"We want to be the ones who start the year with nine points"
Borussia Dortmund will kick off the second half of their Bundesliga campaign with a trip to Leverkusen. Kick-off away to Bayer 04 is at 17:30 CET on Sunday (29/01).
BVB have started the new year with two wins, having followed up their 4-3 home victory over Augsburg with a 2-1 win in Mainz. BVB coach Edin Terzic is satisfied with that haul: "By picking up six points from the two matches, we've managed to get back to where we want to be: further up and within reach of the Champions League places." BVB might have only climbed one position to fifth place in the table, but they did manage to close the gap to the teams above them.
Bayer Leverkusen, the opponents on Matchday 18, currently trail BVB by seven points and occupy eighth position in the table. The Werkself have managed to win each of their last five Bundesliga matches, however. "We're aware of Leverkusen's quality and strengths. They've really stabilised and also fought their way up the table with the five victories," said Terzic, who praised the opposition's strength on the counter-attack and the flexibility of their build-up play. "But we also know that we have the quality to play a good game there." The coach is expecting a close contest on Sunday, "as it's always been in the past few years."
4-3, 4-3, 5-2, 3-2 – these are scorelines that would be the exception in other fixtures, but they seem to be the norm between Dortmund and Leverkusen. There certainly has not been a shortage of goals in many of their meetings in recent years. Dortmund's 1-0 win in the reverse fixture, sealed by a Marco Reus goal, seems to be the exception in this context. "We're two teams that frequently play an open game," commented Terzic, who will however also be calling on the defence on Sunday. "It is always significantly easier to play against Leverkusen when you don't fall behind and they cannot draw on their counter-attacking strength." What makes the coach feel confident is the fact "that we have produced two very good first halves in each of the past two games, in which we were able to put into practice many things that we had planned. The fact it wasn't sufficient over 90 minutes is something we want to improve upon." In the games against Augsburg and Mainz, his team were prepared "to match the intensity of the opposition. We fought back, battled for the win and deservedly came away from the two games with six points. That gives us a lot of self-confidence for the game on Sunday."
Terzic has almost a full squad at his disposal, with every single player available except for Mateu Morey and Thomas Meunier. Captain Marco Reus, who has recently been out with illness, resumed training with the team on Tuesday and is expected to be available on Sunday.
A day later, the Black & Yellows will know where they stand: "Are we the team in the thick of it? Or are we the team that need to fight our way back again? We want to avoid that. We want to be the ones who start the new year with nine points and are then in the thick of things."
BVB TV by 1&1: The press conference prior to the match against Leverkusen