Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund fight over the questionable honour of securing Champions League Group F top spot this week (7.45pm Wednesday, BT Sport ESPN).
Madrid need all three points at the Santiago Bernabeu to take first place, though runners-up spot may actually do them more favours. In that instance, Zinedine Zidane’s men would be guaranteed to avoid fellow La Liga outfits and group winners Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the round of 16.
It is in Madrid’s nature to go for victory whenever they take to the field of play, particularly given the fact that they are looking to extend their unbeaten run to 34 matches in all competitions. Such a strong record has not completely ended the doubts over Zidane’s prowess as a coach, though.
While it is true that Los Blancos have been a touch fortunate to go without defeat for so long, the former France international deserves immense credit for the job he has done so far. That includes winning the club’s 11th European Cup and guiding them to the summit of the standings in the Spanish top flight after 14 games this season.
Borussia Dortmund will probably be keen to finish in first place, even though the nature of this year’s group stage draw means that would not necessarily bring the benefits it usually does. Thomas Tuchel’s charges have impressed on their return to the continent’s foremost international competition this term, amassing 13 points from the first 15 on offer. The only game they failed to win was the return fixture against Madrid at Signal Iduna Park, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Dortmund have been frustratingly erratic domestically and sit nine points behind surprise leaders RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga table. While defensive openness has undermined Dortmund at times, they have been exhilarating in an attacking sense for much of the campaign, with Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spearheading a unit that has found the back of the net on 54 occasions in all competitions, an average rate of 2.5 goals per game.
Zidane has an injury list that includes midfielder Toni Kroos (toe), forward Gareth Bale (ankle) and striker Alvaro Morata (hamstring) for this clash, but full-backs Danilo and Fabio Coentrao could be in contention for a place in the matchday squad. James Rodriguez will also be keen to start after being left out of the starting XI that took on Barcelona in the Clasico on Saturday afternoon, where a late header from Sergio Ramos rescued a point for Madrid at the Camp Nou. Casemiro may now be fit enough to play from the first whistle.
BVB will have to make do without Roman Burki (hand) and Neven Subotic (knee), but Sven Bender, Shinji Kagawa and Raphael Guerreiro are all nearing a return to first team action after injury lay-offs of their own. Julian Weigl will almost certainly return to the starting line-up after beginning Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing of Borussia Monchengladbach on the substitutes’ bench, with Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, Emre Mor and Christian Pulisic also hoping to come into the side in the Spanish capital.
The question mark this preview has to ponder is that second place may server Real Madrid better than first in this Champions league Group F. But we are confident they will still go for the victory. Although some of the club’s fans would be happy enough with a second-place finish, they will still want to see their side go all out for victory this midweek.
Dortmund are an impressive team when they get going but have been plagued by inconsistency this term, and Los Blancos’ superior streetwiseness could see them over the line. In the anytime goalscorer market, Karim Benzema (pictured) would represent a sensible choice.