Juventus looking to banish memories of 1997 match with Borussia Dortmund

BVB

When the draw for the UEFA Champions League last-16 was made, the tie between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund is one that immediately stood out for a plethora of reasons.

Not only is this a game that harbors some historical significance—these two teams contested the 1997 European Cup final—but both sides are in intriguing predicaments coming into this two-legged affair.

Back in the final 18 years ago, Dortmund upset the odds to beat a star-studded Bianconeri 3-1 thanks to a double from Karl-Heinz Riedle and wonderful lob from Lars Ricken. Since then, both sides have suffered with various detrimental scandals that have threatened the immense stature of each club, but all-in-all both are now well established amongst European soccer’s elite.

However, the two sides have suffered contrasting seasons so far as they gear up for what should be an enticing match-up. For viewers in the United States, the match between Juventus and Dortmund will be shown live on FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2GO on Tuesday at 2:45pm ET.

Coming into this two-legged affair the Bundesliga side are underdogs once again, but in desperate need of European success to rescue something from what’s been a horrendous season.

Ahead of the mid-season break in the Bundesliga, Dortmund were joint bottom of the league. The usually effervescent and energetic Jurgen Klopp resembled a discouraged figure on the side, the wonderful were crippled by apprehension and the Westfalendstadion faithful—usually some of the finest around—were completely disillusioned by the team’s predicament.

The Champions League matches were a fillip of positivity to cling too, though. In a tough group containing Arsenal, Anderlecht and Galatasaray, Dortmund played with a familiar swagger and incision. The shackles seemed to be off for BVB and they won their first four group matches to cement their qualification at a canter.

This competition is the only thing likely to salvage anything from Dortmund’s campaign. Even though they’re now just ten points off the top four spots after some improved performances, qualification for next season’s Champions League remains a long shot. But staying in this year’s edition will help preserve high spirits at the Ruhr club as they look to get their season back on track.

Juventus are classy opposition however, and the Bianconeri are also in desperate need of European success for altogether different reasons. Indeed, the aforementioned final nearly two decades ago was indicative of their perpetual underachievement on the Champions League stage; the Italian giants have played in seven finals, but only lifted the trophy on two occasions.

The club’s faltering on the biggest stage is even more peculiar when you consider the surfeit of league success they’ve sampled. Unlike their upcoming opponents, Massimiliano Allegri’s side are romping clear atop of their domestic division, but after three successive Scudetto wins, this group of Juve players shouldn’t be sated by a fourth league title in a row.

This is a squad that should have made a much bigger imprint on the European scene. While former boss Antonio Conte deserves immense credit for crafting a side that has dominated Serie A in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal, the iconic boss was unable to crack Europe during his time at the helm.

But with an outstanding goalkeeper in Gianluigi Buffon, patented Italian defensive steel and a potent strike-force—one that boasts a replenished and ruthless Carlos Tevez—they must do better in Europe’s premier competition. Most damningly of all, the Bianconeri have been unable to flourish in the Champions League with a midfield containing Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo.

With transfer rumors rife about the future of the aforementioned twosome and peerless Pirlo fast approaching the twilight of his career, they may not get many better chances than this year. And with a nine-point lead established over Roma in the race for the Scudetto, it’s imperative the Bianconeri treat this tournament as their priority in the weeks to come.

These circumstances should make for an enthralling tie, but stylistically the two teams have enticingly contrasting styles. Dortmund are all about high-octane play and relentless pressing, spearheaded by the incisive attacking of Marco Reus; on the flip-side, Juventus are mechanical and measured in their duties, but in Pogba, are in possession of one of European soccer’s most fearsome midfielders.

It may not be a tie that contains one of the outright favorites for European glory, but it’s a match bristling with tradition and tactical factors that should make for an enthralling 180 minutes of action. And while both teams find themselves in contrasting standing coming into the game, the pair should each treat this competition as their utmost priority.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball

Editor’s note: FOX Soccer 2GO is offering a 7-day trial this week so you can watch this game and others for free.

 

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