DORTMUND -- Borussia Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp has defended Bundesliga rivals Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen following the pairs’ recent defeats in the Champions League.
Dortmund are closing in on a quarterfinal place after beating Zenit 4-2 away on Tuesday, but Leverkusen’s 4-0 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain coupled with Die Koenigsblauen’s 6-1 humiliation by Real Madrid have left many questioning the quality of both sides – and, to some extent, the level of Bundesliga football in general.
But BVB coach Klopp believes that the French and Spanish giants would be fearsome opponents for most sides in Europe, and added that the fortune needed to beat them was absent for both German clubs.
"It was just bad luck they faced those two outstanding teams," Klopp told a news conference on Thursday. "Both of them will have a huge say in the race for the Champions League crown.
"Not only through their individual quality they are up there among the best teams, but they are also in a fantastic from. This has nothing to do with the quality of Bundesliga.
"Schalke and Leverkusen have really strong football teams. But Real Madrid and Paris are just a trifle better.
"Everything has to fall in place when you play them and from all those things that have to fall in place, in both matches, some of them did not."
Despite Dortmund's St. Petersburg success, an injury-cursed season has seen the 2013 Champions League finalists struggling for form domestically.
Klopp’s side are 20 points adrift of Bayern Munich, and are in the middle of a quartet of clubs fighting for the final three Champions League spots.
Dortmund suffered a 3-0 shock defeat to Hamburg last weekend, but Klopp’s men have a chance to make amends when they take on in-form Nuernberg at the Westfalenstadion this Saturday.
"It’s going to be a tight race in the league until the end," Klopp continued. "That’s why the defeat in Hamburg was so painful. The three points there would have done us really good."
Klopp might have to do without the Greece international Sokratis against Nuernberg, as the defender took a kick from Zenit attacker Hulk on Tuesday and suffered a "nasty swelling in the area of the Achilles tendon," according to the manager.
Fellow centre-back Marian Sarr also sat out Thursday’s training session with a thigh injury, and Dortmund now rest their hopes on a possible return of Germany international Mats Hummels, who has only played one match since November 2013.
Hummels, travelled to St. Petersburg for BVB’s Champions League tie but was not called up to the squad on Tuesday, but could win his second start of the year. "Mats trained normally on Wednesday," Klopp added.