Düsseldorf - Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 victory at Fortuna Düsseldorf on Matchday 31 was, in more ways than one, the ideal warm-up for the biggest game in the club’s recent history.
Head coach Jürgen Klopp presided over a sixth league win in a row that leaves Dortmund just two points away from guaranteeing themselves a second-placed finish. Perhaps more importantly, however, the players that starred in the 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg were given a rest ahead of the all-important return game next Tuesday.
Undoubtedly with an eye on next week's fixture, Klopp made as many as ten changes to his team, with Mats Hummels the only representative from the side that shone so brightly against Real. It made very little difference to the Yellow Blacks, though, as a first-half screamer from Nuri Sahin and a Jakub Blaszczykowski strike after a neat team move were enough to see off Fortuna.
“We struggled a bit with so many changes to the team, but we’re all professional and we’ll do the job asked of us, regardless of who plays," explained club captain Sebastian Kehl after the game. “We wanted to win to make second place safe and to boost our confidence ahead of Tuesday.”
Minds on Madrid
The only blot to the copybook was the concession of a late Düsseldorf goal, while Robert Lewandowski was unable to add to his record of scoring in twelve consecutive league games. An indirect assist for his compatriot Blaszczykowski will have been some consolation, though, and one suspects his mood will still be sky-high after his historic four-goal haul last Wednesday.
The eyes of the world will again be on the Poland international when Dortmund take to the field at the Bernabeu, and in view of the first leg result, Klopp's men will be many peoples’ favourites to progress to the final. Kehl took an altogether more cautious view, however. “Tuesday will be extremely difficult”, he warned. “We don’t for a minute think that we’ve already made it to the final in London.”
Nothing decided yet
A 3-0 win for Real would see them progress at BVB’s expense, and the nine-time European Champions have history in that regard, against a German side no less. In 1985, they lost 5-1 away at Borussia Monchengladbach, but still went through after winning the home leg 4-0.
Such thoughts won’t, however, be entertained by a Dortmund squad unbeaten in eleven Champions League games this season. “We have to produce another performance like we did in the first leg," believes Kehl. Realising that objective will surely be enough to book their trip to London on 25 May and seal a first Champions League final appearance since 1997.