Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund prop up the Bundesliga table after Matchday 13
Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund prop up the Bundesliga table after Matchday 13

Klopp facing a new challenge with Dortmund

Cologne - Champions in 2011, league and DFB Cup double winners the following season, UEFA Champions League finalists in 2013, second only to FC Bayern München in the title race last time around - and now bottom of the table just a few weeks shy of the winter break: Borussia Dortmund's downward spiral is the most unexpected development of its kind in Germany's top flight for many a year.

Dortmund 'through thick and thin'

The Ruhr district heavyweights open the Matchday 14 programme at home to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Friday evening with a meagre 11 points to show for their efforts to date, their cellar-dwelling status secured by last Sunday's 2-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. That made it eight defeats in the opening 13 games for Jürgen Klopp's star ensemble, a club record they would gladly have done without.

The manner of their descent has only added to its perplexity. Dortmund have carved out more scoring opportunities - often considerably more - than all but four of their opponents so far this season but, clearly, the final touch has all too often let them down. In stark contrast, four straight wins with 13 goals scored in the process and just one conceded saw them safely through the group phase of the UEFA Champions League with two games to spare.

The situation is a new one to Klopp in his six-year tenure at Borussia and while not necessarily relishing it, he is rising to the challenge in his own inimitable manner. In Frankfurt on Monday, at a podium discussion on 'motivation and leadership' (scheduled well in advance of the current on-field malaise), he was typically forthright about a state of affairs “more difficult than I could have imagined”. That said, he added: “I'm an all-or-nothing type. As long as Dortmund want me doing the job, I'll do it, through thick and thin.”

Wary of Hoffenheim threat

There is little sign that the club would have it any other way with the man who took them from mid-table mediocrity back to the top of the European game inside the space of a few years. Klopp's tirelessly high-pressing young guns were also in the vanguard of teams playing a brand of football since adopted to often great effect by an increasing number of sides in the Bundesliga and beyond.

All of which notwithstanding, the coach acknowledged that the unfamiliar sound of jeering directed recently at their own team by sections of the Dortmund support was “comprehensible, it has to be said we're not making it easy for them”. On the other hand, he noted, there was nothing positive to be gained from laying into someone “who's just messed up an exam”.

Fond memories of Dortmund

BVB and their vast and overwhelmingly faithful following can expect another tough test when Hoffenheim come calling on Friday. After a refreshingly solid start to the campaign, Markus Gisdol's troops have shown signs of reverting to last season's harum-scarum modus operandi, with 14 goals leaked in their last four games. They did at least put the brakes on a three-game losing streak last weekend, edging a seven-goal thriller at home to Hannover 96, and they have a decent record against BVB, winning four and drawing four of their twelve Bundesliga meetings to date.

One of those victories, 2-1 at the Signal Iduna Park on the final matchday of 2012/13, earned Hoffenheim a place in the relegation/promotion play-off that ultimately secured their top-flight survival under the then freshly-installed Gisdol. Asked about the upcoming encounter, Klopp joked: “We once handed them another season in the Bundesliga with a miserable performance of our own. Hopefully they'll remember that.”

Memories can be notoriously short-lived at the sharp end of professional football but for all their on-going travails, Klopp and his battling charges remain more than capable of fashioning new ones at the drop of a hat, without any recourse to outside help.