Take a deep breath. Restore energy. The BVB first-team squad, sorely tested both at club and international level, are out to break a club record. It currently stands at 12 home wins in a row. All they need to level it is one more win. Two weeks ahead of the big clash with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund have once again pulled back to within a point of the league leaders. But before that, the Black & Yellows have two important challenges to face, with the next one being extremely important.
Four days ahead of the all-important UEFA Champions League group game in Lisbon on Wednesday, Borussia Dortmund managed to pick up a hard-fought but well-deserved 2-1 win over VfB Stuttgart. After 12 matchdays, the Black & Yellows have 27 points to their name and trail Bayern by just a single point. In the past two campaigns, the gap between BVB and first place at this point of the season was five and six points respectively.
No surprise then that emotions were running high in the stands: chants of "Take the Lederhosen off the Bavarians!'' could be heard alongside ''Only BVB will be champions of Germany!'' Plus everyone knows that German football has been crying out for an exciting title race. ''People have high expectations of us,'' said Marco Rose regarding the mood in the country, going on to add: ''We also have high expectations of ourselves. We took notice of the result yesterday. We want to stay up at the top.'' It can also be looked at another way: every point which lifts Rose's team - plagued by injuries since the start of the season - closer to the top of the table also pulls them further away from fifth place, which doesn't grant entry to the following season's UEFA Champions League.
Rose's team won against VfB Stuttgart "with a lot of will and a lot of force" thanks to goals from Donyell Malen and Marco Reus. If football could be planned, one could have spoken of a "victory on paper". Because before the game, the situation was this:
- No team had scored more goals from long-range shots than Borussia Dortmund (four).
- No team had conceded more goals from long-range shots than VfB Stuttgart (four)
- No team had scored more goals from counter-attacks than Borussia Dortmund (five).
- No team had conceded more goals from counter-attacks than VfB Stuttgart (five).
Donyell Malen scored from long-range to make it 1-0.
Marco Reus scored the winning goal from a counter-attack.
But what really made the difference was the 12th man. Subtracting the VfB support, there were 55,000 Black & Yellow fans in the stadium doing all they could to carry their team. "The stadium gave us a lot of energy today. The fans were the factor that gave us that final push," said Rose as he thanked the crowd for their support. Donyell Malen also expressed his gratitude: "The fans are behind us for 90 minutes, they fight with us. That really helps us. It's a great feeling to score in front of the Yellow Wall. It gives me a boost. I'm happy."
After a "victory that should give us energy and confidence" (Rose), Borussia Dortmund are next in action in Lisbon on Wednesday. With a win there, BVB will book an early ticket to the round of 16. With a draw, they will hold all the trump cards. The only thing they can't afford to do is lose.