Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Schalke 04, what have they all got in common? The fact that they are all still participating in the UEFA Champions League, and in Dortmund’s case, already in the quarter finals.
For the past four or so years the German Bundesliga has generally started to be regarded as the third best league in Europe, ahead of Italy’s Serie A and behind the obvious two of the Spanish La Liga and the English Premier League.
With no German side to have lifted the big-eared trophy since Bayern did in 2001, maybe this year could change all that. Bayern have reached the final twice since their last victory, and on both occasions lost; the first to a Diego Milito inspired Inter in the Santiago Bernabeu, and the most recent, just last season in their home stadium, the Allianz Arena, on penalties to Chelsea.
They are perhaps the form side in Europe currently, having conceded only two goals in 2013, beating every team laid in front of them. It would need a minor miracle for them to throw away a two goal league (including three away goals) to Arsenal next week, so fully expect them to be in the pot for the quarter final draw.
Schalke, on paper have the harder of the second round ties with a trip to Istanbul looming and a date with Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder to contender with.
A solid performance in the group stage, including a victory over the much beleaguered Arsenal, they fully deserved to be a-top their group.
Schalke have been to the semi finals of the Champions League as recently as 2011, after a stunning 7-3 aggregate victory over holders Internazionale in the quarter finals.
They eventually succumbed to a strong Manchester United side and with a poor performance in the league that season, sat out the 2011/12 Champions League season. Whilst definitely not the favourites from Germany to make the final; a squad consisting of talent such as Michel Bastos, Klass-Jan Hunterlaar, Jefferson Farfan and the extremely gifted Julian Draxler, Schalke could well be this year’s surprise package.
Judging from the season Dortmund have had so far, it is fair to say that their best chance and perhaps all of their focus has been on this year’s Champions League. After winning the previous two Bundesliga titles, they find themselves well off the pace this year, 17 points to be exact, off the top of the table and basically no hope of catching runaway leaders Bayern.
However, they really have played their best football in the Champions League. After finishing bottom of their group in the 2011/12 edition, they stormed back this year to win a group including the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.
Dortmund drew Shakthar Donestk of Ukraine; a very difficult draw it would seem. After gaining a 2-2 draw in the first leg away from home, a 3-0 win in the second leg seemed like a walk in the park and into the pot they shall go. With players Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski in attack, the art of scoring has become incredibly easy to them, Lewandowski in particular. London could well be preparing for a yellow and black invasion come this May.
With Dortmund and Bayern perhaps the most entertaining, attacking and efficient sides to really watch in this competition, no disrespect to Schalke, but it would be absolutely no surprise to me if we were to see an all German final contested by the team from Bavaria and the club from the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.
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