Spanish giants will seek to avenge last season's semi-final defeat to Borussia Dortmund when they take on the German side in tonight's first leg quarter-final clash
Madrid: Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale believes his side have recovered from two successive league defeats as they look to exact revenge on Borussia Dortmund for their Champions League semi-final defeat last season. Bale scored a double as Real responded from losing to Barcelona and Sevilla last week to beat Rayo Vallecano 5-0 on Saturday to remain in third place in La Liga, three points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.
However, it is a Champions League quarter-final clash against the Germans that has whetted the Welshman's appetite as he admitted these are the type of games for which he left Tottenham Hotspur for Real last summer. "I think it was important we responded well and got everything back on track," he told Real Madrid TV.
"We're massively looking forward to the Dortmund game. That is why you want to be playing football is to play in the big games. "We are fully focussed on Wednesday night and hopefully we can do a good job." Bale will once again join Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in a fearsome Madrid frontline with Ronaldo looking to equal Lionel Messi's record of 14 goals in a Champions League season.
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti will make three changes from the side that started against Rayo with Iker Casillas, Marcelo and Luka Modric set to replace Diego Lopez, Fabio Coentrao and Asier Illarramendi.
Dortmund had the upper hand against Madrid as the sides met four times in last season's competition. Jurgen Klopp's men took four points from a possible six in the group stage before eliminating the nine-time European champions 3-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
However, Klopp will have a more testing time in selecting his side this time round as the Germans have been ravaged by injuries. Nevan Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender are all injured, whilst top scorer Robert Lewandowski — who scored all four of his side's goals in the 4-1 semi-final, first leg win over Real last season — is suspended.
However, despite his selection problems, Klopp says his side have not regressed from last season. "It has been a difficult season since the start. We have faced extraordinary challenges and an unprecedented injury crisis," he told Spanish sports daily Marca.
"I, at least, have never seen anything like it. But, with all that, we are in the position to achieve our goals when the season started. Therefore, we cannot talk about being weaker or less strong. "We are second in the German league, in the semi-finals of the Cup and the quarter-finals of the Champions League. That is to say, exactly the same as last season.
'We'll never give up'
"And, just like last season, we finished top of the hardest Champions League group, which shouldn't be forgotten. We will never give up." Klopp is expected to use Marco Reus, who scored a hat-trick in Saturday's 3-2 win at lowly Stuttgart, or Gabonese international Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang in an unusual role as the lone striker to compensate for the loss of Lewandowski.
> Real's hopes of a 33rd La Liga title have taken a huge blow in the past week after they were beaten twice in four days by Barcelona and Sevilla having gone 31 games without defeat in all competitions earlier. Real recovered from those losses with a 5-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano, but remain third behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, three points off the lead with seven games left.
> Dortmund were victors at Stuttgart thanks to Marco Reus' hat-trick to remain second in the Bundesliga, 23 points behind champions Bayern. However, last year's finalists have been far from brilliant in this season's Champions League — losing three of their eight games in Europe, including a 1-2 defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in the second leg of their Last 16 tie
Last 16 showing:
> Real: Destroyed Schalke 9-2 on aggregate
> Dortmund: Overcame Zenit St Petersburg 5-4 on aggregate
> Real: Ronaldo (44 goals)
> Dortmund: Robert Lewandowski (23 goals)
> The sides met four times in all last season as Dortmund won their semi-final 4-3 on aggregate to progress to the final and also took four points from a possible six in their two group stage meetings. That was semi-final revenge for the Germans after Real had dumped them out at the same stage 2-0 on aggregate in the 1997/98 season on their way to winning the trophy for the seventh time. Madrid also had the upper hand with a win and a draw when the two sides met in the second group stage in 2003.