I, as I have done for every one previous to this, had an “ideal draw” in mind before the Quarter-Final draw of this season’s Champions League. What made this year different from every other, however, was that both were almost exactly alike. With the exception of Real Madrid v Galatasaray (I was hoping the latter would draw PSG, and the former Barcelona), I could not be more excited for the upcoming games, and none more than the clash of the underdogs that is Málaga v. Dortmund.
The game itself promises to be a tantalizing one, contested by two emerging teams of great quality. Málaga, who currently lie in sixth in La Liga, have become the “other team” of many fans of the Premier League, and it is easy to see why. With a good mix of youth and experience, Málaga have laid one of the better foundations of the newly wealthy sides in Europe.
They have impressed throughout the current European campaign, topping and going undefeated in a group with Milan, Anderlecht and Zenit St. Petersburg, and have earned their place in the last eight.
Dortmund can boast similar, if not more impressive statistics. They topped the “Group of Death”, going undefeated against Ajax, Real Madrid and Manchester City, which is no small statement of intent. Under Klopp, Dortmund have won the Bundesliga for two consecutive seasons, and came away with the DFB Pokal in the 2011/12 season also.
A key aspect to this tie is its Home & Away platform. Both Málaga and Dortmund can boast having two of the most intimidating stadiums in World Football. La Rosaleda, while only capable of holding just under thirty thousand people, is built in such a way that the fans are as close to the pitch as possible to create a very hostile environment for opposing teams. The Signal Iduna Park, however, is renowned for its hostility. The Dortmund Ultras are some of the most committed, and the famous “Yellow Wall” is enough to strike fear into anyone who has the misfortune of coming up against Die Borussen.
There is, however, one word that can encapsulate Málaga’s ambitions – Isco. The young Spaniard is undoubtedly one of the hottest prospects in Europe, and is the main reason most people, myself included, have tuned in to so many of Málaga’s matches this season. He typifies what Spanish football is all about: He possesses tremendous vision and technical ability, and is one of few true Trequartistas in the modern game.
For Málaga’s one key player, however, Dortmund have two. Both Mario Götze and Marco Reus have continued to take the Bundesliga by storm regardless of Dortmund’s relatively poor season. With nineteen goals and fourteen assists between them, the German duo will most certainly pose a huge threat to Málaga, or any side for that matter.
The winners of this tie, as difficult as it is, will have an even harder time in the semi-finals, with the prospect of facing Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus or Munich likely greeting the winners (Sorry Galatasaray and Paris St. Germain). I don’t think there is any team out of that bunch that they would be happy to draw. Málaga may look on a Spanish encounter with either Barcelona or Real Madrid as a very slight advantage over drawing Juventus or Bayern, although that would be very hopeful from los Boquerones.
Similarly, drawing Bayern may be advantageous for Dortmund, who have yet to beat their League Rivals this season. Also, having beaten and drawn with Madrid in the group stages, Klopp may be hopeful he could recreate his success against the Spanish Champions if they are drawn against them. Any draw, though, would be a tremendously difficult one, and one which both sides would have to be on top of their game to come out of with a win.
With both teams performing so well in Europe to date, picking a winner before the game is difficult. Nonetheless, I’ll try my hand at it. Although a very even game on paper, I would say that the extra couple of years’ development the Dortmund machine has had will give them the edge over the Málaga side which is only in its early days still. The away legs will be crucial for both sides, and I see Dortmund scraping a draw at La Rosaleda, leaving the game to be decided at the Westfalenstadion. The game is by no means a foregone conclusion, and Málaga could just as easily walk over Dortmund if they fail to show up as they have done on a few occasions domestically this season.