Real Madrid look to end losing streak at Dortmund
DORTMUND (AFP) —Disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo could make more Champions League soccer history today as his Real Madrid side look to end their losing streak at high-flying Borussia Dortmund.
A hat-trick for Ronaldo in Dortmund, who was left fuming after being substituted on Saturday, would see him become the first player to score a century of European goals.
Ahead of the flight to Dortmund, Real coach Zinedine Zidane subbed Ronaldo for the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s 2-2 Spanish league draw at Las Palmas.
The Portuguese superstar was furious with the decision, storming off the field without acknowledging Zidane.
It did nothing to help his mood when Las Palmas equalised five minutes from the end.
Madrid fans have backed Zidane over his handling of the club’s all-time top scorer with 83 percent supporting his decision in a poll carried out by Madrid sports daily AS.
Ronaldo’s free-kick equaliser in Real’s 2-1 comeback win against Sporting Lisbon in their first Group F, the same night Dortmund won 6-0 at Legia Warsaw, left him on 97 goals in European club competition
His main rival in the race to 100 goals is Barcelona’s star Lionel Messi, who has 89.
But Borussia want to maintain their unbeaten home record against Real, who have won just four times in 29 away games against German clubs.
Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park stadium has particularly bad memories for Madrid, who have lost their last three visits to the Bundesliga giants.
Their 2-0 defeat at Dortmund in the 2014 quarter-finals came a year after their 4-1 thumping in the 2013 semi-finals when Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals for Borussia.
They also lost a group stage game 2-1 at Dortmund in 2012.
Real’s serene run since Zidane took charge in January has hit a slump in the past week.
The European champions dropped points against Villarreal and Las Palmas to snap a 16-game winning streak in the Spanish league. Confidence is high in the Dortmund camp. After their shock 1-0 defeat at newly-promoted RB Leipzig a fortnight ago in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have netted 20 goals in the four games since. They are second only to Bayern Munich in Germany’s top flight. As Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put it after last Tuesday’s 5-1 demolition of Wolfsburg: “At the moment no one can stop us. At the very most, maybe Bayern. “But we can’t be too happy and have to keep working hard.” True to his word, the Gabon striker netted his sixth goal in seven games in Friday’s 3-1 win at home to Freiburg. Aubameyang was limping after the victory, but is expected to face the Spanish giants. Ahead of the Real visit, a tough home match was exactly the warm-up Dortmund needed, according to coach Thomas Tuchel. "”After the high-scoring and cosy easy games, that came at the perfect point in time,” said Tuchel after the 6-0 demolitions of Legia and Darmstadt before a big win at Wolfsburg. Dortmund’s main injury concern is former Barcelona centre-back Marc Bartra, who has a groin injury. Goetze is expected to partner Raphael Guerreiro in Dortmund’s attacking midfield. French teenager Ousmane Dembele and Germany’s Andre Schuerrle are set to play on the wings to feed crosses into Aubameyang and Co. Germany midfielder Julian Weigl will play as the lone defensive midfielder in front of the back four. For Madrid, Ronaldo will start alongside Gareth Bale in the starstudded Real attack. Karim Benzema is expected to beat out Alvaro Morata for the number nine role after coming off the bench to score Real’s second against Las Palmas. However, the visitors will be without Brazilian duo Marcelo and Casemiro through injury. Casemiro’s absence means ex-Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos will be forced to operate as the holding midfielder on his return to Germany. — online