Borussia Dortmund are in desperate need of a win when they play hosts to Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Borussia Dortmund became the laughing stock of the Bundesliga last week as they ended up as the only German side failing to secure a win in European competitions, falling to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Lazio. Hence, they are in a desperate need of a win when they take on Zenit St. Petersburg, at the Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday.

The Black and Yellows enjoyed the ideal boost on the weekend, when they dismantled their arch-rivals FC Schalke 3-0, in the iconic Revierderby. It helped them pile pressure on league leaders RB Leipzig, as well as defending champions Bayern Munich, although Lucien Favre will be well aware of the fact that the Champions League could be a different ballgame.

Zenit, however, haven’t had a great to their UCL campaign either, slumping to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Club Brugge. They are also winless in their last two matches in all competitions and are trailing the two Moscow clubs in CSKA and Sparta in the Russian Premier League, with Lokomotiv Moscow also breathing down their neck.

These two sides have met in the competition before, though, during the last 16 stage of the 2013/14 campaign, when Borussia Dortmund advanced through a 5-4 aggregate over two legs. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both these clubs ahead of their fascinating encounter in the Champions League this midweek.

Tactics & Key Stats

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund were boosted by the return of Manuel Akanji on the weekend and the Swiss international is a guaranteed starter in central defence as Lucien Favre continues to miss out on the services of Emre Can, who is in quarantine after contracting Covid-19.

DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 10: Manuel Akanji of Dortmund looks on prior to the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at Signal Iduna Park on November 10, 2018 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Akanji’s return serves as a boost for Dortmund. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Akanji, therefore, should slot into the back-four alongside Mats Hummels, with Thomas Meunier also being a guaranteed starter at right-back. Raphael Guerreiro, however, could be rested ahead of the clash against Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday, so we can expect Felix Passlack to operate at left-back.

Favre shuffled his pack in midfield against Schalke, starting with Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud. Unfortunately, both these players could make way for Axel Witsel and Jude Bellingham in the double-pivot, although Julian Brandt is also pushing for a start following an impressive display in the last game.

Brandt’s place in the starting lineup, however, could be blocked by Marco Reus, who is expected to occupy a more familiar role at attacking midfield. He should form Dortmund’s creative trio alongside Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard, who was welcomed back into the fray for Dortmund following a brief spell on the sidelines.

Erling Haaland is the undisputed starter for the Black and Yellows in the number nine role. He was the competition’s second-highest scorer last season and after a goal against Lazio last week, the Norwegian marksman will be desperate to extend his tally this time around.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Meunier, Akanji, Hummels, Passlack; Bellingham, Witsel; Sancho, Reus, Hazard; Haaland.

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Zenit St. Petersburg

Zenit are facing a major blow heading into this game as two of their vital attackers in Serdar Azmoun and Malcom are likely to miss out. One of them is suffering an illness while the other has a knee problem.

Always on the fringes. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Ex-Barcleona star Malcom is set to miss this encounter for Zenit. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Azmoun’s absence means the onus will be on the experienced Artem Dzyuba to provide productivity and unsettled the Borussia Dortmund backline using his strength and aerial prowess. He should, however, be supported by the wide attacking duo of Sebastian Driussi and Aleksandr Erokhin.

These two wide attackers could be equally important in the first line of press as Zenit might primarily look to adopt a man-marking scheme whilst also offering very little space in between the likes.

It means the midfield combination of Magomed Ozdoev and Wilmar Barrios could be essential in the second line of press with Wendel providing further support, although the Brazilian will primarily be responsible for offering the creative spark in the final third.

In defence, Zenit boss Sergey Semak has very little reason to shift away from the four-man backline consisting of Vyacheslav Karavaev, Dejan Lovren, Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Douglas Santos, who has experience of playing in the Bundesliga, having made 47 appearances for Hamburg.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Kerzhakov; Karavaev, Lovren, Rakitskiy, Santos; Barrios; Erokhin, Ozdoev, Wendel, Driussi; Dzyuba.


Key Stats

  • Only Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (15) scored more Champions League goals than Erling Haaland (10) last season.
  • In Giovanni Reyna and Jude Bellingham, Borussia Dortmund have had two 17-year-olds in their average first XI this term. Erling Haaland is a relative veteran at 20.
  • These sides have been drawn together once before, with Borussia Dortmund beating Zenit 5-4 on aggregate in the 2013/14 Champions League last 16.
  • BVB finished second behind FC Barcelona in their section last season, collecting 10 points to finish ahead of Inter Milan and Slavia Prague.
  • Borussia Dortmund were also European champions in 1997, and runners-up to Bayern Munich as recently as 2013.

Player to Watch

Axel Witsel

Could Witsel be on his way out of Dortmund already? (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

A vital cog in the Dortmund defence. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

When these two sides last played against each other, Axel Witsel had donned the Zenit St. Petersburg kit and was asked to keep check of players like Nuri Sahin and Marco Reus, who even scored a goal in the 85th minute of that 4-2 win.

Tables have turned since and Witsel is currently Dortmund’s main enforcer in central midfield. His experience, passing and positioning sense could be critical when Dortmund take on their Russian opponent on Wednesday.

It is also fair to point out that a good performance could be imperative for the Belgian, who has struggled with form and inconsistency this campaign. And with players like Delaney and Dahoud, who was the Man of the Match in the win over Schalke making a strong case for being included in the starting lineup, it will be interesting to see how the ex-Zenit star performs against his former club this midweek.


Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Zenit St. Petersburg

Borussia Dortmund fared poorly in their opening Champions League fixture. But, with key players like Akanji and Hazard back available, the Black and Yellows shouldn’t face too many difficulties in maintaining solidity at the back. We are expecting a comfortable 2-0 win for the hosts.

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