Atletico out to stop Dortmund, Barcelona missing Messi
BERLIN (AP) — Although Borussia Dortmund is scoring at a remarkable rate, Atletico Madrid has the defenders to stop that flow of goals.
The teams, one with the best attack in Germany and the other with the tightest defense in Spain, will meet Wednesday in the Champions League with both sides coming off opening wins in Group A.
Dortmund is unbeaten so far this season and is scoring an average of 3.4 goals per game in the Bundesliga - even with sparing use of record-breaking signing Paco Alcacer. The Spain striker has only played one full game for Dortmund since arriving from on loan from Barcelona - scoring one goal in a 3-0 win over Monaco - but he has scored every 18 minutes in the Bundesliga, where he has a record seven goals in four appearances.
“It’s not in question that we’re satisfied beyond measure with Paco,” Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told the local Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper.
Alcacer also scored in both his recent appearances for Spain, meaning the 25-year-old forward has yet to play a game this season in which he hasn’t found the net.
There’s little doubt that Dortmund will make use of its option to sign the former Valencia striker to a permanent deal after his one-year loan expires. No other player has made such a good start in the Bundesliga since the league was formed in 1963.
Atletico will provide a stern test, however. The visitor’s wizened defenders have only conceded five goals in nine Spanish league games so far.
Diego Costa, out with a hamstring injury picked up in the win over Club Brugge, could return for Atletico.
Dortmund and Atletico last met in the Champions League in the 1996-97 group stage with both sides recording away victories. Dortmund went on to beat Juventus in the final.
Club Brugge will host struggling Monaco in the other group game. Monaco is hoping for a resurgence under coach Thierry Henry, who lost at Strasbourg 2-1 on Saturday in his debut.
Monaco finished with 10 men, lost top scorer Radamel Falcao to injury, and slipped to 19th place in the French league.
After perfect starts, Barcelona hosts Inter Milan without Lionel Messi, who broke his right forearm in Saturday’s win over Sevilla.
Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho and France forward Ousmane Dembele, the club’s most expensive signings, will be asked to make up for the Argentine’s absence, teaming up with Luis Suarez in attack.
With Messi absent, another Argentine will be looking to shine for Inter. Mauro Icardi hopes to make it three out of three in the Champions League after scoring in his debut in the competition, a 2-1 win over Tottenham, and netting the winner against PSV Eindhoven.
The 25-year-old Icardi has six goals in his past seven matches, including a stoppage-time winner in Sunday’s city derby against AC Milan.
PSV hosts Tottenham in the other group game.
Christian Eriksen could return to Tottenham’s starting lineup. The Denmark playmaker was a late substitute over the weekend in the Premier League after being out for a month with an abdominal injury.
Carlo Ancelotti returns to Paris Saint-Germain, where he will hope for better luck with Napoli than on his previous visit to the team he coached from 2011-13.
Just over a year ago, Ancelotti was fired as Bayern Munich coach after a 3-0 loss at Parc des Princes.
Among the scorers that night was Edinson Cavani, who was Ancelotti’s most expensive signing when he joined PSG from Napoli.
Though Cavani is PSG’s all-time leading scorer with 176 goals, he has fallen out of favor since the arrival of coach Thomas Tuchel, who favors Neymar in tandem with Kylian Mbappe.
Tuchel has given Cavani assurances he still counts on him, and he is expected to start on Wednesday. Cavani has a point to prove, which may not be good news for Ancelotti.
PSG, which started with a 3-2 loss at Liverpool, is looking for its second win.
Liverpool hosts Red Star Belgrade in the other group match.
The teams last met 45 years ago when Liverpool lost both legs in the second round of the European Cup. The defeats to a technically gifted Red Star team proved to be a wake-up call for Liverpool, which altered its approach in Europe and went on to become European champions four times in the following decade.
Porto will visit Lokomotiv Moscow level on points with Schalke and one ahead of Galatasaray, who meet in the other group game in Istanbul.
Lokomotiv lost 1-0 to a late Schalke goal in its previous game, after losing 3-0 at Galatasaray in its first. Another loss for the Russian champions would all but end their hopes of making the knockout stages.