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Dortmund Champions League
[Photo: uefa.com]

Opinions

Can Dortmund win the Champions League?

Dortmund Champions League

[Photo: uefa.com]

A football team can flourish only when it has a good combination of defense, creativity and finishing. Technically speaking, a good football team should have a reflexive goalkeeper, a rock solid defense, creative midfield and a sensible finisher. Only few clubs can keep up good form throughout the season. Others have to struggle for a decent position in their respective leagues. One such club is Borussia Dortmund Football Club. When the question is about the UEFA Champions League, expectations would be too high. Considering the strengths of Dortmund, these expectations could easily be met by the club. Dortmund won the Bundesliga as well as DFB Pokal last season but failed to taste Champions League victory for the second time. But this year, Dortmund has returned with a bang defeating top guns like Real Madrid and Manchester City and topped their group in the round of 32 in Champions League. They have also surpassed the knockout round of 16 to get into quarter-finals of the Champions League. The interesting point here is that Dortmund remains unbeaten in UCL till now.

With the Bayern Munich and the two Spanish giants competing with Dortmund, the 1997 Champions League winners may be considered as dark horses. Dortmund are currently Champions League Betting Outsiders at 6/1 to win the competition. But their incredible rise in the last few season, added to the belief instilled by Jurgen Klopp, they cant be taken for granted.

Dortmund’s goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, though incredibly underrated, is the consistent one and arguably one of the best keepers in Germany. Dortmund requires a consistent keeper like Roman for their title race. Roman was able to make 8 appearances in the UCL and will surely be the first choice for Dortmund keeping 3 clean sheets in the past 8 matches in UCL.

Neven Subotić and Mats Hummels paired together are definitely the best central defensive duo in the whole of Europe. Hummels has made 7 appearances in the UCL this season with a goal and an assist while Subotić has made 6 appearances so far. Dortmund play usually play with four defenders, mainly consisting of Subotić and Hummels in the center whereas Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer play as full-backs. Schmelzer has also made 8 appearances with a goal and an assist whereas Piszczek has made 7 appearances with a single assist. A promising replacement for the central defense Felipe Santana who has made a single appearance in UCL up till now has proved that he will soon replace Hummels in the coming seasons. A lot of goals and assists have been from the defensive line which shows that Dortmund’s style of play has a better job for defenders especially the central defenders. Central defenders act as long range shooters supplying both the flanks as much as possible and also take shots more freely. Hummels has a figure of 4.9 accurate longballs per game which is the highest whereas Subotić has 4.7. Dortmund’s defense is what is needed by big clubs. A very interesting fact to be noticed here is that there has been a very little change in the defense with only Santana rotating with the Central defenders. Klopp is trying to build a stable defense getting it ready for big games.

[Photo: whoscored.com]

[Photo: whoscored.com]

Both full backs play deep as can be seen. Centre backs continuously supply the flanks. Although there is much movement in the middle zone, full backs still play deep to keep maximum possession of the ball. Full backs further supply to the attacking squad mostly through short passes. Dortmund’s game is mostly through short passes with 84% of the total passes are short passes. Not many crosses can be observed. Only 3% of the total passes have been in the form of crosses. This way they have less chance of losing possession. The wingers shift in the middle to increase the strike force as can be seen in the figure above. This gives full backs more space to play deep. Here Reus (11) and Gotze (10) have shifted in the middle while Blaszczykowski (16) has shifted in the deep middle. This is done particularly to stop counter attacks if they occur. So, full backs supply to the newly generated strike force in the middle. Defensive midfielders Bender (6) and Gundogan (8) maintain a line between the defense and attacking zones.

Dortmund’s team strategy is an aggressive one with two wingers on either side of an attacking midfielder who is headed by a striker. Behind the attacking midfielders lie two defensive midfielders. So Dortmund mainly has 4-2-3-1 strategy. The preferable wingers are Mario Götze and Kevin Großkreutz. The main attacking midfielder is Marco Reus. The defensive midfielders are Sebastian Kehl and Ilkay Gündogan. It’s not often that a team loses one of their best midfielders in the summers and his replacement improves the squad even more so than it was before. After the departure of Shinji Kagawa, Klopp was clever enough to snap up a replacement for him with Marco Reus being the replacement. With 3 goals in just 8 appearances in UCL, Reus has become the major threat for the opponents. His passing success is 76% which is quite amazing. Whereas Götze has scored 2 goals and has 4 assists in just 7 appearances in UCL and has a passing success 81%. Götze approximately has 41 average passes per game. Reus is a brilliant dribbler with 2.1 successful dribbles per game. Kehl has made just 4 appearances in UCL so far while Gundogan managed to play 6 fixtures. This implies that there has been a heavy rotation in the defensive midfield with Sahin, Leitner, Bender and Kirch getting a chance to play in the Champions League. Also there was a rotation in the rest of midfield with Blaszczykowski making 4 appearances as attacking midfielder and scored a goal and made an assist. 19 year old Bittencourt made an appearance as a sub for Dortmund in the last UCL game against Shaktar. The youngster made some fine passes and can make way to the first squad in the coming season. Dortmund’s midfield has the ability to build up the tempo of the game and then play in the same pace. Much of Dortmund’s attack is from the middle of the park with neat exchange of passes as can be seen in the figure, 67% of the action has occurred in the middle zone of the field.

[Photo: whoscored.com]

[Photo: whoscored.com]

Robert Lewandowski, the hot property of the Bundesliga, is arguably one of the prolific strikers in Europe. Scoring 5 goals and making 2 assists out of 15 of total chances created in just 7 appearances in UCL speaks it all. He has an average 3.5 shots on target per game in CL which is pretty impressive. Lewandowski fits well in the squad as the only striker. He is known for his vision and agility. Dortmund needed a good finisher and they have got one.

[Photo: footballclub.cnn.com]

[Photo: footballclub.cnn.com]

The cumulative performance of Dortmund shows the increase of both attacking and defensive performances since the first game of the UCL. However, there has been a slight decrease in the possession graph which is the last fixture in the UCL against Shaktar. Overall performance of the squad has been drastically raised to a decent level.

The depth in BvB’s squad is the strong point for Dortmund. Dortmund play with 4-2-3-1 team strategy in UCL. They have won 5 games and have 3 draws in all 8 games of UCL till now. They have managed to keep 3 clean sheets. So, they remain unbeaten in UCL so far. Dortmund has scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 matches in UCL. Klopp’s thinking and motive of playing a single striker can be seen clearly as they have a good combination of speed and creativity in the midfield. After failing to acquire the Bundesliga title for the second time consecutively and also getting knocked out in DFB Pokal this season, Klopp’s main aim will be to bring Champions League title home. Klopp will continue to play 4-2-3-1 that could possibly change to a 4-3-3 if things aren’t going Dortmund’s way. Klopp has proven to be one of the shrewdest managers in the league, getting it right in all the big domestic games last season, especially in his midfield tactics annulling Bayerns’. He will most definitely want to make an impression in Europe this year, since Dortmund undoubtedly have the quality to improve on last year’s result and even go through to the semi-finals, which should be their target. In order to do this, he will no doubt have to rotate his players and it will be interesting to see how he does so and the results that he’ll have with these rotations.

Sidhant Jain
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