LovellLowdown has personally been in a state of flux recently after moving abode. I had to survive without telephone or internet for six weeks. Despite not moving to a mud hut, I was left feeling creatively castrated and an induced period of winter hibernation ensued, not really being able to “can do”. I decided to limit my output to trivial 140 character updates and my deep and meaningful musings took a back seat.
Borussia Dortmund have endured similar frustrations all season as a nightmare injury list has taken its toll. Six domestic defeats in 22 games tells the story for Jürgen Klopp’s charges – Saturday’s calamitous 3-0 whooping at lowly Hamburg SV left them languishing TWENTY points behind buoyant Bayern Munich.
With those injuries as a mitigating factor, Dortmund have needed to take stock and realign their targets for the season as the seemingly unstoppable Bavarian machine marches on. However hard it is to stomach for BVB, Bayern are in a league of their own in the Bundesliga. We will talk about what this does for the future merits of the Bundesliga at another juncture. But one thing is certain: Dortmund will do well to keep the gap to last year’s 25 point margin.
Thankfully, for those of a black and yellow persuasion, last year’s beaten Champions League finalists have fared much better on European soil, progressing into the knockout stage from a tricky group containing Premier League title chasers Arsenal, Rafa Benitez’s side Napoli and France’s Ligue 1 runners-up Marseille. Not even a home defeat against the then in-form Gunners could prevent Klopp’s charges from eventually topping the group.
That top position meant that the German side would avoid the European elite in the next stage and Dortmund could not have wished for a ‘plumber’ draw – a St. Petersburg side starved of serious competition since 11 December when Zenit were on the end of 4-1 thrashing in Vienna. The Russian side won only a single game in qualifying for the last 16 and managed a paltry five goals.
However, after the humbling Hamburg humiliation, BVB travelled to Russia under some pressure. Were there signs that Klopp too was perhaps feeling the heat at the rather humorous pre-match press conference? Klopp was in unforgiving mood at the pre-match talk, belittling the linguistically challenged interpreter
The Russians, like their Olympic counterparts in Sochi, proved more than hospitable hosts. Dortmund raced into a two goal lead as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus fired the visitors ahead after just five minutes. And a second-half brace from Robert Lewandowski put last year’s finalists within reach of the last eight, capping a convincing 4-2 success.
“This was close to a perfect performance,” praised Klopp after the match. The return leg in mid-March now appears a mere formality for Dortmund, but realistically where do Dortmund go from here?
Dortmund are highly likely to finish 2nd or 3rd in the Bundesliga and secure one of Arsene Wenger’s prized Champions League “qualification trophies” the Frenchman has amassed with aplomb over the past nine seasons.
With one foot already in the quarter-finals, Dortmund are primed for another attack on Champions League glory. Given some luck of the draw and an abating injury situation, it is far from inconceivable that Dortmund can reach another European final. The odds are shortening all the time on an ‘El Teutonico’ rematch in Lisbon. Let the plot unfold. This scriptwriter has added the twist of Lewandowski signing off his BVB career with a winning goal on 24 May against Pep’s Bayern.
Fussball verdammt nochmal.
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