Donetsk - Borussia Dortmund are aiming to add a fourth national titleholder to their list of UEFA Champions League victims this season when they take on FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine this evening (kick-off 20:45 CET).
After claiming top spot in the so-called 'Group of Death' ahead of Real Madrid CF, Manchester City FC and AFC Ajax, the Yellow-Blacks go into their Round of 16 first-leg tie with expectations as to what they might yet achieve in Europe's elite club competition approaching fever pitch. "All eyes are on us," admitted head coach Jürgen Klopp ahead of Tuesday's three-hour flight east.
A 4-1 home defeat to Hamburg was, however, hardly the ideal preparation for the reigning Bundesliga champions. "Of course we would have preferred to win the match, but I don't need to do anything to motivate my team. For all of them this is their first taste of the Champions League knockout rounds. That's motivation enough," Klopp told bundesliga.com at the pre-match press conference.
With morale seemingly intact, perhaps of greater concern is Dortmund's growing injury list after Ilkay Gündogan (thigh) failed to make the flight to the Ukraine, while question marks remain about the fitness of wing-backs Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer. With Kevin Großkreutz (infection) and Patrick Owmoyela (ankle) already out, Klopp could be short of options out wide, but on a more positive note centre-back Neven Subotic is back in contention for a starting berth.
A lot to live up to
Having last featured in the Champions League knockout stages in 1998, Dortmund, one of only four teams to remain unbeaten during the group stage, are determined to ensure it’s not a short-lived return, although BVB captain and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller warned: "The public probably don't know how dangerous Donetsk really are."
In the eyes of Shakhtar head coach Mircea Lucescu, meanwhile, BVB have the upper hand "because the Bundesliga has already restarted". Indeed, the Ukrainian Premier League is yet to reconvene from its three-month winter break. "Shakhtar haven't been able to get into their rhythm since November," added Dortmund skipper Sebastian Kehl, "but we're geared up for this and fully aware of the tough task that we're facing."
Shakhtar: Pyatov - Rat, Chygrynskiy, Rakitskiy, Srna - Taison, Fernandinho, Stepanenko, Alex Teixeira - Mkhitaryan - Luiz Adriano
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Blaszczykowski, Kehl, S. Bender - Götze, Lewandowski, Reus