Borussia Dortmund's Lewandowski celebrates a goal against Stuttgart during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match in Dortmund

UCL Preview: Lewandowski returns, but Borussia Dortmund still long shots against Real Madrid

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Amid the eccentric duality that’s lead Jürgen Klopp to wear blue jeans to his job interview as well as incur a UEFA ban for exploding at a fourth official is a philosophical soul, one that’s kept his team’s Champions League plight in perspective. Down 3-0 after last week’s disappointment at the Santiago Bernabéu, the Borussia Dortmund boss has dispensed with cliché to take comfort in the obvious.

Yes, his team is on the verge of leaving the competition, a fate many other teams have met at the boots of Real Madrid. If, however, Dortmund plays to its potential on Tuesday, last year’s finalists can leave the pitch with validated, regardless of its second leg’s outcome.

“I don’t know how many miracles have been proclaimed before they happened. We don’t have any right to speak about that,” Klopp explained in Monday’s press conference, “but we have the right to give everything tomorrow and perform with will power.

“If we somehow get a result that takes us through, then great; if not, we want to say goodbye to the Champions League with a good performance.”

(MORE, Champions League: Real Madrid returns the favor, takes 3-0 lead on Borussia Dortmund)

Is it possible to charge into battle behind a white flag? Klopp’s trying to do so, though in the process, he’s showing the same charm that’s made him one of the more popular coaches in Europe. Perhaps victory it too remote to expect, but for professional athletes, pride is important. Klopp can’t bring himself to lie and tell his team they’ll win if they perform well. He can, however, remind them: Winning big games carry its own rewards.

Toward that end, Borussia Dortmund’s leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski, will be back, having served his one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. Unless he replicates last year’s four-goal performance against El Real, it will likely be the Polish international’s final Champions League appearance for Dortmund, having already agreed to join Bayern Munich this summer.

Despite his return, BVB will still be shorthanded, with Sebastien Kehl’s suspension adding his name to a gruesome list of injury absences: Sven Bender (groin); Jakub Blaszczykowski (knee); Ilkay Gündogan (back), Marcus Schmelzer (thigh); Neven Subotic (knee). Lewandowski makes Dortmund a more dangerous team, but only marginally so.

(MORE: Three takeaways from Real Madrid’s three-goal romp past Borussia Dortmund)

And against a Real Madrid team that has rediscovered its form, Dortmund remains a decided underdog, with the Merengues 4-0 win on Saturday at Real Sociedad showing what the side is capable of without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, for Carlo Ancelotti, the Ballon d’Or winner was unable to complete Monday’s training session, leaving him a doubt for Tuesday’s second leg.

So Ancelotti will just have to rely on Gareth Bale, whose goal on Saturday brings his season total to 18. They’ll have to rely on 21-year-old creator Isco, who will likely get another start after a strong showing in leg one. He’ll rely on Karim Benzema, who scored last week at the Bernabéu, as well as Luka Modric, Ángel Di María and Xabi Alonso, who have proved a surprising well-balanced midfield since Ancelotti starting using them in January.

“There is no need to change the system or go for a more defensive approach,” Ancelotti explained on Monday. “They have 90 minutes to score three, four goals. We have 90 minutes to score one, which would make things very difficult for them. The earlier we score, the easier it will be for us.”

(MORE, Preview: Chelsea hoping to repeat history against PSG)

That’s the real danger for Dortmund, a team capable of scoring three. Between Real Madrid’s defensive problems and the talents of Lewandowski, Marco Reus, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, replicating their opponents’ first leg output is possible. Whether they can keep their guests from snatching a crucial away goal — one that would force them to score five to advance — is another, more difficult question entirely.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”

Leipzig beats ‘Gladbach 2-1, cuts Bayern’s Bundesliga lead

Leipzig's scorer Willi Orban, center, and his teammates celebrate their side's 2nd goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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BERLIN (AP) Leipzig held on for a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach to cut Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga to five points on Sunday.

[ MORE: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara wins second Serie A match ]

Emil Forsberg scored one and set up another for the promoted side to end its two-game losing streak and stay on course for Champions League qualification with its 14th win of the season.

[ MORE: Bielsa makes Ligue 1 return, joins Lille as new manager ]

`Gladbach `keeper Yann Sommer pulled off a brilliant fingertip save to deny Marcel Sabitzer early on, but he was powerless to stop Forsberg from breaking the deadlock after half an hour played.

Sabitzer and Timo Werner played their way through the static `Gladbach defense and Werner laid the ball off for the Sweden midfielder to fire inside the bottom left corner.

The home side was given a lifeline when Marvin Compper brought down Lars Stindl and referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot, but Peter Gulacsi saved Thorgan Hazard‘s penalty before the break.

More poor defending allowed Werner grab the second 10 minutes after the break, firing inside the far post after Forsberg played him through.

Jannik Vestergaard pulled one back with a powerful header from a corner to set up an exciting finale. However, six minutes of injury time were not enough for an equalizer.

Leipzig had kicked off to a chorus of whistles from the home fans, who then mostly stayed silent till the 19th minute in protest against the visiting side. Huge banners in the north stand said “Traditional club since 1900” – an apparent protest against Leipzig, founded in 2009 when Austrian energy-drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz rebranded a fifth-tier team with his company’s livery before financing its steady promotion through the lower leagues.

COLOGNE 1, SCHALKE 1

Cologne stopped Schalke’s progress but the point was enough for the visiting side to overtake `Gladbach on goal difference in 10th.

Alessandro Schoepf got the visitors off to a flying start in the second minute with the help of the left post, and Leon Goretzka hit the post after half an hour with the home side still struggling to get into the game.

But Anthony Modeste equalized before the break with a fine strike inside the far post, and might even have scored again just minutes later, when his hesitation allowed Benedikt Hoewedes get back and clear.

Guido Burgstaller came closest to a winner for Schalke in the second half, his shot just wide of the far post after beating the goalkeeper.

Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” after gritty FA Cup win

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates with a fans as he runs onto the pitch as he scores their second goal during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United at Ewood Park on February 19, 2017 in Blackburn, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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Danny Graham gave Manchester United some early worries on Sunday at Ewood Park but the Red Devils ultimately responded and booked themselves a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: United books place in quarterfinals after Zlatan’s winner ]

Despite the adversity from both the Blackburn Rovers supporters’ roars and the deficit, United fought their way back into the tie after Marcus Rashford equalized on 27 minutes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed the comeback with a quarter hour remaining.

[ MORE: Kane hat-trick sends Spurs past Fulham ]

Ibrahimovic entered the match after the hour mark along with Paul Pogba, which gave United the final lift it needed to get past Blackburn.

Jose Mourinho spoke highly of his group following the 2-1 victory, particularly of his squad’s “attitude” after trailing inside the opening 20 minutes.

“I think the attitude of every player was really good,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “With a different attitude, we wouldn’t win. They gave us a really hard match and I am really happy with the players, of course.”

“I have important players on the bench and I can try to make them have an impact, but that doesn’t always work,” he said. “I spoke with Paul and Zlatan and they came with the right attitude.”

While Mourinho was understandably pleased with the result, the Portuguese boss gave Blackburn their credit for the hard-fought bout.

“We deserved to win, but Blackburn also deserve to go to Old Trafford,” he said. “But they can now focus on a very difficult Championship. A second match at Old Trafford would have been a disaster.

“I think the referees had everything under control and were really calm and even the ball boy to my right was really good.”

United will now move on to face Premier League leaders Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals, easily making for the most exciting fixture in the last eight of this season’s competition.

La Liga & Serie A: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona shoots on goal next to Martin Maximiliano Mantovani of CD Leganes during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and CD Leganes at Camp Nou stadium on February 19, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 2-1 Leganes

The Blaugrana were just minutes away from another disappointing result but Lionel Messi rescued his side on the brink of time with an opportune penalty kick. The Argentine attacker netted a brace on Sunday, which helped keep Barcelona within a point of league leaders Real Madrid at the top of Spain’s top flight. Messi entered his name on the scoresheet in the fourth minute before Unai Lopez equalized for the visitors in the 71st minute. The loss for Leganes keeps the club just two points above the relegation zone through 23 rounds of play.

Real Sociedad 0-1 Villareal

Samu Castillejo’s stoppage time winner kept Villareal in a top six position after the team struggled to find its way in the attacking third for much of the match. The Yellow Submarine currently sit six points out of fourth place Atletico Madrid, while Sociedad holds a slim, two-point margin over Villareal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Celta Vigo 3-0 Osasuna

 


Roma 4-1 Torino

A pair of goals on both sides of halftime helped propel Roma to its 18th win of the season on Sunday, while keeping the Giallorossi within seven points of Juventus at the top of Serie A. Edin Dzeko continues to pay dividends for Luciano Spalletti’s side after scoring early for Roma, while Mohamed Salah, Leandro Paredes and Radja Nainggolan each booked their place on the scoresheet in the rout. Maxi Lopez provided the visitors with a consolation in the 84th minute, as Torino remain in ninth place.

Chievo 1-3 Napoli

Napoli’s potent attack continues to score goals at an astounding rate, and the third place side is still very much alive in the title race. The visitors jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the hour mark before Chievo finally pulled one back by way of Riccardo Meggiorini. Their three goals on Sunday move Napoli to a total of 60 for the season, which is six more than Roma.

Pescara 5-0 Genoa

The last place side picked up its second win of the season on Sunday after scoring three goals inside of the opening 45 minutes. An own goal from Lucas Orban in the fifth minute kickstarted Genoa’s misfortunes, and Pescara continued to pile it on from that point.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Bologna 0-1 Inter Milan
Sampdoria 1-1 Cagliari
Udinese 1-2 Sassuolo
AC Milan 2-1 Fiorentina