Already behind in the Bundesliga title fight, still well in the race in the Champions League: Borussia Dortmund enters the final spurt of the hammer Group F with high hopes. Just looking at the table reduces respect for the difficult task at AC Milan on Tuesday (9 p.m p.m./Prime Video) in the cult stadium San Siro.
The two recent victories over bottom side Newcastle United helped them move into first place and fueled belief in the round of 16. "I wouldn't have dared to dream that we would have a chance of progressing on the second-to-last match day when the draw was made in Monaco," commented club boss Hans-Joachim Watzke, not without pride.
A tight final sprint is looming
With a success against Italy, which is two points worse than third in the table, BVB's winter in the premier class would be perfect (7 points). But even if there was a draw, the decision would only be made in the preliminary round on December 13th at home against the previous runner-up Paris Saint-Germain.
“We know what we can achieve in these two games,” said sports director Sebastian Kehl on Monday at Dortmund Airport. "We worked hard for this, especially with the two wins against Newcastle. We don't want to let that be taken away from us now."
Despite all the joy about the jump to first place, managing director Watzke is still feeling a little uneasy. After all, there is always only one point between the neighboring places in the table. “I know that this group is fragile. Anything can happen,” warned the BVB managing director.
Gladbach game gives confidence
The spectacular comeback in the 4-2 win against Mönchengladbach last Saturday was both an encouragement and a warning. The morale of the team, which defeated its league rivals from the Lower Rhine despite the early 0:2, ensures confidence. "It gives you a bit of confidence. At San Siro you need that confidence in yourself, you don't get anything for free," said full-back Julian Ryerson. However, the blatant defensive errors at the start of the game, which should play better into the hands of the ripped-off Italians than the Gladbachers, are cause for skepticism.
What speaks for BVB is the low number of goals conceded in the Champions League so far. The ball ended up in their own net only twice in four games. This suggests that the Terzic professionals defend significantly better on international terrain than in the Bundesliga, having already conceded 19 goals in twelve games. For captain Emre Can, this is one more reason not to approach the difficult task in Milan with fear: "We are at the top of the table and don't have to hide. We want to try to win the game."
Jamie Bynoe-Gittens could also contribute to this. After his strong performance against Mönchengladbach, the 19-year-old Brit can hope for a place in the starting line-up. The recent poor health of his team wing rival Karim Ademyi, who missed the game against Mönchengladbach due to a cold, increases the chance of winning the favor of coach Terzic - even if Ademeyi flew to Milan with him, just like Sébastien Haller. The coach has to do without defender Niklas Süle, who is unavailable due to illness.