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Madrid look to avoid another Dortmund exit

By AP - Apr 01,2014 - Last updated at Apr 01,2014

MADRID –– Real Madrid have the perfect opportunity to make up for last season's Champions League exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund when they meet again with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

Dortmund kept Madrid from reaching the final last season with a 4-3 aggregate victory, marked by striker Robert Lewandowski's four goals in the opening leg.

This time, Lewandowski is one of several Dortmund players out of the opening match, which will be at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where the restless home fans jeered Cristiano Ronaldo following a recent league slump.

For the first time in months, there is intense pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti following Real Madrid's recent stumbles. Madrid went from Spanish league leader to third behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, which ended Madrid's 31-game unbeaten run with a victory on March 23. 

Madrid followed up the clasico loss with defeat at Sevilla before rebounding with a victory over Rayo Vallecano, but Madrid's obsession with winning their 10th European Cup means the Italian coach can ill afford any slip-ups in this competition. 

"We're optimistic,” Ancelotti said. "There aren't a lot of games left and if we win all of them we win the Champions League, which is how the team is thinking. We need to worry about ourselves and stay positive."

As if he really needed it, Cristiano Ronaldo has a point to prove against Borussia Dortmund. Ronaldo was jeered at the Santiago Bernabeu in Saturday's 5-0 rout of Rayo Vallecano, with Madrid fans apparently unhappy that he did not make a pass to striker Alvaro Morata. 

"I can understand jeering when we deserve it," Ancelotti said, "but we need everyone to be on our side and to jeer Cristiano is incomprehensible." Ronaldo has scored 13 times in the competition to sit one shy of matching the record mark of 14, held by Lionel Messi (2011/12) and Jose Altafini (1962/63).

Injuries have taken their toll on Dortmund with midfielders Sven Bender (groin), Jakub Blaszczykowski (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (back problems) and defenders Marcel Schmelzer (groin) and Neven Subotic (knee) all joining Lewandowski on the sideline. 

Lewandowski has to serve a one-match ban, which will suit Madrid just fine after the Poland striker scored four times in a 4-1 victory to open their series last season. Marco Reus, who will likely lead the German club's attack, scored a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Stuttgart on Saturday, which helped the team's confidence. "It was very important for us to build up this confidence," Reus said. "Now we know that we can also come back again, even if we're two goals behind."

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