Aussie plays waiting game as Real loom
Borussia Dortmund host Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday but while Australian goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak is unlikely to play a part for the German champions he is content for the moment just to be at a big club.
The 24-year-old has yet to make his Champions League debut and joined Dortmund from A-League side Melbourne Victory in July 2010 as reserve goalkeeper for Borussia's first-choice, and occasional captain, Roman Weidenfeller.
With Real stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain strutting their stuff at the sold-out Signal Iduna Park stadium, injury to the Dortmund goalkeeper would thrust Langerak out in front of 80,000 spectators.
And he knows all about performing on the big occasion at short notice.
His Bundesliga debut in February 2011 was at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena in front of 69,000 as he started for the injured Weidenfeller and produced an outstanding display in Dortmund's 3-1 victory on the way to the league title.
Then in May, another Weidenfeller injury early in the German Cup final -- at Berlin's Olympic Stadium in front of 75,000 spectators -- and Langerak was rushed on as Dortmund won the trophy with a 5-2 victory against Bayern.
"These are the games you want to be involved with and you just have to be ready," Queensland-born Langerak told AFP ahead of the Real match.
"The adrenalin gets you through those big games, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, but that is normal.
"You go out there and face situations, you don't have time to think.
"The more you get out there, the easier it gets."
Only playing in the Bundesliga when the 32-year-old Weidenfeller is injured or ill means Langerak has been restricted to just three league appearances in the last two seasons.
"But I am in a good position here, I'm not playing that often, but I'm learning every day," he said modestly having earned two Bundesliga winners medals since his arrival in Germany.
"That's football. If you look around all the biggest clubs in the world, there is always someone pushing to get into the first team.
"That's what I am doing and hopefully that will happen so I can play regularly.
"There's a great goalkeeper here, so it's all about biding my time and doing my apprenticeship. When the time comes, I'll get my chance.
"You can't replace being at a big European club and seeing how football is at this level."
With Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer having turned 40 earlier this month and still putting in good performances for Fulham in the Premier League, Langerak is playing the waiting game for both club and country.
Yet to make his Australia debut, Langerak got a taste for international football when he was called into the senior squad for the 2-1 shock win over Germany in March 2011 on the back of his impressive Dortmund debut at Bayern.
"I'd love to be involved in the national team, Schwarzer is playing well, looks like he is going to go on forever, but as long as I have contact with the national team, that's what I am after," he said.
Having been on the bench for Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to neighbours Schalke 04 which left Dortmund fourth and already 12 points behind league leaders Bayern, Langerak admits the match with Real is not ideal timing.
"It was bitterly disappointing, these are the games you just don't want to lose," he said.
"We gave it all we had, it just wasn't to be.
"The gap (behind Bayern) can be closed, but it will be very difficult..
"We have dropped a couple of points, which isn't ideal, but we want to close the gap as fast as we can."
Langerak said he is slowly picking up German and while the sunny climes of home are often just a pleasant memory on a chilly European morning, Dortmund is where the Australian wants to be.
"Of course, I miss the barbecues and good weather, but it's part and parcel," he said.
"This is where the big time football is, this is where you need to be."
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