Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki insists his team can bounce back from last weekend’s chastening defeat to Bayern Munich and keep up the pace in the Bundesliga title race.
Dortmund slipped a point behind title rivals Bayern after thanks to a 5-0 thrashing in Munich last weekend, but a win over Mainz this Saturday would see Lucien Favre’s side reclaim top spot and pile the pressure back onto Bayern ahead of their clash with Duesseldorf on Sunday.
“Our aim is to finish first, and we have nothing to fear,” said Burki on Thursday.
The Dortmund keeper rubbished the idea that, after their humiliation at the hands of Bayern, Dortmund did not deserve to win the title.
“I don’t give a damn what other people say. The team who are top at the end of the season will deserve to be there,” he said. “We need to remember that we are only a point behind. We need to win every game and hope that Bayern slip up.”
Burki pointed out that Bayern have dropped points against weaker opposition this season, and said that there was still much to play for in the last six games of the season.
“Nobody expected Bayern to drop two points against Freiburg (both last month and in November), and that can happen against other teams,” he said. “It can happen to us, and it can also happen to Bayern.”
However Dortmund do not just have their wounded pride to contend with ahead of the clash with Mainz. They also have a growing injury crisis.
Veteran full-back Lukasz Piszceck has been ruled out with a foot injury, while Jadon Sancho, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Raphael Guerreiro and Christian Pulisic all missed team training on Thursday.
Spanish striker Paco Alcacer, however, is set to return to action after missing out on the defeat to Bayern.
Kovac under the cosh
Bayern coach Niko Kovac, meanwhile, might have expected some job security after masterminding the 5-0 win over Dortmund.
Instead, he has been subjected to further speculation about his future.
On Sunday, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Sky Sports that Kovac had “no guarantee” of staying in his job.
Club president Uli Hoeness rebuked Rummenigge in an interview with kicker, saying that “you can’t work with someone if you constantly undermine them”.
Yet Rummenigge is apparently not the only Kovac-sceptic at Bayern. On Thursday, ESPN reported that a “senior player” had moaned about Kovac’s coaching style and compared him unfavourably to former Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti, who was sacked after a player revolt.
Kovac also had to deal with a training ground bust-up between Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman on Thursday, but he has remained typically relaxed ahead of Sunday’s game.
He pointed to the fact that Bayern twice built six-match winning runs either side of Christmas.
If they can do so again in the last six games of the season, they will be crowned champions, and Kovac intends to start against Duesseldorf on Sunday.
“Why shouldn’t we have another run of victories?” he was quoted as saying in kicker on Thursday. “Against Dortmund, everything clicked: the mental, the physical and the tactical side of things. If we play like that again on Sunday, then we will win.”
Elsewhere, Schalke can pull further away from the relegation fight when they face fellow strugglers Nuremberg on Friday, while RB Leipzig look to cement their place in the top four with a win over Wolfsburg.