The draw for the Champions League Round of 16 has now taken place and it will be Chelsea to play Borussia Dortmund. The tie is a first in European club competition and at least for two former players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic, the draw presents a reunion with familiar faces.
Aubameyang played for Dortmund between 2013-18 and scored an impressive 98 goals in 144 games before agreeing a €60m transfer to Arsenal where he played until moving to Barcelona on a free transfer. Former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel then re-signed the Gabon international following the transfer of Timo Werner to RB Leipzig. Aubameyang was highly popular during his time in Dortmund.
US international Christian Pulisic joined BVB as a 16-year-old from local Pennsylvania-based club PA Classics. He was assigned to the U17s but after scoring 10 goals and creating eight assists in just 15 games, he was called up to the first team and made his debut in a 2-0 win against Ingolstadt in 2016.
Pulisic played 81 first team matches and scored 10 goals for the senior side. His first goal came against Hamburg in a 3-0 home win. ‘Puli’ advanced to become a regular player under Tuchel, and then his successor Lucien Favre, and became BVB’s youngest ever player to play a match in the Champions League, notably providing an assist to André Schürrle that led to the equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid in the group stage of that season’s Champions League. A €60m transfer to Chelsea followed, making the American the second highest transfer in BVB club history after Ousmane Dembele’s €130m move to Barcelona in 2017.
Pulisic, who although only 24 already has 52 caps for the USA, is well-known to BVB coach Edin Terzic who has been part of the coaching set-up at the Signal-Iduna-Park since 2018: “The Chelsea tie means we will be seeing two players again who were with us for some year, we are looking forward to a reunion,” Terzic commented to Ruhr Nachrichten.
Terzic worked as an assistant to Slaven Bilic at West Ham United between 2015-17 and today also welcomed the prospect of a duel with new Chelsea coach, former Brighton-Hove and Albion coach, Graham Potter, who succeeded former BVB coach Tuchel at the English capital club at the beginning of September: “Graham and I are close, we are good friends, It will be special.”
Another German player who will be looking forward to the match is Chelsea’s attacking-midfielder Kai Havertz, the 23-year-old played alongside former Leverkusen teammate Julian Brandt for five years and played alongside the Dortmund midfielder in the German national team from the U16 to the senior side.
The novelty of the draw also makes the tie attractive, although this is the 36th game against an English team in a European competition for Dortmund, it’s the first time Chelsea and Dortmund have ever been drawn together in any competition.
Following the 2013 Champions League final against Bayern Munich at Wembley and partly due to the signing of popular midfielder Jadon Sancho in 2017 and then Jude Bellingham in 2020, BVB have seen a spectacular growth in their fan base in Great Britain in recent years. In 2013 there was one fan club based in Edinburgh, which was followed by the Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London in 2012/13. There are now eight fan clubs of the German team in the UK. Gordon Balmain secretary of the London fan club also welcomed the tie: “After the Manchester City game a few weeks back, this is a second chance to meet up with other BVB fans and enjoy the game together, it’s always special to see a Dortmund game, especially without having to travel so far.”
Due to the World Cup break, the first leg of the tie will be in Dortmund on February 15, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge three weeks later on March 7.
BVB’s draw against Chelsea ranks alongside Bayern Munich against PSG and RB Leipzig’s tie with Manchester City amongst the most appealing from a fan perspective but also amongst the toughest in the second-round draw. The remaining tie involving a Bundesliga club is Eintracht Frankfurt’s fixture against Napoli. In the Europa League Bayer Leverkusen will play AS Monaco and Union Berlin fans can look forward to a tie with Ajax.