Madrid out to end German hoodoo

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Jose Mourinho scowlGettyImagesJose Mourinho knows a tough test in Germany awaits

Real Madrid don't particularly like Germany very much. It's not the weather and it's not the language. It's definitely not the people and probably not the beer and the Bratwurst. I'm sure Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are pretty well liked amongst Madridistas, too. When Madrid visit Germany to play football, however, they tend not to do very well. If a club could have a 'bogey country', Madrid's would almost certainly be Germany.

So a trip to Dortmund's huge Signal Iduna Park stadium to face Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night perhaps isn't every Madridistas idea of fun.

Los Blancos have won just once in 23 previous competitive fixtures in Germany. That's 16 losses, six draws and just the one victory on German soil - and that came 12 years ago thanks to a 3-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in 2000. That's a bad record for any side, but for a club such as Madrid, nine times European champions, it's a shocking one. Jose Mourinho and his men don't have to cast their minds back too far for the last loss in Germany, of course. It was one of only two losses in all competitive matches in the second half of last season and it was one that, in part, denied them a romantic Champions League final date with Mou's old club Chelsea and the crack at a tenth European crown. A 2-1 defeat in Munich against Bayern. As well as inflicting woe on Madrid in Bavaria, Bayern knocked Los Merengues out on penalties at the Bernabeu in the second leg. As if German teams having the upper hand on German soil wasn't enough.

"We have lost here before because the opponents are always very good, not by any psychological problems," said Mourinho at his pre-match press conference. A sound point. Whenever trips to Germany prevail for Madrid, they're in Europe's top competition and against Germany's best clubs. Why not the same losing record in nations such as England and Italy, though? Just as winning breeds winning, losing breeds losing. When Madrid travel to Germany, the press make sure they're well aware of that record. What impact it has depends on the personnel on the pitch and in the dugout. Mental strength is key.

So Los Blancos travel to Dortmund on Wednesday night not only looking for three crucial points in Group D that would edge them closer to qualification for the knock-out stages, but to make sure that poor record just gets that little bit more meaningless.

The task won't be an easy one, despite facing a Dortmund side that sit fourth in the Bundesliga and go into the game on the back of a weekend defeat. The steep banks of the Signal Iduna Park stadium will be intimidating for Los Blancos. Borussia has one of the best supports in Europe, let alone Germany, and they'll be well aware of the importance of Wednesday night's match, the illustrious visit of Europe's most successful team aside. They'll lift their team and they'll do their best to put Madrid off its stride.

The 'D' is for death in a group that holds four champions of the biggest leagues in Europe - England's Manchester City and Holland's Ajax are also competing for spots in the knock-out rounds. It means every point counts, every point is crucial. "It's a difficult match in a difficult group," said Mourinho. "This is not the sort of group where you have qualified after three games. We want to make sure we stay in the Champions League this winter." A slip-up in Germany for Madrid could totally change the complexion of the standings. There are no relative 'gimmes', where a slip-up - whether it be a draw or defeat - can be tolerated and progression can still be comfortably completed. This one is going right down to the wire.

It'll be interesting, then, to see just whether Los Blancos go for the draw or look for the win. With the makeshift defence as it is, the likelihood is that Mourinho will take his side to Germany with attack as the best form of defence. Madrid may have kept a clean sheet without the likes of Marcelo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao against Celta on Saturday, but Dortmund will provide much stiffer competition. If not on their weekend showing in the Bundesliga, then in their last Champions League outing at Manchester City where they created chance after chance and were unlucky to come away with one point instead of three. For Madrid's back four of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Raphael Varane and Michael Essien to keep a clean sheet again will require a superb defensive performance. It'll require the attack to take the pressure off them, it'll require the attack to score goals.

Reports have suggested it's a good time for Dortmund to be playing Los Blancos. Possibly so. It's also a good time for Los Blancos to be playing Dortmund, however. Expect entertainment and expect goals on Wednesday night. We're in for a cracker of a game, quite a treat for so early in the competition.

Follow me on Twitter @nicholasrigg

ESPN Conversations