Dortmund - Borussia Dortmund's outside hopes of retaining their Bundesliga crown may have finally been crushed on Saturday following FC Bayern Munich's title-clinching victory at Eintracht Frankfurt, but captain Sebastian Kehl was keen to remain upbeat.
Speaking to bundesliga.com after the Yellow-Blacks' rollercoaster 4-2 win over FC Augsburg, the 33-year-old gave us his thoughts on being dethroned domestically, as well as assessing where his side need to improve in the UEFA Champions League against Malaga CF on Tuesday.
bundesliga.com: Sebastian Kehl, following the goalless draw at Malaga, coach Jürgen Klopp made seven changes against Augsburg. What were your impressions of the match?
Sebastian Kehl: We played well in the first half and did a lot of things right. It's okay to have misunderstandings on the pitch given the numerous new players in the team. However, it was annoying there was a sleepy phase before the break and as a result we fell behind. Then again, the way we fought back in the second half speaks for us. In the end, we deserved to win.
bundesliga.com: Was it a good idea to have as many changes to the first XI?
Kehl: The coach said a while ago that he would rotate the side against Augsburg and it worked out superbly. Some players were able to rest and save their energy for Tuesday's Champions League encounter, while others had the chance to prove themselves. You have to say though, there was a leap in quality when [Mario] Götze and [Robert] Lewandowski came on.
bundesliga.com: Meanwhile, FC Bayern Munich sealed the Bundesliga title thanks to their victory at Eintracht Frankfurt. Are you glad the topic of the title race won't come up again?
Kehl: It was to be expected that Bayern would win the league soon, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see it happen this weekend. You have to admit that they've been playing very consistently this season. They've been playing really well and convincingly and therefore deserve to be German champions, even at this very early stage. I believe they deserve it as much as we did in the previous two years.
bundesliga.com: You'll be facing Bayern on Bundesliga Matchday 32, though presumably you wouldn't mind playing them a couple more times before the season is out?
Kehl: True, we could face Bayern up to three times. I'd prefer it to be two actually, as it would mean both teams would stand in the Champions League final. Let's wait and see. First of all, we'll be playing Malaga on Tuesday. That'll be a very difficult task which we should fully focus and concentrate on.
bundesliga.com: Talking of concentration, Dortmund missed a lot of chances in Malaga. Did you see an improvement against Augsburg in that respect?
Kehl: We scored four times against Augsburg and didn't waste great opportunities like against Malaga, with the exception of Mario Götze (laughing). I have to say, I also missed a clear-cut chance myself this season against Gladbach.
bundesliga.com: Götze squandered a few in Malaga, now one against Augsburg. Are you worried about his recent conversion rate?
Kehl: Not at all. Mario is surely the one most annoyed with it, but he's got so much quality he'll definitely get back on track. I don't think I'm the only one who believes he'll score a crucial goal against Malaga on Tuesday. That would be much more important to us than getting another one against Augsburg.
bundesliga.com: Except for the conversion rate, is there anything else Dortmund should improve on going into the second leg?
Kehl: We played pretty well in the first leg - we put Malaga under enormous pressure and simply should have scored a few goals. We were certainly lacking a bit of coolness in front of goal, we'll have to be much better in that respect on Tuesday. Then we'll leave the pitch as winners.
Interview: Dietmar Nolte