Borussia Dortmund’s unbeaten start to the season will be put to the test when three-time UEFA Champions League runners-up Atletico Madrid visit Germany on Wednesday.
bundesliga.com outlines why the Bundesliga leaders could emerge victorious.
1) Reus can outshine Griezmann
One of the main reasons Dortmund are both top of the Bundesliga and Champions League Grop A is a brilliant start to the season for their skipper Marco Reus. In the Bundesliga, the 29-year-old has been thriving under the coaching of Lucien Favre, scoring five goals and setting up five more to help send his side three points clear at the summit.
That sort of form earned Reus the inaugural Bundesliga Player of the Month award for September, and he has been similarly effective in Europe. The Germany international captained Dortmund to a 1-0 success in Belgium against Club Brugge on Matchday 1, and BVB made it two wins from two after Reus got a goal and an assist in an impressive 3-0 home victory over Monaco.
Watch: See why Marco Reus was voted September's Player of the Month
Like Dortmund, Atletico have won both their Champions League group games so far. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for the Spanish side and their talisman Antoine Griezmann this season. They have won just four of their nine league matches – scoring only 10 goals – and conceded in both their victories over Monaco and Brugge.
Griezmann scored twice in the 3-1 win over the Belgian champions last time out but his partner in crime Diego Costa has been missing since then with a hamstring injury. With a lot resting on the Frenchman’s shoulders, then, perhaps Reus – with five goals in his last five matches – can overshadow Atleti’s main man.
2) Dortmund can win the midfield battle
Reus’ industry can help Dortmund’s bid to swarm the visitors, who could be outnumbered five to four in midfield. Even if Atletico do match the home side for numbers, however, they could face a hard time getting the better of Favre’s midfield marvels.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez said recently that Axel Witsel was the signing of the summer, and there’s no doubt that the former Standard Liege and Zenit St. Petersburg player has made a massive difference to Dortmund.
Thomas Delaney – another new arrival – should operate beside Witsel as usual, and together they will provide plenty of punch and a protective screen for the defence. If they can also get on top of the likes of Koke, Rodri and Thomas Lemar in the engine room, then Dortmund could well make it nine points from nine.
3) BVB have their own Spanish star
Atletico won’t need to be warned about Paco Alcacer, since Dortmund’s number nine has already scored once and made two goals in four previous appearances against them. Visiting manager Diego Simeone has surely been racking his brain about how to stop Alcacer though, given that the Barcelona loanee is in red-hot form for club and country.
The 25-year-old is already the joint-top scorer in this season’s Bundesliga despite not playing a full 90 minutes yet. He has seven league goals in four appearances – averaging a goal every 18 minutes – and he also got the crucial second strike against Monaco.
Watch: Check out Paco Alcacer's matchwinning hat-trick against Augsburg on Matchday 7
Alcacer scored twice against Wales and once against England while on international duty for Spain this month, so Atletico would do well to stop the Yellow Wall’s new hero.
4) Goals from everywhere
It’s not just Alcacer that the visitors have to worry about, however. Dortmund have registered a club record 27 goals after eight league games, with an incredible 14 different players getting on the scoresheet.
Saturday’s 4-0 win away to Stuttgart also meant that the five-time champions had scored four or more goals in four consecutive Bundesliga matches for the first time. During that run in the league – which started with a 7-0 thrashing of Nuremberg on 26 September – they also put three past Monaco in the Champions League to make it five wins in a row in all competitions.
Watch: Here's why Dortmund full-back Achraf Hakimi was named Rookie of the Month
With exciting youngsters like Bundesliga Rookie of the Month Achraf Hakimi, new England international Jadon Sancho and American star Christian Pulisic all getting in on the act, Dortmund have threats all over the pitch.
A miserly defence led by Uruguay’s Diego Godin was a major reason why Atletico reached the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016. But that backline should be given a stern examination on Wednesday, meaning that the visitors’ impressive goalkeeper Jan Oblak could be in for a busy night.
5) Atletico a good omen?
Atletico certainly have great recent pedigree, having got over a group stage exit in last season’s Champions League to win the UEFA Europa League at the end of the campaign. They also picked up more European silverware by beating Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in August, but Simeone’s side have won only three of their last eight away games in Europe.
Dortmund, meanwhile, have won all five of their home matches in all competitions this season – scoring 21 times and conceding only five goals.
Furthermore, history is on BVB's side against Atletico. The two clubs have met four times in European competition in the past, and in each of those two seasons Dortmund went on to win the trophy.
In the 1965/66 campaign, a draw in Spain and a 1-0 home win was enough to see Dortmund past Atleti in the last eight of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, before the German club saw off Liverpool in the final.
In the 1996/97 Champions League, meanwhile, Dortmund lost at home but beat Atletico away in the group stage. The Spanish side would go on to lose to Ajax in the quarter-finals that season, while Dortmund beat Juventus in Munich to become European Champions for the first time in their history.