About a month ago, Borussia Dortmund’s 2020 Champions League campaign got off to a poor start with a bitter defeat at the hands of SS Lazio in the Italian capital, Rome. Since then, BVB’s luck in the Champions League has turned around, with three consecutive victories, and the team now sits in pole position in Group F. BVB now have a chance to secure a trip to the knockout stages, and to get some revenge in the process. All Dortmund need to advance to the next stage is a draw, whereas a win would secure their spot at the top of the group. Even if BVB do lose to Lazio, they can still get into the Round of 16 if Club Brugge drop points against Zenit St. Petersburg.
But Borussia Dortmund won’t want to rely on Zenit to get to that point, they’ll want to do it themselves. This means that BVB will need to grab a point against SS Lazio, who thoroughly outplayed them back in October. If you’ll remember, the final result of that match was 3-1 to the Italians, and it was fully deserved. Lazio started on the front foot and got an early goal from Ciro Immobile, followed by an own goal from Marwin Hitz. While Haaland briefly made the game close in the 71st minute, Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro scored a few minutes later to put it out of reach once again.
Circumstances have changed since then, so BVB do have a few things going for them that they didn’t back in November. First and foremost, we are no longer in the “Delaney at Center Back” era of Borussia Dortmund football. With Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji healthy, BVB will have two quality full-time defenders at the back. Lucien Favre has also recovered from whatever obscure head injury was compelling him to start Marwin Hitz over Roman Bürki. It’s not entirely good news, however, with Thomas Meunier having suffered an injury against FC Cologne on Saturday, BVB now need someone else to fill in at right back. Furthermore, Emre Can suffered a foot injury against Cologne and will also miss tomorrow’s match.
With the aforementioned returns of Roman Bürki and Manuel Akanji, Borussia Dortmund should be capable of fielding a slightly more competent and healthy lineup than they did in September. I expect the squad to look something like this:
Because Emre Can is injured again, BVB will need someone with similar intensity in midfield. Thomas Delaney, who has recently swung into Favre’s favor due to his solid play, could conceivably fill that role. Axel Witsel has been struggling recently, and while Jude Bellingham struggled in the first match against Lazio, I feel that he’s improved significantly since then.
I’m a bit unsure about BVB’s attack. What I do know is that Julian Brandt, who was a total non-factor against Cologne, will sit, and Thorgan Hazard and Gio Reyna, who were comparatively better, will probably start. Even though Jadon Sancho struggled against Cologne, I also think that he will start tomorrow, mostly because with Gio in midfield, Sancho will be needed out wide.
Will this be enough against SS Lazio? I think so. Borussia Dortmund managed 1.8 expected goals their last go around, and were a bit unlucky to concede an own goal. I think that BVB will at least manage a draw, and will secure a spot in the Champions League Round of 16.