Borussia Dortmund vs Malaga (Champions League Quarter Final)

09/04/13

Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp will decide on the fitness of captain Jakub Blaszczykowski for the second leg against Malaga. The winger’s creativity has been missed in recent weeks, with Kevin Groβkreutz offering a more predictable threat. Should Blaszczykowski return to the side it would allow Marco Reus to switch back to his customary left-sided role from where he can cut infield onto his stronger right foot. Elsewhere Sven Bender is likely to replace Sebastian Kehl in midfield after a disappointing first leg performance, but Mats Hummels is still returning to full fitness.

Malaga are without the suspended Weligton in defence, so Diego Lugano will probably come in ahead of Oguchi Onyewu. Javier Saviola’s energetic display in the first leg should ensure he keeps his place in attack ahead of Roque Santa Cruz.

Dortmund will still be frustrated that they left Malaga without an away goal despite a dominating performance, so Manuel Pellegrini will know that an away goal will give the Spanish side a large advantage. He will be aware however that Dortmund were not at their best last week, and Klopp will hope that Bender and Blaszczykowski can add some fluency to the home side’s midfield. With no great tactical changes expected from the first leg (a preview of which can be found here), analysis will focus on what will be decisive second time around.

Possible line-ups.

Possible line-ups.

Sven Bender

Malaga’s pressing was largely dysfunctional in the first leg. Only occasionally did Isco and Joaquin appear keen to put pressure on Dortmund’s full backs, while Julio Baptista, supposedly the third advanced midfielder, mostly positioned himself alongside Saviola. In doing so neither Baptista nor Saviola successfully pressed central defenders Felipe Santana and Neven Subotic, nor did they prevent midfielders Kehl and Ilkay Gundogan getting time on the ball. Fortunately for Malaga Dortmund missed the reliable distribution from Hummels in defence, Mario Gotze and Reus failed to link up with Gundogan’s forward runs, and Kehl’s use of possession was poor.

Kehl’s selection was a surprise, and usual first teamer Bender should come in for the home tie and offer far more assured distribution from deep. Klopp will hope that if Dortmund enjoy the same space as they did in the away leg then Bender will have the technical ability to find probing passes to the attackers.

Julio Baptista’s Positioning

Following on from the previous point, Baptista’s positioning was really puzzling in the first leg. I had suggested in the preview that his physical strength and familiarity in a deeper midfield role may offer Malaga an extra presence in midfield, yet he instead played as a support striker. While this was useful when Malaga broke quickly, giving then 4vs4 at the back – or more, as quite often Dortmund’s full backs were stranded upfield – but in general he was a defensive liability.

Whether the Brazliian’s positioning was Pellegrini’s decision or whether Baptista simply lacked discipline is debatable, although the manager’s organisation this season would suggest that this was a misjudged ploy that was fortunate to not cost them the tie. Baptista will surely play again tonight, but his positioning will be telling – if he retreats beyond Dortmund’s midfield, the Pellegrini has clearly learned a lesson; if he remains upfield, then Malaga may be going for the all-important away goal.

The Away Goals Handicap

Much has been written of the usefulness of the Away Goals Rule, but there is no doubt that in certain situations it becomes a handicap. As the first leg demonstrated Dortmund are the more confident side and the natural aggressors, but they will be wary of the damage a Malaga goal would cause. This is a young side inexperienced at this stage of the Champions League, and nerves are to be expected. Alternately Malaga have to decide whether to gamble on attack, knowing that they can afford to concede a goal to score one, or do they play conservatively away from home in fear of their opponent’s attacking strength. With all the potential drama surrounding this tie and the quality involved in it, there is a remaining suspicion that the fear of conceding may turn this into a very cautious affair.

Summary

Just as the tie started, this remains Dortmund’s to lose. The Germans have won every home game in the competition thus far, including victories against Real Madrid, Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk, all far more accomplished sides than Malaga. In theory a routine home win seems predictable, but the threat of an away goal will cast a long shadow.

For Malaga, the away side have given themselves an excellent chance of progressing, and it reaffirms the ridiculous nature of away goals that the underdog can now content themselves with a goalless draw at home.

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