Borussia Dortmund take on a Tottenham side vying for their first league title in over half a century as the teams prepare to meet at White Hart Lane in the second leg of their Europa League fixture on Thursday.
The German outfit lead the tie 3-0 on aggregate after a second half brace from Marco Reus and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang first half header place Thomas Tuchel’s side in complete control as they look to confirm qualification this week.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team selection in the first leg raised question marks surrounding the Argentine’s Europa League ambitions. The Spurs boss insists his side set up to win at the Westfalenstadion despite making a notable seven changes and leaving it late to introduce top scorer Harry Kane to the travelling support.
With elimination now a likely prospect, fielding a weakened team in the second leg could prove to be a managerial masterstroke should the former Southampton and Espanyol boss win an elusive first Premier League title with the club.
Spurs currently occupy second position in arguably the most unpredictable league campaign since England’s first division was rebranded.
Cynics may conclude that Tottenham have squandered an opportunity to test their true credentials as potential league champions, against the standard of European opposition frequently hailed as superior in recent years. Such views, however, will no doubt be quickly forgotten should Pochettino secure a first league title in 55 years.
Dortmund were nothing short of mesmerising in the first-leg, their fluid attacking football coupled with a ruthlessness in front of goal emphasised the gulf in quality between the sides.
A more tentative affair is to be expected in Thursday’s game. Tottenham will be employed to prevent further damage, utilising a defensive system that has aided Spurs in conceding the fewest Premier League goals this season.
Dortmund themselves may use the second leg to rest a number of key players as their impending challenge for the Bundesliga title remains active, Tuchel’s side currently five points adrift of the departing Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
Both managers will know the dangers of prematurely predicting the outcome of a cup tie, though, particularly in a season as unpredictable as this.