Borussia Dortmund is teetering on the precipice.
The German club only managed to draw with Malaga away in the first leg of the clubs' Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Although taking a draw into the second leg isn't all that bad, Dortmund didn't help itself by failing to record an away goal.
Some pundits have earmarked Dortmund as a favorite to take home the Champions League title. It's easy to see why considering the club is two-time reigning Bundesliga champions and has failed to lose a match in Europe this season.
Maybe the club was satisfied with last season's failure to get out of the group stage. This club was largely new to the Champions League and had to learn how to balance a league campaign with European matches.
Drawing away to Malaga in some circumstances might not be considered all that bad. Manuel Pellegrini made his Villarreal sides very strong defensively in the Champions League, and he's doing the same with Malaga.
But Dortmund was offered plenty of opportunities to score and get a vital away goal. The match wasn't so much that Malaga outplayed Dortmund but rather Dortmund outplayed itself.
There's no shame in losing to a team that was better than you. That wasn't the case on Wednesday, and it likely won't be the case over the two legs should Dortmund get eliminated. Malaga is a very beatable club and about as good of a draw as you can expect at this point.
Although the club has bettered last year's result by a couple of rounds, it can't be happy simply having gotten this far. Most of that is down to what has transpired in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich is a whopping 20 points ahead of second-place Dortmund in the league table. Not to mention Bayern has gotten better of Dortmund in both the 2013 DFB-Pokal and 2012 DFL-Supercup.
The Champions League is Dortmund's last chance to win anything this season.
The fact a trip to the Champions League quarterfinal should be considered a disappointment is a testament to standard to which the club has propelled itself in recent years.
This side is largely the same one that won the German league title last season. Shinji Kagawa left for Manchester United, but Marco Reus came back to Dortmund from Borussia Monchengladbach. That's not a bad trade-off.
Reus came to a young side that would only be improving this year. The likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Mario Gotze and Sven Bender would only continue to improve. And yet Dortmund finds itself so close to a premature Champions League exit.
Aside from Bayern, German clubs need to make the most of these kind of opportunities. Dortmund have the highest average attendance in Europe, but the club can't financially compete with the Bavarian giants. Making it through to the semifinal will mean more money coming into the club and more prestige.
Football as a whole is better having someone like Dortmund in the European elite. The club adds something different to the usual oligopoly of clubs in the Champions League. Plus, there's something admirable about the way Dortmund has reached the mountaintop.
Now, though, the romanticism must end, and expectation takes center stage.
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