Last year, Peter Bosz came within a game of European glory. He led his Ajax side through the Europa League and to the final, where they only lost to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
That cup-run was a big part of what made Bosz a desirable managerial target for a few clubs in Europe this summer. He ultimately ended up at Dortmund, and now has a chance to make his mark in the more prestigious of the European tournaments.
The Champions League group stage kicks off today, but Dortmund don’t begin their campaign until tomorrow. They’ll be headed to Northwest London and to Wembley Stadium, where they will face Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs and Dortmund were drawn against each other in a much-anticipated Europa League knockout clash in 2015-16, but the tie never lived up to the hype. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino went with a heavily rotated squad, and Dortmund ran riot. BVB won 3-0 in Germany, and then 2-1 at White Hart Lane.
Much has been made in the UK of Spurs’ recent struggles at Wembley. The Lane has been demolished, so they’re playing at England’s international home as they complete the ambitious project of building a new stadium back in Tottenham. This season they’ve played well at Wembley for the most part, but have been undone by late goals in a loss to Chelsea and a draw with Burnley.
But this is still mostly the same Tottenham team that finished 2nd in last year’s iteration of the Premier League. They’ve also boosted their squad with the recent signings of Serge Aurier, Fernando Llorente, and Bosz’s old friend Davinson Sanchez from Ajax. The Lilywhites will not roll-over like they did a couple years ago.
Dortmund have been handed some injury blows before the match. Marc Bartra suffered an injury against Freiburg, and has not made the trip to London. Marcel Schmelzer suffered a more serious injury in that game, and will be out for six weeks. And Marco Reus, who was healthy the last time Spurs and Dortmund played, is still unavailable as he makes his way back from injury.
Bartra’s absence means that there will be a lot of pressure on Omer Toprak in defense. Toprak had an inconsistent season at Leverkusen last year, and hasn’t exactly looked like a rock at the back in his short time in Dortmund.
Sokratis, Toprak, and the other Dortmund defenders will have their hands full with Spurs’ world class attackers Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. Dele Alli misses out due to a suspension carrying over from Tottenham’s Europa League exit last Spring.
And then there is Heung-Min Son. Tottenham’s winger has scored 6 goals in 8 games against BVB, going back to his time at Hamburg and Leverkusen.
It’s an early game in Group H, but it’s still a massive one. When Dortmund, Madrid, and Tottenham are all in the same group, every match counts. Real will certainly start their campaign with a win against APOEL Nicosia, so the loser of this match will have to avoid falling too far behind in the “Group of Death”.