Two games left and six points to play for, although one is all that is needed. The Champions League is within our sights now. We can smell the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City again. The job isn’t done yet. Bayer Leverkusen are just four points behind us in fifth and are more than capable of winning their last two games. We must do our bit, we must keep up our end of the bargain. With how predictable this Dortmund side has been this season you wouldn’t put it past us to let this slip. A win against Mainz today to build on the point picked up in Bremen last week though would go some way to securing our place in the top four.
That game last week felt like an end of season game though, which is always something to worry about. At this stage in the season there is always a worry that players will take their foot off the gas looking to start their holidays early or avoid injury, especially in a World Cup year. That certainly looked the case last Sunday at the Weserstadion. Having taken the lead, it took for Thomas Delaney to equalise for the hosts in order for us to finally shift out of second gear. Jiri Pavlenka made a string of great saves to deny us maximum points, as did his crossbar, but that is no excuse. Once again we deprived ourselves and threw away points. That is unacceptable.
Today though the demands are plain and simple: Win and we will be playing Champions League football next season. Anything less and we leave ourselves open to be taken advantage of next week when we play Hoffenheim away. All that is needed is a point from these two games and we’re there again. The odds are certainly in our favour too, with BVB now unbeaten in our last nine home games and winning the last four at Signal Iduna Park. “Following a turbulent season”, Stoeger said he would like to “achieve this major objective at home and together with the fans”, adding: “That would be a nice story. That’s what we’re aiming for. But we know this is a task that looks much easier on paper than it will be in reality. We have a big opportunity; we’re going to give it everything.”
It is looking likely that this mission will have to be completed without the contribution of Shinji Kagawa, who has been suffering “minor ankle problems” in training this week according to Stoeger. However, he is “working on the assumption” that Marco Reus will be fit for the game after picking up a minor ankle knock himself during the draw in Bremen. Dan-Axel Zagadou will continue to miss out to what has only been described as a muscle injury, while Raphael Guerreiro still isn’t match fit despite being cleared to play. One man who is likely to feature at some stage, and for the final time in his professional career, is Roman Weidenfeller. The long time number one will be retiring at the end of the season and Stoeger said at his press conference on Friday, “He has earned the right, and if there’s an opportunity then we’ll take it”.
Across the dugout from Peter Stoeger sits his counterpart, Sandro Schwartz. His teams’ future in the division is far from secure and they are in dire need of points themselves. Mainz currently sit fourteenth in the Bundesliga and at least have the luxury of having their safety in their own hands. Nonetheless, they are still not mathematically safe from automatic relegation and will need points from their final two games, against ourselves today and Werder Bremen at home next week, to guarantee themselves a place in Germany’s top flight next season. Despite only winning on their travels once in the prior twenty two occasions, they will take heart in knowing they have only lost once in their last five games. The Zerofivers were dealt a huge blow this week though when ‘keeper Rene Adler picked up a knee injury in training on Wednesday which has ended his season. He joins Emil Berggreen and Leon Balogun on the missing list, while Danny Latza and Suat Serdar are back in contention.
There may not be any silverware to play for now but that doesn’t mean second-rate effort is acceptable. Champions League qualification is within touching distance but so two are Schalke in second, who only have two points cushion between them and ourselves. They can be still be caught but we need them to drop points and maximum points in our last two games to have any chance of doing that. It is attainable, it is achievable, it can be done. Performances like the one in Bremen last weekend won’t cut the mustard though.