A difficult two weeks for Borussia Dortmund ended with elimination from the Champions League in Monaco. Attention now turns to the Bundesliga and a German Cup semifinal in Munich.There is no time to rest for Borussia Dortmund after the trauma and disappointment of the last two weeks.
The team bus attack, a game played and lost less than 24 hours later and ultimate Champions League elimination in Monaco must be quickly put to the back of their minds. Otherwise they will struggle to have any chance of salvaging a modicum of success from a strange season.
Wednesday’s quarterfinal second leg defeat at Monaco began with another bizarre episode. The local police prevented the team bus from travelling to the stadium for around 20 minutes before the game, presumably because they wanted to be absolutely sure there would be no repeat of the dreadful scenes in Dortmund a week earlier.
However, no official reason was given and it clearly unnerved a Dortmund side already on edge.
“To put it politely, it was an unfortunate situation,” said coach Thomas Tuchel after the game, weighing his words carefully. “We didn’t know what was going on. We’d prepared for the game as well as we could but that quarter of an hour sat on the bus meant that we couldn’t think about football anymore.”
Marco Reus added: “We didn’t know what the reason for the delay was. That sort of thing certainly affects your rhythm when preparing for such a game.”
Some of Dortmund’s players could be forgiven for recalling what had happened to their bus eight days earlier, but none wanted to make it a full-on excuse for the 3-1 loss on the night.
“It had nothing to do with the delayed departure,” declared Marcel Schmelzer.
“Proud to be part of this team”
But the 6-3 aggregate defeat hurt. The pain was etched on the faces of the players, CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and club officials. Dortmund had done all they could but the Miracle of Monaco wasn’t to be. Marc Bartra, the only player injured during the attack on the bus, had flown in and given an emotional speech to his teammates in the dressing room. It geed Dortmund up but Monaco were just too good.
“I think we focused too much on scoring goals and forgot to keep it tight at the back,” analyzed goalkeeper Roman Bürki. “Nevertheless, I am still extremely proud to be part of this team.”
Now it is quickly back to domestic matters for Dortmund. First, Tuchel’s team make the short trip to Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
A single point separates Dortmund in fourth from Hoffenheim in third, the last automatic Champions League qualification spot.
“We all want to play in the Champions League again next season so it’s good that we’re straight back in action at the weekend,” said Schmelzer. “We want to make that third place ours.”
Next they travel the longer distance to Munich for the German Cup semifinal on Wednesday.
It is another important week for this young team but Schmelzer believes “there is significantly more pressure on Bayern.”
“Of course, our aim in Munich is to reach the final,” added teammate Reus. “We just need a little bit more courage and belief and then we’ll have a good chance.”