Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund – Tuesday, September 18, 20:00BST/21:00 CEST – Jan Breyedelstadion, Brugge, Belgium
Brugge against Dortmund is more than just a clash between a Belgium and a German side. This is a game with some historical context. Back in 2003/04 Brugge and Borussia Dortmund were drawn against one another in the third-round of Champions League qualifying. Both games ended 2-1 and Brugge eventually eliminated Dortmund in a dramatic penalty shootout.
It was a game with huge consequences – shortly after the game was over the camera swang over to sporting director Michael Meier and President Gerd Niebaum, both sitting on the main stand. Their faces ashen as the club’s entire financial future was banked on reaching the group stage of the UEFA Champions League that season. Without Champions League money insolvency was a real possibility and the club only avoided bankruptcy thanks to current CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.
In some ways, that game in Brugge was the birth-place of the current Borussia. Dortmund slowly rebuilt themselves into a side that is now the second most financially viable club in Germany behind Bayern München. On the pitch, however, Dortmund are looking back to a difficult season in which they barely managed to finish in fourth-place, which allowed the club to return to the Champions League.
As a result, the club hired head coach Lucien Favre. Favre is in charge of bringing back the glory days achieved by former head coach Jürgen Klopp. It was thanks to Klopp that Dortmund was able to rebuild with a young squad during the years of financial austerity. Watzke was certainly the father of the financial resurrection of the club, but it was Klopp, who transformed Dortmund into a success story.
That success story has somewhat been diminished by recent choices on the transfer market and head coach selections. Dortmund are without a doubt the second biggest club in Germany, but they were unable to challenge Bayern. That is supposed to change now under Favre, who is charged with stabilising the club not only in the Bundesliga but also in the Champions League where Dortmund are the only German club, other than Bayern, to be truly competitive.
Hence, for Dortmund, the match against Brugge on Tuesday is once again about destiny. The Yellow and Blacks have started well into the season under Favre collecting seven points from three games. The victories against Frankfurt and Leipzig at home were, in particular, impressive with Dortmund showing early signs of how they are going to play under the Swiss head coach.
The next challenge will be Club Brugge in the Champions League. The Belgium side won the title last season and have collected 19 points from the first seven games. The Blauw en Zwart fondly remember the qualification stage match against Dortmund. But the Belgium side have another positive memory when it comes to playing Dortmund.
Back in 1987, Brugge lost 0-3 in the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup to Dortmund. But in the return match, they managed a 5-0 victory after extra-time. That match 31-years ago, however, is far removed from the current reality. Whereas Belgium football and Brugge have become the development academy for major European clubs and leagues, Dortmund, and the Bundesliga, have become European giants.
Furthermore, on the weekend Brugge showed some significant weaknesses against Lokeren. “We can’t afford such a bad first half against Dortmund,” star player Hans Vanaken said following the match. The game ended 2-1 for Brugge, but Vanaken highlighted some problems with the squad. “Our tempo was to low, and we had not bite,” Vanaken added. There is no doubt Dortmund are the favourites on Tuesday in Belgium, but history shows that Club Brugge can achieve great things from the position as an underdog.
Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund – Players to look out for:
Wesley #7 – Club Brugge
The 21-year-old Brazilian is going into the match with some confidence. Scoring two goals in five matches Wesley believes that he can also be the dangerman against Dortmund. “Champions League or not I have no doubt that I can be competitive against Dortmund,” Wesley told the media following the game against Lokeren on the weekend. The 191cm tall striker certainly plays a key role in Ivan Leko’s 3-5-2 formation and will be the player to watch against Borussia Dortmund.
Axel Witsel #28 – Borussia Dortmund
Axel Witsel is an impact player. Furthermore, the Belgium national team player knows Brugge well from his time Standard Liege. “[Club Brugge] have the best players in Belgium,” Witsel told kicker on Sunday. “But with our quality and the players we have we should win on Tuesday,” Witsel quickly added. Witsel himself will be one of those quality players. The central midfielder showed his value on Friday against Eintracht Frankfurt. Die Adler had just equalised when Witsel came on, and the midfielder took control of the match playing the key pass ahead of Marius Wolf’s equaliser stamping his authority on the game.
Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund – Match Stats
- Belgian champions for the 15th time in 2017/18, this is Club Brugge’s second group campaign in three seasons, and their sixth overall. Before 2016/17 – when they lost every game to finish bottom of a group including Leicester, Porto and København – their previous participation had come in 2005/06.
- The Belgian side are without a win in their last ten UEFA Champions League fixtures, qualifying included (D1 L9).
- Group stage to final, Club Brugge’s last win in the competition was a 3-2 home defeat of Rapid Wien in November 2005; their record since then is D1 L7. They have won only two of their last 12 fixtures in the UEFA Champions League proper (D1 L9).
- The Bruges club have won only one of their last nine fixtures against German clubs, home and away (D2 L6) – that 2003 defeat of Dortmund. They won seven of their first eight home matches against Bundesliga clubs, losing one, but that Dortmund success is the sole victory in the subsequent five (D2 L2)
- Fourth in last season’s Bundesliga, the German club are in the group stage for the third season running, and the seventh time in eight years – and they will be keen to improve on their 2017/18 campaign, having picked up only two points from their six fixtures. They went on to reach the UEFA Europa League round of 16, losing to Salzburg.
- Dortmund have won only one of their last 11 UEFA Champions League fixtures (D3 L7), a 4-0 home success against Benfica in the 2016/17 round of 16 second leg.
- The 3-2 home win against Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg was Dortmund’s only European victory last season – and their sole success in their last 12 fixtures in continental competition (D4 L7)
- This is only the second time Dortmund have been drawn with a Belgian club in a UEFA Champions League section; they took four points off Anderlecht in 2014/15 (3-0 away, 1-1 home).
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund – 0-3
Brugge vs Borussia Dortmund – Lineups
Letica – Mechele, Poulain, Denswil – Rits, Vormer – Danjuma, Vanaken, Diatta – Wesley Rezaei
Head Coach: Ivan Leko
Bürki – Schmelzer, Diallo, Akanji, Piszczek – Witsel, Dahoud – Reus, Götze, Sancho – Philipp
Head Coach: Lucien Favre
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.