Seven days ago, Borussia Dortmund lost a close but controversial game 2-1 to Manchester City at the Etihad. Now, BVB return to the Westfalenstadion, hoping to overcome the deficit and advance to the Champions League Semifinals. To advance, Dortmund will either need a 1-0 victory, a win on penalties if the score is 2-1 after extra time, or to score at least two more goals than City, regardless of how many they score.
None of these results will come easy. Keeping a clean sheet against the top-scoring side in England will be a tough task, as will scoring three goals against them, something no team has been able to do in any competition this season.
If there’s any consolation for BVB, it’s that Dortmund looked very strong against Manchester City last Tuesday. The result could have (and should have) been 2-2, and more importantly, BVB looked legitimately threatening against Man City’s back line. Erling Haaland was played in onside at least once and forced a strong save from Ederson. While Manchester City flexed their muscles in the second half and took more control of the game, BVB were able to effectively unlock the Ruben Dias-led back line by having Haaland drop a bit deeper and provide hold-up play while Marco Reus was able to slip into the vacant space and loop a shot past Ederson for a goal.
To score enough goals against Man City tomorrow, Dortmund will need to not only duplicate this tactic several times over, but try to keep Manchester City off the board. Unfortunately, defense has not been BVB’s strong suit this season, and in the first leg City were smart to double up their coverage of BVB’s right side as much as possible. Mateu Morey and Ansgar Knauff were both young and inexperienced, and when Thomas Meunier came on, he didn’t provide much stability either. On Man City’s last-minute go-ahead goal, Meunier had to mark two attackers at once.
With no significant returns from injury (i.e. Jadon Sancho), BVB will need to defeat Man City with essentially the same squad that featured in the first leg. Luckily, there were no serious injuries over the weekend when BVB faced Stuttgart, so there will be no major omissions. According to Ruhr Nachrichten, while Marco Reus, Jude Bellingham, and Mats Hummels all felt sick over the weekend (with Hummels needing to be subbed off due to stomach pains), all three will be healthy and ready to play against Man City. I therefore suspect that we will see pretty much an identical lineup to what we saw on Tuesday.
I understand the hesitancy about starting Ansgar Knauff again, but my question is: is there really anybody else? Gio Reyna, before his assist against Stuttgart, had gone 1000+ minutes in all competitions without a goal or an assist. Thorgan Hazard has not been his usual self ever since he returned from injury, Julian Brandt hasn’t had a good game in ages, whereas Knauff has had an impact in almost every appearance he’s made. Beyond that, who is there? Piszczek? Emma? I really do think that BVB are going to have to run this same lineup into the ground until the season ends, or at least until Jadon Sancho returns.
Are Borussia Dortmund the favorites? Obviously not. While the away goal they scored in the first half keeps the tie somewhat competitive, I don’t see much of a way through for BVB. Despite City’s goalscoring prowess and BVB’s defensive frailties, I think the likeliest outcome that involves Dortmund advancing to the semifinal is a 1-0 victory. If Haaland can snatch a goal and City leave their finishing boots in the parking lot like PSG did today, then there’s every chance that they could claw out a 1-0 victory.
So that’s what I’ll predict. If I’m wrong, it’s not like any of you will remember this tomorrow anyway.