Borussia Dortmund are set to host Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie. BVB’s Marco Reus could be set to make his return against the high-scoring French side.
Borussia Dortmund welcome French league leaders Monaco to the Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night for the first leg of a hotly anticipated Champions League quarterfinal. After five weeks out with a muscle tear, BVB star Marco Reus could be set to make his return as the Black and Yellows look to bounce back from Saturday’s chastening 4-1 defeat to Bayern Munich.
“Sometimes it’s best not to dwell too long on results like that,” coach Thomas Tuchel told reporters at the prematch press conference on Monday. “Bayern were on another level to us and we don’t need 20 replays to show us that.”
Dortmund were forced to travel to Munich with a severely depleted squad after midfielders Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa both picked up knocks last week, but both are back in training and should return to action against Monaco. Lukas Piszceck, who remained on the bench as a precaution against Bayern, is also set to start with Dortmund likely to revert to a back four. Longer-term absentees André Schürrle, Erik Durm and Mario Götze are still out.
“We’re confident that Weigl, Kagawa and Piszczek will be fit,” said Tuchel. “Marco [Reus] trained yesterday and will again tomorrow. Then we’ll decide if he’s ready or not. Given our injury situation, it could be more likely he’ll be involved, or at least in the dressing room.”
Attack, attack, attack
In Dortmund and Monaco, the draw will see two of the most exciting young teams in Europe go head to head. Dortmund overcame a 0-1 deficit by hammering Benfica 4-0 in the last round. The Monegasques, three points clear of champions PSG at the top of Ligue 1, have already scored an incredible 130 goals in all competitions this season, including 88 in the league – more than any team in Europe’s top four domestic leagues.
“Monaco have many top players,” Tuchel said. “They have outstanding talent both individually and as a team. It’s difficult to pick out one single player.”
“We’ll practise combatting Monaco’s strengths but we want to concentrate on our own strengths and score as many goals as possible with our fans behind us.”
Dortmund are not short of firepower themselves. Only Bayern have scored more goals in the Bundesliga this season while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembelé, Christian Pulisic and co. found the net a record 21 times in this season’s Champions League group stage. Nevertheless, captain Marcel Schmelzer (29) believes that defense is what will decide this tie.
“It’s a 50-50 battle,” Schmelzer said in comments published in Monday’s edition of German football magazine “Kicker.”
“Both teams like to attack but we have to make sure we defend better with more intelligence and more ruthlessness. We know Monaco score a lot of goals but big victories and titles are won based on a well-functioning defense. Our defenders have more international experience – we have to use this to our advantage.”
French national team coach Didier Deschamps agreed, writing in the same publication that he expected an “offensive spectacle.”
“Both teams rely on youth, pace and attacking football and make the most of their forwards’ individual qualities,” he said. “But the key will be elsewhere. The team who defend best will progress.”
Defense will be key
Left back Schmelzer had a torrid time against Bayern winger Arjen Robben on Saturday and knows he will have to up his game against one of Europe’s most formidable attacks. In striker Kylian Mbappé (18), winger Thomas Lemar (21) and full back Bemjamin Mendy (22), this Monaco side features some of French football’s hottest young talents. Experienced Colombian striker Radamel Falcao also returned from a four-week layoff at the weekend, scoring the only goal as Monaco beat Angers 1-0.
Fortunately for Dortmund, key midfield powerhouse Tiemoué Bakayoko will miss the first leg through suspension and could be replaced by Portuguese international Joao Moutinho. Marauding right back Djibril Sidibé is also set to miss out with an appendix problem.
Monaco’s three away goals in their 5-3 first-leg defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the previous round ultimately proved decisive in the second leg and Leonardo Jardim will be expecting his team to take at least one away goal back to the principality this time as well. Dortmund have been guilty of wasting chances this season but they cannot afford to do so if they are to progress in the Champions League.