Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund: Smart money on Real Madrid to exploit the wealth gap having spent over £400m more since 2009 than their Champions League opponents
German side face uphill task to replicate last season's 4-3 aggregate win over Spanish giants
Wednesday 02 April 2014
It would never have happened on the south stand "Yellow Wall" at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. Real Madrid were jeered as they won 5-0 at the weekend against Rayo Vallecano. Their chronically dissatisfied supporters were upset with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo among others.
What Dortmund fans would not give for a little of that €200m (£166m) of striking talent. Their talisman Robert Lewandowski will be scoring goals for Bayern Munich next season and was looking at houses in Munich today while his team-mates prepared to face Real Madrid, 11 months on from having knocked them out of the European Cup at the semi-final stage last season.
"The jeers are all forgotten now," said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti. Some of them were directed at him. With the league now out of Real's hands, beating Barcelona in the Spanish Cup final and landing the club's 10th European Cup is what is required to save the season.
"We never felt we were at Wembley until the referee blew the final whistle," said Jürgen Klopp, the Dortmund coach, of last year's 4-3 aggregate win over Jose Mourinho's Real. "They might be even better this year," he added. "They have bought Bale and Isco so they have tremendous options going forward. We are the Cinderella of the tie, there is no doubt about that."
Real have spent €608m (£504m) on transfers since 2009; Borussia Dortmund have shelled out just €107m (£89m) in the same period. Last summer Bale, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro came in for the combined outlay of €180m (£150m). Dortumnd brought in Milos Jojic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis Papastathopoulos for €52m (£43m). Despite spending far less, the German side have actually won more in the last five years than their hosts tomorrow night.
The financial imbalance is enhanced however by the absence of six players who featured last season in Dortmund's win over Real at the semi-final stage. Neven Subotic, Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Marcel Schmelzer are all injured and Lewandowski is suspended.
Real will be without left-back Marcelo, whose left hamstring looks set to sideline him for the next two weeks. Ancelotti has ruled out turning the clock back for Bale and lining him up as a replacement, so Fabio Coentrao will come in. That aside, Real will be at full strength.
Ronaldo is two goals short of becoming the first player to score 15 goals in one Champions League season – Ruud van Nistelrooy and Lionel Messi have both scored 14 in previous campaigns – and Bale will be looking to add to the 16 goals in all competitions he has scored in his first season.
"It's true he has been a little in and out but that is not down to his attitude, it's the position he plays," Ancelotti said of Bale. "A player like Xabi Alonso will play the same week in week out but it's different for a forward," added the Italian, defending him against the suggestion he has flattered to deceive in his first campaign – a suggestion that seems completely at odds with the statistics.
Ancelotti also stuck up for Ronaldo, who has scored in his last 14 matches. "Cristiano is always at the maximum level we can expect from him. The jeers at the weekend were because he chose to shoot instead of pass; but they are forgotten now."
The fans inside the Bernabeu have booed all of Real's best players over the years. Alfredo di Stéfano was once jeered for advertising ladies' tights. He was injured in the 1962-63 season and made use of the time to pose for an advert that placed his upper body over some shapely female legs. "We are here with the world's best player and he has an important announcement," said the voice-over. To which Di Stéfano responded: "If I was a woman I would wear Berkshire tights". The Bernabeu jeered him on his return to action.
The metrosexuals that inhabit the Real dressing room get an easier ride than they did 50 years ago but demands on the pitch are as high as ever. "The atmosphere will be special tonight and it's going to help us a lot," said Ancelotti. He knows European nights are different and the discontent will, to start with, be replaced by a cauldron of noise.
Real will need to respond and deliver a convincing first-leg performance because the "Yellow Wall" awaits them next week and "Cinderellas" or not, Dortmund will believe they can topple the competition's second favourites.
"We are no worse than last season," said Klopp. "I have never known an injury crisis like it but we are still second in the league and in the cup final. We finished first in the most difficult Champions League group of the lot and we are in the European Cup quarter-finals for the fourth season running. And above all, as everyone knows by now, we never give up."
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