Madrid travel to Dortmund with German in top form

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

"The injuries were the worst part of the game," noted Real Madrid assist Aitor Karanka after seeing Los Blancos defeat Real Betis 3-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

Indeed, it could be argued that Madrid would have swapped victory for a clean bill of health ahead of Wednesday's trip to Borussia Dortmund for the Champions League semifinal first leg, with both Marcelo and Luka Modric making early exits due to injury.

Marcelo's setback will be of more concern to Jose Mourinho than Modric given that the full back position is a seemingly recurring problem ahead of Wednesday's match. Alvaro Arbeloa will be suspended after his dismissal in the last round against Galatasaray, while Michael Essien is unlikely to be fit and Fabio Coentrao is also a doubt.

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With no fully-fit senior players currently at Mourinho's disposal, it could be down to youth -- or out of position centre-backs -- who have to take on the job in Germany.

But while the focus will be on Madrid's injury problems, there was still one huge positive to take from Saturday's victory -- the form of Mesut Ozil. The German scored twice and played a part in Karim Benzema's goal to ensure Dortmund will not just be looking at Cristiano Ronaldo as a major threat to their European progression.

Of course, Jurgen Klopp and Dortmund will know all about the German international. His qualities will come as no surprise thanks to his starring role with the national team and his appearances in the Bundesliga before moving to the Spanish capital.

Despite their familiarity, Ozil is a player currently at the top of his game and it will worry Klopp. Ozil played superbly against Betis and has been in arguably his best form since moving to Madrid, despite a few problems at the start of the campaign.

The 24-year-old missed last weekend's victory at Athletic Bilbao due to injury so for Madridistas it was good not just to see the playmaker back in the fold, but back in the lineup and playing at the top of his game.

"We know what type of a player he is and what he can create," said Karanka in the post-Betis press conference. "He didn't play last week in Bilbao because of an injury so playing the whole game against Betis was important. Now he has time to recover. The game has served him well and will give him more confidence and get him back in the rhythm of things."

Madrid have too often relied on Ronaldo hauling them out of bad situations this season but at least Mourinho knows that if Ronaldo is not quite at his best, Ozil is. To have both in top form ahead of Wednesday's semifinal should cause Dortmund all kinds of problems.

The Portuguese star may have the goals but the German has the assists -- nine so far this season to Ronaldo's eight in La Liga, while three have come in the Champions League so far compared to Ronaldo's one. Ozil will be keen to extend that come Wednesday night.

Betis boss Pepe Mel paid tribute to the former Werder Bremen man after the match, saying he is undervalued. "Ozil is one of the most undervalued players in La Liga," he said. "He is at the level of [Leo] Messi and Ronaldo. He is a great player."

Words I'd agree with, but words that shouldn't ring true for too much longer if continues on his current path, and certainly if he produces more of the same to help Madrid to Wembley.

Follow Nicholas on Twitter @nicholasrigg

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