ONLY AN HISTORIC turnaround can prevent Real Madrid from progressing past APOEL Nicosia in their Champions League quarter-final tonight.
After Real scored a 3-0 win in the first leg in Cyprus last week, APOEL would need to win by at least three goals at the Bernabeu in the return leg to have any hope of making an unlikely appearance in the semi-finals.
But given Jose Mourinho’s side have conceded three goals in a match just twice this season (both times against Barcelona) the odds of APOEL pulling off an upset seem astronomical.
The Cypriot club stunned Lyon in the round of 16 to reach their first ever continental quarter-final, but even coach Ivan Jovanovic admits his side are not capable of beating Madrid’s high-paid stars.
“Madrid are in the semi-finals; there is no question about that. I even believe that they will reach the final and, hopefully, win it,” Jovanovic said after APOEL’s loss in the first leg.
“It was very gratifying to play against a team like Real Madrid. We all saw firsthand what a quality side they are. You could say this game was a crowning moment for the fantastic campaign we produced this season in the competition.
“My players have done themselves proud throughout this campaign and once again against superior opponents like Madrid.”
A one-sided affair is on the cards at the Bernabeu, with Real having scored 13 goals in their past three matches after successive 5-1 wins in La Liga. However, Mourinho may choose to rest some of his stars given his side face a challenging match against Valencia just four days after the visit of APOEL, followed by a derby away against city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Although Cristiano Ronaldo has grabbed all the headlines, the form of French striker Karim Benzema also has Mourinho smiling. Benzema has scored five goals in his last three appearances to take his tally to 28 for the season, while Mourinho also has plenty of depth in his squad, with Raul Albiol and Esteban Granero two of the peripheral figures who may see some game time against APOEL.