Preview: Can Dortmund replicate last season’s performance once more in the Champions League?
The fact that the UEFA Champions League has an established order is no secret. Let us take a look back to demonstrate just that. In 2008, Manchester United and Chelsea contested the final. In 2009 United took on Barcelona, one of the previous season’s semifinalists, in the final. In 2010, two teams from former hierarchies, Inter Milan and Bayern München, contested the final. In 2011, once again United and Barca took center stage. In 2012, Bayern lost out dramatically on home soil to Chelsea.
And then in 2013, Bayern was finally crowned against Borussia Dortmund.
Preview: Can Mirko Slomka help HSV survive?
Hamburger SV has a clock in their stadium; the clock has been ticking continuously since 1963. The club from the North of Germany was one of the founding members of the Bundesliga and has never been relegated. Even Bayern has spent less time in the Bundesliga as they were not a founding member. This season has seen everything at the club fall apart.
HSV started with Thorsten Fink in charge but eventually, he had to part ways with the side because of just how poor they were doing. Bert Van Marwijk, a massively experienced coach, was then appointed. And last week, even Van Marwijk’s time came to an end. Mirko Slomka has now been charged with saving the dinosaurs of the Bundesliga from extinction.
Preview: Is Dortmund already out of the title race?
15 points behind Bayern and the season is only halfway through – Jürgen Klopp would be forgiven for feeling a bit downtrodden at this point. Dortmund’s form in Europe hid their abysmal form in the Bundesliga prior to the winter break. Loss after loss came and Klopp really had no explanation. Injuries of course played their part as did weariness. Marco Reus looked set for a much needed holiday by the time the Bundesliga took a break in December 2013.
Dortmund’s last match prior to the winter break saw them lose to Hertha Berlin, 1-2. Prior to this match, they drew 2-2 against Hoffenheim; they were behind by two goals but managed to recover in that match. A loss against Leverkusen preceded the draw against “the Hoff”.
With the news of Robert Lewandowski finally putting an end to speculation and signing a contract with Bayern Munich confirmed, it is quite clear that the German Bundesliga, once lauded for its competitiveness, is rapidly becoming the exclusive property of Bayern Munich.
However, it is not a new thing for players winning Bundesliga titles with other sides, join the Bavarians. Lewandowski is now part of a long list of players who left title winning teams for Munich and is now reunited with former Borussia Dortmund teammate Mario Gotze.
In the past, the likes of Mario Gomez, Michael Ballack, Hamit Altintop, Giovanni Elber and Manuel Neuer, not to mention Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose left their respective sides that offered strong competition in the Bundesliga, joined Bayern Munich and went on to win a lot of titles with them.
Entertainment is described in Merriam-Webster as “amusement or diversion provided especially by performers”.
According to this definition, entertainment can be measured by not just one but by several criteria as amusement or diversion can come in several forms.
However, a smaller, perhaps financially constrained, side contesting a historic name of the game does not provide the viewer with the same entertainment as two giants logging heads with each other. This is because, unless both sides are of similar caliber, the superior side tends to dominate or in other words, bully the smaller side.
Having won just once in their last five Bundesliga outings, Borussia Dortmund are under a lot of pressure to get back to winning ways. As things stand, Jurgen Klopp’s men are level on points with fourth placed Borussia Monchengladbach and cannot afford to further the gap between themselves and league leaders Bayer Munich.
After going two goals down in Hoffenheim last week, BVB staged a comeback and ended the game with a point to show for their efforts. BVB had to deal with a feisty Hoffenheim side last week. However, last year’s Champions League finalists were not clinical either and wasted chance after chance.
Preview: Leverkusen’s defiance stands in the way of Borussia Dortmund
Leverkusen does not quite possess the standing which Dortmund does on the international stage. This is no surprise, especially considering that Bayer 04 was recently humiliated by a United side which is struggling in its own league. Dortmund meanwhile reached the final last season and can qualify for the next round in this season’s competition with a win over Marseille.
Both coaches will have an eye on the European games in midweek and might choose to rest players accordingly. Dortmund, especially, has been depleted by injuries. Manuel Friedrich, the former Leverkusen defender, had to be signed by Klopp due to injuries to both Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic. They both will be out of this one along with Ilkay Gündogan. Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer are both doubtful too and might not be available. Klopp would do well to start Jonas Hoffman, who delivered a very good performance against Saarbrücken in the Pokal in midweek.
Preview: Dortmund aiming to overcome further injuries
Jürgen Klopp rightly bemoaned his side’s luck this week, though in a rather sarcastic manner. The comment was perhaps slightly insensitive towards Saarbrücken but served as a reminder of Dortmund’s problems after the Mainz game:
"We are so nice that we injure ourselves down to Saarbrücken's level."
For the first time in his time as a Dortmund manager, Klopp made three substitutions prior to half-time in the Bundesliga. Nuri Sahin came in for Sven Bender when Dortmund was struggling to live up to Mainz’s pressing during the weekend. Jakub Blaszczykowski went off due to muscular problems at half-time and on captain Sebastian Kehl. Marco Reus, who is currently struggling to be fit for the Saarbrücken match, went off for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Preview: It is never too late to revive a Season
It is inappropriate to think that a team’s season could end in November. Dortmund’s season after all does not entirely depend on beating Bayern or winning the Bundesliga. A second place finish or even a top four finish would keep them moving steadily to a more stable future. However, Dortmund’s season does massively depend on the UEFA Champions League. An early loss would lead to losing out on millions in terms of Champions League money and potentially losing more stars
After all, a second place finish in the league and a place in the Champions League final was not good enough to keep Mario Götze in the club; it was not good enough to extend Robert Lewandowski’s deal either. This surely makes it easy to see why dropping out of the Champions League early is definitely unhealthy for the growth of everyone’s favorite second team.
Ever since Group F was drawn with Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli pitted against each other, it was quite inevitable to see one of these three packing up early. Before the UCL campaign began, it was Arsenal who were thought to be the ones struggling to match the likes of BVB and Napoli.
However, the whole journey has been of twists and turns so far and as things stand, either Napoli or Borussia Dortmund would see their Champions League journey cut short which will be quite a shame considering the fact that these two are indeed two of the best sides in Europe.
Preview: A case of "Bayern Dusel"?
Jürgen Klopp’s grey hairs are at an all-time high. Tactics are perhaps not exactly his concern at this point. He has to find a back line to field first. Lukasz Piszczek is only starting to regain match fitness following hip surgery after the Champions League finale. Marcel Schmelzer succumbed to injury in his country’s friendly against England and is set to miss out along with Mats Hummels, who is set to be out for the rest of the year. Neven Subotic is out for the entire season.
As far as the midfield is concerned, Ilkay Gündogan, who was also injured in a friendly, is still out. Returning to the defense, the injuries prompted Klopp to sign the former Leverkusen defender, Manuel Friedrich for the whole season. Friedrich has not played competitively this season. Whether he is match fit is a big question.
As per FIFA rules, clubs are allowed to seek compensation for their players injured while playing for the national team. The reimbursement is directly linked with the wages the player earns with his club.
However the payments will definitely serve managers no purpose who will have to make adjustments in the absence of their star players.
Let us take a look at some of the players who suffered injuries during the international week and how their respective teams will cope without them.
Preview: Wolfsburg looking to take the sting out of Borussia Dortmund’s attack
Dortmund’s season took a hit on Wednesday evening as the Ruhr team went down to Arsenal, 0-1, in their very own Westfalenstadion, leaving them fighting for a spot in the final 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Wolfsburg’s keen manager, Dieter Hecking, surely noticed how Arsenal managed to snuff out Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He will be looking to go down a similar route.
For the Ruhr side, Lukasz Piszczek is out as is Ilkay Gündogan. Jakub Blaszczykowski and Mats Hummels are also set to miss out on this contest. Sebastian Kehl is prepared to travel with BVB for the first time since Bundesliga Match-day Five. For Wolfsburg, their creative head, Diego will be unavailable due to a stomach problem. Along with him, Vierinha, Christian Träsch and Koo Ja-Cheol will sit this one out. Hecking will rely on Luiz Gustavo to help cut out BVB’s attacks and at the same time provide some impetus for the offense whenever necessary.
Preview: Every point is important in this three horse race
When the Gunners took the pitch in their first meeting with Borussia Dortmund, fans were breathing an air of confidence. And despite knowing that they were up against last year's UEFA Champions League finalists, with the acquisition of Mesut Özil, these Arsenal fans and players look much more confident.
Unfortunately for the North London side, a few mental lapses saw them fall at home in a 1-2 scoreline, but that did not change anything within the squad.
Preview: BVB to continue perfect home start to the season
Dortmund will be hoping for another win on home surface which could take them to the top of the league for a day at least when they face Stuttgart today. Die Borussen have won all seven matches they have played on home soil this season, including a 4-2 victory over defending champions Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup.
They will be buoyed by their 3-1 victory over Schalke in the Ruhr derby last time out and also by the fact that manager Jürgen Klopp has extended his contract which will keep him at the club for the next five years.
Preview: Schalke to continue their good form in Ruhr Derby
The Gelsenkirchen club got the better of their rivals last season when they managed to get maximum points in both the matches. Even though they are not in the best if the runs, Schalke will hope to get the better of Dortmund once again. Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp recalled the incidents of the past year and claimed that the two defeats at the hands of their rivals were difficult to take.
"When you sign a contract at Borussia Dortmund, the first thing you learn is that there are 32 Bundesliga games and two derbies," he said according to ESPN.
Preview: The absence of Mathieu Flamini could be a key factor
When Arsenal announced the signing of former AC Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini, the club's fans were not all that impressed. But the reality of it is that Flamini has been an unsung hero for the Gunners, taking on a role that had not been filled since his departure in 2008.
Having picked up a concussion against Norwich City on Saturday, Arsene Wenger has confirmed his absence in Tuesday's Champions League match.
"He is doing well," Wenger told Arsenal's official website. "He has practiced normally but we will not play him because there is a five-day rule that we will respect. We will not take any chances. It was a concussion and the doctor advised us not to play him. He will be ok for the weekend," the French manager added.
Preview: Dortmund looking to replicate Bundesliga form in Europe
Die Borussen are currently unbeaten in the German league this season which, their undefeated run has secured them the top berth in the table. So much for their good form in the league last year’s Champions League finalists were beaten 2-1 by Napoli two weeks back when goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Insigne settled the tie for Benitez’s side.
Apart from a loss which could really hurt them as they aim for a progression to the next round, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller were both given their marching orders, which implies that both men will be able to watch the match from the stands only.
Preview: Dortmund kick off Champions League campaign with difficult away match in Naples
The Westphalians led by their inspirational coach Jurgen Klopp will resume their European journey after the heartbreak in last season’s Champions League final.
BVB caused a series of upsets including the 4-1 mauling of Spanish giants Real Madrid to secure a place in the competition’s final last season where they were defeated by Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich.
It appears that the Champions League group stages for this season are set to be even more entertaining than they were last season. The likes of Manchester United and Juventus have not been handed easy opponents at all.
However, it is Group F that will see four teams of considerable Champions League or European pedigree clash against each other.
The likes of Olympique de Marseille, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli are no strangers to rubbing shoulders with the best in Europe but all these four teams know that they are in a fight for their lives once the group stages kick off.