Dortmund, April 10 (IANS) Not many people would assume that the Champions League is not the main target for a football club that has reached the quarterfinals. Yet, the domestic championship is the main focus for Borussia Dortmund ahead of their first leg against AS Monaco this Tuesday evening.
While the club can't expect to win this season's Champions League, they are worried about losing ground in the German Bundesliga as Thomas Tuchel's team is in danger to missing out on one of the top three places that secure the direct qualification for the most important club event in Europe, reports Xinhua news agency.
After the team lost the German "classic" in Munich, Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke expressed concern about the league situation. "We're not happy about the situation in the Bundesliga," Watzke said. With Bayern Munich 10 points ahead, the German title race seems to be all over. Dortmund's young team is in a transition phase this season and right in the middle of a tight race against RB Leipzig and TSG Hoffenheim to come second or third.
A top three finish and direct qualification for next season's Champions League is therefore far more important for Dortmund than reaching the next round of the current campaign. At the same time, head coach Tuchel is hoping that a top performance in the Champions League quarter-final will motivate them for the final six league matches.
Re-structuring the team has proved to be more difficult than expected as Tuchel's team has not be able to perform consistently. Weeks of where they have come up trumps were offset by unexpected draws or defeats. A series of injuries has added to the problems.
The squad of highly talented young players can't make up for the loss of players like Julian Weigl, Shinji Kagawa, Lukas Piszczek, Andre Schuerrle, Mario Goetze and Marco Reus. "When facing teams like Bayern Munich, we have to be at our best," Tuchel said before the final training session for the Monaco game. For club CEO Watzke, the young team also "can't compensate for injuries to so many key figures".
To gain more experience and stability, Tuchel now hopes for the return of striker Reus who returned to first team training after an injury only last Sunday.
As both Dortmund and Monaco are regarded to have strong attacks, Dortmund defender Marcel Schmelzer believes the duel will be decided by the team that defends better. "Both seem to be good going forward. From that perspective, it will be the defence that will be decisive," Schmelzer said. In the French league, Monaco is top of the table having scored 88 goals while Dortmund impressed with 21 goals in the group phase of the Champions League.
While Tuchel is trying to get as many players fit again, Watzke refused to be drawn on rumours about the future of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is supposed to be on the wish list of Real Madrid or Barcelona. He expects the Gabon-born striker to stay with Borussia at least for the next season. He does not have the feeling that Aubameyang wants to leave. "There might be a rethink should Real or Barca call. As for the rumours regarding Bayern, I can say, we won't let him go," Watzke said.
As for Tuchel's future, Watzke referred to an agreement between the club and coach to take up negotiations about a new contract after the season. The coach's contract with Dortmund has another year to run until 2018.
Watzke wants Tuchel to accept the club's strategy to develop young top class talents and announced they won't sign any super stars in the next month. Dortmund's CEO seems to be convinced that Tuchel is willing to come along and express a loyalty commitment before signing a new contract. According to rumours, Tuchel is said to be on the list of several European clubs.
While Tuchel and his club get closer with each other, both hope for the quick return of striker Reus. Tuchel admitted to feel two hearts beating in his chest regarding Reus' return, saying he would love to have him back delivering intensity and experience but would not take the risk of further injury after Reus only had a few full training sessions with the team so far.