Borussia Dortmund: Champions League Elimination Should Ring Alarm Bells For Bundesliga
It is a catastrophe on many different levels; Borussia Dortmund is out of the UEFA Champions League after a 3-1 defeat to Sporting CP on matchday 5. "It's a horrible defeat," Borussia Dortmund head coach Marco Rose said after the game. Our aim was to be in all three competitions next year. Now we've been knocked out of the Champions League. That's a massive blow."
Indeed it is a massive blow for Borussia Dortmund. But it is also consequential. There are some mitigating circumstances to explain Dortmund's elimination, first and foremost the red card against Mats Hummels in the return match against Ajax Amsterdam that put Dortmund into a challenging position in the first place.
The truth, however, also is that Dortmund was poor against Ajax in the first leg. The 4-0 defeat was the sort of spanking Dortmund usually only receives from their close rivals Bayern Munich.
"We now have to work on being more uncompromising and clinical," Rose said. But the truth also is that Dortmund under Rose this season has never been truly convincing or uncompromising. Last weekend against VfB Stuttgart, for example, Dortmund was lucky to walk away with a 2-1 victory.
That result also means that Dortmund is still within one point of their big rivals Bayern Munich. The Rekordmeister has recorded five wins out of five Champions League games but has shown some vulnerability in the Bundesliga this season and is in the middle of a COVID-19 storm—star midfielder Joshua Kimmich first refused to be vaccinated and has since tested positive for COVID.
"We have to be ready should Bayern struggle," Dortmund captain Marco Reus said ahead of the season. On paper, Dortmund is thereabouts to capitalize; however, anyone who has watched the club play will admit that a victory against the Rekordmeister in two weeks is unlikely. Another win by Bayern over Dortmund would be bad news for a league struggling for eye-balls internationally and heavily hit by the fourth COVID-19 wave.
Dortmund's defeat to Sporting in the Champions League further adds to the league's problems. The Black and Yellows become the second German club to be eliminated this season. RB Leipzig, a finalist two years ago, is out as well, and Wolfsburg has to win their last group stage match against LOSC Lille to advance.
Bayern advancing as the only team would be a terrible signal and add further doubts about the league's quality overall. It also comes at a time when the likes of Hertha Berlin sporting director Fredi Bobic have expressed their doubts about the structure of the league and whether 50+1 can be salvaged going forward.
At this moment, the Bundesliga has lost further ground to the Premier League . It is also threatening to fall behind Italy's Serie A, a competition that appeared comfortably in the league's rearview mirror. Italy's Serie A, of course, has opened the competition to investors allowing the inflow of American money and know-how.
In light of recent events, the Bundesliga appears to be a construct ready for fresh ideas. Whether it is investors with new ideas or perhaps even restructuring the league entirely, either way, recent Champions League results show, the status quo is no longer acceptable.
Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth