Holders Real Madrid complete their Champions League group stage at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.
Here, we look at some talking points ahead of the game.
What’s on the line?
Real are in the unusual position of having to settle for second best in Group H. The European champions go into the final round of fixtures three points behind Tottenham and, having taken only one point from their two meetings with Spurs, will finish runners-up on head-to-head even if Dortmund are beaten and Mauricio Pochettino’s side lose to APOEL. Dortmund’s incentive is actually greater with third spot guaranteeing Europa League football in the new year. To book their place, Dortmund must match APOEL’s result. A nervy night for the Germans lies in store.
Real will be keeping an eye out elsewhere
At this stage of the competition Real have normally won their group. Finishing second should – in theory at least – present them with a tougher assignment when the competition resumes in 2018. Real boss Zinedine Zidane was quick to stress ahead of the Dortmund game that there is “no easy draw” in the Champions League whether you finish first or second. But meeting group winners such as Manchester City in the last 16 could make them more vulnerable given their recent form.
Is the ‘BBC’ a busted flush?
Real’s strikeforce of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo are under greater scrutiny than ever before. Bale will be missing again with the recurring calf injury that has restricted him to only 28 minutes of action since the end of September. So the focus will be on Benzema and Ronaldo, who wasted another hat-full of chances between them in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao. The pair have managed two goals in LaLiga this season, so a Champions League tonic is in order.
Do Dortmund have a chance?
On the face of it, no. The walls appear to be closing in on Dortmund coach Peter Bosz, whose side have been among the Champions League also-rans and sliding down the Bundesliga since October, not helped by throwing away a four-goal lead to draw 4-4 with bitter rivals Schalke. Injured quartet Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Maximilian Philipp and Castro all miss the trip to the Bernabeu but the presence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored in his last three appearances against Real, and Andrei Yarmolenko gives them a puncher’s chance.
Ramos needs to show leadership
Telling Sergio Ramos to keep his cool might be the same as urging the proverbial leopard to change its spots. But Real could really do with a spot of leadership right now. Ramos was sent off for the 24th time in his career – and a record 19th in La Liga – when he tangled with Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz on Saturday night. Whatever the provocation on Wednesday night, Ramos needs to keep a lid on his emotions and provide an example that his team-mates can follow.
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