Saturday, May 18, 2024

Dortmund v PSG: Five things to watch for as two giants collide

Dortmund v PSG is most definitely the standout fixture in this round of the UEFA Champions League for me. The competition returns tonight following a two month break, and it has some serious big time fixtures – not least this one.

From Neymar Jr’s presence on the field all the way to the return of Thomas Tuchel to his former team, there’s plenty to take note of in tonight’s game.

Neymar and Mbappe return for Dortmund v PSG

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will be back in the PSG squad tonight having missed the game at the weekend which saw the French champions drop points in a 4-4 draw with Amiens.

Kylian Mbappe has 39 goal contributions in his 28 appearances in all competitions this season. In the Champions League he has five goals and four assists in his five appearances this season.

Neymar has made just 18 appearances in all competitions this season, scoring 15 goals and nabbing 10 assists in those games. Neymar, as ever, has struggled with injury this season and has missed 14 games with various injuries this season alone – but he should be fit to at least make the bench tonight.

Jadon Sancho has every chance to be the star of the show

Jadon Sancho has been Borussia Dortmund’s star of the show all season long, and I wouldn’t expect tonight to be any different at all. Sancho leads both the goalscorers chart and the assist-makers chart at Dortmund with 13 apiece in all competitions so far this term.

He’s been so impressive that even his opponent tonight, Neymar, spoke of Sancho’s talent in the build up to the game. “Borussia have players that can make the difference,” said Neymar.

“They have a special player, who is new but who is very good whose name is Sancho. Jadon is a player that I really like to watch play and he is a great player with plenty of quality.”

There should be GOALS

One thing Borussia Dortmund games have provided on a consistent basis as of late is goals, and lots of them too. In their last six games across all competitions, there has been an incredible 35 goals scored – an average of 5.8 goals per game.

They’ve been scoring goals at will, but conceding four to Leverkusen, three to Augsburg and three to Werder Bremen has to be a slight concern for Lucien Favre – especially as they will come up against a very potent offensive force tonight.

On the other side, PSG have been scoring goals for fun too – this season, they’ve bagged 67 goals in the league, 26 more than second best side Monaco. However, as the game against Amiens at the weekend proved, they do concede goals too – although in the Champions League group stage, they conceded just twice, the lowest of anyone.

Historically, PSG games don’t tend to be boring in the knockout phase of the Champions League. In all of their 26 games in the Champions League knockout stages, they’ve never had a goalless draw – quite an astonishing stat really, one that bodes well for any neutral viewers tonight.

Can Erling Haaland continue his goal-scoring run?

Erling Braut Haaland has probably become the most written name on this website over the last few months as I have documented his rise to stardom.

Since he signed for Dortmund, he’s been nothing short of incredible, scoring nine goals in his six appearances for the club so far. That included his first two games, wherein he scored five times despite having been a second half substitute in both.

READ MORE: Erling Haaland nabs January player of the month in Bundesliga despite having played just 59 minutes of football

At the weekend, he was back on target in Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Frankfurt having endured his first goalless game in German football the week before in the 4-3 loss to Bayer Leverkusen.

If Lucien Favre does indeed decide to start Haaland tonight, it’ll be interesting to see if his fortunes so far can be converted to the Champions League.

Playing for RB Salzburg, he already has eight goals in the competition this season from the group stage. He’s behind only Robert Lewandowski in the UCL goalscoring charts and I wouldn’t be surprised to see on target again tonight.

Thomas Tuchel returns to Dortmund

Thomas Tuchel was manager of Dortmund from April 2015 up until May 2017, winning just the one honour with the club – the 2016-17 DFB-Pokal. His tenure at Dortmund was a source of constant controversy as his relationship with Dortmund CEO Hanz-Joachin Watzke became more and more strained.

Tuchel was unhappy with the transfer policy at the club as they repeatedly allowed their star players to leave. Tuchel oversaw the outgoing transfers of the likes of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

As well as that, his relationship with a number of senior players was reportedly strained too. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Neven Subotic and Roman Weidenfeller all reportedly fell out with Tuchel as he attempted to replace the ageing stars with younger players.

On top of all of that, the night the Dortmund team bus was bombed will go down as the serious turning point of his tenure at Dortmund. While he was publicly raging at UEFA for rescheduling the game to just 24 hours later, he was reportedly lambasting his team for not being ready to play the next day.

For some reason, he couldn’t seem to understand that the incident had a serious negative effect on the mental health of the squad. You either have to be dumb, or a serious pr*ck not to see that the a group of young lads might be effected by somebody trying to bomb them.

While his overall record at the club was decent, maintaining a win percentage of 62.96%, his time there wasn’t great and left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. The game tonight will be his first at Signal Iduna Park since his departure, and it will be most interesting to see the reception he gets from the Dortmund faithful.

One thing is for sure, they won’t be rolling out the red carpet for him.

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