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Champions League Preview: Borussia Dortmund (Real Madrid, Group H)

Gerry Johnston continues our Champions League Analysis as he speaks to @BorussiaPassion about Borussia Dortmund’s chances in Group H and facing Real Madrid.

How long have you been a fan of Borussia Dortmund and what made you start supporting them in the first place?

I’ve been a proud and passionate BVB fan since 2013 after they were defeated in the 2013 UCL final to German rivals, FC Bayern München. Dortmund’s players represented every value I admire in that CL season. They were young and full of hope. Despite the former being a possible “disadvantage”, they beat solid teams such as Ajax, Manchester City, Málaga CF, and Real Madrid. Who would’ve thought this was possible for a team whose value was incredibly low? And if that wasn’t enough, they made it to the final. We all know how that played out but I saw the match differently. In Wembley, Dortmund remained loyal to their ideals and pressed hard on the ball. Bayern München, recently crowned Bundesliga and DFB Pokal champions were struggling. I remember saying: “That yellow and black club is playing amazing.” I was surprised how they looked better on the pitch compared to Bayern’s star-studded side. The starting eleven had one star missing: Mario Götze. But it seems it wasn’t too heavy of a blow as Marco Reus and midfield company were performing stupendously. All eleven men in black and yellow caught my eye. Ninety minutes later, Bayern München are crowned champions. BVB players are
left in tears on the pitch. Manager Jürgen Klopp consoles players as a father would console his children. What was my main thought? “The losers deserved to win” But we know football is not about deserving something or not. Yes, the conclusion to their amazing CL season was trophy-less, but they gained something more important than silverware on that night in Wembley. They gained experience, respect but most importantly the hearts of many young football fans like me.”

As a Dortmund fan what are your initial thoughts on the draw?

One word: Challenging. It seems someone on UEFA enjoys having Dortmund on the toughest groups year after year. This time around is no exception. Real Madrid, the best European side of the last two years. Tottenham Hotspur, a competitive English side. APOEL, should be a win for us no matter what. The key in going to the next stage relies on getting six points from APOEL, at least four from Tottenham and at least two from Real Madrid. Sounds tough, but Dortmund are made for this type of challenge.

Dortmund have done reasonably well in recent times against Real Madrid, can they get another good result this year?

I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but it’s not that likely. Dortmund have a new manager in Bosz, we lost our best attacker/winger of the last season and Real Madrid are back-to-back CL winners. But hey, If I’m not mistaken past results favour Dortmund: Three wins versus Madrid’s two. Fun fact: Borussia Dortmund were the only club that Real Madrid couldn’t beat last season (Two draws in Dortmund and Madrid, both with a score of 2-2). I’m only certain of one thing, our boys will give everything and maybe a win is possible!

When Real Madrid come to the Westfalenstadion what sort of atmosphere can they expect?

They can only expect a tough and intimidating black and yellow atmosphere. Dortmund’s fortress is a tough one to visit for ANY side, German or foreign. Their record on home ground is impressive, two years unbeaten at home (Bundesliga)! It’s a fact: Dortmund’s ‘Südtribune’ plays an important role in the team’s performances and even more on  the magical Champions League nights.

Have Dortmund done much business this summer?

Quality and quantity. Dortmund has added seven players to their ranks.

• Dan Axel Zagadou (PSG)
• Maximilian Philipp (Freiburg)
• Mahmoud Dahoud (B. Mönchengladbach)
• Ömer Toprak (Leverkusen)
• Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv)
• Jeremy Toljan (Hoffenheim)
• Jadon Sancho (Manchester City)

Yes, the departure of Ousmane Dembélé leaves a significant hole in our attack considering he was always present on big matches and occasions. But the acquisition of Philipp, Yarmolenko, and Sancho should be enough to emulate Ousmane’s contributions in attack. If we want to talk about the economic side then Dortmund were one of the biggest winners of this window aside from Barcelona and their sale of Neymar. According to ‘Transfermarkt’, Dortmund paid around 15M euros for Dembélé and sold him for more than 100M euros plus bonuses. Business done correctly by Mr. Watzke and Zorc.

How is Peter Bosz likely to set the team up tactically and if everyone is fit who would be the first eleven?

Considering Bosz loves to play high tempo and high gegenpressing, the team will lineup with his beloved 4-3- 3 formation. The first eleven will look something like this:

GK: Roman Bürki
DF: Łukasz Piszczek, Sokratis, Marc Bartra, Raphaël Guerreiro
MD: Mahmoud Dahoud, Nuri Sahin, Mario Götze
ATT: Marco Reus, Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic

Who is the main player that Real Madrid need to stop if they are going to get a result against Borussia Dortmund?

This is a hard one, as there are multiple BVB players that could change the outcome. However, I believe that Real Madrid must cancel out Nuri Sahin and his distribution of passes across the midfield if they wish to get a positive result. Neutralising Sahin means that Dortmund’s transitions would be slower and weaker. In addition, his top trait are his long balls over the enemy lines. Get this out of the equation with pressing and Dortmund would be limited to short range passes. As I said, many Dortmund players need to be stopped but Nuri Sahin and his tactical intelligence can make him number one on Real Madrid’s radar.

What are Dortmund’s expectations in the Champions League this season?

Another tough question. I believe the board set the goal to qualify for the quarter-finals. But it’s very risky to set realistic goals at the start of the season because sometimes your season doesn’t evolve as you initially thought it would. There are many unexpected situations such as injuries and many more that can hamper your ability to succeed in accomplishing goals. Having said this, we Dortmund fans just hope our players remain healthy and we can go further compared to last season.

Tell us where you think the four sides will finish in the group? 

1. Real Madrid
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Tottenham Hotspur

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