Barcelona will be aiming to seal their place in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League when they lock horns with Borussia Dortmund tomorrow.
Barcelona will have the opportunity to seal first place in the so-called “Group of Death” in this edition of the UEFA Champions League, as they play hosts to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. The Catalans are currently leading the group with eight points but were horrific in the reverse fixture, securing a lucky goalless draw.
A defeat to Dortmund tomorrow would not only put the Bundesliga giants on top but would also pave the way for Inter Milan to potentially overtake Barcelona in the second place. The Italians are currently third with just four points but are set to face Sparta Praha, who stand at the bottom of the table, on the same evening.
From Dortmund’s perspective, they simply can’t afford a defeat, knowing it will give Inter Milan a glorious opportunity to seal second place.
They are. however, are coming on the back of a disappointing 3-3 draw with Paderborn and pressure is mounting on head coach Lucien Favre as he looks to save his job following an uneventful start to the campaign. Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde, too, is in a similar situation, though his side did secure a 2-1 win over Leganes on the weekend.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two European giants, ahead of their crucial match-up in the Champions League tomorrow evening.
Tactics & Key Stats
Barcelona are expected to take a cautious approach, knowing Dortmund’s pace on the break. Not to mention, they are decimated in the defensive department, with Gerard Pique suspended while both Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba have been suspended.
Expect Samuel Umtiti to deputise for Pique, with the Frenchman likely to start alongside his compatriot Clement Lenglet in central defence. These two need to remain sharp against a pacy Dortmund attack that has already been boosted by the return of Paco Alcacer.
Valverde is likely to revert to a 4-3-3, which should give him a numerical advantage in the middle of the park. The Spaniard will look to take advantage of Dortmund’s weak midfield to dominate the game and create a lot of scoring opportunities in the final third.
Speaking of creativity, the onus will be on Frenkie de Jong to ease the club transition from midfield to attack. He will be supported by the eccentric figure of Antoine Griezmann.
The Frenchman had made quite an impact with his work-rate in the reverse fixture and could once again play a key role here alongside Lionel Messi. Ousmane Dembele, however, is also pushing for a start against his former club. The Barcelona attack should be led by Luis Suarez.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann.
Favre could ring in the changes after deploying a ‘B’ team in the draw with Paderborn on Friday. Manuel Akanji is likely to return to the backline, at the expense of Julian Weigl. The Swiss international was excellent in the reverse fixture and will once look to build a solid foundation at the back alongside Mats Hummels.
Also in defence, we could expect Achraf Hakimi to return. The Moroccan international has been one of the best players in the Champions League this season, and his influence at left-back would be key. Lukasz Piszczek, meanwhile, is likely to start on the opposite flank.
Thomas Delaney has been ruled out for the rest of the year after picking up an injury during the international break, earlier this month. He will be deputised by Weigl, who will shift into central midfield, at the expense of Mahmoud Dahoud. The ex-1860 Munich starlet will be partnered by the ever-present figure of Axel Witsel.
More changes are expected in the attack, where Thorgan Hazard may get the nod ahead of Julian Brandt and Raphael Guerreiro. Brandt, however, could be utilised as a super-sub. As for Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho, they are guaranteed starter in the creative three, just in behind the main striker Alcacer.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Piszczek, Akanji, Hummels, Hakimi; Witsel, Weigl; Sancho, Reus, Hazard; Alcacer.
- Barcelona have never lost against Borussia Dortmund in a European match – they have avoided defeat in three previous meetings.
- Borussia Dortmund’s only previous away European match at Camp Nou was in January 1998, in the first leg of the European Supercup final – they lost 2-0.
- Barcelona have won 13 of their 15 home Champions League matches against German opponents – their two defeats have both been against FC Bayern Munich.
- Dortmund won their first away Champions League match in Spain in October 1996, winning 1-0 at Atletico Madrid. Since then, they’ve drawn three and lost six of their nine visits.
- Barcelona’s 0-0 draw with Slavia Prague on MD4 was only the 11th time in 124 home Champions League matches they’ve failed to score – they have never failed to do so in back to back home matches in the competition.
Player to Watch
Hummels was by far the best performer when these two teams last met in the Signal Iduna Park back in February. He led the Dortmund side with sheer passion and looked extremely solid at the back, often denying the likes of Suarez and Griezmann from making any notable impact in the final third.
Hummels’ leadership and character could once again be crucial for the visitors as they look to keep the Barcelona attack at bay. Only this time, however, the Catalans will be boosted by the presence of Lionel Messi, who only had to settle for a place on the bench in the reverse fixture.
It will, therefore, be interesting to see how the experienced German defender copes with the pressure of handling a player of Messi’s calibre. Not to mention, Barcelona also have other talented players in their armoury, including former Dortmund star Dembele.
Barcelona 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund have shown very little character in recent weeks and have always struggled under pressure. They are likely to face a similar problem against Barcelona, who have the qualitative advantage as well as the home advantage – making them huge favourites to seal all three points here.