Cologne - It was a week of unusually slim pickings for Borussia Dortmund: beaten 2-0 at 1. FSV Mainz 05, held 2-2 at home by VfB Stuttgart and beaten, again, 2-1 at Ruhr district rivals FC Schalke 04 on a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday cycle. One point earned from a possible nine, leaving them already seven shy of league leaders FC Bayern München. Hardly the form expected of the defending champions' putative number one domestic challengers.
Hamburg still upbeat under Zinnbauer
Talk of an early-season mini-crisis is, however, “over the top” in the view of Mats Hummels (click here for an exclusive Hummels interview). “We've had a bad week, simple as that,” said the new BVB skipper, who himself finally made his first starting appearance of the campaign at Schalke. Operation Catch-up commences this coming Saturday against another side who certainly don't have their problems to seek at the moment, Hamburger SV.
The men from the north will run out at the Signal Iduna Park bottom of the table, with a miserly two points from their six outings to date. The three most recent of those have been under the stewardship of Joseph Zinnbauer, hastily promoted from the Under-23s following the parting of ways with Mirko Slomka after Matchday 3. The new head coach got off to a promising start as his charges battled to a goalless draw against Bayern but since then, Hamburg have suffered odd-goal defeats at Borussia Mönchengladbach and against Eintracht Frankfurt, leaving them rooted at the bottom of the standings.
Having scraped through the relegation/promotion play-off in May to retain their status as the Bundesliga's only ever-present club, the Red Shorts look like they could be in for another long, hard slog against the drop this time around. Be that as it may, the mood in the Hamburg camp remains resolute. “If the team keep this up, they'll get their reward. And so will the fans, who were fantastic today,” said Zinnbauer after the last-minute home loss to Frankfurt. Midfielder Tolgay Arslan struck a similar note: “We need to be patient, even though it's not easy. We're making progress, we dominated the game and if we continue like this, our luck will turn as well.”
‘Can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot’
Dortmund naturally enough have no intention of seeing that happen at their own expense and they, too, were pondering their luck after likewise controlling long stretches of the game at Schalke only to ultimately come up short. It was poor defending, however, that helped put the hosts two to the good early on and head coach Jürgen Klopp rightly bemoaned the fact that “the goals we've conceded were eminently avoidable – and not just today”. Hummels, acknowledging he was “clearly at fault” when Joel Matip opened the scoring for the Royal Blues following a corner, meanwhile pointed out: “We can't keep on shooting ourselves in the foot game after game, that's something we'll have to put a stop to.”
Hamburg know better than to pin their hopes on further charitable deeds on the part of the home defence this weekend and they can, in fact, look to their own recent record against die Schwarz-Gelben should they be in search of additional inspiration. The Hanseatics have won three of the last four encounters with BVB, including a comprehensive 4-1 success in the Ruhr district two seasons ago. The blot on the copybook in that sequence was, however, even more resounding, as Dortmund dished them out a 6-2 drubbing just over a year ago.
‘We’ll bounce back’
This time around, it is likely to be a tighter affair altogether. On-going injury woes combined with a par-for-the-course period of adaptation for new forwards Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos and, indeed, the team as a whole in the post-Robert Lewandowski era have all undoubtedly contributed to Dortmund's inconsistent start into 2014/15.
Having pithily summarised the derby defeat to Schalke as “a terrible evening, no ifs or buts about it”, Klopp was equally straightforward as to what happens next. “The team have quality, mental strength and a good character,” said the charismatic coach. “We'll bounce back.” At this juncture three years ago, incidentally, Borussia also went into Matchday 7 with a modest seven points to their name. They ended 2011/12 on a whopping 81 - and as champions of Germany.