What: UEFA Champions League – Group D
Who: Borussia Dortmund vs Manchester City
When: Tuesday 4th December, 2012, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany
Plain Sailing for Borussia Dortmund
In contrast to their opponents Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s side have strolled impressively through the Champions League group stage a year after being shown up in Europe. Last season, Dortmund played well enough, but they lacked European know-how and experience, and they have shown the difference a year can make. Their high tempo pressing game, allied to slick and rapid interchanging of passes, has done for their group opponents. Even Real Madrid have struggled to contain Dortmund’s effervescent approach.
When Dortmund met Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, they played the English champions off the pitch and it was remarkable that they did not take all three points back to Germany. But now, guaranteed their place in the Round of 16 as group winners, the German champions know they will avoid Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the next round, arguably the two strongest contenders for this season’s trophy. Dortmund themselves have been touted as potential champions, and although they lack the experience of Barcelona and Bayern Munich they certainly are not wanting in terms of quality.
There is no doubt that the return of Jakub Blaszczykowski has been a significant boost as Dortmund have rediscovered their domestic form, climbing to third above local rivals Schalke. However, the Ruhr giants have fallen behind Bayern Munich, who they met at the weekend in the Bundesliga, the two playing out a 1-1 draw that leaves the title race as it was. With Bayern Munich in full control of the Bundesliga, it would be natural to understand if Klopp turns his attention towards Europe after the winter break.
Much to Play for Still for Roberto Mancini
Manchester City know that they will once again miss out on the knockout phase of the Champions League, although unlike last season, they stand a real chance of also being absent from the Europa League. The Citizens must win this match to stand a chance of beating Ajax to third place in the group and continue their European experience. While the Europa League can be viewed as more of a burden than a benefit for Mancini’s side, with it comes vital UEFA coefficient points.
Mancini’s men are currently 19th in the UEFA coefficients, and without any opportunity to add to their overall points this season they would struggle to break into the second group of seeds in time for next season’s Champions League. Not only that, but if they fail to make it to the Europa League then the likes of Ajax, Tottenham, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain will all be breathing down their necks and in position to overtake them.
Complicating matters for Mancini is the Manchester derby this weekend with Manchester United, who have enjoyed serene progress in the competition and can rest their key players ahead of the pivotal top of the table clash at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Everton means they are three points behind their rivals and cannot afford to lose the derby. Not for the first time, the Italian has a fine balancing act to manage.
Mainz 1-2 Borussia Dortmund (24/11; Bundesliga)
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf (27/11; Bundesliga)
Bayern Munich 1–1 Borussia Dortmund (01/12; Bundesliga)
Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City (25/11; Premier League)
Wigan 0-2 Manchester City (28/11; Premier League)
Manchester City 1-1 Everton (01/12; Premier League)
Borussia Dortmund: Sven Bender (doubt); Sebastien Kehl; Neven Subotic
Manchester City: Micah Richards; Jack Rodwell; James Milner; Gael Clichy; Aleksandar Kolarov; David Silva
Players to watch
Borussia Dortmund – Marco Reus: The German forward has been one of the stars of the season so far for Dortmund. He has settled in brilliantly since his move from Borussia Monchengladbach and formed a lethal partnership with Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze. Reus has already scored 12 goals and set up eight this season. In Europe he has been a pivotal figure, opening the scoring three times for the German champions. The pacey, skilful forward will be a real threat to the Manchester City defence down the left and he must be stopped if the Citizens are to take anything from the Westfalenstadion.
Manchester City – Carlos Tevez: Last time Manchester City played in Germany, Tevez refused to warm up after being summoned from the bench by Mancini. The Italian said that Tevez was finished then, but a golf break and a mini-collapse from the team later domestically, and he returned to the fold. Now forgiven, Tevez’s work rate and skill are particularly important when Manchester City are struggling to put together cohesive performances, as at the moment. There should be no repeat of last year’s histrionics, but with a midfield that has struggled to cope in Europe so far this season, it may just require a bit of brilliance from one of their forwards to win the visitors a spot in the Europa League.
Bizarrely, Manchester City have lost both games in which they have scored first in this season’s Champions League, but drawn the three games in which they have fallen behind. That is a reflection of Mancini’s ability to make radical tactical changes to put things right, but underlines question marks over the way he sets his teams up, particularly in Europe.
The main problem for Manchester City is the lack of a proficient passer from deep in midfield. Mancini sold Nigel de Jong in the summer and replaced him with Javi Garcia with the aim of having better distribution from deeper areas, but he has not settled into the system well yet, and has struggled to keep up with high tempo midfields. It would therefore be a surprise if he plays here, and Mancini will need Yaya Toure to drop back and play more of a role in the middle third of the pitch.
The key to Dortmund’s brilliance is the high paced pressure game they play, but conversely when the German side are not implementing their usual game plan properly it can have a serious effect on their overall performance. If their intensity drops by just a few per cent, that can be enough to cede the initiative to their opponents. In a game the Germans do not even have to draw, and with much work to do domestically, it would not be a surprise to see the home side perform below their best. Even so, Dortmund have never lost a home game to an English side, and Manchester City’s midfield does not seem to have the all-round strength to take full advantage. Expect open spaces at both ends of the pitch and a high scoring draw. Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Manchester City.
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