Wednesday sees the return of Champions League football continue apace, with two highly exciting ties that will leave fans wondering which to watch.
Tottenham Hotspur welcome Borussia Dortmund to Wembley while the young guns of Ajax host a resurgent Real Madrid.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Borussia Dortmund
This could be an extraordinarily exciting tie. While Dortmund have progressed to the final stages of the competition before, both teams will feel a need to prove themselves at this level.
Dortmund are leading the league in Germany while Tottenham are, somehow, keeping pace with Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League title race. However, both, within the scope of their impressive seasons, have gone through something of a mini-wobble recently.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team lost three out of four games in all competitions in January, falling out of both domestic cup competitions and losing to Manchester United at Wembley. Meanwhile, Dortmund have failed to win any of their last three matches, drawing two in the league and being knocked out of a domestic cup competition themselves.
Both teams will have injuries to major players to contend with. Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are still out for Tottenham, while Marco Reus, Dortmund’s top scorer in the league, and defender Manuel Akanji will be missing for the German side.
Son Heung-Min has emerged as a key attacking player for Spurs in Kane and Alli’s absence. He’s scored in each of the three matches he’s played in since returning from the Asian Cup, but he was in top form before that too.
He got seven goals and five assists in the seven matches before leaving for the United Arab Emirates, an impressive record that saw him get back-to-back braces against Everton and Bournemouth.
Dortmund have their own unexpected stars though. Paco Alcacer has scored 12 in the Bundesliga from the equivalent of just 7.16 games (644 minutes). English teenager Jadon Sancho has scored seven and got nine assists in the league; he could be Europe’s biggest break-out star since Kylian Mbappé in 2016/17.
Tottenham are still hanging onto the dream of the new White Hart Lane being the only place to watch Champions League football in London this season. Dortmund will also have one eye on the Bundesliga, and breaking Bayern’s winning streak that currently stands at six in a row. Will these two things tip the balance?
Ajax vs Real Madrid
In times gone by — by now, decades ago — this would have been a clash of European heavyweights. In recent years, it would have looked like a one-sided affair, with Ajax no longer the power they once were.
Recently, though, the Dutch club that have been the spiritual father of modern football have looked like they’re on their way back.
Having already agreed to join Barcelona in the coming summer, this match may take on a certain relish for 21-year-old Frenkie de Jong. Nineteen-year-old Matthijs de Ligt has also been the subject of a lot of interest around Europe, and could be joining his current teammate in Catalonia.
However, Ajax are currently trailing PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie by six points after a recent wobble. In fact, this match could barely come at a worse time in the season for the Dutch club. They’ve only won one of their last four league matches, drawing one and losing two.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are on a completely different trajectory. After a difficult start to the season — they went five games without winning at one point, losing three in a row — they’re now back on form.
They’re now on a seven-game unbeaten streak and won five on the bounce in January and early February. At the weekend, they beat Atletico Madrid in Atletico’s stadium in the Madrid derby. The only match in that seven-game streak they’ve failed to win was a Copa del Rey Clasico, away to Barcelona.
It will be surprise to no one if Madrid extend their unbeaten run to eight with this match.
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