x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

It's Borussia Dortmund's turn in the spotlight

The German club is flourishing again after many debt-ridden years with Jurgen Klopp building a lasting side on youth and energy.

Borussia Dortmund's Sven Bender, centre, and Mats Hummels, right, represent a bright future for the club.
Borussia Dortmund's Sven Bender, centre, and Mats Hummels, right, represent a bright future for the club.

Poor Borussia Dortmund. They wait almost a decade to close in on a major title, and their thunder gets stolen by their bitterest rivals.

No doubt about who are this week's heroes of the Ruhr: Schalke for going to the home of the holders of the Champions League, Inter Milan, and scoring five away goals to all-but guarantee a berth in the semi-finals of the European Cup.

Dortmund supporters cannot abide Schalke, and the feeling is mutual, so no congratulations will have been transmitted between Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen over the last four days.

The Bundesliga leaders will be happy to once again return to the environment in which they have been happily looking down from an elevated position on their arch-enemies, namely the league table.

Dortmund went into the weekend nine places and 29 points better off domestically than Schalke and, should they defeat Hamburg this afternoon, they will move 10 points clear of second-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Die Schwarzgelben (The black and yellows) have been top of the table for all but eight weekends of the campaign. They are the pacesetters who have become as close to championship certainties as exist across the prestigious leagues of western Europe - with the exception of Portugal, where Porto, unbeaten all season, last Sunday wrapped up the Superliga with six games left.

Dortmund fans are entitled not only to anticipate the end of what has been traumatic 10 years at the club, who suffered serious debt-management problems in the mid-Noughties, but now it appears they can look forward to many more seasons at the summit of German football and participating in the Champions League on a regular basis.

Their success so far has the ingredients not of a one-off ambush on a Bundesliga whose heavyweights, such as Bayern, Bremen, Schalke, Stuttgart and today's opponents, Hamburg, have all been inconsistent, but of something lasting, mainly because the team is so young.

The side that Jurgen Klopp, the feted head coach of Dortmund, fielded in the 3-1 away win over Bayern at the end of February had an average age of 22. Comparisons between the dynamic Germany of the last World Cup are inevitable.

Just as Joachim Low's national team showcased and promoted the youthful potential of players such as Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil last June and July in South Africa, so Dortmund are making big reputations for players such as midfielders Sven Bender, 21, and Nuri Sahin, 22, who, like Ozil, was born in Germany to Turkish parents, but who, unlike Ozil, has chosen to represent Turkey internationally. Other names around whom a bright long-term should be constructed include defender Mats Hummels and striker Kevin Grosskreutz, both 22.

Dortmund's youthfulness shows in their energy, when they put into practice Klopp's instructions to press hard on the opposition when not in possession, but not in any apparent lack of streetwisdom or experience.

True, they did drop five points in successive games last month, but bounced back seven days ago to beat Hannover 4-1, with Lucas Barrios, their leading scorer, making a welcome return to fitness and form with his 12th and 13th goals of the league campaign.

Klopp is cautious about anticipating the coronation, and sensitive to how often the hoards of Dortmund followers have had to cope with anti-climaxes in recent years. Dortmund won the Champions League back in 1997 after collecting successive Bundesliga titles, and it looked then as if they were set to join the ranks of the half-dozen or so clubs who regularly compete in the last eight of Europe's premier club competition. Things turned out differently, and although there would be a Bundesliga title to celebrate in 2002, that same year ended in disappointment in the Uefa Cup final, where Dortmund lost to Feyenoord. Nine years on, the Bundesliga Shield edges ever nearer. So does the still quiet dread that Schalke might, just might, find themselves upstaging Dortmund by actually reaching the European Cup final.




Last night

E Frankfurt v W Bremen late


Hamburg v B Dortmund 5.30pm

Hannover v Mainz 5.30pm

Nuremberg v B Munich 5.30pm

Freiburg v Hoffenheim 5.30pm

Schalke v Wolfsburg 5.30pm

Stuttgart v Kaisersl'tern 8.30pm


B M'gladbach v Cologne 5.30pm

B Leverkusen v St Pauli 7.30pm


Bundesliga table

Team P W D L GD P

B Dortmund 28 20 5 3 41 65

Leverkusen 28 17 7 4 23 58

B Munich 28 15 6 7 26 51

Hannover 28 16 2 10 0 50

Mainz 28 14 3 11 8 45

Nurnberg 28 12 6 10 5 42

Hamburg 28 12 5 11 -1 41

Freiburg 28 11 5 12 -4 38

Hoffenheim 28 9 10 9 3 37

Cologne 28 10 5 13 -11 35

Schalke 27 9 6 12 -2 33

W Bremen 28 8 9 11 -16 33

E Frankfurt 28 9 5 14 -10 32

Kaisers'tern 28 8 7 13 -8 31

Stuttgat 28 8 6 14 -3 30

Wolfsburg 28 6 10 12 -9 28

St Pauli 27 8 4 15 -18 28

B M'gladbach 28 6 5 17 -24 23