Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund are two of the fastest and fittest teams on earth, so it came as no surprise when the two produced an exciting 2-2 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. Both teams refused to change their normal style of play despite having to play a very similar opponent, and the winner was the neutral viewer.
Der BVB appeared to benefit from playing the first leg of this tie away from home. The result of the first leg of this tie might have been the same no matter where they played it, but Dortmund look like they have a serious advantage now that they have two away goals. A 0-0 or 1-1 draw will send them through to the next round.
While tactics play a part in all matches, this one will come down more to the performances of individuals than any strategic moves both the two managers. Don't expect Jürgen Klopp or Mircea Lucescu to do anything out of the ordinary. They're going to let their players go to work in identical formations with minimal frills, and the better players will win.
Mats Hummels, who has been out with the flu since the match in Donetsk*, could potentially return on Tuesday. He'll have to pass a late fitness test to feature in the match. He scored in the first leg, but also didn't really cover himself in glory on Shakhtar's second goal. Felipe Santana is a capable defender and there's not much drop-off if he has to play. Otherwise, everyone's fit for Der BVB.
*You should have put on your darn hat and mittens instead of going out in the cold half-naked, why don't you ever listen to your mother?
The only injury concern for Shakhtar is Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who did not travel to Germany with his team. Like Dortmund, Shakhtar's second- and third-best central defenders are just as capable as their injured star.
Projected lineups (left to right)
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Marcel Schmelzer, Felipe Santana, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek; Ilkay Gündogan, Sebastian Kehl; Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Jakub Blaszczykowski; Robert Lewandowski
Shakhtar Donetsk (4-2-3-1): Andriy Pyatov; Razvan Rat, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Oleksandr Kucher, Darijo Srna; Tomas Hübschman, Fernandinho; Taison, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Teixeira; Luiz Adriano
Dortmund's CBs vs. Shakhtar's midfielders: Hummels failed to spot a run from Douglas Costa that led to Shakhtar's second goal in the first leg, and many of Shakhtar's goals this season have come via runs from deep by Fernandinho and Mkhitaryan. Dortmund's midfielders and fullbacks will have to track runners, as always, but their central defenders can't hang them out to dry. It's unreasonable to expect their midfielders and fullbacks to shut down every run before it gets started. Subotic and Santana (or Hummels) will have to be alert and anticipate those runs from deep.
Darijo Srna vs. Roman Weidenfeller: Srna scored Shakhtar's opener on a free kick in the first leg, and he's going to get chances to score from free kicks again. While Srna's free kick was excellent, Weidenfeller was a bit slow to react and could have made a save. If he's not on top of his game, it wouldn't be shocking to see Srna score from a dead ball again.
The managers vs. the possibility of extra time: Another 2-2 draw could certainly be on the cards, given how evenly matched these two teams are and how quickly they play. The two managers will have to manage their substitutions and the pace of their teams' play accordingly. While these are two of the fittest teams on the planet, a few players are bound to wear out after 120 minutes of football at a break-neck pace.
The match ends in another draw, but not one that benefits the visitors. Dortmund's defense is a bit stronger than the away leg, ending in a 1-1 draw that sends them through to the quarterfinals on away goals.