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Match Preview: A Wounded Borussia Dortmund Heads to Russia to Close Champions League Group Stage

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A win over Zenit wins Dortmund the group

Borussia Dortmund v Zenit St. Petersburg: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

With one match left in Champions League group stage action, Borussia Dortmund is looking to close out Group F atop the table as they head to frigid Saint Petersburg, Russia to kick-off against Zenit Saint Petersburg.

After Dortmund’s 1-1 draw to Lazio, Dortmund qualified for the next knockout stage based on numerous tie breakers over Club Brugge, but they are still in a position to finish second to Lazio. Winning the group in no way guarantees us an easier opponent in the knockout stages, nor does it earn the club any more money than if they were to finish second, but it should be something the players and Favre pushes for.

Last time these clubs met was back in October inside Westfalenstadion, and Dortmund prevailed 2-0 over Zenit thanks to goals by Sancho and Haaland. Dortmund were in a fine run of form going into that match, while this time things are very different. Dortmund have only won twice since that meeting, and they weren’t playing in a hostile environment that they are sure to face in Russia. I don’t even know what kind of COVID restrictions they have going on there, so it’s anyone’s guess the kind of atmosphere Dortmund will be walking into on Tuesday.

While they have been in complete control of the Russian Premier League, Zenit’s Champions League campaign has been an outright disaster. In five matches in a group that was moderately open, they have only come away with one point after drawing Lazio in November. A healthy Dortmund side would probably bat this Zenit squad aside, but this is for sure not a healthy Dortmund side.

Predicted Lineup

I don’t know if you all know this, but Dortmund is in a bit of an injury crisis. Here is the list of players Dortmund will be without on Tuesday:

That’s an absolutely ridiculous amount of injured players for Dortmund. Dortmund seemingly always go through an injury crisis at some point during the season, but this feels like an injury crisis on steroids. Every single one of those players in the tweet are either guaranteed starters, occasional starters, or impact subs. We’ve seen how the squad has played in the absence of Haaland for the last couple of weeks, but to not have key guys like Guerreiro, Akanji and important role players like Delaney and Dahoud will hurt.

I wouldn’t be against this formation and line-up at all, only because there are very little other options for rotation. I would maybe swap Zagadou out for Piszczek, only because Zagadou just returned from injury and this is a very quick turnaround for him. I would also swap out Reus for Reyna, as Reus has not been at his best this season while Reyna has. Witsel is in a run of poor form and I wouldn’t start him right now, but there is literally no one else available in central midfield unless Favre switches to a back-four and places Can next to Bellingham.

Prediction

Unlike the match against Eintracht Frankfurt, I would definitely be comfortable with a draw while hoping for a win so that we can win the group. While Dortmund has the top spot in the group on the line, Zenit has absolutely nothing to play for with only one point in the group and no chance of catching Club Brugge for the Europa League spot.

Normally this is where I would say we should roll out a rotated side since we have nothing but the top spot in the group to play for, but I don’t think we have many players to rotate with. Like the last three matches, I don’t see much in the way of attack for BVB without Haaland. Still, Zenit have been very poor in their Champions League campaign this season, so it should be a win on Tuesday. I predict Hazard scores the lone goal for Dortmund in a 1-0 win to top Group F.