Last season’s runners-up start at home to Köln with every intention of taking their title challenge one step further this season and stopping Bayern’s eleven year dominance of the Meisterschale. The pain from the Mainz debacle last season and the spoilt title-party will still hang over the Signal Iduna Park this weekend, but a good start against the Billy Goats will at least go some way to easing the pain and creating a new sense of hope amongst the fans.
The question of ‘mentality’ has long hung over Borussia Dortmund and the scrutiny will be even stronger this season as Bundesliga observers look to see how they bounce back from last season’s trauma. In some instances the disappointment can have a tremendous galvanising effect on inspire a team onto greater things. BVB fans at the Signal Iduna Park will certainly do their bit.
But, on the flip side, what happened last season could have a lasting effect on the players and have sewn doubts into their minds. It is Edin Terzic’s job to help make sure the former is the case rather than the latter starting with the visit of Köln on Saturday evening.
The driving force of the team last season has left with Jude Bellingham moving on to bigger things at Real Madrid, and if reports are to be believed, his departure could have a liberating effect on some of the squad, who it is said began to resent his presence as the star man. Bayern have spent big this summer in an attempt to put distance between themselves and the chasing pack, whereas Dortmund have been a lot more prudent and largely put faith in last year’s squad. The wisdom of this approach will only be known as the season progresses, but three points on Saturday again the team from the Domstatdt would be a good start.
Köln were the team that could have, but didn’t to BVB a favour on that fateful matchday 34 last season when they conceded a late Jamal Musiala goal to hand the title to Bayern. Steffen Baumgart has lost two pillars in Jonas Hector and Ellyes Skhiri, but will still be targeting a good start on their short trip to the Ruhr for the Saturday night game.
Leart Paqarada looks like an excellent replacement for Hector being similar in style to the former captain and he proved his attacking threat last season at St. Pauli. The permanent signing of Julian Chabot is another boost, but the club have just seen defender Nikola Soldo depart the club.
The Billy Goats will want to forget last season’s visit to the Signal Iduna Park, where they were thrashed 6-1 and dwell more on the matchday 8 performance that saw them beat Dortmund 3-2 with a top performance at the Rhein-Energie Stadion. Köln have been playing well and getting results in pre-season, although aside from Ajax, their opponents haven’t been of the quality of Borussia Dortmund and this Saturday will be a real test of where they are as a team.
The opener on Saturday comes too early for either Julien Duranville, Thomas Meunier or Gio Reyna to feature. Niklas Süle should be able to play despite having to come off in the Cup with a back problem.
Both Karim Adeyemi and Felix Nmecha are doubts, but the duo will be given every chance to prove their fitness. Jamie Bynoe-Gittens is making good progress from his shoulder injury, but probably won’t be risked this weekend. New captain Emre Can had to cut short training on Tuesday, but should be ready to lead the Schwarzgelben.
Possible line-up: Kobel, Ryerson, Süle, Schlotterbeck, Bensebaini, Sabitzer, Can, Malen, Reus, Brandt, Haller
Dejan Ljubicic is fit should make the squad for the trip to Dortmund, but there is a slight doubt over Davie Selke’s availability due to a thigh problem. Sargis Adamyan would deputise should Selke not make it. Linton Maina trained with the first-team this week as he recovers from his back injury, but an involvement on Saturday has come too soon.
Mark Uth, Florian Dietz, Jan Thielmann and Noah Katterback are all unavailable to Steffen Baumgart this weekend. Leart Paqarada and Luca Waldschmidt look set to make their league debuts for the club.
Possible line-up: Schwäbe, Schmitz, Hübers, Chabot, Paqarada, Martel, Ljubicic, Kainz, Huseinbasic, Selke, Waldschmidt
What they’re saying:
Edin Terzic: “Steffen Baumgart has had a big impact. It’s not so easy for them at the beginning of the season. They have lost important players and characters such as Jonas Hector, Timo Horn and Ellyes Skhiri. But I believe them to be really unpleasant opponents that are always courageous and hungry.
“We sensed that last season too. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re playing at home and know that we need a good performance to win the game.”
Steffen Baumgart: Steffen Baumgart: “The anticipation for the game is great, regardless of the difficulty of the task. Six weeks of preparation is enough. We will go to Dortmund with the aim of winning. We always do. However, aspiration and reality sometimes differ, as we saw last season. We want to act boldly, put the opponent under pressure and assert our game.
“I’m looking forward to an emotionally charged duel. Both teams need to get the season off to a good start. As a coach and player you can’t wish for anything more than to play in Dortmund. We play against the runners-up, where the championship is an issue. For us, anticipation prevails.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve played for a championship. We would have liked to have made our contribution on the last matchday last season. Dortmund had the chance to become champions. Last season they dropped a few points early on. They certainly want to do that differently this season. I’m excited about the championship, in my opinion there are three or four contenders for the title. It will be an exciting year.”
12/08/23 TSV Schott Mainz (a) 1-6 W (DFB Pokal)
06/08/23 Ajax (h) 3-1 W (Friendly)
03/08/23 Chelsea (n) 1-1 D (Friendly)
31/07/23 Manchester United (n) 2-3 W (Friendly)
28/07/23 San Diego Loyal (a) 0-6 W (Friendly)
14/08/23 VfL Osnabrück (a) 1-3 W (DFB Pokal)
06/08/23 Ajax (h) 3-1 W (Friendly)
05/08/23 Nantes (h) 2-0 W (Friendly)
29/07/23 Erzgebirge Aue (h) 2-0 W (Friendly)
28/07/23 Fortuna Köln (a) 2-2 D (Friendly)
The corresponding fixture at the Signal Iduna Park last season saw Dortmund steamroller Köln 6-1 on matchday 25 as their title bid gathered steam. The home side were 2-0 up inside twenty minutes with goals from Raphael Guerreiro and Sebastien Haller before half time it was 4-0 with Marco Reus and Donyell Malen adding their names to the scoresheet.
Köln pulled one back just before the interval through Davie Selke, but BVB carried on attacking in the second 45 minutes adding further goals with Haller and Reus scoring within a minute of each other on 69 and 70 minutes.
Players to watch:
Austrian Marcel Sabitzer should make his Bundesliga debut for Dortmund this weekend and although not a blockbuster transfer, his arrival could prove a shrewd move. He started last season as a starter at Bayern due to his performances and then impressed further during his loan spell at Manchester United. BVB fans will soon take to him if he starts well for the club against Köln in the opener.
Replacing a club legend is never easy, but Leart Paqarada looks like he has what it takes to inherit the left back mantle from Jonas Hector. He impressed a lot at St. Pauli with his attacking style and Köln will want to see him transfer his skill set to the Bundesliga this season.