Newcastle looking to remain unbeaten in Europe as Dortmund travel to NE1
On Wednesday, Newcastle will compete in their third game of this season’s Champions League campaign, as Borussia Dortmund travel to St James’ Park. Eddie Howe’s side will be looking to maintain their position at the top of Group F, while Edin Terzic’s men are still searching for their first European win of the season.
As is the nature of the ‘group of death’, every clash seems to be another classic on the horizon. Newcastle have a habit of turning up under the lights at St James’ Park, beating the likes of PSG and Manchester City in their most recent evening kick-offs.
Dortmund will, however, be looking to disrupt this home form, and as such lift themselves from the bottom of the group. They poise a much different challenge to the home side’s previous Champions League opponents, PSG. A far more settled outfit, unbeaten in the Bundesliga, and without the turbulence endured in Paris following a vast turnover in both staff and players across the summer.
What cannot be denied is that both sides head into the tie in great form in their respective domestic competitions. Newcastle are unbeaten in six games domestically (Premier League and League Cup), while Dortmund’s only loss this season was suffered at the hands of PSG, in a 2-0 defeat.
While both teams are certainly in good rhythm, this does not paint the picture of Newcastle’s full campaign (so far). Despite their opening day thrashing of Aston Villa, they lost their following three league games. This included a loss against Liverpool, despite Virgil van Dijk being sent off, and a 3-1 loss to Brighton.
Dortmund’s most recent result saw them beat Werder Bremen 1-0 at the Signal Iduna Park. Julian Brandt’s goal in the 67th minute proved enough to secure all three points. Emre Can slipped his fellow countryman in behind, and Brandt graciously lifted the ball over Michael Zetterer, finding the net on his 300th Bundesliga appearance.
Newcastle also tasted victory over the weekend, with a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace at home. Jacob Murphy proved to be the standout performer, as he both opened the scoring with a masterful lob over Sam Johnstone, and provided the assist for Callum Wilson’s winning goal, resulting in jubilant celebrations in front of the Leazes Stand.
Group F’s landscape
Currently, Newcastle sit top of the group, which many believed to be unthinkable when Eric Abidal condemned them to what already looked a tough group at the draw in August. In stark contrast, however, Dortmund sit rock bottom of the group.
Much like Newcastle, the German side could only muster a goalless draw against AC Milan at the San Siro in their last European outing. This followed a 2-0 loss to PSG at the Parc des Princes on the competition’s opening day, with goals from Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi securing three points for the Parisiens.
Howe’s side did not suffer the same fate, however, as they schooled PSG with a 4-1 victory at St James’ Park. It was a truly passionate performance, with goals from local boys Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn meaning that little bit more to the fans. Add in a goal from Miguel Almiron and a long range Fabian Schar strike, and the night was flawless for the town.
If Dortmund are to have a chance in this game, they will likely need to explore the weaknesses displayed in those early Newcastle losses. For example, in their game against Brighton, Newcastle’s structure was quite easily pulled apart by clever movement, with their block stretched and fullbacks dragged out of position. As such, Brighton had plenty of space to hurt them, and did so effectively.
Despite this, however, Dortmund’s weaknesses are more likely to favour Newcastle than the reverse. Dortmund often seem quite lethargic in build-up, lacking incisiveness to advance through opposition presses, and tending to play long passes more than any other Bundesliga side this season.
This most definitely plays into Newcastle’s hands. Their most used back four (Trippier, Botman, Schar and Burn) average 2.23 aerial duels won per 90, with Schar and Burn the most aerially dominant (http://fbref.com). As such, this provides a strong basis to nullify Dortmund’s long ball approach.
Not only this, but Howe’s side’s biggest strength is their pressing ability. This is especially strengthened at home, with every tackle and overturn lauded by the Geordie fans. The slow nature of Dortmund’s build-up would likely be punished as a result.
In terms of shape, Dortmund could also be quite vulnerable. They like to be compact centrally, but would likely be stretched out by Newcastle’s wingers, possibly Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron. They both like to hug the touchline and come inside with the ball, but in doing so gaps would likely be created in Dortmund’s central block.
This can ultimately be exploited by the quality Newcastle have centrally. Against PSG, their midfield three of Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes and Sandro Tonali made 4 key passes (http://sofascore.com), demonstrating their ability to play line-breaking passes and progress up the pitch.
- Newcastle are unbeaten against German opposition in European competition. They have beaten Bayer Leverkusen and 1860 Munich twice, and drawn away to Eintracht Frankfurt.
- Dortmund have faced English sides 31 times in Europe. They have won 11, drawn five and lost 15, with a goal difference of -13.
- Dortmund have not won in England since beating Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League in 2015/16.
- In 17 seasons of European football, Newcastle have only lost six times at home.
- Newcastle have scored four goals in two Champions League games this season, compared to Dortmund’s zero.
- Newcastle have scored 18 goals at home this season (all competitions).
- Dortmund have scored 14 goals away from home this season (all competitions).
- Since 2011/12, Dortmund have only failed to escape the group stage three times
- Newcastle’s best ever finish in the competition saw them eliminated in the second group stage (2002/03).
- Dortmund won the competition in the 1996/97 season.
Newcastle (4-0 Crystal Palace (H)): Pope; Trippier; Lascelles; Schar; Burn; Longstaff; Guimaraes; Joelinton; Murphy; Wilson; Gordon.
Dortmund (1-0 Werder Bremen (H)): Kobel; Wolf; Hummels; Schlotterbeck; Ryerson; Malen; Reus; Can; Nmecha; Brandt; Fullkrug.