After an incredible result in Munich, "Germany versus Spain Part II," will take center stage on Wednesday as Borussia Dortmund host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
While Dortmund and Madrid may trail the opponents in the other semifinal, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, by 20 points and 13 points, respectively, in their domestic leagues, there is no less appeal to the matchup.
Both teams won their domestic leagues last season and there has been a strong sense for some time that success in the Champions League has been their priority.
For Dortmund, having won back-to-back Bundesliga titles but failing miserably to translate that success into Europe last season, a place in the last four of the Champions League feels like an appropriate next step in the evolution of an exhilarating young side.
Yet, their urgency to succeed this campaign may also be heightened by a fear that their evolution may have already reached its peak.
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In a leak of horrendous timing, it emerged the day before perhaps their biggest match in 15 years that midfield starlet Mario Gotze would be leaving for Bayern Munich next season with the Bavarians having met the 20-year-old’s €37 million (£31.5m) buyout clause.
With leading scorer Robert Lewandowski also expected to depart in the summer, Jurgen Klopp’s side risks being decimated. Klopp has understandably expressed his frustration at the timing of the announcement, but signaled his hope that the player would continue to perform at a high level until he leaves and that the Dortmund fans would not voice their anger at Gotze during the 90 minutes on Wednesday.
Dortmund will likely need Gotze to be at his best. The attacking trident he forms along with Marco Reus and Lewandowski is among the most delightful and devastating in the world game -- as they showed in a memorable goal in their Champions League quarterfinal win over Malaga.
The three were also significant factors in Dortmund’s success over Madrid in the group stage when Lewandowski scored in a 2-1 win in Germany and Reus found the net during a 2-2 draw in the return match in Spain.
Gotze could also be hugely important without the ball. As Klopp later explained, Gotze’s role against Madrid earlier in the campaign was primarily to prevent Madrid’s deep-lying playmaker Xabi Alonso from being able to find Cristiano Ronaldo with early balls forward.
The tactic worked for Dortmund and it also had plenty of success for Manchester United in the round of 16. With Danny Welbeck taking Alonso effectively out of the second leg, United looked set to progress until the Premier League side were reduced to 10 men and Madrid got the goals to progress.
Madrid thrive on being able to launch quick counter attacks with Alonso’s passing ability key to the success of that tactic.
Klopp, though, would be wise not to be over confident in his belief that Madrid will be straightforward to stop. Jose Mourinho’s side are now in far better form than when Dortmund last came across them.
The ultimately meaningless defeat to Galatasaray in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal was their only loss in their past 15 matches in all competitions. And their focus is sure to be at its maximum for what has long been their man goal this campaign of claiming an historic and unprecedented 10th European Cup.
For the most part that objective has meant that off-field issues have been put to one side. That despite Mourinho still looking destined to leave at the end of the season and captain and club icon Iker Casillas yet to make an appearance since returning from a broken hand at the start of the month.
But at the worst possible time those problems have bubbled to the surface once more. A report in El Pais claimed that a poll of the Madrid squad conducted by president Florentino Perez revealed that 15 players wanted Mourinho gone at the end of the campaign. Speculation also centered on who leaked the story, with Casillas being the obvious target.
Mourinho has struggled at Madrid more than at any club to build his renowned unity and must now hope that the scale of the prize on offer can hold everything together for just a few more weeks.
If both sides can put their off-field issues to one side then the watching world looks set for not only a close contest between two evenly-matches sides but also one of edge-of-the seat excitement with both teams able to turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye.
Dortmund, cheered on by their phenomenal support at the Westfalenstadion, will be looking to take an edge into the second leg, but it could well be Madrid heading back home with the slight advantage from a high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Real Madrid
Betting Odds: Real Madrid are marginal favorites to come away from the first leg with a win, priced at 8/5 with Bet 365. A Dortmund win is on offer at 9/5, with a draw available at 5/2.