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Comebacks are for real

Madrid have overturned a 4-1 deficit in the past,but can they do it against Dortmund tonight?

Written by Reuters | Madrid | Published: April 30, 2013 3:07 am

Mark Elkington

As they contemplate how to overturn a 4-1 deficit to reach the Champions League final,nine-times European Cup winners Real Madrid are taking inspiration from a similar feat against Derby County four decades ago. The Spanish giants were caught cold by Borussia Dortmund in their semi-final first leg last week,when,despite being one of the favourites to step out at Wembley on May 25,they were left on the brink of a surprise elimination.

Since their return to Spain,Real have delved into their extensive archives to dig up past examples of heroic fightbacks to convince fans and players of Tuesday’s second-leg possibilities. Real have overturned an identical scoreline once before in Europe’s elite club competition,against Derby in 1975.

Charlie George scored a hat-trick for the English champions in a 4-1 second-round triumph at the Baseball Ground,and he scored again in the return leg at the Bernabeu. However,a Real side which included current Spain boss Vicente del Bosque levelled the tie to force extra time,and striker Santillana struck a 100th-minute decider for a famous 5-1 victory,to progress 6-5 on aggregate.

“The games against Derby and Borussia Moenchengladbach (a similar comeback in the UEFA Cup) were incredible games,” Santillana told sports daily Marca. “The Bernabeu,if you light the match,burns everything.”

Much of Real’s hope of a comeback rests with Cristiano Ronaldo,who missed the city derby against Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday,when a second-string side triumphed 2-1 at the Calderon. Ronaldo is the Champions League’s leading scorer with 12 goals and has netted 51 times in 50 games for his club so far this season,but picked up a muscle problem in Dortmund and trained apart from the group again on Sunday.

Real will be wary of launching a cavalry charge at a Dortmund side unbeaten on their travels in Europe this year as it would leave their shaky defence even more exposed than usual. They have the leakiest backline of the four teams remaining with 18 goals conceded,and have kept only one clean sheet in the competition so far.

The second leg is also a challenge to Real coach Jose Mourinho’s prestige as failure to progress from a third successive Champions League semi-final would test the patience of club president Florentino Perez. With the La Liga title about to fall to Barcelona,and Real’s European campaign hanging by a thread,next month’s King’s Cup final might end up representing Mourinho’s last chance for major silverware this season.

On Saturday,Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp made 10 changes to the team that beat Real but they lacked none of their usual spark as they eased past Fortuna Duesseldorf 2-1 to tighten their hold on second spot with three games left in their domestic season. “With 10 changes it was not very easy but we are pros and need to accept it,” captain Sebastian Kehl said on Saturday. We wanted to win to secure second spot and fill up on confidence ahead of Tuesday.”

Dortmund,who last week made sure of a Champions League group spot for next season,are looking to reach their first final since winning the trophy in 1997. Klopp will have a full squad to choose from with midfielder Nuri Sahin’s Saturday showing,which included the first goal,possibly earning him a starting spot against the team he joined from Dortmund in 2011.

“People had been saying for weeks there is only one team in Germany that can rotate and still win games,” said club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke,in reference to fellow semi-finalists Bayern Munich,who are 4-0 up going into their second leg against Barcelona on Wednesday.”I am delighted that it has now worked for us twice in a row and to be able to show people that we have players who can do it.”

Blame me if we fail: Mou

Mardid: Real coach Mourinho expects to take the blame instead of his players if they fail to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Dortmund. Mourinho was hired from Inter Milan three years ago to help Real win the 10th European crown that has eluded them since 2002 but the La Liga side are on the brink of a third straight failure at the last-four stage under his stewardship.

“In practically all football clubs success belongs to everyone but failure is always the fault of the coach,” the Portuguese told a news conference on Monday. “I am perfectly calm because I know that is the situation. There are fantastic coaches in football who have never won the Champions League,I have won two,for which I must thank God. But I will continue to fight for a third.”

Mourinho,who won Europe’s elite club competition with Porto in 2004 and Inter in 2010,again had to answer a host of questions about his future amid speculation he will leave Real at the end of the season despite having a contract until 2016.

Asked whether Tuesday’s game could be his last home match for Real in the Champions League,he added: “I feel that this could be the most important match for Real Madrid in the last 10 years. But I felt the same thing before we played in Dortmund and we played there as if it was a friendly.”

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Madrid 4 : 0 Borussia

Apart from the miraculous turnaround against Derby,Real Madrid put one past a Borussia (not Dortmud but Mönchengladbach) in the UEFA Cup from an equally exceptional predicament. And quite like Wednesday’s fixture,this second leg too was held at the Bernebeau.

1985-86,UEFA Cup

First Leg: Mönchengladbach 5-1 Madrid; Second: Madrid 4-0 Mönchengladbach

Trailing by four goals,Luis Molowny’s side arrived in Madrid a far more determined side than the one that had been humiliated in Munich a few weeks earlier. It showed,for within the first quarter of the match,Jorge Valdano had struck twice to reduce the deficit to two goals. And while Mönchengladbach — incidentally,a side coached by current Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes — managed to tighten their defence until the very end,Madrid’s Snatillana made it ever so special by finding the back of the net twice in the dying minutes. The third round was phenomenally won and Madrid went on to win the final against another German side,FC Köln.

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