Borussia Dortmund vs Juventus | Wednesday 18 March | Signal Iduna Park | 21:45
The daunting European atmosphere of the Westfalenstadion awaits Massimiliano Allegri’s table-topping Italian side this week. This stands as one of the most evenly poised encounters in the competition, offering a fascinating contrast with the more pragmatic Italian side completely juxtaposed to the more swashbuckling inclinations of Jurgen Klopp’s men. Juventus sit a mammoth fourteen points ahead of Roma in Serie A while Dortmund are currently having to satisfy themselves with mid-table limbo. But don’t let that little chestnut fool you. Rarely, if ever, has there been a team whose European form hinges so loosely on domestic success than Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund. His squad has nowhere near the depth of Bayern Munich and it’s almost as if European competition offers a more realistic chance of success for the club.
To Win (90mins)
Dortmund come off the back of two uninspired draws in the Bundesliga but at least they have managed to disentangle themselves from the unconscionable prospect of relegation that had loomed so large. Kevin Grosskreutz and Lukasz Piszczek will likely both be missed through injury, which should see Oliver Kirch come into the right full-back position. Kehl and Gundogan will prove critical barriers for the German side, especially in preventing Vidal and Tevez from getting in to support Morata. They will also have to control either Pirlo or indeed Pereyra more effectively this time around.
Dortmund’s real quality lies in the breathtaking speed and penetration of their counterattacks. Juventus are possibly vulnerable here, especially considering the more experienced presences of Chiellini and Bonucci. Klopp may be tempted to start with Immobile up front, but I would opt against that move. Dortmund are more dangerous when their front four are continuously interchanging and I would opt for the speed of Aubameyang. Reus and Mkhitaryan also bring bags of pace and skill while Kagawa is allowed to drift in a similar fashion to Messi in the side. I really love this attacking formation and it could spell trouble for Allegri’s side.
Juventus will be pleased with the result from the first leg but will also be wary of a Dortmund backlash, especially given the cathedral-like atmosphere that awaits them. Allegri will probably be wise not to rush Pirlo back following his calf injury, and Pereyra’s performance in the first leg will ultimately justify that decision. Paul Pogba will be fresh after serving a suspension at the weekend while Vidal and Morata were also given some time to reenergize their batteries.
A one-nil victory will be enough to knock the Italian giants out, so I expect Juventus to adopt a suitably resolute defensive approach. Morata will look to hold the ball up and bring in Tevez and Vidal for more measured build-ups. Lichsteiner and Evra will likely be given instructions to keep their marauding proclivities down to a minimum, which could actually work to invite Dortmund’s dynamism in. This should prove to be an absolutely cracking clash of styles that could go down right to the wire.
VERDICT: Dortmund 12/10
I feel Dortmund are going to put on a show for their fervent supporters come Wednesday night. They operate at a different level on the European stage, continuing a fascinating Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy that is probably the envy of sociology theorists. Overall I think the pace and precision of Dortmund’s play should see them past a solid Juventus side.