Real Madrid saw their flawless home record come to an end on the weekend, and Tottenham Hotspur will hope they can become the latest side to win at the Santiago Bernabeu as they travel to Madrid on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie.
Jose Mourinho has guided Real to the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2004, but watched on as his 150-match unbeaten league home record was surprisingly ended by Gijon, and Madrid, now eight points behind Barcelona in the league, must dust themselves off for the Tottenham clash.
Real have the better pedigree, having won the European Cup a record nine times, while Tottenham have only reached the semifinal stage of this competition once, way back in 1962 when they lost to eventual winners Benfica.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has also never come out on top against Mourinho when the two pitted their wits against each other in the Premier League, although Mourinho was at big-spending Chelsea, while Redknapp was in charge of Portsmouth and Southampton.
Tottenham start as underdogs but can take heart from their 1-0 win at AC Milan in the last round and the fact that Madrid have lost their last two Champions League knockout matches against English opposition, crashing out at the last 16 stage to Arsenal in 2006 and then Liverpool in 2009.
Mourinho, bidding to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs, has injury problems for the home tie, with Brazilian fullback Marcelo, French forward Karim Benzema and star man Cristiano Ronaldo all doubtful.
The absence of top-scorer Ronaldo, struggling with a hamstring injury, is the biggest concern and Mourinho said the two would sit down and decide if they should gamble on his fitness against Tottenham.
“If he [Ronaldo] has a chance to play, it’s because he and his coach are taking a risk,” said Mourinho. “The information from the medical department is that he can’t play and that he can only play in Athletic Bilbao. I will talk with the injured players and decided if we will risk them.
“Tottenham are an ambitious team with very good players and a good manager. You sense it is a happy team and happy teams are dangerous teams.”
Niggling hamstring strain
Redknapp (64) has said he believes Ronaldo and company will play and Madrid also have Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain back fit after he played his first game since late November as a second half substitute in the 1-0 loss against Sporting.
Redknapp has his own injury concerns, with star Welsh winger Gareth Bale a doubt against a club that were strongly linked with his signature in the summer.
Bale has been sidelined with a niggling hamstring strain and missed the 0-0 draw with Wigan on Saturday as a precautionary measure.
“I am very hopeful over Gareth [Bale],” said Redknapp, “The feeling was if he had played at Wigan he might have cramped up on his hamstring. So we rested him and hopefully he will be okay for Tuesday.”
Defenders Alan Hutton, Ledley King and Real old boy Jonathan Woodgate are definitely out, while centre-back William Gallas is doubtful with a knee injury.
One Tottenham player with a point to prove is Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who joined Spurs from Real Madrid in the summer after finding himself surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu.
“It will be fantastic to go back as I have a lot of friends there,” said Van der Vaart. “The first leg is away which is good for us.
“We don’t have any pressure, we can play our game and we have a chance.”
Madrid are targeting a fifth straight home win in this season’s Champions League but have lost 1-0 at the Bernabeu to Arsenal and Liverpool in their last two Champions League knockout home matches against English opponents, and Tottenham will be hoping for a similar result. — AFP