UEFA Champions League: Why Borussia Dortmund Should Be Favorites
In last year's Champions League, Borussia Dortmund were dismissed from the group stage with their tails between their legs, rock-bottom of Group F, with only a solitary win against Olympiacos to their credit.
What a difference a year makes.
Despite being drawn into a group comprising the champions of England, Spain and the Netherlands, they lead Group D and are the most likely to progress to the Round of 16. And not only are they favorites to reign over Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax in the 'Group of Death', but they are strong contenders to go all the way.
Most bookmakers regard Die Borussen as the fourth or fifth favourites to take the trophy at Wembley next May, ranking Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester Utd and Bayern Munich as more likely candidates for European glory.
Yet some of the biggest names in the game have backed Jürgen Klopp's double-winning side.
Speaking the night before the Germans visited the Bernabeu, Jose Mourinho said,"If Borussia Dortmund get through the group, they're candidates to win the tournament."
The following night, of course, the Germans were minutes away from a second consecutive 2-1 win over Los Blancos, before Mesut Özil put away a brilliant last-gasp equaliser.
On Tuesday night, Sir Alex Ferguson produced an extremely rare moment of agreeing with The Special One, telling journalists that his favorites to win the competition––aside from Manchester Utd, presumably––were Real Madrid, Barcelona and Dortmund.
Let's consider the teams who may halt the reigning Bundesliga champs in their quest to recapture the trophy they last earned in 1997.
Firstly, with their two most recent games, they have shown they are more than capable of beating favourites Real Madrid.
Manchester Utd have a history of prevailing in this competition––and one of upsetting German sides!––but their group-topping undefeated campaign belies a defence that has been conceding too many unnecessary goals, both domestically and on the continent. It's not hard to imagine Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Mario Götze capitalising on this.
Barcelona could pose a threat, but they are another side whose defending has left a lot to be desired––just look at how they were caught out on the break by Celtic's second goal in Wednesday's shock 2-1 defeat in Scotland. In La Liga, they have conceded an average 1.2 goals per game this season, a notable increase on last year's rate of 0.76 goals per game.
This leaves Dortmund's fierce Bundesliga rivals: Bayern Munich. Die Roten are eleven points clear of last year's champions in the German top flight, and eliminated Lille from the Champions League this week with a humiliating 6-1 rout at the Allianz Arena.
However, Dortmund have beaten Jupp Heynckes' side in five of their last six meetings, including a riveting 5-2 demolition in the DFB-Pokal in May. A similar final meeting between these two German powerhouses is a thrilling––and highly likely––prospect.
Dortmund may be languishing in fifth place in the Bundesliga this season, but based on how well they have been performing on Champions League game nights, this is surely a telling indication of Jürgen Klopp's priorities. Besides, failing to scale the domestic pinnacle does not necessarily imply a lack of European success: Chelsea finished sixth in the Premier League last year, and you probably do not need reminding of how well they fared in this competition.
Borussia Dortmund play fast, direct and highly entertaining football, and their abilities in the final third are devastating. How many defences would you deem capable of shutting down Lewandowski, Reus, Götze and Błaszczykowski? Dortmund, after all, have only failed to score in two games in 2012.
Die Schwarzgelben have plenty of hurdles to overcome before May, but if their electric European form persists, the European Cup will be heading back to North Rhine-Westphalia.
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