Borussia Dortmund’s perfect record this year faces a major test when former coach Marco Rose returns with Leipzig on Friday and a local transport strike will hamper supporters’ efforts to attend their Bundesliga clash.
Bus and light rail services are being scrapped, forcing 81,365 fans to make alternative arrangements to get to the game. Dortmund has appealed to fans to leave early and walk or travel by bicycle to the stadium.
A motorcycle fair with some 20,000 expected visitors, a comedian’s show with around 4,000, and two large demonstrations in the city will add to the burden on what transport options remain.
On the field, Dortmund is bidding to extend its winning run to 10 games across all competitions this year. It already has the best record for any team across Europe’s top five leagues in 2023.
Another win over Leipzig would lift the team three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga before 10-time defending champion Bayern Munich visits relegation-threatened Stuttgart on Saturday. Bayern leads Dortmund on goal difference.
But Leipzig has shown it can compete with the best by drawing with Bayern 1-1 in their first game back after the winter break. Rose’s team has lost only once since then, 2-1 at home to in-form Union Berlin.
At this stage of the league last year, Rose was still in charge in Dortmund. His team had the same number of points (46), but it was six points behind Bayern. The Bavarian powerhouse went on to coast to yet another Bundesliga title, finishing eight points ahead of Rose’s team. Dortmund let Rose go after what it described as an “unsatisfactory” season.
Even Bayern was complaining about the lack of a worthy rival.
This time it’s different thanks to Dortmund’s brilliant form since the winter break. Edin Terzić’s team has clawed back a nine-point deficit by winning all seven league games with 20 goals scored.
Young English star Jude Bellingham has been outstanding with his driving runs, vision and commitment in midfield, while Germany midfielder Julian Brandt is finally starting to live up to the potential he had shown only in glimpses.
Brandt was named Bundesliga player of the month for January, and he scored the winner against Hoffenheim that took Dortmund to the top last Saturday (before Bayern played on Sunday). It was the fourth consecutive game in which Brandt scored. He has nine goals this season.
Leipzig’s visit is the first game in what promises to be a decisive month for Dortmund. The team visits Chelsea for the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 match on Tuesday with a 1-0 lead from the first leg, then travels to Gelsenkirchen for the Ruhr derby against local rival Schalke on March 11. Dortmund visits Bayern on April 1.
Bayern, which has squandered a four-point lead since the winter break, will be hoping Leipzig can stop its main rival’s momentum.
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