Borussia Dortmund are pinning their slim hopes of a dramatic comeback against Real Madrid tonight on Robert Lewandowski’s ability to repeat his performance against the Spanish in the Champions League semi-finals last year.
The Polish striker scored four times in Dortmund’s 4-1 first-leg win and the victory meant that, despite Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu, it was Jürgen Klopp and not Jose Mourinho who reached the Wembley final.
“It is clear that the presence of Lewandowski makes them more dangerous,” admitted Carlo Ancelotti, but the Madrid coach was bullish enough to declare: “Dortmund have 90 minutes to score four goals but we have 90 minutes to score once.”
Another 4-1 victory would not be enough to see the Germans through this time. They must stop Madrid from scoring – something they have done in each of their last 22 away games in Europe – and score four themselves.
“We are in the right state both mentally and physically to finish the season very well,” added Ancelotti, who confirmed Gareth Bale was fit to start but said he would decide over Cristiano Ronaldo today, having seen the competition’s leading scoring leave last night’s training session after just 15 minutes.
Klopp spoke to reporters while calmly sipping from a cup of coffee ahead of Dortmund’s biggest game of the season. “Miracles never happen when you talk about them beforehand,” he said of tonight’s monumental task. If Lewandowski can lead his team to an incredible comeback it will further justify Dortmund’s decision to keep him last summer into his final year of contract.
The 25-year-old Pole has scored six goals in the Champions League this season so far. Bale, who has played 250 minutes less football in the competition, has scored five; the tournament’s leading scorer, Ronaldo, is on 14, needing one more to become the first player ever to score 15 in one season in the Champions League.
After his four goals last season in the first leg, Real Madrid made it clear to Lewandowski that they wanted to sign him. How much of that was gamesmanship ahead of the second leg will never be known; the interest had come too late regardless, the player already having agreed to join Bayern Munich.
Dortmund could have sold him for €20m (£16.6m) at the end of the season but preferred to keep him on the understanding that he would push them further in the Champions League and thereby swell the coffers with extra prize-money. They have already made €40m from this year’s competition. Reaching the semi-finals would further boost that income.
Real right-back Dani Carvajal was at Bayer Leverkusen on loan last season and knows how difficult Klopp’s team can be at home. “The stadium and the crowd can really push them on,” he said. “We expect the first half-hour to be especially tough. They will come for us but we will not sit back; we will go for them.”
Bale echoed that sentiment. Despite Real’s three-goal advantage, he said: “We played well in the first leg and we got a deserved victory. But we will look to go out and win the game as if it is any other match.”
Bale’s camp have described the suggestion that he will have corrective back surgery in the summer “complete rubbish”. With the Welshman’s form and fitness the best they have been since his move last summer, stories have surfaced in Spain that he will make the most of a World Cup-free summer by going under the knife, but the player’s representatives confirmed that there is no back problem and that the stories were false.
Madrid’s “BBC” forward line of Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have been responsible for 22 of the last 31 goals scored by the team and in Ronaldo’s absence at the weekend Bale got his 18th goal of the season.