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Despite succumbing to a last-gasp UEFA Champions league semi-final first-leg defeat by FC Bayern München, Real Madrid CF defenders Sergio Ramos and Pepe are confident the imposing atmosphere of a packed Santiago Bernabéu will prove telling when they attempt to turn their deficit around next Wednesday.
The nine-time European champions appeared destined for a valuable 1-1 draw at the Fußball Arena München until Mario Gomez pounced late on to earn Bayern a slender advantage, after Mesut Özil had cancelled out Franck Ribéry's first-half opener. Nonetheless, Ramos said: "It's still very open. We have another 90 minutes at the Bernabéu and that's definitely an advantage for us."
Fellow defender Pepe regretted Gomez's late strike but the Portugal centre-half agreed that plenty of cause for optimism remained. "Obviously it was a shame to concede a goal in the final minute," he said, "but it was a fantastic game.
We're leaving here with a positive feeling as we scored and we're confident of doing so again at the Bernabéu. It will be a completely different game at home."
Though "disappointed" at the nature of the loss, goalscorer Özil also remained confident of a return to the Bavarian capital for the 19 May showpiece. "Bayern are a great team and we knew beforehand that they're very strong at home," said the German playmaker, who was competing against a club from his homeland for the first time since swapping the Bundesliga for the Liga in 2010.
I'm convinced we'll win the second leg. We believe in our strengths and at times tonight we showed what we're capable of. We may have lost 2-1, but we have to look forward now and make sure we get to the final."
The Merengues had gone into the game on the back of a 20-match unbeaten run and after Özil had levelled proceedings shortly after the restart, appeared content to hold out for a 1-1 draw. However, despite absorbing sustained pressure throughout the second half, their plans of taking home an away-goal lead were scuppered by Gomez's last-gasp winner.
While Bayern can afford to rest key players in their weekend match against SV Werder Bremen, Madrid will need to be firing on all cylinders once again in Saturday's much-hyped title clash against arch-rivals FC Barcelona, prompting Ramos to emphasise the importance of maximising recovery time between fixtures: "Football carries on, the league is still going and tomorrow we'll look ahead to the next match, but we also need to rest as we worked very hard tonight."
In spite of the gruelling schedule, Pepe played down suggestions that the Clásico might detract from his team-mates' focus ahead of the second leg: "We're a great team with great players. These things happen in football and you always have to be prepared."
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