Madrid hope for a miracle

Madrid hope for a miracle

Borussia Dortmund sitting pretty with a 4-1 lead in semifinals

As they contemplate how to overturn a 4-1 deficit to reach the Champions League final, nine-time European Cup winners Real Madrid are taking inspiration from a similar feat against Derby County four decades ago.

The Spanish giants were caught cold by Borussia Dortmund in their semifinal first leg last week, when, despite being one of the favourites to step out at Wembley on May 25, they were left on the brink of a surprise elimination.

Since their return to Spain, Real have delved into their extensive archives to dig up past examples of heroic fightbacks to convince fans and players of Tuesday’s second-leg possibilities. Real have overturned an identical scoreline once before in Europe’s elite club competition, against Derby in 1975.

Charlie George scored a hat-trick for the English champions in a 4-1 second-round triumph at the Baseball Ground, and he scored again in the return leg at the Bernabeu.

However, a Real side which included current Spain boss Vicente del Bosque levelled the tie to force extra time, and striker Santillana struck a 100th-minute decider for a famous 5-1 victory, to progress 6-5 on aggregate.

“The games against Derby and Borussia Moenchengladbach (a similar comeback in the UEFA Cup) were incredible games,” Santillana told sports daily Marca. “The Bernabeu, if you light the match, burns everything,” he added.

Much of Real’s hopes of a comeback rests with Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been declared fit after missing the weekend La Liga game due to injury. Ronaldo is the Champions League’s leading scorer with 12 goals and has netted 51 times in 50 games for his club so far this season. 

Real will be wary of launching a cavalry charge at a Dortmund side unbeaten on their travels in Europe this year as it would leave their shaky defence even more exposed than usual. 

They have the leakiest backline of the four teams remaining with 18 goals conceded, and have kept only one clean sheet in the competition so far.

The second leg is also a challenge to Real coach Jose Mourinho’s prestige as failure to progress from a third successive Champions League semifinal would test the patience of club president Florentino Perez.

With the La Liga title about to fall to Barcelona, and Real’s European campaign hanging by a thread, next month’s King's Cup final might end up representing Mourinho’s last chance for major silverware this season.

On Saturday, Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp made 10 changes to the team that beat Real but they lacked none of their usual spark as they eased past Fortuna Duesseldorf 2-1 to tighten their hold on second spot with three games left in their domestic season.

“With 10 changes it was not very easy but we are pros and need to accept it,” captain Sebastian Kehl said on Saturday. “We wanted to win to secure second spot and fill up on confidence ahead of Tuesday.” Dortmund, who last week made sure of a Champions League group spot for next season, are looking to reach their first final since winning the trophy in 1997.

Klopp will have a full squad to choose from with midfielder Nuri Sahin’s Saturday showing, which included the first goal, possibly earning him a starting spot against the team he joined from Dortmund in 2011.

With Robert Lewandowski in great form, having scored all the four goals against Real, their attack is in good shape.

“People had been saying for weeks there is only one team in Germany that can rotate and still win games,” said club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, in reference to fellow semifinalists Bayern Munich, who are 4-0 up going into their second leg against Barcelona on Wednesday.

“I am delighted that it has now worked for us twice in a row and to be able to show people that we have players who can do it.”

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