Football

Which Dortmund will show up?

Tuchel's side struggling in Bundesliga, but superb in Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
BENFICA BORUSSIA DORTMUND
   

Borussia Dortmund have shown two faces this season, with their lacklustre domestic form in stark contrast to their scintillating European run.

With just two wins from their past seven Bundesliga games, Thomas Tuchel's team have dropped out of the title race and last Saturday's shock 2-1 loss to bottom side Darmstadt left them 15 points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

But the Ruhr valley club have been sensational in the Champions League, thriving on the big stage and scoring a record 21 goals to top Group F ahead of Real Madrid.

The 1997 European champions and finalists four years ago will be hoping they can replicate that form for their Round-of-16 first-leg clash against Benfica in Lisbon tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

"I never got the feeling we really got going," Tuchel said after Dortmund saw their nine-match unbeaten run snapped, albeit a series that included just three victories.

"We were simply a long way below our limit and we have to admit they (Darmstadt) deserved to win."

Tuchel's biggest concern remains Dortmund's backline which has proved shaky throughout the season.

Forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus have provided a constant stream of goals, but keeping a clean sheet has proved far trickier.

Frailty at the back was evident again last Saturday when Darnstadt twice outsmarted defenders, leaving Dortmund to wonder how they lost the game.

STRONG RESPONSE

But Tuchel predicted tomorrow morning's clash in Lisbon would elicit a strong response from his players, with Ousmane Dembele, Andre Schuerrle and Shinji Kagawa all in contention to return to the starting line-up after coming off the bench at the weekend.

"In all honesty, we come into our own when it's a 50-50 game," said Tuchel, his thoughts echoed by goalkeeper Roman Buerki.

"On Tuesday, we play against a different opponent with a different way of playing," the Swiss international added.

Benfica's dress rehearsal was far more successful as the Portuguese side look to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in the past six seasons.

They beat Arouca 3-0 last Friday to remain top of the Portuguese league, ahead of rivals Porto, and earn an extra day's rest over Dortmund.

Greece international forward Kostas Mitroglou made it 12 goals in as many games, while Andre Carrillo scored for the first time since August.

They will be without suspended Serbian Andrija Zivkovic when they host Dortmund but, with four wins in the past five matches, they could hardly have wished for better form going into the game.

Veteran Brazilian forward Jonas, who scored 32 times in Portugal last season, will make his first appearance in Europe this season after missing the group stage with an ankle injury.

The 32-year-old has netted eight goals in all competitions since his return from a four-month lay-off in mid-December.

Mexico international Raul Jimenez made his first appearance of the new year last weekend, coming off the bench against Arouca following injury, and warned of the challenge facing the hosts.

"It is going to be difficult as any Champions League match," said Jimenez.

"We have to be at our best."

- WIRE SERVICES

Champions Leagueborussia dortmund