After three domestic matches without victory and a 50% win rate in the Bundesliga, Dortmund are back to the one competition that has provided some semblance of joy this season - the Champions League. Tomorrow, Edin Terzic and his men take on everyone’s third-favorite state-owned club; Paris Saint-Germain. While morale may be low and the club’s depth at fullback even lower, Borussia Dortmund have already qualified for the next round. The top spot in the group and an easier draw in the next round are at stake for both clubs with a win or draw being enough for Dortmund.
Topping the ‘Group of Death’ would be a massive victory for Borussia Dortmund and Edin Terzic but tomorrow’s game will be difficult. After a run of good health earlier this season, Dortmund are back to a thin squad with Bensebaini as the only available fullback and Emre Can being suspended after picking up a yellow card for time-wasting in the 96th minute of Dortmund’s 3-1 victory over Milan. Terzic will have to be resourceful and might call on young players like Hendry Blank and Guillermo Bueno.
On the other hand, PSG have found their form after a difficult start to the season. They are unbeaten in their last five games, including a draw to Newcastle, and have won all their Ligue 1 matches since September. This PSG side has now found their rhythm and is playing to advance. We will surely see their best possible lineup except for Ousmane Dembele, who is unfortunately suspended for his return to Dortmund. I was excited to see the jeers.
Player to Watch: Warren Zaire-Emery
The correct answer to “Who is PSG’s most dangerous player?” is Kylian Mbappe. The superstar already has 15 goals this season. I will take a moment, however, to shine some light on Warren Zaire-Emery. The 17-year-old Frenchman has already played 934 minutes for PSG this season and is a starter when healthy. He is putting up fantastic numbers for progressive carries, assists, take-ons, and passes completed when compared to other midfielders despite being so young. Zaire-Emery was slated to be out with injury until 2024 but, fortunately for the footballing world, his recovery has gone better than expected and he saw 30 minutes of action in PSG’s last game. I expect him to start.
Terzic faces several problems regarding player selection. The first is that the team has no fullbacks apart from Bensebaini. Wolf and Ryerson are injured while both Morey and Meunier are not registered in the UCL. I expect Bensebaini to start on the left side with Sule on the right. This forces Hummels and Schlotterbeck to play in central midfield with their only cover being Hendry Blank, the 19-year-old center-back. Terzic could utilize Guillermo Bueno, who has done well with the reserve side. Problem two is that Dortmund’s midfield is very thin. Nmecha is out for the remainder of the year, Sabitzer is just returning from injury, and Can is suspended. That makes Ozcan the only defensive-minded midfielder in the group. I’m expecting a very attacking lineup then with Brandt and Reus both getting minutes in midfield. The final problem is that the older players need a rest. Reus, Hummels, and Fullkrug have all featured extensively in the past several months for Dortmund. It is no coincidence that their form has dropped in recent weeks after playing two to three matches every week. Fortunately for Mbappe and company, I doubt Dortmund’s veterans will be rested going into this game.
The tone of this article should point you towards a PSG victory. Terzic should, however, be given some praise for his ability to get results in the UCL this year even if that means pragmatic football. I am still not expecting a result in Dortmund’s favor but I doubt the scoreline is a blowout. 2-0 PSG.