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Champions League

Champions League dream brings no respite for Dortmund

After Dortmund reached the Champions League final last year, they would love to replicate their fairytale run. But does the current team have enough in the tank to pull off another fantastic achievement?

Jürgen Klopp finds it hard to control his emotions. Last Saturday referee Deniz Aytekin sent the Borussia Dortmund coach off to watch the last few minutes of the game from the East Stand. Klopp later accepted yet another 10,000 euro fine ($13,000) for misconduct.

Klopp had vented his frustration for the most of the afternoon. He was displeased by some of the referee's calls, but also at the sluggishness of his side in their response to the opponents' assertiveness.

For the fourth time this season, Dortmund lost a league match before they head off to a UEFA Champions League encounter. Just a few days before the first leg in St Petersburg, Klopp's men went down 3-0 at Hamburg SV. Prior to that they had also lost to Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg.

It seems Dortmund finds it hard to be successful both in the Bundesliga and in the European club competition at the same time.

Last season, when Borussia Dortmund reached the final at Wembley, the problem was more apparent: Dortmund lost six of the 24 matches either before or after a European match, and drew in a further five league games.

It's important to note that Borussia Dortmund were out of Europe by Christmas in both of their back-to-back title win seasons. Even so, the problem was evident then with Klopp's rampant side dropping a sizeable proportion of all lost points around Champions League fixtures in 2011/12; there were back-to-back defeats in September 2011 against Hertha BSC and Hannover around a European tie with Arsenal.

Robert Lewandowski during Borussia Dortmund's defeat against Borussia Mönchengladach.

Lewandowski on his last legs as pressure piles up on weary-legged Dortmund.

The current season shows that Dortmund's weakened squad is struggling: Several players have suffered muscular or non-impact injuries, while others have soldiered on with a decline in performance levels.

The insistence from the coaching team to press aggressively in midfield and to place a focus on high-tempo football have taken their toll with six core players missing on matchday 25. While defender Mats Hummels returned from an ankle injury, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan was suspended, and both Marco Reus and Sven Bender picked up thigh muscle strains.

Eyes on the big prize

Dortmund's tired squad will be looking to quickly complete the task of moving on to the quarterfinal with the aggregate cushion of two goals and the extra away goal advantage from the 4-2 first leg win.

Reus is not being excluded by Klopp – Mkhitaryan also returns from a league ban – but Dortmund will need to consider the strains on Robert Lewandowski who completed 90 minutes on Saturday following injury problems that prompted his coach to allocate him only an hour before the match.

For Dortmund, the Champions League is where everything lies this season.

They have saved some of their most vigorous performances for Europe's top competition in the hope of going one step further than last season. The chance to defeat Bayern this time may be enough to stimulate their minds, but the depleted team needs some smart management to channel the right resources into their European efforts.

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