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UEFA Champions League Preview: Juventus vs. Borussia Dortmund, Leg 1

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By now, we've figured out that Borussia Dortmund isn't having a good season in the Bundesliga. While they've gotten themselves out of the relegation zone and into the middle of the pack in recent weeks, there still aren't all those glistening and wonderful thoughts and feelings when it comes to how Dortmund — which just picked up its third straight league win on Friday night — are playing this season.

Let's just go ahead and ask Jürgen Klopp what he thinks about his Dortmund's season as a whole, shall we?

So much said in just a six-second clip with no words actually spoken. That is Dortmund's season — sans the past three or four weeks — in a nutshell, and how their well-regarded manager has reacted to a team that was in the Champions League final just two years ago has fallen so fast in its own domestic competition.

But what we've come to discover about this Dortmund team is pretty remarkable, really. While they have struggled beyond belief — Klopp's and everybody else's — for a large part of the Bundesliga season, their form in Europe has almost been the complete opposite. In their six group stage games, Dortmund won the first four of them. Outside of their 2-0 loss to Arsenal in late November, Klopp's men allowed all of two goals in this season's group stage.

That's not exactly how a team that is currently sitting mid-table in their respective league would be expected to play in Europe. I mean, the team sitting in 10th in Serie A entering this past weekend's set of games isn't doing much of anything in the Champions League this season, people.

(This is where we take a moment to point and laugh at Inter. Why? Because it's never not appropriate.)

There's no reason to think Euro Dortmund won't show up at Juventus Stadium with its Bundesliga form suddenly looking brighter these past few weeks. Juventus, on the other hand, has not been anything close to impressive over the same period of time. And we all know how "interesting" Juve's European form has been this season. There was the unwritten rule of starting the group stage slow, then a loss in Spain, and finally the mad scramble to qualify for the knockout stages. It's become the regular deal at this point — something we may never truly figure out as to why it happens.

The No. 1 goal, as both manager Max Allegri and his players have said in recent days, is to keep Dortmund off the scoreboard in the first leg so they can head to Germany with a straightforward way of making it to the quarterfinals. With BVB possessing so much attacking depth, doing that will be the biggest challenge Juventus has over the court of the 90 minutes Tuesday night.

Can the Juventus defense, which has been far from stellar in recent games, rise to the occasion? I really don't know, but I'm pretty sure Allegri isn't changing his tone as we are less than 24 hours away from kickoff in Turin.

Then it's been decided! Now all that's left is to actually do it. What could possibly go wrong...


The first leg is at Juventus Stadium. You don't need to remind me about the last time Juventus went to Germany for the first leg of a Champions League encounter. That wasn't very fun.


If it isn't obvious, it should be. Dortmund are starting to hit their stride right as they come to Juventus Stadium. No more last-place club here. Have they had a disappointing domestic season? Sure, but now they're actually starting to resemble the team that has been playing well in Europe this season.


1. How Juventus handles Dortmund's lightning-quick counterattack.

I'll be completely honest, thinking of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with even the slightest bit of open field in front of him scares the living daylight out of me. He is the living, breathing and all too real definition of the danger Dortmund has when it comes to speed to burn up top — and he's not the only one, too. Marco Reus is easily one of the best wingers in the game today and is capable of taking over a game without much hesitation. Dortmund switching back to a 4-2-3-1 has enabled them to get their mojo going once more, as well as playing a formation that truly fits their strengths. Dortmund has so much speed that they can go from defense to attacking third in a flash. It won't solely be on Juventus' defense to slow down the counter, either. It will be based on Juve's midfield and defense trying to be as cohesive unit to try and slow down an opposing team that is sooooo quick.

2. The health status and effectiveness of Arturo Vidal.

You have to think that if Vidal is anywhere close to full strength, Allegri is going to give him a starting nod. While I don't necessarily like it, it's almost certain in my mind that he will be playing behind the strikers, too — a whole different matter that we've brought up a number of times already. Vidal returned to training with the main group on Sunday and is part of the 24-man squad that was called up by Allegri for tomorrow night's first leg. So, now what? Well, it's pretty simple. Vidal's season has been marred by disappointing game after disappointing game. It won't take too many fingers to count how many games where Vidal has looked like the Vidal of old. And there's no denying that if Juve want to advance past Dortmund, Vidal will have to resemble his former self. That's an easy thing to say, but as we've seen this season, not exactly something that happens a lot of the time.

3. The overall contributions from Andrea Pirlo.

As much as I think a midfield three of Vidal-Marchisio-Pogba would work best of all against Dortmund, I don't see a situation where Allegri doesn't pick Pirlo — especially after how he played on Friday night against Atalanta. That means Pirlo will be the hub of the offense like he almost always is. And that also means it will dictate pretty much how Juventus will approach the game tactically. You might think that is a good thing because it's Pirlo and he's still capable of putting in a wonderful performance. You might think that's a bad idea knowing how Dortmund play and the likely defensive responsibilities that will come along with things Tuesday. Either way, Pirlo will have to be a two-contributor come tomorrow night. Maybe that same Pirlo that had the second-most amount of tackles Friday night will show his head once again. It will have lovely hair either way, you know.

4. The impact of Álvaro Morata.

I would like to think that Fernando Llorente getting the starting nod against Atalanta was to give Mr. Morata a rest with the Champions League on the horizon. As much as I wanted to see Morata play, I can definitely support Allegri's decision if it means the young Spaniard is rested and raring to go come kickoff Tuesday night. Morata has been very, very good these last few weeks since he because a regular starter. Can he keep it going against a Dortmund defense that has been relatively solid in European play this season? That's why we're going to be watching. If Morata plays anywhere close to what he has done in the new year, then the scoring chances for both himself and Tévez will open up. And so on and so on and so on. As much as we want to talk about Juventus keep Dortmund off the scoreboard in the first leg, they're going to need to find the back of the BVB net to put things even more in their favor.

My starting XI (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Cáceres, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Vidal, Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; Tévez, Morata