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Apr 5, 2013

Karanka not expecting UEFA action

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka does not think UEFA will further punish Xabi Alonso or Sergio Ramos for the suspicious late bookings both players picked up against Galatasaray on Wednesday.

UEFA have said they were considering whether Alonso and Ramos had deliberately sought yellow cards in the 3-0 Champions League quarter-final win against the Turkish side, in order to serve bans in Tuesday's second leg and ensure they could play later in the competition.

Asked about the issue at Friday's post-training press conference, Karanka said he did not think there was any case to answer, as the two players had been thinking no further ahead than making sure Galatasaray did not get an away goal to bring them back into the tie.

"There is no debate," he said. "We knew that 3-0 was a really good score, but a goal for them would have made things more difficult. They had some dangerous free-kicks, and we wanted to make sure they could not take them quickly. These things happen in the game."

The former Madrid defender also moved to calm down another ongoing debate in Spain - if and when Iker Casillas will return to the Blancos team as the Madrid captain has now recovered from the broken hand which saw him sidelined since January.

Boss Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday that Casillas was unlikely to come straight back in given replacement goalkeeper Diego Lopez's recent impressive form. Karanka revealed that 'San Iker' was now match-fit, without saying whether or not he would play against Levante in Saturay's La Liga clash at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

"[Casillas] is ready to return to competitive action," he said. "He is an important player for us. He played in an 11 v 11 training game yesterday and we are happy with his return."

Given the example of teenager Raphael Varane having displaced former first choice centre-half Pepe, Karanka said that having competition for places was a positive for everyone in the Madrid squad.

"To have all the players available is always important in a squad as good as ours," he said. "It is good for those who play, and so that those who do not play see they must train. That is how we manage things in the cases of Pepe and Varane or Casillas and Diego Lopez. Diego is talking out on the pitch."

Karanka praised the attitude of Pepe, who had not complained about losing his starting spot.

"It is easy to lose your place, and difficult to get it back [at Madrid]," he said. "The players know this. It is a new situation for Pepe, but he is dealing with it well. He works harder each day and is improving to return to what he has always been - an important player for Real Madrid."

With the trip to Istanbul looming Mourinho is likely to make sweeping changes to his starting side for Saturday's game. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil have both reported slight problems in training in recent days, although the Portuguese attacker was training as normal on Friday.

Ramos and Alonso are tipped to retain their starting places, with Kaka, Marcelo, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon and Alvaro Morata among those who could come in.

Karanka said that, even though Barcelona were 13 points clear at the head of the table, Madrid did not lack motivation in their domestic outings, as they had shown in last weekend's 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza.

"As was seen in Zaragoza, there is not greater motivation for players who are not playing regularly than to play at 100% when they get an opportunity," he claimed. "And any Madrid player has a lot of quality once they play at their maximum."

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