Incredibly, Werder Bremen's win against VfB Stuttgart the day before meant die Schwarz-Gelben went into Sunday's home encounter with Borussia Mönchengladbach bottom of the table. A 1-0 victory over the high-flying Foals ensured the ignominy was short-lived, much to the relief of head coach Jürgen Klopp who noted, “We're finally on double-figure points. If that was a catalyst today, I'll gladly take it.”
The here and the now
In putting an end to a five-game losing streak unprecedented in Klopp's six-year tenure, BVB edged out of the bottom three but, on ten points, they remain nine shy of the qualifying berth for another tilt at the UEFA Champions League. Not that even that minimal target is up for general discussion at the moment, as club president Dr. Reinhard Rauball has also made clear. “There's no purpose served by occupying ourselves with how things might look by Easter, or the end of the season. What we have to do is just focus on each and every upcoming opponent in turn,” Rauball said in an interview on the club website.
First-off, that means fellow North Rhine-Westphalians SC Paderborn, where Dortmund are the guests on Saturday. It's not the longest of journeys, some 100 kilometres east, and perhaps due in part to that proximity, the Bundesliga new boys have no fewer than seven players currently in their ranks who know exactly how it feels to pull on the yellow-and-black of BVB. It's a factor which adds a further dash of spice to the top-flight's newest regional derby, intriguing enough as it is given that this season's ultimate underdogs find themselves five points and six places ahead of their illustrious neighbours at the moment.
Looking in the mirror
Cutting into that deficit is the next necessary step in the process of recovering from a situation for which, Klopp stressed, “we've only ourselves to blame. We needed to understand that we're the cause of the whole thing.” Not that there was ever any suggestion of the coach finding himself in the firing line, even as the losses mounted. Indeed, Klopp felt moved to acknowledge the faith placed in him by the club's sporting director and CEO - albeit in his inimitable manner - saying, “I had to thank Michael Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke for not asking me any stupid questions.”
In keeping with the general sense of fortunes being on the up again, Borussia's seemingly interminable personnel woes are also significantly receding. Long-term absentees Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Oliver Kirch are all now back in team training and star forward Marco Reus could yet be in contention for a run-out at Paderborn as well, after injuring his ankle in the win against his former club Gladbach. Summarising the general outlook for the last few weeks before the winter break, president Rauball reflected, “My hope and wish is that we continue to stay injury-free, and that those players returning from injury can soon get back up to the 100 per cent performance level necessary to win games in such a competitive league.” For Dortmund, the chase is on.