Berlin (AFP) – Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says Borussia Dortmund must improve ‘300 percent’ in Wednesday’s Champions League showdown in their bid to reach the quarter-finals and add to Benfica’s miserable record in Germany.
Benfica arrive in Dortmund for the last 16, second-leg, clash holding a precious 1-0 lead after Konstantinos Mitroglou’s winning goal in the first-leg win in Lisbon.
However, Benfica’s record on German soil is poor with 14 defeats in 22 European games and just two victories.
Rui Vitoria’s Benfica has won their last seven games in all competitions, including the first leg when Borussia’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a night to forget — missing four chances including a penalty.
Dortmund were dealt a pre-match blow on Saturday when Germany winger Marco Reus tore his left hamstring in their 6-2 rout of Leverkusen as Aubameyang netted twice to stretch his league goals tally this season to 21.
Despite the goal-fest against Leverkusen, defensive lynchpin Sokratis insists Dortmund “have to play 300 percent better” and use their home advantage to reach the quarter-finals.
“It would be very bad if we didn’t make it,” admitted the Greece international as victory would earn Dortmund 10 million euros ($10.5M), which includes a 6.5m euros premium from UEFA, for reaching the last eight.
Dortmund are confident of progressing.
“I think we are the favourites for tomorrow,” said midfielder Gonzalo Castro.
“We were clearly the better team in the away leg, we just didn’t score.
“We can’t concede a goal, or it will make our task even harder, but I think we’re ready.”
Benfica’s in-form forward Mitroglou, who grew up in Germany, can rival Aubameyang having scored 18 goals in his last 17 games.
“Of course, we are preparing to face Mitroglou, but it would not do them justice if we focus on just one player,” said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.
“In the last 16, you face the best and Mitroglou is part of that.
“We need a top performance, but must also be effective.
“The fact Aubameyang has now scored again is very important for his self-confidence and tomorrow would be a good time to continue his run.”
Benfica’s Brazilian midfielder Filipe Augusto has shaken off an ankle injury, while Dortmund are missing midfielders Sven Bender, Sebastian Rode, Mario Goetze and Reus.
Tuchel revealed Portugal midfielder Raphael Guerreiro is doubtful having suffered a hardening in his thigh and missed training on Tuesday.
With play-maker Reus sidelined, the pressure falls on teenage winger Ousmane Dembele and Aubameyang to provide the goals, but defender Marc Bartra says patience is required.
“It’s going to be difficult, we must remain patient and calm,” said the ex-Barcelona centre-back.
“We have to stand up well at the back, the goals will come.”
Benfica boss Vitoria says his side will be “playing for their lives” at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park and it’s famous South Stand, nicknamed the ‘Gelbe Wand’ (Yellow wall), which holds 25,000 home fans.
Dortmund fans will look to one of the club’s famous nights, on December 4, 1963, when they swept Benfica aside 5-0 at home, winning the European Champions’ Cup first-round tie 6-2 on aggregate, despite having lost the first-leg 2-1 in Portugal.
For added motivation, according to German daily Bild, Dortmund’s club bosses have earmarked 100,000 euros per player as an extra bonus.
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