After a surprising Bundesliga defeat last weekend, Dortmund have to overcome Zenit St Petersburg in the Last 16 of the Champions League. Local rivals Schalke play a day later against favorites Real Madrid.
The rehearsal ended in failure, so what else could go wrong? Three days after the 0-3 defeat at the hands of Bundesliga strugglers Hamburg SV, Borussia Dortmund stand up to international competition on Tuesday (18:00 UTC) in their first leg of the Champions League Last 16. "I expect a response," CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke insisted provocatively before the team's departure.
Players and coaches were in combative mood: "We are warned through the Hamburg match. We don't allow the negativity of the defeat to pull us down," said team captain Sebastian Kehl. "St. Petersburg have a strong team at their disposal, they are underestimated in Germany."
This is not the case, the other way around. Zenit's sporting director is German Dietmar Beiersdorfer, who has previously worked at Hamburg and he knows German football very well. "Of course, the favorite role lies with Borussia Dortmund," he said.
Without Bender, but with confidence
While Dortmund must continue without many injured key players – now Sven Bender drops out for about 10 weeks – BVB coach Jurgen Klopp looked to take the accumulation of bad news calmly. "It's like so many things in life; if the washing machine breaks down, then the the next day, the dryer will do so too, then usually the TV also breaks." Klopp can set up with striker Robert Lewandowski who is fit again after a bout of flu.
Dortmund will meet an old acquaintance in the match against Zenit: Anatoly Tymoshchuk. The midfielder was formerly under contract at Bayern Munich. But the star of the Russian team is someone else: the Brazilian striker Hulk who the club paid 50 million euros ($69 million) to sign. The fans' favorite is Russian international Andriy Arshavin.
For Zenit, the date of the game is far from ideal: the Russian Premier League is in its winter break and the first league game is not until the middle of March.
Zenit Ultras have to stay out
In addition, Zenit St. Petersburg must do without some of their fans in the Petrovsky Stadium. Following racism offences and also the burning of fireworks in the Champions League group match on December 11, 2013 against Austria Vienna, the club was punished with the banning of the Zenit Ultras. Beiersdorfer said: "Nevertheless, Borussia can expect emotions to run high."
Dortmund fans were warned by the club's fan liaison officer Jens Volke about potential attacks on away supporters in the city. Several German supporters reportedly suffered minor injuries in attacks by '50 to 60' Zenit supporters. Volke wrote on his Twitter account: "Watch out, assaults on BVB fans in the city are still ongoing." Travelling fans have been urged to return to their hotels soon after tonight's match in Russia.