It feels like only yesterday Bayern Munich were beating PSG 1-0 inside an empty Estádio da Luz to close out one of the weirdest seasons of European football. And yet, here we are once again, Champions League group stage action about to kick off!
Dortmund are locked into a pretty winnable group with Russian champions Zenit, Belgian champions and Tuesday’s opponents, SS Lazio. However, we can’t take any of these opponents lightly, lest we want to fail to make it out of the group or worse, play in Europa League (*shudders*).
Dortmund biggest concerns entering tomorrow’s fixture has to be the defense. BVB will already be dealing with absences from Manuel Akanji (COVID quarantine) and Dan-Axel Zagadou (preseason injury), but now there is a slight chance that Lukas Piszczek could miss the match after he took a finger to the eye during Saturday’s match against Hoffenheim.
With Can also out via red card suspension, that makes Favre’s job of selecting a make-shift backline all the more difficult. If Favre wants to continue to use the three-man backline, I see him rolling with Hummels, Delaney and Piszczek . I thought Delaney filled in at CB very admirably against Hoffenheim, and I’m less nervous with the idea of him in central defense than I was as he entered the match. If he Pisz is unable to play, this will force Favre to play a back-four traditional set-up, with Hummels and Delaney in the middle and Felix and Meunier out wide. I think Meunier would be better in a standard back-four, as I see him as a better defender than attacker.
Passlack and Guerreiro are my wingbacks. I like the hunger Felix brings to the pitch while I think Guerreiro is low-key one of the best players on the team.
We’ll definitely see a midfield pairing of Bellingham and Witsel, as I feel they balance each other very well. It gets tricky in the attack aside from Haaland at forward. I could see Favre swap out Reyna for Reus while Sancho is on the other wing, while I could also see the opposite happening with Reus for Sancho. And in goal is Burki; nothing against Hitz, I thought he did very well in relief, but Burki is the clear No. 1 for a reason.
Our Italian opponents have struggled to begin the Serie A season, after challenging for the title much of last season before dropping five of final nine Serie A matches. And when I say they are struggling, I mean they are struggling. They’ve only kept one clean sheet to start the season, against Cagliari in the season opener, and have only scored twice in their last three matches.
Their led in their attack by former Dortmund player Ciro Immobile. He scored an astounding 36 Serie A goals last season, and while he’s gotten off to a slow start (one goal in four matches), he can still go off at a moment’s notice and must be accounted for at all times on the pitch. Whoever is starting in central defense will have their hands full with him.
Aside from Immobile, important offensive playmakers for Lazio include Luis Alberto, who led the team with 16 assists in Serie A and added six goals to his name for I Biancocelesti. Other talented attackers for Lazio are forwards Joaquin Correa and Felipe Caicedo (9 Serie A goals apiece) and midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (7 goals and 6 assists in 2019-20). They may be slow out of the gate to start the new season, but don’t sleep on Lazio going into tomorrow’s match.
Two of the most exciting attacks in Europe going toe-to-toe in the first match of the group stage, what could be more fun to watch? I predict a 2-1 win for the Black & Yellows, with Guerriero and Haaland scoring for the good guys as we leave Stadio Olympico with three points.