Borussia Dortmund's season has stalled recently, as they have suffered setbacks both in the Champions League and the Bundesliga. Peter Bosz's side is hoping to use the second-round of the German Cup to get back on track.
Borussia Dortmund are not in crisis. This is what the chairman, Hans-Joachim Watzke, would like you to believe, even if German media have been reporting otherwise.
"If you look at how the Dortmund fans celebrated the team's play after the games against Leipzig and Frankfurt, then you'll see that the prevailing mood around the club is entirely different," Watzke told local sports magazine Reviersport. "I don't understand this coverage. It is ridiculous."
In some ways, Watzke is right. Dortmund still lead the Bundesliga after nine matchdays — they have a better goal differential than defending champions Bayern Munich — despite collecting just one point from their last two games.
However, compared to a month or so ago, Dortmund's form has slipped, the latest evidence of this having come on Saturday, when they blew a two-goal lead in Frankfurt. They are very much in need of a pick-me-up, and a midweek fixture against third-division side Magdeburg may do the trick.
"A win would very important — not just because of the all-or-nothing nature of the Cup, rather also for the mood," Peter Bosz told a press conference in Dortmund on Monday.
No change to style of play
Bosz insisted that his side would "not change its playing style" against its third-tier opponent. This suggests that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has played almost every minute of Dortmund's games this season, is a good bet to get the start again in Magdeburg.
"I don't believe that he needs a break. He was scoring from half chances at the beginning of the season, and he missed a big one recently. But these are small things. He is in top form and is always dangerous," Bosz said.
What Bosz could change are the players who accompany Aubameyang in attack. In his first year at Dortmund, the coach has constantly rotated Christian Pulisic, Maximilian Philipp and Andriy Yarmolenko in the attack. On Monday, Bosz also confirmed that André Schürrle, who has missed most of the season with an injury, could return to the squad.
Dortmund have conceded six goals in the three games they have played so far this month, and part of their problem has been the injury bug. Marc Bartra filled in at right back in Frankfurt on Saturday, because both the captain, Marcel Schmelzer, and Lukasz Piszczek were unavailable. Piszczek remains injured, while Bosz felt that Schmelzer, who made his return against APOEL in midweek, wasn't ready to play two games in the space of a few days. Additionally, midfielder Julian Weigl had to play in defense because Omer Toprak was injured and Sokratis Papastathopoulos was serving a one-game ban for the red card he picked up in Dortmund's loss to Leipzig.
Bosz will be able to count on Papastathopoulos on Tuesday, but the Dortmund coach confirmed that Toprak and Piszczek would not be available. As a result, fourth-choice central defender Neven Subotic, who started for the first time this season on Saturday, may be needed once more. Bosz is also hesitant to start Schmelzer, who has played just twice this season, because the Dutchman "doesn't want him to miss another six weeks."
Magdeburg: Second-best in the third division
In Magdeburg, Dortmund will be facing the second-place team in the third division, and given the fact that they have a decent, but not outstanding attack could play into BVB's hands. However, Magdeburg have done reasonably well against Bundesliga teams in recent years — losing to Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties in 2014 and 2016 respectively, and beating Augsburg for the second time in four seasons back in August. And there is little chance of Peter Bosz's men taking them lightly.
"I am expecting an intense match," the coach of the defending German Cup champions told that Monday press conference.
German Cup second round
Fortuna Düsseldorf vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (7:30 p.m. CEST)
Wehen Wiesbaden vs. Schalke
Paderborn vs. Bochum
Leverkusen vs. Union Berlin
Schweinfurt vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (9:45 p.m.)
Magdeburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
Mainz vs. Holstein Kiel
Greuther Fürth vs. Ingolstadt
dv/pfd (dpa, SID)