mudingayi, 24-Cristian Ledesma, 11-Stefano Mauri, 5-Massimo Mutarelli; 19-Goran Pandev, 20-Stephen Makinwa.

Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 16-Gabriel Heinze, 5-Fabio Cannavaro, 4-Sergio Ramos, 2-Michel Salgado; 23-Wesley Sneijder, 6-Mahamadou Diarra, 14-Guti, 20-Gonzalo Higuain; 7-Raul, 17-Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium) Reuters BJR DB0925

Story first published: Wednesday, October 3, 2007, 16:53 [IST]
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