When Borussia Dortmund conceded a goal within 10 seconds of their opening Bundesliga match of the current campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, few people would have predicted that it would precede a wretched start to the season for 2011-12 champions with six league games already lost from the first nine fixtures. Borussia lost that opening game 2-0 and then proceeded to win their next two contests but what has followed will be a serious test for manager Jurgen Klopp as his team faces the prospect of occupying a place in the relegation zone by next weekend.
After losing 2-0 in that first match of the season, Borussia Dortmund then won 3-2 at Augsburg before collecting another three points via a 3-1 home win against Freiburg. Since then, just one point has been earned from six games and the runners-up from the previous two Bundesliga seasons have now lost four successive domestic matches culminating in a 1-0 home loss to Hannover at the weekend. It does not yet constitute a crisis but there must already be some concern regarding their potential qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Yet in the Current Champions League tournament, Borussia have won all three group games without conceding a goal and outclassed Arsenal in a 2-0 victory when the London team visited Signal-Iduna Park. Their latest 4-0 victory at Galatasaray contrasts widely with their league form in which just two goals have been netted in the previous four games.
So what is the problem with Jurgen Klopp’s team this season? Chinks in the armour certainly began to appear towards Christmas last season when they lost three successive Bundesliga matches at home including a 3-0 beating by Bayern Munich. However, their form seemed to recover from mid-March onwards when they were unbeaten in nine league matches.
Since then, leading striker Robert Lewandowski has departed for Bayern Munich and Marco Reus has been beset with injuries and has yet to produce the flair so evident in previous seasons. Borussia have added strikers Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos to the attacking unit but they do not have the physical presence or the cult status of the departed Lewandowski and both players have yet to strike a consistent understanding with Gabon international forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
A persistent catalogue of injuries has not helped the Borussia cause with Mats Hummels and Jakub Blaszczykowski among the more important absentees in recent weeks contributing to the lack of a settled team affecting confidence in the camp.
Each of Borussia’s four league defeats in recent weeks has been incurred by the narrowest of margins but that will be no comfort to Klopp as his team occupies 15th position in an 18 team league with a visit to current champions and leaders Bayern Munich earmarked for next weekend followed by hosting unbeaten Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Bavarian team have won all six competitive games at the Allianz Stadium this season and ending that streak will be the next great challenge in a strange season for Jurgen Klopp.