Real Madrid are confident that a hostile home crowd can help them overturn a 2-1 deficit against Bayern Munich in the second-leg of their Champions League semi-final tonight.
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo spoke of the importance of support at the Santiago Bernabeu after edging his side closer to their first Spanish league title in four years on Saturday with the decisive goal in a 2-1 win over Barcelona.
“The crowd has to be ready from the minute we go on the pitch because we feel their influence,” said Ronaldo. “It’s a big match and if we have the crowd’s support we’ll be full of confidence. We know from the first game that Bayern are going to play on the counter-attack and they’ll have a lot of respect for us in our own stadium.”
After a tight first-leg decided in Bayern’s favour by a Mario Gomez goal in the 90th minute, every little detail is going to count as these two giants – with 13 European Cups between them – go head to head again. Saturday’s victory in the Clasico will lift Madrid as they attempt to reach their first Champions League final since 2002, when they beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to lift a record ninth continental crown.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho kept quiet after the Barcelona match, perhaps to consider the important question of whether or not to continue with a winning team. Brazilians Kaka and Marcelo and Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain could all be used from the start to freshen things up.
Bayern accepted defeat in their own domestic battle to catch Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga before the first-leg with Madrid.
For that reason, coach Jupp Heynckes, who led Madrid to their seventh European title in 1997-98, was able to make eight changes to his team for the 2-1 win at Werder Bremen on Saturday.
“Playing every third or fourth day isn’t easy, which is why I rotated my squad,” said Heynckes, who also coached in Spain at Athletic Bilbao and Tenerife. “I’m satisfied with our attitude and determination. We know that we have to score once or twice and we can, we have some amazing attacking players.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.