Football

Dortmund desperate to recover from early setback

BERLIN: When Borussia Dortmund midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz was ordered off during training after scuffling with teammate Jonas Hofmann this week, it was clear last season’s runners-up had some serious issues with the new campaign barely underway.

An opening day 2-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last week highlighted some of those problems with coach Juergen Klopp racing against time to turn things around ahead of their next league game at Augsburg Friday.

New forward Ciro Immobile, who has yet to score in a competitive game for Dortmund, has still to convince he was the right choice to replace Robert Lewandowski and that the 18 million euros ($23.78 million) he cost was money well spent.

Fellow forward Adrian Ramos has only just recovered from injury and is doubtful for the Augsburg encounter, while striker Ji Dong-won is definitely out and the back line is in urgent need of improvement.

Captain Mats Hummels’ absence remains far too evident in the center of defense with Dortmund letting in a goal after a Bundesliga record nine seconds against Leverkusen.

Fellow central defender Neven Subotic is expected back soon, after recovering from a torn cruciate ligament, as is playmaker Ilkay Guendogan, who missed all of last season through a back injury, and fellow midfielder Nuri Sahin.

However, none of them will return in time for the Augsburg encounter with Klopp saying his team was very much a work in progress.

“We still have not finished our development,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We have been missing too many players for a longer period of time and they are not yet where we expect them to be.

“But now we need to bag our first points. We are working with what we have, players who are fully fit and those who are not. Hopefully, in five weeks, no one will remember that we had some problems at the start.”

Klopp will at least have World Cup winner Roman Weidenfeller back in goal with defensive midfielder Sven Bender also close to a comeback from injury.

Leverkusen could not have hoped for a more spectacular start to the season and after also booking their spot in the Champions League group stage Wednesday, will be looking to continue their good form with a victory over Hertha Berlin.

Champions Bayern Munich, 2-1 winners over VfL Wolfsburg in their opener, could have defender Mehdi Benatia in the squad against Schalke 04 after signing the Moroccan this week from AS Roma to replace injured Javi Martinez.

Their opponents are already in a bit of a minicrisis after losing their season premiere at Hanover 96 and exiting the German Cup against a third tier club.

“Obviously we are not happy with the situation at all and we need to be clear about it,” captain Benedikt Hoewedes said. “But if we continue to work we will find back to our winning ways.

“We have to be aggressive against Bayern and take them on in one-on-one situations,” he added. “They are also not yet at 100 percent.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 29, 2014, on page 14.

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