Can Borussia Dortmund Emulate the Champions League Winning Side of 1997?
Only one team were ever going to win this season’s Bundesliga, as Jurgen Klopp’s surprise package Borussia Dortmund have impressed from day one with their attacking and free-flowing style of football, reminiscent of the 1997 side that were crowned European Champions. With the league title all but in the bag and BVB set to compete in Europe’s top club compeition next season for the first time since 2002, can the German side turn the clock back 15 years and emulate Ottmar Hitzfeld’s star-studded side?
Die Borussen’s transformation has been quite amazing under Klopp, as the ex-Mainz coach has led the club from 6th and 5th placed finishes in 2008-09 and 2009-10 to Germany’s top team this campaign (see Bundesliga soccer betting odds). Signal Iduna Park has witnessed some exciting and enthralling displays from a team largely under 25 and without the big name international players like 97′s Sammer, Moller, Riedle and co that beat Juventus 3-1 in the final all those years ago.
However their illustrious forefathers may be outdone by Dortmund’s current crop, and Klopp’s first objective in the search for success is to keep his star players at the club, many of which have been linked with moves to some of Europe’s elite. The side have quality across the park, with match winners and savers combined in a 4-5-1 formation that can change to 4-3-3 when the side attack.
Centre back pairing Mats Hummels and Serbian Neven Subotic, both 22 years old, have looked like Sammer and Kohler reincarnated and been the reason the club have only conceded 19 goals in this year’s Bundesliga, 16 less than the second stingiest defensive in the league. Holding midfielder Sven Bender came into the side after injury to Sebastien Kehl, and hasn’t looked back, playing more than 90% of the club’s games this season and forcing his way into the Joachim Loew’s German national set-up.
Bender’s closing of opposition and work rate have been a perfect foil for Dortmund other central midfielder and arguably brightest star, Nuri Sahin. The German born Turkey international has been in mercurial form this season, scoring six goals from midfield and showing guile and creativity to create nine more. Sahin represents new Dortmund and the club must keep him amidst interest from Real Madrid and Inter if they are to progress as a team.
Added to this are 18 year old attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, who has been one of the season’s revelations with his ball control and skill reportedly catching the eye of Manchester United and Barcelona. Sole attacker Lucas Barrios is the club’s top scorer, with the Argentine striker hitting the back of the net 18 times this season.
With so much quality and youthful exuberance Dortmund will be a tough test for the teams they face in next year’s Champions League, and Klopp will look to strengthen further in the summer. Despite this however, the class of 2011 do not have the experience of the 97 team, and will face a much tougher European field from strong English and Spanish clubs. Schalke have shown this season that progression to the latter stages of the tournament is possible, but the youngsters donning the black and yellow in today’s Dortmund team must stick together and grow as a unit if they are to equal the success of the club’s past masters.