Ram­pant Dort­mund will put stut­ter­ing Real to the test

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

EURO­PEAN CHAM­PI­ONS Real Madrid head to ram­pag­ing Borus­sia Dort­mund for their Cham­pi­ons League Group F game to­day in a fraz­zled state with their buoy­ant start to the sea­son hav­ing been punc­tured by suc­ces­sive La Liga draws.

Real gave away a late equaliser to draw 2-2 at Las Pal­mas on Satur­day, af­ter their joint-record 16-game win­ning streak in La Liga was halted by Wed­nes­day’s 1-1 home stale­mate against Vil­lar­real, which saw their lead at the top cut to a point.

Dort­mund, mean­while, have been on a sizzling run since los­ing to RB Leipzig on Sept. 10, scor­ing 20 goals in four straight wins against Le­gia War­saw in the Cham­pi­ons League and Darm­stadt, Wolfs­burg and Freiburg in the Bun­desliga.

Dort­mund, who thrashed the Pol­ish club 6-0 away in their open­ing group game, are sec­ond in the Ger­man top flight and on Fri­day equalled a club record of 24 games with­out de­feat at home in the Bun­desliga with a 3-1 win over Freiburg.

Even in the midst of Real’s sen­sa­tional win­ning run, Zine­dine Zi­dane’s side were crit­i­cised by the me­dia for un­con­vinc­ing per­for­mances and their slop­pi­ness was pun­ished by Las Pal­mas in their last La Liga out­ing.

Mid­fielder Tana hooked home a poor clear­ance from Real’s Raphael Varane to can­cel out Marco Asen­sio’s opener and, af­ter Karim Ben­zema had re­stored Real’s lead, Ser­gio Araujo sneaked into the box from the left to level in the 85th minute.

Real’s lack­lus­tre dis­plays have been com­pounded by the ab­sence of mid­field an­chor Casemiro and in­flu­en­tial left­back Marcelo through in­jury and the form of tal­is­man Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

Ron­aldo has en­dured a dif­fi­cult start to the sea­son, scor­ing twice in four games – in­clud­ing against his for­mer club Sport­ing in Real’s 2-1 home win in their first Cham­pi­ons League group game – while miss­ing three due to in­jury and ill­ness.

He re­acted an­grily to be­ing sub­sti­tuted by Zi- dane with 18 min­utes left at Las Pal­mas.

Striker Al­varo Mo­rata, how­ever, said there were still plenty of rea­sons to be op­ti­mistic.

“We still haven’t lost and we are still top of the league. The im­por­tant thing is how you fin­ish and we have to win all our games if pos­si­ble,” he told re­porters on Satur­day.

“We have to keep work­ing and now fo­cus our minds on the Cham­pi­ons League.”

Eleven-times Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Real have a dis­mal record in Ger­many, hav­ing won four out of 30 com­pet­i­tive games in the coun­try, and have lost their last three vis­its to Dort­mund.

Dort­mund are wait­ing on the fit­ness of their Spain cen­tre­back Marc Bar­tra and Colom­bian for­ward Adrian Ramos, who both missed Fri­day’s win over Freiburg.

Their hitman Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang fin­ished the game with a knock al­though the Gabon striker, who has four goals in his last three games, said it was noth­ing to worry about. – Reuters

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