18:45 GMT, 26th of September 2017, Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund), BT Sport
The Champions League is upon us once again and this time it’s a clash of the titans in Group H as Real Madrid lock horns with Borussia Dortmund in a game that promises to excite fans and neutrals alike as both teams’ tendency to attack is just what the fans want to see.
They have both had differing starts to the Champions League season with the German club losing 3-1 at Spurs in their first outing while Real Madrid made light work of APOEL in a 3-0 win.
Real Madrid started the season in convincing fashion, but they’ve long since let off steam, struggling to draws at home and huffing and puffing all to no avail as they fell to a shock loss at home to lowly Betis. This broke the long-standing scoring run and was followed by a grinding out an unconvincing win against Alaves.
Dortmund meanwhile have had a storming start to the season under new manager Peter Bosz, rising to the top of the Bundesliga table with one huge win after another, the last of which was a 6-1 victory against Gladbach.
This game was seen as the decider for which team tops the group, but on the basis of what was seen at Wembley when Spurs defeated BVB, it will not be easy days for any of the two if they don’t take the Lilywhites seriously.
Three points on the night for Real Madrid will make the German club stare down the barrel of early elimination from the Champions League while a BVB win will blow the group open.
Last Time Out
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 6-1 Borussia Monchengladbach [Bundesliga]
The match went better than expected for the BVB faithful as they decimated their North West Phalian neighbours with star man, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, bagging a hat-trick after Maximilian Philipp had netted a brace.
The new summer signing from Freiburg has hit the ground running with a goal and two assists in the Bundesliga.
BVB dominated the match from start to finish and the goal glut was no fluke either. Gladbach scored through Lars Stindl, but that was merely a consolation. Gladbach weren’t even able to enjoy the last laugh as that fell to Julian Weigl, who scored a brilliant shot into the top corner on his return to the starting XI.
Alaves 1-2 REAL MADRID [La Liga]
Real Madrid, meanwhile, had to fight harder for maximum points as they rested their key players for the Champions League game, even if they still fielded a rather strong team.
Lining up in a 4-3-3, Los Blancos had to fight tooth and nail for a tight victory against opponents who proved to be more than able to hold their own.
The gulf in quality told, however, as new signing Dani Ceballos made the difference with his well-taken first-half brace, but not before Manu Garcia had given the Basque team a glimmer of hope.
Borrusia Dortmund Lineup
For Dortmund, the usual suspects remain sidelined, so we expect to see a continuation of the 4-3-3 that has served them well so far with Roman Burki the last line of defence behind a back four of Jeremy Toljan, Lukasz Piszczek, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Omer Toprak.
A midfield trio of Julian Weigl, who is fit once again, Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa will support attacking options of Maximilian Philipp, Andriy Yarmolenko and star man Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
Real Madrid Lineup
Los Blancos are expected to line up in their now traditional 4-3-1-2, with Keylor Navas in goal, protected by a back four of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Nacho, as both Marcelo and Theo Hernandez are injured.
A midfield quartet of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro is expected with Isco in the hole behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Both Karim Benzema and Mateo Kovacic are injured as the weekend’s match winner, Dani Ceballos, drops to the bench.
Key Battle: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Cristiano Ronaldo
Both attackers have been in differing form this season with Aubameyang on 12 goals for all competitions whilst Ronaldo is on a measly three, his tally no doubt hampered by his ban.
Nevertheless, he remains the main man for the Spanish club. The potency of both clubs in front of goal will determine which team the game favours as both teams will look to cancel each other out first and foremost. The onus, therefore, is on which of the attackers take their chances.
Real Madrid at the Signal Iduna Park
By the time the game is over, the teams would have met each other in four of the last five seasons.
They’re used to each other and their style of play, but the Spanish giants are yet to win at the Signal Iduna Park, a rarity considering this match-up has been played over and over again.
Facing the Yellow Wall seems to have a neutralising effect on Los Blancos so if they are to win, they will need to get over their ‘Yellow’ demons.
The midfield battle
The outcome of the match will be decided in the midfield and Real Madrid have in Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco, a unique combination of brains, style, brawn and guile.
Few teams in the world have this combination at a high level, whilst Dortmund have their counter-attacking style of play as an art form with Mario Götze and Julian Weigl the chief proponents.
They also have Shinji Kagawa for company and for even more by way of guile. The Dortmund midfielders will sit tight and try to absorb all the pressure out of the game while trying to stop the likes of Modric and Kroos from dictating the tempo.
Once that happens, the game might just be theirs for the taking.
Aubameyang vs Real Madrid’s defence
Real Madrid have some of the best defenders in world football, but their perceived inability to keep the ball out of their net still bothers on the imaginary.
They will face in Aubameyang an in-form striker who is ready to punish any moment of madness or pounce on any mistakes from the defence; Ramos and co. have to be on their game else the Gabonese would make it a long night for them.
His searing pace is an added threat and one which Raphael Varane will have to pay attention to or risk the striker running riot as well.
The left-sided connection
Losing Marcelo will hit any team in the world hard, let alone one used to his moments of magic, but Zidane will have to make do with Nacho on that side as Marcelo’s replacement, Theo Hernandez, is equally injured.
The coaching team will have to work out a scheme to avoid Nacho being isolated against any of BVB’s fiery attackers and he will also need to up his input as the team is used to having more of the ball on the left side.
Nacho, therefore, should see a lot of it, and what he does in possession might make or break the game from Real Madrid’s perspective.
PREDICTION: Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Real Madrid
The match is highly likely to be a tight fought game and with the form both teams are in, Los Blancos won’t want a loss as that would put a lot of pressure on Zidane’s shoulders.
Ronaldo seems to just come alive in the big games and this is the biggest of them all so far. Peter Bosz’s experience, or lack thereof, compared to Zidane’s, might tell by the way the game pans out.
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