For Borussia Dortmund, the hopes of a Bundesliga title have long ended. The team currently sits third in the table, a whopping 20 points behind leaders Bayern Munich. So for the team that reached the Champions League final a year ago, the priority now presumably is to return to that final and win it this time around.
The next step in that journey is a round of 16 matchup against Zenit. The Russian side is currently embroiled in a domestic title chase unlike their German opponents, tied with Lokomotiv Moscow atop the Russian Premier League table and just a point ahead of Spartak Moscow.
Can they hold serve at home in this tie and get off to a good start against a stronger Dortmund side? Or will the Germans break through on the road and head back to Germany in the driver's seat?
Let's break down this Champions League matchup.
When: Tuesday at noon ET
Tuesday at 5 p.m. GMT
Where: Stadion Petrovskij, St. Petersburg, Russia
Watch: Fox Sports 1; Fox Sports 2Go; Sky Sports 1 (U.K.)
There will be fears that Zenit will be a bit rusty coming into this game. The team has been on their winter break and hasn't played a competitive match since early December, though they have participated in several friendlies.
Still, there is quite a difference between a friendly and playing a team of Dortmund's caliber in the Champions League. And though Zenit struggled in the group stage, earning just six points and one win but somehow advancing, manager Luciano Spalletti told UEFA.com earlier this month that he isn't worried about his squad:
We have played in the Champions League for many years now, and we've fought well this season. The team live for this competition and their careers are driven by it.
We were unfortunate not to beat Porto at home and played against Austria with ten men for more than an hour. We deserved to collect more points, but overall we can be happy with our performance.
But the Dortmund team that Zenit will face is hardly at full strength. Per Nesha Starcevic of the Associated Press (via the Miami Herald), the club will be without Sven Bender, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ilkay Gundogan and Neven Subotic, while Mats Hummels remains doubtful.
That's an incredible amount of talent to play without, so perhaps Zenit will take heart in the depleted ranks of the German side. Still, Dortmund is an extremely dangerous team, in no small part to their pair of world-class strikers.
Robert Lewandowski is not the only threat in Dortmund's attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been almost as effective—and perhaps even more so since he's played fewer minutes than Lewandowski.
In the Bundesliga, Lewandowski has scored 14 goals and Aubameyang 13. They've scored in four of the previous six Champions League matches this season and counting all competitions, they have accounted for 35 of Dortmund's 70 goals.
With Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan also joining the attack, the German side can still blitzkrieg an opponent's goal as well as any other team in Europe. Dortmund may be playing without a few of their top guns, but they can still put the ball in the net, even away from home.
Zenit will take comfort knowing the first leg of this matchup is at home and Dortmund is at less than full strength. The German side will be hoping Zenit comes out rusty.
Even though they are beat up, the German side still looks stronger on paper. But waltzing into St. Petersburg and coming out a winner is no easy task, and Dortmund won't open this tie with a win. They will begin things with a draw, however.
Expect this one to finish in a 1-1 score, giving Dortmund a serious advantage heading back home for the second leg.
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