Never poke a sharp stick at a sleeping tiger goes the saying. Dortmund either never heard it or don’t fear tigers.
Zinedine Zidane’s record-equaling 16 consecutive wins (tying with Pep Guardiola’s Barça) came to an end against the Yellow Submarine of Villarreal last week, 1-1 at the Bernabéu.
Then from a winning position they tossed two points in a last minute 2-2 draw against the custard-coloured shirts of Las Palmas at the weekend.
Bold as brass and yellow as a buttercup, Dortmund’s official Twitter immediately tweeted to Madrid: ‘Not having the greatest time against teams in yellow are you?
Fair point and the Germans weren’t simply emboldened into sharp-stick provocation because they share a strip colour with Villarreal and Las Palmas.
Madrid have never won at Signal Iduna Park – losing the last three consecutively (8-2 agg). Another loss there tomorrow night comes in at .
More, if Zidane could have chosen two specific players he absolutely didn’t want out injured for this particular test it would probably have been Casemiro and Marcelo.
The younger Brazilian makes an absolutely MASSIVE difference for Madrid. The naked eye can see his sense of self-sacrifice for the team, positioned behind Modric and Kroos and allowing them license to attack and create offensively.
Also his anticipation of danger, his physical power, athleticism and willingness to do the dirty work in midfield.
And the clothed stats support the naked eye. Under Zidane with Casemiro in the team Madrid have won 14/14.
Without him muscling and minding in the middle of midfield their record is played 12, won 7.
On the face of it, particularly given how well Nacho played in Las Palmas, Marcelo missing might not seem a disaster.
But in Ousmane Dembélé, a player Manchester City coveted but lost, Dortmund have an exceptional young right winger. He for the first goal by-the-by.
He’s raw, but his pace, dribbling, daring and connection with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is dynamite. (PS just watching Madrid throw a blank cheque at Dortmund for the striker as soon as their transfer ban is lifted. Stand on me!)
You could pick ‘players to watch’ across the pitch here – it’s probably the most attractive tie of the week.
But the coaches deserve attention too. Tommy Tuchel is Pep Guardiola’s favourite ‘other’ coach in Europe. They used to lunch together and whisper sweet tactical nothings to one another.
Tuchel needs to get a savvy performance from a relatively new, inexperienced side.
Zidane, against the first team to rob him of a Champions League final win – back in 1997 – needs to make a sound decision about how to stabilize his midfield, to make the peace with Ronaldo for having the audacity to substitute him at the weekend (cue big strop) and work out whether to continue trusting Kiko Casilla in goal or let the magnificent, but newly fit Keylor Navas have his first game since May in this utter cauldron.
Fun fact: Mark Clattenburg is the ref. Six games with Madrid, six wins (including 3-0 over Dortmund at the Bernabéu) 15-1 goal agg. A seventh is at .
Summary: An home win. Both teams to score at and for ‘Auba’ (Aubameyang) to net any time.