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Bale targeting Real revenge vs Dortmund Germans ravaged by injuries

MADRID, April 1, (AFP): 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 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 4-3 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. “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 Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has shot down any suggestions Gareth Bale could return to play at left-back after Brazilian international Marcelo was ruled out for a couple of weeks by a hamstring injury. Marcelo will miss both legs of Real’s Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund with the first leg taking place at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night. Bale began his career at left-back at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur before twice becoming Premier League Player of the Year from a more advanced position and Ancelotti insisted that the Welshman would maintain his place on the right side of Real’s attack.

“Bale at full-back is not an option for us,” he told his pre-match press conference ahead of Dortmund’s visit to the Spanish capital. “We have a problem with Marcelo, but we can cover his absence well with (Fabio) Coentrao. He is fresh and will replace him without any problems.” Bale was on target twice in Real’s 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday as Ancelotti’s men bounced back from consecutive defeats to Barcelona and Sevilla. That double took the former Tottenham man’s tally for the season to 16, but he has been criticised for his lack of impact in Real’s biggest games. Ancelotti admitted that Bale can be inconsistent, but defended the player’s attitude and claimed that was to be expected given the type of player he is and the position he plays in.

“I think it is true he is a little intermittent, but that is a characteristic of all forwards and especially very quick players. “Players with that speed can’t have a continuous influence likes other players with different characteristics like Xabi Alonso. “His inconsistency is a physical characteristic of the player, like Cristiano (Ronaldo) or (Karim) Benzema. It is not an attitude problem.” Real midfielder and Bale’s former Tottenham teammate Luka Modric also believes the 24-year-old has made a fine contribution in his first season with Madrid. “I think he is doing very well. He is helping the team a lot and has scored a lot of goals and given many assists. “He is a very important player for us. I don’t think he has been very selfish, I think he has given more assists than anyone in La Liga which says it all.”

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