Real Madrid fear gifting title to Barcelona with derby defeat to Atletico this weekend - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Real Madrid fear gifting title to Barcelona with derby defeat to Atletico this weekend

View From Madrid

The potential is there for a script so cruel even Jose Mourinho's worst enemies would not have written it. After the 4-1 thumping in Dortmund, the Real Madrid coach must lift his side to play Atletico Madrid on Saturday knowing that, while the league is long gone, defeat to Real's city rivals would be their first in 14 years and hand the title to Barcelona – providing they beat Athletic Bilbao earlier the same night.

If there is no subsequent glorious comeback against the German side on Tuesday the man brought in to topple Barça domestically and lift Real Madrid's 10th European Cup would have failed at both in the space of four days.

The talk in Madrid was not just of derbies but of Derby County. Real Madrid lost 4-1 to Derby at the old Baseball Ground in the 1975-76 European Cup second round, Charlie George scoring a hat-trick for the Rams. However, Milan Miljanic's side, which contained the German duo of Günter Netzer and Paul Breitner, beat Derby 4-1 over 90 minutes in front of a 120,000 crowd in the second leg at the Bernabeu, Pirri's penalty with seven minutes to go taking the tie to extra time, where Santillana struck to make it 5-1 and take Real through. Bayern Munich went on to win the competition that season, knocking out Real in the semi-finals, but German triumphs aside, the precedent is serving as a source of inspiration.

If there are to be heroics next week much will depend on Cristiano Ronaldo. "I will do my talking on Tuesday," he said as walked from dressing room to team bus at the Westfalenstadion. The promise to make a statement on the pitch – and enough of one to overturn the 4-1 first leg scoreline has set the tone.

Ronaldo, with 51 goals in 50 games this season and 12 in the Champions League, will lead the charge in the second leg but he and his coach must be wondering after the first leg if he has the team-mates around him to work the miracle.

Xabi Alonso is likely to be rested against Diego Simeone's Atletico side. So much of the weight of Real's midfield rests on his shoulders and his jaded display – giving the ball away for the first goal and conceding the penalty for the fourth – played a big part in the heavy defeat.

Others do not need rest but to find match sharpness. Pepe, not for the first time in this Champions League this season, was no match for Robert Lewandowski. One of Mourinho's biggest calls in his three seasons at Real has been to put his faith in the Portuguese defender. Only the emergence of Raphaël Varane, who celebrated his 20th birthday today, has reduced his role.

Another big Mourinho decision since taking over in 2010 has been not to bring in a centre-forward despite seeming to always doubt the ability of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema to do for him at Real what Didier Drogba and Diego Milito achieved at Chelsea and Internazionale respectively. Lewandowski's brilliance against Pepe on Wednesday was a reminder of how those decisions looked to have been flawed.

There were ironic cheers of "Chelsea, Chelsea" from German supporters as Mourinho got back on the team bus in Dortmund. The climax to the season is being played out to ever-louder whispers that he will be at Stamford Bridge next season.

How he needs his current team and supporters behind him in the next four days. Not to mention one of Chelsea's possible future signings, Radamel Falcao, having an off day in Saturday's local derby.

'Swept aside': Press reaction

AS: Operation Three Zero

"Madrid swept aside by Dortmund. [Real] can pull it out of the fire thanks to this goal by Cristiano."

Marca: Lewandowski-ed

"The curse continues. Klopp's Dortmund trample over Madrid."

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