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Dortmund face season-defining moment in second leg against Benfica

DORTMUND, Germany -- "It's the kind of game everyone looks forward to when signing a contract with Borussia Dortmund," Thomas Tuchel told his pre-match news conference ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League return leg against Benfica, in which Borussia Dortmund have to overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

The Dortmund coach could hardly hold back his anticipation for the match, being aware of the special atmosphere the Westfalenstadion can create on a European night. It will be one of those nights that can lift the entire club if Dortmund manage to squeeze through to the quarterfinals.

When asked whether his side will choose a conservative approach to the game -- if the guests score, Dortmund will have to score thrice or they will be eliminated --, he responded: "I'm not coaching Atletico, Juventus or Chelsea. If I was coaching them, you might hear a different response, but the floodlights will be lit tomorrow which means attacking from the first minute on. It's what our fans expect of us."

If Tuchel's words hold true, his team would also just continue where they left off in Lisbon, where they arguably already should have put the tie to bed. The Black and Yellows were the better team in Lisbon, creating -- but also spurning -- at least five clear-cut scoring chances, including a penalty, while having close to 70 percent of the ball. Though the hosts were the more clinical side, Kostas Mitroglou poaching the game's only goal from a corner kick against the run of play.

Dortmund, however, took a big chunk of confidence back to Germany from their encouraging performance in mid-February. "If we'll play like today, we will proceed 100 percent," defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos told ESPN FC after the game. That confidence has multiplied since, as the Black and Yellows comprehensively beat VfL Wolfsburg, SC Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, scoring 12 goals in the process.

It has been the best patch of form of the season, so it was only logical that an assured Tuchel said on Tuesday: "We have the feeling that we can progress, we're feeling that it's the right moment for it as well."

Though Tuchel's men will have to replicate their first-leg performance without Marco Reus, who pulled a hamstring in Dortmund's 6-2 win over Leverkusen. The Dortmund coach wouldn't reveal, which player will take over for Reus. "Depending on the system that we choose, it could be either Shinji Kagawa, Andre Schurrle or Christian Pulisic," he said.

It will also depend on whether Raphael Guerreiro will get fit in time. The Portuguese international is doubtful due to a stiff muscle and was rested on Tuesday. Guerreiro was deployed as a left wing-back in Dortmund's last two matches, while Reus often teamed up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang upfront in a 5-3-2 system. If the Dortmund coach opts for like-for-like replacements, it would be Marcel Schmelzer and Schurrle rotating back into the side, but Tuchel's unpredictable choices of lineup formation regularly keep everyone guessing until kick-off.

Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris, who is filling in for the injured Ljubomir Fejsa, however, is keen to prevent the hosts from creating as many scoring opportunities as in the first leg. He told journalists on Wednesday: "When analysing the match, we saw that we committed errors we usually don't commit. We won't allow BVB to play the same way as in the first game."

His coach, Rui Vitoria, was coy on revealing how his team will react to the learnings from the first game, but said that the result going into the game will have an influence on his approach for the second leg. The guests are expected to sit back and wait for a chance on the counter-attack. After all, Dortmund have conceded in five out of seven matches during their current Champions League campaign. Even an in-form BVB is always good for giving away a goal, so Benfica's focus should be on making it hard for the hosts to score thrice.

For the Ruhr side, meanwhile, Wednesday night will be a defining one for their self-understanding as a team. Overcoming the 1-0 deficit can stabilise the team in their long-term confidence and help them tol handle similar situations under pressure in the future. Crashing out against Benfica, though, will tarnish the evaluation of Dortmund's season quite a bit, as they were favourites to progress ahead after the draw.