Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to clinch their place at the top of Group F when they face Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
It has been a disastrous start to December for Borussia Dortmund, whose draw with Eintracht Frankfurt extended their winless run to three matches in all competitions. And Lucien Favre’s men will be desperate to put an end to that record when they travel Krestovsky Stadium to face Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday, in what will be the final matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stage.
The Black and Yellows are leading Group F with ten points on the board and qualification to the knockout stages already in the bag. But failing to win against Zenit, combined with Lazio’s potential victory over Club Brugge in the other game could see them slip to the second position, which could see them face stronger opposition in the Round of 16.
It was the case last season when they finished second behind Barcelona in the group and were drawn against eventual finalists Paris Saint-Germain in the Round of 16. Replicating a similar scenario this time out wouldn’t bode well for a Dortmund side who have fared poorly in European competitions since reaching the Champions League final in 2013.
As for Zenit, their aspirations in Europe are pretty much over, having lost four of the five matches so far. They cannot even overtake third-placed Club Brugge, meaning there is no hope of sealing a Europa League ticket – making this more of a dead rubber for the Russian giants.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this penultimate Group F encounter in St. Petersburg this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Zenit St. Petersburg
The absence of Sardar Azmoun was a massive blow for Zenit St. Petersburg’s in the reverse fixture. This time around, the Iranian forward should be fit and ready to spearhead the attack for the home side. The experienced Artem Dzyuba remains an option should the Russians opt for a target man upfront.
Hat-trick hero! 🔥⚽️
Sardar Azmoun is now Russian Premier League current top scorer with 9️⃣ goals! pic.twitter.com/VfyUBZ147g
— AFC (@theafcdotcom) December 5, 2020
Another star player who is in contention to feature against Dortmund this midweek is former Barcelona man Malcom. The Brazilian could occupy the wider attacking slot alongside Sebastian Driussi. These two will be tasked with the job of providing creative support for the central striker in Azmoun.
In midfield, Daler Kuzyaev and Aleksandr Erokhin should provide support for the holding midfielder in Wilmar Barrios, although coach Sergey Semak also has the option of deploy Wendel and Magomed Ozdoev.
Zenit, however, could be forced to make one change in the defensive department, from the side featured in the reverse fixture, as star player Dejan Lovren is currently injured. Danila Prokhin should deputise for the ex-Liverpool star, featuring alongside Yaroslav Rakitskiy at the heart of the four-man backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kerzhakov; Sutormin, Prokhin, Rakytskiy, Zhirkov; Erokhin, Barrios, Kuzyaev; Malcom, Azmoun, Driussi
Borussia Dortmund will have to deal with major absentees heading into this fixture. Favre has already confirmed his team are without Raphael Guerreiro, Manuel Akanji and Mateu Morey this midweek while Thomas Meunier also remains sidelined.
It could pose a series of problems for visitors, who are likely to shift to a back-four, in light of all these defensive injuries. Mats Hummels and Dan-Axel Zagadou are set to form the central defensive pairing, with Emre Can set to be rested as Favre keeps one eye on the important Bundesliga fixture against Stuttgart.
Morey and Meunier’s absence, meanwhile, means Felix Passlack is a guaranteed starter to at right-back. The BVB youth product should get the nod ahead of veteran defender Lukasz Piszczek while Nico Schulz should retain his place on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud are both missing so we can expect Axel Witsel to retain his place in the side while Jude Bellingham is a regular starter in Champions League matches. These two are set to operate in the double-pivot, just behind the number ten in Giovanni Reyna.
Moving forward, Thorgan Hazard should get the nod ahead of Julian Brandt at left-wing. Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus are set to operate as other attackers for Dortmund this midweek. They are all set to be assigned a free-flowing role as the visitors look to deal with the absence of Erling Haaland.
However, it won’t be surprising to see young Youssoufa Moukoko making his starting debut for BVB on Tuesday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Burki; Passlack, Hummels, Zagadou, Schulz; Witsel, Bellingham; Sancho, Reyna, Hazard; Reus
- This will be the fourth meeting between Zenit and Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League with the German side winning two of their previous three.
- Borussia Dortmund will face Zenit away from home for the second time in the Champions League, with their previous visit ending in a 4-2 victory in the Last 16 first leg of the 2013-14 campaign.
- Zenit St. Petersburg have lost every time they’ve hosted a German opponent in the Champions League, losing to Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in 2014 and most recently RB Leipzig in November 2019.
- Zenit have finished bottom of their Champions League group for the second campaign in a row, while even if they beat Borussia Dortmund in this match they will finish with their lowest points total in a single Champions League group stage.
- Zenit have won their final group game in just one of their seven previous campaigns in the Champions League, beating Milan 1-0 in 2012-13.
Player to Watch
Giovanni Reyna for Borussia Dortmund this season:
👕 17 games
⚽️ 3 goals
🅰️ 6 assists pic.twitter.com/tBUgAbd9Bu
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) December 5, 2020
Giovanni Reyna has been a busy man in recent weeks, notably starting in Dortmund’s last two matches. It doesn’t come as a surprise either as the young USMNT star has been the club’s best performer, notably putting a commendable display in the draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Reyna could once again emerge as a key figure in the Dortmund setup this midweek. He could operate in his preferred number ten role, where his ability to run with the ball and act in half-spaces could prove to be critical in his team’s approach play.
The youngster already has an excellent understanding with Bellingham, who should feature just ahead of Witsel. He and Reyna could operate as auxiliary number eights, looking to help the Black and Yellows navigate through the Zenit press.
Zenit St. Petersburg 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund have appeared a little sloppy defensively in recent weeks and with the likes of Azmoun and Malcom available, it isn’t unreasonable to expect them to concede once again this midweek. However, their attacking firepower should once again prevail and we predict the Bundesliga giants to seal a narrow 2-1 victory in this one.