Borussia Dortmund will aim to move a step closer towards securing a spot in the Champions League Round of 16 when they take on Sporting CP on Wednesday.

It has been a disappointing start to the Champions League campaign for last season’s quarter-finalists, Borussia Dortmund. The Bundesliga giants, currently involved in a fierce title race with Bayern Munich, kickstarted their season with back to back wins over Sporting CP and Besiktas.

However, two consecutive defeats to Ajax have now put them in a precarious position, ahead of their Matchday 5 fixture against Sporting CP in Lisbon. It could indeed be a vital game for both of the sides, who are currently level on six points. Dortmund do have the advantage due to their better head to head record, having beaten Sporting 1-0 in the reverse fixture.

Therefore, Die Schwarzgelben could potentially secure a place in the next round with a win that would take them to nine points. Having secured only the narrowest of victories against VfB Stuttgart on the weekend, the Black and Yellows are not in the best of form at the moment, though.

Things are quite different for their opponents, who are heading into this game on the back of a stunning nine-game winning streak. The reigning Portuguese champions are currently trailing league leaders Porto only on goal difference, and in the Champions League, they thrashed Besiktas twice to put themselves in contention for a second-place finish in Group C.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their vital Champions League group stage encounter this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Sporting CP

Sporting CP head coach Ruben Amorim is missing out on a few of his key players, including the tricky Jovane Cabral. Ruben Vinagre is a major doubt as well, although the hosts are confident about having Sebastian Coates back.

However, it remains unlikely that the former Sunderland defender will be able to start. As such, Amorim may opt for the defensive trifecta of Luis Neto, Zouhair Feddal and Goncalo Inacio. They will primarily look to defend deep in their lines, not allowing Dortmund any space to run in behind the backline.

The wing-backs Pedro Porro and Matheus Reis could also prove to be a key in Sporting’s defensive game. Porro, though, was not exactly impressive in the reverse fixture, so it won’t be surprising to see Amorim preferring Rodrigo Esgaio instead.

In midfield, Sporting are likely to persist with the double-pivot of Joao Palhinha and Matheus Nunes. The duo will look to break up the opposition’s build-up play and create turnovers. They are set to be aided by the attacking duo of Pablo Sarabia and Pedro Goncalves, although they will be primarily in charge of supplying the creativity for the lone forward Paulinho.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Adan; Neto, Inacio, Feddal; Porro, Palhinha, Nunes, Reis; Sarabia, Goncalves; Paulinho

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Borussia Dortmund

Already suffering from a major injury crisis, Borussia Dortmund were given another blow this midweek after it was revealed that Thorgan Hazard has tested positive for COVID-19. He will be out for at least a week, joining the suspended Mats Hummels and the injured trio of Giovanni Reyna, Erling Haaland and Marius Wolf in Dortmund’s list of major absentees.

Hazard’s absence could force Marco Rose to deploy Steffen Tigges upfront, alongside Donyell Malen. The Dutchman will be confident after scoring his first Bundesliga goal on the weekend, as he hopes to build a solid combination play with club captain Marco Reus in the final third.

In addition to Reus, the onus of providing creativity will be on the advanced midfield duo of Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt. It also appears doubtful that Axel Witsel will start, given Sporting’s pacy nature of play. In his stead, we are expecting the fit-again Emre Can to operate in the holding midfield slot.

Can will play a vital role in screening a depleted Dortmund back-four this midweek. Speaking of which, the suspension of Hummels could lead to a selection dilemma for Rose. Dan-Axel Zagadou has recently returned to the squad, but it appears the BVB coach might want to recall Marin Pongracic in central defence, alongside the ever-present figure of Manuel Akanji.

Elsewhere, Raphael Guerreiro returned to the pitch on the weekend and is likely to be given a start at left-back once again, with Thomas Meunier operating on the opposite flank. They will be expected to provide width going forward, although Guerreiro does tend to move into central positions from time to time.

Probable Lineup (4-1-3-2): Kobel; Meunier, Akanji, Pongracic, Guerreiro; Can; Bellingham, Reus, Brandt; Tigges, Malen

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Key Stats

  • Erling Haaland has scored 21 goals in just 18 Champions League appearances. He is Dortmund’s top scorer this season, with 13 in all competitions.
  • Marco Reus is Dortmund’s next best for goals in 2021/22 with five, including one in four Champions League games. He’s their all-time leading Champions League scorer (19) and will move outright first for appearances against Lisbon (55).
  • Borussia Dortmund are bidding to reach the knockout stage for the third successive season. They have done so six times out of seven since losing the 2012/13 final to Bayern.
  • Although Sporting CP are currently in a nine game-winning run in all competitions, their last defeat did come against Dortmund – a 1-0 defeat in the reverse fixture.
  • Sporting’s defeat in Dortmund made it five straight losses against Bundesliga clubs.

Player to Watch

Marco Reus

Amid an injury crisis that sees Erling Haaland, Giovanni Reyna and Marius Wolf to miss out, Marco Reus has enjoyed a timely return of his scoring form. The Borussia Dortmund captain has indeed been the difference-maker in the team’s recent matches, notably scoring the late winner in the victory over VfB Stuttgart on the weekend.

The German international has already been involved in ten Bundesliga goals in 11 appearances so far. However, with just one goal in four matches, Reus has a point to prove in the UEFA Champions League this season.

His technique and combination play could be important for Dortmund now more than ever, as they look to breach the sturdy Sporting defence with their quick passing game. With Hummels out, Reus’s leadership may also be vital as Die Schwarzgelben look to secure all three points this midweek.

Prediction

Sporting CP 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

We are expecting a tense encounter, given the high stakes involved in this battle. Dortmund are the undisputed favourites given the overall quality of their team, but their apparent injury crisis coupled with the fact that Sporting are stronger than ever at the moment might tip the balance in a neutral favour.

Hence, this could turn out to be a close, cagey encounter with the Dortmund defence likely to be compromised once again. However, the Bundesliga giants remain favourites to win, especially if a certain Donyell Malen can play to his true potential.

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