MADRID, Spain, April 25 – Real Madrid are confident a hostile home support can help them overturn a 2-1 deficit against Bayern Munich on Wednesday in the second-leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo spoke of the importance of the crowd 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.
“I hope the Bernabeu gets the first goal. The crowd has to be ready from the minute we go on the pitch because we feel their influence. It’s a big match and if we have the crowd’s support we’ll be full of confidence,” he said.
“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 at Hampden to lift a record ninth continental crown.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho kept quiet after the Barcelona match, as is his custom of late in league games, perhaps to consider the important question of whether or not to continue with a winning team.
The same eleven that started at the Camp Nou lost in Germany last week, and he has options if he believes three big games in little over a week are too much for some of his players.
Brazilians Kaka and Marcelo and Argentinian 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 deserved the win, it will be morale-boosting, and we go to Madrid full of confidence and belief. We’re always capable of scoring away from home so I’m optimistic.”
Heynckes will look for inspiration in his club’s superior record over Madrid in European Cup semi-finals, with Bayern having won three of the sides’ four meetings, including their last clash in 2001.
Madrid’s only success was in 2000.
“We know that we have to score once or twice and we can, we have some amazing attacking players. But first we have to be solid at the back and give ourselves the chance to hit on the break,” Heynckes added.
One decision Heynckes has to make is whether to play influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has struggled with injuries all season.
Thomas Muller, who replaced Schweinsteiger as a substitute in the first leg, agrees with Heynckes’ assessment of the team’s current form.
“We go to Madrid full of confidence. We know what we’re capable of. But we also know we’ll have to invest a huge amount if we’re to stand our ground there,” he said.
A number of players on both sides are under threat of missing the final if they are booked on Wednesday.
For Madrid, Xabi Alonso, Fabio Coentrao, Higuain and Sergio Ramos will all have to be careful while seven Bayern players are on their last warning, including Muller and captain Philipp Lahm.