Bayer Leverkusen will be playing their 100th Champions League game on Tuesday, a match they will need to win if they hope to survive a competitive group. Meanwhile, Dortmund take an injury-plagued squad to Portugal.
As the Champions League reaches the midway point of the group stage, one cannot ask for a better set of matches than Leverkusen's two-game series against Tottenham Hotspur. The Bundesliga club sit just a point behind their English opponents in a very tight Group E, and their clashes could determine who moves on to the knockout stage.
Leverkusen do not boast an impressive league form this season either. Their loss to Werder Bremen over the weekend dropped them to 10th in the table. The struggle for consistency will be even tougher against Tottenham, who are still unbeaten in the English top flight this season.
"We tend to do well against teams like that," said Rudi Völler, the club's sporting director. "We will put in a good fight and the fans will see a great game, hopefully a win for us."
Leverkusen have not closed out matches effectively in the Champions League this season. They drew their first two fixtures with CSKA Moscow and Monaco after letting leads slip away. Fortunately for them, the group remains wide open with just three points separating first and last place.
"Not much has happened yet in the group, so you get the feeling that it'll really kick off against Tottenham," Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt said in a press conference Monday.
Dinged-up Dortmund head to Lisbon
Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, sit atop their Champions League group, but an injury crisis may prevent them from staying there. Thomas Tuchel's side traveled with a banged up squad to Lisbon as they begin their two-game set against Sporting CP.
Their back line has the worst case of the injury bug. With Marcel Schmelzer and Raphael Guerreiro both unfit and Park Joo-Ho left off the Champions League squad, coach Tuchel has to get extremely creative with the left side of his defense. It does not help either that Sokratis and Lukasz Piszczek are doubtful to play, although both were able to make the trip to Lisbon.
"We have to try to manage the task as such," said sporting director Michael Zorc said Monday.
Dortmund's last road trip was extremely successful, battering Legia Warsaw 6-0 in September. This one will be a little tougher as Sporting nearly shocked Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on matchday one. Dortmund are also winless in their last three games, most recently dropping points to Hertha Berlin.
"We are first in the group," said Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki. "We want to remain so and get back to our winning ways."