It's hard not to like Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp. On Monday he granted an interview to Spanish newspaper El Pais. And when he wasn't wondering how well Vicente del Bosque would do with a weaker side, say Osasuna, rather than Spain or revealing that Swansea City's Michu is his favourite player to watch this season, he was reflecting on how he set his team up to beat Real Madrid at the Westfalenstadion and came very close to doing so again at the Bernabeu earlier this season.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would do well to get one of his Spanish speakers, maybe David de Gea, to translate it for him.
"We knew where they send their passes, how they look for Cristiano Ronaldo," Klopp revealed. "Our plan was to take Xabi Alonso out of the game. Because if Alonso is allowed to play how he wants it's impossible to defend against Madrid. And Mario Götze covered him. We knew that if our wide players, Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer move a lot, the advantage was ours on Cristiano's side of the pitch. If you block Xabi, you oblige Pepe to always keep the ball."
With this in mind perhaps Ferguson will ask Rooney to do the same job Götze did on Alonso. How he decides to cope with his former protege Cristiano Ronaldo is more open to debate. Maybe what Ferguson will do is persist with Rafael at right-back and play Phil Jones ahead of him, just as he did in the match against Tottenham last month when United faced a similar threat to that posed by Ronaldo from Gareth Bale.
Whatever the permutation, it won't be easy. Irrespective of all their problems on and off the pitch, a Real Madrid side currently down in third in La Liga and 16 points behind Barcelona are still favourites at 1.65 to qualify ahead of a United side that despite being 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League haven't convinced everyone.
Real's position in La Liga isn't a false one. They deserve to be where they are today. But you get the feeling that they're greater than the sum of their points. Without defeat at home this season, Real are still a formidable foe. Lest we forget United's noisy neighbours City were 2-1 up at the Bernabeu with five minutes to go in September but still lost 3-2.
Incidentally, 10 of Real's last 11 Champions League games including qualifiers have seen over 2.5 goals. That can be backed at [1.69]. "It's a match the world is waiting for," coach Jose Mourinho said.
But don't let Dortmund's trip to Shakhtar Donetsk pass you by. Both played the best football of the group stages and it's just a shame that, as dark horses for the competition, they were drawn against each other and not one of the more traditional favourites.
In the midst of a winter break, Shakhtar, whose most recent match was a friendly against Odd Grenland, will either be fresh and raring to go or rusty and unable to produce their irresistibly slick football.
The sale of Willian to Anzhi Makhachkala is a blow too. Along with Fernandinho, he was their best performer in the group stages and it remains to be seen if Taison, who found fame for that Marco van Basten-like wonder-goal he scored for Metalist Kharkiv against Rosenborg in the Europa League, can pick up where Willian left off.
Meanwhile, Dortmund lost 4-1 to Hamburg at the weekend and fell even further behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. The gap is now 15 points and while Klopp denies prioritising any competition ahead of another, he and his players could be forgiven if this, along with qualifying for the Champions League again next year, has become their primary focus.
It bears remembering that Dortmund emerged from this year's 'Group of Death' without a single defeat. Unlike City, for instance, they look to have learned from their experiences in the competition last season.
"We're more efficient," Klopp says. "We no longer need as many goal-scoring chances to score. We know how to defend in a different way. Before we attacked the opponents but if our pressing failed we suffered on the counter. Now if we defend low, we're better at stealing the ball and transforming a counter-attack into a goalscoring opportunity."
Dortmund haven't lost on their travels in the Champions League this season and when they have been on the road, it's Marco 'Rolls' Reus who has driven them to good results. He has scored in each of his team's three away games in Europe this season. So back him to score at [3.15].
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