Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
Wednesday, April 24; 19:45 Hrs GMT
The last time Real Madrid defeated Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League was back in 2003, when Ronaldo scored the winner after Raul cancelled out Jan Koller’s opening goal. But that was at the Santiago Bernabeu. This time around the first leg will be hosted at Signal Iduna Park, a place where very few away teams have been successful in the recent past. A European night at the Signal Iduna Park is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in European football and Real Madrid will be up against it.
The second semi-final will see another German-Spanish clash and after what transpired at the Allianz Arena last night, it might be fair to say that Real Madrid now remain Spain’s only realistic hope of lifting the title. But they will face a Dortmund team, that has already defeated them in the group stages.
For Dortmund, it has been a contrasting season, while they have excelled in Europe, they have failed to put in similar performances domestically and have already conceded their league title to Bayern Munich. Interestingly, even Real Madrid have had a story similar to that of Dortmund – brilliant in Europe and not so good in La Liga. So for both these teams, the Champions League represents their last chance of turning their season around, which has been a failure domestically.
Dortmund are coming into this match on the back of a 2-0 victory over Mainz. It was their fourth win in a row, which also means that they are now unbeaten in their last seven matches. Their home record has been brilliant this season as they have lost only three matches at the Signal Iduna Park in all competitions. Interestingly, Dortmund remain the only undefeated side in the Champions League.
The German side came close to exit against Malaga, another Spanish opponent, in the last round, but two goals in the 90th minute of the match (arguably the match of the tournament so far) turned things around.
Real Madrid defeated Real Betis this weekend and will come into this match full of confidence. But worryingly for Jose Mourinho, their away form in the Champions League hasn’t been impressive enough. They have won two of their five away fixtures this season, while losing to Dortmund and Galatasaray. The Turkish side did give them a scare in the last round, but a brace from Ronaldo ensured their progress into the next round.
This will also be a battle between two of the best managers in Europe presently and one that could have big impact on the future of both the sides.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have too many injury worries at the moment. Mats Hummels is back to full fitness and will start alongside Neven Subotic in this match, as he did in the weekend against Mainz. Dortmund didn’t rest any of their first team players in their last match as they are still looking to secure the second place in the Bundesliga, which means there won’t be too many changes to the starting line-up except for Nuri Sahin, who should be replaced by Sven Bender.
Tactically, Klopp already has a blueprint of what to do having defeated Real Madrid at home in the group stages. The master tactician will once again ensure that his team presses hard, especially against Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard is the main engine in the Madrid midfield and Dortmund will ensure that he doesn’t enjoy too much time and space on the ball – and this where Mario Götze and Marco Reus will be important defensively. Bender and Gündogan will also have important roles in stopping Ozil, who will be Real Madrid’s main creative threat.
Dortmund might very well choose a hold a much deeper line in defence since Real Madrid are so potent on the counter attack. Piszczek will need help from Gündogan and Blaszczykowski in dealing with the threat of Ronaldo down the wing. The German side is expected to dominate possession, but they have to be careful about giving the ball away in dangerous areas, something which cost them dearly against Malaga, and the reigning Spanish champions will certainly be more clinical than Malaga.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller (GK); Piszczek, Hummels, Subotic, Schmelzer; Bender, Gündogan; Blaszczykowski, Götze, Reus; Lewandowski
Jose Mourinho rested a lot of his first team players against Betis last weekend, yet he will face problems while picking his back-four against Dortmund. Alvaro Arbeloa is suspended and will miss this leg while Michael Essien and Marcelo are out with injuries. There were also some doubts about Fabio Coentrao’s fitness, although the Portuguese international is likely to make it to the starting eleven.
Arbeola’s absence will mean that Sergio Ramos will be shifted to Right Back. The Spaniard hasn’t played too often in that role this season and it would be interesting to see how Pepe and Varane combine at the center of the defence. But in hindsight, Ramos has been error prone in the Champions League this season and a move to the right back role might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Like Dortmund trying to shut down Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid will also deploy similar tactics against Gündogan. The midfielder is crucial in Dortmund’s build-up during attacks and if Khedira, who is likely to be given that role, can stop him from dictating play, it will slow down Dortmund’s attack considerably.
It will also be interesting to see how Pepe and Ramos handle the movement of Reus and Götze upfront, while Lewandowski tries to create space for them with his movement. Varane will be the main man for Real Madrid in defence as the youngster has excelled in Europe this season.
In attack, Ronaldo will look to pick on Piszczek on the left and the Portuguese sensation, who is the leading scorer in the Champions League this season, will be the man Real Madrid will once again look up to as they will try to sneak in an away goal. A draw will be an excellent result for Jose Mourinho as they play the second leg at home.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Lopez (GK); Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain
- Real Madrid have won just once on 24 visits to Germany and crashed out of the Champions League to Bundesliga opposition at this stage last season.
- Jürgen Klopp’s side is the only unbeaten team in the competition and knocked Malaga out in the last round.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 11 goals in the Champions League this season. He needs three more to match Lionel Messi’s total from last year.
- Real Madrid have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 matches in the Champions League.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 13 of Real Madrid’s last 15 games in the Champions League.
Player to Watch Out For
Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund)
At the end of this season, Mario Götze will become the most expensive German player of all time as he will join Bayern Munich. The announcement of his departure certainly came at the wrong time for the club and the fans might hold grudges against him. Hence it will be interesting to see the reception that he will get from the home crowd against Real Madrid. But he will undoubtedly be the biggest threat for Dortmund in attack and the Champions League also provides him an excellent opportunity to say goodbye to the club and the fans in style, if he can inspire his side in reaching the final.
Borussia Dortmund 2 – 1 Real Madrid
It will be a close match, at least much closer than the other Semi-final. Expect Dortmund to grab the home advantage and win this leg by a small margin but Real Madrid should also be able to grab a crucial away goal.