Borussia Dortmund's preparations for Wednesday's Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid have been hit by news a star player wants to leave after the season.
On the eve of what they call 'the most spectacular home game in Borussia Dortmund's history,' the first leg has been overshadowed by Mario Goetze's decision to join Bayern Munich on July 1.
Bayern, who are triggering Goetze's reported release clause of $48 million, said on Tuesday they wanted to delay the announcement 'out of consideration' for Wednesday's game, but Dortmund were left struggling to minimize its impact.
Goetze's Facebook page quickly became a target for abusive messages from disappointed fans, and Dortmund appealed to supporters to continue to support the 20-year-old player 'unconditionally.'
"Now, more than ever, Borussia Dortmund will not be distracted from the big dream of laying the foundation for a surprise in tomorrow's Champions League semifinal to reach the final"
"Now, more than ever, Borussia Dortmund will not be distracted from the big dream of laying the foundation for a surprise in tomorrow's Champions League semifinal to reach the final,'' the club said.
Excitement has been palpable in Dortmund for another clash between last season's German and Spanish champions.
Dortmund beat Madrid 2-1 at home in the group stage, and claimed a 2-2 draw away before topping Group D.
"We've a lot to gain, nothing to lose,'' said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.
Some Dortmund fans queued over two nights for tickets after a limited number were made available on Tuesday, and police had to intervene after scuffles broke out when suspected ticket scalpers sent their own people to try to jump the queues. All 65,829 tickets for the game are sold out.
Dortmund, the only undefeated side left in the competition, completed a remarkable comeback in the quarterfinals with two goals in injury time to defeat Malaga 3-2, and are looking for a hat trick of home victories against Spanish opponents this season.
The sides last met in the semifinals in 1998, on Dortmund's last appearance at this stage, when Madrid prevailed 2-0 on aggregate to dethrone the defending champions.
Dortmund are aiming for just their second European Cup final, while Madrid has their 13th in sight. Jose Mourinho's side have lost three semifinals since they last won the trophy in 2002, crashing out to Bayern on penalties last year.
Ronaldo on fire
Madrid trail Barcelona in the Spanish league and have been focusing on the Champions League in what is likely Mourinho's last season in charge.
"We are going to Germany to win so we can return to the Bernabeu with guarantees to try and reach the final," said Madrid forward Jose Callejon.
The Spanish side had a costly 3-1 victory over Real Betis on Saturday when midfielder Luka Modric and defender Marcelo had to go off with injuries.
"There are only a few in the world who can match him. Thankfully (Poland defender) Lukasz Piszczek is one of them"
Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin
French striker Karim Benzema, who scored one goal and set up another, was also favouring his right leg and had to be substituted late.
Mourinho rested his first-choice defense, with only Raphael Varane and Pepe seeing minutes as substitutes. Playmaker Xabi Alonso was also rested.
Both Modric and Benzema made Madrid's 23-man squad but Marcelo was omitted.
The visitors will look to Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain his fine scoring record. The Portugal star leads the Champions League with 11 goals and is within reach of the single-season record of 14 goals jointly held by Lionel Messi and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Ronaldo has scored 50 goals for Madrid in all competitions this season.
"There are only a few in the world who can match him. Thankfully (Poland defender) Lukasz Piszczek is one of them," said Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin, who endured a frustrating time as a Madrid player.
"He won't be able to stop him alone, we have to work as a team."
Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, another reported Bayern target, has scored in 12 consecutive Bundesliga matches.
Dortmund dominated the past two domestic seasons but surrendered the Bundesliga title to Bayern this month. The last time Dortmund surrendered back-to-back titles to Bayern was in 1997, when they atoned by winning the Champions League.
Bayern have provided even more motivation with the Goetze transfer.