Dortmund rattled but confident ahead of UCL second leg in Monaco
"The Borussia Dortmund team landed safely in brilliant sunshine at 12:56 p.m. in Nice," read a brief sentence on the club's official website on Tuesday. It's not unusual for the club to post a short news story about the safe arrival of the team after a plane ride. However, just one week after the horrific attack on the team bus, the news had a different connotation.
Understandably, the events of last week have yet to escape the minds of everyone involved with BVB, and it makes the resolve of Thomas Tuchel's men even more impressive. Wednesday sees the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against AS Monaco, a game in which Dortmund have to turn around a 3-2 deficit from the first leg and the team has plenty of confidence.
"The chances are still 50-50 despite the first leg. We have to believe in it," Reus, who missed the first leg at the Westfalenstadion due to injury, told journalists. "We developed a special team spirit in the last days."
Tuchel said: "We know that we probably need to win with a two-goal advantage tomorrow. We're feeling ready to achieve the extraordinary."
Of course, Dortmund's chances are not 50:500. Only six times in the past 61 years has a team made the next round after losing the home leg first, as noted by the Independent's Miguel Delaney. Nevertheless, the mindset has changed since the team had to play under impossible circumstances last Wednesday: it was a situation in which none of the players felt ready to play football, let alone an important Champions League game and a semifinal at stake.
"If there was a day on which we weren't ready to play football, it was the day of the first leg," Tuchel said about the it before looking ahead to Wednesday. "It will be a whole new match. We weren't ready in the first leg. We stabilised ourselves emotionally. We're here to proceed [to the next round]."
The belief to achieve the unlikely also stems from the second half of that first leg, in which Dortmund managed to dominate the visitors and the match.
"Although we weren't fully focused in the first leg, we still had 12 shots to [Monaco's] two in the second half and won most challenges," Tuchel said. "We were also unlucky with the officiating in the last match," referring to Kylian Mbappe being at least a yard offside for Monaco's first goal.
The manager will be able to rely on Reus for the second leg, which is a massive boost for their chances. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder played the first period of Dortmund's comprehensive 3-1 over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday: he Reus not only put his name on the score-sheet after 120 seconds with a cheeky back heel but also showed his value to the team with his relentless pressing up front. The intelligent runs of Reus often initiate a swarm-like movement by the entire Dortmund team; their positioning then becomes more coherent overall and it becomes tougher for opponents to string together a counter attack.
On Wednesday, transition attacks of Monaco's high-speed attack will be Tuchel's main concern. Ligue 1's leaders showed in style how dangerous they are on the break with Mbappe, Radamel Falcao, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar while Dortmund are traditionally susceptible to counter attacks, especially with the absence of Marc Bartra who was injured in Tuesday's attack.
Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke mused on Tuesday that his team could draw strength from what otherwise was a rotten week. Giving his outlook on his team's chances to make the semifinals, he said: "It was never going to be easy but after the attack on our lives, it's a bit different. We're no dreamers, we know that the chances aren't huge, but we also do know that there is a chance because the team performed on an almost superhuman level in the last days: that in itself could be a new source of strength for us."
If Dortmund do exit the Champions League on Wednesday night, it will be heartbreaking for the German side as they will feel that they were robbed of a fair chance to compete on their usual level. However, regardless of the outcome, everyone at Dortmund can take pride in how well they've handled such difficult circumstances. The fact that they are not completely out of the tie when the match kicks off on Wednesday night is already a miracle in itself.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.