After losing 3-2 in dramatic fashion to Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on matchday 1, Manchester City will look to kick-start their Champions League campaign tonight as they host the Bundesliga Champions, Borussia Dortmund, who beat Ajax 1-0 at home in their opening fixture. It’s a mouth-watering clash in the so called ‘group of death’ - which City know all too well from last season - that sees two of the best teams on the continent – and the reigning champions of their respective leagues - go head-to-head for the first time ever in a competitive fixture.
There are similarities in the situation between both teams that are hard to ignore. Both enjoyed domestic dominance last season but failed to have any meaningful impact in European competition, and both have endured sluggish starts to this season. The pressure will undoubtedly be on Roberto Mancini’s side to claim all three points, which will suit BVB fine as they are free to play their natural game with relatively low expectations on them in the game – and they will relish the chance to display their talents on the biggest stage.
Most of the attention will be on Dortmund’s star striker, Robert Lewandowski, the prolific Polish forward who has been linked with both Manchester clubs over the summer, and Jurgen Klopp will need a big performance out of him if they are to claim all three points. He scored 30 goals in all competitions last season, but has only scored twice so far this season – although one was the winner against Ajax in the opening fixture – and was rested last weekend with this fixture in mind.
Most of the attention will be on Dortmund’s star striker, Robert Lewandowski, the prolific Polish forward who has been linked with both Manchester clubs over the summer, and Jurgen Klopp will need a big performance out of him if they are to claim all three points.
The Pole made more appearances than any other Dortmund player last season, and played every game for Poland in the Euros this summer, so it is understandable that he has made a slow start to the season as, given the rigorous demands of Klopp’s system, it can physically take a lot out of player, particularly one who didn’t have a proper rest over the summer. However, given City’s injury problems at the back, coupled with their defence looking surprisingly penetrable, Lewandowski will be chomping at the bit to get back on the goalscoring trail.
Unfortunately for City, Lewandowski is merely one of an assortment of gifted attacking playing at Klopp’s disposal. Marco Reus, a €17m summer signing from Gladbach who replaced Shinji Kagawa, has settled straight in and is Dortmund’s top scorer so far this season – and he will be looking to capitalise on the right side of City’s defence with Micah Richards and Maicon both out injured. As if one young, talented German wasn’t enough, there is also small matter of dealing with Mario Gotze: the jewel in Dortmund’s crown. Gotze missed large parts of last season with injuries, but is fit again and will look to exploit the pockets of space between the lines and feed the ball through to Lewandowski.
Most of Dortmund’s best play this season has come down their right hand side, where the two Poles, Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, combine to great effect; the duo – along with Lewandowski - have played together for club and country for a long time and have developed a very prosperous understanding. Both are incredibly quick and dangerous on the ball, and City will need whoever is playing on the left of midfield to constantly track back and help out their full back when BVB have the ball.
It’s not all bad for City, though. Dortmund, who only conceded 25 goals in the Bundesliga last season, have looked uncharacteristically vulnerable at the back.
It’s not all bad for City, though. Dortmund, who only conceded 25 goals in the Bundesliga last season, have looked uncharacteristically vulnerable at the back. Given the nature of Klopp’s system, which focuses on intense pressing high up the pitch, if the team is not on the same page then it can leave space in midfield and in front of the back four, which teams have already taken advantage of this season. Sebastian Kehl and Ilkay Gundogan, Dortmund’s midfield pairing so far this season, have failed to protect the defence and control games in their usual fashion, but Sven Bender made his return from a long injury layoff to come off the bench at the weekend and will add more solidity to the midfield, although this game may have come a bit too soon for him to start.
Dortmund are currently third in the Bundesliga with 11 points after 6 games, which is a decent return, but they’re already 7 points behind Bayern Munich, who have started the season like a house on fire and have a 100% record in the league so far, scoring 19 goals. BVB lost for the first time in 31 league games against Hamburg a few weeks ago, and followed that up by twice surrendering a two goal league to only claim a point away to Frankfurt. However, they got their domestic back on track by thumping a very capable Gladbach side 5-0 at the Westfalenstadion at the weekend.
This will be a thorough examination of both sides’ Champions League credentials, and it will be interesting to see which side really has learned from their shortcomings in the competition from last season. It is a game that City can ill afford to lose as, presuming Madrid win in Amsterdam, they would find themselves six points adrift of the top two. One thing’s for sure: this could be classic.
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