Operation 3-0: Real Madrid hopeful of another famous comeback

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The reason there has been little or no local media criticism of Real Madrid's 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund is simple - all good (or bad) things come to those who wait. Why burn bridges with the club when another legendary comeback may still be possible?

Last Thursday’s AS front page should have been something along the lines of “Merciful Zeus, how badly can a team play? What a disastrous result, goodbye Champions League.” But perhaps condensed a little. Instead the cheerful, stiff-upper-lip banner headline was “Operation 3-0!”

A tremendously positive front cover on Tuesday’s Marca follows the same theme. “3-0 and it’s Wembley!” is the reminder from the paper ahead of the whopper in the Bernabéu. Despite the home side being 4-1 down against a team who are quite likely to score a goal against a leaky defence, any kind of self-doubt has been banished until at least half-past ten on what looks set to be a cold, rainy night in Madrid.

“The Bernabéu will score the first goal,” says the paper of its cunning plan for The Great Comeback, a repeat of last season’s “the fans are the 12th man” campaign which worked so well in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich. The main participation of the spectators ended up being to catch a penalty from Sergio Ramos.

AS are continuing a somewhat morbid “Spirit of Juanito” theme, the usual narrative trotted out when an almighty dog’s dinner of a first leg has been made and the assistance of a former player, famous for leading legendary comebacks who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1992, is required.

The paper’s front cover on Tuesday features a photograph of the footballer, a continuation from a most peculiar “Sixth Sense” article from Tomás Roncero in Monday’s edition that declared “Juanito has not gone. Only his body has. He’s playing against Borussia,” wrote the biggest Madridista of them all, who may well be a ghost himself, Bruce Willis-style (spoiler alert). “Madrid always have Juanito warming up on the sidelines.”

In terms of actions that may actually help, the Real Madrid players were bundled in front of a video camera and told to look stern, fold their arms and order the fans in the Bernabéu on Tuesday night to support them, in a promotional campaign to get a normally cold-blooded fan base to put down their bird seed and make some noise.

José Mourinho - aside from moaning that if the Great Comeback doesn’t work, then it will be his disaster - saw the happy Real Madrid camp as a huge positive. He noted that “no player has jumped ship and everyone wants to play so this makes me think that it’s possible.”

Speaking some five hours after his Madrid equivalent, Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp was his usual entertaining self when asked if he thought his team could choke on the big night. “No” was his immediate response, with no further explanation required.

Knocking three past Borussia Dortmund is certainly not above the abilities of Real Madrid, a side “who did everything badly” in the first leg. It's not conceding a goal that could prove the hardest challenge. The Santiago Bernabéu has been a bit of a free buffet for visiting teams this season, with Real Betis, Levante, Mallorca and Real Sociedad scoring in Madrid’s home in 2013. Then there’s Borussia Dortmund knocking in a couple at the beginning of November in the Champions League group clash between the pair.

However, as Juanito once said in broken Italian; “90 minutes in the Santiago Bernabeu is a long time.” But this can work both ways. A couple of goals for Real Madrid and one more needed with 15 minutes could see the most dramatic of evenings. But an early opener for Borussia Dortmund and more of the same punishment for Madrid as witnessed in Germany last week could see 90 minutes feeling like years for the home support.