Can injury ravaged Borussia Dortmund make another run to the UEFA Champions League final?

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Less than 12 months ago Borussia Dortmund’s players sunk to their knees on the grass at Wembley Stadium, they’d just been beaten 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League final by German rivals Bayern Munich.

Dortmund captured the imagination of fans (especially hipsters) across the world, as their dramatic run to the final saw them beat Real Madrid and Manchester City in the group stages and then dramatically beat Malaga in the quarterfinals, before shocking Real in the semis.

Led by eccentric manager Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund have tried to build on being runners-up in last year’s tournament, but with injuries and other personnel issues hampering his side this season, it has been much more of a struggle for the Bundesliga outfit.

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With star striker Robert Lewandowski on the way out of the Westfalenstadion this summer to rivals Bayern Munich, following in the footsteps of Mario Gotze, Dortmund are trying desperately to build on the team that got them to the final of Europe’s elite club competition. But instead they have been forced to play with a patched up squad for most of 2013-14, as captain Jakub Blasczcykowski, central defender Neven Subotic, midfielder Ilkay Güdongen and the versatile Sven Bender are all currently injured.

Add to that Lewandowski being out with illness and it was no surprise Dortmund lost to relegation fodder Hamburg 3-0 at the weekend. Zenit Saint Petersburg have already stated they fancy their chances of upsetting the German powerhouse, with the key absences set to stretch Klopp’s squad to its limits.

But if Dortmund make it through the trip to Russia unscathed, then their home fortress will surely see them qualify for the quarterfinals. Against Zenit on Tuesday evening temperatures are set to be just above freezing and the Russian fans will create a hostile atmosphere. It will be a huge test for Dortmund, not because Zenit are that good (they aren’t, as they qualified for the knockouts by earning just six points, a record low) but because their squad players must step up and believe they can propel Dortmund to the latter stages of this fine competition.

Klopp and his coaches always preach that the team is bigger than one individual, and it really is a collective effort when it comes to BVB’s success over the past few years. However with the team third in the German top-flight and a tricky UCL knockout round to negotiate, it may be tough for the side that made waves in the Champions League last season to replicate it this year.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.