Dortmund braced for must-win Napoli clash
DORTMUND - Agence France-Presse
Borussia Dortmund’s defender Erik Durm reacts during the German Bundesliga match against Bayern Munich. Dortmund lost the ‘German Clasico’ 3-0 at home to be left seven points behind the Bavarians. Coach Jürgen Klopp’s is currently facing an injury crisis that sidelined Dortmund’s entire back four. AFP photoCaptain Roman Weidenfeller has insisted Borussia Dortmund converts its chances against Napoli tonight in a must-win game as last season’s Champions League finalists face a group-stage exit.
Dortmund’s 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal three weeks ago left the team third in Group F on six points, three behind joint leaders Napoli and the Gunners and heading for the Europa League.
Both Napoli and Dortmund come into their penultimate group stage game after suffering defeats in their respective leagues.
Borussia has lost its last three games in all competitions, including a comprehensive 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich in a repeat of May’s Champions League final on Nov. 23.
A fourth straight defeat would further erode confidence and, if Arsenal only draws with Marseille in London, ends its Champions League’s knock-out stages ahead of its final match at Marseille on December 11.
Dortmund now finds itself seven points adrift of Bayern in the Bundesliga and Weidenfeller has said his team must improve its finishing against Rafael Benitez’s Napoli.
“I think Tuesday’s game is much more important than Bayern,” said Weidenfeller, who was sent off in Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat at Napoli in September.
“We have to win against Napoli at home, it’s as simple as that.
“As I have been saying for a few weeks now, there is a lack of single-mindedness and determination with us at the moment.
“Our problem is that we are not finishing our chances.
“There are too many times when we play the ball across the penalty area and don’t go directly for goal.
“We have to take our chances, because football is decided by goals and at the moment, we’re not scoring them.”
Dortmund’s star-studded attack was left frustrated by Bayern’s defense as both attacking midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus squandered clear chances. Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund has only scored one goal in its last three games and to make matters worse, it has lost its entire back four in recent weeks.
Both Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer returned from international duty with Germany carrying leg injuries and new-signing Manuel Friedrich was thrown in at centre back alongside Greece’s Sokratis.
A second defeat in four days would put a significant dent in Dortmund’s ambitions, but Weidenfeller insisted there is still all to play for.
“Nothing is decided yet. Neither in the Champions League or in the Bundesliga,” he said.
“We can’t just assume that we’ll be German champions again after a year’s break (when Bayern were Bundesliga winners last season).
“We’re seven points behind Bayern, but the season is still long enough.”
Napoli only needs to avoid defeat at Westfalen to seal progress to the knock-out stages.
They will be without playmaker Marek Hamsik, who suffered a foot injury during Saturday’s shock 1-0 defeat to Parma.
The Slovakia international is likely to be replaced by Lorenzo Insigne, who normally operates on the left, or versatile Belgian Dries Mertens.
Benitez has said he expects a much better performance in Germany with the prize of a place in the knock-out stage at stake.
“Tonight we played badly, especially in attack. In the end, we didn’t execute the plan we’d made for this game,” he said after the Parma defeat.
“Now we have to turn our focus to Dortmund, we’ll be looking to recharge our physical and mental batteries for a match which is crucial to us.
“I’m sure the urgency of the game will give the lads the required incentive.”