Real Madrid look like being crowned kings of Spain but need to overturn a 2-1 Champions League semifinal first leg deficit against Bayern Munich on Wednesday to continue dreaming of European glory.
Coach Jose Mourinho was lured to one of the world’s richest clubs to build a dynasty that would end Barcelona’s pre-eminence and he struck what could be a decisive blow in La Liga’s title race with a 2-1 victory over the champions at the Nou Camp on Saturday.With a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and four matches left, Real now divert their aim to Barca’s European crown.
Mourinho’s team will need to replicate the defensive rigour and clinical finishing that did for Barca if they are to reach next month’s Champions League final in Munich.
Normally outspoken and provocative, Mourinho’s recent lack of controversy seems to have benefited his team, particularly ahead of the ‘Clasico’ which they won for only the second time in 11 attempts with Mourinho at the helm.
CR7 on track
Leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo displayed less of the petulance that has contributed to his failure to deliver on big occasions in the past and broke away to grab the winner against Barca, his 54th goal in all competitions this season.
With Ronaldo working better as a team player, Real are confident they can maintain a 100 percent home record in this edition and edge closer to a record 10th European Cup victory.
That could involve having to beat Barca again in the final if Pep Guardiola's side overcome a 1-0 deficit at home to Chelsea in the other semifinal.
Mourinho, in his third successive Champions League semi-final, is eyeing a third triumph in the competition after his victories with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010, the latter after a 2-0 final win over Bayern at the Bernabeu.
Morale boostHis opposite number on Wednesday, Jupp Heynckes, also knows the Spanish capital well having led Real to European Cup glory in 1998.
Bayern, who have won three out of four semifinals against Real, have an advantage thanks to Mario Gomez’s late strike in the first leg and arrive boosted after Franck Ribery grabbed a stoppage-time winner at Werder Bremen on Saturday.
Hours later Borussia Dortmund sealed a second consecutive Bundesliga title that killed off any hopes of a German treble for the Bavarians.
The win over Werder was the perfect rehearsal if they are to achieve the ambition of playing in the Champions League final in their own stadium on May 19.
According to media reports Bayern wingers Ribery and Arjen Robben were involved in a row a week earlier — but a handshake on Saturday looked to have sealed a reconciliation at just the right time.