A Completely Realistic Path for Dortmund to Advance Past the Champions League Group Stage

A Completely Realistic Path for Dortmund to Advance Past the Champions League Group Stage

For fans of the Black and Yellow, this is a depressing time. As Nav’s post points out, one point through three rounds of Group H play leaves Dortmund essentially playing for a Europa League place. Not only are they solidly in third, Spurs now look just as dangerous as Real Madrid, meaning Dortmund clearly are the third best club in the group. Add on some worrying play in the league, and the positive feelings of September are suddenly gone. I hate being right.

I decided to take a positive look at the rest of the Champions League season and see if there was a realistic, viable path to advance from the group. After using a calculator and a scratchpad, I found a way that actually could happen. I don’t mean APOEL defeating Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, but actual results that would not be incredibly shocking. Here is the downside though – this path is narrow and deviating from it means the Europa League or worse.

Matchday 4 results – BVB defeats APOEL at home, Real Madrid wins at Wembley

For this scenario to play out, we need either Real Madrid or Spurs to win out in the group. Real Madrid is more likely because (a) despite Spurs playing well, they are no Madrid and (2) we host Spurs while we travel to Madrid. Thus catching Spurs is more likely. First, we have to take all three points at home which I assume should not be an issue but maybe should not. Second, both results need to be lopsided. As we will see later, passing Spurs in goal difference will be nearly impossible and actually may not matter; however, it does open an Option B that could come into play. For now, let’s assume both results are definitive.

Standings after four rounds:

  1. Real Madrid – 10 points
  2. Spurs – 7 points
  3. Dortmund – 4 points
  4. APOEL – 1 point

Matchday 5 results – BVB defeats Spurs 2-0 at home, Real Madrid has a nice, comfortable trip to Cyprus

Let’s begin with one of the most anticipated Champions League matches remaining. For this scenario to be realistic, Dortmund not only have to win, but they must win by a 2-0 or more scoreline conceding as few goals as possible. Why? You’ll find out. For now, let us assume that Dortmund’s advantage and atmosphere at home is intimidating, and Spurs have hit a bump in the league. Dortmund come out and simply outclass the Premier League side and win 2-0. In the other match, Real Madrid simply need a victory, and let’s assume they take all three points. Now things are getting interesting.

Standings after five rounds:

  1. Real Madrid – 13 points
  2. Spurs and Dortmund – 7 points
  3. APOEL – 1 point

Matchday 6 results – Here is where things get rather interesting

If the matches play out as I have outlined above, the scenarios for advancing actually get more numerous for Dortmund. In fact, they have multiple ways of advancing. Here is the problem – they travel to the Bernabeu while Tottenham hosts APOEL. Spurs have a massive advantage and if they take all three points as expected, there is massive pressure on Dortmund to do the same in a near-impossible situation. Let us run through the scenarios:

Spurs defeat APOEL and Dortmund defeat Real Madrid, OR Spurs and BVB both get draws. In these situations, the UEFA tiebreakers are in effect. Remember a minute ago when I mentioned that goal difference does not matter as much as you think? Here is why. In the 2017-2018 UEFA Champions League rulebook, the tiebreakers for teams even on points in the group stage goes:

  • Higher number of points in matches between the two sides – both would have 3
  • Superior goal difference in matches between the two sides – again, in our realistic scenario, both would be at +0
  • Highest number of goals scored in the matches between the two sides – and here is where that 2-0 matters. In that case, the total goals would be BVB 3, Spurs 3
  • Highest number of away goals scored between the two sides – that 2-0 scoreline means BVB take this tiebreaker by benefit of their lone goal scored at Wembley. If the round five scoreline is 3-1 or 4-2 for BVB, they likely finish third in the group.

Or Spurs can draw with APOEL and Dortmund can take three points from Real Madrid. The Black and Yellow advance with 10 points to Spurs’ 7. This is possible but incredibly unlikely.

Here it is, the best path forward to the round of 16. As stated, it is a narrow path that requires discipline and a little luck. However, it is better than already being eliminated, which despite our negative feelings today is not what this club is in the Champions League.