Ahead of tonight’s hotly anticipated clash with Borussia Dortmund we interviewed Stefan Buczko, editor and host of The Yellow Wall website and podcast.
On the agenda were the reaction to the draw in Dortmund, which Spurs player they most fear, Thomas Tuchel’s tactics and the best places for our visiting fans to get a stein or two (or six) before the game.
As was the case for Spurs against Arsenal on Saturday, Dortmund drew a vital game against your rivals Bayern at the weekend that put a major dent in your title hopes. What was the mood after the match?
Even though Borussia Dortmund’s hopes to win the Bundesliga are close to futile after drawing 0-0 against league leaders FC Bayern on Saturday, the overall mood remained a positive one. There was no expectation to win the league in the first place.
Borussia Dortmund played as well as, if not better, for long stretches of the game against the league leaders. This obviously helped us to stay upbeat after a 5-1 drubbing earlier in the season.
Tottenham fans were largely excited to be drawn against a team as good as Dortmund. How did your fans react?
It was a mixture of excitement to be drawn against potentially the best side left in the mix and the disappointment that such a promising and prestigious tie had come as early as the round of 16.
Is there any particular Spurs player that concerns you?
Yes. Heung-Min Son, of all players. In six games against Dortmund he scored five goals. It’s safe to say he has our number. On a more serious note, Moussa Dembele is one that can cause Dortmund serious headaches. The Belgian just evades pressing so well, as he is very agile despite his physique. I could name a flashy attacker like Harry Kane, but I think that Dembele will be far more integral against BVB. I hope he doesn’t play.
In England there is much debate as to the merits of the Europa League and the effects it has on domestic form. How seriously have Dortmund taken the competition this season?
As Borussia Dortmund only finished second in a group they should have easily won (PAOK Thessaloniki, Qabala FK and FC Krasnodar), they arguably didn’t take the Europa League very seriously in the group stages. But that negligence has reversed since the knock-out stages. Dortmund played with rotated teams in the league to guarantee qualification against FC Porto. Now with a potential title race out of the equation, BVB will put all their energy into the ties against Tottenham.
Generally speaking, Bundesliga sides have severely struggled in the balancing act of playing in the Europa League, while staying competitive in the League. I think you have to entertain a Champions League squad to pull that off – with Europa League funds that is hardly achievable for mediocre sides that make the jump into the top six. BVB were in the lucky situation to have a team well-equipped to handle the strain.
What side do you expect Thomas Tuchel to pick on Thursday night?
As I already touched upon, Tuchel will look to bring his best team. Other than centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, everyone is fit and ready to play. Tuchel is left with a variety of options. Usually I’d predict Mkhitaryan, Reus and Aubameyang up front, but as the latter two have struggled in recent weeks, we might see Shinji Kagawa back in the lineup. Tuchel is very pragmatic and usually considers the form of his players as well.
Tuchel seems to have made a big impact at the club. What are the differences between his side and the one that was so successful under Jurgen Klopp?
In short, Borussia Dortmund are less “heavy metal football” and more possession based under Tuchel. They are more elaborate and patient in their build-up play. More mature, if you will. They found a way to pick all sorts of defences apart, while running 8km less on average.
Tuchel seems also more of a stickler when it comes to the diet and sleeping habit of his players, as he is squeamishly about controlling the wear of his squad. In consequence, Borussia Dortmund have little to no injuries, despite having already played 41 games this season.
There is constant speculation over here about Klopp bringing some of his old Dortmund players to Liverpool in the summer, while other Premier League clubs are linked with moves for the likes of Hummels and Aubameyang. Do you expect any of your squad to move to England at the end of the season?
There is always the odd rumour of Neven Subotic making a move because of deteriorating playing time at Borussia Dortmund. While Hummels and Aubameyang will most likely stay put, Ilkay Gündogan fancies a move. The world class midfielder is probably on his way to Man City, if not Barcelona.
Finally, our fans are known to like a beer or two. Have you any recommendations of where they should go out before the match?
Well, I there a many pubs in Dortmund, but most away fans gather around the square “Alte Markt” in the city centre, which has many pubs. The “Wenkers” is a pub where football fans often meet ahead of European nights – although English folks might get a premature chuckle out of its name. If you look for a pub next to the Westfalenstadion, the Strobels is the next best thing.