After giving up a late equalizer to draw 2-2 against Las Palmas over the weekend, Real Madrid enter this match with a bit more on their mind than they'd like. The press is full of stories about Cristiano Ronaldo being substituted in the 72nd minute, which seems unremarkable at first, but it was the first time in seven years at Real Madrid that he had been substituted for tactical reasons. Four teams are now within two points of them at the top of La Liga, with Barca just a point behind. It's unfortunate timing for distractions as they prepare to visit a Dortmund team that has won 6-0, 6-0, 5-1, and 3-1 over their last four matches. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has five goals in four Bundesliga matches, including his 59th goal for Dortmund over the weekend in his 100th appearance for the club. They'll miss starting center back Marc Bartra with an injury, however, and Real Madrid also have a number of nagging injuries at the back - all pointing to a wide-open affair. If there's one match you stay glued to on Tuesday, this is it.
Thomas Tuchel had Dortmund firing last season - nearly any other year, their 78 points would have been enough to win the title. But, as always, there’s Bayern. While their captain, Mats Hummels, has exited alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan (to opposite sides of Manchester), Dortmund have brought in capable replacements in Mario Götze and Andre Schürrle while also keeping hold of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With master tinkerer Thomas Tuchel now settled as he takes on his second season at Signal Iduna Park, there will be few teams confident in overpowering or outsmarting Dortmund.
The record-holding 11 time winners will defend their current trophy without the usual summertime Galactico business. But, when your squad includes the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema, finally finding consistency is a positive. We have yet to see Zinedine Zidane take a full season at the helm with all the pressure the toughest gig in management provides - how he responds to turbulent times will determine the length of his tenure. The expectations for this squad are the same as every season: win every trophy they compete for. With their aforementioned attacking prowess bolstered by a reliable defense, they could do just that.
Dortmund somehow managed to keep hold of the electric forward who scored 39 goals last season.
The Greek defender will be even more crucial to Dortmund's season after captain Mats Hummels departure. His last name, Papastathopoulos, is too long to print, so his jersey simply reads, "Sokratis."