European football can throw up some teams from some weird and wonderful places. Sometimes you find yourself in the some random part of the world playing a third rate side in front of no more than 1,000 or so fans. Others you can be playing in the ground of faded giant which has the capacity of the stadium filled with people. For Borussia Dortmund tonight however they travel to the warm climate of Cyprus to take on the relatively unknown APOEL with both sides still in search of their first points in this season’s Champions League group stage.
There is one particular star to this show which may have an effect on bearings and that is the pitch. The grass at the National Stadium in Nicosia plays host to three of Cyprus’ premier teams – Omonoia, APOEL and Olympiakos – as well as the national team. Therefore the pitch can take a hammering and has recently been relayed. The ground staff sown the grass no less than ten days ago and were eager onlookers last night as Peter Bosz put his side through their final paces before tonight’s showdown. They needn’t have worried as the pitch held up well to the rigorous session and seemed in fine fettle.
APOEL come into this game having been beaten by Real Madrid and Spurs in their previous games in the competition, but won their last league game 2-0 on Saturday. They are likely to start with former Feyenoord goalkeeper Boy Waterman in goal, as well as ex-Ipswich defender Tommy Oar at the back. Former Chelsea reserve team player Nuno Morais will captain the side, while the much more familiar face of Igor de Camargo will probably be employed as a lone frontman.
Peter Bosz is still without Lukasz Piszcszek for this game following the injury he picked up on international duty with Poland. Marcel Schmelzer has travelled with the squad though having recovered from the ankle injury he gained in Freiburg in September. “The fact that we brought Schmelle with us shows that he could well play,” said Peter Bosz at the press conference. “The question is just whether he’s able to start.” It is likely that Bosz will stick with the same defence that lost at home to Red Bull Leipzig for the first time in 41 games on Saturday, with the only possible change being Schmelle replacing Dan-Axel Zagadou.
Although BVB have been in rampaging form in the league so far this season, this has not translated to our European form. We have won only one of our last seven European games and are so far pointless in this season’s group stage. To make matters worse we have not won on our European travels in a year, that being the 2-1 victory in Lisbon over Sporting in last year’s campaign. Bosz will be hoping his side can turn their fortunes around however against the 26 time champions of Cyprus. It is currently a result that looks in his teams favour judging by APOEL’s record against German sides. In sixteen meetings with sides from Germany, APOEL have lost all but two – draws against Dynamo Berlin in 1980 and Schalke in 2008. Their home form in Europe points to anything but an easy victory or Dortmund though, having won nine of their last twelve continental games.
It is clear that there may be some scars left on the Dortmund players following their first domestic defeat of the season on Saturday. It was a game they probably should have won but didn’t. Peter Bosz will be keen for his side to put it behind them and move on. Their first three points in the Champions League against the Cypriot minnows is the perfect chance to do just that. It is an opportunity which simply must be taken.