Dortmund to edge out Real
Chris Hammer is backing Borussia Dortmund to edge their Champions League semi-final first leg with Real Madrid.
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Those who believe in the Sporting Gods will have little doubt they were looking over Borussia Dortmund during their unforgettable quarter-final victory over Malaga.
Those who don't will instead point to the never-say-die spirit of Jurgen Klopp's side as well as the baffling failure from the match officials to spot that Felipe Santana's decisive goal was clearly offside.
Either way, Dortmund sneaked through by the skin of their teeth, scoring twice in stoppage-time to send their raucous supporters into ecstasy and deny this season's surprise packages a dream semi-final meeting with fellow Spaniards Real Madrid.
Moments like that can convince supporters their club is destined to reach the final at Wembley at the very least but we must take a more logical stance ahead of Wednesday night's first leg at Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund head into this showdown purely focused on European glory having somewhat limply handed their Bundesliga title back to Bayern Munich while the same can almost be said for Real Madrid, who trail Barcelona by 13 points with just six games remaining.
Nevertheless, they've both excelled and impressed in the Champions League this season and many observers claim the semi-finals are fittingly comprised of the continent's four strongest sides.
That's not to say neither side have enjoyed a fair slice of fortune along the way.
We've already touched on Dortmund's triumph over Malaga but supporters of Manchester United won't need reminding of Nani's controversial dismissal against Madrid at Old Trafford, which arguably turned the last-16 tie in favour of the Spanish giants.
Dortmund and Madrid were of course in the same group and although they both cruised through to the knockout rounds ahead of Ajax and Manchester City, it's the German side who can draw most confidence from the two prior head-to-head meetings.
A deserved 2-1 home victory for Dortmund was followed by a pulsating 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu, where only a last-gasp goal from Mesut Ozil rescued a point for Jose Mourinho's side.
That defeat meant Real have now only won once in 24 games in Germany and if they produce a similar defensive performance to the one which allowed Galatasaray to score three times in the previous round, then this dismal record will be extended.
That said, Dortmund were twice stung by Malaga on the counter attack so they must also up their game on that front to deal with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ozil on Wednesday night.
Despite playing second fiddle to Bayern and Barcelona, recent domestic form suggests both sides will be brimming with belief.
The visitors come into this clash on the back of three straight Primera Liga victories, scoring 11 goals and conceding just twice, while Klopp's outfit have fired 19 goals during their run of five successive Bundesliga wins.
Robert Lewandowski has netted six of those and also scored in the 2-1 victory over Real Madrid back in October so the Polish striker is sure to interest several punters at 11/2 to score first and 13/8 in the anytime market.
Another player usually tipped to impress is Mario Gotze but there are concerns that Tuesday's revelation that the German starlet will join Bayern Munich in the summer will serve as a distraction to the team and the supporters.
Klopp has urged their fans not to vent their frustration at the announcement during the first leg but nobody can deny the timing of this news could have bee better.
He said: "It is now up to every single one of us to show that Borussia Dortmund comes first.
"If anybody cannot hide their disappointment, then it would be nice if they would pass their tickets onto somebody who can. This team deserves to be supported.
"This chance is too big for us to concern ourselves with any other issues. The Real game is far too important."
Despite his coach's words, Gotze nevertheless faces a hostile reception on Wednesday night but maybe it will all come as a relief to him that this developing story is finally out in the open.
This brings us back nicely to the believers of sporting destiny because wouldn't it be quite an ironic twist in the tale for him to be taking on his new club in this season's final?
Back to the logical arguments of current form, previous meetings between sides and Real's poor record in Germany, I feel Dortmund are too big a price at 9/5 with several firms to win the first leg.
They've won their other five home Champions League games this season and you could say they will be more eager to take a lead to the Bernabeu than their opponents, who would view a draw as a good result.
- The game is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.