The Europa League was yesterday. Third-placed Borussia Dortmund's focus now switches to Sunday's match (kick-off 18:00 CET) with fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, one of their direct rivals for the Champions League places. The two teams are currently only separated by goal difference.
It was a short night for Peter Stöger, who appeared in front of the press on Friday to talk about Frankfurt and field questions about Salzburg. "A game where the mistakes were coming from a lot of places and the tempo was too slow to break out of defence," was how the Austrian described Thursday's match, adding that it was "not the first time that we have had problems against teams who sit deeper and form lines across the back".
You don't need to be a prophet to envisage that Eintracht will opt for a similarly compact style, with a back five protected by two defensive midfielders when they don't have possession of the ball. "Their main virtues are aggression, good organisation and good tackling," said Stöger of an opponent for whose performances he is full of respect and recognition. As for the expectations of his own team, he said: "Speed in attacking areas will be necessary, but that alone will not be sufficient. We need to go in for the challenges as well." Just as they did in the highly praised 1-1 draw in Leipzig a week ago.
There are many reasons why things haven't been running smoothly in Dortmund in recent weeks. Stöger has frequently addressed them, and has now come to terms with the fact that the season is and will be a bumpy ride. He spoke of a "rocky season where things are not going as smoothly as one would like", one in which they seldom lose – they have only been beaten by Munich and Salzburg since his arrival – but are not winning enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.
"You cannot expect everything to run smoothly at the press of a button," said Stöger. "We still haven't managed to get all the lads that we've been fielding to perform consistently each week. The full construct is not yet finished – and that means that the processes are not so easy for the players."
Lukasz Piszczek – one of several players who has spent a prolonged period on the sidelines this term – is set to return to the team after being briefly rested, but Shinji Kagawa, who was the key player in January and February, will still be out of action for another two or three weeks after sustaining an ankle injury in the match against Hamburg. Boris Rupert