When looking ahead to this Tuesday evening’s tumultuous clash between Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at the Wanda Metropolitano our attention is immediately drawn to the high-flying visitors. For under the tutorage of Lucien Favre – a well-regarded coach who returned to the Bundesliga this summer after a two year stint in France – der BVB appear to be a side utterly transformed, leading the German top flight by four points and unbeaten across all competitions to this point.
With on-loan striker Paco Alcacer firing on all cylinders, young English talent Jadon Sancho blossoming into an assist king, and long-serving Marco Reus scheming and orchestrating in his usual fashion Dortmund have blazed a spectacular trail scoring four or more times on six separate occasions. They have looked, frankly unstoppable and what is most notable from their sudden prolificacy is that a fortnight ago one of their routed victims was none other than Atletico themselves.
No-one scores four past Diego Simeone’s fortress of a team yet Dortmund had the verve and temerity to do so – in the Champions League of all stages – with left-back Raphael Guerreiro scoring twice to complete the worst defeat for the Argentine coach in his seven years at the club. It was a victory so startling it made all of Europe sit up and take notice. More practically it also put der BVB firmly in charge of Group A.
Three games in and halfway through the group has unquestionably become a two-way duel with Monaco and Brugge out of the running and Dortmund’s win ensured they now boast a three point lead. It is a lead that could prove priceless going forward as the usual suspects of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus currently head their respective mini-leagues meaning the runner-up could face them in the last 16. The ultimate winner between Atletico and Dortmund meanwhile would in all likelihood be paired with a Roma or Lyon, or if they’ve very lucky Manchester United.
And what that three point lead also offers is the opportunity for this Tuesday’s visitors to hold out for a draw, even if such a strategy is not in their attacking make-up.
As for Atletico a failure to properly capitalise on the vacuum left at the top of La Liga by a struggling Real Madrid has been cause for frustration and five draws suggests an inability to finish opponents off. This is suggested further by a reliance on Antoine Griezmann to find the net with Diego Costa drawing a blank going into November.
Yet this is Atletico remember and through toil and passion and all-so-often tremendous and exhilarating football they usually find a way. Consequently the Champions League odds that are available reflect this.
Indeed of all of this week’s European commitments it could be argued that this one is the most difficult to call. What we do know for sure however is that it will be a lot of fun finding out.