High-stakes game for Dortmund against Napoli

Posted by Stefan Buczko

On Tuesday night Dortmund welcomes in SSC Napoli for a Champions League match that has been dubbed the "most important game of the season -- so far". Dortmund has to win to maintain a chance for progression into the knock-out stages.

Even though CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke assured that Dortmund will still operate in the black in case BVB finish fourth in the group, the club can use any extra million coming their way, as they are still trying to catch up financially with Europe's elite.

- Palmer: Matchday Five talking points

Champions League math

Before we look ahead to the game itself, let's figure out how results have to go in order for Dortmund to secure knockout stage football. If you feel like doing some squats or push-ups or maybe even pouring yourself a drink before we get into this, then go right ahead!

So far, Arsenal and Napoli are both on nine points, while BVB is on six with two match-days to go.

Now, actually, it's pretty easy. If Dortmund don't win on Tuesday, they are most likely heading to the Europa League, unless Marseille beats Arsenal.

A 1-0 win for BVB would be enough to win the tiebreaker against Napoli. If Napoli then fail to win against Arsenal, Dortmund just need to avoid disaster when they face Marseille in the final match-day because they would be level on points, but ahead on goal difference.

But things could get really tricky.

In case all teams finish on 12 points -- Dortmund beats Napoli; Napoli beats Arsenal -- the first tiebreaker used would be head to head.

That means, if Dortmund -- who won the head to head against Arsenal based on away goals -- can beat Napoli, they will have also won the head to head over Napoli, and thus would be through to the knockout round.

If Dortmund fail to win the head to head over Napoli, but Napoli loses out in the head to head to Arsenal, we would have a nice triangle. That would then result in having the games against Marseille excluded and the tiebreaker would come down to a comparison of goal difference in a three-team table. In the event that the goal difference is also level in that three-team table, well, you can just go ahead and pour me a drink as well!

To be on the safe side, Dortmund should 'just' win by a two-goal margin against Napoli and save me the headache.

The Bender situation

Now sadly this isn't a Quentin Tarantino movie, but Juergen Klopp still has to clean up the mess that recent injuries to Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels have caused.

Manuel Friedrich filled in alongside the strong Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the tie against Bayern, but he isn't eligible for the Champions League, which leaves Klopp with either Sven Bender or Sebastian Kehl as his only real options. Klopp has already indicated that Bender would be his man for the spot, while Kehl returns to the side without any match fitness following a three-month injury spell.

Either way, the situation isn't ideal, yet Bender already played 45 minutes as makeshift center back in the first leg against Napoli and did fairly well. Kehl maybe has a bit more to offer going forward than Bender, but since his current form is hard to judge, that remains to be seen.

Napoli happy with leaving all the work to Dortmund

Asked about above mentioned center-back situation, Rafael Benitez said that the focus would be more on Dortmund's offensive ambitions. So, unless Benitez is using reverse psychology, that means Napoli will be rather passive and wait for counters -- as nothing else is expected of a team from Serie A here in Germany.

Courtesy of Arsene Wenger, Benitez has a nice blueprint of how to execute his game plan. Borussia Dortmund have struggled heavily this season to break down deep lying and passive opposition. On top of that, with the goal drought of recent games, Dortmund fans might want to bring a lot of patience.

With Juan Zuniga, Giandomenico Mesto and Marek Hamsik, Napoli has its own troubles with injuries. The very strong Zuniga will especially be a loss for their defense, as the majority of Dortmund's attacks will likely roll over to their right flank.

Hamsik is, of course, a big miss for them as well, especially on their counter-attacks. Yet Napoli still has enough attacking prowess to grab a goal or two. They will again have very good chances on set-pieces, as both their goals were created that way in the first leg.

Both teams struggling for form

Borussia Dortmund have lost three games in a row, while Napoli have lost their last two games in Serie A.

Napoli didn't look convincing in either game and their current form might not be as good as two and a half months ago. Yet Benitez knows exactly how to play in these kinds of situations and can rely on his team's cheekiness to grind out a result.

Klopp allegedly hired an external sport psychologist ahead of the game. It seems like he has identified the goals in his team as a mental issue and tries to restore confidence in every possible manner. I think a very dramatic game can be expected, either with a huge confidence boost or a major disappointment. This game might come off as being very decisive for the short and possibly medium-term future for the club.

This game is no doubt a final for BVB.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.