Real on verge of CL last 8 against CSKA

Real on verge of CL last 8 against CSKA

MADRID - The Associated Press
Real on verge of CL last 8 against CSKA

Mesut Özil and Kaka, Real Madrid. AP photo

On the cusp of a second straight Champions League quarterfinals appearance, Real Madrid must not relapse into its recent history of slipping up at the last-16 stage come tonight’s return leg against CSKA Moscow.

Madrid holds the away-goal advantage following a 1-1 first-leg draw, and it has won all 17 games at the Santiago Bernabeu apart from two losses to Barcelona. Jose Mourinho’s team has outscored all other opponents 74-17 at home and the Portuguese coach has helped erase a run of underachieving that saw Madrid fail to emerge from the last 16 in every season since 2005 until a semifinal appearance last year.

The Portuguese coach was clear his future at the club doesn’t depend on the result of this match with Madrid chasing a 10th European Cup.

“Surprises can happen, miracles don’t,” Mourinho said yesterday from the club’s training ground. “If they win it won’t be the result of a miracle - it will be because they played very well and we played very poorly.

“But this team does not fear anything or anyone.” CSKA scored a stoppage-time equalizer to deny Madrid a win in Moscow, and the Russian side caused another of Spain’s powerhouses problems before, eliminating defending champion Barcelona from the second round 19 years ago with a victory at the Camp Nou after a 1-1 draw in Moscow.

Madrid has lost once in nine fixtures against Russian opponents with Spartak Moscow’s victory in the return leg of a 1990-91 two-legged series the last time the Spanish giant exited from Europe after securing a first-leg draw away.

“They are always strong teams, with tall players. It’s always difficult to beat them,” Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said yesterday. “A Russian team to win the Champs League, why not? I think it’s possible. But not this year because I want to win.”

CSKA is winless in five league matches after a 1-1 draw against Dynamo Moscow last weekend.