Clasico win perfect tonic for Real, says Bale

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane arriving at the team's hotel yesterday. His side are the clear favourites to win their Champions League match against Germany's Wolfsburg today.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane arriving at the team's hotel yesterday. His side are the clear favourites to win their Champions League match against Germany's Wolfsburg today. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WOLFSBURG • Real Madrid star Gareth Bale says their El Clasico win over Barcelona has given the Spanish football giants the perfect confidence booster for today's Champions League quarter-final, first leg clash against Wolfsburg.

Real used to have a terrible record away to German opposition in Europe, but their run to winning the 2014 final, in which they claimed their 10th European crown, changed all that.

During that run, they thrashed Schalke 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen in the last 16, then routed Bayern Munich 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in the semi-finals en route to beating Atletico Madrid in the final.

This time around, Zinedine Zidane's Real are clear favourites for the quarter-final first leg at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena, especially after Saturday's 2-1 victory in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored their late winner at arch-rivals Barcelona with 10 men.

Ronaldo has found the net in all six knockout ties played against German sides and, with 13 goals to his credit this season, he is just four short of breaking his record in a single European campaign.

Real are in the quarter-finals for the sixth time in a row. They are on their best run of the season after ending Barca's 39-game unbeaten run with their sixth successive win and are in no mood to suffer an upset in Wolfsburg.

"Mentally this win (against Barcelona) puts us in a great position, but we have to keep working hard," said Bale. "The win builds confidence for the rest of the season. But there's a long way to go in the Champions League and La Liga and we still have to keep fighting all the way."

Brazil midfielder Casemiro said Real will take nothing for granted at Wolfsburg. "In this round, there are no easy teams," said the 24-year-old. "Wolfsburg defend well, they have quick players in attack and we need to respect them, but we will respect them playing our football, playing well and being Real Madrid."

Real's top form is juxtaposed by Wolfsburg's recent results, with the German Cup holders winless in their last three games since beating Gent at home in the last 16. They were thumped 3-0 at Bayer Leverkusen last Friday, causing director of sport Klaus Allofs to confess that they are not living up to their Champions League status in Germany's top flight.

Nevertheless, the hosts have a chance to pull off a shock victory, having reached the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the first time.

"We are looking forward to the game, we have nothing to lose," said Wolfsburg's Germany midfielder Julian Draxler. "I think that's a plus point for us. We have already shown we can play well against top teams, but a lot of things must come together."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Clasico win perfect tonic for Real, says Bale'. Print Edition | Subscribe