Borussia Dortmund take on Portuguese league leaders SL Benfica on Tuesday night in the Champions League round of 16. A mouth-watering tie is on the cards, but the question is which BVB side will turn up. Will it be the free-scoring outfit that took the group stage by storm? Or will it be the side that has struggled in the Bundesliga falling 15 points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich?
It really has been a case of Jekyll and Hyde this season for Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund side. In Europe’s premier competition, they banged in 21 goals as they topped Group F ahead of Real Madrid beating Legia Warsaw 8-4 and 6-0 in their respective matches. They also did the double over Sporting Lisbon while both contests with the Spanish giants from Madrid ended in 2-2 draws.
Scintillating stuff. Compare that with their domestic form in the Bundesliga and it seems that a completely different beast comes out to play. The weekend loss to bottom of the table Darmstadt was just the lowest point of what has been a disappointing campaign from the Schwarzgelben. In fact just two wins from their past seven league outings has seen them slip well off the title pace and they are now facing a battle to finish in the top four.
“In our two matches against Leipzig (league) and Hertha Berlin (German Cup) we played two matches where we were in the spotlight,” Tuchel said after the loss to Darmstadt. “That’s when we seem to be focused best and sharp and that’s when we reach our maximum.
“Against Darmstadt 98 there was nothing to win. The game was under the radar and everyone expected us to do so. It seems we have trouble being really sharp at games without the big stage.”
Sharpness is certainly going to be required as they face Benfica on Tuesday.
The trip to the Estádio da Luz will be a real test of Dortmund’s European credentials as they come up against the current Portuguese table toppers. A 3-0 win over Arouca on Friday saw them take a one point lead over Porto and with an extra days rest, the Super Eagles should be a little fresher than their guests from the Signal-Iduna Park.
Form is also on their side- something that will undoubtedly be causing some concern amongst the BVB faithful. Benfica have won 28 out of their last 33 matches and in their last eleven matches Rui Vitória’s side have hit 29 goals. With Dortmund only having managed to keep a clean sheet in seven of their previous 29 games thus far this season, there are plenty of reasons for worry.
Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou has scored ten goals, but it has been their defensive solidity that has impressed. Young defenders Victor Lindelöf and Nelson Semedo have been garnering rave reviews with right back Semedo even rumoured to be on the radar of Bayern Munich as a potential replacement for Phillip Lahm.
Not that Dortmund will be underestimating Benfica, but they would be wise to bear in mind the performance of the Eagles last season when they faced Bayern Munich at the quarter-final stage. They suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena before holding Pep Guardiola’s side to a 2-2 draw in Portugal.
Against the German champions they were well organised defensively, allowing Bayern possession while looking to frustrate and hit them on the counter-attack.
Dortmund have tended to struggle this season against well organised defensive units that cut off the space for the creative players and the game plan from the Portuguese will surely look to cramp BVB’s Champions League swashbuckling style.
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