Dortmund's tie with Juventus has makings of another European classic
None other than former Borussia Dortmund striker Karl-Heinz Riedle himself drew Dortmund against Juventus in the Champions League last round of 16. The irony of course is that the tie is a repeat of the 1997 Champions League final, where Riedle scored two headers for the black and yellows, who lifted the title that night. Both sets of fans are more or less pleased with the result, as "it could have been worse" is seemingly the common denominator.
Yet in Dortmund, hardly anybody is in the right spirit to anticipate the two matches against the current Serie A champions, which will take place on Feb. 24 and March 18. BVB sporting director Michael Zorc said as much: "I must admit that I haven't followed the draw with as much enthusiasm as I have done in recent times, because our current situation is overshadowing everything else."
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW: REACTION
- Champions League last 16 draw in full: City get Barca
- Delaney: Draw pits familiar foes against each other
- Worrall: Chelsea wary of PSG seeking UCL revenge
- McNicholas: Wenger to relish Monaco reunion
- Train: Real Madrid should be quietly pleased
- Johnson: PSG out for revenge against Chelsea
As the Bundesliga has its cruel way with the black and yellows, leaving them in the relegation zone, priorities simply lie elsewhere. Nonetheless Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke wasn't too pessimistic about the chances of his club: "It's a 50-50 tie, Juventus are an internationally experienced side."
The Dortmund officials will still know the Juve bosses from their trip to Turin last summer, as they finalized the transfer of Ciro Immobile. The Italian champions had been holding Immobile's transfer rights since 2008, so this game will be without a doubt special for Dortmund's No. 9, where he will meet his colleagues from the Squadra Azzurra and will try to show his best in the spotlight.
But never mind with Westphalian lamenting, come February this Dortmund team will hopefully be in a much better shape and ready to take on the Italian powerhouse. And what's not to like about Juve against BVB? There is plenty of history between the two clubs, who not only fought out the aforementioned Champions League final in 1997, but actually met seven times between 1993 and 1997. The first two meetings were also a final, where Juve beat Dortmund over two legs to win the 1993 UEFA Cup. Overall, the Italians hold the all-time edge over the Germans with four wins, a draw and two losses.
The rivalry between Germany and Italy has always been serious when it comes to football, either at the national or club level, and ever since the fourth Champions League spot wandered from Serie A to Bundesliga there is even more tension in these duels.
Eighteen years after Lars Ricken so famously lobbed then Juve goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi with his first touch in the game in the '97 final, this tie won't have lost its charm. It's Jurgen Klopp versus Massimiliano Allegri, two managers boasting as much charisma and flair as they are successful. It's Juve's serene and cool possession football against BVB's proactive Gegenpressing. It might just so happen that the highly experienced Juventus team will outfox the black and yellows, but it also might just so happen that Dortmund overruns Juventus with their pacey and direct approach.
Whether in the Juventus Stadium or Westfalenstadion, both grounds will be rocking. There is definitely a heated atmosphere to be expected as both clubs can rely on loud and passionate fans that will support their team relentlessly over at least 180 minutes of football. That's one spectacle to look forward to, in addition to what will happen on the pitch.
It's currently impossible to predict this tie, as it's hard to foresee how much Borussia Dortmund improve until the end of February. In their present form they would not be much of a challenge for Juventus, but even if the black and yellows manage to unfold their full potential, there won't be a favourite in this tie, as it could go either way. It's hard to believe one side will wipe the floor with the other, but it can end up scrappy and nervy.
Again, 'priorities' is the key word here for BVB. As mouthwatering the Champions League encounter sounds, it's safe to say that they still will have to face an uphill battle in the Bundesliga, once Europe's elite league re-starts. Unfortunately, the big Revierderby against FC Schalke is also looming four days after Dortmund's game in Turin, which might also take the focus away. Even Riedle couldn't contain a cheeky grin when he pulled Real Madrid out of the plastic ball for Ruhr-rival FC Schalke, but it won't be before March until we know for sure who will have the last laugh.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.