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Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund: The game no one expected

When the draw for the group stage of the Champions League was first made, few would have imagined this being a second-round match.  But both clubs have reached the knock-out stage on merit and are more than capable of serving up a classic.

Drawn in what many called “the group of death”, Borussia Dortmund showed the rest of Europe what Bundesliga fans had grown accustomed to: topping the group unbeaten, taking four points off Real Madrid and consigning Manchester City to an early exit.

Jürgen Klopp’s team are fast becoming the talk of Europe, in no small part due to the number of their players regularly linked elsewhere.  But for now their squad remains intact and has every chance of making a real impact in this year’s competition.

Marco Reus

Currently 15 points behind Bayern Munich, Klopp will see Europe as more than an escape hatch from domestic inconsistency; he will see it as a chance to replicate the club’s 1997 Champions League success.  In what is likely to be Robert Lewandowski’s last season for the club, the Polish striker can punish a team with the second worst defensive record in the group stage.

But then you would also have said that of Chelsea, who lost 2-1 in the Ukraine and only won at Stamford Bridge after Victor Moses’ 94th-minute rescue act.

Shakhtar have been making steady progress in Europe since their 2009 Europa League success, and much like Dortmund, came through a tough group with aplomb.

Currently on a break from domestic competition, the Ukrainian champions and league leaders have been keeping match fit with a series of friendlies.  Whether that will be enough to keep out the likes of Lewandowski and Mario Götze, and find a way past the imposing defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotić, is another matter.

But having won all but one of their 18 league games so far, and having played their part in ousting reigning European champions Chelsea, Mircea Lucescu’s team will be confident of going further. With the creativity and goal scoring threat of Luiz Adriano, Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho, the dark horses could beat the other dark horses at their own game.

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Can Borussia Dortmund Emulate the Champions League Winning Side of 1997?

Only one team were ever going to win this season’s Bundesliga, as Jurgen Klopp’s surprise package Borussia Dortmund have impressed from day one with their attacking and free-flowing style of football, reminiscent of the 1997 side that were crowned European Champions. With the league title all but in the bag and BVB set to compete in Europe’s top club compeition next season for the first time since 2002, can the German side turn the clock back 15 years and emulate Ottmar Hitzfeld’s star-studded side?
Die Borussen’s transformation has been quite amazing under Klopp, as the ex-Mainz coach has led the club from 6th and 5th placed finishes in 2008-09 and 2009-10 to Germany’s top team this campaign. Signal Iduna Park has witnessed some exciting and enthralling displays from a team largely under 25 and without the big name international players like 97’s Sammer, Moller, Riedle and co that beat Juventus 3-1 in the final all those years ago.
However their illustrious forefathers may be outdone by Dortmund’s current crop, and Klopp’s first objective in the search for success is to keep his star players at the club, many of which have been linked with moves to some of Europe’s elite. The side have quality across the park, with match winners and savers combined in a 4-5-1 formation that can change to 4-3-3 when the side attack.
Centre back pairing Mats Hummels and Serbian Neven Subotic, both 22 years old, have looked like Sammer and Kohler reincarnated and been the reason the club have only conceded 18 goals in this year’s Bundesliga, 16 less than the second stingiest defensive in the league. Holding midfielder Sven Bender came into the side after injury to Sebastien Kehl, and hasn’t looked back, playing 28 of the club’s 30 games this season and forcing his way into the Joachim Loew’s German national set-up.
Bender’s closing of opposition and work rate have been a perfect foil for Dortmund other central midfielder and arguably brightest star, Nuri Sahin. The German born Turkey international has been in mercurial form this season, scoring six goals from midfield and showing guile and creativity to create nine more. Sahin represents new Dortmund and the club must keep him amidst interest from Real Madrid and Inter if they are to progress as a team.
Added to this are 18 year old attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, who has been one of the season’s revelations with his ball control and skill reportedly catching the eye of Manchester United and Barcelona. Sole attacker Lucas Barrios is the club’s top scorer, with the Argentine striker hitting the back of the net 18 times this season.
With so much quality and youthful exuberance Dortmund will be a tough test for the teams they face in next year’s Champions League, and Klopp will look to strengthen further in the summer. Despite this however, the class of 2011 do not have the experience of the 97 team, and will face a much tougher European field from strong English and Spanish clubs. Schalke have shown this season that progression to the latter stages of the tournament is possible, but the youngsters donning the black and yellow in today’s Dortmund team must stick together and grow as a unit if they are to equal the success of the club’s past masters.

Published – http://www.bundesligatalk.com/can-borussia-dortmund-emulate-the-champions-league-winning-side-of-1997/2350

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