Edin Terzic is aware of what is to come for his team. “It means a lot to VfL Bochum to play against us,” said the Borussia Dortmund coach and then illustrated the atmosphere that will prevail on Castroper Strasse on Friday evening. “It’s going to get hot. Every fan there knows that he is needed,” said the league leader’s coach before the so-called small Revierderby on Friday (8:30 p.m. / DAZN). It will be an “intensive game and a difficult task”.
Terzic could be right about that. Because BVB has to defend its pole position in the championship fight in the neighboring city of all places. Where VfL Bochum is fighting for survival and where its supporters want nothing more than to shatter their rivals’ dreams of the title. In addition, the game, many speak of the tram derby because of the almost 18 kilometers between the two stadiums, will be played on a pitch that does not necessarily make it easier for teams with better footballing skills.
It’s going to be loud and hot. For Dortmund, the performance could develop into a real stress test. But Terzic doesn’t want to let any doubts arise that his team will survive. “At this stage we are no longer allowed to give gifts. It’s about completing the last steps on our way,” he said the day before the fifth-last game of the season – the fifth-last game before BVB can become German champions again for the first time in eleven years. This prospect would inspire his players, says Terzic: “We’re looking forward to the fact that it’s all about the sausage now and that we can show that we’re ready.”
Sentences full of self-confidence are the ones Terzic used to send his team into the home stretch of the most exciting Bundesliga season in years. They speak determination that BVB has never shown in recent years and also for long stretches of the current season. But for almost two weeks, the Dortmunders have been verbally showing the flag. Ironically, after the 3:3 in Stuttgart, when a victory that was believed to be certain was carelessly given away, they decided to change their communication strategy. Since then it has been said openly: We want and we can.
However, the professionals had to be encouraged to have this courage. Sports director Sebastian Kehl was the first to formulate the objective so clearly. A decisive impulse could then have been an appearance by Hans-Joachim Watzke in front of the assembled team. “How often does Bayern have to stumble before you realize that you can become a champion?” the managing director asked the players and, according to “Sportbild”, at the same time gave an unacceptable answer: “Or don’t you want to become a German champion?” Who wants to be already say something like that?
Emotionalization can have an effect in football. He could have played a role in the sovereign 4-0 win over Frankfurt last Saturday. However: Such attempts at motivation cannot be repeated often, they could wear out quickly, especially in the event of renewed setbacks.
Against this background, it was a rather quiet week in Dortmund. Work was concentrated on the training ground, there were no changes in the processes. They will not exist in the hours before the game either. “We will not start to puzzle,” said Terzic. He is smart enough not to make any tactical changes and, if possible, no personnel changes either. They would only cause trouble. With the exception of Nico Schlotterbeck, who was already substituted against Frankfurt due to a muscle injury, Terzic is likely to field the same starting XI. Niklas Süle will join the team again for Schlotterbeck.
BVB, who extended the contract with captain Marco Reus on Thursday until 2024, believe they are ready for the final spurt. The unknown component is the opponent who will try to make the game unpredictable. It’s a Bochum specialty to heat up the atmosphere in the stands. This has helped coach Thomas Letsch’s team, which is currently two points ahead of the relegation place, several times when favorites fall: Whether Frankfurt, Union Berlin, Gladbach or Leipzig – with their own fans behind them, VfL have already fought several teams with significantly greater potential low.
Nevertheless, the Bochumers did not manage to remove themselves from the relegation zone early on. In addition, they lack stability, which is based on a phenomenon that has become particularly evident in recent weeks: it is the leading players who are finding it increasingly difficult to reach their limit.
There is Manuel Riemann, who was the aggressive leader for years with his emotional nature. The goalkeeper is having a poor season, and the 34-year-old keeps making mistakes. The situation is similar for Danilo Soares (31) and Anthony “Toto” Losilla (37). The Brazilian left-back has been chasing lately, and the French midfielder and captain is no longer winning every challenge. The leading figures and heroes from the 2021 promotion team are getting on in years.
Letsch can’t change anything about that in the current season. There are no alternatives for this. In addition, the coach knows that interventions in the hierarchy of the team in the relegation battle would be just as risky as open-heart surgery. What remains for the Bochumers is pure will, which the team has never lacked.
It’s their toughness in the duels and it’s the atmospheric factor. When things get loud on Castroper Straße, every game can get wild. It can be assumed that VfL will do everything on Friday to ensure that the events on the not well-tended pitch get out of control. “Dortmund definitely wants to become champions, we want to keep the league with all our might,” said Letsch: “What could be nicer?” The latter should not necessarily refer to the technical level of the derby.
It is the third edition of the duel in the current season. Dortmund won the first leg 3-0, and in the round of 16 they prevailed 2-1 in Bochum. Both times, the VfL supporters lament, their team was beaten under their own standards. Coach Letsch agrees. “We played decently twice there, but decently isn’t enough against Dortmund,” he said. In order for it to work out with a win on Friday evening, everything would have to fit. His team had to approach the task with “courage and conviction”.