Real Madrid Preparing for Closed-Door Match at Legia Warsaw


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Legia Warsaw fans clashed with the police last month before the team visited Real Madrid. No fans will be present Wednesday when the teams meet again in Warsaw.

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Bartlomiej Zborowski/European Pressphoto Agency

WARSAW — Competing behind closed doors will not offer any advantage to Real Madrid when it plays a Champions League group-stage game at Legia Warsaw on Wednesday, Coach Zinedine Zidane said.

Legia’s opening game against Borussia Dortmund at the Polish Army Stadium was overshadowed by crowd trouble, and as a result UEFA, which organizes the tournament, barred fans from the next home game, against Real, and fined the club 80,000 euros (about $88,000).

Zidane, who played a European game for Real Madrid in an empty stadium against Roma in 2004, said he did not favor playing without fans present, even if it might negate the home-field advantage.

“There is no advantage,” Zidane said Tuesday. “I always prefer to play in front of supporters even away from home, because that’s what football is all about. But that’s the situation we face.

“We have to play without any fans, and we’re going to prepare as we always do — only thinking about how important the 3 points are.”

Legia is known for having one of the most hostile atmospheres in European soccer, and 13 fans were arrested before its 5-1 defeat by Real in Madrid when the teams last met, on Oct. 18.

Three points against Legia and a win for Borussia Dortmund against Sporting Lisbon would ensure that Madrid, the reigning European champion, would qualify for the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare.

Real, however, faces a shortage of personnel on defense. Center back Pepe has been ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury, and his fellow defender — and Real’s captain — Sergio Ramos also will be absent Wednesday.

Zidane also left fullback Marcelo and midfielder James Rodriguez home for the trip to Poland, and Madrid is still without playmaker Luka Modric. Real’s injury woes only add to its problems at the back; the team has not posted a shutout in nine games in all competitions.

“It doesn’t worry me, although it is a fact,” Zidane said. “In every game we seem to concede, and it’s always annoying, but you can’t control everything in football even when you have the best players around.

“Of course we can improve that, and we work on it in training, but the opposition can always cause you problems at some point.”

Real Madrid does have advantages up front that Legia cannot match, however. Forward Cristiano Ronaldo should have a good shot at scoring his 100th goal in European competition. Ronaldo, who once described himself as “rich, handsome and a great player,” enters the match two goals short of that milestone.

He will arrive primed for more goals after recovering his ruthless scoring touch on Saturday, when he scored his 38th career hat trick in a 4-1 win at Alavés in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo is the career scoring leader in the Champions League, with 95 of his European goals coming in the tournament that he helped Madrid win for a record 11th time last season. But Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has closed the gap with Ronaldo in their never-ending duel after netting seven goals to lead the Champions League this season, including one in a 3-1 loss Tuesday at Manchester City. Messi has 89 Champions League goals, and 92 in all UEFA competitions.

Legia, though, does not seem likely to offer the stiffest resistance. The Polish team has lost all three of its Champions League group matches, conceding a tournament-high 13 goals entering its rematch with Madrid.

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