The last time Borussia Dortmund managed to advance to the quarter-finals in the UEFA Champions League, Roman Weidenfeller was still in goal, Nuri Sahin was still playing for BVB, and Marcel Schmelzer captained the team. It really makes you think, doesn’t it? On Thursday night, the Black-and-Yellows have the opportunity to enter the quarter-finals once again, as they visit Graham Potter’s Chelsea FC on Stamford Bridge. Now, if you have read Zac’s preview for the first leg, it should come as no surprise, that The Blues have been downright terrible this season. Graham Potter’s troops are currently 10th in the Premier League - eight points short of a European spot, and 11 points short of a Champions League spot. If Dortmund ever had a chance to advance to the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious tournament, then it’s now. They need to strike the big blue whale while it’s wounded.
While I do believe Graham Potter is a brilliant manager, he simply hasn’t managed to make this Chelsea team tick since he took the helm. Despite spending more than the entire Bundesliga combined in the last transfer window, the team simply isn’t playing as a unit. If you want a more in-depth look at Chelsea’s current struggles, I highly recommend TIFO IRL’s coverage on the subject.
Despite their slump, Chelsea managed to slip away with a 1-0 victory against Leeds on Elland Road this weekend. From what what I can decipher, it was a really even match. Chelsea did have the majority of possession (58%), but the xG of both teams were similar with Chelsea accumulating 1.67 and Leeds 1.21. So - why do I find this significant? I do because Leeds has been one of the worst teams in the Premier League this season, and they are legitimately relegation-threatened if they continue their current trend. This means that despite their win, there’s still a long way for Chelsea in terms of identifying a coherent playstyle and making the players follow such.
Chelsea will also be without Thiago Silva and Mason Mount, while Reece James is questionable for a start. Finally, Benoit Badiashile and Noni Madueke aren’t assigned to the Champions League squad.
Sadly for us (and luckily for Enzo Fernandez), Karim Adeyemi hasn’t travelled with the team to London. As reported in today’s Daily Bee, Gregor Kobel has travelled with the team, but a decision about whether he plays is to be taken later on.
For those of you who asked - did I get the lineup exactly right against Leipzig? Yes. And do I intend to do that again with the exact same lineup? Yes. I also cheated by picking both Meyer and Kobel for the goalkeeper-spot, but I’m the ruler of my own destiny. This lineup clearly lacks speed, but with Adeyemi out, there’s not many viable ways to inject speed into the current squad. I think that both Brandt and Reus showed their ability to time runs i behind the oppositions defense against Leipzig. And while they’re definitely not rapid, they maybe won’t need to be, as Potter is more careful in terms of deploying a high backline. Even though Adeyemi is missing, this lineup still contains our two top goalscorers for this season in Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham - we should be able to get a goal against the wounded blue blob that is currently Chelsea.
Player to Watch: Enzo Fernandez
I’ve actually watched my fair share of Chelsea games so far this season, and I’m pretty impressed with the Argentinian midfielder. And to back up my statement - here’s a link to his absolutely insane stats. Fernandez has been a constant in a struggling Chelsea side, and he’s going to be crucial for Chelsea’s progressive play into the final third.
With my six-to-seven game knowledge, I’ve identified his current biggest issue to be, that he’s trying to force play way too much sometimes. This often results in an inaccurate pass into the feet of an opposing player. But aside from this, he’s phenomenal, and Dortmund will need to minimize his time on the ball in any way possible.
All logic says BVB advances from this. And while I do believe The Black and Yellows might actually pull it off, I believe it’s going to be a tough battle. Chelsea showed that they have the ability to back an opposition at Die Westfalenstadion, and BVB will probably be under a siege similar to the one experienced against Leipzig this weekend. With that said, I believe BVB are also capable of finding a way into the back of the net against a Chelsea side in very bad shape. The team has also shown multiple times this season, that they are capable of withstanding pressure, and Chelsea’s offense just isn’t that threatening. I predict a 1-1 draw with Dortmund advancing on aggregate.