The end of a 17-game unbeaten run at home in the league, stretching back more than a year. A defeat that leaves them with precisely half the points of league leaders Bayern Munich, just eight games into the season. And dished out in front of a capacity crowd by their near-neighbours and greatest rivals: the 141st competitive Revierderby showdown turned out to be an occasion to forget for Borussia Dortmund.
To make matters worse, the champions saved their poorest performance of the current campaign for Saturday's 2-1 loss to Schalke 04 at the Signal Iduna Park. All-in-all, it makes for a less than ideal build-up to the crunch midweek Champions League encounter with Real Madrid.
"We didn't play well, it has to be said," head coach Jürgen Klopp acknowledged after the encounter. "We lost possession going forward too often, it was all a bit ragged. I'd actually hoped to bring added stability to the team with the changes."
The most significant of the changes Klopp was referring to was a tactical one, with BVB switching from their habitual 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 to a three-man back row of Neven Subotic, Sven Bender and Mats Hummels playing behind deep-lying midfield trio Lukasz Piszczek, Sebastian Kehl and Kevin Großkreutz. The hosts looked uncomfortable with the new system from the off and defensively disorganised when Ibrahim Afellay fired Schalke in front in the 14th minute. The coach readjusted the line-up half an hour into the contest, but it did little to improve his side's overall performance level.
"That one's down to me," Klopp conceded, "We didn't have our left-back (Marcel Schmelzer was sidelined with a sprained ankle) and our right forward flank had pretty much disintegrated" (Jakub Blaszczykowski, Mario Götze and Ilkay Gündogan were all unavailable as well). "By changing the system, I just wanted to help our team deal with the situation, I'm not mad. But it didn't work out. These things happen, you just have to learn to accept it."
Kehl - Didn't breathe life into our game
As to the fact that it went so pear-shaped against Schalke, of all teams, the coach noted, "It hurts even more, for sure. But on the upside, we haven't dropped more than three points even by losing this one. We're not exactly over the moon about having just twelve points to our name, but we're not going to allow ourselves to be put under even more pressure on account of the current situation in the table."
Kehl agreed that, "Losing the derby, and at home as well, is very, very bitter." The skipper, who has been on the books at Dortmund for more than a decade now, was quick to acknowledge that, in the first half in particular, "We made an awful lot of mistakes," and for all the team's efforts to turn things around after the restart, "We didn't breathe life into our game. And when that happens, it doesn't matter what system you're playing to...on Wednesday, we'll have the opportunity to do an altogether better job."
Ready for the Real deal
Indeed. Next up for the German champions and cup holders is nothing less than a royal visitation from the Spanish capital, on Champions League business. Dortmund's stated aim for the season is to improve markedly on last year's disappointing showing in Europe's elite club competition and so far they are well on track to do so, with a victory over Ajax and a draw at Manchester City already chalked up in Group D.
Their distinguished guests in white meanwhile have won both their openers, at home to City (3-2) and away to the Dutch champions (4-1). Dortmund can at any rate take great heart from their breathtaking offensive display in Manchester last time out, where only a world-class performance by home custodian Joe Hart and a dubious late penalty denied them victory. The huge disappointment of the weekend loss to Schalke notwithstanding, Mats Hummels' statement of intent can be taken as representative for the team as a whole: "It'll be a different kettle of fish altogether against Real on Wednesday."