Tottenham Hotspur fly to Germany on Wednesday, ahead of their Europa League first leg against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League last 16, one of the biggest European clashes in the Lilywhites' recent history.
With excitement for the two legged affair at it's peak, we spoke to VAVEL UK's Bundesliga editor, and avid Dortmund fan, Jonathan Walsh, to get his thoughts ahead of Thursday's game.
Having won seven of their last eight, Dortmund are in great form, but do you make them favourites?
It’s hard to say if either side are favourites to claim a place in the quarter-finals, although the winner of the competition could come from this tie. Both BVB and Spurs have done extremely well in the league this season, and can count themselves unfortunate to be sitting second in the league.
Kevin Wimmer’s experience with Dortmund last year will be very different to the team that turns up on Thursday evening, although his pace and strength will be key to dealing with their lightning-quick attack. Given how good Dortmund have been, they haven’t quite been able to bring their attack flair into 2016 just yet. However, all things considered, the Germans should slightly edge the tie over two legs.
How are the Bundesliga side likely to line up?
Dortmund should take up a similar stance to that which they put into practice so well against Bayern Munich. Questions were raised as to why Erik Durm played in midfield - and practically every other position - but his energy could be key to shutting down Moussa Dembele and Dele Alli.
Other than that, it should be a largely unchanged side. As is customary in the cup competitions, Roman Weidenfeller will take Roman Bürki's place in goal. One change manager Thomas Tuchel may make, if he is feeling particularly bold, is replacing Marco Reus. The winger was largely ineffectual against Bayern, so Shinji Kagawa could get the nod.
Predicted XI: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Bender, Hummels, Schmelzer; Gündoğan, Weigl, Durm; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Reus.
Five points behind Bayern in the league, which competition should Tuchel prioritise?
Tuchel being Tuchel will still want to win every game he plays, that much is for sure. The gap staying at five points gives Dortmund something to hang on to and keeps a competitive edge in the league, a loss could have seen them go eight adrift of Bayern and remain 15 ahead of Hertha BSC.
After last year, any trophy would be warmly welcomed and with a date in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals with Hertha, there is a real chance in that sense. Europe also presents a massive opportunity to claim a trophy that the club have never lifted before, and a trip to Basel would see the Swiss city flooded with excited Dortmund fans. With a league route back into the Champions League almost confirmed, cup competitions are likely to be pushed by Tuchel but not so much as it affects concentration in the league.
With Hummels, Reus, Aubameyang and more, BVB have an abundance of quality, who do Spurs need to stop?
Prevention is better than cure, as they say, so shutting down Dortmund’s midfield and hurrying Mats Hummels on the ball could prove key. The captain’s long, diagonal balls proved an effective outlet for BVB on Saturday evening against Bayern and a chance for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to use his pace.
Given that Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are fast themselves, this shouldn’t be too much of a worry but a move behind the centre-backs could cause more problems. Making sure Ilkay Guendogan and Julian Weigl don’t have too much space to pick pass and open up the visiting defence will also be key. The main worry for Tottenham will be Henrikh Mkhitaryan, however. Able to dribble, run, shoot and pass, the Armenian has enjoyed success drifting from wing to wing. A quiet Mkhitaryan should see Spurs come out with a more favourable result.
At the other end of the spectrum, are there any Spurs players you think will worry Dortmund?
Dele Alli’s power from midfield has to be a concern, with his partnership beside Eric Dier yielding great things this season. It will be interesting to see if Mauricio Pochettino decides to play the aforementioned pair at eight and six or whether Alli will be moved into a more advanced role to add some more bite to midfield.
Of course, Harry Kane will provide a huge headache for Tuchel’s team. His movement will cause constant problems, but Sven Bender and the aforementioned Hummels should be mobile enough to keep tabs on him. Weigl’s role at the base of the midfield will also be vital in preventing both Kane and Alli from creating a shooting chance outside the area. One player that Dortmund will hope isn’t heavily involved is Heung-Min Son. The South Korean international was a thorn in BVB’s side while in the Bundesliga, scoring five times in six games against the Westfalen side. Keeping these three quiet will be crucial to the hosts’ chances of progression.
Despite Dortmund's obvious strength all over the pitch, is there a weakness that the Premier League side should look to get at?
In comparison to last campaign, BVB have been much more solid defensively - a welcome change on the previous season. However, individual mistakes and committing too many men to attack are still problems that Tuchel has yet to eradicate. While it may be risky for Spurs to play on the counter, it could be the way to best expose Dortmund’s defence. Taking away the individual errors and opposition’s brilliance, the Westphalians have a very strong defensive unit.