Results matter much as Juventus take on Dortmund this week in the Round of 16 Champions League fixture, with each having their own reasons to give importance to this game. Stephen Ganavas tells us more about the tie and why it could be the best game the Round of 16 has to offer.
The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw paired together German heavy-weights Borussia Dortmund with Italian champions Juventus for a pair of ties to be played in the month of February.
Past and present experiences for both teams ensure that it will be the most captivating tie of all eight, with a lot riding on the result for each club. For Juventus, this match presents a chance to put to bed the doubts of many writing them off as a European giant. While for Dortmund, pride is on the line after their domestic issues so far this season.
Juve’s European Struggles
Juventus have produced some lacklustre performances this season and last, and they will be hoping to make amends after scraping into the knockout rounds by one point after a 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid on Matchday 6 gave them the edge over Greek outfit Olympiakos.
In recent times, Juventus have drawn 1-1 with Copenhagen, drawn 2-2 and lost 1-0 to Galatasaray (the result which condemned them to Europa League football last season), and this season lost 1-0 against Olympiakos, and also won a sketchy-come from behind 3-2 win over the Greek champions at home. If they had lost that match, they would once again be playing in the Europa League this season.
Recently, Massimiliano Allegri stated that he wants Juventus to be recognised as one of the best club sides in Europe.
“We need to try to play a great Champions League, Juventus deserve to be among the top eight in Europe,” Allegri said.
Allegri wants to prove himself to the Juventus faithful, and the match against Dortmund presents him with the perfect opportunity to not just get a good result, but to get one over an old rival for Bianconero who will vividly remember the Champions League Final in 1997.
Ex-Juventus youth product Ciro Immobile moved to Germany over the summer after Dortmund acquired both halves of the Italian striker’s contract from Juventus and Torino respectively, for a combined total of around €20m.
Recently, Immobile came out with some stinging comments for his former side in relation to the Champions League draw, before it was held on Monday.
“Could we pick Juventus in the draw for the round of 16? I’d prefer not, as I hope we’ll meet further along the line,” he told Tuttosport.
“I am a Granata and I have the Toro in my heart so I hope that my Borussia Dortmund eliminates Juventus from the CL.”
While these comments were made in December, it is clear (especially for Juve supporters) that if Immobile does take to the field on Wednesday night, it will bring some sort of inflammatory aspect to this match. Expect the Juventus faithful to leave nothing in reserve.
Dortmund’s League Position
With two wins and two runners-up places in the last two incarnations of the German Bundesliga, not two mention a Champions League Final loss less than two years ago in May 2013, Borussia Dortmund have surprised many with their struggles in the Bundesliga this season. Dortmund are currently languishing in twelfth position, just four points ahead of 17th placed Hertha Berlin.
Just three matches ago Dortmund were last in the league, but they have experienced some sort of resurgence – led by key player Marco Reus. Returning from injury, Reus has guided his side to three wins from their last three, including important wins over other relegation threatened sides: Mainz, Freiburg, and Stuttgart, the current 11th, 16th and 18th placed teams in the league.
But Juventus need to find a way to put this aside. Dortmund will be a completely different side in the Champions League to the one that has struggled in the Bundesliga. In fact, Dortmund’s lightning-fast counter-attacking style is likely to cause Juventus’ defenders a lot of problems with players like Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang attacking the flanks.
In 1997, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus contested a Champions League Final played at a different Olympiastadion to the one that will host this season’s final in Berlin. Juventus were favourites heading into the match, and were undoubtedly the best team in the world at that time. However, it was not to be; Dortmund ran out 3-1 winners thanks to a brace from Karl-Heinz Riedler, and lifted the trophy in front of a home crowd.
That was the last time these two teams met, over 17 years ago. Finally Juventus have a chance to avenge their stunning defeat – one of seven Champions League/European Cup Final losses in the Old Lady’s long and illustrious history. Juventus will need to put history behind them, and prove they are the team that three consecutive Serie A titles suggests they should be.
Written by Stephen Ganavas
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