Monday, April 22, 2013

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid: Why Defense Will Determine Who Advances

Defense will determine whether
Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid
advances to the UEFA Champions
League Final.
Defense? Why defense? We want
goals. I know that's what you're
thinking. But ultimately, you know
I'm right.
Good defense will send either
Dortmund or Madrid to Wembley.
And here is why.
Both teams were drawn into Group
D at the beginning of the
Champions League season. Group
D was dubbed the Group of Death.
As we all know by now, Dortmund
went undefeated, and won the
group.
We can draw on the things we
learned from the matches between
the two sides to help us try to
figure out what may happen when
these two face off again.
Dortmund won the first matchup
2-1 in Germany. Marcel Schmelzer
and Robert Lewandowski provided
the goals for the Germans while
Cristiano Ronaldo scored Madrid's
lone goal.
The second game ended in a 2-2
draw . Dortmund received goals
from Marco Reus and an own goal
from Alvaro Arbeloa. Pepe and
Mesut Ozil scored for Madrid.
Goals were not easy to come by in
either of these matches for both
teams. I expect it will not be easy
in the semifinals either.
With players like Reus and
Ronaldo, scoring should be
abundant. But it has not been.

Dortmund's defense has been solid
throughout the Champions League.
The team has only allowed two
goals, three times in a total of 10
UCL matches.
Bottom line: it's difficult to get
through Jurgen Klopp's defense.
Meanwhile, Madrid has been
almost as impressive with its
defense. The team has conceded
two goals, four times in its 10
matches and three goals in one.
Here is another interesting fact:
Real has had one clean sheet in its
10 Champions League matches.
Dortmund has had four.
While the star forwards have been
playing well, the defenses have
been playing even better.
Neither Ronaldo nor Robert
Lewandowski will determine the
fate of their teams. Look for Mats
Hummels or Pepe to affect the
outcome.
However, both teams are coming
into these upcoming matches with
some injuries to their back lines.
Madrid's Marcelo picked up an
injury against Real Betis this past
weekend and will most likely miss
the first leg of the Champions
League. Jose Mourinho's squad
will also be playing without Alvaro
Arbeloa because he is suspended.
It is a toss up as to whether Fabio
Coentrao will return.
With some of its veterans missing,
Madrid will have to turn to its
young stars like Raphael Varane
and Nacho Fernandez. Both great
players, but how will they handle
the pressure?
Dortmund will head into its
Champions League matches with a
healthier back line. Mats Hummels
who missed a matches a few
weeks ago is fully healthy again.
Marcel Schmelzer suffered a
broken nose on March 30th but
has been playing with a mask.
Klopp will have a full defense at
his disposal.
The only problem he may face is
determining which of his defenders
to play. Neven Subotic and Felipe
Santana are both in form. Santana
received minutes while Hummels
was out. He will likely be benched
despite having scored the game-
winning goal against Malaga to
get to the semifinals. Dortmund's
strongest back line will be
available. Subotic, Hummels,
Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek
will most likely start.
It appears that Dortmund may
have the advantage, but both
teams have seen some changes
since meeting at the end of 2012.
Neither have their domestic league
title to play for. The sole focus is
the UCL title.
Instead of thinking of this game as
a match between offensive powers,
it will be smarter to look at it
through a defensive point-of-view.
We've heard it time and time
again. Defense wins
championships. In this case,
defense will get either Borussia
Dortmund or Real Madrid to the
UEFA Champions League Final.
Expect a low-scoring affair.