As two of the continent’s form teams face off in the last eight of the Champions League Khel Now looks at how both team’s focus on youth has benefitted them…
The Champions League quarterfinal draw had only revolved around two matches, Barcelona facing off against Juventus and the titanic clash between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. However, scouts around Europe will have their focus squarely on the games between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco.
The teams have been seen as those teams that build for the future and punch above their weight against the hegemony of Bayern Munich and PSG in their domestic leagues. However, this season, both Dortmund and Monaco have outlined their credentials as serious contenders for the Champions League with their expansive brand of football, focus on young players and fan bases that are the envy of Europe.
Dortmund may have changed managers but their ethos has remained the same.
One needs to only take a look at the teamsheets of the 2 teams to know just why these two sides are the breeding grounds of some of Europe’s best talents.
For Dortmund, a process that began under now Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, they have only gone from strength to strength as they recruit youngsters from some of the best academies in Europe and groom them in the Dortmund way. A conveyor belt of talent includes the likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer and Robert Lewandowski as some of its most famous graduates. Tuchel has built on Klopp’s model albeit with a few tweaks bringing in the likes of Rafael Guerreiro, Julian Weigl, Christian Pulisic, Ousmanne Dembele, Emre Mor, and Felix Passlack to fit into a system that combines Klopp’s famous gegenpressing system with Tuchel’s desire to control the game and not rely on the counter-attack. The Dortmund gaffer’s recruitments over the summer were centred on ensuring that his team do not adopt a predictive pattern of play. While they brought in creativity and speed in the form of Emre Mor, Dembele, Shinji Kagawa and Guerreiro, there was the work rate and direct wing play of Andre Schurrle to add another dimension to the attacking third along with the solidity offered by Sebastian Rode. All of these culminate in feeding their lethal hitman Pierre Emerick Aubemeyang, a player that AC Milan would wonder why they ever let go. While Tuchel has built a formidable unit with depth in each position, they will be up against a Monaco side that have been constructed to take down Europe’s heavyweights.
Monaco’s resurrection as a formidable force in French and European football has been remarkable.
When Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev took over AS Monaco in 2011, the usual noises about winning titles and bringing Champions League football was made. Fast forward to 2016-17 after Claudio Ranieri and a host of famous names graced the Stade Louis, Monaco have finally found stability under Leonardo Jardim. The 42 year old has overseen his team’s transformation from a solid defensive unit to one that is built on flair, speed and killer instincts. Europe scoffed as Jardim brought back former Atletico Madrid hitman Radamel Falcao to France after his ill-fated spell in England. However, Jardim brought back the predator inside the man nicknamed El Tigre which saw the 31 year old find the back of the net 22 times in 30 appearances, 2 of which came against the Round of 16 clash against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium. Add to this Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko, which makes Monaco a potential threat for opponent regardless of the type of football they play. Manchester City slacked off and paid the price despite City’s millions and Pep Guardiola’s tactical knowledge.
Both coaches have been linked with a host of European heavyweights such as Arsenal, Barcelona, PSG, Juventus and Inter. However, they have their sights firmly set on Cardiff and have the teams to do so.
While the fanfare may have been stolen by Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, it will be this clash of two of Europe’s youngest and exciting teams that will truly be the football fan’s delight.