Marcel Schmelzer

Jurgen Klopp says Dortmund have hit ‘rock bottom’

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After finishing second in the Bundesliga last season, Borussia Dortmund is off to a very poor start this year.

[ RELATED: Bundesliga roundup ]

Currently sitting in the bottom half of the table, Dortmund has lost three of their last four Bundesliga matches, earning only one point. Their most recent defeat was a home loss to a previously winless Hamburger side, which manager Jurgen Klopp described as “rock bottom.”

 

Say and write what you want and ideally we will gain something from this situation to make sure things are different in future.

We’ve now got to accept all the criticism that comes our way, even the unjustified stuff. Criticism should be helpful and should not lead to you feeling worse. We think we’ve identified the problem, but resolving it is something else.

Today is October 4 and this is rock bottom, and the starting point for the remainder of the season.”

Adding to Dortmund’s recent woes is news of Marcel Schmelzer’s right hand. The midfielder broke a bone in his hand in the loss to Hamburger SV, and is expected to miss about four weeks time.

That means you can add Schmelzer’s name to the long list of injured Dortmund players, including Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ilkay Gundogan, Nuri Sahin and Oliver Kirch.

While Dortmund has struggled domestically, they currently sit atop their group in the Champions League. With two wins in two matches, Jurgen Klopp must figure out how to balance Champions League play with the Bundesliga in order to get Dortmund out of this hole.

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern Munich: Bayern stay top, pull seven points clear of BVB

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Saturday’s match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the top two sides in the Bundesliga, was billed as the German clasico. But ultimately, the match failed to impress, as Bayern trotted out the easy winners. The loss pushes Dortmund down to third, seven points behind the league leaders.

The first half gave the hosts a bit of hope. Dortmund, struggling with a makeshift back line that missed Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer and Neven Subotic , still managed to engage their potent attack. However, they just couldn’t seem to threaten Manuel Neuer. Robert Lewandowski, apparently trying not to anger his future team, sent his attempt in the third minute too high. Jakub Blaszczykowski forced a vital block by David Alaba, and followed it up with another attempt. Neuer’s only real work came in stopping a shot from Marco Reus, who was, curiously, allowed to wander freely.

Bayern had the best chance of the half in the 37th minute. Arjen Robben played a lovely ball across the six-yard box for Mario Mandzukic, who’d already forced Roman Weidenfeller into a save earlier in the match. But this time, the Croatian just couldn’t get a good shot in, and the visitors’ chance went begging.

Early in the second half, Pep Guardiola chose to bring off Mandzukic and introduce Mario Götze. This, you might imagine, caused quite a stir at the Westfalenstadion. Götze certainly didn’t endear himself to the Dortmund supporters when, after coming up through the youth system and spending four seasons on the senior BVB side, he made the move to Bayern Munich — for a whole lotta Euros, of course.

And no, the fact that he did not celebrate when scoring for the visitors didn’t make the infamous Dortmund support love him again. For the neutrals, though, it was a fine goal: a little poke on from a ball from Thomas Müller. You might wonder why Götze was left with so much space to make that finish, but then you’ll remember the shambles that is the Dortmund defense.

Jurgen Klopp made a couple of changes shortly after the goal, hoping to introduce a bit more oomph in the attack. Jonas Hofmann came on for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaced Blaszczykowski. Moments later, Marco Reus got on the end of a Lewandowski flick, firing his shot low. But Neuer managed a fantastic save to keep Bayern in the lead.

And ultimately it was Bayern who scored the second. And the third. With just five minutes to go, a chipped shot from Arjen Robben, possibly intended for Götze, found its way into the back of Weidenfeller’s net. But that wasn’t enough for Guardiola’s men. Müller put in a third just two minutes later, getting on the end of a ball from Philipp Lahm to finish off Dortmund.

Bundesliga Results — through Saturday evening

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 Schalke 04

Hertha Berlin 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Nurnberg 1-1 Wolfsburg

Braunschweig 0-1 Freiburg

Augsburg 2-0 Hoffenheim

Stuttgart 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach

UEFA Champions League Preview: Arsenal’s Dortmund test; Chelsea look to regain control; Barcelona returns to Milan

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UEFA Champions League’s group stage resumes on Tuesday, with Groups E through H starting the phase’s third round of action. With special focus on the matches in London, Gelsenkirchen, and Milan, here’s a preview of the week’s first eight games:

CATCH THEM AT THE RIGHT TIME
Arsenal (England) vs. Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, London (Emirates Stadium)

There’s never a right time to face Borussia Dortmund, but Tuesday will be as good as any. That’s because last year’s runners-up are going through a lull, if you can call coming off a weekend win as a lull. But their 1-0 over visiting Hannover was unconvincing, and it came on the back of their first league loss of the season (Oct. 5, at Borussia Mönchengladbach). With midfielder Ilkay Gündogan and right back Lukasz Piszczek out, BVB are still shorthanded, the returns of attacker Marco Reus, midfielder Nuri Sahin, and left back Marcel Schmelzer papering the cracks in a still hampered team.

But that hamstrung side is still one of Europe’s best, particularly going forward. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, one of the world’s best forwards, sees his threat augmented by Reus, midfielder Henrikh Mkyhitaryan, and winger Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – the attacking three in Dortmund’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Creative and intelligent in their decisions, ambitious and unrelenting with their movements, the quartet has combined for 19 league goals and sparked the Bundesliga’s best attack (the team with 22 goals in nine games). If they can get at Arsenal’s back line, they’ll provide the sternest test of the season for a decent if vulnerable unit.

Being able to get at that defense is not a given. Borussia Dortmund loves to play on the counter, particularly under these circumstances (on the road, against quality opposition, when the stakes are raised). As we saw against Napoli, having a team cede possession almost took Dortmund out of their game. While Arsenal won’t do the same, the Gunners’ attack won’t depend on sending players forward (exposing themselves to counters) to execute. The likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, and Aaron Ramsey don’t need the help. Secure at the back, Arsenal may force Dortmund onto its front foot.

“Their efficiency is their quality, [Dortmund’s] ability to take their chances,” Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger explained. “We go into the game focused on our quality and performance.”

Without defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini (recovering from a concussion), Arsenal may be more vulnerable, but against a Dortmund side that isn’t clicking at last year’s levels, his loss can be overcome. If the Gunners are careful in their approaches and mindful to balance their defense when their fullbacks push forward, they should be able to continue their early season success.

source: Getty ImagesA CHANCE TO REGAIN CONTROL
Schalke (Germany) vs. Chelsea (England)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Gelsenkirchen (Veltins-Arena)

Their opening round loss at home to Basel was shocking, but Tuesday’s game in Germany is why it was a bigger deal for the Swiss champions than Chelsea’s Champions League hopes. With a win over Schalke — a win the former champions would always be favored to get — José Mourinho’s side reclaims control of Group E.

Chelsea enter the day on three points, trailing group-leading Schalke by the same amount. Win in Gelsenchirken, and they move into a tie for first, but with two games remaining at home (one against group strugglers Steaua Bucharest), they’ll be back in the driver’s seat. Follow up by holding serve at home, and the 2011-12 champions will have 12 points, and that’s before considering a possible result at Basel. Like today’s game in Germany, they’ll be favored to win that one, too.

That’s the reality of a Group E, a decent but not exceptionally tough quartet, but Chelsea’s largely overlooked form helps the perception they’re in control. The team’s undefeated since losing to Basel, claiming five wins in six games, and although there’s an element to their recent performances that’s more opportunism than prolonged dominance, those quality would have come in handy last month against Basel. This team is making progress.

“The profile of the team is different to when I was here before,” Mourinho said, speaking to that progress. “We used to be physically very strong but things are different now. We have to play a different kind of football with a different philosophy. I am building a new side and it’s very enjoyable.”

That process should be far along against a Schalke team who, despite their weekend victory, struggled against Germany’s last place team, Braunschweig. Some of that may have been the absences Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Kevin Prince Boateng, Jefferson Farfan, and Jermaine Jones (Boateng and Jones are expected to return on Tuesday), but the team’s poor defending also played a part. In nine Bundesliga matches, Jens Keller’s side has given up 19 goals.

That form hasn’t been replicated in Champions League, where Schalke have gone 180 minutes without allowing a goal, though that’s likely to change on Tuesday. Chelsea have already scored five times in Champions League, have put in seven goals in their last two league matches, and could bring Oscar and the hobbled Andre Schurrle back into a team that scored four times on Saturday.

And consider the talents that have gone unmentioned — Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres — and it’s easy to see why an early stumble hasn’t taken away Chelsea’s favored status. The question is whether they can preserve that place today at Schalke.

source: ReutersREAPPLYING WHAT WORKED BEFORE
Milan (Italy) vs. Barcelona (Spain)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m. Eastern, Milan (San Siro)

At the time, it was one of the tournament’s biggest surprises, Milan opening last season’s knockout round with a 2-0 upset of visiting Barcelona. After struggling to get through a group where they’d been the seeded team, 90 perfectly executed minutes left Rossoneri were on the verge of eliminating the tournament favorites. After a half-season being maligned by the Italian press, Max Allegri delivered a masterpiece.

The second leg brought Milan back to earth. Their 4-0 loss at the Nou Camp undoubtedly left a lasting impression, one that reinforced how they took their unlikely lead.

“We need to play with courage and sacrifice against the best team in the world,” Allegri said on Monday. “We must try to make as few mistakes as possible. Barcelona will have the ball more than us, so we have to play a game similar to last year’s home tie.”

He’s not giving away any secrets. Every team tries to hit Barcelona on the counter, and with the exception of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, they bunker while doing so. Last year, Milan’s success saw play funneled to the middle, the ball won and given to Ricardo Montolivo, with Stephan El Shaarawy targeted by long passes. Though some of the other names have changed (Milan now having Mario Balotelli available, have acquired Kaká), the method will largely be the same.

Two key additions on Barcelona’s side give them more options. Brazilian star Neymar was brought in  for situations like these, giving Barça a wide option that may prevent Milan from overloading the middle. If the Rossoneri don’t adjust — if they decide it’s not worth giving Lionel Messi more room — they’ll dare Neymar to beat them.

Gerardo Martino may also be a factor. The new Barcelona boss has encouraged his team to play more direct when necessary. That would mean Barça passing over Milan’s midfield block before they set up. It could suggest a willingness to make earlier adjustments than we saw from Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura.

Those idiosyncratic differences don’t change the larger picture, one that’s similar for almost all of Barcelona’s matches. The Blaugrana will be given control and asked to move through a packed defense, one that will be looking to create their opportunities in transition. If Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol hold up and the Milan defense breaks down, this will seem like a very Barcelona affair. If, however, Milan can replicate this February’s effort (or if Barcelona are caught looking ahead to this weekend’s Clasico), the result may come down to how well the underdogs take the few chances they’ll create.

Others
All matches kickoff at 2:45 p.m. Eastern

  • Marseille (France) vs. Napoli (Italy), Stade Velodrome, Marseille – This will be l’OM’s easiest match of the tournament, and they’re still underdogs. With Arsenal having already claimed three points at the Velodrome, Napoli will be pressed to do the same. They’ll be without left back Juan Camilo Zuñiga, while Marseille will be missing center back Lucas Mendes.
  • Porto (Portugal) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia), Estadio Dragão, Porto – If Porto has designs on winning Group G, this is a must win. A second loss at the Dragão (having already fallen to Atlético Madrid), could leave Porto could be six back of first after Tuesday’s action. Zenit will also be hoping for a result, having registered one point through two rounds, but will have to do so without Axel Whitsel. The Belgian international is suspended after his red card against Austria Wien.
  • Austria Wien (Austria) vs. Atlético Madrid (Spain), Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna – Austria, winless in five all-competition matches, sees Diego Costa return for Atleti, Diego Simeone’s leading scorer having finished his two-match suspension. Despite coming off a weekend loss, their first of the season, Atlético will be big favorites to maintain their perfect Champions League start.
  • Celtic (Scotland) vs. Ajax (Netherlands), Celtic Park, Glasgow – With these teams combining for one point through two rounds, the pairing looks set to compete for Group H’s Europa League’s spot. If, however, one team can sweep these next two games (the teams meeting in Amsterdam in round four), Milan could have a challenger for their second round spot. If that challenger’s Ajax, they will have to overcome the losses of Niklas Moisander and Ricardo van Rhijn, both late decisions. Celtic will be without Scott Brown (suspended), Adam Mathews, and Derk Boerrigter.
  • Steaua Bucharest (Romania) vs. Basel (Switzerland), Arena Najtionala, Bucharest – Like Marseille in Group F, Steaua has become the team from which opponents must take points. Schalke and Chelsea have already done their part, putting the pressure on Basel to deliver on Tuesday. While a draw is a very respectable result, it will also see Basel give back some of the points they gained with their win at Stamford Bridge. Dropping points to Steaua could become a deciding factor in Group F.

The weekend in Germany: Dortmund drop points in Bundesliga action

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It’s been a tough week for Borussia Dortmund. First, last year’s runners-up lost 2-1 to Napoli in the first round of Champions League action — but that loss also included the meltdown and sending off of Jurgen Klopp, a straight red card for starting goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, and an injury to Mats Hummels.

Those hoping Dortmund would bounce right back ended up disappointed. BVB were playing away to one of the worst teams in the league, and it should’ve been simple to collect all three points. Sure enough, the visitors opened the scoring with a beautiful direct free kick from Marcel Schmelzer — alas, both the fullback and Marco Reus came off at halftime with injury. Nurnburg deepened the pain shortly thereafter, equalizing through a goal from Per Nilsson. Dortmund remain top, but are no longer perfect, and are forced to share the spotlight with Bayern Munich, who easily beat Schalke in the late Saturday match.

Now, the rest of this week’s Bundesliga action:

Friday

Borussia Monchengladbach 4-1 Braunschweig

Braunschweig made a game of it for about 15 minutes, after Mirko Boland knocked in the newcomers’ only goal of the night. Oscar Wendt and Raffael had scored prior to the break, with Max Kruse putting in a penalty and Raffael adding another in the second half. Altogether it was an easy victory for the Foals, who moved up to fifth place and a Europa League position

Saturday

Hannover 2-1 Augsburg

The first half brought plenty of shots, but all goals came in the second. Paul Verhaegh opened the scoring for the visitors with a penalty conversion, but Artur Sobiech equalized less than ten minutes later. Hannover finally got their winner in the 89th minute, through a penalty of their own, scored by Szabolcs Huszti. The win moves Hannover up to 4th and Augsburg down to 7th.

Wolfsburg 2-1 Hoffenheim

Anthony Modeste put Hoffenheim on the board after just fifteen minutes, but a brace from Ivica Olic, bagged on either side of the halftime whistle, saw Wolfsburg trot out the winners. Their third win puts them into sixth place, while Hoffenheim fall to 10th.

Nurnburg 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

See above.

Mainz 05 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen

Note to self: don’t bet against Leverkusen. With the two sides sitting so close in the table, it seemed the home side might squeeze out a win, but instead Bayer went wild. Robbie Kruse had scored two before the halftime whistle blew, bracketing a goal from Lars Bender. The visitors’ fourth came from Stefan Kiessling, with Mainz only able to add a consolation from Yunus Malli. Now Leverkusen are within a point of the league leaders, and Mainz have slipped down to 8th.

Hamburg 0-2 Werder Bremen

No surprises here, what with Hamburg lingering just above the relegation zone and all. Hamburg controlled the majority of the possession, both sides got in plenty of shots, but it was a brace from Nils Petersen that proved decisive. Werder is now solidly midtable, while Augsburg’s point means Hamburg are officially in the drop zone.

Schalke 0-4 Bayern Munich

Thought around the 20th minute: Hmmm, Bayern aren’t looking so great. 21st minute: Bastian Schweinsteiger scores. 22nd minute: Mario Mandzukic scores. The visitors put together a few more attacks in the first half, then go back to hiding in the second. After spending much of the second sitting back, Franck Ribery scored the third for Bayern, and Claudio Pizarro, on for Mandzukic, put in a fourth shortly before the final whistle. So much for a Schalke revival.

Still to come

Freiburg vs Hertha Berlin

Hertha BSC certainly aren’t behaving like a just-promoted side, having collected seven points thus far and sitting solidly midtable. Freiburg, meanwhile, have yet to win and sit only above Braunschweig in the table.

Stuttgart vs Eintracht Frankfurt

A battle at the bottom as these two sides, each with six points, hope to make a big jump and end up closer to the European positions than the relegation zone.

Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Early goal, red card decide day’s big match (Video)

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An even battle in the day’s marque match descended into an unbalanced one near the half-hour mark, with an opening goal from Gonzalo Higuaín followed by a red card to Roman Weidenfeller tipping the scales in Napoli’s favor. After Lorenzo Insigne’s picturesque free kick in the 67th minute doubled the hosts’ lead, Rafa Benítez’s side had eased to a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, last year’s European finalists scoring through a late Juan Camilo Zuñiga own goal.

It was easier than it should have been thanks to the red card, a decision that sparked a sequence that also saw Dortmund head coach sent to the stands. Already down 1-0 just before halftime, Weidenfeller charged off his line to challenge a ball being chased down by Higuaín. Elevating to try and block a chip Weidenfeller was judged to have handed the ball outside his area and was shown a straight red card. Klopp’s protests to the fourth official about the call and how the ensuing chaos (which saw Matts Hummels stretched from the pitch) has handled saw him dismissed, also.

Seventeen minutes earlier, Higuain had given Napoli the opener. As Zuñiga set up to cross from deep on the left, the Argentine striker pulled away from Hummels and found space in front of goal. Marcel Schmelzer’s attempts to mark the Napoli number nine came too late, with Zuñiga’s cross redirected to Weidenfeller’s lower-left corner for the game’s opening goal.

source: Getty Images
Gonzalo Higuain’s 29th minute goal opened the scoring for Napoli in a 2-1 win over visiting Borussia Dortmund. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Up a man in the second half, Napoli began monopolizing the ball, eventually drawing a direct kick from 23 yards out. Even with the right post, Insigne put a textbook bend on a ball that went outside the woodwork, around the wall, and into the upper-right hand corner, giving Napoli a 2-1, 67th minute lead.

By full-time, Napoli had held 59 percent of the ball, but the game’s other stats tell what the match was like before the sides were unbalanced. Dortmund ended up outshooting the partenopei, 17-15 while coming close to their hosts in shots on goal (6-7).

With those occasional threats, Dortmund were able to force late consolation – a tally that may matter in a highly competitive Champions League group. Zuñiga, with a bit of late generosity that cancelled out his early assist, added an own goal to make it 2-1.
Ultimately, however, Napoli were able to hold on for a win that leave them tied with Arsenal on top of Group F. The Gunners’ 2-1 win at Marseille leaves the two victors on three points with a +1 goal difference, having scored an identical number of goals. (Arsenal would technically win a tiebreaker wit their higher UEFA coefficient.)

Still, with a valuable win over the group favorites, Italy’s leaders have gotten their Champions League off to a flying start.

Goals

Napoli: 29′ Higuain, 67′ Insigne

Borussia Dortmund 87′ Zuniga (o.g.)

Lineups

Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Zuñiga; Behrami, Inler; Callejón, Hamsik (90′ Mesto), Insigne (73′ Mertens); Higuain (78′ Pandev). Unused subs: Dzemaili, Armero, Cabral, Cannavaro

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Hummels (46′ Aubameyang), Subotic, Grosßkreutz; Sahin, Bender; Reus, Mkhitaryan (76′ Hofmann), Blaszczkowski (46′ Langerak); Lewandowski. Unused subs: Kirch, Günter, Durm, Schleber