Two weeks ago, Dortmund put in the type of energetic and organized display that I had anticipated they would in my comprehensive scouting report. Since then, however, all has not gone well in the league. Dortmund failed to win again at the weekend, at home, against Stuttgart. It is possible, in a relatively young and inexperienced side, that thoughts of their clash with Madrid on Tuesday were already on their minds.
For the record: Marco Reus had a disappointing evening and Neven Subotic had a bad night too. Dortmund dominated the match but could not find the necessary creativity in the final third to break down Stuttgart’s perfect defensive display. They looked tired and out of ideas. Because they are lagging in the league, they were unable to rest any players.
The players themselves are under no illusion about the difficulties of the task ahead of them. “They’ll want to over-run us,” says Marcel Schmelzer, looking forward to Tuesday’s match. “They could be looking for revenge.”
According to the Hamburger Abendblatt, Matts Hummels in particular is looking forward to an “incredible” atmosphere at the Bernabeu, and is cautioning his side not to be overwhelmed by the experience. His sporting director, Hans Joachim Watzke, is putting faith in BvB’s record against another great European side, Bayern Munich: “When you have won 5 on the trot against a great team like Bayern, you know you can hold your own internationally.”
And as it happens, the same newspaper quotes Bayern president Uli Hoeneß saying that he will be “crossing his fingers” (or “pressing his thumbs” as the German equivalent goes) for his compatriots from the Bundesliga. Sami Khedira of Real Madrid said this week he hoped that Borussia Dortmund would go through with Real Madrid into the next group. Based on points gathered in the group by Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester City in this “Group of Death”, it looks likely that the teams that will make it into the knock-out rounds will be Dortmund and Madrid, which sets up a fascinating encounter tomorrow at the Bernabeu.