Bosz can begin to rectify Dortmund's defensive shortcomings against APOEL
After Borussia Dortmund were left on zero points after two matchdays in Champions League Group H, losing both away to Tottenham and at home to Real Madrid 3-1, some fans may have already found themselves looking up the venue of the 2018 Europa League final -- which is the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, by the way.
However, when the match between APOEL and Dortmund kicks off on Tuesday, the Black and Yellows will still have a chance to reach the round of 16. Without a doubt, it will be an uphill task as they will need to claim six points from the doubleheader against Nicosia and beat Tottenham at home while hoping the North Londoners won't snatch too many points off Los Blancos in the meantime.
"We lost twice [in the Champions League]," Peter Bosz said in his news conference on Monday. "We are here to win."
The 53-year-old's methods once again have come under scrutiny after his team suffered their first Bundesliga loss on Saturday against RB Leipzig. It was the third defeat against high-profile opposition for BVB, who conceded three goals in each of their games against Tottenham, Madrid and Leipzig to paint a contrasting image to their defensive solidity illustrated by conceding the fewest goals (5) in the Bundesliga this season.
Headlines commenting on Dortmund's situation after the match all had a similar theme. "BVB need solutions for their defensive woes," wrote Ruhr Nachrichten, "It's still not working out against the good teams," wrote Der Spiegel. "Defeat against RB Leipzig raises questions," was WAZ's headline. While Bild asked: "How will Bosz sure up his defence?"
However, as painful as the loss was for the Ruhr side, there were changes in Bosz's approach compared to how BVB set up against Tottenham and Real Madrid. On Saturday, the Black and Yellows did not push their defensive line as high up the field as they usually do, in order to prevent Ralph Hasenhuttl's team from catching them on the break.
And indeed, Dortmund were hardly caught on the break barring a few moments at the very death, when they were pushing hard for an equaliser.
This time, BVB's defensive undoing came from individual mistakes. Jeremy Toljan was punished twice for abject defending in his first outing as a right-back in the wake of Lukasz Piszczek's injury and was promptly taken off at half-time. Julian Weigl, who was brought on at the interval for Nuri Sahin, fatally gave the ball away in midfield just minutes after his introduction. Jean-Kevin Augustin converted the resulting penalty a minute later for Leipzig's third.
"We didn't defend at our usual level," Bosz said after the game. But BVB not running into an open knife against a team that's efficient in transition can be seen as an improvement and reaffirm for the next big match at the Westfalenstadion, against none other than Bayern Munich on Nov. 4.
Yet, the loss against the East German side raised questions in other departments. The guests found a way to completely nullify BVB's own possession game in the first half by effectively pressing Dortmund's centre-backs Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Omer Toprak while simultaneously negating Sahin through their positioning.
"It was our plan to put heavy pressure on Toprak every time he had the ball," Leipzig attacker Yussuf Poulsen told journalists with a cheeky grin. As a result, the former Leverkusen centre-back played 27 balls back to goalkeeper Roman Burki -- very much to the displeasure of his coach.
"We played far too many balls back to the keeper," Bosz said in his usual calm and analytical voice after the game. "We wanted to move the ball forward, where our good players are and do something with it.
"Passing back to our keeper, who then lumps it forward -- that is not our idea of football. If Leipzig exude pressure, other spaces open up. We need to play quicker and find the free man."
But Dortmund failed to find the free man in midfield, and had they managed to bring Sahin into play more often, Leipzig had prepared a pressing trap for that as well, as Weigl found out the hard way just minutes after coming on in the second half.
It's impossible to tell, whether Bosz's half-time adjustment to a 3-4-3 formation would have helped his team to find a way through Leipzig's well-organised shape, as this experiment came to a sudden halt due to Sokratis' red card in the 47th minute.
The takeaways from Saturday's painful 3-2 defeat are that it would still be too early to criticise Bosz for a lack of a plan B just yet, as he showed that he is ready to make adjustments. But it also became obvious that the newly installed head coach is yet to figure out his perfect setting for his team to gain the upper-hand against top opposition.
Tuesday's match against APOEL should fall into an easier category for Dortmund, who travel to Cyprus as heavy favourites. Next to the three points, it will be a priority for the 53-year-old to restore Toljan's shaken confidence as other right-back options are far and few between with Piszczek possibly being out for the rest of 2017.
Though, Dortmund may see a boost at their left-back position going into the make-or-break match against APOEL that will determine whether the Black and Yellows can still have hopes of advancing to the knockout stages.
Marcel Schmelzer travelled with the team after overcoming an ankle injury he suffered in early September. Bosz declared his team captain as fit to play but was uncertain whether it would be enough for a start. Schmelzer's experience will be vital in this crucial tie, even if it's only for the final 30 minutes.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.