Champions league review

Hopes high for happy returns

Spanish clubs all in with a shout of reaching semifinals after first leg results

Madrid -
Real Madrid's Argentinean forward Gonzalo Higuaín (r) celebrates his goal against Galatasaray.
Real Madrid's Argentinean forward Gonzalo Higuaín (r) celebrates his goal against Galatasaray.JAVIER SORIANO (AFP)

The three Spanish clubs left in the Champions League will, to varying degrees, be satisfied with the results they garnered from this week’s quarterfinal first legs. While Real Madrid is the only team that can look forward to the return match against Turkey’s Galatasaray in a genuinely relaxed frame of mind after a 3-0 stroll in the Bernabéu, Barcelona and Málaga’s respective ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund are in accordance with their differing expectations of reaching the final four.

In accordance because tournament favorite Barcelona looked capable of dominating the French team and has the luxury of not even needing to go all out for a win in the home leg next Wednesday; the two away goals scored by the insatiable Leo Messi and Xavi, from the penalty spot after the Argentinean had gone off injured, mean a 0-0 or 1-1 would suffice.

PSG might still try to keep it tight and hope to sneak a winner on the break, but Barcelona surely has the nous to play with patience. The concerns for coach Tito Vilanova, back in charge after ending his latest round of cancer treatment, are that Zlatan Ibrahimovic again makes something from nothing as he did to earn the tie in Paris, and that Messi does not recover from his strained hamstring in time.

Ibra is taking on the form of nemesis for Barça in this clash. He only got to play on Tuesday night after Uefa agreed to remove a ban resulting from a red card he picked up against Valencia in the previous round; he was clearly offside when scoring Paris’s first equalizer; and finally, his accomplished cushion header set up Blaise Matuidi for the team’s second after a hopeful high ball had been hoisted into the Barcelona box.

Málaga, meanwhile, will not be too unhappy about the 0-0 in its own Rosaleda stadium on Wednesday, depriving the forward-bound Borussia an away goal despite the German team creating a handful of excellent openings. Led by a hyperactive Joaquín, Málaga pressed hard but only had three shots on target to show for its promising approach play. “We came up against what we expected: very technical players,” said Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, adding with a glint in his eye that “the fact that they did not score is an important one.”

Indeed, Pellegrini’s charismatic opposite number, Jürgen Klopp, may feel slightly inhibited when it comes to the home leg. In the previous round, Dortmund tied 2-2 in Donetsk before a rousing 3-0 victory in the Westfalenstadion.

Real’s win over Galatasaray was something of a stroll once Cristiano Ronaldo had kept himself one ahead of Messi as tournament top scorer. Number nine for the Portuguese was a left-foot chip over the keeper he made look simple. Later, goals for Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín completed a satisfying night for José Mourinho after both of his center forwards had found their form questioned in recent weeks.

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