Dortmund defence need to learn a lesson from Tottenham beating
On Sunday night, Borussia Dortmund will host Koln at the Westfalenstadion to put a lid on the fourth Bundesliga matchday.
Both teams have some things in common: Both lost 3-1 in London during the week and both have their first-choice left-backs injured, as Koln's Jonas Hector picked up an ankle injury away to Arsenal in the Europa League on Thursday, joining Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer on the sidelines.
However, this is where the similarities stop. While 20,000 Koln fans were drunk on the excitement of playing on the international stage for the first time in over 20 years and could very well live with the 3-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium, there was more disgruntlement coming out of the Dortmund camp after coming home from Wembley empty-handed.
Dortmund coach Peter Bosz was the biggest target for criticism, after his side was unhealthily carved open by a counter-attacking Spurs. "Peter Bosz chose a too courageous tactic," Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote in their analysis of Wednesday's match.
That the Ruhr side are highly susceptible to counter-attacks when pushing their backline high up the field was already visible in matches before -- only then Wolfsburg, Hertha Berlin and Freiburg did not have the quality to capitalise. The Champions League, on the other hand, acts as a magnifying glass for problems and unveiled Dortmund's flaws for everyone to see.
Neither centre-backs Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Omer Toprak, nor defensive midfielder Nuri Sahin have the pace to keep up with quick attackers like Son Heung-min or Harry Kane.
And over 90 minutes, any team with quality midfielders will find a way to pass a ball in behind Dortmund's backline.
Mauricio Pochettino must have come to a similar conclusion when analysing Dortmund beforehand and set up his team in a 5-4-1 shape with the focus on counter-attacking. Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld was impressed with his team's approach, lauding his team's maturity. In some ways, it was the separation from men against boys on Wednesday night, as in the end, BVB were lucky to only concede three goals after allowing even more chances on the break in the second half.
Of course, the Black and Yellows are still in the process of learning Bosz's system, and of course, with Mahmoud Dahoud, Andriy Yarmolenko and Jeremy Toljan there were players on the pitch that will need more time to gel with the team.
But even more so because of the lack of team chemistry and the time that Dortmund need to fully implement the ideas of their new coach, it should have given reason for Bosz to opt for a more conservative approach at Wembley.
So, as for the Champions League, in the home match against Real Madrid, Bosz will have to show that he has learned his lessons or chances are Dortmund will meet a similar fate against the Christiano Ronaldos and Gareth Bales of the world.
In the Bundesliga on Sunday, the Black and Yellows have a good opportunity to bounce back from two bad results against last-placed Koln, who are not used to the strain of playing midweek games and do not possess the squad depth to rotate. With Hector's injury, Peter Stoger's side will miss one of their most important players. And against Arsenal, the Billy Goats did not leave the impression that they pose a similar threat on the counter-attack to Dortmund as Tottenham.
Asked, if the fact that no Dortmund coach has beaten Stoger is any extra motivation, Bosz answered at his news conference on Thursday with a simple. "No. We just have to beat Cologne."
It looks as though Sunday is the best chance for the Ruhr side to end their winless streak that persists since 2012.
Despite injuries, Bosz was confident that his squad still have enough riches to prevail heading into the "englische Woche" that entails a midweek fixture against Hamburg.
"I said before that we've got a lot of depth and quality in our squad," Bosz said, adding: "If that's the case, you mustn't be afraid to use it. Even though we made five changes, we saw against Spurs that our style of play did not change nor was there a drop-off in quality."
Mario Gotze, who was doubtful after Jan Vertonghen hit him in the teeth, trained on Friday with the team and should be ready to start on Sunday.
While centre-back Marc Bartra is still ruled out with a muscular injury, Julian Weigl, who has been a crucial cog in BVB's midfield is poised to make his comeback off the bench this week.
If there is a positive takeaway from the match against Tottenham it is that Yarmolenko and Toljan won't need too much time to integrate at the Westfalenstadion.
Bosz found some extra praise for the Ukrainian winger on Thursday: "He is not a youth player anymore. He is a player with a lot of international experience. We can speak English with him. He's been here for about two weeks and we talked to him about what we expect of him on [the right wing]. You could see that it worked very well in the first half [against Spurs] but in the second half it was also visible that he still needs time."
Ending the matchday on top of the league table should brighten the mood in Dortmund after a bitter loss in the Champions League but the three points are also a necessity after Tottenham raised some serious questions about BVB's approach to high-profile matches.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.