from borussia with love?
The season is racing towards a thrilling climax with City still in the mix for all the competitions we are in.
Keeping the game-by-game mentality is exactly the right thing to do and has worked fantastically well so far.
Borussia Dortmund represent a sizeable hurdle for any side in the Champions League, but like all teams around Europe, they are suffering from playing behind closed doors.
Their famous ‘Yellow Wall’ inside the 81,000+ Westfalenstadion has carried them far in this competition on numerous occasions, so the second leg a week tomorrow will be a different proposition than it might have been.
That said, the atmosphere at a sold out Etihad would have been fairly crackling as well, so there are no winners in this situation.
It goes without saying that taking an advantage to Germany is important, though our away form over the past few months has been flawless.
This City side fear nobody and will take on all-comers whether at home or away.
Dortmund arrive in Manchester in patchy Bundesliga form and with a fight on their hands to secure a Champions League berth.
But they have quality throughout their side and with former City youngster Jadon Sancho and Erling Braut Haaland in attack, they are capable of hurting any defence.
It’s funny to think Haaland was born just 39 days after his father Alf-Inge Haaland joined City in the summer of 2000.
He must have been to watch his dad play a few times at Maine Road, though whether he can recall that or not is another matter!
Enjoy the game and our latest digital programme…
Our manager's pre-match thoughts...
Good evening to City fans everywhere.
The final international break of the season is behind us and we now face the most important period of the season.
All the hard work we have put in so far has put us in a fantastic position, but only by continuing to do all the things we have done in recent months, will we be successful at the end of the campaign.
The good thing is I know my players are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. They are determined, focused, professional and I am a lucky guy to manage this squad.
I was very impressed with our performance at Leicester, particularly when you consider the international break and the difficulties it posed. Leicester are one of the best sides in England, but we dominated the game and totally deserved the three points.
I am so proud of my players, the way they fight every single game for every single ball. Without that attitude, we would not be able to compete for trophies. It’s how we’ve played every match since I came here, and nothing makes me prouder than seeing that approach on the pitch.
Tonight, we face Borussia Dortmund, a side I know well from my time working in Germany. I can assure everyone they are a squad with incredible quality, capable of beating any side in Europe over two matches. They proved that in the last-16 when they eliminated Sevilla, who are undoubtedly one of the best teams in Europe when it comes to knock-out football.
Dortmund are a club that possess a winning mentality – a culture of success. I know how hard these two games will be, but my players are ready to fight.
If we want to progress, we are going to have to play our best game. We need to be focused, work hard with and without the ball and play with freedom in attacking areas. That’s how we have played all season and it’s the best way for us to approach these games.
It was confirmed last week that Sergio Aguero will leave us at the end of the season. Everyone knows he is a Manchester City legend - what he has done for the club is remarkable and it was a hard decision. For now, Sergio is focused on winning football matches, but I promise all of you we will say goodbye to him in a special way at the end of the season. He deserves nothing less.
And in the last few days we received the news that some of our fans will be allowed to attend the Carabao Cup final. Although it is only a small number, it is a move in the right direction. We have missed your support more than you can imagine and we cannot wait until we can fill stadiums with our supporters once more.
I want to thank you all for your continued support. I promise you it means so much to the players, my staff and myself. The season is long and difficult but knowing we have so many people wanting us to do well makes a huge difference.
Enjoy the game.
Our Club Ambassador's column..
Playing in the Champions League is different from domestic competition, but we have such a good squad of players that we fear nobody.
Pep managed for three years in the Bundesliga and he knows how the German teams approach games like this and their mentality, but it won’t be easy.
Pep will have a plan for tonight’s game and I just think we have to keep our fingers crossed because that last couple of seasons in the Champions League, we’ve been one of the strongest sides in Europe – particularly 2017/18 and 2018/19 – but strange things can - and have – happened to us.
No matter how good you are, you need that bit of luck and I’m not sure we’ve had any in the Champions League as yet.
We are playing so well at the moment and on Saturday, we were outstanding against Leicester.
Make no mistake about it, Leicester are an excellent side and could finish up second or third this season, but the way we controlled the game from start to finish – on their own patch – was outstanding.
And that on that back of an international break, which as we all know can disrupt your rhythm.
Of course, last week, it was announced that Sergio Aguero will be leaving us at the end of the season.
It’s hard sometimes in football when you see players of his stature reach a certain age and leave, but it happens to every player eventually.
We’ve seen Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, David Silva, and Vincent Kompany leave in recent seasons – all fantastic servants for Manchester City - and Sergio is very much part of that elite group.
He will be forever part of this club’s history and as Pep has said, he is irreplaceable, but it will also give him the chance of playing out the last three years or so of his career with a different challenge.
Whether that is in England, Europe, or Argentina, we will have to wait and see, but you will have to go a long, long way to find someone with the talent that Sergio, our record goal-scorer, brought to this club and that one goal in particular back in 2012 is interwoven into our history forever.
He has been an exceptional player for Manchester City and the statue we are going to place outside the Etihad will be a constant reminder of his contribution.
That’s enough for me – enjoy the game and I’ll be back for the Leeds United programme on Saturday.
Ahead to our clash with Dortmund, we look back on the career so far of former BVB star Ilkay Gundogan...
As a young boy, Ilkay Gundogan’s dream was to play for his home town club Schalke.
The son of Turkish parents, Ilkay was invited to train with The Royal Blues aged 8, but was forced to have time away from the game due to growth problems and his hopes of representing the Gelsenkirchen club were over – for the time being.
“It was a huge dream of mine to be able to play for Schalke,” he told RevierSport back in 2011. “For it to be over so quickly was not easy to take.”
Ilkay has never been one to dwell on misfortune, and over the next few years, gradually got back to where he was previously and to a level where Schalke offered him a chance to start training with them again when he was 13.
The pain of his first departure from Schalke caused Ilkay to turn down the chance in case it happened again, and instead focus on other opportunities that may arise – and in 2005, Bochum signed up the then 15 year-old... and never looked back.
Four years on, he would join Nuremburg after impressing for Bochum’s U19s and having already been selected by Germany U19s.
Ilkay was getting noticed.
Nuremburg manager Michael Oenning said his new signing, still only 18, was “a true No.10” and he handed the teenager his debut as a sub on the final day of the 2.Bundesliga season, with Nuremburg beating Energie Cottbus in a play-off to win promotion to the top flight.
Ironically, he would make his full Nuremburg debut against Schalke on the first day of the new season and scored his first goal against Bayern Munich in February 2010. He would score in the relegation play-off against Augsburg to help his club avoid an immediate drop to the second tier of German football later than campaign.
By then, Nuremburg had changed their head coach but he quickly realised he had a talent on his hands.
Touted as being well worth the 7m euros valuation he’d been given in the media, boss Dieter Hecking said: “It’s clear a boy like Ilkay Gündogan is attracting the interest of the biggest clubs. But I’d advise him not to move. With us, he can finish his schooling and develop further on the pitch.”
It was advice the youngster took on board, as he told Kicker: “I have to work harder and possibly even increase the price. I have faith in my ability, and I think that I have the potential to go further if I can keep learning.
“But it’s no disadvantage to play here for another year. The money can be tempting… but when you’re not playing it brings you nothing. At my age, money shouldn’t come first.”
It was a refreshing outlook from a young player making his way in the game and one of the traits that has remained with Ilkay throughout his career.
But after another fine season, during which he helped Nuremburg up to a sixth-placed Bundesliga finish - well above their expected relegation battle - the clamour to capture one of Germany’s most coveted talents grew too tempting for his club.
Borussia Dortmund had an offer of 4m euros accepted for the 20 year-old in May 2011 and BVB boss Jurgen Klopp had added a crucial piece to his jigsaw.
“He brings with him a super attitude,” said Klopp “He’s smart and willing to learn. Ilkay has a great passing game, is a complete footballer, and fits perfectly into our system.”
But replacing star playmaker Nuri Sahin brought with it great expectation and moving from a club where survival was the first target to one with grand hopes of silverware domestically and in Europe weighed heavily on Ilkay’s young shoulders.
“The expectations from the outside on Ilkay are very big,” said Klopp. “It’s a difficult situation for him.”
The future Liverpool boss took Ilkay out of the limelight and carefully managed his game time. He’d done enough to win his first senior Germany cap in October 2010, but Klopp’s decision to mould his charge into a deeper-lying midfielder would pay off handsomely and he would become a regular again in the second part of the campaign as Dortmund completed a league and cup double.
The second season at the Westfalenstadion would see Ilkay’s star continue to rise, causing Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim to dismiss speculation that Barcelona were ready to make a move for their prized asset. “We won’t sell Ilkay for any price in the world,” Watzke told Bild.
Ilkay featured in all 13 of BVB’s Champions League games in 2012/13, scoring a penalty in the final as Bayern Munich triumphed 2-1 in the final at Wembley.
His upward trajectory, however, was about to take a hit.
On the opening day of the 2013/14 season, Ilkay suffered a back injury that would side-line him for 14 long months.
“There was quite a long time where I didn’t want to have surgery too early because surgery of the spine – for a footballer especially – is not easy, and of course it is dangerous,” Gündogan later told Sky Sports.
“I was really scared, and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to play football again.”
It was a relief to all then, when he did return in October 2014 and picked up where he'd left off, but his injury jinx was strike again when 18 months later, he suffered a dislocated his knee in training.
Injury had forced him to miss the 2014 World Cup and now he had to miss Euro 2016. If he had felt sorry for his bad luck, it never showed.
Polite, humble and a dedicated family man, Ilkay again fought his way back to full fitness and all the while, one of world football's finest coaches had been watching his progress.
When Pep Guardiola became City manager in 2016, he made Ilkay his first signing. That’s how highly he rated the German midfielder.
At the time, Ilkay said: “I’m thrilled to have signed for Manchester City. When I learned of City’s interest my heart was set on coming here and things have moved very quickly.
“I have loved my time with Borussia Dortmund and I would like to thank the club and the supporters for the five very happy years I spent there.
“They gave me a platform to play on and I became a better player because of the belief, patience and trust they showed in me.
“Now I have a new challenge and that is to achieve great things with City. The opportunity to work with a coach like Pep Guardiola is something I am really looking forward to and I am flattered to be the first signing the Club has made this summer.
“I can promise the City fans I will give everything to help us win titles both in England and the Champions League. These are exciting times.
“I have my best years ahead of me and I think we can achieve great things together. I can’t wait to begin this new chapter in my career.”
Two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups and two Community Shields -or eight winner’s medals later - and as Ilkay closes in on 200 appearances in what is undoubtedly the best season of his career, our understated and versatile midfielder is finally getting the wider recognition he richly deserves.
And that £20m or so transfer fee? What a bargain…
With thanks to Bundesliga.com journalist Mark Rodden.
THE SEASON SO FAR
After finishing runners-up to Bayern Munich last season, hopes were high that Dortmund would again challenge for the Bundesliga title in 2020/21.
However, the campaign has not gone quite the way many expected.
It began brightly with a 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach and despite a surprise setback against Augsburg, four successive wins over Freiburg, Hoffenheim, Schalke and Armenia Bielefeld ensured Dortmund were on track in the early weeks.
Four defeats in the next seven games, though, suggested Dortmund might not challenge Bayern Munich in the months ahead as expected.
The first of that batch of results was against Munich, and despite BVB taking the lead, the champions recovered to win 3-2 at the Westfalenstadion with Leroy Sane among the scorers.
Erling Braut Haaland then scored four goals in a 5-2 away win at Hertha Berlin, but a 2-1 home loss to FC Koln and a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt was followed by a 5-1 home thrashing by Stuttgart – clearly the empty 81,000 arena where the Dortmund fans’ famous ‘Yellow Wall’ were so intimidating to visiting sides – was having a negative effect on the players.
That embarrassing loss cost head coach Lucien Favre his job and Edin Turzic was appointed as interim boss until the end of the campaign.
Dortmund responded immediately with a 2-1 away win at Werder Bremen, with Marco Reus scoring a 78th-minute winner, but BVB ended 2020 with another loss – this time to Union Berlin – before the Christmas break.
At least their Champions League form had been good and despite losing their opening group stage clash to Lazio, they recovered to win four out of the remaining five games and finish as group winners with Club Brugge and Zenit St Petersburg making up the group quartet.
The prolific Haaland scored six in the group stages with the young Norwegian pivotal in helping his side to the Round of 16.
And wins over Duisburg and Braunschweig had progressed Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal – the German equivalent of the FA Cup.
While not a stellar campaign thus far, Turkic had undoubtedly steadied the BVB ship.
A busy January in the Bundesliga saw Dortmund take 10 points from a possible 18, beating RB Leipzig and Wolfsburg before drawing with Mainz and then suffering successive away losses to Bayer Leverkusen and Monchengladbach.
Indeed, it was not long after the Monchengladbach loss that it was announced their manager, Marco Rose, would be taking over at BVB after the season had reached its conclusion.
A 3-1 win over Augsburg ended the first month of 2021 on a positive note and February started with a DFB-Pokal extra time win over SC Paderborn, but there would again be a mixed bag of results, with a loss to Freiburg, draw against Hoffenheim – followed by a stunning 3-2 Round of 16 first leg win in Sevilla - plus victories over Schalke and Arminia Bielefeld.
And a 1-0 win at Monchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal meant a semi-final spot against 2. Bundesliga minnows Holstein Kiel.
Dortmund fans must have been scratching their heads at their team’s unpredictability.
By that stage, Dortmund were out of the title race but the return game away to Bayern Munich showed their explosive potential when Haaland struck twice in the opening nine minutes to put BVB 2-0 up, but, not to be upstaged by the Norwegian youngster, Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick as Munich ran out 4-2 winners.
But again, BVB responded to book a place in the Champions League quarter-finals against City with a 2-2 second leg draw with Sevilla seeing them through 5-4 on aggregate.
Bringing their season story up to the present, Dortmund’s last three Bundesliga games are typical of their 2020/21 campaign as a whole – a win (Hertha Berlin), draw (FC Koln) and a loss (Eintracht Frankfurt) – unpredictable, entertaining but ultimately a little frustrating.
With 83 goals in all competitions and 50 conceded and a striker in Haaland who has scored an incredible 34 goals in 37 games, they remain a very dangerous, wily opponent.
CITY V dortmund:
City’s history with Borussia Dortmund is a brief one.
The clubs had never met competitively until the 2012/13 campaign when the Champions League group stage draw threw up a classic ‘group of death’ that included Premier League champions City, Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Ajax.
After losing our opening game 3-2 to Real Madrid, it was important City bounced back quickly against Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund at the Etihad.
City went into the game unbeaten in 17 European home games, but Roberto Mancini’s side faced a Dortmund side at the peak of their powers.
In many ways, it would prove a chastening experience for City who were lucky not to be on the end of a heavy defeat as the Germans continually carved open what had previously been considered a solid defence.
Dortmund, with Ilkay Gundogan in their starting XI, produced scintillating performance and it was only Joe Hart, having the game of his life, who somehow kept City in the game.
Hart made at least six stunning saves – perhaps even more – as Dortmund peppered the City goal and that the then-England keeper kept the scores level at 0-0 until the 62nd-minute, was a miracle in itself.
It was one of the greatest goalkeeping displays the Etihad had ever witnessed, and though Marco Reus finally managed to beat him just past the hour, it takes nothing away from a memorable performance.
City did have chances and both David Silva and Edin Dzeko should have scored before a last-gasp break when the ball struck a Dortmund defender’s hand in the last minute and a penalty was awarded.
Mario Balotelli coolly rolled home the spot-kick and City somehow escaped with a 1-1 draw.
By the time return game in Germany came around, Mancini’s side were bottom of the group and could not qualify for the Round of 16.
Though there was the possibility of a Europa League football, Julian Scheiber scored the only goal of the game to seal a 1-0 win for Dortmund who would go all the way to the final where they would lose 2-1 to Bayern Munich at Wembley.
Apart from a 1-0 International Cup defeat to the Germans in 2018, there have been no further meetings between the teams prior to Tuesday evening’s Round of 16 first leg.
Erling braut Haaland
Born: 21 July 2000
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Height: 6’ 4”
Squad number: 9
Bundesliga stats 2020/21:
On target: 34
Off target: 4
Tackles won: 156
Aerial duels won: 36
Champions League 2020/21 appearances: 6
Champions League 2020/21 goals: 10
Clubs: Byrne 2, Byrne, Molde 2, Molde, Red Bull Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund
International caps: 10
International goals: 6
Kayla and her family are Blue through and through. Her first game was away to Swansea in the FA Cup 6th round where we came back from 0-2 down to win 3-2
– a game she will NEVER forget!
Here’s to bright blue skies…
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