The draw for the UEFA Champions League has been made and Barcelona sit in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague in what looks to be the group of death in this year’s elite European competition.
Last year, Barcelona emerged as table toppers from their group but second-placed Tottenham went on to be the surprise finalists. Borussia Dortmund in their long-associated history with the competition, have never been drawn against the Blaugranes, so this fixture will be a highlight of the group stages.
Dortmund had an interesting 2018-19 season where they were the favourites to clinch the Bundesliga crown but had a horrendous meltdown allowing Bayern to be crowned champions for the seventh successive season.
This year may be different as they have made important squad additions, with Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Mats Hummels joining the team. This side promises to be an interesting challenge for Barca so let’s see how can they emerge victorious against a team that has one of the noisiest fanbases and most intimidating stadiums in world football - the Westfalenstadion.
Style of Play
Manager Lucien Favre and his men prefer a dynamic 4-2-3-1 with Marco Reus as the kingpin on the field and Axel Witsel the anchor of the team. They prefer building up their play from the back, with Hummels often being their starting point. Once their center-back is in position with the ball, the attack begins. The ball either goes directly to the flank players or anywhere else through Witsel, who has been a revelation for Dortmund, having played a key role in their great run of form.
Dortmund scored a mammoth 99 goals last season as their system supports their fluid attacking ways. They have attack-minded full-backs and like to attack down the wings. Paco Alcacer, the former Barcelona man, had a great impact as a substitute and is Europe’s most in-form forward with nine goals in seven appearances for club and country in 2019-20. Meanwhile, Reus and Jadon Sancho run the show, often dribbling past defenders, making spaces for the attack to flow in and supplying quality crosses inside the final third to score.
While defending, they position up as a 4-4-2 or sometimes as a 4-2-3-1 when they wish to press higher. While they like to sit back in their own half while defending, they activate their pressing once they spot a back pass - something Barcelona have to be extremely worried about. But their weakness lies in defending against set-pieces and the Blaugranes have to take advantage.
While Paco Alcacer has been instrumental and is currently their top scorer, Jadon Sancho was the breakthrough star last season as he racked up 18 and set up 19 and has started this season strongly too. His dribbling and crossing skills are insane and he is sure to give Jordi Alba a hard time in the two fixtures. Barcelona should look out for the exciting England international who has the potential to be one of the best in the world in his position.
Westfalenstadion - Dortmund’s 12th Man
Westfalenstadion is home to the infamous ‘Yellow Wall’ that can unnerve even the best football players in the world. With a diehard fanbase and a jam-packed stadium every match, the atmosphere is electric and filled with raucous chants supporting the men in yellow and black. Barcelona have faced a lot of problems in away games and are yet to win one this season. The BVB home stadium certainly has the potential to remind Barcelona of their nightmare at Anfield. Westfalenstadion is truly Dortmund’s twelfth man and Barcelona will need more than just tactics to win this match.
Dortmund have an able squad and an intimidating stadium that promises to give Barcelona a tough time. While the Spanish champions have a world-class squad capable of beating any team in Europe when on form, they will need their best players fit and available for the trip to Germany, particularly captain Lionel Messi.
Overall, Dortmund will be a tough challenge but Barcelona do have everything it takes to emerge victorious. Not choking on the pressure and playing their usual game will be the keys for the visitors to colour the stadium red and blue.