Out of the DFB Cup and 17 points behind FC Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, all of Dortmund’s eggs are now in the UEFA Champions League basket, and their hopes of lifting a piece of silverware for a third year running hinge on the visit of the Ukrainian champions to the Signal Iduna Park.
Yet having already seen off the champions of England, Spain and Holland at home, Dortmund go into the make-or-break clash in confident mood, boosted also by two goals scored in the away leg. “We have a slight advantage and we want to take our chance,” said Mario Götze. “We’re all looking forward to this game.”
Few would have predicted Dortmund would even have got this far after being drawn with Manchester City FC, Real Madrid CF and Ajax at the end of August, but it is a mark of the progress they have made that none other than Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson has singled them out for particular praise. “The dark horse is Dortmund [...] their concentration is on the European Cup and their European form has been very good," he told journalists.
"Game of the year"
However, reading too much into the words of Sir Alex and dreaming of the title would be getting a bit carried away, according to coach Jürgen Klopp. “The biggest error you can make in sport is getting ahead of yourself,” he said. “We’re not doing that. We want to win tomorrow, and if we go through, then maybe we’ll think about it briefly. For us, it’s definitely the game of the year, and it is for Donetsk too.”
Klopp is still sweating over the fitness of Mats Hummels, who has missed the last two games with a flu virus. “Apart from him, everybody else can definitely play,” reported Klopp. “We hope Hummels will be able to play, but a decision will be made tomorrow.” Up against a side who scored eight of their 12 group stage goals away from home, Klopp will be grateful for every boost he can get in his defence.
And there is more reason for Klopp not to take Mircea Lucescu’s side lightly. They returned from a 91-day winter break in style at the weekend with a 4-1 win over FC Volyn Lutsk, establishing a 13-point lead at the top of the Ukrainian league. In addition, they have come out on top in their last three encounters with Bundesliga opposition, against Schalke 04, VfB Stuttgart and, most recently, Werder Bremen in the 2009 UEFA Cup final in Istanbul.
Yet Borussia’s hunger is not sated. “Just because we won three titles in the last few years doesn’t mean we've changed,” insisted Klopp. “This is an important game, and going through is our goal.”
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Felipe Santana, Schmelzer - Gündogan, Kehl - Blaszczykowski, Götze, Reus - Lewandowski
Shakhtar: Pyatov - Srna, Kucher, Rakytskyy, Rat - Fernandinho, Hübschman - Alex Teixeira, G. Mkhitaryan, Taison - Luiz Adriano