December 14, 2017

What’s at stake for the Bundesliga teams in the last Champions League group game?

Why Borussia Dortmund’s UCL game is more important than it seems

As we near the end of the group stages of the Champions League Borussia Dortmund will travel to Spain to face Real Madrid. After a disappointing campaign in which they only collected 2 points in 5 matches, Peter Bosz’s side will have a hard time at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Los Blancos have secured their ticket to the last 16 and already surrendered top spot to Tottenham Hotspur. As a result they will have nothing other than pride on the line in Wednesday’s tie.

However, for the visitors the game can secure third place and hence “progress” (using this word carefully here) to the Europa League. Even though it’s not as glamorous as the Champions League, Europe’s second best competition offers a struggling Dortmund side a chance to fight for silverware. That’s not to mention the financial implications – Schalke made around 14 million Euros from last season’s semifinal run, plus whatever TV money.

The Black and Yellows Bundesliga title hopes have been shattered after 7 consecutive games without a win.There is little hope in their quest for another DFB Pokal title as well as mighty Bayern are their next opponents. The team’s CEO Watzke has stated qualifying for the Champions League is still the priority and while that remains true a Europa League trophy can make it all better.

If Dortmund finish in fourth place in their group and in turn fail to go to the Europa League their season will go from underwhelming to embarrassing, if it already hasn’t .

Granted many fans don’t care about the Europa League but BVB had a lot of fun during the 2015/16 season in this competition. Although, the agonizing quarter-final defeat to Liverpool was no fun at all.

Dortmund may not have to win to finish third. They only need to better whatever result APOEL get at Wembley. It is also important that they avoid a possible huge defeat. Dortmund’s heaviest away defeat was on 1987 when they lost 5-0 to Club Brugge after extra time in the UEFA Cup third round second leg.

This game may not be the most exciting game BVB will play this season but as there is a lot at stake it still qualifies as one of the most important. Going into it with eight long term injuries and losing Maxi Philipp and Gonzalo Castro this weekend for extended amounts of time is certainly not ideal, but then again little has been ideal about the last 2 months in Dortmund. I mean they even had trouble getting to Madrid on schedule, having to switch planes, but at least they finally arrived:

https://twitter.com/BVB/status/938035803451744258

 

Speaking of ideal – Bayern:

Bayern will face a stern test from PSG in their quest to top their Champions League Group. The Bavarians have lost 3-0 on Match Day 2, a game which subsequently cost Carlo Ancelotti his job, and will look to avenge that on Tuesday’s game.

It looks like PSG’s dash of arrogance in Ligue 1 is catching up to them. After acquiring Neymar for a record fee Unai Emery’s side have the feeling that they have outgrown French’s top division. This manner of thought cost them 3 points at the weekend as they lost 2-1 to promoted Strasbourg. Not to take anything away from the underdogs, but 29 shots to 5 and 2.28 XG to .39 show that perhaps luck was the key factor in the upset. However, some serious questions must be asked of the defense after conceding two goals – both in lackluster fashion.

If past performance is any indication, complacency will not be a problem in the Champions League though. PSG aim to go all the way and are well aware that finishing top is an important part of the journey.

This game will also be a big test for Jupp Heynckes. His side endured their first defeat of his current term 10 days ago to Gladbach. Bayern quickly bounced back with a win against Hannover at the weekend but this game will clearly show us if they really are the real deal. Finishing second will mean a tough opposition in the last 16, Barcelona and Man City to name a few, and something Bayern will want to avoid. Heynckes was realistic about his chances vs PSG, calling the affair one of prestige in kicker.

Leipzig

RB Leipzig’s debut Champions League campaign has been a strange one. On one hand, for a UCL newcomer, they currently have 7 points and whatever happens in Wednesday’s game they will still be playing European football in 2018. However, a club with their background and aspirations could perhaps be criticized for their performances against Porto or the first 20 minutes of the Besiktas match. Hasenhüttl and his team have endured a trying second season, marked by an annoying sense of being consistently inconsistent. Aside from the strange losses to Schalke, Augsburg, or even the 4-0 thrashing by a depleted Hoffenheim side, Leipzig have looked vulnerable in several instances: the second half against Gladbach, the first half against Hannover, or the second half against 10-men Leverkusen are just a few examples in the Bundesliga. Other than perhaps the Dortmund match in the league or the 4-1 pounding of Monaco, (the cup match against Bayern was brilliant until Keita’s dismissal) one would be hard pressed to come up with examples of an impressive 90 minutes from die Bullen. They will need to do so against Besiktas, albeit with a caveat:

Besiktas, who already booked their passage to the knock out stages are arguably the surprise team of the UCL (Emre Sarigul’s brilliant piece is highly recommended) As the Turkey side has nothing to play for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side need to take advantage to secure what would be a remarkable last 16 qualification. Unfortunately for Leipzig, Porto will also face a team that has already been knocked out, Monaco, so it’s not entire in their hands.

The two losses Leipzig endured in the Champions League have come away from home. They have won one and drawn one in their backyard. They need to bounce back from their weekend 4-0 loss at the hands of Hoffenheim and put on a solid display. Regardless of the result they can still look back at their campaign with pride.

Let the games begin. We at the Fanatic will be rooting for #TeamBundesliga.

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Brook lives in Ethiopia, and started following the Bundesliga from a very young age. His favourite players then were Thomas Rosicky - the reason he became a Dortmund fan! - and Marcelinho of Hertha Berlin. He likes to watch, read, write and talk about football with special interest in discussing emerging young talents. Follow @brookge

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