After coming so close to winning the Bundesliga last season, big things were expected of Borussia Dortmund in 2019/20.
To say that they have thus far failed to live up to expectations would be slightly harsh but the fact of the matter is that – while they were expected to be second favourites for the Meisterschale – they have actually slipped behind RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach as Bayern Munich’s main challengers.
Where Heart Meets Mind: Borussia Dortmund
It has not exactly been a poor season from Lucien Favre’s charges as they lie in fourth spot, and the seven-point gap between them and leaders Leipzig is far from an unassailable deficit.
Rather, just as was the case last season when they let their own nine-point lead slip as they ultimately lost out to Bayern Munich in the title race, Dortmund have just been found wanting at crucial times against teams they would have been expected to beat.
Having started the campaign brightly with big wins over Augsburg and Cologne, they suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to newly-promoted Union Berlin on Match Day 3, and also threw away winning positions in consecutive 2-2 draws against Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen and Freiburg.
View this post on Instagram
They still boast some of the competition’s star players but they have arguably been steady rather than spectacular in 2019/20, with captain Marco Reus having been hampered by injury while wonderkid Jadon Sancho was dropped twice for disciplinary issues.
Dortmund remain one of the Bundesliga’s heavyweights and it should not be a surprise if they are challenging for top honours once again come the end of the season.
Although with others like Leipzig and Gladbach on the rise, they will have to show more heart and mind if they are to deliver on their promise.
THE HEART – AXEL WITSEL
It seemed a curious decision when Axel Witsel decided to join China’s Tianjin Quanjian in 2017 but, after a year and a half being one of the biggest imports in Asian football, he sealed a return to Europe in the summer of 2018 and his career has only been on the rise ever since.
The Belgium international made an instant impact upon moving to the Signal Iduna Park, forcing his way into Favre’s starting XI and then emerging as one of the competition’s most-complete central midfielders.
His combative and physical style of play often seems him unfairly typecast as a destroyer, but he offers BVB just as much when they are in possession.
With his eye for a pass, Witsel often initiates many attacks that end up in clear-cut chances, but has also shown a knack for popping up with spectacular goals – just like he did with his sumptuous volley straight from a Thorgan Hazard corner against Freiburg.
THE MIND – MARCO REUS
Even with some injury niggles this term, Dortmund’s talismanic skipper has proven tough to keep down and he is currently their joint-top scorer with nine goals to go with three assists.
Reus remains the standard bearer at the Signal Iduna Park and, even though Favre has a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, they look a far superior side whenever he is on the field.
At the age of 30, the Germany international remains one of the Bundesliga’s geniuses and his supreme ability shows no signs of waning – although time is running out for him to claim a maiden Meisterschale.
Given how tight at the top it has been all season long, a couple of positive results could just see Reus edge closer to that goal by the time the Ruckrunde – as the second half of the season is known as – reaches its closing stages.