Lucien Favre will lead Dortmund into their Champions League clash with Tottenham Hotspur tonight, hoping that his Bundesliga-leading side can erase last season’s Wembley nightmare.
Borussia Dortmund arrive in London for the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, having previously been on the wrong end of a 3-1 thrashing in their last outing at England’s national stadium.
The Group H fixture in 2017 handed Peter Bosz his first defeat as Dortmund coach and was an early indicator of the issues that his seemingly invincible side would go onto face. Harry Kane and Son Heng-min ran riot that evening and hammered the first nail in Bosz’s black and yellow coffin.
Both sides will have to compensate for key players tonight, with a blight of injuries reported in both camps, especially in the attacking department.
The hosts are missing talisman Kane (ankle) and creative threat Dele Alli (hamstring), whilst full-backs Danny Rose (shin) and Ben Davies (groin) are also doubts.
Son is currently in spectacular form and will continue to fill Kane’s void. The former Hamburg and Leverkusen winger has scored nine goals in his last ten Premier League appearances. His record against Dortmund is also particularly impressive, with the South Korean scoring nine times in ten career outings against Die Schwarzgelben.
Favre is unable to call upon star man, Marco Reus (hamstring), who has been nothing but outstanding this season. With 17 goals and 11 assists in 27 appearances so far this campaign, Dortmund’s captain will be a hugely missed. However, Favre quickly downplayed the issue. He said:
“Tottenham are without Kane and Alli – we’re missing players too. We’re not going to talk about the players who aren’t here.”
Paco Alcácer (shoulder) is also sidelined. Mario Götze is likely to fill the Spaniard’s spot.
Dortmund are having a mini-defensive crisis. With Manuel Akanji (hip) still unavailable, Julian Weigl has been deputising at centre-back recently. However, Weigl is a doubt for tonight due to flu, leaving Dortmund short of options. With Dan-Axel Zagadou (muscular) still not 100%, Ömer Toprak is the obvious replacement. January singing Leonardo Balerdi has also travelled with the squad to London and the teenager could be a wildcard option. At full-back, veteran Łukasz Piszczek (foot) could be covered by Achraf Hakimi shifting over from the left, leaving a position open for Marcel Schmelzer to return to the side.
In Reus’ absence, Favre will turn to Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Guerreiro for attacking inspiration. The latter has scored four of BVB’s last five European goals, netting braces against both Atlético Madrid and Monaco in the group stages.
Tonight marks Sancho’s first return to England in club capacity since leaving Manchester City for the North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017. The importance of this event was highlighted when Dortmund delayed their flight to London after Sancho left his passport at home. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino spoke highly of the teenager earlier in the week and indicated that the North London side were tracking him before his Bundesliga move. He said:
“I am not too much surprised about him. We knew very well that he was capable to do what he is doing now with game time. I think we were talking in the last few years that he was a massive prospect. His talent is there and he’s a very talented player.”
Spurs will be looking to win their fourth game on the trot, having disposed of Watford (2-1), Newcastle (1-0) and Leicester (3-1) in the Premier League. BVB are without a win in three. Losing to Bremen on penalties in the DFB-Pokal was sandwiched by a draw at Frankfurt (1-1) and Saturday’s disappointing result against Hoffenheim (3-3). Farve has called for focus from his players. He commented:
“We need to forget about the game against Hoffenheim. We have to keep the positives in mind ahead of a match like this. They’re third in England, which tells you all you need to know. It’ll be tough.”
Tonight will be the first time the two outfits have met in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It will be their third continental engagement in four seasons. Previous to last season’s meetings in the UCL, they faced off in the 2015/16 Europa League Round of 16, where Dortmund came out 5-1 victors on aggregate. As Pochettino highlighted, tonight is going to be a battle of two very different sides. He said:
“That’s history, recent history, but every season is different, every year is different. They have different players, we are different too and you must play and show you deserve to win.”
Tottenham are yet to win a home fixture in the Champions League knockout stages and Pochettino is relishing the chance to end this record. He said:
“I am there, ready to fight, ready to give my best and ready to win. That is in my nature. I am a winner. I am a very competitive person. I am always ready to fight and we need to be sure our players are ready to fight.”
Kick-off at Wembley is at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET, 3pm ET and 12pm PT. The second leg will take place in three weeks, on Tuesday 5th March, at the Signal Iduna Park.
SPURS: Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Sánchez, Vertonghen; Sissoko, Dier, Winks; Moura, Eriksen; Son.
DORTMUND: Bürki; Hakimi, Toprak, Diallo, Schmelzer; Witsel, Delaney; Sancho, Philipp, Guerreiro; Götze.
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