Thursday, August 18, 2011

Borussia Dortmund 2011-12 Season Preview

Borussia Dortmund has become a big name in European football

The German Bundesliga has kicked off to a blazing start. All of Europe will be watching to see if titleholders Borussia Dortmund can repeat as champions of Bundesliga. The German champions will also be participating in this year's Champions League. Can Dortmund find that same magic that landed them silverware last season? It's time to look at what to expect from the defending champions.

The Squad

     Players Out

  1. Nuri Sahin (Real Madrid)
  2. Markus Feulner (Nuremberg)
  3. Dede
     Players In
  1. Ivan Perisic (Club Brugge)
  2. Ilkay Gundogan (Nuremberg)
  3. Chris Lowe (Chemnitzer FC)
Dortmund suffered a big blow when Bundesliga player of the year, Nuri Sahin, took his talents to join super-power Real Madrid. That leaves a void in the central midfield of the defending champions. Dortmund hope that spot in the central midfield will be filed in by new signing, Ilkay Gundogan from FC Nuremberg. I expect Gundogan to be an excellent replacement for Sahin based on his performances last year at Nuremberg. Borussia Dortmund supporters also had to say goodbye to long-time Dortmund player, Dede. Dede, who played for Dortmund since 1998, also leaves a hole at the left-back position for manager Jurgen Klopp. Klopp decided to dip into the transfer market to fill the hole left by Dede, and signed Chris Lowe of Chemnitzer FC. The 22 year old left back will have no trouble filling in the shoes of Dede. 

I was hoping Dortmund would strengthen their attacking options by bringing in another striker. Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner was rumored to being a player who could join the German champions, and  would have been a good option for the club, but they decided they were no longer interested in the big Danish striker. Overall, Dortmund did not experience that many player departures this offseason, which is a big plus in their chances of repeating as champions this year.


Borussia Dortmund are to expect many challenges this year in both the Bundesliga and in UEFA Champions League as well. I do not expect it to be that easy for Jurgen Klopp and his team to win the Bundesliga as it was for them last year. After losing last season's opener to Bayer Leverkusen, Dortmund went on to win their next 14 of 15 league fixtures and gained a commanding lead in the Bundesliga. Dortmund would hold on to their league lead throughout the rest of the season without any real challenge from an opposing team. Entering this season, other title contenders have strengthened their squads to make a push for a title challenge. Bayern Munich has entered this season as favorites to dethrone Dortmund and win this year's Bundesliga. 

Bayern Munich have addressed the weaknesses in their squad by acquiring defenders Rafinha and Jerome Boateng, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (in my opinion best signing of the season), and Nils Peterson to replace the departing Miroslav Klose. With this stronger Bayern Munich, I predict this will be a tough season for Dortmund and they are no longer the favorites to win this year's German Bundesliga.

Another new challenge for Borussia Dortmund will be their participation in Champions League football this season. Last year, Borussia Dortmund crashed out of the UEFA Europa League in its early stages and were able to focus more on the Bundesliga instead. That will not be the case this year. Borussia Dortmund will be looking to make some noise in this year's Champions League. But, I expect it to be a tough road for Dortmund because of the lack of Champions League participation in the previous years. I expect the team to be put in the 2nd or 3rd pot during CL group drawing, which will probably put them in a group with a team like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man United, or any other of the "Big Boys" of Europe. So I would expect Dortmund to most likely finish second in their group and qualify for the Round of 16. But I think they will be matched up with one of the "Big Boys" and will go crashing out in the first elimination round.

Projected Starting XI

Dortmund's Formation is now being used by many clubs in Germany 
Borussia Dortmund will still be using their popular 4-2-3-1 formation, which has taken the rest of Germany by storm.

Striker Robert Lewandowski will have to take Barrios place in the starting lineup as the Paraguayan striker is expected to be out for 6 weeks with a muscle tear in his thigh. The other changes from last year's startin eleven is Gundogan replacing Sahin and Lowe replacing Dede.

Players To Watch
Key Signing: Ilkay Gundogan
Jurgen Klopp believes Gundogan is Sahin's ideal replacement
Gundogan has some big shoes to fill into. He has to replace unarguably, Dortmund's best player from last season: Nuri Sahin. Dortmund signed the player from FC Nuremberg for a fee around €4 million. Based on his performances from last season, Gundogan is ready for the challenge. Last year when playing for FC Nuremberg, Gundogan was solid throughout the season and improved dramatically throughout the season. This transfer will be looked as a steal for Dortmund for the low price for a player of this quality.

Bright Young Player: Moritz Leitner
Leitner has been handed a big role by Jurgen Klopp

Along with Mario Götze, Leitner is key to the future success of Borussia Dortmund. Leitner was loaned out to FC Augsburg to get some first team football. Leitner was vital to Augsburg's campaign in Bundesliga 2 last season, and led them to a promotion to the type flight of Germany. 

Returning from his loan, Leitner will be a key backup to Dortmund this season. Leitner is also touted as a promising youngster in the future of German football. 

Being able to play any position in the midfield, Leitner will be hoping manager Jurgen Klopp will give him a lot of first team action this season. I believe Jurgen Klopp will fulfill Leitner's wishes of him seeing more first team football this year because this player is a big factor into the future of this football club. 

The main reason why this youngster is important to the club is because of Shinji Kagawa's anticipated departure from the club. Kagawa is wishing of playing for one of the European Giants in England or Spain. And if Dortmund allow Kagawa's wish to come true and allow him to leave the club to play for one of the "Big Boys" of Europe, expect Jurgen Klopp to depend on Leitner to replace Kagawa in Dortmund's attacking midfield.

"The German Messi": Mario Götze 
Mario Gotze is one of Europe's Finest
Along with the likes of Eden Hazard, Marek Hamsik, Neymar, and Juan Mata, Mario Götze is one of the most sought out youngsters in world football today. Even with big clubs in England and Spain wanting this player in their squad, "The German Messi" has pledged his allegiance to Borussia Dortmund for the next few years. This play was key to Dortmund last season and won the Young Player of the Year in Germany last year. Götze has become more important to Dortmund and a lot is expected from him this season. 

Mario Götze's performance this year is vital to Dortmund's chances of repeating as champions of Germany this season. I expect this youngster to win  Bundesliga Player of the Year this season as well as being named in Germany's starting XI in next year's Euro 2012 in Ukraine in Poland.


Will Dortmund repeat as Bundesliga Champions?

With retaining key players such as Götze, Kagawa, and Subotic, I expect Jurgen Klopp's squad to be just as good or even better than last season. In Champions League, I expect Dortmund to finish 2nd in their group and qualify for the knockout stages. However, I expect Dortmund to only make it to the round of 16 or even the quarterfinals at best before being knocked out by one of the European Giants. I expect this year's Bundesliga to be very tight between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but I think Dortmund will edge Bayern out and repeat as Bundesliga champions. This will be a very exciting year for Borussia Dortmund and its supporters.  

Written by Khalid Khan
Follow me on Twitter: @KHALIDKhan91