As a Dortmund fan, I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I was to see Borussia Dortmund get back to winning ways last Saturday, and so emphatically too. A 3-0 win away at relegation rivals Sport-Club Freiburg, courtesy of one goal from Marco Reus and a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, lifted Dortmund off the foot of the Bundesliga table, to the dizzying heights of sixteenth.
It was the perfect response from Jürgen Klopp’s men following the disastrous mid-week home defeat to high flying FC Augsburg, a result which prompted both Mats Hummels and Roman Weidenfeller to try and reason with some very unhappy supporters.
At times against Freiburg, Dortmund played the kind of football which has become synonymous with Jürgen Klopp’s time at the club. The key to this match was that Dortmund scored the all important first goal, which calmed the players nerves, forced Freiburg to attack them, and allowed Dortmund to launch their own counter attacks. Too many times this season Dortmund have been chasing games, which, coupled with fragile confidence, meant they often couldn’t come back. Hopefully the combination of a comfortable victory against one of their rivals, and a clean sheet, will give the whole club the confidence boost they have so desperately needed.
Dortmund are by no means out of trouble. They are only one point ahead of both teams now below them in the table, Freiburg and VFB Stuttgart, and have some very big games coming up.
This Friday sees Klopp’s old side 1. FSV Mainz 05 visit Signal Iduna Park. Mainz themselves only sit three places and points above Dortmund, and are coming off a home defeat to Hertha BSC. The following Bundesliga match day sees Dortmund travelling to Stuttgart, for what is sure to be a ‘relegation six pointer’. This clash is swiftly followed by a trip to Turin to face Juventus in the first leg of their last 16 clash in the Champions League, and the small matter of the Revierderby against Schalke 04.
It is my opinion that these next few matches are absolutely vital to Borussia Dortmund. Victory in all three of the Bundesliga matches, which I for one believe is achievable, and Dortmund can, providing other results go their way, propel themselves up the table.
The key to success in these upcoming matches is the taking of chances, which is why I feel the victory over Freiburg was so important. Scoring goals and winning matches is what gives football players confidence, particularly attacking players. The fact that both Marco Reus, who has recently signed a contract extension with the club until 2019 – and which reportedly contains no buyout clause – and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are back scoring, will ease the pressure on Adrián Ramos and Ciro Immobile, who have both been struggling in front of goal for a little while now.
I have been impressed with Dortmund’s defensive performances since the start of the Rückrunde, with only one goal being conceded in the first three matches. Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller seems to have benefited from being dropped from the team before the Christmas break. Mats Hummels is getting better with every game, and is looking solid whoever he is paired with in the centre of the defence, and Łukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer once again fill the full back areas. Kevin Kampl, who joined from Red Bull Salzburg in the winter transfer window, has settled in well, forming a solid midfield alongside Nuri Şahin and Ilkay Gündogan.
So Dortmund look in good health heading in to a crucial part of their season, and still have influential players Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl to return from injury.
I personally expect a minimum seven point return from Dortmund over their next four Bundesliga games. As for the Champions League? The game against Juventus is no longer that important given Dortmund’s problems domestically, but for the record, I think they will get a result in Turin.