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Borussia Dortmund are rejuvenated and ready for Juventus, Champions League

Three Bundesliga wins in a row have given Dortmund back their swagger, and gives Juventus something to think about as Tuesday's round of 16 first leg approaches.

Alex Grimm/Getty Images

"Here comes trouble, here comes the danger!" That song from Chronixx was on the brain as I watched Borussia Dortmund rack up their third Bundesliga win in a row on Friday night.

Granted, these wins have come against three of the teams that were possibly in worse form than Dortmund; Freiburg (currently 16th, relegation playoff spot), Mainz (currently 11th, but sacked their coach after the Dortmund loss as they had one win in their last 12) and Stuttgart (bottom of the league). However, given Dortmund's form before the win against Freiburg (three losses and two draws in their previous five games), this run of form has returned the belief to Dortmund and their fans.

They can salvage their season, and with 12 league games still to go, a Europa League place is very much a possibility. Hell, with 10 points between them and fourth place, a Champions League spot isn't out of the realm of possibility, either.

Regardless of the strength of the opposition, from watching Dortmund's play, one can see that the team is regaining their confidence. Jürgen Klopp's effervescent celebrations and his bear-hugs for his players after substitution have returned. While things are definitely improving for BVB, there are still problems to sort out. Here, we will discuss some of those and see how they stack up in current form against our boys.


Dortmund's gegenpressing
One of the key facets of BvB's success under Klopp, 'gegenpressing' means to press the opposition right after losing possession, i.e. to press as an organized unit the moment you transition to defense. Juventus has notably had problems against teams that employ this tactic. Most recently, Cesena experienced some success pressuring Juve's defence and midfield into making numerous mistakes, some of which were punished. In the Champions League, games against Olympiakos (away) and Atletico Madrid also bore this out. So, going into battle against one of the "best in the biz" at employing this tactic does not fill me with much confidence.

Dortmund's counterattacking
Their strength in pressing leads well to their strength in counterattacking. If a team wins the ball high up the pitch and soon after they themselves have lost it, they are in the best position to attack an opponent that has just transitioned to attack and will be poorly set defensively. Dortmund has excelled in this department over the years, and are well equipped with players who have the speed (both physically and of thought) and the skill to cause damage to the best of teams on the counter.

Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Between the Bundesliga and the Champions League, these two have either scored or assisted on 30 of BvB's 42 goals so far this season. They have been in especially good form in recent weeks, with both racking up goals and assists in their last three wins — Reus, three goals and an assist; Aubameyang, four goals and an assist. In Reus, Dortmund has one of the best and most versatile attacking midfielders in the game. And in Aubameyang, they have a devastatingly quick and deadly striker currently in great form.


A shaky defence
In the Bundesliga, they've conceded 31 goals in 22 games. While this isn't terrible by Bundesliga standards — in fact, it puts them at eighth best — it's terrible for a top team. Even in this current run of good form, they have conceded 4 goals in those those games. Further, Dortmund have conceded 10 goals as a direct result of individual errors. This shows a propensity for the regular defensive brain fart.

Their back four of Lukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer have only recently reconvened their partnership — which was a huge part of their run to the Champions League final in 2013 — after injuries to various members and are trying to rebuild their chemistry. The highly-rated Hummels has looked like a shadow of the defensive rock he has been touted as. Stand-ins like ex-Milan flop Sokratis Papastathopoulos and young German international Matthias Ginter have fared no better. Their goalkeeper, the usually reliable Roman Wiedenfeller, has had his share of clangers which resulted in being him dropped for the reserve keeper Micthell Langerak. He has since regained his place.

They have done better overall in the Champions League, conceding four in their previous six games. However, expect Juventus to have their fair share of chances created.

Conversion of chances
Despite being able to create chances, Dortmund have struggled to consistently put these away. Currently, Dortmund have the fourth-worst conversion rate in the Bundesliga. They share a parallel with us here, as we also struggle to consistently put away the numerous chances we create.

These have been the major reasons for Dortmund's below par domestic season so far.

So how can Juventus limit Dortmund's strengths while at the same time exploiting their weaknesses?

Employ the same gegenpressing strategy
As mentioned above, Dortmund are currently not the best defensively, with loads of defensive errors (some unforced). So why not put that defence under constant pressure, with the expectation that they will commit more errors? Of course, this would require a lot physically and mentally from our players, and who knows whether our players are physically prepared to carry out this tactic. But, we're playing to accomplish one of the goals we set ourselves for the season (reaching at least the quarterfinals on the Champions League), so why not? Putting Ilkay Gundogan and Nuri Sahin — their Pirlo-type players — under the same pressure that they will inevitably put Pirlo under will also be key.

For this reason, I would start both Arturo Vidal and Roberto Pereyra, as they both naturally do a lot of running and would have the energy to hustle and harry opposing players for the majority of a 90 minute game. I would also sit Claudio Marchisio over Pirlo, as I think Pirlo's much superior passing ability would give Juve an outlet for quality balls when switching from defence to attack when we would be inevitably be put under pressure.

Increased composure in front of goal
This clearly goes without saying, but we have shown ourselves to get anxious in front of goal especially when there's a lot on the line. However, we have to show that confidence and swagger to prove that we belong on this stage. We will get chances - we've only struggled to create chances against Atletico, and this Dortmund is no Atletico - so our worry should really only be finishing them.

Isolate and attack their fullbacks
Piszczek and especially Schmelzer are both susceptible to being taken to the cleaners by skillful players. We should exploit this weakness, pulling both out of position and creating space in behind them for the likes of Carlos Tévez, Álvaro Morata or the late runs of Vidal and Paul Pogba to make the most of.

Better defending on set pieces
While Dortmund have not been particularly threatening on set pieces this season, they do have players who are dangerous at corners and free kicks. Their centre backs, Subotic and Hummels, are both very good in the air and have both scored from corners in recent games. We have been lapse in this area recently; the last thing we want is to give away a cheap away goal due to a corner (a la Olympiakos).

Concentration will be key
As many pundits have opined, this is most likely the tightest and hardest to call tie of the round of 16. It may very well come down to who makes less mistakes or who can capitalize on their other's mistakes better. At the end of the day, concentration will be key. We cannot afford any silly mistakes, as Dortmund will make us pay. Let them work for their chances, if anything.

Max Allegri faced Barcelona in the 2013 Champions League with Milan, and played an almost perfect home leg, winning 2-0. That game saw an unexpectedly aggressive Milan, who were intense, who harried their opponents at every opportunity, and quickly closed down on any space, limiting the chances created by Barcelona. I am expecting to see Allegri employ a similar strategy against Dortmund on Tuesday. Hopefully, regardless of whether he does or doesn't, the result is similar.