The result last week in the Ruhr derby against Schalke is arguably the most devastating yet on this baron run for Borussia Dortmund. Giving away a four goal advantage is bad enough – to do it against your rivals is nothing short of gut wrenching. Peter Bosz will have been keen to have got that match out of his players’ system as soon as possible and perhaps this week would have been a good time for a Champions League game. As it happens, it wasn’t a European week and, instead, he has had to wait until today to attempt to put things right at the BayArena against Bayer Leverkusen.
That being said this does not present a particularly perfect opportunity for Dortmund to set the record straight. Today we face a Leverkusen side who are only one place and one point behind us in the Bundesliga table. Heiko Herrlich’s boys are also unbeaten at home in seven league games and are the third highest scorers in the division (behind ourselves and Bayern Munich), scoring at least two goals per game at home this season.
Having spent a large part of his playing career in Westphalia, Heiko Herrlich is still revered by most BVB fans for his exploits in the black and yellow shirt. During Friday’s press gathering though at the Leverkusen training ground, the Werkself manager was keen to talk about the present rather than the past. “If you follow the recent reports in the media then you almost feel Dortmund are so bad that we’ve already won the game,” said Herrlich, “That’s obviously not the case! My main concern is keeping those opinions away from my players and make them aware BVB did not concede a goal in their first five games and were at the top of the table for quite a long time.” He was also rather complimentary of his former side’s performance in their stunning 4-4 draw with Schalke last week, particularly of the fact that we managed to score four goals in twenty five minutes. “That’s quite an achievement. We need to focus on our defensive game and take BVB seriously all the way. That’s the only way we’ll be able to perform to the best of our ability.
Another former face to set to face Dortmund today is that of Sven Bender. Having left Signal Iduna Park in the summer to join his brother, Lars, at the BayArena, this will be his first opportunity to come against old friends. He was a doubt for the game earlier in the week due to injury but Herrlich has said that “there is nothing standing in his way” of making an appearance today. Leon Bailly is also in contention for a return after missing last week’s game in Frankfurt due to an infection. Wendell and Benjamin Henrichs both come back from respective suspensions, while Vladen Yurchenko will miss out through injury and Dominik Kohr has a suspension of his own to serve.
Back in Dortmund, Peter Bosz was once again in positive mood having taken his squad through their first full week of training since August. “This time we’ve had the opportunity to really train properly. We’ve taken the time to analyse in detail this long spell with unsatisfactory results.” Bosz also called talk of his future at the club as a “distraction” and branded today’s opponents as “one of the best footballing sides in Europe.” High praise indeed for the team directly behind us in the table. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang would have missed this game anyway through suspension, but a hip problem could ensure that we are without our top goalscorer beyond this Bundesliga encounter. Mario Gotze is another to stay on the treatment table having picked up an ankle injury after scoring in the derby last weekend which rule him out until the new year. However some good news did emerge from the treatment room this week when Roman Burki was able to resume full training and is likely to start in goal.
Things need to change for Dortmund and they need to change quickly. Not many will have anticipated the prospect of going into the Christmas break with our last win in the league coming way back on 30th September. There are some omens that are going in our favour though. We have won four and drawn five of our last ten games at the BayArena, a run which includes three wins from our last four meetings against Leverkusen. This could be a case of clutching at straws but, when you consider what we have all been through over the last ten weeks, you will take anything that comes your way that gives you a bit of hope.