It's the moment we've all been waiting for, Borussia Dortmund will play host to Portuguese giants FC Porto tomorrow night, in the first leg of the Europa League round of 32.
This anticipated match up between two Champions League perennials will be fraught with tension, as both teams will be playing with something to prove. For Dortmund, the pain of letting Group C fall through their fingers to Russian Premiere side FC Krasnodar is still fresh in their minds. After marauding through most of the group stage, BVB lost their last two and dropped to second place, forcing them to draw a stronger team trickled down from the Champions League, which is inversely the chip on FC Porto's shoulder.
Similar to Dortmund, Porto lost their last two group stage games after a strong campaign, but they weren't afforded an easy group and were knocked out of the competition by Chelsea, with Dynamo Kiev taking the second place qualifying spot. This irked Porto and their fans alike, and they will surely see beating Dortmund and advancing to the next round as bitter but necessary consolation.
Both these teams can be plausible favorites to win the competition, and with both camps failing behind in their respective league title races expect them to prioritize the Europa League and field strong line-ups for this match. Thomas Tuchel will no doubt field his favored 4-3-3 formation some variant of Rues and Mkhitaryan on the wings and Aubameyang up front. The midfield will likely see the Ginter CM experiment again as Ilkay is out sick. Weigl and Ginter should be able to help mitigate Porto's ruthless pressing game , but the other spot is up for grabs between a semi-fit Kagawa and Gonzalo Castro.
Porto will most likely go with the 4-2-3-1 formation that saw them upset Benfica this past weekend with their top scorer Vincent Aboubakar up front and possibly Rubin Neves slotting in next to Captain Hector Herrera to give stability to a defense that becomes shaky against strong opposition. The real question is will it be enough to stop a Dortmund side held scoreless only once so far this season? And will Dortmund be suffocated by Porto's tireless high-line?
Regardless, it is sure to be tough contest tomorrow night at Signal-Iduna-Park, but any self respecting dortmund fan should take their eyes off the field for a split second to look at the bench. American and Dortmund sweetheart Christian Pulisic has recently been added to BVB's Europa League roster and expect him to make an appearance as he chases that first-team goal.
Date and Time: Thursday, February 18th, 1:00 p.m. Eastern time
Porto: Casillas, Layun, Martins ln, Awaziem, Pereira, Neves, Herrera, Brahimi, Andre, Corona, Aboubakar
Dortmund: Burki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer, Weigl, Ginter, Castro, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus