Tuchel looks to Benfica clash to fire up Dortmund

LISBON • Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel hopes the return of the Champions League will provide the jolt his inconsistent side need ahead of today's visit to Benfica in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

With just two wins from their past seven Bundesliga games, Tuchel's team have long dropped out of the title race and Saturday's shock 1-2 loss at bottom side Darmstadt left them 15 points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

But the Ruhr valley club have been sensational in the Champions League, thriving on the big stage and scoring a record 21 goals to top their group ahead of Real Madrid.

"I never got the feeling we really got going," Tuchel said after Dortmund saw their nine-match unbeaten run snapped.

"We were simply a long way below our limit and we have to admit Darmstadt deserved to win."

But Tuchel predicted that today's clash in Lisbon would elicit a strong response from his players, with Ousmane Dembele, Andre Schurrle and Shinji Kagawa all in contention to return to the starting line-up after only coming off the bench at the weekend.

"In all honesty, we come into our own when it's a 50-50 game," said Tuchel, his thoughts echoed by goalkeeper Roman Burki.

"On Tuesday, we play against a different opponent with a different way of playing," the Swiss international added.

Today's fixture at the Estadio da Luz will be the first meeting between Benfica and Dortmund since the first round of the 1963-64 European Cup, a tie the German club won 6-2 on aggregate.

Benfica, European champions in 1961 and 1962, advanced to the knockout phase with the fewest points (eight) of any team and are looking to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in six years.

Veteran Brazilian forward Jonas Oliveira, who scored 32 times in Portugal last season, will make his first appearance in Europe this season after missing the group stage with an ankle injury.

The 32-year-old has netted eight times in all competitions since his return from a four-month layoff in mid-December.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

BENFICA V DORTMUND

Singtel TV Ch111 & StarHub Ch202, tomorrow, 3.40am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Tuchel looks to Benfica clash to fire up Dortmund'. Print Edition | Subscribe