Dortmund welcoming underdog role versus Real

Posted by Stephan Uersfeld

It is for real! In their first Champions League semifinal in 15 years, Borussia Dortmund will now be out for revenge against Real Madrid, Borussia's final destination back in 1998. The meeting of the two outgoing champions of Spain and Germany will be overshadowed by the Barcelona-Bayern tie and there lies Dortmund's chance.

- Delaney's draw analysis

Ever since winning their group, Dortmund have been standing in the shadow of triumphant Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants not only ruled the domestic campaign in Germany but also beat Dortmund in the German Cup quarterfinal. National order restored, Bayern officials roared as their team marched on to win Bundesliga after only 28 match days.

In the Champions League, Bayern overcame Arsenal and Juventus, two well established names in Europe. While Arsenal looked way over their prime, Juventus had to accept the superiority of the German powerhouse. Dortmund, in the meantime, beat Donetsk from the Ukraine and needed the help of injury time and Scottish referee Craig Thomson to survive their tie with neglected La Liga side Malaga.

Going into the semifinal draw this Friday, Dortmund had been the odds-on outsiders and, inevitably Bayern president Uli Hoeness opened an entertaining skirmish, claiming Dortmund were the weakest link on the road to Wembley. Dortmund officials replied, with Dortmund CEO Aki Watzke suggesting Hoeness was falling back into his old -- and unsuccessful -- routines in times of success. German media was quick to establish the scenario of a possible meeting between the two German clubs, but Ruud van Nistelrooy had other plans for both teams.

"I was in the shower during the draw," Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp told Sky following the draw on Friday. Was he? We will never find out. But Klopp, of whose authenticity British TV viewers got a first impression when interviewed by SKY directly after the miracle of Dortmund on Tuesday, knows how to play on the strings of media and throw himself in the middle of a discussion when needed. His charming, convincing ways have yet to fully unfold in Europe, but just like his team, he is getting there.

The most inexperienced side left in the quartet have nothing left to play for in the Bundesliga. With only six games to go, Dortmund hold a 10 point lead over archrivals Schalke 04 and a return to the Champions League looks more than possible. Over the past few months the narrow squad has been living on the edge. Key players like Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan or Jakub Blaszczykowski have been in and out of the squad, and right back Lukasz Piszczek has been pulling through the second half of the season despite a hip injury needing treatment.

All the while, Borussia did not wane in the Bundesliga and last Tuesday showed what sheer will and a slightly adjusted kick and rush tactic -- and a Scottish referee -- can achieve. Klopp used the distributing skills of Nuri Sahin, Gundogan and Hummels to constantly pressure the Malaga defense and with the help of the Westfalenstadion roar, they came out on top in one of the Champions League’s most dramatic matches of all time.

During the two legs against Malaga, Dortmund were not able to live up to their role as favourites. "We feel more comfortable in the outsider position," Watzke explained in local paper Ruhr Nachrichten. And whereas he looked forward to being the favourite in more games in the future, Dortmund will most certainly not be the favourites going into the Madrid semifinals.

During the group stage, of course, Borussia beat Madrid at home and drew away at the Bernabeu. But with Real fully focused on La Decima and their very own Malaga against United during the first knockout stage, the Real side Dortmund is to meet in 10 days' time will be different from the one they met in October 2012.

The tie itself has many stories to offer in the build-up. In 1998, the first leg of the semifinal was delayed by more than an hour as a goal post broke and Madrid officials were not able to find a new one in time. A couple of years later, a 92nd minute equalizer by Javier Portillo was the end of the road for Dortmund in the 2002-2003 Champions League and in the aftermath of that draw, Dortmund only just avoided bankruptcy.

Before returning to the Champions League and after winning their first Bundesliga title in nine years, local hero Sahin made the move to Real Madrid and only some 20 months later will return to Bernabeu wearing the famous black and yellow colours. Madrid, in the meantime, have already lined up the next Nuri Sahin -- Dortmund midfielder Gundogan. The Germany international has been in the focus of Spanish media recently, with reports suggesting he could either sign for Barcelona or Madrid. Over the next couple of weeks Gundogan will most likely be in the center of fresh transfer rumors.

But whatever happens against Real, Borussia Dortmund have returned to Europe and the road to Wembley must not end at the Bernabeu on April 30th. "By name we might be the weakest link left in the pot," Sahin said. "But everyone can win the title now. And we now also want to lift that trophy."

Dortmund is still on the trail of the lost trophy but revenge for 1998 has to come first.

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