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UEFA Champions League

Hummels excited to play for first place

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A "final" at home to Paris Saint-Germain on the last matchday; when the Champions League group stage draw was made on 31 August, most BVB fans would have secretly been happy with that. The mix of Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Newcastle United and Borussia Dortmund was labelled the "group of death". One thing is already certain: one of the favourites for the title, PSG, or last year's semi-finalists, AC Milan, will not be in the draw when the pairings for the Round of 16 are determined on 18 December.

Borussia Dortmund have booked their place in the last 16, for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons. The only thing that remains to be decided is whether they will finish as group winners or in second place. "That could be important for the draw," says sporting director Sebastian Kehl. 

Until 22:57 CET on Wednesday night, Borussia Dortmund were not only sitting top of the group, but with a four-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain, it also looked like they'd clinched first spot. But then Kylian Mbappe equalised with a penalty to make it 1-1 against Newcastle United and put the hotly-tipped Parisians in a position to play for first place at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on 13 December. "If we win, we'll finish first, but even if we lose, we can get to the next phase," said PSG coach Luis Enrique, who then added a note of caution: "It's so complicated."

While Borussia will "only" be competing for first or second place in front of a sell-out crowd in a fortnight's time, it's all or nothing for Paris. A draw would see BVB top the group, while PSG would slip to third place and thus into the UEFA Europa League if Newcastle beat Milan. If PSG lose in Dortmund, Milan may also move up to second place.

"Now we're looking forward to facing PSG.. We always have a special atmosphere at home, where every opponent struggles," said Niclas Füllkrug, who was instrumental in two of BVB's three goals in Milan. And Mats Hummels explained: "We have to deliver again in two weeks' time." He and his teammates certainly did so in Milan: Hummels was the outstanding player on the pitch in the San Siro, winning 93% of his tackles and notching up 09 clearances. 

The World Cup winner is looking forward to the match for first place against Paris Saint-Germain: "As it's all about finishing first, it will be a great occasion in a great atmosphere."

Boris Rupert