Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid, 2013 UEFA Champions League: Preview

Lars Baron

Who's going to end an era with a bang? The band's breaking up soon at the Westfalenstadion, while Jose Mourinho probably won't be at Real Madrid much longer.

If you fell asleep for a few months, no, you didn't get thrown into a time machine. Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid are playing each other again after they both advanced to the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League, just in case you had any doubts about whether or not Group D in this year's competition was the nastiest group of death ever. Dortmund needed a late miracle (and an offside goal) to get here, but they're here nonetheless, and they have no reason not to be confident.

Der BVB got the better of Real Madrid in their first two meetings, taking four points from them to finish on top of the group. That forced Los Merengues into a tough Round of 16 tie with Manchester United, which they got through, aided by a bit of questionable officiating. Feel free to claim that these teams have no right to be here, bitter Malaga and Man United supporters.

This could be the last hurrah for both managers in their current posts, and even if Jürgen Klopp stays at Dortmund, it's certainly just about the end of an era for his team. Mario Götze has already agreed in principle to move to Bayern Munich in the summer, and it's expected that Robert Lewandowski will follow him out the door. The likes of Marco Reus, Ilkay Gündogan and Mats Hummels will undoubtedly be linked to Spain, Italy, England and France's biggest clubs all summer long as well. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho will probably be let go by Madrid if he fails to win the Champions League, and he'll probably leave of his own accord for a job at another big club if he succeeds in capturing the trophy for the third time in his career.

Team news

Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender have all picked up knocks recently, but all of them are expected to be available to start for Klopp.

Alvaro Arbeloa is suspended for Real Madrid, while a number of other players are dealing with nagging injuries. Michael Essien, Fabio Coentrão, Luka Modric and Marcelo are all looking to shake off knocks. They're all making the trip to Dortmund, but it's not entirely clear who will be fit to start and who won't. Angel Di Maria's wife has recently given birth, and his inclusion in the team or lack thereof is to be determined.

Projected lineups

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weidenfeller; Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek; Ilkay Gündogan, Sven Bender; Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Jakub Blaszczykowski; Robert Lewandowski

Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez; Fabio Coentrão, Pepe, Raphäel Varane, Sergio Ramos; Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso; Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Özil, Angel Di Maria; Gonzalo Higuain

football formations

What to watch for

How similar are the teams? - We know that Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich have similar personnel, lining up in the same formation and playing the same style, but will anything about the game negate that? Will Dortmund play more conservatively against Madrid than they do against inferior opponents? Will either team care about the crowd or away goals and adjust their strategy accordingly? It's possible, but it's also possible that they just decide to go at each other like it's any other game.

Are Madrid pissed off about the group stage? - Because, seriously, they got made to look less than intimidating by Dortmund on a couple of occasions. Don't be stunned if Mou has his boys playing mad from the outset.

What's the tactic against Ronaldo? - Klopp has rotated all four of his central midfielders, who are similar in quality, and he could play any two of the four on Wednesday. The reason Bender is projected as the starter above is because he's easily the most athletic and physical of the four, and he'll probably be used to keep an eye on Ronaldo. Look out for that, or what Dortmund is doing instead if Bender doesn't start.

How does Mario Götze look early? - He's a professional and will probably play like he does in every other match, but he's also human. It won't be stunning if he looks a bit distracted and off the pace. While there's a very good chance that Götze's imminent transfer to Bayern is irrelevant, the timing of the announcement stinks for Dortmund, and the commentators will certainly start crucifying him after his second questionable touch or pass of the night. Because, you know, narratives.

Prediction

We've seen this game before. Twice. The only real difference between the match at the Bernabeu and the one at the Westfalenstadion is that Real Madrid found a late equalizer at home. Neither team has seen their squad or circumstances in their domestic league change significantly since the group stage. Neither team has any serious injuries and neither has altered their tactics. Is there any reason to predict a different result, other than the fact that these Dortmund players have never played a game this late in the Champions League? Dortmund deserved the results they got in both of their matches against Madrid, and we'll believe they were legitimate until proven otherwise. 2-1 Dortmund.

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