CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Mourinho vs Mourinho

Real's coach will have to ditch his cautiousness if his team is to have any hope of a Champions League comeback

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts as Dortmund's players celebrate a goal during the Champions League semifinal first leg.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts as Dortmund's players celebrate a goal during the Champions League semifinal first leg.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

As the Real Madrid publicity machine continued to pump out the propaganda about a miraculous Bernabéu comeback, José Mourinho seemed more skeptical about his team's hopes of making up the 4-1 deficit against Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday's Champions League semifinal second leg (8.45pm, TVE1). "I don't want to give percentages about our chances, because the result in the away leg does not allow me to [...] It is difficult to use math to justify that we still have a chance," the Portuguese coach said at Monday’s press conference.

In part because his previous European semifinal encounters with Real Madrid — against Barcelona in 2011 and Bayern Munich last year — ended in failure; in part because Dortmund is once again likely to sit back and give up the ball; and in part because the first-leg scoreline requires a mammoth response, the Portuguese coach faces an existential dilemma, having no option but ditch his cautious principles in favor of a gutsier, offensive approach.

The counterattacking style that has been the foundation of his work at the club over the last three years, and worked so well against Barça this season, was exactly what endangered the team at the Westfalenstadion last week. At 1-1 at halftime he instructed his players to double their defensive efforts and conserve what they had. It was a big mistake — Dortmund's three second-half goals came as the direct result of Madrid's defensive withdrawal. Quite what the Real coach has up his sleeve, he was unwilling to say on Monday: "We could play with people who normally don't play, with a system we don't normally use... That is why I won't say anything. Only that Cristiano is not OK and the only absences due to injury are Arbeloa and Marcelo."

Facing even more of a battle, of course, is Barcelona as it seeks to overturn its 4-0 loss at Bayern in Wednesday's return leg at Camp Nou (8.45pm, Canal+ Liga de Campeones). The talismanic Leo Messi's stylish solo goal against Athletic at the weekend showed he seems to have shaken off the injury that was still dogging him in Munich last week. But if it is to put any kind of a fight against the Bavarians, defensively inconsistent Barça needs to balance the team and widen its work on the pitch; above all to better deal with counterattacks and corners, as well as come up with some fresh ideas in attack.

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