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Focused Dortmund set for comeback bid in Monaco

Monaco (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel is confident his side will not be affected by last week’s traumatic events when they meet Monaco in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. 

“We have put what happened behind us, emotionally we are stable and we are fully focused on the game,” Tuchel told reporters at a press conference at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday.

Last week’s first leg was postponed by 24 hours after a bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus en route to the game in Germany which injured a policeman and left Dortmund’s Spanish international defender Marc Bartra needing surgery on a broken wrist. 

When the game finally went ahead at Signal Iduna Park Dortmund lost 3-2 and Tuchel later fumed at UEFA for allowing the match to be played at all. 

But as they try to turn the tie around in the Mediterranean principality, he added: “What happened last week has brought us together and made us even stronger. Now we need to put in a good performance and I am convinced we can do it.” 

Leaving aside the difficult circumstances of the first leg, the scale of the task facing 1997 European champions Dortmund is a huge one — prior to this week only two teams had won a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg at home.

Goals from Ousmane Dembele and Shinji Kagawa last week kept them in with a chance, but they must also find a way of stopping a fearsome Monaco attack that has scored 138 goals in all competitions this season.

“Up to now we have had an exceptional run in the Champions League and our dream is to stay in the competition,” said Tuchel, who could pair Sven Bender with Sokratis Papastathopoulos in central defence in the continuing absence of Bartra. 

“In the first leg it was impossible to approach the game with the concentration and mentality needed to deliver a top-level performance. I know the situation is very difficult but I remain optimistic.” 

While Mario Goetze and Andre Schuerrle are also missing, the return of Marco Reus is a big boost for the Bundesliga club, who are bringing in the region of 3,000 fans with them to the Cote d’Azur for the game. 

– ‘No fear’ –

Injury meant Reus missed the first leg — and therefore was also not on the ill-fated bus — but he returned to score in a 3-1 weekend win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

“I don’t think there is any fear, frankly it is good to think about something else and not be stuck at home,” Reus said when asked of the mood in the camp.

“Such an event can bring us together and give us extra energy.”

Monaco may not have been directly targeted in the attack but the events and subsequent postponement were still difficult to deal with for Leonardo Jardim and his young side, who saw teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappé score twice in the first leg.

They are top of France’s Ligue 1 and in the French Cup semi-finals while also targeting a first Champions League semi-final appearance since they lost the final to FC Porto in 2004.

It would also be a first appearance in the last four for a French club since Lyon in 2010, but they are showing signs of fatigue having started their campaign in the third qualifying round in July.

“We have played more games than anyone else in Europe (53 in all competitions) but the players are very professional and they try to recuperate well, said Portuguese coach Jardim, who believes Dortmund will be on better form this time around.

“I expect Dortmund to be much stronger, they will have overcome to some extent the events of the first leg.”

The influential Brazilian midfielder Fabinho — who missed a penalty in the first leg —  is suspended while France international full-back Djibril Sidibe is still recovering from appendicitis.

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