Argentina international forward Angel di Maria has insisted Real Madrid have learned from their group-stage defeat at Borussia Dortmund and will not make the same mistake twice in today’s Champions League semi-final, first-leg match.
Real will also have to cope with what promises to be a passionate atmosphere in the ground after Dortmund received 500,000 requests for tickets for a ground whose capacity is nearly 66,000. Such was the demand for tickets that police had to intervene to restore order when brawls broke out as fans tried to barge to the front of the line when the remaining semi-final tickets went on sale.
They were sold out within an hour.
Di Maria says that Real have progressed as a side since their defeat in the group stage.
“We weren’t at our best in the two group matches, but that’s changed now. Our defense is more compact and we’ve got more confidence,” the 25-year-old said. “Dortmund are very similar to us, they’re very good on the counterattack. We’ve experienced that already. Dortmund are in good form and we need to be at 100 percent.”
Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund took four points off Real in the group stages, beating Jose Mourinho’s side 2-1 at home in October last year, before drawing 2-2 in Madrid as the Germans finished top of Group D.
Borussia are looking for a hat-trick of home victories against Spanish league sides after their dramatic 3-2 quarter-final, second-leg win over Malaga.
Poland international striker Robert Lewandowski is reported to be fit, despite bruising his leg in Saturday’s 2-0 win over FSV Mainz 05, when he scored for the 12th consecutive league match, but both defensive midfielders Sven Bender, inflamed pelvis, and captain Sebastian Kehl, foot ligament, face a race against time.
Felipe Santana, who scored the dramatic winning goal in the win over Malaga, will have to be content with a place on the bench, with Germany international Mats Hummels back to partner Neven Subotic at centerback after an ankle injury.
“Realistically, you have to make Real slight favorites when you look at it from a neutrals point of view,” Hummels said.
Mourinho did his homework by attending SpVgg Greuther Furth’s 6-1 drubbing at home to Dortmund 10 days ago.
While Dortmund are eyeing a second European Cup final, 16 years after beating Juventus to win the trophy in 1996-1997, Madrid are aiming for their 13th appearance in the final. They have suffered three semi-final defeats since last winning the trophy in 2001-2002, but they got the better of Dortmund the last time the teams met at this stage when they beat them 2-0 on aggregate en route to winning the 1997-1998 title.
The quest for Real’s 10th European Cup triumph, known as the Decima, is something of an obsession for the Madrid club, with Mourinho bidding to win it with his third different team after Porto and Inter.
“When I came to Madrid, everyone was talking about Decima. Since I didn’t speak Spanish, I didn’t know what they were talking about,” said Germany international midfielder Sami Khedira, in his third season at Real. “It took me a while to understand, but at Madrid, the Decima is everything.”
Defender Raphael Verene said Real will need to contain Dortmund’s counterattacking instincts, as well as the Germans’ counter-pressing game.
“We have seen that they are a very good team,” the Frenchman said. “They have not reached the semi-finals by chance, we saw in the group phase that they have a quality squad. We will need to be strong and play very well. It’s true that they are a team who switch into attack very fast, they love attacking.”