Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
April 02, 2014; 19:45 BST
Real Madrid host Borussia Dortmund at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash tomorrow. This is a rematch of last year’s semi-final clash between these two sides which Dortmund 4-3 on aggregate to book their place in the final of the competition. But the stage is perfectly set for Real Madrid to avenge that defeat and considering both the team’s form this season, anything other than a Real Madrid win will be considered as an upset.
Borussia Dortmund have failed to live up to the expectations this season and have struggled in Bundesliga. They are 23 points behind the league leaders Bayern Munich and are in a fight with Schalke to retain their second place in the table. Injuries have mostly contributed to their downfall this season with a lot of their key players missing out. Europe remains their only hope of salvaging this season, but they couldn’t have asked for a much tougher draw in this round.
Real Madrid haven’t really dominated La Liga this season and they are still involved in one of the closest title race in recent years with Atletico Madrid leading the table. Madrid have dropped off the pace recently in this race with two defeats in their last three matches and they are now three points behind the league leaders at the top. They are coming into this game on the back of a convincing 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his side can maintain the momentum found in that game.
The Spanish sides are of course one of the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season, but Borussia Dortmund will be no push overs. Real Madrid will have to be at their best to ensure a progress into the next round.
Team news and tactics
Carlo Ancelotti has to contain with a lot of injury concerns ahead of this big game tomorrow. Marcelo, who was an unused substitute in the match against Rayo Vallecano, was the latest addition to the injury list ahead of this game and Ancelotti confirmed Marcelo’s possible absence from the fixture with a “slight problem”. Sami Khedira, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jese are the other long term injury concerns at the moment.
After suffering two back to back defeats in the league, Ancelotti didn’t have the luxury of resting his key players ahead of this big game. He is expected to make only two change to the starting line-up he used in the 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. Luka Modric, who was rested at the weekend, is expected to returning to side in place of Asier Illarramendi. Although he could also drop Di Maria in order to provide more defensive protection in the midfield.
Fabio Coentrao will retain his place in the side in place of the injured Marceloa and Ancelotti has rejected the notion of playing Gareth Bale in that role. Iker Casillas will also return to the starting line-up in place of Diego Lopez.
The match against Rayo provided Real Madrid’s first clean sheet in the last four matches. Before the game this weekend, they had conceded seven goals in three matches and will certain need to improve their defensive organization at the back against Borussia Dortmund. Despite the German side’s struggle in the domestic league this season, Real Madrid won’t make the mistake of taking them lightly and will be especially aware of their ability to score on the counter-attack.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Casillas (GK); Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao; Maria, Alonso, Modric; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Jurgen Klopp this season has been to manage the numerous injuries his team have suffered. He has a lot of selection headaches ahead of this crucial first leg and will be without his key man Robert Lewandowski, who will be serving his suspension.
Sven Bender, Jannik Bandowski, Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Neven Subotic are all still out of contention for this game and this has certainly handicapped Dortmund’s chances of progressing further in this competition, along with their struggle in the domestic league. This has been the prime reason why the German side have struggled to meet expectations this season after reaching the final of Champions League last time out.
Jurgen Klopp is expected to make four changes to the side that won against VfB Stuttgart at the weekend. Kevin Großkreutz, who played as a right back in that match, will be moved up field to start on the left wing in this game as Klopp looks to add more defensive steel down the left wing to deal with the dual threat of Di Maria and Gareth Bale. Lukasz Piszczek, who was an unused substitute at the weekend, will return to the line-up and start as the right back.
Oliver Kirch, who had a poor game against Stuttgart, will make way for Nuri Sahin in the midfield and the player, who is currently on loan from Real Madrid, will have a point to prove in this game after failing to make his mark with the Spanish side. He will partner Sebastian Kehl in the pivot.
In attack Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have too many options to replace Robert Lewandowski upfront. Marco Reus could start in a central role in this game in place of Lewandowski, while Aubameyang, who came on as a substitute in the second half against Stuttgart and assisted Dortmund’s winner, will start on the right side of the attack.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller (GK); Piszczek, Hummels, Sokratis, Durm; Sahin, Kehl; Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Großkreutz; Reus
Players to watch-out for: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid); Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Borussia Dortmund