Group leadership at stake as Real Madrid face Dortmund (Preview)

Madrid, Dec 6 (IANS) Reigning champions Real Madrid face a potentially significant Champions League football tie when they play Borussia Dortmund in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium here on Wednesday.

Although both teams have already assured their places in the knockout stage of the competition, Madrid need to beat the German side in order to finish top of the group, reports Xinhua.

The group winner may not necessarily assure an easier rival in the last 16, but the advantage of playing the return leg at home will be something both teams will look to achieve.

Madrid’s early exits from the competition in recent years have tended to come when they have not had their home support cheering them on in the second leg of the knockout stage.

Last season showed the advantage of playing the return leg at home as Madrid were able to overcome a 0-2 away defeat to Germany’s Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals and beat England’s Manchester City on home ground after drawing 0-0 away at Manchester.

One of the points of interest in the game will be the performance of Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been singled out as a possible future signing for Madrid, while Mikel Merino also returns to Spain following his move to Germany from La Liga club Osasuna.

Madrid are in high spirits after captain Sergio Ramos’ last minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to fierce rivals FC Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday, which gave them a point that preserved their six-point gap at the top of the La Liga standings.

The bad news for Madrid, however, are reports in the Spanish press that cited whistleblowing portal “Football Leaks” that some of their star players have diverted earnings from image rights to offshore funds in order to avoid paying taxes in Spain.

Meanwhile Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has to decide whether to rest right back Dani Carvajal and give time to Danilo.

Zidane will also be pondering whether to give Casemiro a start in central midfield after only two appearances as a substitute in recent matches.

His team selection will depend on just how important he believes winning the group actually is.