Borussia Dortmund are the Bundesliga's form side after a strong start to 2024. - © IMAGO/Ulrich Hufnagel
Borussia Dortmund are the Bundesliga's form side after a strong start to 2024. - © IMAGO/Ulrich Hufnagel

Borussia Dortmund on the UEFA Champions League charge


After a difficult first few months of the campaign, Borussia Dortmund are flying since the turn of the year. takes a look at the reasons behind their recent revival.

Dortmund missed out on the 2022/23 Bundesliga title on goal difference as Bayern Munich leapfrogged them to the summit on the final day, and that crushing disappointment certainly appeared to affect Die Schwarzgelben at the start of this campaign. After 16 games, they not only found themselves 15 points adrift of league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, but also six behind RB Leipzig and the last of the UEFA Champions League qualification spots.

They ended 2023 with just one win in their previous eight fixtures, and were in danger of dropping out of the European spots altogether with Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim and Freiburg all hot on their tail.

Fast forward two months, though, and the picture looks very different. After five matchdays, Dortmund sit atop of the 2024 table with 13 points from a possible 15. While the 0-0 draw with Heidenheim was not what last term’s runners-up would have wanted, they prevailed in each of the other four matches by at least two goals, scoring three or more on each occasion.

The 13 goals they have mustered since the winter break are a division high – even more than high-flying Leverkusen and Harry Kane-led Bayern – as they have been clinical in front of goal.

Their attack is clearly enjoying their football at the moment and has been boosted by the recent arrival of Jadon Sancho. The January transfer window is a notoriously awkward time to bring in new recruits, but Dortmund made use of the Englishman’s availability to pounce and sign him on loan from Manchester United until June.

The winger was a roaring success during his first stint at the Signal Iduna Park and, while he is still taking his time to settle in once more, he has had a positive impact. He managed an assist on his second debut against Darmstadt after coming on from the bench and won a penalty on his first start in the 4-0 triumph over Cologne.

Watch: Jadon Sancho at his footballing home

Ian Maatsen, another winter arrival, has also contributed. The January Rookie of the Month has already made the left-back role his own and has been particularly impressive going forward, providing two assists of his own and plenty of offensive threat.

Although the fresh faces have given Dortmund an extra edge, it is some familiar faces who have instead led the charge. After scoring five times across the first 16 games of the term, Niclas Füllkrug has doubled his tally in just five further fixtures, including a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Bochum.

“We often lacked consistency in the first half of the season,” said Füllkrug after the clash with Die Unabsteigbaren. “It’s really good for us to get these results. We are very happy to regain our self-confidence.”

Watch: Füllkrug nominated for January's Bundesliga Player of the Month award

The Germany international also created two strikes in the 3-0 defeat of Freiburg for teammate Donyell Malen, who has also shown a considerable improvement in 2024. This year has garnered four top-tier strikes, and he is a constant menace for opposition defences.

Others such as Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Youssoufa Moukoko have also helped take some of the load off Julian Brandt, who was Dortmund’s most creative outlet by some distance up until the end of December before illness kept him on the sidelines for a fortnight at the start of the new year.

Edin Terzić may have another ace up his sleeve in Sébastien Haller. The centre-forward has been unable to reproduce the form he showed towards the end of last season, failing to find the back of the net in the Bundesliga thus far this time around.

Donyell Malen has been in impressive form for Dortmund in recent weeks. - IMAGO/Ulrich Hufnagel

However, he returns to North Rhine Westphalia as an Africa Cup of Nations champion after Ivory Coast defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the final on home turf. Haller scored the winner in that clash, and did the same in the semi-final – Terzić and Co will be hoping those decisive strikes give him more belief at club level.

For all the impressive work in the final third of the pitch, much of Dortmund’s recent success has been built on a strong backline. Nico Schlotterbeck’s own goal in the Bochum match was the only effort they have conceded after the mini hiatus, which is unsurprisingly the lowest in the Bundesliga across that period.

That solidity has not come without obstacles, too. They have had to do without star goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, first-choice right-back Julian Ryerson and experienced defender Mats Hummels at different times in recent weeks, yet have looked composed and comfortable regardless of the replacement.

Edin Terzić has Dortmund purring again in their pursuit of top-four finish. - SASCHA SCHUERMANN

All of this bodes well not only for the remainder of the league season, but also the Champions League. Dortmund host PSV Eindhoven next weekend in the first leg of their round of 16 tie after topping the 'Group of Death', picking up 11 points against Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle to secure their progression.

Speaking following Dortmund’s 3-0 win versus Darmstadt, Terzić said, “If we have common ideas, then it will be difficult for any opponent to put pressure on their opponents against us. We have done well so far. But we have to prove it that we can do it permanently.”

There is, of course, a long way to go, and there will be high and lows along the way. But if Dortmund can stay consistent, they have every chance of reaching their goals, both domestically and continentally.