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By ESPN Staff

Cannavaro issues rallying cry ahead of Reds tie

Fabio Cannavaro has called on Real Madrid to ''play smart'' in their Champions League last-16 tie against Liverpool.

The Spanish giants meet the Merseysiders on Wednesday in the first leg at the Bernabeu on the back of a 6-1 thrashing of Real Betis - their ninth successive Primera Liga win under new coach Juande Ramos.

The deficit to leaders Barcelona has been trimmed to seven points, breathing new life into the title race and boosting morale further ahead of the visit of Rafael Benitez's men.

Italy defender Cannavaro told his club's website: ''We're in good form. The team is doing well and it has the fans' support. We're up against a historic team that is used to winning the Champions League. We must play smart, score and not concede any goals.''

Cannavaro is likely to come up against Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, a player he admires.

''He's a player I like very much. He's gained a lot of confidence playing outside of Spain,'' he added. ''He also won the European Championship last summer with Spain. He's one of Europe's best strikers.''

Cannavaro also had words of praise for Ramos, who has revitalised a Madrid squad underachieving under previous boss Bernd Schuster.

The former Juventus centre-half believes Ramos, sacked by Tottenham in October, has done wonders for team spirit.

''The coach is doing a good job, we've gone back to being a team,'' he said. ''We made many mistakes during the first half of the season because we thought we could win just by wearing this shirt.

''We need to play as a team. That's what Juande has done.''

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