It’s not a surprise that Borussia Dortmund are in the Champions League semifinals, despite not being at this stage for over a decade. Winning two Bundesliga titles means there’s true quality to this side, beginning with is excellent head coach Jurgen Klopp, building his team around an equality theory of defense and attack, with Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski standing out in their attacking ability.
When you look at their record in the competition this season – undefeated up to this point, including away draws in their matches in the knockout stage and a perfect record at home, and their win and draw against Real Madrid during the group stage, you end up with a team that might be considered favorites to go all the way, despite the big names surrounding them.
There’s a reason Borussia Dortmund are the only team left in the competition without a single loss this season in the Champions League, and probably more than one. But when you think about Dortmund, despite the abundance of talented players and potential stars, there isn’t one name that stands out before the rest. When Bayern Munich tweaked their winning squad earlier this season, they thought of what Klopp did with Dortmund during the previous two seasons. A team that defends and attacks as one, most of the time at least, with the ability to counter attack through their extremely talented players, with fitness being a key part of the plan, able to remain focused and dangerous through the most physical of matches up until the final seconds of injury time.
A Real Striker
There aren’t that many world class strikers left in the world. The change in tactics and focus on other positions has left the kind of Robert Lewandowski to be a rare breed. Lewandowski can do it all – he’s fast, incredibly strong and adept in the air, not to mention a keen eye for goals in big matches, scoring 23 goals in the Bundesliga and six more in the Champions League. Real Madrid had a very hard time handling him in the first two encounters, commanding too much focus from the central defense, not managing to cover him with just one player. Lewandowski is the only striker of this caliber Real have seen all season, in Europe and the league. Lewandowski wants to leave with a good taste in his mouth and an opportunity to improve his next contract from a big club around Europe. Expect him to be at his best for the rest of the way.
Mario Gotze and Marco Reus
The future of German football, along with other players, playing together in the attacking midfield. Both Gotze and Reus proved to be too much trouble for Real Madrid during the first two matches between the sides, especially in the first half of the 2-2 draw in Madrid. Reus might be the one that seems to be the hard-working of the two, but that only leaves teams only more stunned when he pulls off something creative. Gotze might be the “talent” of the two, but his work rate is a lot more impressive than his slightly chubby build. The two play as fast as possible when they combine in 1-2 passes, with Reus’ off the ball movement being very hard to track. It’s impossible to focus and shut down both of them at once, especially during Dortmund’s counter attacking phases. Proving that they’re both better than Mesut Ozil serves as a motivational point each time they face him as well.
The first thing that stood out for Jose Mourinho after being beaten away and barely salvaging a draw at home was how his team was inferior in almost every position when it came to fitness and strength against Dortmund. Mats Hummels is fit again, which makes their defense a lot more formidable than before, and the tense moments against Malaga something that shouldn’t be repeated once again. Real Madrid, as do Barcelona, have a big problem with physical front lines and handling crosses, regardless of the personnel playing in the defensive line. Dortmund’s wings are the hardest working in the business, and on their good day, the combination of the chances they create with the aerial advantage Dortmund should possess heading into the semifinal might be a bit too much to handle once again.