The group stage of the Champions League may have become an increasingly predictable slog, but Tuesday’s second match day will see a tantalizing meeting between two contenders for the trophy and two clubs with a storied recent rivalry. Holder and 11-time champion Real Madrid has an unrivaled continental pedigree, but it will travel to face a Borussia Dortmund team that has reason to think it can be a serious threat in this season’s competition.
Borussia Dortmund certainly made an impressive start on its return to the Champions League, dismissing Legia Warsaw 6-0 in Poland two weeks ago. Dortmund was up 3-0 inside 17 minutes that day, giving a powerful demonstration of just how devastating the German squad can be when in full flow.
There are more nuances to Dortmund’s game now under Thomas Tuchel, but many on the Real Madrid side can still remember the 4-1 beating inflicted upon them in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals three years ago. Real Madrid would get revenge in the quarterfinals a year later, but that was against a Dortmund team running out of fumes at the end of the Jurgen Klopp era.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a frightening presence up front and Mario Götze back after an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich to join a group of energetic young talent, Dortmund could upset some of Europe’s big names once more. Certainly the side from Westphalia could hardly be in any better form ahead of the visit of Madrid, having won four straight matches while scoring 20 goals in the process.
“There will be an incredible atmosphere in the stadium,” Tuchel said on Monday. “We believe that we can take on the task at hand and put in an exciting performance for our fans. At the moment this team is radiating a real positive energy that will help them focus on the task at hand and play as a unit at a high level.”
Real Madrid was late to get off to a winning start in its attempt to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions Leagues. Trailing 1-0 to Sporting Lisbon going into the final two minutes at the Bernabeu two weeks ago, goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata saw Zinedine Zidane’s side escape with a victory.
The result continued a perfect start to the season, but since then Madrid has seen its run of 16 consecutive La Liga wins ended by draws against Villarreal and Las Palmas. On Saturday, with Real Madrid attempting to hold onto a lead against Las Palmas, Cristiano Ronaldo was substituted, sparking an angry response from the Portuguese star. Zidane, though, insists there is no problem between the two.
“Every player who is substituted before full time is angry [including Ronaldo],” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We have spoken with each other after the game, but that was a normal thing, it happens. We have moved on.
“The points we have dropped lately, it happens. It can even happen several times in a season. The important thing is how we are working on the goals we have for this term. The team are in good shape I believe. Sometimes these matches serve as wake-up calls. I am not worried. Some things we can improve.”
Ronaldo is sure to be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday, though Zidane will be unable to call upon injured duo Casemiro and Marcelo. Dortmund will be without Marco Reus, Erik Durm, Sven Bender and likely former Barcelona defender Marc Bartra.
Dortmund has lost just once at home since Tuchel took charge in the summer of 2015 and Tuesday promises to be a real test for Real Madrid. Without Casemiro in midfield, Madrid could really struggle to contain the attacking prowess of its hosts. But with Madrid also possessing ample offense quality, goals are unlikely to be at a premium. Cheered on by what is sure to be an incredible atmosphere at the Westfalenstadion, Dortmund may just come out on top.
Predicted Score: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid