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By ESPN Staff
Jan 6, 2006

Cassano needs to regain match fitness

MADRID, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro says new signing Antonio Cassano must work on his fitness before he can make his Real Madrid debut.

'He arrived with a significant muscle strain and is working on a personalised programme to get him into shape so that he can perform at the level we expect from him,' Lopez Caro told a news conference on Friday.

'It will take him a few days of individual training to get him to his optimum level.'

The 23-year-old Italy striker, who said he had not trained for 15 days before his presentation at Real, moved to Spain from AS Roma on Wednesday for 5.5 million euros ($6.68 million).

Lopez Caro said he had not yet had the chance to assess how Cassano would fit into the side.

'I see him playing in a more advanced position but we shall look at that issue when he has started to train with the rest of the players,' he added.

'I need to find the best solution for him but more importantly for the team as a whole. There is a lot of competition for places and he has to prove he is better than those who are already playing.'

Aside from Cassano, Lopez Caro will be without injured midfielder Pablo Garcia and striker Raul for the trip to fourth-placed Villarreal in the Primera Liga on Sunday.

England captain David Beckham is suspended which could allow Brazilian right back Cicinho to make his debut on the right side of midfield.

Brazil striker Ronaldo, leading league scorer with nine goals, has recovered from a calf strain and is available for selection.

Real Madrid are fifth in the Primera Liga, 11 points behind leaders Barcelona.