[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Borussia Dortmund will face Real Madrid in front of 80,000 screaming fans at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund on Wednesday, where a win by the home team will put it on top of Group D.
TV: Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid (Wednesday 2:45 pm ET, Fox Deportes & Fox Soccer Plus; delay Fox Soccer 5 pm.)
Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund each set records for points in a season while winning La Liga and Bundesliga championships last season. They’ll both look to take command of Group D Wednesday, which also features defending champions from the English Premier League and the Dutch Eredivisie.
Dortmund was superb at Manchester City three weeks ago, but Joe Hart’s heroics in front of net kept the damage to a lone Marco Reus goal, allowing Mario Balotelli’s late penalty to salvage a fortuitous point for City. Real Madrid took care of business at Ajax, 4-1, aided by a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema’s bicycle kick.
Madrid’s slow start in La Liga, which sees the Spanish power eight points behind Barcelona, has been well documented, but Dortmund’s 2-1 loss at home to Schalke, marred by clashes between rival fans in the city center on Saturday, may have derailed its quest for a third straight Bundesliga title. Bayern Munich’s 5-0 romp at Dusseldorf made it 26 goals scored, and just two conceded, during its Bundesliga record eight straight wins to start the season. Leaving Jurgen Klopp’s team 12 points back of the hottest team in Europe, which may force the coach to put all his eggs in a black and yellow Champions League basket.
Madrid’s coach Jose Mourinho fielded a makeshift defense against Celta Vigo at home on Saturday, as defenders Alvaro Arbeloa, Fabio Cointreau and Marcelo were all lost to injury during the international break. Sergio Ramos, perhaps the world’s best central defender, returned to right back, Raphael Varane, a 19-year-old French U-21 started in his place, while midfielder Michael Essien, on loan from Chelsea, played left back in a 2-0 win, and is expected to do so again at Dortmund.
“It’s always strange to play a different position,” the Ghanaian told AS on Monday, “but I’m happy to play anywhere Mourinho wants me to.”
What to Watch
Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira returning to Germany, two of Europe’s most fascinating coaches, the absence of Dortmund midfield stalwart Jakub Blaszczykowski, but all eyes may end up on the Essien experiment at left back.
Formerly one of the world’s best in defensive midfield, Essien will find Klopp’s wide options include pace, Reus, creativity, Mario Goetze, and an overlapping right back, with a brand new five-year contract, who leads his team in assists, in Lukasz Piszczek. Leaving questions.
How much help does Mourinho give Essien? Will Klopp’s attempt to punish Madrid’s left leave Ronaldo room to run wild? Or, will the game be decided elsewhere by the likes of Angel Di Maria,Luka Modric, Marcel Shmelzer and Robert Lewandoski?
Both teams are looking to ace this critical Champions League test on Wednesday.
Real Madrid has one win in 23 Champions League trips to Germany, 5-3 at Bayern Leverkusen in 2000, with 16 losses and 6 ties. … Real has 6 points, Dortmund 4, Man City 1, and Ajax has no points. ... Man City is in Amsterdam on Wednesday, Ajax is at City for game four, BVB is at Madrid in two weeks, as all UCL teams will play home-and-homes against the same opposition in games three and four.