Both sides chasing history

Ousmane Dembele (centre) celebrating with team-mates Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after putting Dortmund 3-1 up against Monchengladbach last Saturday. Two goals in Madrid today will give the German side a new goals record for the Champion
Ousmane Dembele (centre) celebrating with team-mates Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after putting Dortmund 3-1 up against Monchengladbach last Saturday. Two goals in Madrid today will give the German side a new goals record for the Champions League group stage.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Hosts Real can equal 34-game unbeaten run while Dortmund can set new scoring record

BERLIN • When Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid meet in the Champions League today, they will not just be fighting for top spot in Group F.

Both sides can make history at the Bernabeu, with Zinedine Zidane's Real one result away from equalling a club-record set by Leo Beenhaker's class of 1988-89.

Former Real manager Beenhaker led his side to 34 games without defeat - a streak Zidane's men can match if they avoid defeat against the Group F leaders.

But it is victory that the Frenchman is seeking in his 50th game in charge of the Spanish giants, even though finishing second could work in Real's favour.

As runners-up, they would be guaranteed to avoid Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, winners of Groups C and D respectively, and could be handed a relatively favourable draw against a team like Leicester, Monaco or Benfica.

  • 14 Number of Dortmund players who have scored in the Champions League this season, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the way with three goals.

"We're playing a final, a game that determines who wins the group and we're at home so obviously we want to put on a big performance. We're not going to try and relax or be cautious, we're playing to win," Zidane told a pre-match press conference yesterday. "We're not going to do any calculations, our objective is to always win the group."

Real are boosted by the return of midfielder Toni Kroos from a foot injury and striker Alvaro Morata from a hamstring problem, making forward Gareth Bale his only major absentee.

It was in Europe's elite club competition where Zidane last suffered a loss - against German opposition no less. Wolfsburg beat Real 2-0 at home in April, before Real went on a run that consisted of 24 wins and nine draws.

Dortmund are also looking to extend a run of their own.

Thomas Tuchel's side have scored in every Champions League group game this season and can set a new tournament goal record today.

They arrive in Madrid just one shy of the 20-goal record three teams - Manchester United, Real and Barcelona - have previously tallied in the Champions League group stages.

Two of those, United, in 1998-99, and Real, who achieved "La Decima" - a 10th European crown - in 2013-14, went on to win that season's European title.

Dortmund hold a two-point advantage over Real and are in buoyant mood - even if Germany's World Cup winner Mario Gotze has been ruled out for today with a knee injury.

They were boosted a fortnight ago by the return of another Germany international Marco Reus, who was out for six months with the adductor injury that saw him miss Euro 2016.

The 27-year-old midfielder grabbed two goals, with a third later credited as an own goal, and set up two more when Dortmund trounced Legia Warsaw 8-4 at home a fortnight ago in a record score for a Champions League match.

Reus also weighed in with three assists, and had a goal disallowed, in Dortmund's 4-1 thrashing of Borussia Monchengladbach last Saturday in their Bundesliga game.

"The injury, which meant a six-month break, has made him more mature," said Dortmund coach Tuchel. "Now Marco is back and it's fantastic the way he has returned."

Against Gladbach, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also netted twice - to make him the Bundesliga's top scorer with 15 goals - and Ousmane Dembele also got on the scoresheet in what Tuchel described as "a complete performance from us".

The goal today, however, will be to get at least a point to finish the group stage as winners.

"That would top off this outstanding opening round in the Champions League," Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc told the club's official website. "It would be the icing on the cake."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Both sides chasing history'. Print Edition | Subscribe