The defending European champions travel to Signal-Iduna Park in one of the many intriguing clashes of the second game week of the Champions League. Real Madrid have played at the venue on five occasions but are yet to beat the German giants on their own turf.
Borussia Dortmund have been in red-hot form as of late, sitting in second position in the German Bundesliga with a 100% home record to go with 20 goals scored in their last four games in all competitions. Real Madrid are the pace-setters in Spain despite two recent setbacks, a 1-1 draw at home to Villarreal and a 2-2 draw away at Las Palmas.
The two sides have a history of playing in very important Champions League ties, notably in semi-finals in 1998 and 2013, and most recently in a Quarter Final just two years ago. This fixture brought out the best of the now Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, with the Polish international bagging a four goal haul in a 4-1 win for Dortmund in 2013.
Team News – Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund were without Spanish centre half Marc Bartra and Colombian forward Adrian Ramos in their 3-1 win over Freiburg, but the pair returned to training on Monday and will be hoping they have done enough to convince manager Thomas Tuchel for a spot in the side. In-form striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored six goals in seven games this season, but goes into Tuesday night’s contest with some doubts over his involvement.
Aubameyang ended the win over Freiburg with a painful knock to his foot, and sat out of a subsequent training session as a result. The club announced such a decision was made as a ‘precautionary measure’, before the striker himself spoke with the club’s official TV channel to ensure that the injury was ‘not that bad’. He also took part in training on Monday, as did World Cup winner Andre Schurrle, who has missed the last few games with a knee injury.
Team News – Real Madrid
The visitors will be without Brazilian pair Marcelo and Casemiro, the latter of which will not be back for a few months following a fracture to his fibula. The calf strain that will keep out Marcelo has presented an opportunity for Portuguese full-back Fabio Coentrao to return to the side following a year-long loan at Monaco.
European Championship winner and hard man Pepe returns to the squad, his absence made apparent by the succession of shaky moments shown by the Ramos-Varane centre half partnership in their last two league slip-ups.
Players to watch
Raphael Guerreiro – Borussia Dortmund
Signed for 9.5 million pounds from FC Lorient, the Portuguese left-sided player’s performances at Euro 2016 earned him a nomination for the Young Player of the Tournament Award, and his current form vindicates those involved in bringing him to the club. Manager Thomas Tuchel has been using him as a midfielder so far, and although he has not always been a regular starter, he has made a real impact to the side with three goals in his last four games.
Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid
The Real captain will be the beneficiary of Pepe’s return to the squad, having made some uncharacteristic errors during his partnering with Raphael Varane at the back. The Spaniard is a world-class centre half and leader of the side, recently rescuing a point by scoring a towering header from a corner in the home draw with Villarreal.
Gonzalo Castro – Borussia Dortmund
The former Leverkusen man has starred in Tuchel’s midfield, showing an intelligence and vision in his game that has become a pivotal part of Dortmund’s style. Has already bagged three goals this season, and has shown he can also be a handy impact player off the bench.
Has the ability to dictate the tempo of games alongside Luka Modric, but that influence is compromised when he is asked to play from deeper positions. Has recently stated he doesn’t mind playing a few yards deeper in midfield, where the likes of Casemiro would usually operate from. However, the recent Kovacic-Kroos-Rodriguez trio against Villarreal was criticized for lacking chemistry and moving the ball too slowly, something Real cannot afford to get wrong against such a strong opponent.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund
His previously mentioned goal scoring record shows how lethal he can be in front of goal, possessing lightning quick pace to go with the ability to finish in a variety of ways. Recently made his 150th appearance for the club, having signed in 2013, and is continuing the kind of form from last season which saw him as one of Europe’s most prolific strikers. Currently possesses a strike ratio of 0.86 goals per game.
Gareth Bale – Real Madrid
The Welshman might be feeling the effects of a long European tournament and lack of pre-season, but has done reasonably well in Real’s first few matches, showing great work rate and returning two goals. Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t quite look up to full speed for similar reasons, and the multi-time Ballon d’Or winner wasn’t too happy about being substituted by manager Zinedine Zidane in their draw with Las Palmas. This is a great chance for Bale to step up and face a Dortmund backline that perhaps hasn’t been truly tested yet this season.
A narrow win for the home side. They’re playing some exciting football at the moment and will be backed by their home support. With questions looming over Real Madrid’s cohesion and some key exclusions to the side, it’s hard to see them getting more than a draw out of this game. Their quality is undoubted, they are the defending champions for a reason, but this fixture might just have come at the wrong time.