By Enis Koylu | German Football Writer
Mere months ago, the enviable position in which Borussia Dortmund stand now was a distant dream. The German champions, despite showcasing rampant form in the Bundesliga in the last two years, were considered ill-prepared for the rigours of Champions League football.
In late August, when they were drawn alongside Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax in the group stage for the 2012-13 edition of the tournament, few would have predicted that they would lead the pack after four matches.
After claiming a hard-fought victory over Ajax on matchday one, BVB have gone from strength to strength and proven that they possess a new-found mettle following last year’s failures.
The 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium was only just the beginning. The Schwarzgelben dominated the Premier League champions from start to finish, and carved their illustrious hosts open a countless number of times.
In the end, a mixture of poor finishing and a Joe Hart masterclass limited BVB to just one goal, courtesy of Marco Reus. Mario Balotelli tucked away a controversial penalty in the dying seconds to seal a 1-1 draw for the hosts.
Many predicted that Jurgen Klopp’s charges would be disheartened by their experiences in Manchester, but three weeks later they made amends in the grandest of manners, claiming a win over Real Madrid at the Signal Iduna Park.
BVB were brave, took their chances brilliantly, and had the visitors under control. They had taken command of the ‘Group of Death’ with a 2-1 victory, and shown that they had the mentality to compete at the highest level.
As if to prove that the result at home was no fluke, they approached the return clash with los Blancos in an equally fearless manner. Robert Lewandowski led the line brilliantly, setting up two goals with fantastically flicked headers. Mesut Ozil’s late free-kick to make it 2-2 was a blow, but not a fatal one.
Their efforts thus far have made qualification to the knock-out phase a mere formality, with a home clash with struggling Manchester City and a trip to Amsterdam to come, and new territory awaits them.
But they need not fear what is ahead. They have already shown that they are capable of matching, and surpassing, Real Madrid, who are widely touted as tournament favourites.
Elsewhere, one of Chelsea or Juventus look to be destined for a group-stage elimination thanks to the scintillating form of Shakhtar Donetsk, while AC Milan are a shadow of their former selves.
Manchester United, despite boasting a 100 per cent record in the competition thus far, have been conceding entirely avoidable goals, a tendency on which Dortmund could easily capitalise. Fellow Premier League outfit Arsenal continue to disappoint, having gone seven years without winning a trophy.
Bayern Munich, beaten finalists in last year’s edition of the competition, have had a torrid time when facing BVB in recent years, despite their 2-1 win over the Schwarzgelben in the DFL Supercup in August, and would be an entirely beatable opponent.
That leaves Barcelona. While the Blaugrana have enjoyed a record-breaking start to the season under Tito Vilanova in 2012-13, they have been anything but defensively stable, leaking sloppy goals to the likes of Deportivo La Coruna and Spartak Moscow, and BVB’s fearsome front line could enjoy a fruitful evening against the Catalans.
Dortmund, of course, have their faults. Due to their small squad, they could be ill-prepared for a tussle on three fronts as the campaign wears on, and we are yet to see how their young group will cope in the latter stages of a tournament when the pressure is well and truly on.
One thing’s for sure, though. There are no bounds to contain Borussia Dortmund’s potential as a team, and they are most certainly here to stay.
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