Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund take on Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley tonight in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie. The two sides will be familiar to each other, having played each other in the group stages of the same competition last season. Mauricio Pochettino’s side won on both occasions last season. However, this looks to be an evenly contested tie and both teams will fancy their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Ahead of this clash, Dortmund have suffered an injury blow with the news that Marco Reus will miss the game with the thigh injury that kept him out of Saturday’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim. Joining him on the list of absentees will be long serving Lucas Piszczek with a foot injury, midfielder Julian Weigl (flu) and striker Paco Alcácer who is suffering with a shoulder problem. Reus and Alcácer have contributed 30 goals to Die Schwarzgelben already this season and therefore Lucien Favre will need to find solutions so that Dortmund continue to carry a goalscoring threat.
With Piszczek and Weigl not available, their places are likely to be taken by Ömer Toprak and the long-serving Marcel Schmelzer. Thomas Delaney, who also missed the Hoffenheim match is set to return to central midfield alongside Axel Witsel. Mario Götze will be up front with the attacking trio of Raphael Guerriero, Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic behind him.
Pulisic has struggled for game time this season, largely due to the sensational form of Sancho. Fans of Chelsea, for whom he will join this summer for a reported fee of £58 million will be eager to see him in action. However, it will be Sancho who will, understandably draw most attention. He has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season and has played a pivotal role in Dortmund reaching the top of the table with seven goals and 11 assists. The Londoner will make his first club appearance in his homeland and he is desperate to do well “I’ll be playing in front of my family, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a young boy,” Sancho said. “I’d love to play in front of my home town. Hopefully I can show London people what I’m about.”
Opponents Tottenham have been suffering with their own injury problems, with the notable absentees of Dele Alli and talisman Harry Kane. Kane’s injury increases the burden of responsibility on South Korean forward Son Heung Min who has been in great form of late. Son, also has a great scoring record against Dortmund and has scored five goals in five games during his time in Germany where he enjoyed spells at both Hamburger SV and Bayer Leverkusen.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is likely to recall Eric Dier to the side, following his return to training this week. Erik Lamela is also fit again and, together with the searing pace of Lucas Moura could cause Dortmund a lot of problems defensively.
With no clear favourite going into this contest and with key men unavailable, it will be fascinating to see how two teams renowned for their attacking football will approach this game. Without Reus, Dortmund are still full of talent in their side, however they will be more than aware of the quality that Tottenham possess. With the home leg still to come, a draw would be more than acceptable for Lucien Favre’s team to take back to Signal-Iduna Park.
By Jonathan Shelley.