Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel admits feeling the pressure for Saturday’s Bundesliga showdown against upstarts RB Leipzig, who have been decimated by illness.
The Leipzig squad has been hit hard by flu with midfielder Diego Demme and striker Marcel Sabitzer the latest to fall ill, joining top-scorer Timo Werner, another flu victim, while playmaker Emil Forsberg is suspended.
Tuchel’s opposite number Ralph Hasenhuettl will be on the Leipzig bench despite missing Wednesday training with a fever.
Tensions will be high at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park when fourth-placed Borussia host Leipzig, who are having a stellar first season in Germany’s top flight, sitting second behind Bayern Munich.
Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff upped the ante in the build-up saying he is “not sad” Tuchel turned them down in 2015.
Adding more spice, Dortmund’s hardcore “Ultra” supporters are planning protests during the match against the perceived commercialism RB Leipzig represent — the club is backed by energy drinks giant Red Bull.
Tuchel is under a spotlight following RB’s shock 1-0 win over Dortmund last September in Leipzig and with his side stuttering as of late.
“It’s already a game which has a certain burden of pressure,” said Tuchel, believing that expectations are markedly higher at Dortmund.
“We have set ourselves the goal of reaching the Champions League (a top-four place), which is a distraction Leipzig don’t have and which makes them completely free.
“They can take everything as a bonus.”
Tuchel added: “They are completely free to ride the wave and always be underdogs, which creates a mood that can carry you.”
When Tuchel took over as Dortmund coach in the 2015/16 season he was hailed as one of Germany’s rising star coaches — a homegrown answer to Pep Guardiola.
But Dortmund’s defence has been found wanting this season, especially in drawing four of their last five league games and are 11 points behind Leipzig.
Tuchel admits he has been annoyed by comments from star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
At the start of the week, Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc told the Gabon captain to watch his words in interviews after repeatedly saying he may quit to take his career “to the next level”.
“Such statements like that don’t help, of course,” said Tuchel.
“You can certainly argue whether one has to do it publicly during the phase in which we now find ourselves.
“There are moments when things like that are a bit annoying.”