Borussia Dortmund will attempt to overturn their first-leg defeat against Benfica on Wednesday, as the Bundesliga giants host the Portuguese side in the return leg of their UEFA Champions League tie.
Benfica were the better team in the first leg and deservedly walked away with a 1-0 advantage, but BVB have improved their form since then, culminating in an impressive 6-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend.
Injuries remain an issue for the hosts, who will nonetheless like their chances of advancing.
Date: Wednesday, March 8
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
TV Info: BT Sport 3 (UK), Fox Sports 2 (U.S.)
Per WhoScored.com, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus remain sidelined, alongside long-term absentees Sven Bender, Nuri Sahin and Sebastian Rode, thus greatly diminishing the team's depth and overall quality.
Gotze's setback in particular came as a huge shock. As shared by Squawka News, his problem is far more rare:
Squawka News @SquawkaNews
BREAKING: Borussia Dortmund announce that Mario Gotze will remain sidelined for some time after being diagnosed with a metabolic disorder. https://t.co/VH5t6GCXDN2017-2-27 14:55:06
Benfica have been without Alex Grimaldo for some time now, while Nelson Semedo missed the league match against Feirense but will return on Wednesday, per WhoScored.com.
Possible Dortmund XI: Roman Burki, Marc Bartra, Sokratis, Matthias Ginter, Raphael Guerreiro, Julian Weigl, Gonzalo Castro, Lukasz Piszczek, Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Possible Benfica XI: Ederson Moraes, Nelson Semedo, Luisao, Victor Lindelof, Eliseu, Andreas Samaris, Pizzi, Andrija Zivkovic, Andre Carrillo, Rafa, Kostas Mitroglou
Reus' injury in the win over Leverkusen was the latest setback in a long line for Dortmund, who are expected to go into Wednesday's match with an attack spearheaded by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and several youngsters.
Per Boris Rupert of the club's official website, manager Thomas Tuchel admitted Reus' loss was a huge one: "It's a real blow, as over the last few weeks and in particular in the opening stages today [Sunday], which I felt were somewhat sluggish, Marco was the one who consistently got us going, who took the responsibility, who was alert."
The likes of Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele have impressed in the Bundesliga this season, but asking them to play a key role in a major Champions League match is a whole other matter.
Dortmund haven't been overly reliant on their biggest stars this season, a point that was made clear against Leverkusen, per ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko:
Stefan Buczko @StefanBuczko
Dortmund roll on with superb team performance vs. Leverkusen https://t.co/25FPMfDuEq2017-3-4 20:40:11
But in the Champions League, elite veteran talent often makes the difference, and Benfica have those types of players. Kostas Mitroglou has been in excellent form, and he'll be one player to keep an eye on.
Benfica are on an impressive win streak that started early in February, and momentum lies with the visitors. They haven't been tested much in that span, apart from the encounter with the Germans at the Estadio da Luz.
Their numbers this season have been impressive, but almost all of their losses have come away from home. The Signal Iduna Park is one of the loudest stadiums on the continent and gives Dortmund a huge boost whenever they play―Benfica's struggles away from home could be exposed if Tuchel's troops play their cards right.
Prediction: BVB 3-1 Benfica