Football: Real have their work cut out

Ronaldo & Co coming off patchy spell and will find Dortmund a tough hunting ground

Real Madrid players line up before a football match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Sept 20, 2017.
Real Madrid players line up before a football match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Sept 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN • Borussia Dortmund will aim to maintain their unbeaten record at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League today and spoil Cristiano Ronaldo's 150th European appearance.

Dortmund and title holders Real meet in the group stage for the second year running. The teams drew both games 2-2 last season as the Germans topped the group before bowing out in the last eight, while Real went on to win a record 12th title.

Dortmund have won three and drawn three of their meetings at Signal Iduna Park, including their dazzling 4-1 first-leg win in the 2013 Champions League semi-finals, with Robert Lewandowski scoring all four goals.

The German side's main task today will be containing four-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, who has scored 110 goals in European competition.

The Portuguese superstar has started slowly this season, in part due to a five-game suspension for pushing a referee after being sent off in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

A rusty Ronaldo misfired badly as Real's run of scoring in 73 straight games was ended in a shock 1-0 defeat by Real Betis last Wednesday. He also fired a blank as Madrid edged past bottom team Alaves on Saturday despite having 18 shots across his last two games.

"Cristiano is like he always is. When he doesn't score you ask me about him, but he is calm," said Real manager Zinedine Zidane. "He wanted to score - which is normal, but it's a long season and he always ends up making the difference."

Dortmund flexed their muscles ahead of the heavyweight showdown with a 6-1 home drubbing of Borussia Monchengladbach in the German league on Saturday as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted a hat-trick. The Gabon striker has scored eight goals in six league games.

He has forged a lethal partnership with left-winger Maximilian Philipp - dubbed "Philameyang" by the German media - with Philipp scoring four times in his last three games.

While Dortmund shone in attack, they struggled at the back against Gladbach, who had half a dozen clear chances to score. "Against Real, mistakes like that will be punished totally differently," warned Dortmund director Michael Zorc.

Real opened their group campaign with a 3-0 win at home to Apoel Nicosia, while Dortmund suffered a 3-1 defeat by Tottenham a fortnight ago. Spurs face Apoel in the other Group H game today.

Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele could miss the match due to a persistent foot injury, Mauricio Pochettino has said.

The Argentinian manager said that he did not believe the Belgium international will need another operation but was unsure how long the 30-year-old would be out of action.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Real have their work cut out'. Subscribe