This season wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was meant to be a new beginning under a new manager, one who would continue the traditions of this great club. He was meant to bring back the glory days playing the style of football we were accustomed to under Matthias Sammer and Jurgen Klopp. Peter Bosz was supposed to be the man. It wasn’t meant to be like this. We weren’t meant to put on a dire showing in the Champions League before being knocked out of the Europa League by a side from Austria (no disrespect to Austria or Red Bull Salzburg, they have since proven they are worthy of their place in the semi-finals of the competition). Bosz was never supposed to lose his job before Christmas.
That’s the way it has gone down though. Bosz was sacked and replaced by Peter Stoeger. It hasn’t been plain sailing for Stoeger either. He’s tried, God love him, he really has. He has made us a slightly more formidable proposition at the back than we were before his arrival and he has brought the best out of Michy Batshuayi since he came to Westphalia. He still isn’t the man though, is he? He is far too defensive and doesn’t know how to play all-out attacking football. He is a good manager but he’s not our manager, unfortunately.
So where do we go from here? We are out of all the cups and Bayern had the league sewn up months ago, although that was only confirmed with their win over Augsburg last week. What about us though? What do we do now? There is still a Champions League to play for, of course. There are still seven teams competing to fill three other places which guarantee the right to compete in that competition next season. We need to be back at Europe’s top table. It’s only right. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the same without us.
We have to make sure we attain Champions League football next season, it’s an absolute must. The teams around us are not too shabby though. It isn’t going to be easy to displace any of the other side’s up there with us or, as is the case at the minute, hold onto our own position in the top four. We still have some difficult games between now and the end of the season, including the second Ruhr derby of the season tomorrow against Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
One of the last acts of Peter Bosz was to throw away a 4-0 lead at home in the first of these games back in November. Cruising at half-time and well on our way to our first league win in two months, we came out in the second period a different side. The nervousness that plagues a team short on confidence began to show themselves and the inevitable happened. You knew, you just knew, that if we conceded one then we’d concede a couple. That was Dortmund around this time – short of confidence and wins. Four second half goals, including a ninety seventh minute equaliser from Naldo, salvaged a point for Domenico Tedesco’s side and ultimately sealed his counterpart’s fate.
Despite our opponents currently sitting second in the Bundesliga, their six game winning streak surprisingly came to an end thanks to relegation threatened Hamburg last weekend. It was during that game that they lost Matija Nastasic to a medial cruciate knee ligament injury, which will keep him out for the rest of the season and ends his hopes of playing at the World Cup with Serbia. They aren’t completely depleted of quality though. Amine Harit and Breel Embolo are expected to come back into the fold following minor injuries.
BVB also had injury worries allayed too. Manuel Akanji missed the last game with a minor problem, but Peter Stoeger told the gathered press on Friday that he will be ready for this game in Gelsenkirchen. Lukasz Piszcszek is also available despite missing training on Thursday and Friday.
We may have won last weekend against Hannover but it wasn’t a complete performance by any stretch of the imagination. We looked far from certain at the back and it took a lucky goal from Christian Pulisic to make us look anywhere near confident again. The heavy defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich the week before obviously played its part in that, but one must wonder whether there are some more deep-seated issues at play here. The style of play for this team has been turned on it’s this season, going from one extreme to the other. We have gone through peaks and troughs – good victories followed by stunning defeats. We need a win on Sunday. Not just for bragging rights, not just to finish higher than Schalke, not just to assure ourselves of a Champions League spot. But these lads need to know they are good at football again.