Dortmund, Tottenham square off in Europa League round of 16

Two clubs chasing domestic championships will take a break from that challenge to meet in the first leg of a Round of 16 Europa League tie today.

Borussia Dortmund, five points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, will entertain Tottenham Hotspur, which is also five points off the top of the table in England against Leicester City.

Both sides are in prime position to qualify for the Champions League through league finishes, but a spot in the quarterfinals of this competition — and a chance to punch a ticket to next year’s top European competition — still hangs in the balance.

How to watch: FOX Sports 2, 1 p.m.

Man in the middle: Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakir, who worked last season’s Champions League final, will be in charge of today’s match.

Injury watch: Tottenham’s Dele Alli (suspension), Danny Rose (calf injury) and Eric Dier (rest) didn’t make the trip. Dortmund has fewer injury concerns, but with both sides facing a return to league play this weekend, it’s possible that the managers will decide to rotate the squads a bit.

By the numbers: According to the Daily Mail, Dortmund has lost just once in its last nine home matches against English sides — a 1-0 loss to Arsenal in November 2013.

They said it, part one: “I think that Dortmund have a very good team and it’s a very good challenge for us. We’re excited to play in Borussia, an unbelievable stadium and a great atmosphere, and I think all is positive.” — Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

They said it, part two: “They are a hard-working, highly defensive team who have earned their place for many years as one of the best sides in their league. … We’ll be tested at the highest level. The tempo in England has gone up again this season. It will be fast; it will be intensive.” — Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel

Analysis: Teams can’t win a European tie in the first leg, but they can certainly lose them. Two two starting defenders staying behind in London, expect Pochettino to take a conservative, practical approach. That means a deep-lying 4-2-3-1 with Harry Kane hoping to shake loose on the counter.

Meawhile, Dortmund will look to dominate possession and create chances against Spurs’ back four. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is having an outstanding season (32 goals in 37 matches) and will be looking to add to his Europa League goal scoring tally (7).

There’s no shame in parking the bus when the situation calls for it, and today in front of the famed Yellow Wall, is one of those times for Tottenham.

Prediction: Dortmund 2, Tottenham 1 — Spurs will try to keep it tight, but Dortmund has too much fire power. They are not a great defensive side, however, so a road goal for the English side is hardly out of the question.

About Randy Capps

South Carolina native, Fulham apologist, writer and sports fanatic.