In what could quite possibly be the most important match of the first half of the season, Borussia Dortmund will face Sporting Lisbon in match day five of the Champions League, with nothing less than a trip to the Champions League knockout rounds on the line.
To say that this match is massive is an understatement. Currently, the Group C table looks like this:
Dortmund and Sporting are even on points, although BVB hold a slender lead on head-to-head, having won the reverse fixture earlier in the fall. If either club wins tomorrow, then they will have a massive advantage heading into the final match day. Dortmund would all but guarantee a trip to the knockout round, because all they would need to do would be to get a point against Besiktas, whereas Sporting would need to get at least a point against Ajax to guarantee the knockout round.
This is as close to a must-win as BVB have had this season, so Marco Rose should field a squad commensurate to the match’s importance. Unfortunately, injuries and suspensions have taken their toll, with Mats Hummels’ BS red card barring him from participating tomorrow. According to BILD, Dan-Axel Zagadou will play in his place at center back. If true, that would make tomorrow his first start in months, and would be a huge demonstration of faith from the coaching staff.
As we all know, Thorgan Hazard, Erling Haaland, and Gio Reyna are all out. That leaves Julian Brandt, Marco Reus, and Donyell Malen, basically by default, to man the attack for Borussia Dortmund. Raphael Guerreiro was subbed off on Saturday, presumably in anticipation of him playing again tomorrow. Mahmoud Dahoud was also on the bench, which indicates he could be ready to play against Sporting tomorrow.
This is the squad that I would prefer, but unfortunately, Marco Rose has shown a propensity to run Axel Witsel into the ground. Witsel is clearly laboring under the pressure of playing every week, and I think that at this point, he doesn’t belong in BVB’s strongest starting XI.
BVB just need to get a win. The last match was a very dull affair, with Donyell Malen’s goal being the lone difference maker. I’ll predict a 2-0 win for BVB that effectively pushes them into the knockout round.