Borussia Dortmund take on Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League this week, a first-ever competitive meeting between two clubs with rich European history.
It’s a clash between two sides with distinctly different business models. Dortmund have developed a reputation for producing and developing top talent, unearthing gems before selling them on for significant profit. Chelsea, meanwhile, have set spending records in recent windows and will hope their recruitment can lead to a challenge for major honours.
Ahead of their meeting in Germany this week, we’ve put together our combined Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea XI.
Goalkeeper: Gregor Kobel – Borussia Dortmund
Gregor Kobel has been in fantastic form this season to emerge as one of the Bundesliga’s best goalkeepers, having replaced the long-serving Roman Bürki as the club’s number one. A €15m signing from Stuttgart in 2021, he has grown in stature at the Westfalenstadion to become a key figure in the side.
A huge presence with command of his penalty box, Kobel’s performances have attracted interest from Europe’s top clubs with the 25-year-old forced to dismiss speculation linking him with Bayern Munich last month.
Chelsea are expected to enter the transfer market for a new goalkeeper this summer, with neither Kepa Arrizabalaga or Edouard Mendy having convinced as number one.
Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea
Reece James’ recent return is a welcome boost for Chelsea, with the west Londoners having missed the right-back’s invention. Chelsea have dominated possession in Europe this season, but have struggled to turn ball retention into clear-cut chances.
James has evolved into one of the most effective full-backs in the Premier League at Chelsea and will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of missing the World Cup with a strong end to the season at Stamford Bridge.
James this week outlined his ambitions for Chelsea after the club’s recent recruitment drive and believes the Blues are capable of competing for the game’s biggest prizes.
🗣️ “I don’t think there’s a trophy we [Chelsea] can’t win. I think with the team we’re building, with all the young players. I think we’re going to be one of the best teams in the world.”
Reece James says Chelsea will be one of the best in the world in the future. 🌍 pic.twitter.com/nGGtItUgmm
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 13, 2023
Centre-back: Thiago Silva – Chelsea
Thiago Silva continues to make a mockery of those who doubted Chelsea’s wisdom in signing the veteran defender from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020.
What had been an initial one-year deal for the Brazil international has just been extended into a fourth season, with Silva having already played under three different managers. It is a testament to Silva’s evergreen class that he has remained a central figure at Chelsea into his late thirties, providing leadership at centre-back.
#ChelseaFC 💙 pic.twitter.com/Mn0kTBGKMF
— Thiago Silva (@tsilva3) January 21, 2023
Class really is permanent and there are few better examples than Silva, who at 38 remains at the top of the game.
Centre-back: Nico Schlotterbeck – Borussia Dortmund
Nico Schlotterbeck signed for Dortmund last summer after an impressive emergence at Freiburg. The centre-back has been an ever-present during a strong first season with the Black and Yellow, in which he has started all 20 league fixtures and contributed three goals and four assists.
An elegant on-the-ball defender, he has won eight caps for Germany since his international debut in 2022 and has built on a strong 2021/22 season that saw the 24-year-old named in the Bundesliga’s Team of the Season.
He ranks third in the Bundesliga for both progressive passes (128) and progressive carrying distance so far this season.
Nico Schlotterbeck – Defender – 3 goals this season 👊 pic.twitter.com/9wEmGPgMqo
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 4, 2023
Left-back: Ben Chilwell – Chelsea
Ben Chilwell’s injury issues have prevented Chelsea from seeing the best of the left-back on a more regular basis across the last two seasons, but he remains an ideal wing-back option when fit to feature.
Boasting a cultured left foot and endless energy to maraud forward and join the attack, Chilwell was directly involved in eight goals during his debut Premier League campaign at Stamford Bridge in 2020/21.
Thank you chels fans for the warm welcome back💙 Big second half of the season ahead! @ChelseaFC pic.twitter.com/riMJWObKYY
— Ben Chilwell (@BenChilwell) February 4, 2023
A modern full-back in every sense, his recent return to fitness is a huge positive for Graham Potter as he looks to turn Chelsea into more consistent chance creators.
Midfield: Enzo Fernandez – Chelsea
British football’s most expensive import has made an eye-catching start at Chelsea.
Enzo Fernandez spent just six months at Benfica before the big-spending Blues made their move last month, breaking the Premier League transfer record to sign the midfielder in a £106.8m deal.
There have been encouraging flashes from the 22-year-old so far, including a nonchalant assist for Joao Felix during last weekend’s 1-1 draw at West Ham. In addition to the assist, he led his teammates for completed more passes (84), ball recoveries (7) and tackles (3) at the London Stadium.
First 🔵 outing! pic.twitter.com/AhtEGsuENP
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 4, 2023
Already right in the thick of the action both on and off the ball, he looks set to be a key figure in Chelsea’s rebuild.
Midfield: Mateo Kovacic – Chelsea
Mateo Kovacic has not been at his best levels for Chelsea this season, but remains among the most unique midfielders in the Premier League.
The Croatian combines relentless work-ethic with an ability to glide past opposition challenges, allowing him to operate as a press-resistant pivot at the base of the midfield. Exceptional in close spaces and capable of progressing the ball with passes or bursts forward through traffic, injury issues have hindered the 28-year-old since he was named as the club’s Player of the Season in 2019/20.
Helping Kovacic return to that box-to-box brilliance will be on Graham Potter’s agenda.
Midfield: Jude Bellingham – Borussia Dortmund
Europe’s top clubs are queuing up to sign Jude Bellingham this summer, a footballer on the radar of the world’s best.
Bellingham has captured the headlines since signing for Borussia Dortmund aged just 16, where he has since racked up more than a century of appearances in all competitions. The teenager has taken his game up a level this season, with ten goals in all competitions and a fine campaign for England at the 2022 World Cup.
A mature and marauding midfield presence, there is a completeness to his game rarely seen in a talent so young. He leads the Bundesliga for fouls won (52) and successful take-ons (46) this season, while Bellingham also ranks among the division’s leaders for blocks (2nd), progressive passes (2nd), tackles (2nd), passes into the final third (4th) and shot-creating actions (7th).
Champions League nights were made for Jude Bellingham 🤩#UCL pic.twitter.com/WI3ZZnLjTk
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 14, 2023
Whoever wins the competitive race to sign the 19-year-old could have their midfield secured for the next decade
Right-wing: Julian Brandt – Borussia Dortmund
Julian Brandt has been in fine form this season and has overcome a difficult start in Dortmund to become one of the club’s most influential talents,
Brandt had struggled to live up to his early potential after signing for Dortmund from Bayer Leverkusen in 2019, but has enjoyed the best period of his career with the club this term. He is Dortmund’s joint-leading scorer for league goals (6) and ranks second for assists (4), while he has averaged more key passes (2.4) per game than any other teammate.
Let him cook 🧑🍳 pic.twitter.com/fkZ4CAovo4
— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) February 10, 2023
Operating in a number of roles across the frontline, the 26-year-old has found improved end product in 2022/23. He has seven goals across all competitions, just two short of his total from last season.
Left-wing: Joao Felix – Chelsea
Joao Felix’s career with Chelsea might just be 148 minutes old, but that has been enough to create clamour for his permanent signing. Felix signed on loan for Chelsea in January after a fall-out at Atletico Madrid and got off to a rocky start after being sent off on his debut.
He impressed after returning from suspension at West Ham last weekend, scoring an expertly-taken first Premier League goal in a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.
A lovely first Premier League goal for Joao Felix! 👏 pic.twitter.com/nPWt1BcAHt
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 11, 2023
Felix struggled to live up to expectations under the pragmatic management of Diego Simeone, but already looks a fine fit for Graham Potter’s more fluid philosophy. Brimming with a fun-factor and silky touches in the final third, he has all the ingredients to be a firm fans’ favourite at Stamford Bridge.
Forward: Sebastien Haller – Borussia Dortmund
Sebastien Haller earns the nod at centre-forward in our combined XI, with the Ivorian having captured headlines for his comeback from cancer in recent weeks.
Dortmund spent €34.5m to sign Haller as their Erling Haaland replacement last summer, before the 28-year-old was diagnosed with testicular cancer just weeks after his arrival. After two surgeries and four cycles of chemotherapy he returned last month and scored his first Dortmund goal against Freiburg – receiving a deserved and rapturous ovation – on February 4
Sébastien Haller scores his first goal for @BVB after beating cancer 💛💪 pic.twitter.com/I0ctkRttGe
— 433 (@433) February 4, 2023
Haller and Dortmund will now hope the forward can return to his previous levels, after a 34-goal campaign for Ajax last season. That haul included 11 goals in just eight Champions League games, a run which saw Haller become just the second player to score four goals on their competition debut.
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