Superstar needs hat-trick tonight for goal century
Cristiano Ronaldo could make more Champions League history tonight when his Real Madrid side look to end their losing streak at high-flying Borussia Dortmund.
A hat-trick for superstar Ronaldo in Dor tmund would see him become the first player to score a century of European goals.
Ahead of the flight to Dortmund, Real coach Zinedine Zidane had Ronaldo fuming after substituting him for the final 20 minutes in a 2-2 Spanish La Liga draw against Las Palmas on Saturday.
The Portugal superstar was furious with the decision, storming off the field without acknowledging Zidane.
It did nothing to help his mood when Las Palmas equalised five minutes from the end. Madrid fans have backed Zidane over his handling of the club’s all-time top scorer, with 83% supporting his decision in a poll carried out by Madrid sports daily AS.
A free-kick equaliser by Ronaldo in a 2-1 comeback win by Real against Sporting Lisbon in their first Group F, the same night Dortmund won 6-0 at Legia Warsaw, left him on 97 goals in European club competition His main rival in the race to 100 goals is Barcelona’s star Lionel Messi, who has 89.
But Borussia want to maintain their unbeaten home record against Real, who have won just four times in 29 away games against German clubs.
Dor tmund’s Signal Iduna Park stadium has particularly bad memories for Real, who have lost their last three visits to the Bundesliga giants.
Their 2-0 defeat at Dortmund in the 2014 quarterfinals came a year after their 4-1 thumping in the 2013 semifinals – when Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals for Borussia.
They also lost a group stage game 2-1 at Dortmund in 2012. Real Madrid’s serene run since Zidane took charge in January has hit a slump in the past week.
They dropped points against Villarreal and Las Palmas to snap a 16-game winning streak in the Spanish league.
Confidence is high in the Dortmund camp. After a shock 1-0 defeat at newly-promoted RB Leipzig a fortnight ago in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have netted 20 goals in the four games since and are second only to Bayern Munich in Germany’s top flight.
As Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put it after last Tuesday’s 5-1 demolition of Wolfsburg:
“At the moment no one can stop us. At the very most, maybe Bayern. But we can’t be too happy and have to keep working hard.”
True to his word, the Gabon striker netted his sixth goal in seven games in a 3-1 win at home to Freiburg on Friday.
Aubameyang was limping after the victory, but is expected to face the Spanish giants. Ahead of the Real visit, a tough home match was exactly the warm-up Dortmund needed, according to coach Thomas Tuchel.
Dor tmund’s main injury concern is former Barcelona centre-back Marc Bartra, who has a groin injury.
Mario Goetze is expected to partner Raphael Guerreiro in Dor tmund’s attacking midfield. French teenager Ousmane Dembele and Germany’s Andre Schuerrle are set to play on the wings to feed the crosses into he danger area.
Germany midfielder Julian Weigl will be the lone defensive midfielder in front of the back four.
For Madrid, Ronaldo will start alongside Gareth Bale in the starstudded Real attack.
Karim Benzema is expected to beat out Alvaro Morata for the No 9 role after coming off the bench to score Real’s second against Las Palmas.
However, the visitors will be without Brazilian duo Marcelo and Casemiro through injury.
Casemiro’s absence means former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos will be the holding midfielder on his return to Germany.