Real Madrid defender Pepe is under no illusion that his team have a mountain to climb in the return leg of their Uefa Champions League semi-final clash with Borussia Dortmund today if they are to keep alive their dream of winning a 10th European Cup. But the Portuguese international is looking to the magic of the Bernabeu to inspire Real Madrid’s challenge, and he believes an early goal could be the catalyst to helping the Spanish champions overturn the stunning 4-1 deficit from the first-leg. Excerpts:
Q) Pepe, it's a big, big ask for Real Madrid to reach the Final of the Champions League after you lost the first leg of your semi-final against Borussia Dortmund 4-1. What went wrong that day and how can you put it right in the Bernabeu?
A) "In Germany we did not play against Dortmund as Real Madrid usually does. The Germans were better than us for sure and we didn't produce the kind of performance needed to play in the semi-final of the Champions League. It wasn't good enough and we have to put it right in Madrid."
Q) Did you underestimate your opponents? Were you already thinking about the possibility of a final against Barca at Wembley?
A) "Not at all. We all knew that Borussia Dortmund was a difficult opponent. Nobody thought it was an easy game, so it is not true that we went to Germany with a lack of respect."
Q) So was it just that Robert Lewandowski was too good for you? He scored all four goals in the match and looked almost unbeatable?
A) "Lewandowski is a great striker and I don't doubt that for a minute, but he also had the game of his life. It was amazing. Next time it is our turn."
Q) Is there any way for Real Madrid to go through and still get to Wembley?
A) "We have to believe. It's complicated, but I still say we can turn the tie around at home. If there is a magic stadium in Europe, then it is the Bernabeu. We have produced so many comebacks in the past and we need that spirit again. We need it again for Tuesday's game."
Q) The crowd will certainly be behind you and will create a fantastic atmosphere? Do you need to call on them to be louder than ever?
A) "The support from our fans is guaranteed, but they will need to give the maximum possible in these ninety minutes. For us this match against Borussia Dortmund is a real Champions League final. The train for Wembley passes through Madrid and we need to be on it."
Q) What are the most crucial factors on the pitch if you want to go through and turn the whole tie around?
A) "I think the key to the game is that we score the first goal as early as possible to make them nervous. Three goals in 90 minutes is possible, there is no doubt about it. But we also need to defend well and make sure we don't concede any more goals because that would make it very tough for us. In this game more than ever, we need to be focused right from the very beginning and right to the very end. If not we will not be in the final."
Q) If you don't make it this season, in possibly Jose Mourinho's last year and with Barcelona almost certainly going out to Bayern Munich, people are going to say it's a failure aren't they?
A) "Failure is a very strong word to use should we not win this semi-final. And I'm not thinking about that. We will be going out to win, and hopefully with that extra bit of luck which we didn't have at this stage last year, we can still do it."
Q) There’s such a big pressure on Real to win the 'Decima', the club's 10th European Cup. It's almost an obsession for the fans and media in Spain isn't it?
A) "We can't think about that either, because it's not important. We still need to be hopeful of winning the 10th European Cup, but once we are out on the pitch, we should just focus on playing well. You cannot win the Champions League without getting past this stage and if we manage to do that, I won't care who we face in the final. But I agree it's an incredibly important game for us and for the club. We need to win."
Q) It sounds like you won't give up despite the scoreline?
A) "Definitely not. We are not happy to be behind after the first leg but if there is one team in the world who can come back from 4-1 down and score goals then it's Real Madrid. We have scored three goals at home many, many times before - so why not? We have learned lessons from the first leg and we will improve. We didn't start either half well in Germany and kept making the same old mistakes. If we can sort that out and fight for every minute of the second leg as if it were our last, we can still reach the final. We know Dortmund played well last time and that we did not. But we just have to think about ourselves now and concentrate on scoring goals and going through. The tie is not over."
Professional Management Group