It’s been a trying start to the Bundesliga season for Jürgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund. The normally high-flying Schwarzgelben, though doing well in Champions League and Pokal play, have been grounded thus far in league action, riddled with player injuries. Dortmund are mired in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table, on seven points, with only two league wins from their first seven outings in the Bundesliga.
But Tuesday’s normally meaningless friendly match with FC Victoria Köln took on added significance, as injured players Sebastian Kehl, Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and İlkay Gündoğan all returned to Klopp’s lineup, with the latter three playing almost 70 minutes in the BvB’s 3-2 victory. Reus and Mkhitaryan each scored for Dortmund, with Reus scoring in the first half from the spot following a foul on his Armenian teammate, and Mkhitaryan getting his goal at the hour mark after some nice interplay with Reus. Both came close on other chances, as Reus hit the woodwork minutes before his PK while Mkhitaryan came close twice in the first half after Köln had opened the scoring in the 9th minute. Gündoğan, whose back problems had kept him off the pitch for more than a year, also made a bid to put his name on the scoresheet, but his 28th minute shot also went off the frame.
Two weeks ago, following BvB’s loss to Hamburg, Klopp stated his commitment to his club and his belief in its future, despite the fact that Dortmund had lost four of its first seven league matches, the most negative start to a season in Klopp’s nine years of coaching, saying:
We will pull together and are all pulling in the same direction so that we get out of this mess. If I had lost my belief, which I haven’t by the way, it would be very tough to deal with the current situation
Additionally, Klopp even found a positive slant to the poor start for his club beset with injury:
While it isn’t exactly fun to be experiencing the problems we are now, it is possible that the experience can give us all perspective, to not take things for granted, because in this game nothing can be taken for granted. The current emphasis on particularities of our methods is something that given our current situation needs clarifying. Things turn in this game not by ten or twenty percent swings but in two or three percent changes. You can do 96% right and still lose a game 1-0
With an integral quartet of players returning to action Tuesday, Klopp and BvB supporters can look forward to Saturday’s match at 1. FC Köln, with high hopes that BvB can return to expectations against the struggling Billy Goats. Dortmund have already fallen 10 points behind first-place Bayern Munich at this early stage of the season, so Klopp’s work will be cut out for him if BvB are to challenge for another Bundesliga title. It will take time, however, to acclimate the returning players to the lineup, perhaps especially in the case of the long-absent Gündoğan.
More good news for Kloppo and company — versatile veteran Oliver Kirch, 32, is set to return to full training after tearing a muscle in training camp this summer. The defensive-minded Kirch has been training with a ball for a week now, and views himself as “90% fit” and states that he is feeling much better. On the negative side of the ledger, though, was the return of young midfielder Joe Gyau to Germany from the Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT. Gyau was called up for American friendlies with Ecuador and Honduras, but was injured and unable to compete.