The whistles have blown, the stadiums have cleared and now there stands four giants of football left in this season’s Champions League competition. Fans will now have their eyes set on Friday’s draw for the next round with dreams of Wembley fully intact.
But for Cules there remains a great concern over who Barcelona could be matched up with next in their attempt to lift the Champions League trophy.
Though all three possible opponents will be daunting, Borussia Dortmund stands out as the hopeful draw for La Blaugrana.
No matter whom the Catalans face from here on out it will be extremely difficult. Anyone could lift the Champions League trophy in May and Barcelona is all too aware of the threats that each tea poses.
So why will Barcelona be hoping for two legs against the German comeback kids? Here are just a few of the key points of why Dortmund is the best matchup for Barcelona to book their ticket to Wembley.
La Blaugrana has staked their reputation on the ability to keep possession and dominate in the middle of the pitch. While Dortmund possess a deadly attack and strong defense, their deep lying midfielders will not be able to stifle the play of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
The likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender all boast wonderful individual skill but when tasked with holding the midfield and keeping Lionel Messi at bay one has to think they will not be up to the task.
Barcelona would be able to enjoy their possession around the box and force Dortmund’s defenders to make the big plays which could ultimately cost the Germans.
Also with such an advantage in midfield, Barcelona would most likely be able to stifle the connection between Dortmund’s defense and quick attackers.
Overlapping wing play
With so much attention given to Messi centrally, Barcelona will look to spread the field and use width to attack a strong Dortmund defense.
If La Blaugrana does opt to use heavy emphasis on the wings against the German side they will most likely be rewarded. Borussia Dortmund boasts a very strong back line, but their outside defenders would find closing down the Barcelona attack very difficult.
Lukasz Piszczek may be one of the best right-backs in world football but it is highly unlikely that he could handle the pressure put on him by a Barcelona winger, Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba.
Alba has been a phenomenal attacking option when working with Andres Iniesta.
The duo is able to overlap and make space for each other than requires a secondary defender to push out wide. Dortmund would not have many options to help and Iniesta would most certainly be able to work his magic.
On the other side of the Dortmund defense lies the weakest point in the defense in Marcel Schmelzer.
An attack accompanied by Dani Alves would easily be too much for the left-back to deal with and would allow more chances in the box for Lionel Messi and the other attackers.
Whether it is Pedro or Alexis Sanchez on the right side of the attack to aid Alves, Schmelzer in no way can hold off overlapping play with Brazilian adding pace and crosses into the box.
Dortmund’s Lack of Depth
On paper Borussia Dortmund can match up well with almost any club in the world. But the Germans could find themselves in danger when the time calls for a move to the bench.
Dortmund’s first choice lineup is very strong, but other than that their squad is severely lacking.
It was exposed against Malaga when the Spanish side took advantage of a tired and thin squad. Against Barcelona, the Germans would need more than just their main 11 performers.
Over two legs it is hard to see Dortmund being able to keep up with Barcelona without suffering from fatigue and the exhaustion that accompanies defending the Catalan’s tiki-taka style of play.
If one player is forced to miss a match, expect Barcelona to make quick work of the space afforded.
Dortmund is Simply Weaker
No matter how you look at it, when all four remaining clubs are compared, it is Dortmund that is seen as the weakest link. Their inexperience and weaknesses put them at a disadvantage and the other clubs will probably be hoping to draw the German side.
When looking at possibly matchups with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, it is easy to see why Barcelona would not want to see them in the next round.
Real Madrid is finding their best form of the season and has already taken care of Barcelona twice this calendar year. Also looking at Ronaldo and company running at that weakened Barcelona defense should give Cules chills right now.
On the other side there isn’t a club in the tournament quite like Bayern Munich.
Their strength has been very obvious throughout the season and their weaknesses relatively nonexistent. Most would agree that they are the favorites at this point and a meeting with Barcelona would surely give the Catalans much to handle.
So by pure process of elimination and looking at the matchups and issues with Dortmund it is clear that Tito Vilanova will be hoping to be drawn with Die Borussen. It is Barcelona’s best bet to get to Wembley and possibly the only matchup at this point that will likely see the Catalans advance further.
Who do you think Barcelona wants to get drawn with? Who do you want to see take on the Catalans? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Barcelona and the Champions League.