DORTMUND, Germany, April 23 – Argentina forward Angel Di Maria has insisted Real Madrid have learnt from their group stage defeat at Borussia Dortmund and will not make the same mistake twice in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final, first-leg.
Real will have to cope also with what promises to be a passionate atmosphere in the ground which saw Dortmund receive 500,000 requests for tickets for a ground whose capacity is nearly 66,000.
Such was the demand for tickets that police had to intervene to restore order when brawls broke out as fans tried to queue barge as the remaining semi-final tickets went on sale on Tuesday.
They were sold out within an hour.
Di Maria says that Real have progressed as a side since their defeat in the group stage.
“We weren’t at our best in the two group matches, but that’s changed now. Our defence is more compact and we’ve got more confidence,” said the 25-year-old.
“Dortmund are very similar to us, they’re very good on the counter attack.
“We’ve experienced that already. Dortmund are in good form and we need to be at 100 percent.”
Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund took four points off Real in the group stages, beating Jose Mourinho’s side 2-1 at home last October before drawing 2-2 in Madrid, as the Germans finished top of Group D.
Borussia are looking for a hat-trick of home victories against Spanish league sides after their dramatic 3-2 quarter-final, second-leg win over Malaga.
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski is reported to be fit, despite bruising his leg in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Mainz 05, when he scored for the 12th consecutive league match.
But both defensive midfielders Sven Bender, inflamed pelvis, and captain Sebastian Kehl, foot ligament, face a race against time.
Felipe Santana, who scored the dramatic winning goal in the win over Malaga, will have to be content with a place on the bench with Germany’s Mats Hummels back to partner Neven Subotic at centre-back after an ankle injury.
“Realistically, you have to make Real slight favourites when you look at it from a neutrals point of view,” said Hummels.
Mourinho has done his homework by attending Greuther Fuerth’s 6-1 drubbing at home to Dortmund ten days ago.
While Dortmund are eyeing a second European Cup final, 16 years after beating Juventus to win the 1997 trophy, Madrid are aiming for their 13th final appearance.
They have suffered three semi-final defeats since last winning the trophy in 2002, but got the better of Dortmund the last time the teams met at this stage when they beat them 2-0 on aggregate en route to winning the 1998 title.
The quest for Real’s 10th European Cup triumph, known as the Decima, is something of an obsession for the Madrid club with Mourinho bidding to win it with his third different team after Porto and Inter Milan.
“When I came to Madrid, everyone was talking about Decima. Since I didn’t speak Spanish, I didn’t know what they were talking about,” said Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, in his third season at Real.
“It took me a while to understand, but at Madrid, the Decima is everything.”
French defender Raphael Verene has said Real will need to contain Dortmund’s counter-attacking instincts as well as the German’s counter-pressing game.
“We have seen that they are a very good team,” said the Frenchman.
“They have not reached the semi finals by chance, we saw in the group phase that they have a quality squad. We will need to be strong and play very well.
“It’s true that they are a team who switch into attack very fast, they love attacking.”