Real Madrid needs to shake off its abysmal away form in Germany when it faces Borussia Dortmund, with Manchester City and Ajax knowing any slipup could see either missing out on the knockout stages from the Champions League's toughest group.
Madrid won its opening pair of Group D matches but travels to Dortmund with only one victory in 23 games in Germany against German opponents. The Spanish team has lost 16 of those with the lone victory coming at Bayer Leverkusen in 2000.
Dortmund, which hasn't beaten Spanish opposition at home in five games, has struggled since surrendering a late goal at City to provide the English champions with their only point of the competition so far.
Madrid, which has six points, can take control of Group D with an away win. Dortmund is next with four points, while City has one and Ajax is last with none.
Madrid's limp defense certainly won't help with the Spanish champions playing without injured defenders Marcelo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao. Madrid coach Jose Mourinho recruited midfielder Michael Essien into the backfield to help fill the void in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo.
"It's going to be difficult but not just for the injuries. The game will be difficult because of the adversary and our group is difficult," Mourinho said on Tuesday. "This isn't a group where you're going to score a record 18 out of 18 points."
Madrid has struggled domestically and remains eight points behind co-leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, but the European competition has brought out the best of Mourinho's team and Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four of his 15 goals in the competition.
"We're ready for tomorrow, our players don't need any extra motivation," Mourinho said. "I'm not worried; the players are motivated and will be ready."
Dortmund is 12 points behind Bayern after Saturday's 2-1 loss to Schalke and could be focusing more on the Champions League after a disappointing showing in the competition last year, when it finished last in its group.
Jakub Blaszczykowski (knee) will miss Madrid's visit, and fellow midfielder Ilkay Guendogan (spine) remains questionable while Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said midfielder Mario Goetze (thigh) and defender Marcel Schmelzer (foot) are available.
"We have to recapture the spirit from Manchester and remember what we're capable of when we throw everything into the pot," said Klopp, whose club drew 1-1 with Madrid on its last visit in 2003.
Ajax's last victory over an English opponent at home came in 1980, but the Dutch champions know anything but a win will limit its progress from the group stage.
City returns to the Netherlands for the first time since 1978-79 after rallying for a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, with Eden Dzeko again coming to the rescue. The Bosnia-Herzegovina striker scored twice after coming on in the 79th to secure victory.
Dzeko, who also scored in a 3-2 loss at Madrid, is City's leading scorer with six goals, including four off the bench.
"It's an important game, we have to win if we still want to be in the game," Dzeko said. "We didn't start very well again this year as we only have one point and I think this game will be crucial."
The English champions are without playmaker David Silva and defensive stalwarts Maicon and Javi Garcia.
Ajax drew 3-3 with Heracles Almelo on Saturday.
"We have played very poorly and if you play poorly against these teams you will never get one or three points. We have to have the confidence that we can perform much, much better," Ajax coach Frank de Boer said. "And if we do that, then I have the confidence in a good result."
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