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Europa League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v. Borussia Dortmund

Tottenham Mauricio Pochettino
Head coach Mauricio Pochettino attends the Tottenham Hotspur FC press conference prior to the UEFA Europa League match between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Signal Iduna Park on March 9, 2016 in Dortmund, Germ

On Thursday, Europa League favorites Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund are set to square off at the Signal Iduna Park. Both teams are 2nd in their respective leagues. Spurs are 5 points off the pace of league leaders Leicester City, and Dortmund are 5 points behind Bayern Munich. This is a future Champions League clash that will get fans all over the world excited to watch.

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Form

Spurs are coming off a bad week, losing midweek vs. West Ham United at Upton Park, and conceding late on vs. Arsenal while having the man advantage to draw 2-2 at White Hart Lane. Spurs are looking to return to their winning ways vs. Die Schwarzgelben (The Black and Yellows).

Dortmund are 2-1-0 going into this fixture, beating both Hoffenheim and Darmstadt, and drawing 0-0 vs. Bayern Munich. Dortmund will be looking to get back to winning ways as well.

Injuries

Tottenham: Jan Vertonghen (Knee) Danny Rose (Undisclosed)

Dortmund: Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Groin)

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Suspensions

Tottenham: Dele Alli (Yellow Card Accumulation)

 

What to Watch for

 

Dortmund’s attack vs. Tottenham’s defense

It has been well documented that Borussia Dortmund was one of the best attacks in Europe, with their fluid, attractive style that puts the fans on their feet. Their attack is spearheaded by Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored 33 goals in all competitions this season. Along with star forwards Marco Reus and Henrikh Mikhitaryan, Dortmund are joint-top with Bayern Munich in the goals scored category with 59 in the Bundesliga and boast a +34 goal difference.

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Tottenham on the other hand, have the best defensive record in the Premier League conceding 24 goals and have a +27 goal difference. The key for the Tottenham defense is breaking up the fluidity of the Dortmund attack. Tottenham have developed a nasty streak under Manager Mauricio Pochettino. They have a tendency to break-up play within their own defensive half to prevent teams from counter, which can lead to an accumulation of yellow cards. Tottenham’s will have to be weary of trying to break-up Dortmund’s attack while not accumulating yellow cards. Danny Rose did not make the trip with the squad, so Ben Davies will get the nod at left-back.

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The midfield battle

Both teams have a midfield that likes control proceedings. Both teams that play a high-pressing style that suffocate teams. Dortmund also play a counter-attack style, which helps their attacking stars show their worth.

Tottenham will be without emerging midfielder Dele Alli due to yellow card accumulation. Along with Ryan Mason and Mousa Dembele, Tottenham have been able to sustain attacks and break-up counter-attacks in their own half. Whether Christian Eriksen moves into the number ten role rather than playing on the left side, they have a momentous task in trying to stop Dortmund’s fluid attack from taking control of the game. Eric Dier did not travel with the team along with Alli.

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Harry Kane vs. Dortmund’s defense

The biggest key to success for Spurs Thursday is giving service to star forward Harry Kane. The Spurs attack will will have to find a way to break down Dortmund’s defense and give the ball to Kane as much as possible. The more Kane gets on the ball and creates goal-scoring chances, the better Spurs will be in this match. Dortmund keeper Roman Burki will have to be on the top of his game as well to stop the English talisman and company Thursday.

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Dortmund Chairman CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and Sporting Director Michael Zorc are looking forward to this fixture:

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Hans-Joachim Watzke: “A fantastic opponent. There will be two great evenings of football at White Hart Lane and at Signal Iduna Park. We are looking forward to both encounters.”

Michael Zorc: “Tottenham are the most difficult side that we could have been up against, but it’s also a hugely appealing fixture.”

Coach Thomas Teuchel and Captain Mats Hummels gave their thoughts about the match-up as well:

Thomas Tuchel: “I think it’s a golden opportunity; very difficult but also hugely appealing. We are looking forward to two exciting matches. On a personal level I’m looking forward to meeting a special Coach and I’m already looking forward to the amazing atmosphere in the return leg at White Hart Lane.”

Mats Hummels: “It’s a golden opportunity, everything that we had imagined in the Europa League and the next crunch encounter after Porto. We are very happy with the draw. I think we’ve got a good chance of progressing, but to do so we have to produce the goods”.

Interesting Facts

Spurs forward Heung-Min Son has scored 5 goals in 4 games vs. Dortmund while playing for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga

Projected Line-Ups

Tottenham: Lloris, Davies, Wimmer, Alderweireld, Walker, Mason, Dembele, Eriksen, Lamela, Son, Kane

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Dortmund: Burki, Durm, Ginter, Hummels, Schmelzer, Bender, Gundogan, Kagawa, Reus, Mkihitaryan, Aubameyang

Prediction

Both teams will be looking to advance into the quarterfinals of the Europa League and will like to gain an advantage during the first leg. With both teams playing similar styles, both teams will most likely cancel each other out. Dortmund’s attack will have to deal with one of the stingiest defenses in Europe, and Spurs’ attack will be without their catalyst in Dele Alli. A draw is on the cards, with Tottenham earning an all-decisive away goal in the process.

Tottenham 1-1 Dortmund

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