Is it Dortmund’s time again?
So who do you think is a nailed on cert to win the 2012/13 Champions League? We’ve asked some of our favourite football writers to give their views on which team will be dancing around jubilantly on the Wembley pitch in May.
First up is Chris Boothroyd whose blog – The Czech Up – provides a unique insight into football in the Czech Republic. If you disagree with Chris’ prediction, you can accept his challenge by clicking on the ‘Bet Me’ button. Make sure you let him know all about it on Twitter!
UEFA’s self styled road to London continues in earnest and for a handful of clubs the illuminated arch of Wembley stadium is appearing on the horizon. But who’ll lift the trophy in May?
In arguably the surprise of the first-leg games Bayern Munich dominated Juventus and made Antonio Conte’s side look thoroughly average in the process. Alongside the Bavarian outfit stand Real Madrid who prevailed over Galatasaray 3-0 at the Bernabéu. Only cataclysmic failures will see these two fail to make the final four and that won’t happen.
Elsewhere things become a little less clear: Paris Saint-Germain stunned many with a deserved draw against Barcelona in Paris. Barcelona are vulnerable at the back and with Zlatan Ibrahimović PSG have somebody who could cut through any opposing defence with sumptuous and graceful ease. Barcelona don’t know how to sit back and conserve a lead and PSG need to get on the score-sheet so there will be goals and in any fire fight, I’d back Barcelona, even with their obvious weaknesses.
The neutrals, television stations and commercial parties will all be hoping that London gets to host an El Clásico on May 25th and as much as a mouth watering-prospect that is I doubt that they will get their wishes: when it’s all said and done, with a bit of luck and a few games of football that will live long in the memory, Dortmund will win their second Champions League this term.
Yes, they have been rather lacklustre in defence of their Bundesliga crown and have been clearly second best to Bayern Munich, but they are the only undefeated side left in the competition. Over recent years they have shown their class to win back-to-back league titles in Germany and have improved on the continental stage no end.
Ponder over the potential match-ups and there is little to choose from between Madrid, Bayern and Barcelona. Madrid and Bayern have the functionality and brilliance to defeat anybody, Barcelona have the football to mesmerise everybody, we know Barcelona and Madrid can beat each other and between Madrid/Barcelona and Bayern you might as well flip a coin. The cycle continues towards infinity as paper covers rock which blunts scissors that cut paper. The wildcard, the great unknown, the team that can and I’m predicting will turn over the apple cart, is Dortmund.
They may have been lacklustre domestically but so have Real Madrid, like Mourinho’s side the only thing they are playing for now is Champions League glory.
Just like their Catalan counterparts they do look a little suspect defensively, a by-product of their offensive nature, but unlike Barcelona they haven’t creaked or slipped to defeat. When they’ve conceded they’ve either matched or blown away their foes, something which nobody else can comfortably claim maybe with the exception of Real Madrid, a side which Dortmund are unbeaten against this campaign.
Both Dortmund and Madrid were involved in the ‘Group of Death’ which also featured brief cameos from Manchester City and Ajax, a quartet that the German side topped, taking four points off the Madrid giants which was so nearly six until old-boy Mesit Özil grabbed an eighty-ninth minute equaliser for Real.
At this stage of the competition it’s strange that Borussia are still considered fourth favourite at the moment when you take into consideration their domestic form in the past three years and their results in Europe thus far. They’ve had Jose’s number (a feat which the Manchester clubs and Barcelona can’t boast this season), been strong against Bayern and if any side is going to beat Barcelona at ‘the beautiful game’ it will be them.
But Klopp is managing a bunch of kids and players devoid of experience at the highest level you might claim. Well, you’re right, there’s no denying that. But you need a certain kind of intestinal fortitude to overturn a two-goal deficit in stoppage time. For those that watched, followed or listened to the game against Malaga you will know that this Dortmund side did the impossible. It is a side full of natural born winners and they’ve only got one trophy left to win.
It won’t be the tale of Villanova’s emotional return, Mourinho’s Madrid swansong or Heynckes double, but instead we’ll all be talking about Jurgen Klopp leading Borussia Dortmund to the top of European football and a chorus of ‘Tor! Tor! Tor’! will be echoing in our ears