Madrid looks to avoid another Dortmund exit
Real Madrid has the perfect opportunity to make up for last season’s Champions League exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund when they meet again with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Dortmund kept Madrid from reaching the final last season with a 4-3 aggregate victory, marked by striker Robert Lewandowski’s four goals in the opening leg.
This time, Lewandowski is one of several Dortmund players out of the opening match, which will be at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where the restless home fans jeered Cristiano Ronaldo following a recent league slump.
Here are five things to know about Wednesday’s game:
PRESSURE BUILDING ON ANCELOTTI: For the first time in months, there is intense pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti following Real Madrid’s recent stumbles. Madrid went from Spanish league leader to third behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, which ended Madrid’s 31-game unbeaten run with a victory on March 23. Madrid followed up the clasico loss with defeat at Sevilla before rebounding with a victory over Rayo Vallecano. But the club’s obsession with winning its 10th European Cup means the Italian coach can ill afford any slip-ups. “The atmosphere is good, the team is motivated,” Ancelotti said on Tuesday. “We haven’t lost a game in the competition, we’re 100 percent ready for this.”
RONALDO JEERED: As if he really needed it, Cristiano Ronaldo has a point to prove against Borussia Dortmund. Ronaldo was jeered at the Santiago Bernabeu in Saturday’s 5-0 rout of Rayo Vallecano, with Madrid fans apparently unhappy that he did not make a pass to striker Alvaro Morata. “The jeers are forgotten,” Ancelotti said, “Cristiano is giving the maximum for the club, for the team, for everybody.” Ronaldo, who is nursing a sore left knee, has scored 13 times in the competition to sit one shy of the record, held by Lionel Messi (2011-12) and Jose Altafini (1962-63).
DORTMUND HURTING: Injuries have taken their toll on Dortmund with midfielders Sven Bender (groin), Jakub Blaszczykowski (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (back problems) and defenders Marcel Schmelzer (groin) and Neven Subotic (knee) all joining Lewandowski on the sideline. Lewandowski has to serve a one-match ban, which will suit Madrid just fine after the Poland striker scored four times in a 4-1 victory to open their series last season. Marco Reus, who will likely lead the German club’s attack, scored a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Stuttgart on Saturday. “It was very important for us to build up this confidence,” Reus said. “Now we know that we can also come back again, even if we’re two goals behind... We need to make things difficult for Real Madrid and go out with a positive attitude to win the match.”
MARCELO OUT: Real Madrid will be without left back Marcelo after the Brazil international failed to recover from a left hamstring injury. Madrid did not detail how long Marcelo will be sidelined, with his absence certainly to impact Madrid’s attack from the flank. Ancelotti ruled out using Gareth Bale in the back role, with Portugal defender Fabio Coentrao set to take Marcelo’s place against Dortmund. “Coentrao has experience and he’s fresh because he hasn’t played too many games,” Ancelotti said. “Bale will play in attack. We have enough options that Bale is not one of them.”
KLOPP’S CHALLENGE: The Champions League is Dortmund’s biggest bright spot amid a frustrating season. While Dortmund is still alive in the German Cup, it sits 23 points behind newly crowned Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich. Injuries haven’t helped coach Juergen Klopp’s task, although Madrid does come into the match amid its first dip since October. “We were delighted to be still in the mix but we’re going to have major problems in Madrid, like all other teams have there,” Klopp said. “We won’t have to force the game in Madrid. We’re challenged in other respects. Real is the overwhelming favorite. Still, we want to get a result that gives us the opportunity to have a say in the return game.” The coach recognized that Madrid was a “very uncomfortable” opponent but said that “no one should leave us space because we can cause them a lot of harm.”
Harold Heckle in Madrid and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed.
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