Champions League: Malaga face tough Borussia Dortmund test
Borussia Dortmund and Malaga compete for a place in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday night
Last week at La Rosaleda, Borussia Dortmund failed to put away some good chances against Malaga and, as a result, come into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on level terms.
They could have very well come back to their home stadium with at least a two-goal advantage - away goals to boot - if Mario Gotze in particular had had his finishing boots on.
Of all four quarter-final ties, this one is the most finely balanced. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have established sizeable first-leg advantages to be in control in their respective ties, while Barcelona - despite conceding a late equaliser - will be more than happy having scored two precious away goals and with the second leg taking place back at the Camp Nou.
Jurgen Klopp and Dortmund will undoubtedly be disappointed that they have to start with a clean slate, but you would still tip last year's Bundesliga champions to go through.
Dortmund are now the only team in the competition to remain unbeaten after Juventus' run was brought to an end by Bayern Munich last week. They faced stiffer opposition in the group stages and managed to come through with flying colours, beating the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City.
So, on paper, Malaga would appear a considerably lighter challenge as compared to those two sides. But this is the knockout stage, when second chances are at a premium and the stakes are that much higher. The quality of the Dortmund strike-force is exemplary. It is a team that is never short on goals and Klopp is not the kind of manager that would change the way his team plays in Europe.
Testimony to that was in the first leg, where they were clearly the better side. They were abetted by Malaga's resolute dedication to defence with an emphasis on not conceding away goals. Manuel Pellegrini has played it smart so far; in the previous round against Porto, he opted for damage limitation in the first leg in Portugal and his side came away with only a 1-0 loss, something which they managed to overturn in the return leg at home.
This time, with the first leg at home, he opted for caution by choosing to eliminate the threat of away goals and leaving the fate of the tie to be decided in Gelsenkirchen.
Dortmund boast an intimidating home record in this year's Champions League. They have a perfect record, having won all four home games, scoring seven goals and conceding just one. Gotze has been involved in six of the last 10 goals that Dortmund have scored; it is no surprise then that his off-colour performance in Spain has left his side with work to do at home if they are to progress into the final four.
Their front line is as good as it gets, with Marko Reus combining with the aforementioned Gotze and Robert Lewandowski to lethal effect. And it is unlikely that Dortmund would be as wasteful as they were in the first leg and, if Malaga concede early, it could very well be a long night for them.
Malaga, to their credit, have been very efficient in seeing out games. Unfancied in the group stages, they managed to emerge as winners from a group that included AC Milan and Zenit St. Petersburg, both of whom were heavily favoured to go through.
They have a good bunch of young players along with some wily veterans such as Joaquin, Martin Demichelis and Javier Saviola in the mix. The pick of the lot is Spanish sensation Isco, who has been a revelation so far and is widely sought-after by the big boys of Europe. Good in scoring and setting up others, he will be crucial to Malaga's plans of upsetting the Dortmund apple cart.
Malaga, along with Juventus and Porto, have the most clean sheets (five) in this year's competition, and if they can shut out the Germans for the second week running, they may be joining their more illustrious Spanish compatriots in the semi-finals.
Borussia Dortmund will receive a major boost as Mats Hummels is set to return to action after being sidelined with a groin injury that he picked up in the Round of 16 clash against Shakhtar Donetsk. Jakub 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski is also expected to come in to team up with Reus and Gotze in a 3 behind striker Lewandowski.
Malaga suffered a couple of setbacks even as they managed to draw their home leg. 2 of their key players, centre back Weligton and midfielder Manuel Iturra, picked up yellow cards which sees them suspended for the second leg.
Malaga need one goal to make sure that the tie doesn't go the distance and finishes in normal time. Pellegrini has been here before with Villarreal and is an expert when it comes to grinding out results. However, with the suspensions to key defenders and the home form of Dortmund, not to forget that they were lucky to escape with a stalemate last week, the Germans would still be slight favourites to go through.
A result in the other direction would definitely be an upset.
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