Struggling Borussia Dortmund target last 16
Borussia Dortmund are looking to hold top spot in Group F with a win over Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday to put them in the Champions League’s knock-out stages.
Dortmund enjoyed a 2-1 win at Sporting a fortnight ago with goals by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and midfielder Julian Weigl, his first for the club, to leave them top of the group on goal difference from defending champions Real Madrid.
Dortmund will book a last 16 place with victory at their Signal Iduna Park against third-placed Sporting, who are four points behind both Borussia and second-placed Real Madrid.
Dortmund’s final group match at Real on December 7 is likely to settle who will win the group, but for now the focus is on Sporting.
“We need to put the whole package on the pitch,” said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.
“Anything else would be light-hearted and unprofessional. I’m counting on Sporting showing their best side.”
However, Jorge Jesus-coached Sporting have a miserable record in Germany.
They have have never won in Germany with one draw and 11 defeats, while Dortmund have a 100 percent home record against Portuguese sides in Europe with four wins in four games.
But Tuchel’s Dortmund have struggled of late.
They are winless in their last four Bundesliga match, dating back to late September, and were held to a goalless league draw at home by rivals Schalke on Saturday in the Ruhr derby.
“It feels very tough, as if you were to fight very hard for every little thing,” fumed Tuchel.
Their only wins in October were at Sporting and last week’s penalty shoot-out victory over second division Union Berlin in the second round of the German Cup.
World Cup-winner Mario Goetze has said recent results have left a bad feeling. “We have to reward ourselves better,” he added.
The reason for their dip in form has been a horrific run of injuries.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (calf), Marc Bartra (groin) and Christian Pulisic (ill) missed the penalty shoot-out win over Union last Wednesday, but were involved in Saturday’s goalless draw with Schalke.
Aubameyang and Pulisic played in the Ruhr derby while Bartra was an unused substitute.
Club captain Marcel Schmelzer has been out since October 14 with a groin injury, while Andre Schuerrle and Raphael Guerreiro both made substitute appearances on Saturday after injury spells.
Sven Bender (ankle), Marco Reus (groin), Neven Subotic (ribs) and Erik Durm (knee) are all long-term absentees.
Reus is back in full training, but will not feature against Sporting.
Director of sport Michael Zorc says the priority is to beat Sporting to put them in the knock-out stages so they can concentrate on their league form ahead of Saturday’s away league match at bottom side Hamburg.
“We definitely want to underline our good position with a victory, because we need to focus on the league afterwards,” said Zorc.
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