Four return but Real injury list remains lengthy
MADRID, February 3 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello welcomes back four senior players for Sunday's match with Levante, but the club's absentee list still to makes ugly reading for the Spanish giants.
Two of the team's three captains, Raul and Guti, are available again, while Jose Antonio Reyes and Emerson are also both fit enough to take their places in an 18-man squad.
However, key defender Fabio Cannavaro has been laid low by an illness and midfielder Fernando Gago has also been ruled out with a hamstring strain.
They join Brazilian trio Roberto Carlos, Marcelo and Cicinho, plus Raul Bravo, as injury absentees, while David Beckham and Antonio Cassano have again been overlooked by coach Capello.
In their stead, defender Oscar Minambres has been included in the senior squad for the first time in two years after finally overcoming his injury nightmare, while Real Madrid C player Nieto is also included.
The return of some of his walking wounded will come as a relief to Capello, who saw his side slip four points behind leaders Barcelona last weekend after going down to a 1-0 defeat at Villarreal.
For that reason, Capello believes Sunday's match against third-bottom Levante is critical for his side.
'For us, tomorrow's game is fundamental,' the coach said on Saturday.
Madrid thumped Levante 4-1 in the first meeting between the two clubs this season, with Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy netting a hat-trick.
However, Capello does not believe that match will hold much relation to Sunday's return meeting as Levante are now under the guidance of Abel Resino, as opposed to Juan Ramon Lopez Caro who was in charge for the clash in Levante.
'I have seen their last two games. They have a completely different style, they press a lot, they have a good defensive line, they run a lot,' Capello said.
'Lopez Caro had a style and now it has changed with Abel. In their last home game they were good.'
That match saw Levante give high-flying Sevilla an uncomfortable afternoon before succumbing 4-2 last weekend.
Although the defeat meant Levante slipped into the relegation zone, Resino was still pleased with what he saw from his side.
'I am happy with the attitude of my team, they have stood up to the best team in the world. The team that I see is good and they are getting better,' said the new coach.
Resino was without new signing Salva Ballesta for the Sevilla match, but the experienced striker is available for this weekend's tough trip to the capital and has been named in an 18-man squad.
Only two teams have netted less than Levante's tally of 18 league goals this season, but Resino will be hoping former Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid striker Salva can help improve that statistic after moving on loan from Malaga.
Alexis also returns after suspension, but Alvaro misses out through injury while Ian Harte, Sylvain N'Diaye, Ze Maria, Albert Meyong Ze and Laurent Courtois have been omitted by Resino.