UEFA Champions League: North Londoners host hobbled BVB
For the first time in 20 years, the only North London club that will feature in the Champions League tournament is Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal missed out on a chance to qualify for the UCL but that does not mean the tournament will not visit North London.
Tottenham will face Borussia Dortmund in their eagerly anticipated Champions League opener. Spurs qualified for the competition by finishing runners-up in last season’s Premier League campaign. Dortmund are a perennial powerhouse on Europe’s top stage. They made it to the quarterfinals in 2016-17 before being ousted 6-3 on aggregate to an incredibly explosive Monaco side. During the campaign, Dortmund qualified for the knockout stages by finishing atop Group F with 14 points from six matches. The German juggernauts went unbeaten through the group stage, finishing two points ahead of Real Madrid, the tournament’s eventual winners.
Only three matches in, Dortmund sit atop the Bundesliga table with seven points from three matches.
Playing Dortmund involuntarily brings suppressed memories to Tottenham. The two sides met in the 2015-16 Europa League quarter-finals, which Dortmund, winning 5-1 on aggregate, thoroughly dominated. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s priorities were crystal clear back then, and they didn’t include aspirations of winning the Europa League.
Pochettino rested key members of his first 11, seemingly forsaking the competition for a better chance to chase Leicester down in the race for the Premier League title.
Dortmund won’t be so lucky this time around. Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama are the only regulars missing, Alli due to the three-game ban for the Gent incident last season and Wanyama through injury. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is fit for Wednesday, has two of Dortmund’s five league goals. He is the focal point of a consistently dangerous offensive unit.
Dortmund will have to work around the absences of both Marco Reus and André Schürrle. Though capable understudies in the form of Maximilian Phillip and Pulisic will play in their stead, Bosz will rightfully rue lacking such potent wide men against a Spurs side who have occasionally looked vulnerable on the flanks this season.
Other than those,the entirety of Dortmund’s first-choice back-line will not be available for selection. Right-back Erik Durm continues to struggle with a hip injury, while both centre-back Marc Bartra and left-back Marcel Schmelzer were forced off in the first half of Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Freiburg.
Spurs look favorites. With Dortmund missing around 7 of their regular starters, there’s no better time, or occasion, for Spurs to begin their Wembley renaissance.