Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Real Madrid CF at the Signal Iduna Park a fortnight ago was just the latest indication of the Bundesliga’s growing strength. That result, combined with Schalke 04’s 2-0 win at Arsenal FC leaves the Bundesliga currently second only to Spain’s Primera Division in the 2012/13 classification, and both Westphalian clubs with a new standard to maintain in the Champions League this week.
Dortmund themselves have risen from 118th in UEFA’s club rankings to 55th in just over two years. Taking into consideration the current campaign alone, Jürgen Klopp has, statistically, the fifth-strongest side in European football. No reason to be afraid of nine-time European Champions Real, then. “Challenges like this are great fun,” centre back Mats Hummels said prior to Dortmund’s departure for the Spanish capital. “They'll be out for revenge.”
Indeed, Real were left dazed and confused after their 2-1 defeat in the Ruhr district, a result which Marcel Schmelzer will not forget in a hurry after netting the winner against the Spanish giants. “Their players were really angry after losing at our place,” the German international left back noted with a wry smile. “They are going to try and mow us down.” Try all they might, Schmelzer is confident: “We'll withstand them.”
Perhaps Real simply did not take Dortmund seriously enough. After all, only a year ago BVB were struggling to adapt to the demands of Europe’s top club competition and, while underscoring their dominance domestically, they crashed out of the competition at the first hurdle with barely a whimper. That, however, only served to increase the determination to give a proper account of themselves this time around.
The draw was far from propitious in that regard, pitting them against the Spanish, English and Dutch champions. “Who would have thought we'd be coming to Madrid for Matchday 4 as group leaders?” asked CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, aware of the predictable answer. A win against Ajax and a somewhat unfortunate draw at Manchester City leading into the victory over Real means that Dortmund are not only top of Group D, but unquestionably worthy of their place in the sun.
More than a match
As a result, they head to Madrid with something to defend rather than something to fight for. “The pressure on Real is far greater,” added Watzke. That said, Dortmund do not have the kind of players geared towards picking up a scrappy draw on their travels. For Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil, read Marco Reus and Mario Götze; for Gonzalo Higuain, there is Robert Lewandowski, and Hummels has no ground for feeling inferior to Sergio Ramos. “There’s no reason for us not to go out there and play with confidence,” said midfielder Ilkay Gündogan. “I’m optimistic.”
There is also optimism about the chances of captain Sebastian Kehl being able to lead the German champions and cup holders onto the field at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, despite suffering a fractured nose in a 1-1 draw with VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. He has had a special mask fitted “so there is a small possibility that he will be available on Tuesday,” according to Klopp.
Real Madrid: Casillas - Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Raul Albiol, Arbeloa - Modric, Xabi Alonso - di Maria, Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo - Higuain
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Gündogan, Kehl - Reus, Götze, Großkreutz - Lewandowski